If you follow me on Vivino (if not, please do – I love to chat about wine), or if you’ve read any of my wine writing, you’ll know we’re huge fans of American wine. My obsession properly started after tasting the fabulous American wines available at some of my favourite restaurants at Walt Disney World, especially Citrico’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa where the award winning wine list runs to several pages and the Sommelier can recommend some really fabulous wines. It was at Walt Disney World that I first got a taste for delicious, medium bodied floral Oregon Pinot Noir; and rich, peppery, fruity Californian Zinfandel. From there, we went on to buttery brioche Chardonnays too. I love tasting and learning about wine and you can imagine my delight when I found out that during our recent foodie trip to LA, we were going to be visiting Temecula wine country with Virgin Holiday Experiences.
So you’ve booked your dream holiday: you’ve chosen a great hotel, maybe scoped out a couple of decent restaurants (you know how important this is to me) but what’s the best way to really get under the skin of your destination? Well, Virgin Holidays has come up with the brilliant idea of Virgin Holidays Experiences: a breathtaking range of over 300 experiences for everyone from foodies and shopaholics to the thrill-seekers and outdoorsy types, and even those in search of the perfect Instagram shot. These fab new experiences will enable all of us to create a bespoke holiday experience that truly reflects our interests and obsessions. So whether you’ve always dreamed of shopping with your own personal stylist in New York, fancy taking surf lessons in San Diego, a seaplane trip over Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver or discovering Chinatown in San Francisco, the world really is your oyster! I was lucky enough to travel to LA and San Diego with Virgin Holidays earlier this month to try out a few of the amazing new Virgin Holidays Experiences. First up, an incredible foodie tour of East LA.
So you already know that we’re all Halloween crazy, and last week – a dream come true – I got to take Mr E and Sam to Universal Orlando Resort, Florida to experience the amazing Halloween Horror Nights 27. I don’t want to be one of those people who give all the good bits away before you even get there, so I’m not going to go into huge detail about everything you’ll find at HHN27, just in case you’re due to visit. If you’re tempted to attend next year, though – and you really, really should – here are my top ten tips for visiting Halloween Horror Nights, plus a couple of my awful blurry pictures – you’re welcome!
We all know that feeling, right? After a gorgeous holiday, the last day is such a massive come-down: you’ve got to be out of your room by midday but your flight doesn’t leave until the evening, you don’t want to get sandy and have nowhere to shower, so your last day is spent miserably killing time, sweating in your travel clothes, before heading home. While I was in beautiful Barbados, though, Virgin announced a brand new concept that’s going to change all that, and I think you’re going to love it. Step forward The Departure Beach from Virgin.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a pretty fabulous invitation to Barbados. Flying out with Virgin Holidays for a week at The Club Barbados, right next to Sandy Lane on the gorgeous, calm west coast of Barbados – a no brainer right? Well, almost. The bit of the invitation that had me hesitating was this: ‘come and be part of an exclusive expert led “Caribbean Choir” singing workshop’. Singing? Me?! I mean, yes, I sing in the shower, but a choir? I was nervous, but in my positive life plan notes, I’ve definitely written ‘be brave’ and ‘do something that scares you’, so I decided to embrace the challenge and replied with a firm yes!
So if you follow me on any form of social media, you can’t have failed to notice that I’ve had a bit of an exciting – and emotional – week. It started off with a magical invitation to a British TV first that saw Mr E and I checking in for a rather special Virgin Atlantic charter flight to Orlando with the very excited winners of the ‘place on the plane’ tickets from ITV’s popular Saturday evening show. Follow me, then, for a little photo diary of our adventure to watch the live final of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway at Walt Disney World!
Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days at my favourite place in the world, Walt Disney World, with my friend Erica, who writes the splendiferous Edinburgh food blog, Foodinburgh. Virgin Holidays whizzed us over in style, challenging us to ‘seize the holiday’ and we certainly did that! I’ll have loads and loads of new content coming up, including a look at gorgeous new Disney Springs and masses of new dining features, but I wanted to give you the heads up about a great, limited time offer: FREE dining at Walt Disney World Florida, that’s going to save you a fortune if you’re planning a Walt Disney World adventure next year.
If you’ve been following my Alternative Florida series, you’ll know that I spent a few days in the gorgeous south western coast of Florida, exploring with the lovely lot from Virgin Holidays. Waving goodbye to beautiful Sarasota, we jumped in our bus and headed down the coast towards Fort Myers. Here, we stayed at the Virgin Holidays 4V rated Pink Shell Resort, walked in the footsteps of Edison and Ford, and even went shelling!
