New York was the next stop on my trip. I was actually here for the longest of all the cities, too, and aside from a couple of shows and a restaurant I didn’t really have much planned. I can’t believe how quickly my six days went by!
On the Monday and Tuesday I was at The Plaza and in its vicinity, Tuesday night I saw Of Mice and Men on Broadway and got to meet my love, James Franco, for the first time.
On Wednesday I honestly cannot remember what I did but I think it involved pork buns from Momofuku Milk Bar.
On Thursday I waited for six hours – yes, SIX hours – for a hamburger from Shake Shack.
As you may know, the wait for a famous Shake Shack burger is usually at least 15 minutes, but the week I was in New York was their 10th birthday and to celebrate each day featured a unique and special burger by a celebrity chef for one day only. On the day I decided to line up the burger was by Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park. The burger was (thankfully) the best I’ve ever had. I really can’t believe I spent basically an entire day in line for a hamburger but I got to meet lots of people, have good chats and hang out in Madison Park, which is really quite pretty.
That night I went to a screening of Palo Alto, a James Franco movie and he just happened to drop by at the end for a Q&A session. I swear I didn’t plan that at all *shifty eyes*. Unfortunately he didn’t stay long because one fan got hectic and scared him off. I felt so bad for him.
Friday was another day-long activity: lunch at Eleven Madison Park. I can’t wait to show you all the photos!
I left late on Saturday afternoon to go to Chicago and I spent that morning on a massive walk up to the Upper East Side to check out the Cynthia Rowley Curious Candy store and to have another Shake Shack burger. It was so nice walking around up there and I think that’s where I’d live if I ever moved to New York (and could afford to).
Next I’ll be blogging about the Eloise Suite at The Plaza, high tea at The Plaza, The Benjamin (the second hotel I stayed at) and Eleven Madison Park. Stay tuuuuned.
I apologise in advance for the photos on this post. As I said in my last blog, as a female you receive a lot of attention walking around in Miami and while I never felt unsafe, I thought carrying a camera would make me more of an obvious target so I just took my phone, thinking that iPhone pictures would be ok. They didn’t turn out great, but I hope at least you can get an idea. Sorry to The Bazaar, as they’re not a 100% accurate depiction of the gorgeously vibrant food I was served.
I was recommended The Bazaar in Los Angeles but I looked up the one in Miami thinking it would be a lot closer to my hotel. I was right and I was able to walk there within minutes from the Shore Club. The Bazaar is housed in the SLS Hotel, a very luxurious property with about $12m worth of cars parked out the front.
The restaurant itself has a lovely feel and despite being just one big room, it has been designed well by Phillippe Starck to make it feel as if there are private segments throughout.
The menu is huge. It folds out into four big sections, with the recommendation to have about 3 – 4 dishes per person. I chose the beef sui mai, bao con lechón, not your everyday caprese, foie gras pb & j and the key lime pie. Woah, that’s a lot of food!
Of these my favourite was easily the key lime pie. I made a point of eating key lime pie as often as I could in Florida but obviously this was a standout. I didn’t think the caprese salad was all it cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was lovely and I would gladly eat it again and again but the waiter did a very good job of selling it and the menu makes it sounds like a gastronomical feat when really it is just a pretty-looking, lovely tasting salad.
The filling on the pork buns was sublime, however, the bun itself was not my favourite. From a restaurant of this calibre I expected a premium bun but it fell short. As if they hadn’t been made fresh that day almost? Well, perhaps they weren’t. Don’t let this put you off ordering them, though. As I said, the filling was absolutely beautiful. In fact I would say it was the nicest pork belly I’ve ever eaten. The flavour ran right through the fat and it really all just melted in your mouth. There is nothing worse than chewy pork belly that leaves a coating of slime in your mouth – none of that here!
The beef dumplings were nothing special. If, a bit too overpowering with whatever the beef was seasoned with (couldn’t pick it) and maybe a little too strong on the kaffir lime. I craved more of the daikon to break up the flavour a bit. That said, I was one person eating alone and there was a lot of food for just me – one or two would have been plenty and would have left a much better taste in my mouth, literally and figuratively. I left a couple of these as they weren’t exciting me too much and I thought it best to leave room for something else.
