What to Do in and Around Orlando: When Not at The Parks

My recent trip to Florida felt like a bolt-on to my trip last year. If you’re new to Musings of A So Called Shutterbug, you may not be aware that last year, for my 10 year wedding anniversary, me and my Husband planned a dream two weeks in Orlando staying at Walt Disney World. We visited all the parks and also Universal Studios. It was a jam-packed holiday, but there were things in and around Orlando that we didn’t do because we wanted to make use of our park tickets 100% of the time.

So when we got the opportunity to go back to Florida and stay with friends for a week, this year, we snapped it up. As part of this trip we wanted to do all of the things we hadn’t had the chance to do last time. And I’m pleased to say we managed to tick everything the list.

Now, as much as this is a post about what to do OUTSIDE the parks, we DID visit the Magic Kingdom for one evening, for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I haven’t planned a post about this event, but if you’d like to see one then please leave a comment.

Snow White Disneybound at Magic Kingdom

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We also managed to fit in both Universal Parks in one day, but again, that’s not why I’m here.

If you haven’t got the time or resources to visit the parks, or if that’s just not your thing, there’s LOTS to do (for basically no money) in and around Orlando. And I wanted to share with you, what we did!

EAT

You could spend a whole month in this area, and eat in a different and good place every meal time and never eat the same place twice. Whilst in Florida, we ate at Chick-Fil-A 3 times. You might not consider it good food, but we certainly did and I’ve been craving it ever since we got back.

Other places we ate were Smokey Bones, Egg City, Cracker Barrel (which is a big breakfast favourite of ours – you can even sit outside on the porch chairs and play checkers whilst you wait for your table!)

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Blaze Pizza at Disney Springs (and I’ll come back to Disney Springs in a bit) is epic

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And restaurant style food is also aplenty. We ate in some great ones but the best was Homecomin’, also in Disney Springs

The food here is amazing. I was able to try fried green tomatoes for the first time and oh my were they good.

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NBC Sports Grill at Universal’s City Walk (again, more about there in a bit) is great. We went there for Sunday football and not only is the atmosphere awesome, but the food is amazing too. We tried Wisconsin cheese curds there for the first time and I’ve been dreaming about them ever since!

Wisconsin Cheese Curds

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SHOPPING

So, other than getting fat, we like to go shopping when we’re away. One of our favourite past-times is going to local supermarkets and seeing what things they have that we don’t. We visited Target, Walmart and Publix as well as Walgreens and CVS. We spent a good hour and a half in the first Target we went to. I just love slowly browsing EVERYTHING (sorry to Sarah and Nick who we were with!)

This is aside from visiting the shopping malls, industrial parks like The Loop and one of the many outlet malls (Premium Outlet Mall is our choice) to have a good look.

One thing to remember is that even if you don’t have a part ticket you can still visit the bar and restaurant areas of the parks.

At Disney it’s Disney Springs, and has just been completely overhauled. It’s free to park here, and has shopping, restaurants, bars and entertainment. It also features the world’s largest Disney store which contains lots of the official Disney World parks merchandise, so even if you can’t visit the parks, you can get your merch on!

Disney Springs in Fall

The Universal Studios equivalent is called City Walk. The parking here isn’t free so you need to know you’re going to make a trip of it, but City Walk is open until the early hours so you can definitely make a whole night excursion if you wish. There’s a cinema, bars, restaurants and I think a bowling alley too. You can also visit the new Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium, Blue Man Group theatre and Hard Rock Cafe from here, all without park entry.

Let’s also not forget the 192 and its tacky gift shops. I LOVE visiting these and this time around went to Orange World, and the Wizard Gift shop.

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The shop-fronts are tourist attractions themselves, and that’s even before you go inside to see what interesting things they’re stocking. Orange World also just happens to be direstly opposite my favourite Cracker Barrel for breakfast.

RESORT HOPPING

One of the things I was eager to do, was ride the monorail and see some of the resorts on the line, whilst we were staying off property this time. You can visit any of the Disney World resorts without having a room there, but just remember you cannot park there or use the pools. We parked up at the Ticket and Transportation Centre (this isn’t free but you pay once for the day and can park at any of the Disney car parks using your ticket), and hopped on the resort monorail to the Polynesian and the Grand Floridan hotels.

