Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bucket List Destinations of the Week

Every week I will be adding more destinations to my ever growing Bucket List and will be sharing them with you all. The first 5 to make the list are:

1) Tabacon Hot Springs, Costa Rica.

At the foot of Arenal Volcano, Tabacon Hot Springs include three cascading thermal waterfalls and are unique in the Arenal Volcano region. They have medical and therapeutic properties and look so inviting and relaxing!

2) Rollercoaster Highway, Oklahoma.

 County Road NS 366, also known as the Rollercoaster Highway is just north of Wewoka, Oklahoma and would be so much fun to drive!

 3) Hanging around above a lake!

I have no clue where this is but it looks so idyllic and serene. There must be nothing more peaceful than curling up with a good book whilst suspended over a beautiful, peaceful lake. If any of my readers know where this might be, please let me know in the comments section.

 4) Seeing Aurora Borealis or the 'Northern Lights.'

Aurora Borealis is a natural light display caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in a high altitude atmosphere. The above picture was taken in Sweden.

 5) Visiting the Chapel in the Woods, Arkansas.

Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a majestic glass chapel in the middle of the woods. I can imagine it would be so enchanting and magical in the evening when it is all lit up and would be a very special place to have a wedding.

That's my round up of my bucket list this week. Next week I will add another five, I look forward to sharing them with you!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A published article and Picture The World Project

I'm so pleased to announce that I recently had an article published in Travel Culture Magazine. The article is 'An Epic Road Trip Through Latin America' and details my trip travelling through Chile, Brazil and Argentina.

Travel Culture Magazine is a community of travellers, bloggers and culture enthusiasts and features a collection of articles from featured writers on a whole variety of destinations. Check out the site if you'd like to read some of the fantastic articles. You can also read my piece here.

Another piece of exciting news I had was that my photo of Piazza Del Campo in Siena was chosen to represent Italy in The Departure Board's Picture The World Project.

The Picture The World Project aims to create a photographic display with a photograph representing every country in the world. When the project is complete, it will create a magnificent display.

You can view my photo here.

I was inspired by this project and decided I should run a similar project here on Patchwork Travels. So I have created the Edible World Project which aims to create a visual display of all the foods that represent a nation. If you have a great photograph of a country's national dish, I would love you to enter it into this great project!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Spending Xmas and New Year in Orlando

Spending Christmas in a warm climate when you're used to being snuggled by the fire and it being frosty outside feels very strange! However, different is good and we were determined to celebrate our alternative Christmas in style!

So we spent our Christmas in the sun doing the following.

Relaxing on the beach:

Getting lost in Narnia!

Watching a magnificent sunset at Epcot:

Getting a Christmas caricature:

And generally doing the opposite of everything we would've been doing back home! I have left out the photograph of our failed attempt at making a Christmas dinner!

It was so nice to bring in the New Year in such gorgeous weather without being bundled in a winter coat. We headed to Pleasure Island in Orlando.

Where we partied all night, watched the fireworks whilst sipping champagne:

Met some great people:

And counted down to the new year!

If you are looking to spend Christmas or New Year in Orlando, be assured you will have a great time. It is nice to switch things up and enjoy the festivities in a tropical climate - one things for sure, next time you are shivering through the holiday season you will be pining for the sun filled days and humid nights of a Florida Christmas!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Flitting our way around the sunshine state - Florida.

We were finally in the Sunshine State and here we planned to hit 3 destinations. There are so many things to do in Florida and as it was approaching Christmas we decided to have a little respite from the hectic travelling and base ourselves here for a few weeks, 10 days of which would be spent in Orlando for Christmas and New Year.

First up was West Palm Beach. Drenched in sunshine and situated on the Atlantic coast in Southeastern Florida, some beach time was long overdue!

On the way to the beach, an older guy stopped on his golf cart and offered us a ride the rest of the way. We gladly accepted and sat back while he regaled us with stories of his life in West Palm Beach.

Next was the tropical Florida Keys where we based ourselves in Key Largo. An island in the upper Florida Keys, Key Largo is 33 miles long and calls itself 'Diving capital of the world.' Whilst there, we went on a snorkelling trip which was well worth doing as there were lots of colourful fish to see.

