Sky Suites at the Aria Hotel, Las Vegas


When I travel, I have been lucky enough to stay in a diverse range of hotels, homes, hostels and accommodations. From gorgeous suites to shared dorms, plush rooms to campsites, quaint B & Bs to mid-range hotels, there truly is a time and an occasion for everything!

In Las Vegas, however, I love a bit of luxury. In a city devoted to decadence, it's the perfect place to splurge on a suite and really enjoy the high life.

To quote Donna Meagle:


When Matthew and I went on our honeymoon in 2015, we stayed in two Vegas hotels, the MGM and the Aria. Both were nice hotels, but the Aria just blew us away with the quality of the rooms, the levels of service and the fantastic location, so when we added a Vegas leg onto our autumn trip last year, it had to be the Aria.

When we stay at the Aria, we like to stay in the Sky Suites, a part of the hotel with its own hidden entrance and quite a few hidden perks - limos to and from the airport, a great concierge service, a separate pool, and a little reception area which is stocked with water, soft drinks and snacks (this was a godsend in the air conditioned Vegas lifestyle!).

This time we opted for a corner suite, up on the 31st floor, and it did not disappoint.


As you enter you encounter a chilled blast from the air conditioning, and you have plenty of time to explore while you await the bell hops with your luggage.



The bedroom, dining and lounge areas all have floor to ceiling windows, offering amazing views over the Strip on one side, and out across the desert in the other direction. The sunsets on the western side were amazing, and it was fun to helicopter-watch as the tours flew by in the middle distance too!


The kitchen/dining area is neat and pretty, with storage for snacks on the sides and in the fridge as well as a fully stocked mini bar to enjoy.




The table came in so handy on the evenings or morning we opted for room service. The Aria does an amazing club sandwich (my favourite room service order!).




From the dining room windows we could wave to the MGM and Monte Carlo casinos, if we so desired.


Beside the dining area there was this lovely little spot - perfect for some light reading or a morning ponder with a cup of coffee.


As well as the sofa area the living space also had a big desk - perfect if you're a captain of industry who finds themselves in Las Vegas. Also good if you just want to send a few emails.


This couch was so comfy to curl up on and watch a little TV once we retired for the night.



The bedroom was spacious and comfortable, with a huge bed which managed to be both firm and soft. No mean feat! The sheets were high thread count wonders.


Both the living room and the bedroom had big TVs, for watching TV, listening to music, and controlling the many features of the room. When the turndown service arrived each evening, as well as drawing the blinds, tidying away any messes and prepping the bed, they'd also leave the 'Smooth Jazz' channel playing gently. It became our nightly welcome home.


From the bedroom window you could see out across the suburbs and the desert to the mountains in the distance.





The finish of the bedroom was luxurious, with beautiful furniture, fabrics and features, and plenty of high-tech nods too - tablets to control the room, different lighting programs, and other little touches.




The bathroom was generous and well-appointed. Next to the his-and-hers sinks you could find most of the toiletries you could ever desire, and if you couldn't there were many others you could request from reception. Case in point, on one evening I wanted to straighten my hair for dinner - a quick call down to reception garnered not only some hairspray, but a pair of ceramic straighteners too!




The jacuzzi bath was a firm favourite of mine, while Matthew loved the shower with steam function. Love having a chance to pamper!


There was ample closet space, and an extra powder room near to the entrance if the main bathroom was in use.



And throughout there were these gorgeous views.





The little touches really added to the experience, whether it was the daily papers, the ease of booking tables through the concierge (and always an excellent table, too), the details around the suite, or the nightly wine and cheese in the Sky Suites reception each evening.



 We had such a wonderful time at the Aria, during both of our stays. The hotel is beautiful, the suites exquisite, and the staff very friendly and helpful. I hope we can return when we next take a trip to Las Vegas!

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The CN Tower


Every city has its iconic monument, building or structure.

The Eiffel Tower.

The London Eye.

The Empire State Building.

In Toronto there are many beautiful buildings, but none are more iconic and recognisable than the CN Tower. So when we visited a few months ago, of course  we had to visit. After buying our tickets and a wait of about thirty minutes we were soon speeding up the tower, whizzing upwards as we looked out of the glass elevator at the city skyline.

