Sunday, 20 September 2015

New York .. a lot of work and a little play

My make up station
I have just spent almost 3 weeks in New York - working 2 of those weeks in my day job as a make up artist for a television broadcaster at the US Open tennis, and grabbing a little down time for the rest of my stay. This year it was particularly hot and humid for the first 10 days and it was hard to decide what to wear as I'm not used to working in temperatures of 90+ degrees Fahrenheit! I'm usually on holiday in that kind of weather! Lie on a lounger, get hot and plunge into the nearest pool or ocean! Given also that I had a lot of walking to do I had to do it in comfortable, work worthy shoes .. no flip flops allowed on this job! Anything cotton or linen works and trainers/sneakers or rubber soled shoes are the absolute best in my humble opinion. And not to forget a good sunscreen - those UV rays are brutal!

Our 2 main presenters
Each day I had no less than 4 people to make up, sometimes more .. so I would arrive, set up my station and turn on the air con and electrics and nip across the compound for a quick breakfast before returning to start my day. It was always full on .. various locations around the grounds each day ranging from our studio at the end of the practice courts to being court side, by the entrance, fountains or anywhere else that was decided (sometimes last minute) on the day. I opted to track myself on a pedometer and was surprised to see it ranging from between 5,000 and 12,500 steps a day! Some days we didn't see lunch until 3pm so it's definitely not for the feint hearted. 

The final presentation
It was fortuitous we finished on time most days - apart from the last day .. the men's finals - the rain decided to make an unexpected appearance and delayed the start of the match for 3 hours. Our anticipated reasonably early departure turned into a rushing-for-the-last-bus-at-midnight run but at least we didn't have to stay on and work an extra day.

It was so good to sleep in the day after we finished .. no more early alarm calls, no rushing for the bus. Just rest and recreation for the next 4 days for me. I had no real plans other than to move from my hotel to stay uptown with my best friends. 

Hudson River
We spent the first day visiting their family upstate New York on the Hudson River, about an hour's drive north of the city. It was such a beautiful afternoon and evening and being by the river was a great way to come down from the 2 grueling weeks of work. Great views, great food and great company .. what more can you ask for? The simple things in life are invariably the best.

I can't say I did anything too exciting over the next few days .. a little walking, a little shopping and eating in the East Village, a movie and hanging out with friends. It was just so good to relax and recoup in readiness for going home and going back to work again.

New York, I absolutely love you and it's always sad to leave but I also love going home .. See you next time - I will be back!!

There's a lot of green in NY
The street steam vents

Sunset and the new moon

HQ flew World Traveller Plus with British Airways and stayed at the Kimberley Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Recommended restaurants include Hillstone E53rd and 3rd, Quality Italian W57th Street and B4 235 E4th Street, East Village.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Shopping and eating out in Milano

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
If you follow my blog you will already know that I go to Milan the second to last weekend in August every year. It has now become almost a tradition as my friend and I have been going since the year 2000 without fail. 
The primary reason for going is to shop the upcoming winter collections but also to enjoy girl time - good food, wine and of course, the good weather is usually a given! The most noticeable thing is that everyone now speaks English which wasn't the case 15 years ago. Some of the shop assistants also speak Arabic, Chinese and Russian as the tourism has increased substantially from those regions.

As each year passes we have come to the conclusion that the only things worth buying as far as good value goes, are Italian brands as they can be
Window display Prada
considerably cheaper than the UK and most definitely the USA which hikes up the prices by more than double. Most cities around the globe are pretty similar when it comes to big name brands and although there are slight variations in collections, you may as well shop for them at home. Of course there are always independent boutiques which are worth browsing and for finding something unusual and stylish. With the Euro being weak right now, the exchange from Stirling gave us considerable savings from the prices quoted for the same items in England. And we're not talking a few pounds but up to £150 on a coat that I purchased. A bargain indeed!