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This meant I could get myself a wonderful Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian (they taste the best here anyway!)

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It was my first time seeing the Grand Floridan, and though it’s a little stuffy, I’m glad I went and had a look around.

The other thing we did was park up at Disney Springs and get on a resort bus (again, this is free and you don’t have to be staying at a resort to use these buses) You can get the bus to any resort of your choice. We wanted to visit the Boardwalk as we hadn’t before.

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We’re so glad we did, and we got there a few hours before sunset, so we were able to see it in both daylight and then at night after we’d eaten. The Boardwalk area is a lot quieter than other Disney restaurant areas. It has a few shops, restaurants and bars but comes to life at night with night clubs and lights aplenty.

WINTER PARK

Last time I was in Florida I wanted to visit Winter Park, but we just didn’t have the time. It’s north of Orlando and we wanted to know the trip would be worth it. I love the Rifle Paper Company, and new they had their flagship store and head office there, but didn’t know what else there was. I’m so glad we visited this time, because we managed to have breakfast, do some shopping, and have a good look around.

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Winter Park has a lovely ‘sleepy town’ feel but also feels like a hub of business. It’s rather trendy and I’d even go as far as to say it’s a little ‘hipster’.

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There are loads of restaurants and coffee shops. One coffee place I knew I wanted to visit was Foxtail Coffee, and try their nitro cold brew. I’d been following them for a while on instagram and really wanted to visit.

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BEACHES

And last but not least, you can’t visit Florida without going to one of their white sand beaches. We’re not beach day people, so we made a short visit to Clearwater on the morning of our flight out from Tampa airport.

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An absolutely stunning place. We visited on a chilly, and windy, morning but it would be nice to spend a little more time there next time we’re in Florida. It looked exactly like a postcard!

As you can see, as long as you have a car, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money filling your time in Orlando and the surrounding areas. We’ve discovered loads of places this time around, and next time we visit I know we’ll be making a trip to these places again.

Orlando, you have my heart!

 

 

Beauty: What I Bought In Florida

It used to be when I visited another country I got very excited to go around the malls, but there are so many American brands that have come over to the UK now, that the pull isn’t the same. I can’t say the same, however, for makeup.

There are a whole heap of brands you can’t get in the UK, not to mention Sephora doesn’t sell here any more. So, needless to say I had a list (some of which was added to by my American friend Beckie!) and I got almost all of the things I wanted. The one thing I didn’t get was from the brand Ciate London (ironically I cannot find this brand here, easily, even in London). I wanted one of their Glitter Flip lipsticks, and the colour I wanted wasn’t in the Sephora I went to. Doh! So my search continues….

Anyhow, here’s what I picked up on my travels. This is purely cosmetics, but I did buy other things. They’ll be popping up on my instagram no doubt, over the next couple of months, so keep an eye over there.

Bath & Body Works Beach Range

We made a trip to Bath and Body Works, of course. I bought I couple of gifts for family and some car air fresheners, but aside from those I picked up some lovely skin care products. The At The Beach range does what it says on the tin. The website describes the scent as a refreshing, vacation-ready blend of white frangipani, toasted coconut & bergamot waters essenced with a cool, saltwater breeze. And I’d agree with that. I picked up a mini body cream, shower gel and perfume spray. All perfect travel sizes, and big enough for me to get sick of the scent but have long enough to use it!

lotions and sprays

I also picked up a body cream from their autumn range called A Latte Love, which is marshmallow pumpkin latte scented and made with pure honey. This smells INCREDIBLE and I’ve been using it daily. It’s super moisturising and the scent is so long-lasting. As it warms up on your skin it just smells like Main Street at Disney World and all good things to do with autumn. I’m so glad I bought it!. Then from their Christmas range, which was just launching (I’ve just realised I managed to buy something from their Summer, Autumn and Christmas ranges! Go me!) I bought a body spray called Snowflakes and Cashmere. Last time I was in Florida I bought two body sprays I ended up throwing away, mainly because the liquid was coloured (I hadn’t realised it wasn’t the bottle that was coloured when I bought them) so every time I sprayed them I was worried about staining my clothing. It looks as though they’ve stopped that funny business now, so I was pleased to pick one of their sprays up. This one is a warm blend of cashmere cream, shimmering vanilla & frosted clementine. I’ve worn it every day since I’ve been back and it’s really a lovely wintery but cosy smell. As it warms up throughout the day I just wafts of the lovely smell and it’s perfectly reminiscent of this time of year. I’m in love!

