Orlando To Miami – ROAD TRIPPIN’!!

We decided from the start of the holiday we were going to drive to Miami South Beach from Orlando as a convoy, two SUV cards both packed and ready to roll for the 5 hour journey! And it didn’t disappoint. Honestly I spent a majority of the journey wondering how the hell my parents knew where they were going. We did two initial stops, although there was a quick one because we got lost being adventurous.

162We’d been driving about an hour when we stopped for a toilet break and some breakfast,  Dunkin’ Doughnuts? Don’t mind if we do. The scenery hadn’t changed much; we could tell we were still in the depths of Orlando, but there was a lot less around as were were driving. Not as many buildings or places to stop and enjoy. So once we’d stopped at Dunkin’ Doughnuts and stocked up on munch and were satisfied, we were off on our road trip once again to the holy land.

A little further along the way more buildings and roads and cars generally appeared, which meant we were getting somewhere, and getting closer! We stopped for lunch on our journey to Miami at Palm Beach! I didn’t catch the name of restaurant we went to but we sat outside under a canopy and all 13 of us enjoyed a big lunch! Us younger ones went for a wander along the beach, there was a huge pier which I wish we’d had time to walk down. There were also countless volley ball pitches on the sand, which was awesome but I can’t play volley ball for love nor money. The food was lovely and it was a really good break in the journey as it was starting to get a bit tedious.

We got a little lost before we finally managed to make it to Miami. I could never have told you the route we followed but it involved looking at a lot of beautiful beachside houses that were impressively large. We had to make a stop to stretch the legs and figure out which way was the right way but we made it in the end!

I remember arriving in Miami and being absolutely lost for words. What a place is all I have to say. I would live in Miami if anyone gave me the chance because its hands down the place of my dreams. Beautiful beaches, houses, fast cars, better lifestyle, god If only.

One day hey! I’ll be writing about my experience in Miami from here on! These were some of my favourite experiences of the holiday!

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Portugal – SURFS UP!

We surfed on the beaches every day and it was such a huge gorgeous beach! Visit www.studentsurftrips.com for more info on these trips!

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When we got there everyday we would all work as a team to take the boards down to the water and set our base camp. The surf instructors back at the lodge had already put us in groups of our skills. I was in the beginner group because lets be honest I’ve never been that great at it. They would usually take us to two different beaches but the surf I believe was dead on the south coast but amazing on the west, so thats where we went, The beach was called Praia Da Borderia and it was beautiful (shout out to Paulina for telling me the name after I forgot!).

To get down to the beach we had to walk down a boardwalk, through where the sea on high tide cut off the boardwalk onto the beach, and then further down the beach to set up camp. IMG_3214They usually had a gazebo and then we’d set up and leave all our stuff around the Gazebo during the day. You had sunbathing time every day on the beach too which was always lovely.

They took each groups in the water for two sessions a day for two hours each session, although you could get out when you wanted and if you didn’t want to surf at all but still come to the beach you could! Or you could stay at the lodge if you didn’t fancy it which some days I really didn’t. So pool days were on the cards occasionally! They would show you how to do certain things before each session, you’d warm up and they would sometimes show you how to pop up again as its always a nice refresher. They also brought us food down to the beach for lunch! It would usually be salads, pastas and crisps and sandwiches, water too, it was all fresh and really nice after a surf session.

All the instructors are really nice, really good teachers and come on nights out with you when you go out in Lagos, they’re all up for a laugh which is always great!

I love surfing, I always ave, I don’t know how I got into it but I’m pretty sure it was through the love for my Beach lifeguarding job. Theres no surf where I live but joining the university surf society was easily the best choice I made! Surfing abroad is more challenging I think, it makes you more alert. Its amazing fun though and if you get the chance to surf anywhere you visit, take it.

There was a only a tiny little cafe on this huge beach, and there were not toilets which was always funny when 4 girls all ran off to pee in the dunes. The sea was also pretty chilly without your wetsuit on and the current was really strong in the water so we weren’t allowed to far out without some sort of supervision of the instructors.

It was a really beautiful beach, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a prettier beach and the swell was really good.

It was always so good to surf and I always came home covered in sea salt and with beach curls I never wanted to wash out, well and truly shattered and ready for bed. Its  my all time favourite feeling.  I love the beach too much.