Boutique in Brera
In my humble opinion, the collections this year were not that exciting .. they were a mishmash of slight variations from last year to a kaleidoscope of clashing colours with '70s undertones - great if you're 18-25. No clear direction that I could see and some of my favourite shops had nothing that I wanted. I like quirky and different but as you get older you have to be careful not to look too eccentric (unless you want to) and if you're young enough you can literally get away with almost anything. Having said that, I did find a few great pieces and I know that I am unlikely to see them on anyone else in London - I don't think I will look like a mad woman either! Happy HQ!

Half a club sandwich for lunch at Park Hyatt
Eating out is always a joy in Italy. Most restaurants give you a complimentary apéritif of Prosecco while you peruse the menu and wine list. We were able to eat al fresco on Friday and Saturday for both lunch and dinner thankfully, as by Sunday the weather had turned, starting off cloudy with drizzle, to showers all day, so we opted for an indoor lunch before we headed for home. 

Cobbled streets
Saturday night we ate in the Brera district a restaurant we had been to before Osteria di Brera. The tables outside are very close together so be prepared to share your conversation with your neighbour if need be! The food was delicious and very reasonably priced although the service was a little lax.  

After dinner we strolled back to the hotel in the warm night air .. digesting our food, passing the tarot card readers and window shopping all the little stores along the way. Milan is quiet in the evenings .. not much traffic and just the sound of people walking along the cobbled streets chatting. 
To be fair, August is relatively quiet anyway as a lot of the locals are away on vacation for the whole month. It used to be that there weren't many shops and restaurants open but all that has changed. Even the department store La Rinascente stayed open till midnight on Friday and shops are open on Sundays now too!

I also love buying food in Italy - olives, oil, Italian marmalade and biscotti. The supermarket in the city centre has now closed so the nearest place to shop is the 7th floor at La Rinascente, and the lower ground floor at Excelsior - both stores are nearby the Duomo.

Looking forward, maybe next year the collections will be a bit more exciting - although it's good for the budget when it's not.

They love a dog in Italy

Italian brands that we like - 
Max & Co  
Max Mara
Penny Black
Liu Jo 

HQ flew from London City Airport to Linate, Milano via Alitalia

Dealing with your hair in the summer .. tips from top London stylist Conor J Kelly

Summer is almost over in the Northern hemisphere but these tips from top London stylist Conor J Kelly are great for now and any holiday you may take during the winter.. and of course for those of you south of the equator!

The sun can damage your hair just as it does your skin. If you add salt water and chlorine to the equation, hair that started out as shiny and easy to manage at the beginning of your holiday can quickly begin to look and feel fried. The damage can be more obvious if your hair is colour-treated but even if it’s not, UV rays can dry it out and cause the dreaded frizz.

Fear not, help is at hand.

Start summer with a trim. You'll get rid of split ends and refresh your style. You might need a mid-season cut too.

Shield your hair from the sun. Make a daily habit of applying a hair care product that contains UV filters (these can be in spray, gel, or cream formulas). These products protect hair from sun damage and help keep colour-processed hair from fading. If you intend to spend lots of time outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat. Not only will it keep your hair from getting scorched, it will also protect your scalp and ears, areas that we often forget when applying sunscreen.

Saturate hair before taking a dip. If your hair is drenched with clean water or leave-in conditioner, it won't absorb as much salt water or pool chemicals.  It's also a good idea to try to rinse your hair after a swim. If there isn't a shower nearby, keep a spray bottle filled with fresh water.

Switch to a moisturising shampoo and conditioner. You may be washing your hair more frequently to deal with summer's sweat and grime. If you are using a clarifying, or anti-residue shampoo once a week to clear away product build-up and chemicals, be sure to follow with a deep-conditioning treatment.

Skip the hot tools. At least once or twice a week give your hair a break from blow dryers, straighteners and curling irons.

Outwit frizz. Hair that's healthy and well-maintained is your best defence against frizz. Along with regular trims and conditioning, a drop or two of an anti-frizz oil or serum can help smooth hair and add shine. When the air is humid frizz is going to happen. Don't waste your summer trying to fight frizz. Instead, find an easy go-to hairdo like a slick pony, high bun, or side braid for those high-humidity days.