I also made sure I picked up some of the things I use on a regular basis, that I can’t easily get in the UK, to stock up! I bought another of my favourite Coconut Passion body spray (a vanilla coconut musk which isn’t too sweet or heavy) from Victoria’s Secret. VS is so so much cheaper in the states and they always have deals on so I picked this up for half the normal price, which is handy as I’m almost out of the one I currently use!

chapstick and face cream

I also bought 2 of the ELF Daily Hydration Moisturiser. I’m just about finishing the last of the 2 I bought a year ago, so these should sort me through to the end of next year, with any luck! And, weirdly, you can never buy cherry chapstick in the UK. I end up buying a bulk of them on Amazon when I need them, but as they’re aplenty in the states, I bought 2 multi packs. So if you’re from America and you think of sending me a care package, chuck in a couple of these would you please? 😀

Clump Crusher by CoverGirl & E.l.f Primer

I bought a backup of my backup of the CoverGirl Clump Crusher mascara. I already have one in my backup drawer but as I was there, it made sense to get another one. You can’t get this for love nor money in the UK, so there you go! I also intended to buy another of my green primer from ELF but accidentally bought the blemish control primer instead (I was jet lagged and didn’t read the box properly). But I used it anyway and it wasn’t too bad. It says it’s got oil-controlling properties and I’m all for that, so ho hum!

From Physician’s Formula I picked up one of their Butter Blushes in the shade Natural Glow. I already have their plum shade and love it so wanted to try this. I’ve used this once, and it didn’t really show up, so I think I need to try it again. I’m wondering if it works more as a highlight or blush topper on my skin tone. And then I picked up a Wet N Wild bronzer in Reserve Your Cabana. This was recommended to me as a good all over face ‘lit from within’ bronzer. It’s honestly the lightest bronzer I’ve ever seen, and it’s got spf in it which I found really interesting. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m eager to give it a go!

3 lipsticks

Also drugstore purchases, I picked up some lip products. For the Halloween party I was attending as Snow White, I knew I wanted red lips so I brought about 5 different lipsticks away with me, but when I arrived I knew I wanted something light and not too bold. It’s too hot in Florida to worry about my lipstick! So I saw NYX had a range called Plump It Up and shade number 5 was this lovely jelly red. It was perfect. It wasn’t long-lasting, but long enough, and gave a cooling tingly feel to the lips.

Next I picked up a Wet N Wild Liquid Catsuit, again recommended to me. I picked up the shade Pink Really Hard, which is actually a little too pink for me, but it was the closest to something I would wear from the selection at the time. I did see, in another store, a better and warmer pink shade, but I’m sure I’ll still get use out of this. It’s quite comfortable and I’m interested to see how long it lasts when I do get around to wearing it.

Last from the drugstore products, I saw Flower Beauty in Walmart (Drew Barrymore’s cosmetic line) and I wanted to try one product from the range. So after browsing for a little bit, I settled on this Hydrasilk Ultimate Lip Butter in Rose Petal. It’s a lovely pink nude shade and I’ve worn it a lot since coming home (and I’ve been harping on about it on instagram too!). It’s incredibly comfortable, long-lasting and pigmented. I’m very impressed!

So now we come to my Sephora purchases. As mentioned, I was only unable to pick up the Ciate item I wanted, and the rest of these were on my list.

I’ll start with the items I picked up from Too Faced’s new peach range.

Too Faced Primed & Peachy Primer

As someone who is constantly battling a shiny oily t-zone, I was excited to pick this cooling matte primer up. Primed & Peachy comes in a tube with a pump, and the product is peach toned. I’ve used this a lot since I bought it and can confirm it’s both cooling and matte. I wouldn’t say it’s skin perfecting. It’s a sticky primer so it definitely works best if you press it onto the face. The times in which I’ve smoothed it over my skin, I’m oily again later in the day, but when I press it on, it adheres my foundation a lot better and I stay relatively matte throughout the whole day. My face also smells like peaches for some time afterwards, which is pleasant.