Portugal – Staying in a Surf Lodge

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The Surf Lodge we stayed in was in Lagos, Jah Shaka Surf Lodge, and god it was Beautiful. It was about a half an hour – 45 Minute taxi ride from the airport, I’m not sure how much the taxi cost, It was a 9 seater that was full and it was a couple euros each! Their official website to book all things Jah Shaka is here; www.studentsurftrips.com! So check that out if you want too.

When we pulled up into the gates it was really gorgeous. All the trucks they use to get around were parked in the drive  with surf boards of the roofs of the car, and it just looked so cool. The lodge was pretty big, it had 10+ rooms and if the rooms were all full there were
Tipi’s! As cool as a Tipi sounds id rather have a room, so I got a 3 bed room with a double ben and en suite to share! It was so much more than what I’d hoped for.img_3266

The Lodge itself had a kitchen, a communal lounge, a large pool and garden area which was so good for chilling in, an eating area and a bar!!
The best part was that the bar was so cheap! Beer for €1 and Cider for €2! It also had a cool fire pit and seating area around it, some of the nights spent around that fire are now a lot of good memories.

The Lodge takes us to the beaches to learn how to surf at all these different beaches, they can teach different skill classes and the instructors are really nice and you get to chill with them at the lodge. They provide food for you on trips to the beach and in the mornings an evenings. They also plan nights out for you and take you for dinner. Its img_3182a pretty sound place, you get to choose what you do, and theres even for a little extra dosh go stand up paddle boarding at sunset/sunrise. I wish I’d done it!

I’d go back there to stay in a heartbeat. I shared a room with Abbie & Becca and it was so much fun. I’d never stayed in a surf lodge before so it was a really wonderful experience I would so do again. The staff were all lovely as they

*****

Getting around Lagos was pretty easy, nice and cheap! If we wanted to get into town we could get order taxi’s to the lodge for only a small price! it was under €10 at least and if there was 4+ of you in the taxi it never cost you more than €2-3 each! The taxi drivers are a little bit crazy and love to drive fast and unlike the drivers in the UK, they’re not very talkative or considerate either.

There was once instance where we got in a blazing argument with a taxi driver, but that wasn’t quite our fault. I look back on it now and I can’t help but laugh, we are some hormonal girls in a different country, it was hilariously brilliant. We ended up complaining to the surf lodge in the end!

img_3344I personally loved the way the instructors got us to the beaches, we got to fit 6-8 people in these awesome trucks and we all headed to the beach in convoy in these awesome looking trucks with surfboards on the roof. It was really sweet, I felt like I was on a proper surf holiday (even though I was it felt a little more real when I sat inside one of the trucks for the first time).

It was a really enjoyable time and although the journey in the back of the trucks didn’t always leave my stomach feeling wonderful, it was definitely a different way to travel to and from the beaches and it was a fun experience.

Dublin – Dirty Pints & Half priced rides home at 4am

When we first got to Dublin we headed to our hostel, then straight out, Only to find

49ourselves in the same pub the entire afternoon. It was called Murphy’s Pub and we sat in there for hours upon hours just relaxing with each other, we got there at about 11am and stayed until around 3pm. It was a long time but we were all to busy falling asleep as our flight was at 4am the same day, listening to men chanting at football and ripping each other to bits like we usually do.

It was a nice place, we sat outside on the balcony, drinks of course were not cheap because its Dublin. We had a whale of a time even though we were all beyond tired. Josh ended up sticking rizla’s to his eyebrows and Cam drank my stale pint of guinness i’d left on the table for a good 2 hours which also had someones chewing gum in it, and the man still drank it. I love my friends.

*****

Our first big night out was in Xico. Its an over 21’s nightclub in Dublin where you have to pay €20 just to get in. But because my wonderful irish friend Craig has some very very popular friends (Jay Duffy, Keith Duffy from boy zone’s son), We all managed to get in for free and under the age limit, I’m not even 21 till next year either! All about who you know aye! It was a huge nightclub with a smoking area upstairs, huge long bar (with attractive barmaids) and a mixture of cheesy but also good music to dance too!