If you would like advice about which products would best suit you, please ask. At the salon I use KMS California which is an extensive range with products to suit all hair types and situations.

To make an appointment with Conor

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Being a tourist in my home town and summer update ..

pink prosecco
Now that August is upon us, the days are getting noticeably shorter and darkness now falls by 9pm .. those hazy days of summer seem few and far between again this year. Granted we have had some beautiful days and a couple of scorchers but mingled in with some not-so-warm days and smatterings of precipitation - so our memories play tricks on us as we recall the perfect summers of our childhood. 

In two weeks time HQ will be in Milan, Italy again .. the annual girl's weekend for new season's clothes shopping has come around again so swiftly, there's barely been time to think about it! However, we are pretty organised when it comes to booking flight and hotels so that was sorted out months ago and the only funds we need take with us are purely for our entertainment and shopping! Yay can't wait!

Yesterday my friend and I played tourist in London and went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Audrey Hepburn exhibition Portraits of an Icon. We got a bus to Covent Garden and wandered through the market (something I haven't done in ages) and it was remarkably quiet which for me made it all the more enjoyable. We browsed a few shops and made our way to the gallery which is a short walk away in Trafalgar Square. The exhibition was relatively small but fabulous and if you like Audrey Hepburn then you really must try to get to see it. I have many books about her so I opted for a fridge magnet as my memento of the day! 

After a light lunch we walked to Embankment pier and picked up the Thames Clipper commuter boat and travelled on the river towards Greenwich taking in the iconic landmarks of London. I have to say I never tire of the view and there always seems to be more to see every time I take that trip. 

HMS President
Moored along the Victoria Embankment is the WWI ship HMS President which serves now as a bar/restaurant/conference centre. In July of last year a German artist Tobias Rehberger was commissioned to cover the ship entirely in dazzle camouflage design. The idea was originally used during WW1 as a way of distorting the appearance of the ship to make it hard for the enemy to target it accurately. An ingenious idea! I knew nothing of this before I'd seen this with my own eyes! You never know what you might learn day to day!

We had a lovely day out and have decided that we are going to try to do a culture day at least once a month .. there are so many galleries and exhibitions in town, it would seem rude not to!

#Hepburn #blogger #dazzleship

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Beauty of Barbados

Everyone who has read my blog will know by now that I have been to Barbados quite a few times, and it is one of my favourite places to chill out and relax.  Here is a piece written by my friend Nigel May and his take on his very first visit to this magical island .. it's always nice to see how others enjoy their time here.
Enjoy the read ....and don't forget to download his latest holiday blockbuster Scandalous Lies!

I’ll start this blog by being brutally honest. Barbados was never a holiday destination that I had really ever had any intention of visiting or desire to see. Not really sure why. Was it the thought of flopping around for a fortnight on a beach that put me off? Was it the thought of it being such a small island that there wouldn’t be a huge amount to see? Was it the fact that I thought I wasn’t the biggest fan of rum that put me off (that being the tipple of the island of course). Really I have no idea but any pre-conceived notion of what to expect from one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean was literally blown out of the clear blue waters of the Caribbean sea as soon as I landed at Bridgetown. Barbados is warm, welcoming and wonderfully alive and vibrant and a place that I could happily spend a lot of time in.

We stayed at a residence on Brighton Beach on the south west part of the island. Call it paradise, because that is what it was. The sand was powder soft, almost white in colour and the sea was iron-flat and the most tempting shade of blue. Crowsnest 2 (the home we stayed at) was to be our home for two weeks and I can honestly say that it was the most amazing place to rent. Check out the website (details below) but if you want the joy of hummingbirds flittering about as you eat breakfast in the morning and the view of an idyllic beach and the gentle lap of the surf sounding in your ears then this is the residence for you. There were nine of us and that was the perfect number to fill the two floors we occupied. The second-floor swimming pool for a cooling dip and a bake on the sand just a few yards away from your front door were a joyously hypnotic cocktail.

