Guacamole at La Malinche

The UK does Macy’s: my top five things to do in Sarasota

So if you pop in occasionally, you’ll know that Mr English and I recently spent a while in Florida, visiting the Macy’s stores in both Orlando and Sarasota.  We particularly loved Sarasota – it’s a beautiful area and there’s bags of stuff to do as well as a really cool foodie scene.  We whittled our favourite experiences down to five really fab experiences:

Christmas at Macy's

Christmas at Macy’s

1. Macy’s and the Mall at UTC

Well of course the first thing you MUST do is visit the new Macy’s at the brand new sparkly Mall at University Town Centre.  Get there early, grab a coffee in the new Starbucks and then head straight to the Visitors Center to pick up your Passport to Shopping which is packed with discounts and special offers.

2. The Ringling

I’m not a big circus fan, I’ll be honest, but there’s something about this place that I find really magical.  Even if you skip the circus museum, take time to wander around the divine Ca’d’Zan, The Ringling’s quite incredibly lavish mansion, sitting right on the edge of Sarasota Bay.  When we visited it was decorated for Christmas.  You can take a tour (an extra $5 – if you don’t mind being barked at by the somewhat over-zealous guides – I was told off for touching a door after the guide let it shut in my face), or just wander around yourself, but you won’t be able to see the upstairs. There’s also the Museum of Art, a huge space which is packed full of all manner of art, from old masters to stunning modern pieces.

Ca'd'Zan at The Ringling

Ca’d’Zan at The Ringling

3. St Armand’s Circle

When we were in Sarasota we found ourselves coming back to this lovely area over and over again- sometimes for lunch AND dinner!  It’s a gorgeous area of shops and restaurants surrounding a central circle.  There was also a huge modern art fair when we were there, which was fab fun to wander around.  It’s right on Sarasota Bay, so you can visit the beach, shop ’til you drop or just sit in a café or restaurant and watch the world go by.

La Malinche, St Armands Circle

La Malinche, St Armands Circle

4. La Malinche

Our favourite restaurant at St Armands Circle, this Mexican restaurant is so welcoming, the owner even let us share his iPhone wifi, and the barmen are great fun.  Share the wonderful guacamole and nachos, then tuck into the molcajetes (a stone dish filled with meat, onions, peppers, salsa and tomatoes, served with fresh tortillas).  I recommend the mixed steak and chicken, but beware, it’s massive, so order one between too. Perfect with a Negra Modela amber beer.

Guacamole at La Malinche

Guacamole at La Malinche

Molcajetes at La Malinche

Molcajetes at La Malinche

5. The Artisan Cheese Company, Downtown Sarasota

We weren’t particularly lucky with the weather, so we ended up scanning Twitter on our last evening in Sarasota for something indoor to do.  We came across a tweet about a lovely cheese shop that served wine, so we hailed a taxi in the pouring rain and headed over.  We weren’t disappointed. The lovely staff created a fabulous cheese platter for us, with some delicious pickles, dried and fresh fruits.  Plus they even managed to bag us a taxi back to our hotel afterwards.  Massive selection of cheese, fabulous desserts and lovely people (hello Derek and Natalie!).  If I had one complaint it would be that they could do with a bit more choice of wine, but the one we had was perfectly nice.  I still keep in touch with the owner now on Instagram. We’re definitely going back again.

American cheese platter at the Artisan Cheese Company

American cheese platter at the Artisan Cheese Company

For more information about Macy’s, follow #UKdoesMacys on Twitter, because two other lovely bloggers are heading out to San Francisco and New York to discover the Macy’s stores there. Lucky things.

If you’re planning a trip to the USA and would like to know more about Macy’s, check out Visit Macy’s USA – you’ll even find me there!

Decorations at London Heathrow

Win an overnight hotel stay and airport parking with APH! *closed*

Often, the most stressful part of travel is getting to the airport. On my last trip, the flights were difficult to book and I ended up flying from Heathrow, but returning back to Gatwick.  We always use APH meet and greet parking (I love being met at the airport by someone who whisks your car away leaving you free to walk straight into the airport, then magically returns it just as you walk out again after your trip) so I decided to drive to Heathrow, leave my car, then get an airport coach back from Gatwick on my return.  APH were wonderful, and moved my car to Terminal 5, the nearest terminal, so I had the shortest journey possible to pick up my car again.  I was delighted.

Read more

Disney Dreams

A Frozen Christmas at Disneyland Paris

There’s nowhere guaranteed to make me feel more Christmassy than a Disney park.  Disney do Christmas so well, with twinkly lights, garlands and a 24m high Christmas tree (decorated with over 1000 decorations and 500 light bulbs) and, my favourite touch, snow fall on Main Street, USA (which always makes me cry).  As an added bonus, this year, Disneyland Paris will be celebrating with the cast of their blockbuster movie, Frozen.

Read more

Bobbi Brown at Macy's UTC

The UK does Macy’s – the new Macy’s at UTC Sarasota

So next on our wonderful trip to Florida, we hopped back into our amazing Mustang and headed down to Sarasota, to the brand new Mall at University Town Centre (UTC for short).  The brand new Macy’s there is utterly fantastic, and very state of the art.  We joined store manager Kerry Yelle for a tour of the store.  She’s understandably pretty proud of the place and pointed out several really cool features that are unique to this ‘smart store’.  The lighting, for example, has been designed to be sustainable and the lamps don’t need replacing, plus the changing rooms have lights that only come on when you enter, to save energy.