79It was an amazing night, the drinks were flowing and like I said before were not cheap! At about 2am there were only me, Brad, Cam and Josh left in Xico, We partied the night away and danced to the cheesy music until 3am and the lights came up. It was a fun night and we were all hammered. The Downside to this is that we had gotten a taxi to Xico and had absolutely no idea where we were in relation to our hostel, and we were all absolutely mortal.

This resulted in the 4 of us attempting to walk through the streets of Dublin trying to get home, smashed. After having a 76number of photos in a door way that looked like No.10 Downing street, we headed further down a road where Josh decided to climb up onto the highest wall we could see whilst the rest of us looked at the city map, and we still had no idea where we were. And then to top it all off whilst I was trying to read the map Josh and Cam were walking circles around me and the map sign, this only resulted in Cam somehow managing to wallop himself in the face with the sign. This only progressed into Cam laying on the floor and also having a cone on his head at 77one point.

Even though it was brilliant, It was nearly 4am and I was tired and just wanted to go home. So the 4 of us managed to somehow climb into the back of a 3 seated rickshaw. God do I feel sorry for the bloke who had to bike us back to our hostel because the journey wasn’t short. We were cheering him on as we all sat in the back. We ended up paying him €13 euros and a tattoo voucher for somewhere back in the UK as that was all we had left, whereas it should’ve been at least €25!! it was a crazy night and I know I’ll never forget it.

*****

One evening Brad and I headed down to Temple Bar. If you ever get the chance to go there then do, when we went down there were pubs galore, live music and lots of pretty lights! 85Its a really lively place, and very expensive! My Malibu and coke and brads pint cost €16 in total, just for 2 drinks! Don’t go to temple bar with the hope of getting pissed for cheap because it just won’t happen, so be prepared to spend the dosh!

After Temple Bar we headed to meet everyone at a Shisha bar down the road from our hostel. It was really cool, it was down a set of stairs and through the corridor into these little rooms where you had to take your shoes off and chill out on the floor. Each ‘booth’ was separated with silk curtains and there were pillows and it was really cosy. It wasn’t too expensive and we got a shisha pipe and some jasmine green tea, it was so chilled out and a perfect way to wind down!

We spent our last evening in a pub in Temple Bar and all got monumentally ruined, we listened to live music and patted ben on the back as he chundered by a bin outside, the perfect way to end the holiday!

I adore my friends to say the least!

Amsterdam – Travel & Other things to help you get around.

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I didn’t realise how far out of the centre our flat was until we jumped on Bus 22 and sat for 9 stops/20 minutes with our suitcases trying to figure out where we were going, this was after getting from the airport to the centre, getting all the tickets we needed and more. 

*****

  • The Travel:

Getting the train from the airport is really simple, after getting through baggage, security and all that we headed to the help desk and they sent us to the very obvious desk that said Train Tickets. note to self, actually open your eyes and look around as you are capable as a human being to do things the first go without help. 

Single Train tickets to Amsterdam centre from Schipol are €4.20, so nothing to strenuous at all and it takes you, obviously, right to the centre stress free.

Getting to the centre we wanted to find somewhere where we could get a tram pass. After speaking to a helpful woman she sent us in the right direction towards a white GVB building to the left of the station (it might even be the GBV buildings, its easy to spot regardless of which way the letters are).

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In here we asked for a tram pass and another helpful lady gave us a 4 day tram and bus pass for only €22.00, Easily the cheapest deal we’d ever seen & not expected. It gave us access to any bus or tram in Amsterdam, all we had to do was scan the pass as we got on and off every time, no extra charge!!!

We saved so much money, if we’d have bought tickets for every journey we took we would not have been able to spend the money we did.  With a Tram and Bus stop right outside out flat and a train station down the road if we needed it, it was so convenient.

The trams, trains and buses are immaculate. They’re so clean and so brilliantly on time, the buses aren’t so accurate on time but none the less, it was better than any shitting english public transport services. The trams were the best, my personal fave cause there were always on time and they’re just brilliant things to have.

*****

  • The Other things:

My step-mum told me the wisest words I’d ever heard before we left for Amsterdam;

“Download Citymapper onto your iPhone”

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So the first thing I did before I left was exactly that. And we depended on that App to travel around Amsterdam like it was a travel bible (So shout out to my step-mum). You can use this App for most cities globally to help you get around, just type in which city you’re in and you’re away!