Barbados itself has many attractions that we were keen to visit. Hiring a car seemed essential (and as they drive on the same side of the road as the UK mercifully stress-free) so we ventured out to various destinations. Sandy Lane Hotel had to be done. I wanted to visit there as a setting for my fiction books and a personal tour from Ryan, one of the managers there, allowed us to check out one of the most luxurious hotels on earth. Chances are I will never stay there as I couldn’t possibly afford it but it was great to see how the other half lived. Just up the road from Sandy Lane is Holetown which was an eclectic mix of designer shops and sweet little eateries. We plumped for cake and coffee over couture and loved it.

For any party loving people on the island, then Friday night is your night, and there is only one place to go – Oistins. It’s a melting pot of food stalls serving everything from the classic spicy chicken through to the tastiest slabs of fish and the atmosphere is wondrous. People are filling their bellies ready to party as Oistins nightlife on a Friday is all about fun. Locals and tourists alike flock there to dance, party, smoke (a variety of things apparently as your nostrils will testify), drink and love life. Locals dance with tourists and if you’re not hugged constantly by passers by throughout the evening then I will be a very surprised man. The air was 80% proof with the heady aroma of rum too. It felt like a real slice of Bajan life and we loved it.

Sunday morning I would definitely recommend the Gospel Breakfast at The Crane hotel. Book in advance but the happy clappy nature of having a gospel choir singing away in the background as you plough your way through a sizable buffet was totally unique. As was The Cliff Restaurant. It’s not cheap (in fact quite the opposite) but if you fancy a real treat and what I call a ‘stick it on the credit card’ evening then The Cliff is the restaurant to venture to. The view from the terrace is simply breath-taking and the food was glorious. I recommend the barracuda and do not be put off by the word ‘dolphin’ on the menu. It’s not a Flipper steak you’ll be eating, but one of the local fishy delicacies, mahi-mahi. The Cliff is a one-off and a must-do for any visitor who likes to splash out and treat themselves.

A trip out to sea is definitely something else that should be on the menu of any visitor to Barbados. We chose a company called El Tigre who offered catamaran tours to swim with the turtles. A booze cruise with added extras if you like and it was well worth the money. You are supplied with drinks all day (alcoholic or otherwise) and snorkelled-up to swim with turtles and fishes of many different hues at two different drop off points. To see the turtles in their natural environment was a delight and to be able to stroke them, swim alongside them and be part of their world was beyond fabulous. Invest in an underwater camera beforehand to achieve some amazing shots. Talking of turtles, we were lucky enough to see turtles laying eggs on the beach outside Crowsnest 2. We never saw them hatch but many mornings we were greeted with the telltale signs of little flipper marks in the sand heading from nest to sea.

Barbados was a brilliant place to visit – cool places like Bathsheba on the west coast and the natural beauty of Welchman Hall Gully and Harrison’s Cave are all worth a look. But if you can, try and go for a fortnight because there are many, many days when all you will want to do is chill out, grab a lounger and rest to perfection under the idyllic Caribbean sky. I can’t wait to go back. It was amazing.

For info about The Cliff head to
Crowsnest2 can be found at
For a day out sharing time with the turtles head to
Experience nature at its best at

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Five days in New York - an itinerary

I originally created this for a friend of a friend who was visiting New York with her two children but it's great for anyone visiting for the first time or even again if you want to see the sights and go to some great places to eat! I have since shared with quite a few friends and thought I would share it with a wider audience! 
Here's some suggestions with the location of each in mind...

Lexington Avenue

Chrysler Building

Circle Line boat trip (3 hours around Manhattan on the Hudson and East River)
Pier 83 12th Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Street - must book!

Lunch at the Empire Diner (no need to book)
210 10th Avenue corner 22nd Street and 10th Avenue

Empire State Building – must book!
5th Avenue between 33rd and 34th Street

Times Square – “Times Square is a major commercial intersection and a neighborhood in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It is located at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, and stretches from West 42nd to West 47th Streets.”

Times Square

Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Boat tour from Battery Park

Lunch at Ellen’s Stardust Diner – famous novelty restaurant 1650 Broadway and 51st Street - must book!