Too Faced Just Peachy Mattes Palette

As a matte eyeshadow fan, I knew I wanted this Just Peachy palette. I already have the Sweet Peach Too Faced palette, but this one was all mattes. As you’ll already know, these shadows don’t have the same peach scent as it’s earlier counterpart, but they still smell peachy. I’ve used this once, and found the shadows a little hard to blend but I persevered, and they blended enough in the end. I’m excited to use this more as we go through Autumn and Winter, since I don’t really wear eye shadow in the Summer.

Sephora Nude Lipstick Set

My last purchase from Sephora was this Sephora Favorites ‘Give Me Some Nude Lip’ lip kit. I’m going to post a full first impressions on this kit with swatches, so look out for that in the next few posts, but basically it includes 6 nude shades from Sephora brands and one of them is full-sized.

I love the Sephora Favorites boxes because you get to try out brands without paying the full price, and they sometimes come with vouchers inside to exchange for one full-sized product once you’ve tried them (I know the perfume boxes usually do). I’m excited to try these lippies out. The colours look amazing, and there’s a good range of finishes and shades.

Since I bought some bits at Sephora and already had some points on my card, I was able to exchange my points for a sample sized product.

Sunday Riley C.E.O

I chose this sample sized C.E.O moisuriser by Sunday Riley. Everyone harps on about this brand, and even though I have no idea what this does, I decided this was my chance to see what the fuss was about! If you’ve tried this, please let me know what you think!

So those are the beauty products I picked up on my recent trip to Florida. It’s amazing just how inexpensive the drugstore products are, which mean I was able to splurge a little when Sephora came around!

If you’ve tried any of these products I’d love to hear what you think of them, and how you used them!

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

I’m back! And this week I have been mostly recovering from much delayed jet lag!

We had an AMAZING time in Florida, so good that we’re already trying to work out how we can go back next year. (I accidentally wrote ‘next week’… wouldn’t that be grand?!)

I was back to work last week, and it’s Christmas in full swing for my job-role, so it was nice to get stuck back into it.

As you know, I don’t go for full blow-by-blow posts when I return from a trip, but I will be posting some Florida related posts in the coming weeks. A few hints and tips for things to do when you’re not visiting the parks every day, and also a post on some of the beauty products I picked up whilst I was away.

If you want to catch up on photos from the trip, head over to my instagram. I also did quite a bit of insta-live whilst I was away. If you missed those, make sure you’re following me, because I enjoyed it so much I might just do it again.

I’ve gotta say I didn’t do any filming for YouTube whilst I was away, because I’d much rather enjoy my holiday than feel like I’m ‘working’ it. In fact I didn’t touch my camera the whole trip – my iPhone was my camera and did the trick 100% of the time.

So, a little bit about the trip. We stayed with some friends whilst we were there, and had a list of things we wanted to do – and we did EVERYTHING on the list.

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I was very pleased that we managed to do everything we wanted to do, and still felt like we had down-time during the trip.

We ate some amazing food

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We got to go to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Snow White Disneybound at Magic Kingdom

We went SHOPPING!

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Florida is a wonderful state, and I really do feel like Orlando is like a second home. It’s got a little bit of everything you’d want.

Anyhow, now I’m back, and Halloween is over. It’s Guy Fawkes night tonight, and that means tomorrow begins full-blown Christmas. It’s one of my favourite times of year, so bring on the glitter, lights, food and music. Bring on the festive films and festivities!

What’s In My Flight Bag?

A few weeks back I posted a poll on twitter to see whether people would be interested in a blog article about what I’m taking in my flight bag, ahead of my trip to Orlando. The result was a majority yes, with one person saying no and the rest telling me they wanted McNuggets….

So here it is (and everyone else needs to get their own darn nuggets)

flight bag flatlay

I’ve travelled long haul more often than not when flying, and so I’m pretty set in my ways. I don’t tend to take a whole lot because I don’t see a 9 hour flight as particularly long. I seem to be able to get myself into a good mind-set and don’t have many problems (probably the many years of long shifts in retail. You’ve gotta get through it somehow!).

This year I’m taking our fantastic Walt Disney World backpack as my hand luggage. It’s strong, covered in Mickeys and fits so much in it. It’s also go tonnes of pockets so I can separate everything and I know I’ll be able to find it at a moment’s notice.

