25 April 2016

New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas

It's been soooo long now since I returned from Las Vegas and I've not written up half the posts that I had planned. I've been kept a wee bit busy recently with non-bloggy life stuff, but I couldn't completely go without sharing my awesome hotel (I took way too many pictures for that!)


There are so many hotels to choose from in Las Vegas, each with their own distinct personality and it makes sense to do some research before booking to choose the one that suits you best. I, of course, did no research before booking, because I'm rubbish - but thankfully it worked out pretty well for us!



We stayed for a week at the New York New York - I'm sure you can guess the theme... You really can't beat a good themed hotel! Our mini New York city had is own Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, skyscraper towers and a yellow-cab themed roller coaster.


First entering the hotel was also my first visit to a proper casino - I'm not exactly what you'd call a high-roller (you can read more about my failed poker experience here) but I was very excited by the bright shiny lights and the possibility of winning big!


I mainly stuck to the slot machines - I didn't want to embarrass myself at the tables with people who knew what they were doing when I clearly had no clue - but the hotel run free lessons on a couple of the games. We thought we'd keep it relatively simple and bobbed along to the blackjack lesson and armed with out newfound knowledge, imparted by a brilliantly funny and helpful dealer, had great fun losing money at it over the next few days!


The hotel, like many of the big resort hotels in Las Vegas, had plenty more to offer than gambling though. I loved walking round the mini Greenwich Village, filled with places to eat. We didn't get chance to make it to our hotel's theatre (showing Cirque Du Soilel's Zumanity) or the in-house Coyote Ugly, but did manage to work through a number of the bars and restaurants!

There were plenty of shopping opportunities without having to lead the building too - most of the gifts I brought home for folk were from the on-site Hershey's store (complete with massive Reese's section, I bought alllllllll the peanut buttery things!)


The New York New York hotel is connected to a couple of local hotels by these walkways. The connecting bridges not only mean that you are less likely to get run over, but provide some grand old views,..


... like the sunrise if you are up early enough...


... and the Strip all lit up at night once the sun has gone down again!


The Room

It's not often I'll go above the standard (cheapest) rooms a hotel has to offer - I'm a lass of simple needs. Generally, if I can sleep there I'm happy - but if there's one thing I really really like... It's a bloody massive bath.


That thing in the corner, about the size of the bed? That, ladies and gentlemen, is my spa bath. And it's my favourite thing ever.


I like a hot bath, and I mean a hot bath. If I don't emerge bright red and dizzy, it doesn't count. I was most impressed by how quickly I could fill this huge tub, and how hot the water got - it was magical! Waiting to fill my bath at home after we got back felt like waiting for paint to dry after this... and the bubbly spa jets were like magic after a long day of walking in the Nevada heat!



Despite my previous 'I-don't-need-anything-fancy' attitude to hotel rooms, the upgrade to the spa suite definitely added to the overall holiday experience - I felt very fancy!

Though the spa bath was obviously the star of the room, the rest of it was super too. It's tricky talking rooms in Las Vegas because I am aware there's some ridiculously swanky accommodation out there, but as I'm more used to dinky European hotel rooms and travelodges, I was pretty darn impressed!


The shower, like the spa bath, could have fit a small group of people, and the bed was huge (and very comfortable) too - and there was loads of room for all our stuff and for the Mr to do a bit of work while we were away too!



Food

As with many of the big Las Vegas hotels, the food choices available at NYNY were many and varied. We could have probably eaten every meal at the hotel and never hit the same place twice! We of course didn't do this but we still managed to get round a fair few of the food and drink spots where we were staying.


Our first meal on getting settled was at America, for no reason other than it was the first place we came across. I loved the massive map of the United States suspended from the ceiling! This was also the sport for the start of my Las Vegas drinking - I kicked of proceedings with a very refreshing boozy Raspberry Lemonade.


The menu was huge, and it would have been hard to narrow it down if it wasn't for a convenient sign on the table offering a limited number of lunch specials, illustrated with a photograph of the spaghetti and meatballs option - and straight away I knew what I wanted!
The meatballs were huge, delicious, and filled with cheese! And they were accompanied by more spaghetti than I could eat.... and I can eat a lot of spaghetti! I was even too full for dessert! It wasn't the most refined dining experience of the trip but was perfect for a pair of tired, hungry new arrivals!


The entrance to the restaurant also had a very impressive array of donuts - I didn't get to work my way through as many as I'd have liked but did call in at one point for a 'cronut' as a to-go breakfast one morning when we were heading out early. A cronut. for the uninitiated, is somewhere between a doughnut and a croissant (making it a definite legitimate breakfast thing and not an excuse for sugary treats!), and is as awesome as it is messy!