Fifth Avenue! Drop off at Rockefeller Center. Radio City Music Hall same area. Walk up Fifth Avenue to the where the famous toy store FAO Schwartz used to be. It has unfortunately closed down. It has now been taken over by none other than Apple!  5th Avenue at 58th Street.  Walk across the road to Central Park – have a wander - there's lots to see!


Soho – shopping morning! West Broadway, Spring Street, Mercer Street, Prince Street – loads of high street and boutique shops

Lunch – Balthazar –  80 Spring Street

Taxi to Bloomingdales (take passport to Customer Services for 10% discount on the day)

Serendipity - 225 East 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue  -  Great ice cream!


Guggenheim Museum – 5th Avenue and 89th Street (closed Thursdays) 

Sprinkles Cup Cakes – use ATM outside shop for a fab experience – gorgeous cakes! Lexington Avenue between 60th and 61st Street

American Museum of Natural History – Central Park West at 79th Street
Metropolitan Museum of Art - Fifth Avenue between 80th and 84th Streets


Highline and Meatpacking District 

“The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line. Inspired by the 3-mile Promenade plantée, a similar project in Paris completed in 1993, the High Line has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway and rails-to-trails park. It runs from Gansevoort Street – three blocks below 14th Street – in the Meatpacking District, through Chelsea”

There are numerous boutique and designer stores in this area.

Lunch or Dinner – Pastis 9, 9th Avenue.  Booking recommended – very famous

Little Italy and Chinatown to have a mooch.

Other attractions/alternatives Best to pre book

Check out the link below for discounts on trips and attractions around New York

These days can be swapped around to suit .. depending on which day you start out on!


Saturday, 20 June 2015

A week in Tenerife

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco bordering on the Western Sahara. It is a place I've never had any desire to go to .. it just didn't appeal to me until now.

Every year HQ and her pals take a girls' holiday for a week to somewhere in the Mediterranean or surrounding areas .. and preferably to an island. I had been given a recommendation by a friend of a beautiful resort - The Ritz-Carlton Abama Tenerife, located on the Guía de Isora coast so after checking it out on the internet I liked what I saw and convinced my friends to give it a try. It is a beautiful resort, very Moorish in it's architecture. In fact this post should really be called 'A week at the Abama Ritz Carlton'! Because that's all we did - stayed on the resort for the entire time. There is no need to leave if you don't want to. It is a large resort with a feeling of space spread out over a vast area with different types of pools and a variety of restaurants and bars.

The adult pool
Sometimes all you need are nice surroundings, good food, good service and plenty of sunshine .. and that's precisely what we got. We even had the pleasure of an adult-only pool perched on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean. I have nothing against children but when you've been working hard and need a break, the peace and quiet is a necessity and was most welcome.

Because of it's size, there are battery powered buggies (golf carts) to transport you to wherever you want to go on the resort, and a trackless train which runs every half an hour until 10.30pm to take you through the resort and down to the beach.

Spa cafe terrace
There are 13 restaurants and bars plus the Spa Cafe which you can use when you book one or more treatments from the myriad on offer at the spa! I opted for the Tui Na massage on day 3 .. a Hands-on body treatment that uses Chinese Taoist and martial arts principles in an effort to bring the 8 principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine into balance. The practitioner may brush, knead, roll/press, and rub the areas between each of the joints, known as the eight gates, to attempt to open the body´s defensive (wei) Chi and get the energy moving in the meridians and the muscles. I felt well and truly centered and relaxed at the end of that one! It was truly worth the time and expense - at €110 (GB£80/US$125) it's not exactly cheap - but I gave myself a well deserved treat, especially considering the day job that I do. They like you to arrive at least 45 minutes or more before your appointment. There is an astounding range of water facilities, an outside garden cabana, Deluxe couple and single treatment rooms, wet treatment rooms and Spa Lounge. My personal favorite was the rosemary scented hammam .. I could have stayed breathing in that wonderful aroma all day!

