ally1966's DIBB Photo Blogs

........having found flight prices that are too good to turn down we will be making our long anticipated return to Orlando in 2019. This will be our 1st visit since 2012 so not only is the excitement just about killing me but a lot of things have changed since our last trip. Not least of which is the make up of our party - both DD18 & DS20 now have full time jobs and can’t get the time off work so for the first time ever there will only be 3 of us:-

The Cast:-

Me, Alison will be 52 by the time we go. Planner and fan of all things Disney and Harry Potter. Would happily holiday in Orlando every year if finances and DH allowed. This will be my 5th WDW trip.

DH, Mick will be 57. It is also his 5th WDW trip but he generally prefers UK seaside holidays. Not a fan of very hot weather, queuing or big rides. Strangely, he says he’s actually looking forward to this holiday; just shows that persistence can pay off!

DD, Chloe aged 11. As the youngest of 5 this will be the 1st time that she’s had a holiday with Mum & Dad all to herself. It will be her 3rd trip to Florida and she is looking forward to being able to do some BIG rides for the 1st time.

The History:-

Way back in the mists of time (1998 to be exact) we embarked on our, Once in a lifetime, trip to Florida. Our family consisted of Me, DH, DS Stuart aged 13, DS Ian aged 10 and baby DS Daniel aged 4 months (who arrived after the holiday was booked and had to be hastily added to the booking).

We stayed on site at All Star Sports with 14 day WDW tickets included in the package, which was booked without any other quotes for comparison and no negotiation on price, through a high street travel agent. It is probably still the most expensive holiday that we’ve ever had.

We were unbelievably naive and totally unplanned and unprepared (Pre-Dibb of course!). We had no concept of the size of WDW and no idea of what we wanted to see or do. I had a vague idea that we might get tickets for Universal and SeaWorld after we arrived and that someone would tell us how to get there. Needless to say this never happened and, with no hire car, we spent 2 weeks completely overwhelmed and trapped in the Disney bubble. trip number 1 was hardly a success BUT it did leave me with the feeling that we still had so much more to see that we needed to go back one day and do it properly. DH agreed that when baby Dan was old enough to appreciate it we could go again.

This was to be a long wait! 7 years later in 2005 we were ready to try again -

We were accompanied by DS Ian now 17, DS Dan 7 and latest arrival DD Nicola 5. By this time Stuart had left home and had a baby of his own so didn’t come with us.

Determined to learn the lessons from our last visit, I planned this trip to the last detail! We stayed at the Holiday Inn on I-Drive (now Palms Resort) with free shuttle buses to WDW, Universal and SeaWorld - and more theme park tickets than it was possible to use in a fortnight.

I’d even managed to book some special treats, thanks to some internet research and the discovery of The Dibb, including the much sort after Cinderella’s Royal Table breakfast and the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure.

I felt that this holiday was a great success, the kids loved every moment and I definitely knew that I wanted to do it again. DH, however, felt that it had been organised like a military campaign and he needed a holiday to get over it!

So no-one was more (pleasantly) surprised than me when only 3 years later he agreed to go back......

.......after a particularly traumatic year, during which my Dad had passed away, we’d moved house and we’d unexpectedly become parents again by adopting our niece Chloe, we were all desperately in need of a break. Whilst browsing for a cheap week’s all inclusive in Europe I stumbled on an unbelievable deal to Florida. 2 weeks at the Quality Inn International (now Rosen Inn) with flights for 2 adults, 2 children and 1 infant - 1200 !!

Well, it would have been rude not to - only problem was we booked just 3 weeks before travelling. DS Ian wasn’t with us for this visit as he couldn’t get time off work at such short notice so we were still a party of 5.

As it was a last minute cheapy we only booked WDW tickets and used the Lynx / I-Ride for transport. This was the most laid back holiday yet as there was no time for stress or panic and no time for planning. We just went with the flow each day and even managed some late starts.

