Norway WinterΒ 

2 weeks aboard Fred.Olsen’s Braemar. Our first ever cruise and I for one am hooked! 

Norway is stunningly beautiful. The further north you go the colder and snowier it gets but it was all magical.

I intend to do more in depth posts on each port and excursion but have had to get straight back into writing my dissertation after slacking off for two weeks on the cruise! I’ve also been suffering with quite a few migraines recently which has meant crossing anything not marked ‘urgent’ off the to-do list! 

For the amount of places you see and the amount of stuff you get to do and the amount of amazing FOOD they provide you with, it’s really reasonable money wise too. 

I feel that a lot of young people don’t even think about cruising when looking for their next trip or adventure and to be honest we were the youngest people on the boat by about 25 years! But, I can honestly say it didn’t bother us, the other guests were all lovely and curious to know how we felt about cruising. It was like being on holiday with a whole bunch of grandparents, great aunties and uncles etc. 

As always, any comments and questions are welcome πŸ™‚

– neonwanderlust xo 

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Brunch Review: Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

Five girlfriends and I visited the Sanderson Hotel on Saturday 18th February for a 25th birthday celebration.


The Alice in Wonderland theme is fantastic and very well executed, although it could maybe be a tad more experimental considering the crazy antics that occur in the book and Disney movie.

The food was AMAZING. I was ‘Hank Marvin’ after skipping breakfast in my rush to get to the train station in time and the sandwiches and scones really hit the spot. 

The tea selection was great, I had the ‘Mad Hatter’ which was a green tea that tasted of mango and pomegranate, very light and refreshing. We also sampled the ‘Cheshire Cat’ with its chocolate and orange notes which was lovely.

I was well catered for as a vegetarian. I got given a different selection of savoury snacks to the rest of the girls and they were all yummy and extremely moreish. 

The one thing that really let the Sanderson down was the service, and it wasn’t any of the waiting staffs fault. The staff who served us were lovely, polite and friendly but there simply was not enough of them! We waited 10 minutes after being sat for anyone to come to us for drinks, our sandwiches then arrived before we even got our drinks, the teas we ordered never came so we had to ask for them again and even then they were brought over without milk and we had to wait another 10 minutes to catch a member of staff. 

You could see how busy they were, it wasn’t like they were stood around talking or ignoring us on purpose, they were running around like headless chickens trying to ensure every guest had a good experience.

Either we were unlucky and on this particular day they had a few people pull sickies on them and couldn’t get cover, or the Sanderson do not rota enough staff in order to maximise profits, and I really hope it is not the latter!

At Β£56 a head plus Β£12 a cocktail, my party of girls agreed that is was not really worth the money, purely based on service. They also charge a 15% service charge which is slightly above the average in London. I am a generous tipper having worked as a waitress myself for over 6 years but when you are paying these prices you just expect a bit more.

I just want to emphasise again that the staff who were there were great. The food was delicious, as were the cocktails, so kudos to the chefs and bartenders, and the waiting staff really were working their hardest. 

The garden area outside was lovely as was the inside of the hotel. You really don’t expect to walk into such a beautiful interior when you arrive as the outside does not look like much.

There was a good amount of jam and cream provided for the scones, something that may seem ridiculous (I’m laughing as I write this) but the scone-jam-cream ratio is crucial to me and can really make or break an afternoon tea! 

The sugar cubes being in a music box and the menu being inside a vintage book were both lovely touches, as where the vials of tea that came so you could make an informed decision based not only on a written description of the tea, but also the smell and look of the tea leaves.

Of course I was in the company of some of the greatest people on Earth (biased, but I love my besties) so the afternoon was always going to be wonderful!

I give our experience of The Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel a 3/5. The theme, atmosphere, food and drinks were great, and it’s good as a novelty outing for a special occasion. However it missed the mark on service due to, in my opinion, being understaffed and we all agreed it wasn’t very good value for money. We wouldn’t pay that amount to dine here again based on our experience.