We'd been told on check-in that hotel guests could get a 2-for-1 breakfast at Il Fornaio, and I'm never one to turn down such a good deal so we popped along just in time for opening early one morning!


It was a really nice place, but the two standout features were our waiter - such a charmer! - and the toast they brought to the table. It may seem a little strange to get so excited about toast, but only if you've never eaten this stuff!

The Mr ordered himself a nice coked breakfast, complete with the tastiest Italian sausage (well of course I had to try a nibble!), but I always appreciate the opportunity to have something that should be a dessert for my main meal, and opted for this huge waffle, topped with cream, fruit and maple syrup - so indulgent, so delicious!




We loved the look of Nine Fine Irishmen, our 'local' Irish pub, but sadly never got the opportunity to eat here (next time!) - though we did call in for a drink! As it was a nice day we sat outside with our beverages, but a quick walk through the pub revealed it to be a faux Celtic delight, replete with Irish music, traditional decoration, and a vast whiskey selection.

The outside bar was a much less obviously themed affair, but was nonetheless a grand place to sit and sip on a (appropriately Irish, Bailey's-filled) cocktail!

I honestly couldn't have been happier with our choice of hotel on this trip - not as fancy as some of the other options but comfortable, clean and fun, full of options, and not too stressful on the old budget either (oh how I wish that wasn't a concern!) I'd definitely recommend it, and I'd go back again in a heartbeat! You're still never gonna get me on that roller coaster though....!

10 April 2016

Yo Sushi

I'm always really excited to see what new designs the talented folk at Vendula London have come up with for their beautiful bags, having fallen head over heels for a number of their previous releases (most recently the cosy-looking pub-in-bag-form The George).
 
So imagine my glee when I discovered that the new Spring/Summer releases included a delicious chocolatier shop front, complete with tiny chocolate treats, and a gorgeous tea-party range that couldn't be more perfect for me.


Then imagine the surprise I felt in myself that my favourite amongst these new collections was neither of these sweet-inspired delights, but this carry-able ode to sushi.

 
I like chocolate. I like tea parties. I really dislike sushi. I refuse to believe anyone truly likes sushi, and they just say they do to sound cool and open minded, because its just awful. But then, I don't even liked cooked fish - not even of the battered chippy variety. But I digress (as usual)...


Because I DO really like this bag! I don't like sushi, but I love the little kitties, and the way the signs hang down, and the traditional Japanese screen panels, and the teeny paw prints.... In short, I love all the fantastic details I have come to expect from the Vendula bags.

 
I do appreciate their practicability as well as their aesthetics - this one has a long detachable shoulder strap as well as the sturdy handles, and so many pockets even I should be able to organise my contents!
 
I've found that these work just as well as conversation-starters as they do handbags too - I don't think I've ever taken one out for the day without someone complimenting it or asking where I got it from. I know that several of the wives, girlfriends and sisters of my work colleagues have been recently adorned with Vendula products as I've been showing them off and singing their praises round the office!
 


Wondering about the beach scenes? I figured that I couldn't take my new bag to a sushi restaurant - as I've already discussed my stance on that most dubious of foodstuff - so I figured I'd take it to the source of fishy things, the sea. It was a tenuous link at best, and I'm sure most of the delicacies you'd find at a good sushi eatery don't come from Scarborough, but you can follow my thought process, right? And we got some great sea-side ice cream, so woo!

* Item provided free of charge to a very grateful blogger!

7 April 2016

Degustabox - March 2016

I've been receiving Degustabox (a food subscription box) for a while now, and while March's wasn't necessarily my favourite ever (think that still goes to the most recent Christmas one!), it's the one I've completely finished off in the quickest time!


Here's what I've been munching on since it's arrival:

Can you believe Chewits have been around for 50 years now? It had been a while since I've had any but I went through countless packets of them when I was a kid. The best ones were always the fruit salad flavour ones, but it's been good getting reacquainted with the strawberry and blackcurrant ones!


I've had Kallo rice cakes before in a previous Degustabox, so I knew that the milk chocolate ones would be good (and they were!), but was a little more sceptical about the Quinoa & Seeds variety... would they be just a little toooo healthy?
I figured they were worth a try though, and since the packaging declared they were 'lovely with lashings of hummus', so I toddled on up to the co-up on my lunch break to purchase the recommended spread. How were they? Lovely with lashings of hummus!