The M.B restaurant was closed for refurbishment so we opted for La Veranda for breakfasts, lunch at the pool bar, dinners at the Tapas and Wine bar, Verona (Italian), El Mirador for delicious seafood and sunset views over the ocean and the star turn on this trip - Kabuki - superb, mouth-watering Japanese fusion food.  

Sunset from El Mirador

Once again, another fabulous, relaxing week with my girlfriends - good company, sunshine, swimming, enjoying amazing food and wine and watching beautiful sunsets. Life doesn't get much better than this! 

I feel I must thank and mention the wonderful staff at the Ritz Carlton who couldn't do enough for us - from the Concierge to the interns to housekeeping. Service with a smile and they remember your name!

HQ chose to fly with British Airways from London Gatwick to Tenerife South. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Madrid, Spain and the day job .. and introducing Holiday Hound!

The last few weeks have been busy, busy, busy for HQ. Aside from my day job, there's also been the added distraction of the Holiday Hound and his puppy training regime. It won't be long and he'll be experiencing different parts of the country and then Europe .. what a life! He's lucky to have chosen me!

My day job has been varied lately .. lots of different assignments from light entertainment, a commercial, magazine shows as well as the usual daily shows I do, and a trip to Madrid for the Champions League .. which for those of you who don't know, is "an annual continental club football competition organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)." It was the second leg of the semi-final between Juventus and Real Madrid, which Juventus went on to win.

I flew in the night before and met with the crew who had arranged a dinner at a lovely Spanish (what else?!) restaurant Asador Donostiarra. The food was delicious with starters of mixed plates to share, the tastiest olives and a couple of bottles of wine followed by entrecote on hot stone .. meat you cook to your own liking. As we didn't have to be up too early for work, we then found ourselves in a small late night venue Moe Club with live music until 6am if you were prepared to stay up! Not for me on a school night!

The next day I had a few hours to myself so opted to walk a few miles around Madrid in the stifling heat to get my bearings and a sense of the city which I had visited many years ago whilst traveling in my younger days with school friends. I'm sure it has much to offer, but unfortunately I did not have the time to experience much of it. Later in the afternoon, it was off to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu for the match and my job of making the presenters look presentable! Not such an easy task in the oppressive heat! With 85,000+ fans and spectators in attendance, the atmosphere was to say the least, fantastic! 

In just over 2 weeks time, I will be off for a well deserved week's holiday again .. this time to Tenerife, Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa. I've never been before so it will be a whole new experience. Holiday Hound will not be accompanying me unfortunately, but he will surely be missed!  

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Beautiful springtime ..

I've been a bit lapse in my blogging of late .. a planned weekend trip to Milan a few weeks ago was abruptly cancelled thanks to an Italian air traffic controllers strike. Although it was last minute, all was not lost and we quickly changed our travel plans and replaced our girly shopping weekend for one in London.. with the addition of the theatre, cinema and galleries. There's a never ending supply of things to see and do. Alitalia were quick to refund my air fare and the Star Rosa hotel in Milan transferred our already paid for booking to August when we usually go shopping for the new season's winter collection.

Now spring is in full swing, beautiful bulbs, blossoms and blooms are bursting out everywhere. I love cherry and apple blossom, and the gorgeous camellia, but my absolute spring favourite is the purple magnolia flower.  There are a few varieties and all supremely spectacular when they are out in full flourish.

On another note .. HQ has a new travel companion .. a puppy! He will bring a whole new world of travel options with him as he grows up. It will be all about exploring more of the British countryside and road trips to the continent for him. I look forward to sharing our impending adventures with you!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Magical Mexico and the madness of in-transit travel ...

HQ has been to Mexico a number of times now and can say categorically that the only acceptable way to travel there again is via a direct flight. (That is of course, unless the plan is to stop over for a few days.) The UK based airlines all go via the USA. There are direct flights available, but not every day ... at the moment. 
Rumour has it that Virgin Atlantic will be flying to it's own airport terminal every day .. watch this space!