The most interesting of all the dishes was the foie gras and peanut butter and jelly toasted sandwiches. Easy to eat, albeit a little rich for me to eat all three (I squeezed them in – can’t waste precious foie gras!)
I really liked the sound of the Baby Japanese Peaches with fresh burrata, hazelnuts and arugula but as you can see I’d ordered quite a bit and knew I was going to struggle with that already. I was also tossing up between the frozen blue cheese sandwiches with lemon marmalade and walnut bread. Damnit. Thinking back on it I wish I’d got those.
I had the most amazing cocktails ever at The Bazaar. I ordered a few of the same one – passionfruit up – and they were just magical. Thick and creamy and very tart. Mmm mmm mmm.
So, while I didn’t have the best meal of my life, I thoroughly enjoyed The Bazaar and would absolutely go back. I don’t think it is the ideal dining situation for a solo traveller, being that the dishes are designed to share but I had a wonderful time, was treated so well by the fabulous staff, had a very nice meal and would love to go back and try a whole lot more of the menu.
The Bazaar also has locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and more information can be found here.The Bazaar SLS Hotel, South Beach 1701 Collins Avenue
So here we are in Miami, about a week into the trip. It was really hard to choose a hotel in Miami but I settled on one that was in a safe area, surrounded by lots of shops so I could stock up on things like bottled water, on the beach so I got the ‘real’ Miami experience, was a decent price and also had social pool events in case I decided to go down that route.
I settled on the Shore Club in South Beach because it was one of the more decently priced in amongst a few expensive hotels. It had direct access to the beach, a Nobu, was next to one hotel I’d booked into for brunch (more on that later) and very close to another that I was going to for dinner. I also liked that it was part of a group of boutique hotels, rather than a huge chain.
Unfortunately, I would not recommend my choice.
From the moment I arrived I received a lot of attitude from all the staff. The people on the door did not once actually open the door, say ‘welcome’, offer to get a taxi or offer help in any way and I had one woman look me up and down and then say something to her colleague in Spanish as she nodded in my direction. The staff at the pool were horrendous. I went to the Sunday pool part, Shore Thing, and it was not very busy because it was raining on and off. I kept asking one of the hostesses where I could get a towel from and she ignored me until I was basically in her face. She told me she didn’t understand English (???), waved her hands in my face and then eventually walked off and came back with a towel. WTF?
I didn’t have to wait in line at the bar but I did have to wait a while to get someone’s attention. When I went to settle my tab (earlier than I wanted to, because I was getting unwanted attention from a very hairy man in the pool) I had been overcharged and then when I questioned it was met with eye-rolling and a look as if I was lying. I did mention these few things from the pool in a survey the hotel sends out post-stay and to his credit, the manager of the pool emailed me to try to rectify the situation, so I am grateful for that.
The decor of the rooms is really atrocious. The hotel defend comments about the furnishings on TripAdvisor and the like by saying it’s designer, trendy, Mexican-chic — nah, it’s just ugly! Everything is concrete, which I suppose works well for people walking sand through it and having dripping swimmers and all of that but it is revolting to look at! The room was so small that you couldn’t walk around the bed without bumping into something and the view from my room was absolutely horrible so I kept the curtains closed for the time I was there.
The other annoying thing was that the free WiFi was basically non-existent. I had to stand on an angle in the bathroom with my phone as that was the exact spot that it would pick up. Really irritating for someone who was relying on it to keep in contact with family and friends. I wanted to be able to sit at the desk or lie in bed and write emails as opposed to perching myself against the sink with my arm up in the air.