Once there we were treated to gorgeous views of the city, the islands, Lake Ontario and beyond. At a height of 346/351 metres (or even higher if you venture up to the Skypod) you can see a long, long way!


It was fun to look down on the Toronto Islands where we'd spent most of the day exploring! The boats and planes looked tiny as the ferried people to and fro.


Matthew was very brave and went to take a snap through the glass floor. It is a long way down!


Meanwhile I took some snaps of the city and suburbs as they basked in the late afternoon sunshine.



It's always a little odd to see such huge buildings from above!




The sun was starting to go down over Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington in the far distance as we took in the views and enjoyed a glass of wine and a Canadian beer. Then we headed off to meet friends for steak and wine - holiday mode is such a joy, no?

The CN Tower was a definite highlight of our trip, as well as a constant sight during our time in Toronto. Not least because when you sat on the windowseat of our hotel room at the Intercontinental, the view was this:


Way to be, CN Tower!
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A Day in Bamburgh


Whenever we head up to the north-east to see our families (north-east England for Matthew, north-east Scotland for me), we always try and steal away for a little daytrip somewhere too if we're up for more than a couple of days. Last time we visited Matthew's family and stayed with them, we took an afternoon to head up the Northumberland coast to the beautiful little town of Bamburgh.


The Northumberland coast is absolutely beautiful. Rugged and wild, and far less visited than the beaches of the south, it has a charm all its own. In the winter it was most definitely not the not the tip for a dip in the sea, but the views were spectacular!


Most people know Bamburgh for its beautiful castle. As we visited on the off-season we couldn't go into the castle proper for an explore, but as architecture fans we had great fun walking the perimeter and taking in the views of the towers, parapets and arches from the ground.




After a good hour or so looking around the castle, we walked into the village (Bamburgh's either a small town or a large village - it depends who you ask!) to find a spot for lunch.


After tasty sandwiches and a warming cup of tea in the charming Wynding Inn we set off to look around the village. The houses were all beautiful, with several cottages I think I could happily live in, and all through the town there were beautiful little details and slices of history.


 Before the sun went down we ventured over to St Aidan's Church. St Aidan established a place of worship in Bamburgh in 635 AD, and the church now standing was built in the 12th century, so this is a place full of historical and cultural significance. We loved touring the church and finding out more about its history, its mission, and its importance within the history of Christianity in the UK.


We loved Bamburgh for a day trip, and will definitely be returning in sunnier weather to visit the castle properly and to take in some of the other attractions (I'm keen to see the Grace Darling Museum too). If you're in Northumberland, this is a great little town to visit.
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Plans for a day in Paris

And...relax.

Around here the middle of February is always a time to unwind a little, as the busy-ness of the Spring/Lent term breaks for a few days for the half-term break. As well as writing, catching up on house jobs, meeting with friends and doing all those little appointments which are harder to schedule during the school week, Matthew and I always try to schedule a day or more for fun, travel, or simply spending time together. Sometimes we'll plan a few days away, sometimes we'll go for a nice lunch, sometimes it's something as simple as a meal deal for two (viva M & S!). This year, we're going to zoom over to Paris for a day!

Eurostar always has some amazing deals on at the start of the year, so as soon as Matthew and I saw that there were lots of £26 seats available for the middle of February, we began to hatch a plan. There are parts of the UK we couldn't do for £100-odd return, so that price for a little French fun was not to be missed. We're heading across early, getting to Paris mid-morning in time for strolls and museums before lunch, and then have the whole afternoon and early evening before heading home to Blighty.

We've both visited Paris before, but not together, and I'm really looking forward to seeing a few favourite sights again, as well as catching a few new ones! Here's what we are hoping to do in the day. We won't stop much for food, as I'll be packing us a nice big Eurostar-picnic for breakfast en route, but supper should be lovely.

Once we've arrived we'll be hoping onto the Metro to head over to the Arc de Triomphe. Despite being in Paris many times, I've never gone to visit the Arc specifically! I have spent many a moment circling it though, within the unique insurance zone, often with colourful expletives ringing in my ears as a Parisian cabbie has disagreed with another driver's choices. This time we'll be going to pay our respects and enjoy the monument itself.