We met some great people there including a diving instructor who took us for a night out in Key West where we hit up Duval Street and had a great time! Check us out at the most sourthenmost point in the US:

We moved on to Miami, home of sun soaked beaches, happening nightlife and beautiful people! Miami has hot and humid summers and warm winters - pretty perfect in my book! We took a land and sea tour in Miami to give us a good overview of the city before we went out to explore on our own. The tour drove us all over the city and pointed out the stunning art deco buildings such as the hotel from the movie 'Scarface':

And Gianni Versace's mansion where he was tragically shot on the front steps:

Exploring Little Havana was fascinating as we stopped for a Cuban sandwich and watched the old guys play dominoes and cards. Little Havana is home to a large number of Cuban immigrants as well as residents from Central and South America.

The tour continued to the Fountain of Youth and the Venetian pool, a historic public swimming pool. Created from an old coral rock quarry, it derives its name from the Venetian Lagoon in Venice, Italy. It looked so inviting for a refreshing dip.

Next was the historic Biltmore hotel. It was designated a national historic landmark in 1996 and has appeared in the media in the film 'Bad Boys' and the television series 'CSI: Miami.'

For the 'sea' part of the tour we transferred to a boat and sailed around Star Island, a celebrity hotspot. Star Island is a man made island in Biscayne Bay, Florida. Celebrities who own houses here include Will Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Sylvester Stallone.

South Beach, also known as SoBe is a major entertainment destination with boutiques, nightclubs and restaurants filling the area. Ocean Drive is the easternmost street in South Beach and is home to several prominent restaurants including 'Mango's.'

The sunshine state offers so much diversity from the tropical oasis of the Keys to the urban metropolis of Miami, there really is something for everyone here.

Next post will reveal the second part of our stay in Florida celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Monday, 17 September 2012


As part of TravelSupermarkets #Beautyandthebeach campaign, this post will be all about beauty whilst on vacation or long term travel.

Indeed, some travellers believe this is not important, preferring the 'au naturel' look, while others wouldn't dream of leaving home without their mascara or hair straighteners! Everyone is different which is one of the reasons I love travelling so much - meeting such different people with different perspectives on things including beauty.

Personally, I'm in between the two - my hair is wild and uncontrollable without straightening irons and I always have some waterproof mascara on standby although I don't wear any other make up during the day while on vacation.

My #beautyandthebeach perfect hair is this (pictured with the bride):

Very natural, slighly tousled and easy to mantain while in a humid climate! This picture was taken in Tuscany, Italy at my best friends wedding. It was in August 2011 and very hot and humid. I wanted something soft, feminine and something that would work with the climate.

To achieve the look, I blow dried my hair straight, using L'Oreal mousse for a bit of lift at the root and curled the ends with a curling iron. I then fixed a jewelled headband in place to complete the look. This worked perfectly as my hair would usually go wavy anyway in the heat and this style lasted all evening - despite our raucous dancing until 5am!

My perfect vacation make up is this:

Still very natural as I am not a heavy make-up girl at heart especially if I am somewhere hot as I find it can slide down your face the more and more you sweat which lets face it - is never a good look on anyone!

However, I do like to make a little more effort in the evening when going out for cocktails! I created the look by applying a touch of Clinique concealer under each eye to get rid of dark circles. I then applied a cream coloured eyeshadow to my lids, followed by a combination of all of the colours in Bobbi Brown's shimmer brick. I added some  Max Factor mascara and a charcoal Clinique eyeliner to make the eyes 'pop' a bit more for the evening.

To create a smooth finish on the face, I used Elizabeth Arden mousse in 'Toasty Beige' followed by Clinique blusher and Estee Lauder bronzer. This photograph was taken in Greece where we went for some low key cocktails. It was nice to make a bit more effort than the make up free daytime look!

Now, nails is where I am not so natural! I love eye catching bright colours that really draw attention to the nails.

My perfect vacation nails are:

I was actually in the United States on vacation at the time of the Royal Wedding but I wanted to do something patriotic and decided to use my nails as a tribute to the newlyweds!

I applied a basecoat of blue and allowed that to dry before using a red to start creating the Union Jack. This was very fiddly so you do need a steady hand in order to achieve this! Once the red was dry, I used a nail pen (which is much easier for doing intricate patterns than a regular nail polish brush) and drew an outline around the red polish. And voila! It made me feel closer to the action when I was so far away.

What is your perfect vacation look?

Find out more about Travel Supermarket's beautyandthebeach competition at

Southern Charm in Savannah

Savannah, Georgia is one of those cities that immediately transports you back in time. The Southern charm exudes from the city and the friendly southern drawl of the locals is reminiscent of films such as 'Gone With The Wind.'