A couple of positives – because I’d be lying if I said there were none – the location is absolutely fantastic. You walk past the pools and through a gate and you’re literally on the beach. The beach set up is great. A third-party company manages the seating/bar and as a guest you are given free use of the chairs and towels, however, I think you are charged for an umbrella. I stupidly forgot both my camera and phone on my first day at the beach and thought, ‘oh well, I’ll be back tomorrow’ and even though I was back the next day, it was hideous – black clouds, thunder and rain – so my photos do not do it justice and there’s no point sharing them. If you love the beach and won’t spend any time in your room then maybe this hotel is for you.
As I said earlier, it is also very close by to everything else that you need. There is a liquor shop a few hundred metres up the road, a Walgreens, heaps of tourists shops that actually had decent gifts and clothing and a lot of cafes and bars. I found the guys in Miami
a bit very sleazy (lots of comments as I and other girls was/were walking down the street) but I never felt unsafe and I think that’s just what happens there – lots of skin on display and lots of guys seeing that as an invitation to be like, ‘DAAAAAA-YUM GURL’. Eh. No.
The outdoor bar and pool area is also very nice. I didn’t drink at the bar after my ‘ordeal’ (I’m exaggerating!) at the pool, but it seemed busy, even late at night. There is an Italian restaurant on the premises, too. Kanye West said he might walk in Nobu with no shoes and I actually got to do this while coming back from the beach. My room was in a tower that only had access through the restaurant, so in I went, barefoot. Tick that one off my bucket list!
I paid about $330 per night for this hotel and would not stay again. While it was actually one of the cheaper hotels I stayed at on my trip, there were next to no inclusions – a towel at the beach isn’t worth anything to me, and the ‘free WiFi’ didn’t work. The surrounding hotels are more expensive but seem far more beautiful and also have the great pools and access to the beach which are pretty much the only positives about Shore Club. As I mentioned on twitter, I went to both the SLS and The Setai to eat and I was treated like a princess even though the staff knew I wasn’t staying there. The Shore Club has the foundations of a fantastic property but has a long way to come.
If, for some reason, like to know more, check out their site.
On the evening of my visit to Sea World I had dinner with the stars of the park, the killer whales. Dine With Shamu is something you can (and should) pre-book and has only one seating, at 5:30pm.
You are required to ‘check-in’ from 3:00pm and then line up from 5:00pm for your table number. Every table has an excellent view of the main pool as there are two rows behind the glass, but I was first in line to make sure I had the very best table.
Once you’re seated you can go inside to start getting your dinner. The buffet is wonderful and is full of lovely salads, freshly cooked meat, seafood, pastas and even hot dogs, burgers and nuggets, which I obviously piled my plate with.
Drinks (including beer and wine) are also included in what is an unbelievably low price – $29 per person.
While eating your dinner you’ll notice all the whales bobbing up and down in the water, playing with their toys and subtly interacting with the trainers. It’s not until the last 20 minutes or so that the trainers all come out to teach you more about killer whales and show you their amazing skills in the water.
Unfortunately my camera was on its last bit of battery so I had to keep turning it on and off and missed a few vital shots of the whales leaping in the air, but hopefully this teaser will entice you to go and see for yourself!
Dine With Shamu is a must-do if you’re visiting Sea World. At such a low, low price and with beautiful food and a stunning show you’d be really silly to miss it.
To check availability and pre-book, click here.
If you’ve been keeping up with my trip you’ve probably seen how much I love animal interactions. I booked in for a beluga whale experience at Sea World and I absolutely loved it.
Belugas are so cute – probably one of the cutest animals – with their big melon (that’s what it’s called, honestly!) and perma-smiles.
I didn’t actually realise how huge they are. When I first got into the water I was actually quite overwhelmed but they’re very timid. We were even told a story about how one day a child’s sandal fell into the exhibit and was floating on the water and they whales wouldn’t surface because they were frightened. Is that not the sweetest thing?
The interaction begins with getting changed into those full-body wetsuits and believe me, you need the insulation. The water is very cold and you need to be fairly still and keep your legs tucked under the ‘ice berg’ ledge so as to not distract the whales with your floating feet. You’re also asked quite often if you can navigate slippery and uneven surfaces. Don’t worry – it’s unlikely that you’ll fall but keep in mind when you book that you will be walking on a fake ice berg until you sit down so it is lumpy and obviously there is water nearby.
