Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Slovakia Day 2 - Falling off Ski-Lifts.

Our second day in Slovakia was probably the best. Although we had an absolutely epic time going up Lomnicky Peak on our first day and being above the clouds, on the Saturday I found my 'ski feet' and we had so much fun! We woke up and had our delicious breakfast at the GrandHotel Starý Smokovec, made the most of the fresh orange juice, and then we put on our ski gear and headed to Strbské Pleso, which is known as being the most beautiful area to ski in Slovakia.

Strbské Pleso is a glacial mountain lake in the High Tatras mountains, set amongst the forest and with the mountain ranges as a backdrop. We were only supposed to have our ski instructor, Jan, for two hours, but he was so lovely and ended up staying with us for five hours! We started off on the nursery slopes again, and then he took us up to the green run.

I had a bit of a dilemma for the first half hour of our lesson, my boots were far too tight, but I didn't realize until it was too late to change them. After half an hour of excruciating pain, my lower legs and feet got pins and needles and went numb, so Jan undid the boots and I skied with half done-up boots for the rest of the day. It's amazing how much easier it was to ski with legs and feet that I could actually feel! 

Once again the weather wasn't great and there was lots of low cloud and fog, but we had an awesome time skiing and I only fell over once - on my last run down on the green slope! There's a pretty hilarious video below of the fall if you wanna see it...Jan kindly offered to video us skiing, and the one time I fell over was when he was videoing it - typical! Shev fell over on the nursery slopes, she couldn't stop and went zooming into the fence where all the parents were watching their kids learn to ski. Awkward or what!

After our ski lesson we decided to ditch the skis and go up on the chair lift to the apres ski bar for lunch. We'd never been on a chair lift before as we'd just used those hand-held lifts instead, so the three of us jumped on and Shev and I squealed like children as we got higher and higher, our feet dangling below us and our hands going numb from the cold!

We got to the top and as I stepped off the chair lift my ski boot got caught in the snow, I fell face-forward and took Jan with me, and then I had to lie there and wait for the chair to go over me. But then I had an issue - the next chair was fast approaching behind me, and while Jan was up and at the side, I was still laying on the floor face down...I didn't have time to get up, so while Jan tried to help me a comedy sketch ensued, as I yelled at him 'It's ok! Leave me! I'll roll! I'll just roll down!'...yep...I rolled down the hill in my epic Retro Mountain snow suit...everyone watching in horror and confusion, Shev pissing herself with laughter.

I got down the bottom of the hill, and then we had to walk up a steep hill to get to the bar! I was still laughing so much that I couldn't walk up it, so I crawled my way up on my hands and knees, Shev and Jan in stitches, and all of the local Slovaks just wondering what the hell this English girl was doing. Eventually we got to the top and ordered pizza and chips to warm ourselves up. We sat outside surrounded by fog and clouds, and Shev and I quizzed Jan on life in Slovakia and what he does aside from skiing.

After lunch we headed back down the mountain, and after the one final ski down where I fell over, we traded in our skis and boots for our snow boots, and walked over to the lake. The lake was completely frozen and covered in thick snow...or so we thought...

We were walking across the lake, cross country skiers and families were also there enjoying the snow, and then we got to a fresh patch of untouched snow right in the middle. Shev stayed back to take some photos, while Jan and I ran into the untouched powder...all of a sudden Jan started sinking down and yelled at me to go back, but it was too late. The ice beneath us was giving way and we were sinking into the frozen lake, I squealed and ran back to the safety of the thick ice, but each time I took a step the ice disappeared beneath my foot. It was one of those moments where you completely forgot the danger of what you were doing and what was happening, and just laughed and shrieked like children!

After the lake fiasco we went back to the ski resort area and Jan left us as he had another ski class. Shev and I met up with the lovely Monica who was our driver during our time in the High Tatras, and we had a hot chocolate while we waited for Jane and John who were to take us down to the Low Tatras. We also met this cutie!

On our way to the hotel in the low tatras, we went to the Tatralandia aquapark, which is one of the biggest in Central Europe! Slovakia are famous for their love of thermal spas and aquaparks, and we had so much fun on our visit there! We got there around 4:30pm, and stayed there for hours. There were loads of pools that were different temperatures. Some were cooler, some were like a really warm bath, and they all had different types of water. One was a warm salt water pool with massaging stone beds, and the outside pool was a thermal pool that had water from a local spring.

The place was absolutely packed with everyone from young families to elderly couples. As well as the different pools we also went on the slides, and then we went to the sauna (remember the sheets from my Slovakia Day 1 post?! Yep, they were back). The sauna was the most amazing one I've ever seen in my life. I couldn't even count the amount of different sauna rooms, each with a different temperature, atmosphere, and scent. Some had small pools in the middle to put your feet into, others had beds you could lie on, and others were more normal.