After that I feel a little stroll will be in order. We'll wend our way along the Champs-Élysées, then down Montaigne towards the Seine. I'm looking forward to gawking in all the windows of the designer stores. I'm not the biggest designer clothes girl, but man, I love the pretty windows!

Once we reach the Seine, we'll be taking a boat tour of the city. As it's a flying visit on this occasion I thought a tour would be nice, and in a day with lots of walking this'll give us a wee break to sit and have a snack too. I love the bateaux on the Seine, it's a really lovely way to explore the city.

When we've had our tour on the boat, we'll walk along the right bank to the Pont de Champs-Elysee, then cross to the left bank for a visit to one of my favourite museums, the Musée D'Orsay. This gorgeous museum is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station, and it is full of beautiful paintings and sculpture. While researching our trip I also discovered that we can get two tickets for the price of one as we are travelling by Eurostar - always nice to pick up a bargain, no?

After we've seen our fill of art, I thought we could walk a little further along the river and pop into the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. I've heard so much about this place and I always have time for an independent bookshop! Then I'd like to go and see a little of Notre Dame; last time I visited there were hoardings up everywhere, so I'm keen to see what it looks like now.

I imagine by then we will be positively full to the brim with culture and staaaaarving, so I thought we could pop back on the Metro at Cité and head back up to the area around Gare du Nord. There are so many great places to eat in Paris, but as we are heading back on the last train I'm keen to make sure we're in the right area! So imagine my delight when I spotted the lovely restaurant at Terminus Nord, right across the road from the station. I've booked us an early table for steak, wine and chats before we check in for our train and head back to England.

I'm so excited for our busy, fun day. What do you think of our plan? Have you ever tried to do a city in a day?
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Travel plans for 2017

All pictures are from our glorious day on Toronto Island

Happy New Year!

I hope your 2017 started beautifully. Mine had a quiet beginning, but it began with good friends, bubbles and cosiness, so I have absolutely no complaints!

2016 was a fun year for travel - lots of fun, short breaks to places in Europe, and a magical four-stop break in the autumn taking in New York, Boston, Toronto and Las Vegas. In 2017 I'm returning to full-time work, and that will change how I holiday - I'm hoping to utilise my weekends and holiday times well to see lots of places! This year I'm thinking most of my travel will be in the UK and Europe; I'm planning for lots of little visits. In 2018 I'll aim for a long haul, but 2017 should be the year of adventuresome little jaunts.


Already planned are a weekend in Newcastle later this month. We're going to stay at one of our favourite hotels, the beautiful Malmasion, and take in a Newcastle United match from one of the boxes at St James' Park. Next month we are going to Paris for the day - Eurostar has an amazing sale on seats so we took advantage and will be enjoying a day of museums, patisserie and gorgeous Parisian views. In March we are hopping up to Inverness for a family visit and to catch up with one of my best childhood friends who's over for a visit from the US.


Apart from that, we are deliciously unplanned so far. We usually plan holidays so far out, but as we're focusing on shorter-haul trips we can afford to be a little more chilled about proceedings. We are definitely planning on Italy at some point (Matthew studied Italian for years and I'm obsessed with Italian food, culture and architecture). Other destinations up for discussion are Oslo, Lisbon, Berlin, Barcelona, Stockholm and Santorini - it's such fun throwing ideas around!


I think in the long summer break I'll be taking a small holiday on my own. I haven't travelled solo in ages, so I'm excited for that challenge too. I'm mulling over what shape that trip might take, but as I have such a generous holiday in July/August I'm excited to take advantage of my schedule and get some adventures in the diary!


Lastly, this year I'm going to be doing lots of touristy fun right here in London. In a few years we'll be leaving London, I imagine, so I want to make sure I enjoy it as much as I possibly can in the meantime.

I also want to make sure I'm open to other opportunities to travel that may present themselves - have passport and will definitely travel!

Linking up with the #travellinkup lovelies, starting the year out right. What are your travel plans for the year ahead?
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I'm Claire, a thirty-something teacher, writer and blogger living in London.
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