Let me know what your experiences were at the Sanderson if you’ve been, or if you have any recommendations of where I should go next or somewhere you’ve really been wanting to try that you want me to test out!

– neonwanderlust xo

Rovinj, Croatia

We stayed at Island Hotel Katerina, which really was on its own island! We had to catch a little (free for hotel guests) boat from the mainland to get to it. The boats run frequently between 6am and midnight so it wasn’t hard to go between whenever you wanted.

The sea was incredibly calm, clean and clear for our stay. You could look down and see little fish swimming about and we went for a swim ourselves most afternoons after lunch.

There are so many little restaurants, cafes and bar that look straight out to sea over on the mainland. We were spoilt for choice, but walking through the cobbled streets and finding new places and those ‘insta-perfect’ spots was half the fun! 

Our hotel room looked over the ocean to Old Town Rovinj and the view was spectacular. The staff were all incredibly friendly and helpful and on our first nights stay we returned to a complementary bottle of bubbly in the room! Not bad for our ‘budget’ holiday!

The second day was overcast with a light shower in the afternoon but Rovinj was still absolutely beautiful and warm enough to wear shorts. We took the boat to the mainland and explored Old Town Rovinj.

We spent the days sunbathing or exploring and in the evenings prettied ourselves up for dinner and cocktails. One night the hotel ran a salsa class, and another there was live acoustic music, so you didn’t even have to leave the island of you didn’t want to.

Photos will never do the sunsets we saw justice. Absolutely incredible. Reflecting off the sea and so many colours that my iPhone camera fails to capture.

The hotel was half board and so included buffet breakfast and dinner. The dinner menu was a little limited for vegetarians but there was always something I could get from the buffet and breakfast was AMAZING. Seriously, try the banana bread.


Sometimes there really is nothing better than a girls holiday. 7 days of gossip, giggles, cocktails, reading our chick lit and sunbathing.

We went in the middle of June and so were suprised with how quiet the hotel was. The first half of the week the pool area was pretty much all ours (well it felt that way as there are three pools so people can really spread out). The second half of the week we did get some families arrive and so there were children in and out of the pool but that didn’t really bother us and we just moved to a slightly different spot away from the shallower ‘kiddy’ pool.

Below is the view from the little pier on our last morning as we stood and waited for the boat so we could get back to the airport. So peaceful at that time of day. 


The views from anywhere on our little island were gorgeous at all times of the day. We were sad to leave. We happily could have stayed an extra few days. I think 10 days is perfect, especially if you do a day trip to Venice like we did (but I’ll save that for another post!)


I would highly recommend Rovinj to anyone. It’s more of an undiscovered spot than Split or Hvar and wasn’t swarming with tourists.

Send me your pictures if you go!

xo

Whittlebury Hall

If you’re looking for the ultimate girly mini break then Whittlebury Hall Hotel & Spa is where you need to book. Me and my friend Louise stayed this past Saturday night and it was AMAZING.

You drop off your bags at the hotel reception and then head straight to check in at the spa, where you will spend the next 9 hours in a fluffy white towelling robe over your swimsuit/bikini.

We booked in for an hour long wellbeing massage, a luxury pedicure and the rasul mud treatment. 

The massage was amazing, we were so relaxed that after we headed to the spas relaxation room for a nap.

The pedicure was great too, you get a full leg scrub and massage, cuticle care, nail shaping and great choice of polish colours that are guaranteed to last at least 2 weeks. 

The rasul mud treatment is great as you get exclusive use of the whole room for the 45 minute treatment. You apply the diferent muds to your body and face and then relax in blue tiled seats for 20 minutes until it begins to ‘rain’ from the ceiling. You use the provided salt scrub to remove all the mud and then use the lotion provided to moisturise before lying down on warm benches between towels to let all the goodness absorb into your skin. Not only did we feel incredibly clean and soft afterwards but it was also lots of fun! There was only 2 of us but you can book for up to 4 people and it is such a giggle, perfect for small hen do’s or a girlfriends birthday weekend.