So as I mentioned recently, I’ve just spent several days with the gang from Virgin Holidays discovering the sunny south western coast of Florida. Our first stop after landing in Orlando was Sarasota. Sarasota County is a gorgeous destination on Florida’s laid back Gulf Coast. We stayed at two hotels here, the Virgin Holidays 5V rated Resort at Longboat Key and the 3V Sandcastle Resort (an old favourite of mine).
So last week I spent a gorgeous few days with the gang from Virgin Holidays discovering the sunny south western coast of Florida. Plenty of people fly into Orlando for fun and frolics at Disney and Universal theme parks, but we went further afield and discovered wonderful resorts, stunning white sand beaches, some great fun activities and food, food, food! Look out for my Alternative Florida series over the next few weeks. First, though, we headed to Gatwick Airport and spent some time in Virgin Holidays’ v-room – their private lounge with brilliant facilities – for a stylish start to our holiday!
The gang at Disney have been really busy creating fantastic new experiences for us to try. They’ve just announced that Disney Cruise Line will be cruising out of New York, Miami and Galveston in 2016, plus there’ll be British Isles cruises for the first time! There’s also the return of the fantastic value Virgin Holidays Free Disney dining plan at Walt Disney World, Florida!
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.
On our recent trip to New York, we were lucky enough to travel back to the UK in Virgin’s Upper Class cabin. Having never turned left before, this was a completely new experience and we absolutely loved it. Here’s a sneaky peak at what to expect.
I have so much to tell you about our trip. This means that it’s probably best to break it into several sections to prevent you falling asleep at your laptop and waking up with little keyboard-shaped indentations in your forehead.
First stop, then, was the fabulous Virgin V Room at London Gatwick Airport. I met up with a couple of my fellow travellers, Kash from Budget Traveller and Victoria, otherwise known as Pommie Travels, plus Claire, our lovely and long-suffering PR. We started as we meant to go on with enormous plates of eggs benedict and a refreshing 9am cocktail (what? we were on holiday):
A very comfortable flight and a very sweaty queue through US immigration later and we were reunited with Laura, and met Lily from Visit Florida, our guide for the weeks’ adventures.
First stop was the Hilton Bonnet Creek. The place is enormous (1000 rooms!) and sits next to its twin, the equally fabulous Waldorf Astoria. Here’s my room, already becoming sullied by the contents of my somewhat overstuffed suitcase. The bathroom had a gorgeous double width/wetroom shower thingy (a thing of beauty) and possibly the biggest, most comfy bed ever:
We ate in the beautiful La Luce restaurant, created by the very famous Napa Valley chef, Donna Scala, where I nearly died and went to heaven sampling the crispest, most delicious frito misto with a crunchy, sweet, beet salad (sigh):
There was also a butterscotch dessert so gorgeous and so heavenly that there was total silence around the table apart from the odd contented sigh. The dessert is so amazing it even has its own Facebook page (I kid you not):
The next day, we were very excitedly heading out to Universal Studios. The studios are split into three main areas: the City Walk, which is an amazing strip of all sorts of bars, shops and restaurants before you get to the main entrances, then the Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Our absolute faves were:
The Incredible Hulk Coaster – just amazing (and a bit scary)
The Jurassic Park River Adventure – fab dinosaurs and whooshy raft action – be warned, you get wet!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Dragon Challenge – a feet-dangling-free terror ride upon a dualling dragon
Butter beer – taste it and immediately fall in love (oh, that frothy topping…)
Top tip: ask the guard of the Hogwart’s Express where he’s from!
If you’re a fan of Dr Seuss you’ll love this whole area – it’s like being dropped into the set of The Cat in the Hat
And at Universal Studios:
We spent far too long at the Islands of Adventure to properly check out everything at Universal, but don’t miss:
The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – my neck STILL hurts (this is my own fault – I didn’t want to take my hair clip out so rode the entire vertical-up and vertical-down section of this terrifying ride craning my neck away from my headrest. What a dunce.)
Universal’s Superstar Parade: check out the parade, if only for Spongebob and the dancing Minions from Despicable Me. Hilarious and gorgeous.
Next up is beautiful St Petersburg, the bonkers Dali Museum and some unseemly horsing about on segways. Stay tuned, viewers!
I travelled to Florida with Visit Florida and Virgin Holidays. If you’d like to recreate my trip, here’s some information about a very similar seven nights in Orlando from £949
Seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick or Manchester direct to Orlando, two nights accommodation at the 5V Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, two nights accommodation at the 3V+ Sunset Vista Beachfront Suites, two nights at the 5V Longboat Key Club & Resort and one night at the 5V Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel, all on a room only basis with car hire included starts from £949. Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures 12 – 14 Nov 2012.
Start your holiday before you’ve even taken off in the v-room at Gatwick Airport or Manchester Airport; Adults £20, Kids £12
Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected
To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk , 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 90 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.
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