But of course we had once again taken a baby to WDW so knew that we would HAVE to return when she was old enough to remember!

We decided that the time was right in 2012 when DD Chloe was 5, DD Nicola 12 and DS Dan 14.

By now we felt like pro’s! I quickly found reasonably priced flights online with Monarch and we booked the Rosen Inn International again as it had proved a great base last time. We ordered WDW and Universal tickets (I had to see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and got our Lynx bus passes in advance. I consulted the busy day guides and set about happily planning the extras - such as the dessert party and a CRT breakfast for DD Chloe (Well, Nicola had done it at the same age........)

It really was like coming home and we all relaxed into the holiday straight away. Even DH started talking about when we come back rather than if.

.......and that brings us pretty much up to date. We came home knowing that we would return one day but for the last 6 years life has got in the way! We’ve enjoyed lots of other holidays including DS Ian’s 2015 wedding in New York, a whole family (13 of us) all inclusive to Fuerteventura in 2013 and various other European and UK, Seaside and City breaks. But the itch to return to Florida has never gone away.

So when I recently found sub 250 return flights with Virgin on Skyscanner for next February I knew that it was a sign that the time had come.

The Planning:-

It seems like I have been formulating a plan for this this trip in my mind forever so it feels almost surreal that we’ve actually booked, but booked we have ....... and the price that finally tempted me to press that button? ........ 633.78 return for 3 people!

Now as this is with Virgin light it doesn’t include checked baggage or seat selection so we have added 1 case. DH is adamant that we will manage with 1 case + hand luggage between us if we pack light. I’m not so sure but I’ll do a trial run and even if we have to add another case it won’t break the bank. As far as seats are concerned, we’re prepared to take the gamble at check-in.

We will be flying with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick Airport (VS27) on 21st February and return on 7th March.

This will be the first time since 2005 that we’ve flown with Virgin and I must admit that I’m looking forward to the free drinks service! We have never visited Florida in February / March before and are prepared for it to be cooler than previous visits. This will actually suit DH better - our last trip was in September which he found much too hot - but it may have an impact on our plans to pack light; we’ll see!

With flights secured, thoughts turned to accommodation. This was a no brainer. Having stayed at the Rosen Inn International the last twice, it was an automatic choice for this trip. It is the perfect base for us as non drivers because it is in the centre of I-Drive close to lots of restaurants and has both Lynx and I-Ride stops right outside. We also found it to be clean with reasonably spacious rooms and extremely comfortable beds - essential after a long day in the parks!

This was booked through Love Holidays at a total cost of 728 for 14 nights.

Next we needed to decide how we would be spending our precious holiday time. We have never been to Discovery Cove before as we have always had young children with us and been more Disney focused so this was top of my list of priorities for this visit. Both myself and DD are very keen to experience a swim with the dolphins whilst DH isn’t remotely interested. He is happy enough to go but doesn’t like swimming, I’m sure though that he’ll take full advantage of the all inclusive food and drink and will enjoy the relaxing day away from the other theme parks.

We have booked 2 Ultimate Dolphin Swim and 1 Ultimate non-swim tickets through Attraction Tickets Direct. These cost a total of 539 but as they include Busch Gardens (where we’ve never been) and SeaWorld (where we haven’t been since 2005) they will cover 3 days entertainment.

We’ve booked this for the Saturday after we arrive because (according to Touring Plans busy day guide) this will be a busy day in most of the other parks. It is also nice and early in the holiday so if it should get cancelled due to the weather we’ve got plenty of time to re-arrange.

As a Harry Potter fan, Universal / IoA is another must do. When we were there in 2012 we saw Hogwarts & Hogsmeade and rode Forbidden Journey. I was blown away by the attention to detail and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’ve interpreted Diagon Alley and to experiencing Escape from Gringotts. I also can’t wait to ride the Hogwarts Express so we had to have park to park tickets.