Read more

The Diagon Alley dragon

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Having shopped until we dropped at Macy’s, we decided to grab a couple of hours at Universal Orlando (well, seeing as we were so close…).  I was desperate to visit the new Diagon Alley section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so we headed straight to Universal’s Islands of Adventure on the complimentary shuttle bus from the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and headed straight to Hogsmeade Station to wait for the Hogwarts Express:

Read more

Wonderland logo

Dining options on board Quantum of the Seas

So last time I told you all about Quantum’s incredible technology.  It really has transformed nearly every aspect of the guest experience, from super speedy check in and luggage tracing, right down to the dining.  Guests can reserve at iQ stations, by the new app, by phone or in person and with 18 restaurants and 14 bars to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Table staff take orders on a tablet, keeping them where customers need them most, in the restaurant,  and this technology will track you no matter where you eat, so if you love a glass of champagne while you order, or if you have any specific dietary requirements, this will all be logged and the information will be available to each restaurant when you arrive.

Read more

Macy's Kids at Macys, Mall at Millenia

The UK does Macy’s: family shopping in Orlando!

I’ve been SO busy whizzing around all over the place, and have so much to tell you (I’m aware I always say this, but it’s generally true!).  So last week, lovely Macy’s, the famous department store in the USA, invited me to their store in Orlando at the Mall at Millenia, and also to visit the new store in Sarasota.  I’ll just let that sink in – I was invited to AMERICA to GO SHOPPING.  And also, because it was his special birthday (not allowed to say but you know the one), they invited Mr English too!

Read more

Chip and Dale

Video: fabulous Disney dining and the free dining offer – just one week left!

So if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I headed over to Orlando last month to check out the fantastic dining options at Walt Disney World.  Here’s my video report from my trip.  Remember, you’ve only got one week left to book your 2015 holiday and take advantage of the free dining offer.  Read all about it here!

Read more

Frozen cupcake topper

How to make Disney Frozen cupcakes – a masterclass with Chef Jeff

One of my absolute favourite adventures while we were in Walt Disney World was a special, money can’t buy visit to Chef Jeff, Executive Chef at Disney’s beautiful Contemporary Resort, one of my top five Walt Disney World resort hotels.  Chef Jeff and his team are responsible for all the patisserie for the resort, from gorgeous special occasion cakes, to the wonderful cupcakes available in the café.

Read more

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The incredible Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

So as I mentioned recently, I’ve been in Orlando for a few days with my friend Laura, experiencing the fabulous food (plus the odd ride, parade, and other lovely things) available throughout Walt Disney World.

One of the highlights of Walt Disney World for me is Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I adore the showbiz theming – it feels like a real movie set, with all the main areas seamlessly blending into each other.

Read more

Arriving home to Heathrow

APH airport parking

One of the huge perks of my job is all the travel.  I get to visit some wonderful places and cruise on amazing ships.  I’m always pinching myself at how lucky I am.  One of the bits that I enjoy the least, though, is getting to the airport.  We actually only live about half an hour from Heathrow, but depending on how things are on the M25, that half hour can magically change into an hour or even longer.

Read more

Pool area at Wilderness Lodge resort

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort

So as you’re reading this, I’m out in Orlando at Walt Disney World, catching up on the latest in food and wine (and tackling the odd ride, obviously).  During my last trip to Walt Disney World, I was lucky enough to stay in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.  I love the theming of the Disney resorts and this is one of my favourites.  Based on the old American Northwest, the hotel sits on the shores of Bay Lake, nestled within beautiful forests.  The interior is like a big old log cabin, with wonderful outdoor areas and access to the Magic Kingdom via the lovely boat service (or of course the free Disney coach service) that takes you to Seven Seas Lagoon (click on the gallery to see my pictures):
Read more

Artist's impression of The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort  (pic courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts)

The new Four Seasons Resort, Orlando

Regular readers will know that I adore a Walt Disney resort hotel (click here to see my top five) and there’s much excitement in Orlando at the moment as there’s a new hotel opening very shortly.  This one’s a bit different as although it’s placed within the boundaries of Walt Disney World, it’s actually a Four Seasons.  The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort to give it its full title (bit of a mouthful, admittedly) is shaping up to be an absolute beauty.

Read more

Family English on the Allure of the Seas

The Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas: a guided tour

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, I’m pretty sure that you’ve noticed we’ve been cruising on the Allure of the Seas around the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean challenged the boys to have a really active high-adrenaline cruise and I think we managed it, what with zip-lining, surfing on the Flow-Rider, snorkelling, power rafting and much more.  And while the boys were doing all this, it left us lots of lovely free time for lazing, eating out, sunbathing and a few cocktails too!  Here’s how we got on:

Read more


SushiSamba, Miami Beach

One of my favourite places in Miami is Lincoln Road.  It’s a huge, pedestrianised area stuffed with shops, restaurants, cafés, and on certain days there are market stalls and food stalls too.  After working up an appetite on our cycling tour of Miami Beach, we headed to SushiSamba and flumped down in the shade of their gorgeous orange brollies to do a bit of nibbling and people watching.

Read more