Savannah is Georgia's fifth largest city and attacts millions of visitors. The Savannah Victorian Historic District contains 22 historic squares and is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States.

Savannah has long and hot tropical summers and is a port city, located on the Savannah River. It is also at risk from hurricanes - we actually had a hurricane warning when we were visiting and were terrified as to what to do!

It came on the TV when we were in our motel room but we weren't contacted by the front desk and luckily nothing happened. Maybe it would be an idea in areas like this to give some guidance to guests (maybe by way of information in the motel room) as to what the procedure is if a hurricane is on its way.

The city's former name, in order to promote it was 'Hostess city of the South' which it certainly lives up to - the people were the most hospitable and friendly we came across.

The Savannah Riverfront (River St) is lined with shops and restaurants and is a very pleasant place to take a stroll.We also took one of the trolley tours when we were there and explored the historic squares. The squares are all different sizes and contain monuments, fountains and gorgeous landscaping.

The area was so genteel with horse and carriages available for hire for that real 'gone back in time' feeling!

For a real taste of the elegant south, you will not go wrong with a visit to Savannah.

We stayed at the Days Inn (11750 Abercorn Street) which I would recommend but please see earlier comment regarding hurricane information.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

I Love You Isle of Palms

Drenched in the South Carolina sunshine, we arrived on the Isle of Palms. The Isle of Palms is a barrier island situated on the coast of South Carolina.

We didn't have any hotel reservations, but we pulled up at a cute little motel and were in luck! They had a room available with a balcony with a view of the ocean. Heaven!

Check out the view:

The island is seperated from the mainland by the Intercoastal Waterway and its inhabitants are both vacationers who own holiday homes and year-round residents. The islands original inhabitants were the Seewee Native American Tribe.

After a great day on the beach, we headed over to the famous 'Windjammer' restaurant where they were having a clam bake. This turned out to be a really fun night with one local offering to take us out on his fishing boat the next day!

One thing that I really wanted to do whilst visiting the South, was visit a plantation home. We chose Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens in Mount Pleasant. It is an antebellum plantation and includes the colonial plantation house as well as slave cabins which I was really interested in seeing.

Heading up the driveway, known as 'Avenue of Oaks' of Boone Hall gave us an impressive taster of what was to come. Check it out:

The plantation was named one of the African American Historic Places in South Carolina. The plantation still operates as a working plantation and the house has featured in 'Days of Our Lives' and 'The Notebook.'

Another great shot from farther back:

I found the slave cabins the most fascinating and found it hard to believe that they used to live like this. It was very humbling to enter the cabins.

Slave cabins dotted throughout the grounds:

And the bare-bones interior:

The plantation house and the grounds exuded Southern charm and we spent a happy few hours touring the house and the stunning grounds. I could've gazed at the grounds all day, they were really beautiful.

If you do find yourself in the South, please take the time to visit one of the plantation houses. It will really allow you to step back in time and feel very humbled when viewing the slave cabins.

What is your favourite thing to do when in the South?

Whilst staying on the Isle of Palms, we stayed at The Seaside Inn (1004 Ocean Boulevard) - a very cute, beachy motel.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Terrifying times in Table Rock and a state park with a tongue twisiting name!

A few days before we arrived in South Carolina, we had been travelling through North Carolina and decided to stop at Table Rock National Park. The idea was to hike one of the  trails and to stretch our legs a little bit.

What followed was the most terrifying moment of my entire life! This was also an extremely stupid and dangerous thing to do so MAKE SURE YOU DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE!

We got lost on a trail, we had one bottle of water between two of us, it got dark, we had no clue where we were and our phones had no reception whatsoever. It was terrifying and all we could think about was encountering a bear while we were all alone on a trail in the middle of the forest.

In the end, we had to call 911 (due to our phones allowing us to only dial emergency numbers due to lack of reception) and thankfully the park ranger found us and took us back to safety.

We knew this was down to our own stupidity, not taking a trail map and not keeping an eye on the time and thankfully we didn't allow it to stop us visiting more national parks on our trip.

Arriving into South Carolina, the weather was glorious and we headed to Sesquicentennial (try getting your tongue around that one!) State Park for the day. Located in the Sandhills region of South Carolina and near to the state capital of Columbia, the park covers 1,419 acres and has many hiking trails.

The sun was shining brilliantly and it was so peaceful. We headed out on a short one hour hiking trail (and yes we had learned our lesson from Table Rock! We had a map, left in plenty of time and had provisions with us).