You’re given a safety run down and a tour of behind the scenes of the whales enclosure where you’ll see some other animals.
Only four people are allowed to participate so we split into groups: a mother and daughter and me and the other girl who was also on her own.
You take turns in sitting and kneeling and doing different activities with the whales such as hugs and kisses, whistling and singing, collecting a toy, waving and getting majorly splashed like I did – TWICE- thanks to the trainer for that, I really needed being woken up!
Since the whales aren’t as social as say, dolphins, Sea World respects this and keeps the interactions fairly short. You certainly don’t feel ripped off or anything but it is a quick session (about 15-20 minutes) so make sure you smile for the camera lots and don’t be distracted by all the onlookers as this takes place in the actual whale exhibit.
I would highly recommend this interaction if you love whales and/or dolphins but only have limited time. It is on the expensive side for how short the time spent with the whales is but in my opinon, very worth it. Look how happy I am in the photos – that’s priceless! My only gripe is a silly, vain one. The wetsuits puff up and make you look very rolly around the stomach. That girl was really slim and in a couple of pics even she looks like she has a tummy so that’s kind of annoying for the pics but that goes to show you how good this was that I really have nothing to complain about!
Beluga whale interactions start at $119 and due to limited availability will book out. Be sure to reserve a spot before your trip to Sea World to ensure you can take part. It is truly an amazing experience to be in the water, up close to such a huge, gorgeous animal and have it hug and interact with you.
I visited Sea World last time I was in Orlando purely because we had been given free tickets from Discovery Cove and we really enjoyed ourselves. The shows are fun and the variety of animals is amazing. Seaworld is very pretty and has a relaxing feel, unlike other theme parks that feel a bit grotty or busy, and it’s not really a ride-heavy place so for someone like me who doesn’t like rides there is a lot to do. That said, there are two big rollercoasters (Mantra and Kraken and a ride with a huge, steep, long drop, Journey to Atlantis).
I know that Sea World has copped a lot of crap in recent years because of the Blackfish documentary but I’m really in two minds about it all. The only thing that really irked me was the shallowness of the dolphin pool in the above photos but one of them is connected to a much deeper pool (so this must have been some kind of play area) and the other is a nursery for the newborns so I can see why a shallower pool is needed in this context. I do not think it is a good thing that any animal has to live in captivity but I do believe and back Sea World’s conservation efforts and their willingness to take on and care for sick and old animals from both the wild and other parks and I have my own selfish reasons for supporting Sea World, like wanting to see animals I’d never see in the wild or up that close. It also disturbs me that some people think it’s ok to kill dolphins and whales so I find some peace in knowing that at least the animals in captivity are safe from being slaughtered – anyway, back to what I was saying!
I had pre-booked an interaction with a Beluga whale and it was incredible. I will do a separate post for that, as well as Dine With Shamu, the semi-exclusive dinner and killer whale show. I thought I’d just do this post, though, to share a couple of pictures from around the park and let you know that it is definitely worth attending while in Orlando. I would recommend, however, spending your money on entry to Discovery Cove and then attending Sea World with the free ticket. Also, staying at a Sea World partnered resort/hotel is a huge bonus as you can catch free shuttles that run about a dozen times a day and this was absolutely perfect for someone like me who didn’t have a car this time around. I stayed at the Residence Inn Orlando at Sea World which was on Westwood Boulevarde and while it’s not a luxury hotel like the others on my trip it certainly did the trick and includes a fantastic free buffet breakfast. It’s also pretty cheap. I think my room was around the $140/night mark and it could have easily slept 6 or more people. The hotels here are geared towards families and I think that’s great.
I’ll be back soon with my beluga whal interaction photos!
The first time I visited Orlando was in 2007 and I swore I’d never return. Orlando is a pretty weird place; geared for families, very spread out and with nothing much other than theme parks. It is in America’s wang after all.