We'd booked to go back to the Riviera Maya on a Friday to Friday availability and our best option was to fly from Heathrow with British Airways to Miami, lay over for a couple of hours and transfer with American Airlines to Cancun. (Virgin my airline of choice had no flights on a Friday unfortunately.) This all appeared doable .. the expected arrival at the resort (about 25 mins from the airport) would have been early evening giving enough time to check in, have dinner and hit the sack at a reasonable time after a long day of travel. However, as is often the case, things don't necessarily go to plan and HQ's holiday started off on the wrong foot from the very beginning.

On the day of departure, the alarm was accidentally set an hour later than planned but as luck would have it the body clock was working and we were out the door only a few minutes late. HQ's rule is to have a contingency of at least half an hour for just such eventualities so it wasn't a problem thankfully. Driving to the airport, a wayward driver almost wiped us off the motorway! Quick thinking and reflexes on my part meant that a nasty accident was avoided. Then, whilst sitting on the aircraft waiting for departure we were informed that 3 passengers had decided not to travel, having already checked their bags in, so we had to wait while said bags were removed. Eventually we left about 90 minutes late having lost our slot for takeoff. We arrived in Miami with about 2.5 hours to spare till our next flight.

The USA require that even if you are in transit, you must clear immigration, have a valid ESTA or visa otherwise your journey ends there. Luckily we possess these things but of course the waiting lines can be long and stressful. Again, we were fortunate to have had our luggage checked through (and boarding cards for the next flight on American Airlines - thanks BA!) to Cancun so after clearing customs we could make our way to our next departure gate. Our connecting flight was subsequently delayed by 3 hours .. We missed our hotel transfer so had to wait while they arranged for another meaning our arrival at the resort was around 10.30 pm. Speaking with other travellers who had arrived on earlier flights - they told us that it had taken them 3 hours to clear as there were so many arrivals at the same time. I think the saving grace was that because we arrived late at Cancun airport, the immigration process was relatively quick. Something to bear in mind if you're planning a visit.

The return journey a week later was no less fraught with similar issues. One thing to remember about Mexico .. they deal in 'Mexican minutes' .. we booked a cab to the airport for 1pm and it arrived at 1.20pm leaving us stressing about getting there on time. When we arrived to check in the machines couldn't read our passports so we had to get someone to help. My partner had also lost the exit part of the immigration form and had to pay US$30 for a new one. Remember to keep it safe if you go - and have your ESTA to hand .. it's very important!

The bags were thankfully checked all the way through to London and we went to the departures lounge to await our gate. It never showed up on the board and we wasted about half an hour trying to find out (no one knew) and finally heard an announcement 10 minutes before departure, so we ran to the gate to find other passengers looking bewildered. We were put on a bus and taken to the aircraft .. and although it left late, we made up the time to Miami with a fast flight time of 1 hour 15 minutes. Miami again was the same as before .. immigration, customs and exit this time to arrivals as we had to check in with British Airways. American Airlines do not have the facility to issue onward boarding passes. A pizza and a beer was the order of the day .. stresses over and looking forward to getting home.

After all of the drama, it was plane sailing (no pun intended) and the flight left on time, arriving early to a beautiful sunny day in London. The final straw was that one of our bags didn't arrive with us! The downside of travel. Thankfully, with the system they have in place it could be tracked and the courier company delivered the bag the next day. 

I'm thankful to say that the week spent at Vidanta Riviera Maya was fantastic and very relaxing -
they are now in partnership with the Cirque de Soleil although we didn't see the show on this trip. As this was a complete 'shut down' holiday it was all about the pool, beach and food. The weather was perfect, the food amazing and the accommodation second to none - what more can you ask for? As I've said before, the people are friendly and hospitable and can't do enough for you. I look forward and am planning a longer stay on next year's visit! I know I said the same thing last year! I still haven't visited Tulum, Chichen Itsa and the cenotes. So much to see and do.

lobster tail and stuffed tomato
fish and chips

As I have visited and written about this region before, you can refer to my blog post of December 2013 for more info.

My next trip is less than 2 weeks away .. a city break in Italy with my New York sister from another mister! Happy days!