There is also a beautiful lake where we sat and relaxed, reading and taking everything in. There was also a flock of Canadian Geese around the lake who were very inquisitive and kept coming over to peer at us!

We had a great day relaxing at this great state park and it gave us time to recover from our earlier fright in Table Rock. I would recommend a visit to this gem of a park.

We stayed in nearby Columbia at the Quality Inn (8104 Two Notch Road)  which I would also recommend.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Hot Springs, North Carolina - A deeply relaxing experience

As we arrived in Hot Springs, North Carolina we were looking forward to some time relaxing and reflecting after such a hectic time travelling.

Hot Springs is renowned for it's healing mineral springs and the setting, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains is truly spectacular. We were staying in nearby Asheville and made the 40 minute drive over to Hot Springs.

Native Americans were the first to discover the mineral waters and by 1778 it has been recorded that people were visiting the springs for the waters healing properties.

As we drove from Asheville, the roads were windy and after 40 minutes, we arrived at the Hot Springs Resort. There were cabins dotted around, a reception area and changing facilities. We were told the number of our hot tub, directed to the changing area and told to relax and enjoy it which we fully intended to do!

The water is taken from the springs and piped to hot tubs set on the banks of the river and Spring Creek. The setting is magical and so peaceful as you gaze across the river. 

The town was originally known as Warm Springs but in 1886 a spring of a higher temperature was discovered and so the town changed its name to Hot Springs.

Hot Springs is located on the confluence of the French Broad River and Spring Creek. It is an easy, doable day trip from Asheville and I thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for some relaxation and pampering.

We stayed at the Quality Inn, Asheville (1430 Tunnel Road) which I would recommend.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Guest Post - Jessica from Laces and Lattes. A food journey through Canada

I am so pleased to introduce my first guest blogger. Jessica, owner and author of Laces and Lattes kindly agreed to write a post all about Canadian foods. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

This is Jessica from I was so excited when Tracey asked me to write a guest post for her blog talking about Canadian cuisine because I lived in England for a semester last year and I had a lot of fun comparing what I ate at home to other cultures. 

I should tell you first off, after the list I am about to share with you, you may think that Canadians have no sense of healthy living or food choices. Wrong! The area where I live is surrounded by gorgeous farmland and there are fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere! I just need to walk up the road a bit and there are fresh eggs and small quaint vegetable stands at the end of farmer’s driveways where you can drop a few coins in and walk away with the best that Ontario can offer! Our national foods, however, are a different sort. 

  Maple Syrup. And by that, I mean the fresh stuff from the tree, not the sugary confection in the grocery stores. When I was a child, my grandfather owned a “sugar bush” and I would wander from tree to tree, gathering sap in steel buckets and carrying it to the boiler. After it was complete, we would drink fresh, hot syrup – absolutely plain. Perhaps not great for cavities, but an absolute party in your mouth! To be truly Canadian, it is a treat to make ‘Snow Taffy”, which is to pour hot maple syrup on (clean) snow, wait until it hardens and enjoy! I love maple syrup as a natural sweetener, on top of pancakes and waffles or on top of oatmeal! 

Bannok – I lived in North Ontario for a summer, surrounded by huge rock faces, wild blueberries and the best camping trips in the world. Bannok is an Aboriginal recipe and is a versatile bread that is perfect for camping trips. It can be made in the oven, or you can put the ingredients in a bag, find a clean stick and roast it over the fire. Delicious with fresh Ontario berry jam!

Poutine: Many people scratch their heads at this National treasure of ours. It sounds wretched but it actually delicious and our best poutine can be found in Quebec! It is piping hot French fries, covered in fresh cheese curds with hot gravy poured over top, which melts the cheese. Artery clogging delight. 

Kraft Dinner: I have written on this subject before, and unfortunately, our national food doesn’t change. Kraft dinner is pasta shells with a fake cheese sauce. Many people love it and children love it with hot dogs cut up into it. Me? I let them enjoy it. It is not our best food forward. 

Beaver Tails: Bought at every skating rink and ski lift, Beaver Tails are an oblong shaped pastry dough that is fried and covered in sugar or other topping such as peanut butter, jam, nutella or fruit. Enjoyed mainly during winter sports. (And for good reason, year long consumption would cause a heart attack!) 

I hope you have enjoyed this “drive through” snap shot of popular Canadian cuisine. I love travelling around the world and trying new foods and bringing back a piece of each region to create my own version of Canadian cuisine.