Now, I’m the kind of person who goes for ease so I don’t take any liquids or gels with me. This means I can go through security without any hassles. I do take a Chapstick but that’s never caused any problems.

UK passport and longline wallet

Important stuff first, I’ll be taking my passport, duh, along with my travel wallet which will have cards, cash and driving licence in it (and my Sephora and Ulta loyalty cards, of course!) I’ll also have any other important vouchers or documents pertaining to the trip.

I’m be wearing layers on the flight so won’t need a change of clothes, but I am packing my flip flops so I can change into those once we’re in the hire car, and leave my converse and socks in my bag.

I’ll be taking my Sony a5000 in a little case, you can see in the top picture. I don’t intend to use it on the flight, but I prefer to have it in my hand luggage so it doesn’t get chucked about. Inside this case is also an e-cloth.

I can’t go on a long-haul flight without a neck pillow and eye mask. I never know whether the eye mask they provide will work for me (the bridge of my nose always causes problems!) so I take my own. This one is actually from a past flight, but I use it regularly because it works on my face!

mickey mouse lock screen on iphone 7 plus in case

Of course I’ll have my phone, but when I travel I pop it into a case, since I can then chuck it into any bag without worrying about it getting lost or scratched. This particular case is by Tortoise and is leather. I have had a couple of these in the past (different phone sizes) but I always go back to them because they are robust, easy to take the phone in and out, and this one also acts as a phone stand.

iphone 7 plus in stand case

Please ignore the amount of finger prints on my screen…. but as you can see the case acts as a stand so I can watch YouTube or tv on the phone at any point and not have to hold it.

I also will be taking my Beats headphones, but of course I forget to photograph them. DOH! The little red pouch in the top picture contains my sunglasses. I doubt I’ll need them for when we land, but it’s holiday so sunglasses!

tic tacs and a Disney book

Bottom right on the photo, that tiny blue square is a Juice pack for my phone. My battery on my iPhone 7+ is really good, but who knows how much I’ll be using it, so better to be safe than sorry.

I will take a book with me (it might not be this one) but I have a habit of taking books on holiday and never reading them, so who knows! And of course I’ll be taking some sweeties!

I’ll no doubt add things like plasters and pain killers, last-minute because they always come in handy.

So even though it looks like a fair bit, that backpack will still feel empty! I’ll probably end up shoving my jumper in there at some point and trying to fill the space, as we do! But these are my essentials.

I can’t wait to get on the flight now!!

 

I’m Going on my Hollibobs!

You’ll all know by now, that in a week I fly off to my second home, Orlando!

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I’m crazy excited, and I’ll be posting a lot of stuff on my instagram, so make sure you’re following me over there.

I’ve scheduled a bunch of posts ahead of time, so keep checking back here for new articles. Halloween season hasn’t passed me by so there’s quite a bit of horror film chat about to occur (if you hadn’t already noticed on twitter!)

So whilst I’m away, please still comment on my blog posts and stuff and send me the love. I’ll reply to you when I can 🙂

Ahead of my flying off, I have a post coming up about what’s in my hand luggage, which was asked for by my followers on twitter, so keep an eye out for that.

See you on the other side!

Returning To Orlando!

Never in a million years did I think that I would be visiting Orlando twice in as many years.

Even whilst boarding the plane last October (in the midst of a hurricane, no less) did I suspect that in just over a year I’d be heading back.

Orlando is definitely my second home, forgetting all the parks (but why would you want to?) it’s got all the weather, the food, the beaches and the views. It’s an incredible place.

So, when friends offered to have G Man and I for a stay whilst they are there in October, we knew we had to try to make it work somehow.

I’ll no doubt keep mentioning this over the period of time we have left until we head out, but I thought I would share a little bit of the things we want to do whilst we’re there!

Disney!

We’re not going to be spending much time in the parks, in fact it’ll be just one evening – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! We’ll be able to spend from 4pm til Midnight in Magic Kingdom and intend on rinsing every single second! I’ve got my costume sorted and I can’t wait to walk down Main Street and see the castle again!

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Visit Downtown Orlando, Winter Park, and St Augustine

Since our visit last year was straight Disney and Universal Studios jam-packed, we didn’t really go out and about in Orlando or the surrounding areas (apart from the shopping malls of course!) so this time around we want to visit some of these areas. I’m especially looking forward to seeing St Augustine because from what I’ve seen in photos it looks beautiful.