You get a buffet lunch on the day of arrival that was delicious. You all go into the dining rooms in your robes so there is a really relaxed vibe and you don’t at any point lose the chilled out effect of the spa. We both had the soup and moussaka and then Louise had salmon and vegetables and I had salad and new potatoes. We didn’t take pictures because honestly we were so relaxed and having such a good time we didn’t think about it!

After our pedicures we headed up to our room where our luggage was waiting for us and got ready for dinner. 

It’s nice to be able to get dressed up for dinner and cocktails – we took a few obligatory selfies before heading down to Astons restaurant.

We started with a glass of white wine for Lou and the Coney Island cooler cocktail for me. Later on we ordered non alcoholic pina coladas which were made with real coconut cream and so delicious! For dinner  Louise ordered the scallops and lamb shank whilst I had gruyere brulee with asparagus and beetroot risotto with goats cheese. We both had sticky toffee pudding for dessert. They had good vegetarian options for me and the portion sizes were perfect. We both went back to our room feeling super full and after a hard days relaxation we were both fast asleep by 11pm!


We had ordered breakfast to our room the next morning, it is a Β£5pp surcharge to have it brought up and in my opinion 100% worth it! Such a delicious spread that you get to eat from the comfort of your bed – the perfect way to start a Sunday!

After breakfast and check out from the hotel we headed back to the spa. Fresh robes and towels on, we spent a couple of hours lazing by the pool reading magazines, popping in and out of the sauna and pool, which is complete with jacuzzi jets at one end.

We then decided to do a few final circuits of the heat and ice experience. Steam rooms and saunas of different heats and humidities, followed by cold compresses, handfuls of ice rubbed into the skin or (for the very brave) ice cold plunge showers! Combined with the hydrotherapy pools and plenty of fruit infused drinking water this experience is equal parts relaxing and invigorating.

We were going to order an afternoon tea before leaving but with our holiday only 8 weeks away and the copious amounts of food we had already consumed we opted for smoothies instead. These were both delicious and surprisingly filling.


We were sad to leave but will be returning later in the year!

xo

Bruges before ChristmasΒ 

We got back from Australia at the end of July and it’s been so wonderful being surrounded by family and friends again. I’ve started university and am doing a degree in English Literature with the goal of becoming a secondary school teacher.

But I miss travelling! I had a couple of days of  getting so down about the fact that my life isn’t in ‘everyday-is-an-adventure’ mode anymore that I booked us a pre-Christmas break to Belgium (as soon as my student loan came in!) It gave us both something to look forward to and even though it was only a 2 night stay, it was perfect. We left on the 16th December from St Pancras international and the station was so festive that I immediately got into winter holiday mode (they even had fake snow falling inside the station!)

We got the Eurostar to Brussels and then an onwards train to Bruges, which did not disappoint. We walked through cobbled streets and over bridges and through market squares following google maps to our hotel. It took longer than it should have because every 2 seconds I made Bailey stop so I could take pictures. 

Everything was so pretty! 

We stayed at the Grand Casselbergh Hotel and I couldn’t believe how nice it was considering what a great deal I had got by booking on SecretEscapes.com. We had an executive suite with the comfiest bed and biggest bathtub. The champagne breakfast was included, the staff were great and the hotel itself was gorgeously decorated. Even the hotel toiletries were by l’occitane, a brand I LOVE – seriously I felt like a celebrity. 

We spent two whole days just exploring the city by foot. We climbed hundreds of stairs to the top of the Belfort and the view was spectacular, you could see over the entire city. We ate Belgium waffles and frites and drank Belgium beer and coffee. In the main square there was an ice skating rink surrounded by Christmas markets, and almost every window had Christmas lights and decorations up. There weren’t many cars but there were plenty of horse drawn carriages (um, faitytale much?) We visited the historium and museums and bought plenty of chocolate, fudge, Christmas tree ornaments and beer to take home. If you are visiting Bruges I cannot recommend the Olive Tree restaurant enough. It’s menu of Greek food was absolutely delicious and the staff were excellent. We ate there the second night and it was better AND cheaper than the first nights meal we had at a restaurant in the square.

