ARUBA

I first discovered Aruba via Instagram having seen a picture of a blogger alongside flamingos on the beach and I knew I had to go!! Flamingos have long been one of my favourite animals and they also have a strong family significance, as my Gran and Granddad founded ‘The Flamingo’ ballroom in Northern Ireland in 1960 which hosted iconic acts such as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Dusty Springfield and Lulu but to name a few. I was so excited to visit the exclusive Flamingo beach on the Renaissance Private island and it didn’t disappoint!

Getting there

We booked our trip via Destinology https://www.destinology.co.uk (I’ve used this company for a couple of multicentre trips and they’ve been fantastic!) They booked our flights via Miami (where we stopped for 3 nights) with American Airlines.

Stay

Oranjestad is the main town in Aruba and it is here where the Renaissance hotel is located https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/auabr-renaissance-aruba-resort-and-casino/ This hotel owns the Renaissance private island, (where flamingo beach is located) so as a resident here you get complimentary and unlimited access. There is no beach at this hotel so a boat runs regularly back and forth throughout the day directly from the hotel to the island. You can still gain access to the island as a non resident, however, there are a limited number of island day ‘passes’ which cost $125 each. Residents are prioritised and you can’t book in advance so you can turn up on the day but there’s no guarantee you will gain access.

Dine

There are lots of reasonably priced casual dining options around the marina and in the main town. There is also a bar/restaurant on flamingo island (that do amazing frozen mango margaritas!). My three favourite dinner dining options were Pinchos restaurant (my absolute favourite-a romantic restaurant situated on a boardwalk out at sea), L.G. Smith’s steak and chop house which was situated in the Renaissance Hotel and Wilhemena’s in the main town, an eloquent restaurant, offering simple but delicious options.

 

Explore

We spent the majority of our time on the Renaissance Private island as it was just so beautiful-don’t forget to check out iguana beach too! We also enjoyed wondering around the main town, with its Dutch inspired colourful buildings. It’s also not short on designer shops too.

We visited the Eagle beach area which Conde Nast Traveller named one of the world’s top beaches. It was easy to see why with its pristine white sand and turquoise waters. There are plenty of low rise top hotels along this beach, so this would also be a great area to stay if you didn’t wish to stay in the main town.

Essentials/tips

Book a private cabana for the day on the Renaisaance island for the VIP treatment.

Take some change for the flamingo feed machine.

Get there early-its worth getting the earliest boat (around 7-7.30am) to get pictures as the beach can get crowded (also the flamingos may not be as interested in being fed later on in the day as they will have had their fill provided by the earlier visitors!)

On your boat trip over to the island, make sure you sit in the covered area on the boat, otherwise it can’t be guaranteed your hair won’t be ocean sprayed and soaking wet by the time you get there!!

Ios

I first saw Ios on a TV programme and it struck me how pretty it was. On further research I discovered that this is considered a party island amongst the Greek 20 somethings. Don’t let this put you off though (if like me you’re no longer a 20 something!). Out of peak season, it’s a stunning unpopulated island with gorgeous secluded little coves just waiting to be discovered. Ios has no airport so with it only being a 30 minute ferry journey directly from Santorini, it meant it was rude not to hop foot it over for a few days to check it out.

 

Getting there

The only was to Ios is by ferry from other neighbouring islands. We flew to Santorini via Easyjet and stayed there for a few days before setting off down to the port. The ferries can get booked up to reserving in advance is recommended. The whole process is extremely easy though. I was left quite bemused as everyone turned up with their suitcases, wheeling them up the ramp and onto the ferry-quite a slick and fast turnaround (to say this is Greece!)

 

 

Stay

We stayed in the main port in the 5 star Liostasi hotel https://www.liostasi.gr. The pool area/bar was fabulous with sweeping views over the bay. It was absolutely stunning to sit in the outdoor bar area and watch the sun setting over the ocean. If you fancied a hotel right near the beach I also really like the look of Hideout suites overlooking Mylopotas bay.

 

 

Dine

We were only there for 3 nights, so chose to eat in the Michelin starred Grandmas hotel in our hotel, down in the marina at the Octopus Tree (think freshly caught, hung and cooked octopus!) and in the main town at Agosto, food and service here was excellent so would recommend.

 

Explore

We spent our first afternoon/evening exploring the pretty little streets of Ios town. It was relatively quiet and in comparison to Santorini, much smaller than the main town Fira but plenty of photo opportunites in front of pretty churches colourful painted doors. Head to the top of the town to see the windmills.