 

Complete my Orlando ‘Your Are Here’ Mug Collection

About a week after we left Orlando last year, Universal Studios announced the release of their Starbucks ‘You Are Here’ mug…. I knew I had to go back and get one, so that’s what I intend to do. I can’t have an incomplete collection now, can I?

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Shopping!

Oh yes! I will be stocking up on Bath and Body Works, getting my money’s worth in Victoria’s Secret and Hollister (the prices are so much better there!) and visiting far too many Target, Ulta and Sephoras. Let’s just say I’m planning on packing light so I have room to bring things home….. eek!

The Food!!

I honestly can’t wait to get eating! Blaze Pizza, Publix Subrolls, Cracker Barrel for breakfast – and the one I’m most looking forward to… Homecomin’ I get to have that beautiful Moonshine Cake that I’ve been dreaming about all year, again! This isn’t even mentioning Dole Whips and all the other Disney treats you can get in Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs!

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Speaking of Disney Springs……

I’m looking forward to spending time in Disney Springs and City Walk, as well as visiting the Boardwalk area which we didn’t do last time.

Clearwater

And last but not least, I’m really looking forward to hopefully visiting Clearwater beach. We didn’t have the chance last time, so I’m hoping we will this time around, because I can’t go to Florida twice and not see at least one of their beaches!

As well as all of this, we intend on relaxing, taking in the weather and spending time with our hosts. I really can’t wait!!

 

Playing Tourist with London Duck Tours

If you’re a regular reader of mine you’ll know I’m a big fan of London, and visit whenever I can – especially in Summer. So when I was asked whether I wanted to play tourist and go on a London Duck Tour, the answer was a resounding YES!

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I’d heard of Duck Tours before but wasn’t really sure what they were, having just seen the big yellow boat-like vehicles cruising through the streets of London. I was definitely intrigued. Me and hubby arrived at the Southbank on the day of our tour, and basked in the gorgeous sunshine until our transport arrived.

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The DUKW vehicles (affectionately referred to as Ducks and painted an appropriate yellow) are so-called thus: D = First year of production code “D” is for 1942, U = Body style “U” utility truck (amphibious), K = Front wheel drive, W = Two rear driving wheels (tandem axle). These vehicles were used to carry supplies and were most suited for this due to being able to go on both land and water. Fitted with a lovely roof, they are very accommodating on both grey and gloriously sunny days.

We hopped onto our Duck, Titania (all the Ducks are names after female characters from Shakespeare plays) and got comfy in our seats. Our tour guide Mark quickly gave us a brief of the journey ahead and then we were off!

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The tour started in Waterloo, then Westminster;

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Parliament Street, Whitehall, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Piccadilly;

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Grosvenor Place and Buckingham Palace, MI5 and Lambeth Bridge before splashing down into the Thames next to MI6.

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We then travelled by water past the Tate Gallery, underneath Lambert Bridge and then turned around beside the Houses Of Parliament before heading back to dry land. Back on solid ground, we passed through the Vauxhall area and then back towards Waterloo.

Considering I’m a regular visitor to London, it was great learning so much about places I’ve seen many times, as well as noticing things I’ve never seen before and travelling through parts of the city I’ve never seen. I even learned that the Thames isn’t as dirty as I’d once thought, and its only the colour it is due to the constant churning of clay and soil on its bed. Who knew?! (Well, obviously Mark, our guide knew….)

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I loved the tour. Our guide was informative, funny and really knew his stuff. I honestly felt like I was on holiday, and the time we spent on the water was so relaxing!

I’m so pleased I got the opportunity to take this tour. I’ve seen that London Duck Tours also do themed tours including James Bond and D-Day. I might have to look those up! I visit London so frequently it’s so easy to forget about the landscape and history surrounding you in such a fast-paced environment. I LOVED playing tourist!

I was given the opportunity to take this tour for free by London Duck Tours, but at under £30 per adult ticket I’d say it’s worth every penny, for such a unique way to see and learn about London. You can find out more about their tours, and buy tickets and vouchers here, at their website London Duck Tours

Have you ever been on one of these tours, or even one of their themed tours? I’d love to know what you thought. Leave me a comment below, and tell me about it!