I'll admit that it was my dad who actually cooked the Kents Kitchen Apricot, Apple and Ginger stuffing - he liked the look of it when I opened the box and I was gladly to offer it up in return for an invitation to Sunday dinner, where it went down a treat with the roast pork.

The Metcalfe' skinny popcorn has apparently 67% less sugar than other sweet popcorns on the market, but was still plenty sweet and hard to stop eating. Three to four servings in this packet, apparently. Oops.


Two products from Indian company Parle were included - chocolate chip biscuits Hide & Seek, and savoury crackers Monaco. The crackers were a little salty for me personally, but one of the guys in the office loved them and was more than happy to finish them off. The chocolate biscuits were much more my thing!


I'm pretty familiar with Pipers crisps, as they appear to be a bit of a pub favourite - and with good reason.


I'll be honest, I didn't much fancy the look of the Karyatis dip - so I made my brother go first! Once I'd seen his favourable reaction, I was much more willing to give this a go... I don't know what I was so scared of! I didn't love it, but the dip was tasy enough and I liked the rosemary crackers. I let little bro finish it all off though for his bravery!


There are few things in life better the freshly bakes flaky French pastries... and sadly these pains au chocolate from Brioche Pasquier are a way off the delicacies of my dreams - but its not a terrible approximation, all things considered, and are lot more convenient for taking on a picnic!


Where I have my doubts that something like an 'on the go breakfast drink' is any substitute for a real breakfast (even if it is produced by breakfast heroes Weetabix), they're undeniably handy for making sure I have a little something to start the day when I'm short on time for a proper sit down morning meal (which, to be fair, is most of the time!)


Oh the magical Lindt Bunny! Anyone that's had Lindt chocolate already knows how good it is, and anyone who hasn't couldn't possibly understand. I was very happy to see this 'lil cutie!


Oh heck, I've been lying to you! I haven't actually tried the Good Hemp dairy free milk-type-stuff. This was included as part of the Degustabox Discoveries range, but I put it straight in the fridge and I guess it was a case of 'out of sight, out of mind' until I saw this picture. 50% daily Omega 3 in each glass though, sounds like a great way of getting the good stuff into the kids!

A Degustabox subscription, one box a month containing tonnes of foodie goodies like these should cost you £12.99 a month (including delivery). That's not a bad price at all, and always significantly lower than the combined RRP of the products, but to get an even better deal, you can save a huuuge £6 off your first box by entering the code BLDEG15 at the checkout! You can find more information about the company, and place an order, here!




5 April 2016

#HoldEm4Charity

A night of gambling and drinking.... Another post about my Las Vegas holiday? Nope - turns out I saved my most intense card playing sesh for my return!


I had two choices when I was invited to a charity poker night with Ladbrokes taking place a week or so after my return from the worlds gambling capital. I could head out to Vegas to get plenty of practice in, come home an expert and destroy my blogger opponents with my newfound skills and knowledge - - - or I could hang on and learn to play poker at an event that held no chance for me to become bankrupt and destitute.

I think I chose wisely (gamble responsibly, kids!)


The event took place at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Leeds. I'd been here for a lovely afternoon tea a couple of months previously, and was happy to be back there for an informal drinks reception at their Sky Lounge before heading into the 'casino'.


I was thankfully not the only person at our table who had never played before, and out lovely dealer (from Casino Hire UK) was happy to patiently explain the process. Sadly, his gentle tutorage wasn't enough to save me from running out of chips very quickly but I can hardly blame the chap for that I suppose!



I guess when you have that many people in a room who have never played before - not everyone can have beginners luck!


Still, my lack of success meant I was free to wander - talk to the other 'losers', and check out the awesome city views from the Sky Lounge balcony.


While those who still had money to play with continued with their epic poker battle, a blackjack table was set up for those of us who had been so far less lucky. Blackjack, I figured, would be my game. I knew the rules, I understood the concept, I'd played before.

But of course it still took me no time at all to lose all my (fake) money!


Thankfully there were some winners on the night - the last (wo)man standing at the poker table (Bryony from Breakfast at Bryony's) won £500 for her charity of choice!


Despite my utter lack of luck/skill/whatever helps you actually do well at these things, I had a great time at the event. Everyone looked amazing, all dressed-up and sparkly in their Gatsby-inspired outfits and it was lots of fun playing without the pressure of losing real money (tight Yorkshire lass to the bone!)

Great big thanks to Search Labs for organising the event (and for providing all the photos you see here, as mine were universally terrible!)