The pros of this app were that it was a massive help as we were in the city, the cons are that if you are not anywhere near the centre the app is deemed pretty much useless (I tried using it for London, and because I wasn’t in London at the time it didn’t work out).

We used this app from the moment we got to the centre & from then on we were dependant on it when it came to getting back to the flat and getting to restaurants that were outside of the really busy areas of amsterdam. It gave us the Tram and Bus services that we need to get on from where we were, and if we needed to walk to any of the tram or bus stops it gave us the directions to walk to the stop! It used the GPS on my phone to show it knew which direction we were stood in too, It was SUCH a handy app to have.

SO helpful, 10/10 would totally use it again and I highly recommend it too.

*****

Another method of transport which wasn’t used by us, and to be honest we didn’t even think to use it to get around because we had more chance of dying than getting to our final destination, was the BIKES. The people of Amsterdam do not mess around with their bikes. They have specific red bike lanes as there are so many people who find it easier to use bikes rather than drive, and with those windy small roads I don’t blame them.

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If you stepped out into a bike lane without looking you’d have a lot of angry people speaking dutch, as if the language does sound angry enough when they speak generally, shaking their fists and heads. Make sure you cross somewhere you won’t get mowed down.

I’d almost definitely crash my car if I drove there, I’ve already bumped it twice in England, maybe Im just shit at driving.

(I definitely am).

Amsterdam – Good Coffee & Better Food

I’ll Start off with where we ate, but if you’re more interested in the coffee shops, scroll down! 

*****

Out for food!;

16002825_10207785444305919_6777500625390467971_nWheres good for grub? Okay, Although we didn’t really go mad with where we went for food & we tried not to go with standard chain restaurants, that did fail a few times but the food was lovely none the less, as was the experience in the small restaurants to fit the small Amsterdam streets.

  • Vapianos – There was nothing small about this place, it was 3 floors. I’d been to a Vapianos two years before when I went to Vienna and I hadn’t been back since, And I love Italian food. I love it even more when its cooked and made in front of you and then handed to you to go chill and eat, they have a pasta section and a pizza section, its pretty awesome. Good prices and banging food. Its not far out of the centre either and there are two.
  • Amsterdam Steakhouse & Pizzeria – We didn’t know where to go for food and we didn’t know what we fancied either so this was perfect as it did everything, Good price but super small, luckily we managed to get a seat and some more good food.
  • Teddy’s Corner – I highly recommend this place for breakfast. I had an English15977704_10207785445105939_5005694226462020895_nBreakfast and Brad an American Breakfast and it was glorious! It located literally just of the centre so an easy walk and really good prices, plenty of food to choose from too!
  • The Pancake Bakery – We came here for lunch, I had a pancake with chocolate, whipped cream and banana’s and it was AMAZING. Brad on the other hand ordered a savoury pancake and he didn’t like it, but then savoury pancakes with cheese and meat on aren’t for everyone! He ended getting a sweet one, luckily they didn’t charge us for the other pancake! It was difficult to find this place and its also quite expensive but really pretty inside.
  • A Burger Place (unsure of the name unfortunately) – We came here on the first night and the burgers were so nice, something easy after our flight and checking in malarky. Good prices, and the burgers were lovely too, nothing incredibly special though.

*****

Coffee Houses!;

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So wheres good? Unfortunately I don’t have any photos due to the fact they’re not fan’s of people taking photographs in there, which is perfectly understandable. Coffee houses are great to just chill out after a busy day, whether its for a drink, some food or a smoke. Here are the places we visited:

  • The Bulldog Cafe & Energy Coffee Shop – This had been recommended by some of Brads friends so we had to check this place out, It’s also really popular in Amsterdam and one of the well known coffee shops. Its pretty small inside but its okay if you don’t get a seat, there are two more bulldog coffee shops literally 100 metres between each of them down the road!
  • Green House Cafe – This was near the Bulldog, just the other side of the river and a bit further down. I can now say I have chilled in the same cafe as Snoop Dog, Rihanna, Will Ferrell and a whole photograph wall full of other famous people that have been to this cafe. It’s a really funky place, a little more expensive, but thats understandable when you realise all the famous heads that have been there.
  • Original Dampkring – This one was my favourite because the cat they had in this coffee shop was 100% stoned. At one point she came and sat down on all of our things on the bar, she didn’t give a shit.
  • 1eHulp Cafe – You cant’t sit in here unless you’re over 21 so we couldn’t stick around, It was mad how busy it was because you can purchase the best weed in Amsterdam at the moment here, so it was a really busy place. Located kinda on the outskirts, but if you’re heading to the IAmsterdam sign its pretty close to that.15977215_10207785451826107_6170752421100053541_n
  • Abraxas – A good place to chill, A good atmosphere too, but SO hard to find with all the building work going on around it. Its down a small alleyway so ideally you’d need to have some sort of app to tell you where you’re going, or a map, Or just a really good sense of direction.
  • Smokey Coffee Shop – This was a great place, everyone’s friendly, it was busy an the music was really good, we came here after dinner at Vapianos and stayed here basically most of the night.
  • Red Light Coffee Shop – As you can tell, this one was in the red light district, Although it was very big it was a busy and easy to chill. We decided to have a break from the rain and accidentally walking down ‘Big Momma Alley’, I’ll leave that to you to think about.
  • Feel Good Coffee Shop – This was our last coffee shop of the holiday, we didn’t stay for long but it was big and had a nice atmosphere, and it wasn’t as busy as some so it was nice to get a seat!

The Coffee Shops are really great and you get talking to a lot of people, everyone is really nice and friendly there, just know your limits and be safe!

 

Amsterdam – Enough Sight-Seeing to drown a Fish

Obviously when in Amsterdam you must do the essentials, we did a fair few things but there was also a lot of things to go back and do as we ran out of time. For example we had no time to do any of the museums which was a shame. But either way, heres what we managed to get done over the course of 3 days!

*****

The streets of Amsterdam are really beautiful, I know its nothing special or anything specific, but its great because its free and everywhere is really different and nice. All the canals and little bridges, its a really photogenic place and the buildings are beautiful too, Just walking through the streets would have been enough to amuse me for a day. So if you do go to Amsterdam make sure you take in the scenery because its really unique and so pretty.

*****

The Anne Frank museum was a really moving experience. To be able to go around the house she and her family were basically trapped in for years and read extracts from her diary as you went, hearing about the journey and the story of it all. It was really eye opening. They had video’s of people who had helped the Frank family at that desperate time giving their account of the story. In the end its sad to think that Anne Frank and her sister died only 6 months before the concentration camps were liberated. Their father was the only one to survive, some of the video interviews of him talking about reading Anne’s diary are heartbreaking. It took us 45 minutes to get around and it was 45 minutes well spent. Its not too far away from the central station and it only €19.00 entry for two people, so €9.50 each, but its well worth the visit.

*****

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The Red Light District was really funky, something completely different to anything I’ve ever seen before. Men queuing up outside windows to go inside with a prostitute, and all the girls in the windows, the sex shows and plenty of flashing lights and snazzy neon signs. It was surreal, we wandered down both sides of the canal. There were multiple sex shops and shows like the Banana Bar, A peep show, strip clubs and Moulin Rouge, It was really fascinating and we had a good giggle at some of the the places along the strip because they were so different to what we were used too, its a completely different environment but really good fun. We also set up camp for an hour or so in the Red Light Coffee Shop along the canal in the district so if you wanna take a break from the lights and basically naked ladies you can.

*****

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We made the mistake of walking to the IAmsterdam, its a bloody long way from the central station so if you can get a tram to it, do. Although the walk is lovely it was long, and you can potentially go via the 1eHulp cafe on your way as well! Its located behind the Rijks Museum, a place I need to go back and visit as the museum building itself is beautiful. You walk under it too, through the arches in the middle to get to the road across the other side, Its really gorgeous so to go back and see the inside, the artwork and the famous “Night watch” portrait hung on the 18 foot wall on its own would be wonderful.

Anyway, Its your standard huge big I AM IN AMSTERDAM sign, its free of course as it sits outside and its pretty cool. Theres tourists everywhere and even an ice skating ring behind it. Im not sure if the ice skating ring is there all year round but it was early Jan so will probably stick around during the christmas and NY period if it isn’t there all the time. Its the perfect place to be your typical tourist and stand and pose in front of it, which was exactly what we did!

Overall the trip was wonderful, I can’t wait to go again and do everything I didn’t do and more!

For more on my trip to Amsterdam click this wonderful link HERE!