There was even a roof terrace with a jacuzzi, cold pool, and all-glass sauna under the stars! Obviously cameras weren't allowed inside the spa area due to the lack of clothing, but it really was an amazing experience.

After our epic aquapark experience and one last go on one of the flumes, we got changed and headed to the next hotel, Tri Studnicky, which means 'three springs' and is Slovakia's very first Feng Shui hotel. Everyone was telling us how amazing it was, so we were really excited, and although it was a beautiful hotel, the service was very cold and unwelcoming - a complete opposite from the GrandHotel Starý Smokovec that we'd stayed in for the first two nights. Anyway, more on our third day in Slovakia on Sunday! I should also have my Slovakia vlog up then too.

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*I was a guest of the Tatry Mountain Resort throughout my stay in Slovakia. Flights are available from London three times a week with Wizz Air, and I can't recommend the GrandHotel Starý Smokovec enough - just embrace the seventies grandness!  

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Slovakia Day 1 - On Top of The World.

Last week I took two days off work and spent those days on the top of a mountain in the High Tatras of Slovakia. I never thought I'd ever get to the top of a mountain, nor did I ever think I would ever ski. In case you hadn't noticed from my previous travel posts, I'm a warm weather kinda gal, I don't usually do 'cold' holidays. 

Top of Lomnický štít in Slovakia

I'd been wanting to visit Slovakia ever since my brother's Slovakian ex-girlfriend told me about the beauty of the countryside and spa towns, and when the opportunity arose for me to spend 3 nights in the Tatry Mountains with the local Tatry Mountain tourism board, I booked the time off work and a few short weeks later I was on my way on a Wizz Air flight with my extra winter travel insurance and a large suitcase full of very warm clothing.

One of my closest friends from my old work, Shev, came with me, as she had never skied before either. After all, I didn't want someone to come along and put me to shame! Our flight was from Luton and at a surprisingly decent time - 2:30pm in the afternoon, landing in Poprad-Tatry at 5:30pm local time. Wizz Air are the only carrier to provide a direct service from London to the Tatras Mountains, and it only began a few months ago to tie in with the €200million renovation of the low tatras ski resort, Jasna.

We landed in the evening to find Joseph from the GrandHotel Starý Smokovec waiting for us with the hotel's car and driver. Joseph was absolutely awesome, he looked after us so well for the duration of our stay at the GrandHotel and he used to work in London and Dubai with Gary Rhodes, so has learnt from one of the best. The hotel is the oldest in the area at 110 years old, and you all know by now how much I adore old hotels.

The best thing about this hotel was that it made us feel as though we were in an old James Bond movie. The hotel is very grand, and was obviously the height of luxury in the 1970's. Usually I'd say it's in need of a refurbishment, but actually I think it would be such a shame to change it. It's perfectly comfortable and perfect for going back to after a long day on the slopes, it really did feel as though we were back in time, which I surprisingly found quite endearing. Also the rooms were absolutely huge, and check out the views of the low tatras in the distance...

View from GrandHotel Starý Smokovec Slovakia

The breakfast was excellent and the sauna and wellness centre was so relaxing! So many different sauna and steam rooms, a jacuzzi, huge swimming pool, cold pool, numerous massage treatments, and even a darkened relaxation area with heated stone beds. The Slovaks are known for their wellness centres, and they're quite traditional - everyone goes naked and just wears a sheet to cover themselves. Shev and I were a bit shocked at first, especially when men kept whipping off the sheets in front of us before jumping into the cold pool as we sat fully-clothed in the jacuzzi! 

View from GrandHotel Starý Smokovec Slovakia

The next day after an early night we headed to Tatranská Lomnica for our first ever ski lesson! I wore my epic Retro Mountain ski suit (I matched the hotel with my retro vibes!), and after getting our boots and skis we headed to the nursery slopes. Soon we were speeding down the slope and thankfully I only fell over once! 

Learning to ski at Tatranská Lomnica Slovakia

After our lesson we went up to Lomnický štít, which is the second highest mountain in Slovakia at 8,643 ft. The weather was awful the whole time we were in Slovakia, but it made going up the mountain even more breathtaking as we descended above the clouds in a tiny cable car.

Cable cars at Tatranská Lomnica Slovakia

After three different cable cars we finally reached the summit, and walked out of the small building that you enter into to find this view in front of us...

Lomnický štít in Slovakia

Top of Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras

Top of Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras Mountains

Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras

The wind was intense and the sun bright, and we stood in awe as we looked out over the sea of fluffy white clouds and snow-capped peaks. We felt as though we were quite literally on top of the world, and it was an experience I'll never forget. For so many years I've wanted to stand on top of a mountain, and finally I did it. We were only allowed to stay up there for 50 minutes, so we walked around the walkway and took a look at the view on the other side. 