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I was given two tickets to the London Duck Tours for free, in return for my honest review of the experience. All views are my own and totally unbiased. If you like the look of the tours, go try one and see for yourself!

Why I…. Love Disney!

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This time around in my Why I series, I’m going to talk about why I love Disney!

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As a child one of my favourite films was The Little Mermaid. In fact, I was devastated when our VCR chewed up my tape of the movie and we had to wait until the 10 year anniversary of its release before I could re buy it (Disney videos were only on short release back then!) In the period between this though, I wasn’t really a massive fan. I didn’t go crazy for Mickey and I could take or leave The Lion King and Aladdin.

There are many Disney films that came out around my early teens that I still haven’t seen, and would never reach for.

But after meeting Gary and having the chance to visit Disneyland Paris, my love for Disney just grew and grew.

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There’s something about the parks that’s just…. magical! There, I said it.

I’ve always had a thing for Tinkerbell and had so much merchandise with her on it, so the fact that Disneyland Paris really focusses on her as a character, was something special.

If you’ve never been to a park, I’ll explain. They are so immersive. So much thought has gone into them and every detail is considered. And I don’t feel like it’s full of American over the top cheesiness that people might think it is. It’s full of happiness and joy. I adore the place.

If you’re not a regular reader of Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug, you might not know that I was able to visit Disney World last year to celebrate my 10 yr wedding anniversary. It was an incredible two weeks and really blew Disneyland Paris out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, Paris Disney is amazing and there are some elements that I prefer over Florida Disney (the Paris Castle is the prettiest in my opinion) but there is so much of it, with 4 parks, each of which bigger than you could even imagine, there’s so much to see and so much Disney magic to go around.

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You can go back and read my old post on my trip to Disney World if you would like. I’d been to Disneyland Paris twice before, which had cemented my love of Disney, but Disney World turned it into an obsession.

There’s so much detail involved in just the planning of a WDW holiday, and then once you’re there, you are (and I don’t mean this to sounds obvious) IN a world of Disney. I know that sounds stupid, but as I mentioned it’s completely immersive. It’s most definitely my happy place! You can be a kid again and all there is to do is have fun!

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There’s me looking pale as, at the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I think I could happily live at the Magic Kingdom.

As part of preparing to visit WDW we watched a load of Disney and Pixar films. I love a lot of the Pixar movies and have found a love for some of the older Disney ones. Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland are firm favourites. Tangled and Frozen are up there too. But my favourite Disney film has to be Enchanted. It’s fairly new and not everyone has seen it, but I really love it every time I see it. I think my favourite Pixar film is Wall E. It’s so beautiful and the music is amazing. Considering the majority of the movie has no speaking in it, I think it’s probably more of a film suited to adults, but I could watch it every day. It’s so relaxing!

I don’t think my love for Disney will ever end. I would really like a Disney related tattoo at some point, and I have an idea of a couple I’d like. Later this year we’re visiting Orlando again, and there’s possibility we might visit Disney for one day. But if not, I’ll still revel in the Disney-ness at Disney Springs.

They say Disney Parks are the happiest places on Earth, and to me, they absolutely are!

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London, Manchester and Carrying On

Just under two weeks ago I had a couple of days off work booked, because I was supposed to be seeing Ariana Grande at the O2. As you might know I’m a huge Ariana Grande fan and it was going to be the highlight of my summer.

I don’t need to tell you why the concert was cancelled, and I don’t want to go deep into my feelings about it here. We had a hotel booked (the Intercontinental O2, which is right next to the O2) and we’d paid already so we decided to go and have a couple of days in London in the sunshine despite the attack.

I’m really pleased we did. London in the sunshine is beautiful. Our room overlooked the O2 and we could see the people walking over the top of it – we were that close!

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We had a lovely time wandering around. We never really have the chance to just mill about, since we’re usually in London for a particular reason. Stands selling fresh fruit, juices and waffles pop up this time of year, and they look and smell so inviting.

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We ate dinner at The Diner, and I had this yummy corned beef hash.

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The next morning we grabbed breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien and sat outside on Covent Garden markets – it was already too hot to sit in the sunshine, but we had a lovely warm breeze from our table.