There are a few photos below and if you would like to see more follow my Instagram account @neonwanderlust.


   

    
    
   

I think a few short breaks within Europe per year might satiate my wanderlust! We are so lucky to live somewhere where we can just hope on a plane or train and be in another country in a few hours.

Now I just need to decide where to go next!

xo

Time is going too fast.

IMG_8598Sorry for the lack of content the last few months. We’ve been working our hospitality butts off to save money for the last leg of our Aussie adventure. We finish work on the 1st June, have a month left in Australia to explore, fly to Bali on the 4th July and then homeward bound from there. So 68 days of travel left then… Awesome.

As homesick as I was during the first few months out here, going home now feels so bittersweet.
Obviously I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends, but we have completely fallen in love with Australia.
We have a life in Melbourne, we have jobs and friends and a house. We have friends up in Brisbane and Batlow and Canberra.
We haven’t even had time to explore the Northern Territories or West Coast or Tasmania yet.
I can’t help but feel there is so much more to do and see out here, and I’m terrified we’re going to go home, set up our lives again and regret all the things we didn’t do.

I’m torn though, because on the other hand I’m really looking forward to having a house to call our own and decorate.
I’m excited to start my own business (I’ve dreamed about it the whole time I’ve been in Australia and have been so inspired out here, watch this space!)
I can’t wait to have nights out with my girlfriends, spa trips with my mum, family games nights and wine drinking sessions with the people I’ve missed so much in the last year.
I’ve started looking into places I want to visit around Europe and have already planned a few trips with my best friends including Christmas markets in Berlin and spring in New York.

I know that the wanderlust in me will never die and I’m going to continue to make travel a priority in my life. I believe you really can ‘have it all’ and that’s what I’m going to work my ass off to achieve. I’m going to have my own house, my own business, my own family and be well travelled. I’m not fussed about being wealthy, and as long as we’re sensible with money and work and savings I know we can do this.

I also know that in a couple of years, Australia will still be here and we will 100% be back to finish what we started.

xo

Dandenong Ranges

We had a day off from work today, the flat was already tidy and clean and the weather was beautiful so we decided to go exploring!

As much as we are loving Melbourne life, we knew that we wanted to get out of the city. We know how gorgeous Victoria can be from our experiences along the Great Ocean Road and today felt like a good day to get back to nature! We just googled national parks near us and Dandenong Ranges was one of the first to pop up. Beautiful forest only 45 minutes away by car, perfect!

One place that caught our eye was The William Ricketts Sanctuary, so that’s where we set the sat nav to head to first! Originally called Potters Sanctuary, it’s a piece of land on Mt Dandenong bought by Australian potter and sculptor William Ricketts in the 1930’s, on which he built hundreds of sculptures, inspired by the Aboriginal people, spirituality and nature. It was bought from him by the Victorian government in the 1960’s and made into a public park where William Rickett lived until his death in 1993.

Below are some pictures of his art that I took this afternoon, enjoy!

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I love this kind of ‘outsider art’ and think he was a wonderfully eccentric man with a beautiful soul and the world needs more people like him. Made me want to create my own ‘secret garden’ somewhere πŸ™‚

Afterwards we drove 10 minutes up the road to check out Olinda Falls, recommended to us at the sanctuary.

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Not the biggest or most impressive Falls we’ve visited in Australia but the walk to get there through the bush was pleasant and the sound of the water and surrounding kookaburras made it a lovely tranquil spot to just sit and take a breath.

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We had a bit of a lie-in so it was more of an afternoon of exploring rather than an entire day but we’ll definitely be returning to the Dandenong Ranges as there is so much more left to see and do!

On the way home we stopped at a lovely little tavern for delicious scones and iced coffee πŸ™‚
We also passed so many cute boutiques and cafΓ©s and shops that I know I could easily spend an afternoon strolling around.

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Definitely worth checking out if you’re nearby. Let me know if you’ve been and have any recommendations of what we should do next time, constantly on the lookout for stuff to do around Victoria at the minute.

xo