 

The second day we hired a quad (I would definitely recommend doing this). It was relatively inexpensive  ($35 for the day) and meant we could go off and explore the island under our own steam. There are very few roads on Ios and barely any traffic so its very easy to get around. We picked up our quad in the marina in Chora and drove south to Manganari beach which took about 45 minutes. The views are spectacular from the mountainous roads. Be prepared to stop multiple times on the road side for pictures of dome topped churches in the middle of nowhere and spectacular views of the coastline.

 

We got lunch at Manganari at an authentic little beach taverna then set off on foot to find the elusive Neverbay. I saw this spot on Instagram- a secluded picturesque cove and was determined to find it! The lost boys on Instagram kindly sent me a map and we painstakingly orientated our way over the hill to try and find it (a lot harder than it would first appear!). I’m thankful to say we did find it and well worth the trek! For the stunning views and pictures!

 

On our last day we jumped on the bus from the marina to Mylopotas beach which took about 15 minutes. This is a gorgeous beach which wasn’t too busy when we visited. We got beds outside ‘Salt’ and the staff waited on us from our beds, serving us refreshing inexpensive cocktails and beers all day. We also ate in the restaurant for lunch-food was delicious so would definitely recommend if you head down to this area.

 

 

Essential tips

 

Definitely get a quad (we’ve never got one before on holiday so don’t worry if you’re a novice! But it is definitely the best way to get around and really see the island).

 

Make sure you book your ferries in advance as they can get busy especially in peak times

 

If you decide to try and find Neverbay, make sure you take plenty of water in case you get lost or it takes longer than you anticipated (also wear sensible shoes!)

 

Head to Ios out of season to avoid the teens/college party goers!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

(Well afternoon tea!)


Who doesn’t love Tiffany’s..? Diamonds! Those iconic blue gift boxes! Everything about it is just so beautiful and eloquent.. And anyone whose an Audrey Hepburn fan knows one of the most iconic places you can have breakfast at is at Tiffany’s! 

It truly is a once in a lifetime experience and has been on my bucket list for a while.

When I knew we were heading to New York, I naively thought that we could book a table at Tiffany’s Blue Box Cafe on 5th Av a couple of days in advance of going.

After a quick scour on the internet, it became abundantly clear that getting a table at the Blue box cafe was about as easy as getting one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets! 

Cue extensive research into how I could secure myself a much coveted table.
I quickly learnt that tables are released on to ‘Resy’, the booking app 30 days in advance at 9am EST. Out of intrigue I looked at the furthest day in advance and there were no tables available. I went back to the forums only to learn that once released, the tables book out in seconds!

Given we were there over a weekend, I was happy to go on the Saturday or the Sunday and I downloaded the Resy app having learned this was the most reliable method to secure a table. I diligently set my alarm for 2pm 30 days in advance of our trip (9am EST) and logged onto the app. All the times were available so I selected 2pm, However once I got through to the booking stage my table was ‘no longer available’ and when I refreshed, there were no tables left!

I was determined not to be defeated so I did the same the following day (but this time I uploaded my credit card details into the app in advance-top tip-to make the booking process faster!) I also roped my long suffering husband in on the booking action and our strategy was to both independently try and book a table (via the app). Unfortunately he didn’t secure a table but luckily I did!! I felt so elated and couldn’t wait!!

I’m so pleased to say it really didn’t disappoint. We arrived on the Sunday at our allotted time, up to the 4th floor and what first struck me on entry was how cute and dainty the Blue Box Cafe was, with only a small number of intimate tables.

Needless to say I wasn’t this organised, however some of the patrons had even dressed the part in pearls, hair in a chignon and donning a black dress, a nod at the iconic scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s! It appears my husband also decided to dress in Tiffany’s blue (however, he claims this was a timely coincidence!)

We were shown to our table for 2 although there were some fabulous breakfast and lunch options we could have chosen, we opted for the classic Tiffany’s afternoon tea accompanied by a couple of glasses of champagne. 

We were able to select from a large number of bellocq teas. Then arrived the most gorgeous afternoon tea plate stand adorned with the most gorgeous sumptuous little morsels, they looked too good to eat.

The finger sandwich selection was fabulous, the classics you’d expect from an eloquent afternoon tea presented beautifully; herbed chicken, smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and vegan romesco with asparagus, along with sweet and savoury scones.

Although these were all delicious, what really sets this afternoon tea apart (besides it being in Tiffany’s of course) is the stunning cake selection which has to be seen to be believed. I can honestly say they all tasted even better than they looked!

It was a fabulous way to spend a rainy afternoon in New York and an iconic once in a lifetime must do. 

Next time you plan a trip to New York, I strongly advise setting a reminder 30 days in advance and trying your upmost to secure yourself a table at the Blue Box Cafe at Tiffany’s!

https://www.tiffany.com/Locations/EventDetail.aspx?eventid=1063