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I won’t lie, the police presence was both reassuring and scary. I have an issue with guns, they make me nervous just by seeing them. I know they’re in capable hands in this circumstance but they can still be used in error. Besides that it was a lovely couple of days and a nice way to spend it in lieu of the events.

As I type this, the afternoon after the London Bridge attack, my heart is heavy once more. The Ariana Grande concert for Manchester is this evening, and I don’t suppose my eyes will stay dry. The whole situation is frightening and frustrating. No one knows how to behave in these kinds of situations and people are sensitive for varying reasons. Arguments are being caused because of people’s differing opinons in situations like this and no one knows what to do. No one feels in control. All we can do is do the right thing and continue to live our lives.

I’m glad we decided to keep our reservation in London and continue our day. London is beautiful in the sunshine, everyone was happy and it was lovely to see so many people enjoying themselves.

When In Rome

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (hi guys!) you’ll know I recently took a 5 day trip to Rome.

It was the first time I’d been to Italy and I was really excited to see what it was all about. I struggle with travel anxiety and especially in places where I don’t speak the language, but G Man had already been and had been fine so I was pretty chilled about this trip.

I’m used to long haul flights so the 2.5 hr flight seemed like a breeze. I was able to listen to the second and third Childish Gambino albums in full from take off to landing perfectly!

We grabbed a shuttle bus with a very friendly driver to our hotel and checked. The River Palace hotel is situated just off the Piazza del Popolo so was in a great location for walking to all the places we wanted to visit.

We arrived pretty late in the day so headed straight out to grab some dinner. We found a lovely little place and sat inside because it was a tad chilly. I had a great bowl of spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce. I wasn’t majorly hungry and the serving was a perfect size. I hadn’t expected this, but it seems in Italy you eat a starter, 1st course of pasta, 2nd course which is your main course and then desert. I couldn’t work out how everyone wasn’t the size of a house!

Back at the hotel we slept badly and we had decided the room as way too small (you couldn’t actually fit into the shower and my knees butted against the sink when I sat on the loo) so we upgrade and moved our belongings into our new room. The second room was much better, we even got an extra pillow each!

I was very impressed with the breakfast in this hotel, which comes as part of your room. There were pastries, pancakes, fruit, cereal, meats and cheeses, bread and hot food (scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage and bacon) and coffee with juices. All of this was buffet style so you could have however much you wanted, and the dining rooms were never too busy.

Over our stay we visited the Pantheon, The Vatican and saw the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and of course the Piazza del Popolo, amongst other things we passed by. We also ate in some amazing places, one of which was recommended to me on twitter, Di Qua.

We actually ate here twice and I really liked the modern feel of the restaurant mixed with the traditional cuisine.

The other thing I hadn’t expected from the food was that the only things you can eat are pasta and pizza – like every restaurant had the same menu. So it then boiled down to quality, price and ambience. I think we chose pretty wisely!

We also wanted to hunt out a good gelato place, and after searching on Pinterest I saw Giolitti recommended a couple of times. When we arrived we joined a line of people to pay – you pay for the size of gelato you want, and pick up a ticket. You then take your ticket to the gelato counter, where it’s every man for himself (think Brooklyn meat deli) – I noticed whilst we were waiting that they had milk-free options and when we requested these our server was awesome. We specified that we wanted milk free and chose our flavours, and he immediately put down the cone in his hand and said we wanted a cup (I assume the cone had risk of dairy) and then went out the back for a brand new paddle which he scooped my gelato with. I really appreciated how he took my intolerance seriously without being told – much better than here in the UK. We then went outside to eat! I chose Melon and Wild Cherry flavours and they were both out of this world. As we ate the line outside for ice cream snaked out of the door. I think we chose a perfect time to go in!

Another thing I noticed whilst we were there was that people ask for their gelato in a cone, use a spoon to eat it with and then throw the cone away…. Very confusing.

We did a huge amount of walking on this trip – we hit 23k in one day alone. I’m so glad I took my Sketchers and Tevas. I also sunburned by face quite badly on one of the days…. I’m such a sunshine novice!

I took loads of photos on this trip, so here’s a selection of some of my favourites!

It was an awesome trip and although I was tired by the end, I’m very glad I visited. I’d like to see other parts of Italy now, as I now don’t have the anxiety of the language barrier. If you can recommend other parts of Italy, then please go ahead in the comments. Where should I go next?