View at top of Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras Mountains

Visiting Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras Mountains

Lomnický Peak in Slovakia High Tatras Mountains

Lomnický štít in Slovakia

Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatry Mountains

Selfie at Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras Mountains
Faux Fur Headband: Jack Wills // Snow Suit: Retro Mountain (c/o) // Camera: Nikon D5200.

After taking countless selfies and doing a bit of vlogging (this will be up on the weekend!), we headed back into the building to warm up. Once my hands had got the feeling back in them (I'd just spent about half an hour outside with no gloves on), we had a glass of Baileys each and then it was time to head back down through the clouds to the real world. Before that though, we saw these two guys climbing up the mountain with no safety equipment!!! 

Climbers at Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras Mountains

Mountain climbers at Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras

Mountain climbers at Lomnický štít in Slovakia High Tatras

We finally got back to the hotel absolutely exhausted, and spent a couple of hours in the pool and wellness centre, before getting ready and heading to the beautiful GrandHotel Praha for dinner. 

GrandHotel Praha Slovakia restaurant review

I had veal pate to start with, sea bream for mains, and mint mousse for dessert. All of it was absolutely delicious! The mint mousse was so refreshing and the perfect end to a really relaxed meal. Just like the staff at the sister restaurant we were staying at, they couldn't do enough for us. As soon as our water got low, they refilled, as soon as our prosecco got low, they refilled. Also, the prices were really reasonable! A glass of prosecco was just €2.90!

We got back to our hotel and fell asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillows. We definitely needed the sleep, as you'll all see tomorrow!

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*I was a guest of the Tatry Mountain Resort throughout my stay in Slovakia. Flights are available from London three times a week with Wizz Air, and I can't recommend the GrandHotel Starý Smokovec enough - just embrace the seventies grandness!  

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Bachelorette's in Brighton.

Last weekend I went on my very first hen do. Ciara doesn't like the term 'hen' though, so let's just be American and call it a Bachelorette Party. It wasn't just any old bachelorette party though, it was a weekend-long bachelorette party, that was the classiest hen-do Brighton has ever seen.

Ciara and I went to Paris and Cuba together, so I was excited to spend the weekend with her and the girls. I also finally got to meet fellow blogger and Ciara's bridesmaid, Danielle! The three bridesmaids did a fab job of organizing the whole weekend, and Ciara knew absolutely nothing about it. We all arrived on the Friday night, and even on Saturday morning she still had no idea where we were until we got to the beach and she saw the pier!

On the Friday night we all got into our comfy lounge clothes then had some champagne and nibbles. Then we tricked Ciara into thinking a stripper was coming (she begged the bridesmaids not to order one), and her face when there was a knock on the door was the funniest thing ever! I'll never forget the look of absolute horror on her face. Luckily it was actually one of her bridesmaids with a mask of Ciara's fiance on!

When we started to feel a bit peckish we ordered an Indian takeaway, and after some more champagne and games, we headed to bed to get some sleep ready for our busy Saturday.

We woke up to beautiful clear blue skies, so got dressed and had a delicious breakfast of cheeses, fruit, and croissants, before heading out for the day. Sadly the weather took a turn for the worst, and it started hailing on our way to a Charleston dance class.

The Charleston dance class was lots of fun, and it meant we deserved the 1930's themed afternoon tea at Metro Deco that came later. The tea was lovely and we were even served champagne in cute little Babycham glasses! 

The Three 'C's' - Claire, Catherine, Ciara.

The brie and onion marmalade sandwich was definitely my favourite, and the chocolate profiteroles were just divine!

After our tea we then walked back to the house along the seafront, and naturally stopped off at the Pier for some donuts just as the sun was setting. It was the most beautiful sunset, while the famous Brighton starlings performed their murmuration for us.

Photo from Danielle!

Just as we were walking back the heavens opened and it started pouring with rain, which eventually turned to hail. Danielle and I had lost the rest of the group as we were too busy taking photos (typical bloggers eh!), so we dived into a shop in an arch to wait for the storm to pass. Eventually it stopped and we made the long walk back to the house (the others had gotten a taxi - the lazy sods). 

We all dried off and showered, then got our pretty dresses on and went for dinner and drinks. We started in Maggie Mae's, where they told us we were the classiest hen-do they'd ever seen in Brighton (oh yes, that's how we role!), and a stag group asked for a photo of us with the stag. The music there was awesome and they kindly gave us a free bottle of bubbly! When the hunger pangs started we went across the road had a delicious Italian meal, before walking down the road to Casablanca for motown music and dancing. Claire, Bethany and left quite early as we were shattered, but the others managed to stay out until the early hours!

The moment we realized we have the exact same coloured hair!
Photo by Danielle

Photo by Danielle
Photo by Danielle

The next morning we had a full english breakfast before getting trains home. It was a wonderful weekend, a huge thank you to the bridesmaids for organizing such a fun time for us all! Sadly I'll be missing the wedding as I'm in Australia, but I'm so glad I got to attend the 'bachelorette weekend'. 

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