But one memory drew me back in. That was the memory of Discovery Cove, which is probably, I’ve realised, my most favourite place on earth.
Discovery Cove is part of the Seaworld group and offers only 1000 entries per day to guests who wish to relax in a man-made paradise, swim with dolphins and enjoy time snorkeling, feeding tropical birds and generally just chilling out.
On my last visit I booked in for the Trainer For A Day experience and I did not hesitate to do so again. The Trainer For a Day program is offered to two groups daily, with around 8 people in each group. As part of this package you will enjoy behind the scenes access to see the running of the sanctuary, a chance to feed sharks and the most important thing – extra time with the dolphins, including a really cool trick at the very end.
The park is all-inclusive so you can enjoy a buffet breakfast and huge lunch and all the snacks, beer and piña coladas you could possibly want while you’re there.
Discovery Cove is obviously a treat for all animal lovers. As part of the Trainer For a Day program you will get to meet some extra animals, and this time it was a sloth and an anteater. We also fed some otters, which was a new addition for me on this trip.
The dolphin interactions are like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. You’ll watch them do tricks and learn more about their lives before taking turns in holding on and feeling their strength as you are pulled through the water.
For those of you on the Trainer For a Day tour, your afternoon sees you back in the water with the dolphins and really feeling their power when they make you fly! (pretty much, anyway).
My favourite part of the whole experience is obviously the dolphin swims, however I love seeing all the incredibly beautiful birds and I’m so happy with how most of my photos turned out.
Whether or not you’re booked into a tour, dolphin interaction or just there to hang out you will get to make use of all the facilities including the Grand Reef, the aviaries, the lazy river and use of the change rooms with everything included – you don’t need to bring shampoo or a hairdryer!
Wetsuits, towels and snorkels are included but you should bring your own water shoes (I just wore jelly sandals this time around and they were fine) and swimsuit.
A few other fun features are the private cabanas and opportunity to have a dolphin propose on your behalf. I’ve seen two proposals now, where a dolphin presents the new fiance with a buoy, emblazoned with a message of your choice. We had a really sweet couple in this group and the guy had pre-arranged for a dolphin to bring a buoy to his already-proposed-to fiancé. For more information on booking cabanas or special occasion buoys, have a look at the website.
Every time I hear of someone visiting the US I insist that they make the trip to Discovery Cove. It is the sole reason I flew from LA to the East Coast – otherwise I would have just spent my whole time away travelling throughout California. I literally flew in, went to Discovery Cove early the next morning, went to Sea World (somewhere else I love) the next day and then flew out again the day after. It is so worth it and I wish my friends could all experience it for themselves. You will have an absolute ball and no, I’m not being paid for this I just genuinely love this place. I am sure I will be back many more times in my life and I don’t doubt that I will visit America in the future just to go to Discovery Cove again. It’s simply stunning.
Of course I recommend the Trainer For a Day program, however, I can imagine it would get very expensive for a family or even a lot of people travelling so if you can’t book in for a dolphin interaction just being at Discovery Cove is a wonderful experience in itself. You won’t miss out on seeing dolphins, they frolic in the pools all day long and entry to Discovery Cove includes free entry to Sea World and Aquatica (a water slide theme park), so you can go there and have a look at plenty more animals the next day or week or fortnight if you like.
DO NOT GO TO THE EAST COAST OF AMERICA WITHOUT VISITING DISCOVERY COVE. That is an order.
- Entry to Discovery Cove including use of change rooms, wetsuits, snorkeling gear, a full buffet breakfast and lunch, snacks throughout the day and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages begins at around $170
- All of the above plus a dolphin interaction (swim) will set you back between $300 – $400
- and my personal favourite, Trainer For A Day is anywhere from $400 – $600 depending on the time of year and includes all of the above, plus an extra dolphin interaction (the “double-push” trick), a Discovery Cove gift bag and behind-the-scenes extras.
Photos and video footage is available at an extra costs, with packages available. As an example, I purchased my four photos individually at $99.
All the details are on the website, here.