We aren’t interested in Volcano Bay (or water parks in general) so we settled for 5 day 2 park hoppers from Orlando Attractions at a cost of 232 each. If previous experience is anything to go by I doubt that we will use the full 5 days but the price difference between them and the 3 day tickets was negligible so we opted for the 5 day ones for the sake of flexibility.

This brings us to the elephant in the room ......... Disney ......... I can’t imagine going on holiday to Orlando without going to the Disney parks. DH, on the other hand believes that after 4 trips we’ve done Disney to death. We have always had 14 day ultimate tickets on previous trips so have had the flexibility to come and go as we please but these obviously weren’t going to be easy to justify this time.

During our last trip they were in the middle of the construction of the new Fantasy Land so we had initially compromised on just a couple of Disney days to see the new stuff. However, since this holiday has been postponed for so long, they now have new stuff in all 4 parks. It was therefore relatively easy to get him to agree to 4 days - especially when DD admitted that she can’t actually remember anything about her last visit, when she was 5.

We could have got 4 day hoppers for 351 each but this would have meant 4 long days in the parks and DH hates doing open to close. In comparison, a 6 day base ticket is only 310. As with Universal we aren’t interested in the water parks so opting for these means we will still get 1 day in each park but if we decide to head back early we’ll still have a couple of days in hand to go back and see the fireworks later in the holiday.

Potentially we now have tickets booked for all 14 days of the holiday (6 WDW, 5 Universal & IoA, 1 each Discovery Cove, Busch & SeaWorld). It might appear that I am going to fall foul of the over planning rule again (as per 2005) but in reality we are unlikely to spend more than 2 or 3 days at Universal and if we return to WDW to see the fireworks these will be late starts so there should be plenty of opportunity for relaxation and shopping. Depending on how DD is coping with the big rides we might even drop Busch Gardens.

When we flew to New York in 2015 for DS’s wedding we stayed the night before the flight at the Premier Inn at the airport. It made for a much less stressful start to the holiday so, as we will have to drive down from Derby to Gatwick we have decided to do this again.

Booking direct with Premier Inn we secured a family room at the North Terminal hotel for 43. We have added the meal deal for a further 53 - this provides us with an evening meal and a buffet breakfast each (kids eat free) and I do love a Premier Inn breakfast!

We decided against their Park, Eat, Fly deal because DH refuses to leave his precious car keys with anyone while we’re away. The Premier Inn itself has no parking onsite and the short stay car park at the airport (which they recommend) costs 25 per night. Instead, we’ve opted to leave the car at the airport’s long stay car park for the extra night. This is costing 96 for 16 nights. The plan is to arrive at the airport just before 5pm on the 20th in time for Twilight check in, use the free shuttle from the car park to the terminal then, having dropped any checked luggage, walk to the hotel which is only about 3 mins away (according to Google maps).

With over 3800 already committed to this holiday in flights, hotels, tickets etc. It has suddenly occurred to me that we no longer have any travel insurance! We used to have it through the bank but cancelled it earlier this year as we decided it wasn’t cost effective so I’d best go and sort that. Also need to renew DD’s passport before I can do ESTAs - maybe I’m not as well organised as I thought.

I’ll be back........

*Update 28th August

Insurance sorted! Managed to secure a worldwide family policy with Leisure Guard for 38 - didn’t think that this was a bad price.

On a more interesting note, the postman’s been busy round here! We’ve had the all important deliveries above from ATD and Orlando Attractions. WDW tickets are on a Will Call voucher, so will have to be exchanged for real tickets or magic bands on arrival but I’ve succeeded in linking them to MDE using the confirmation number. So we’re all set to start booking ADRs and fastpasses.

DD’s new passport has also been delivered. Less than a week turnaround time which I was very impressed with because it’s never the most straight forward renewal as we have to submit the court order to prove that we have parental responsibility. There were a few heart stopping moments however when the supporting documents weren’t returned until several days later, we’ve always received them before the passport before, so I was beginning to think that they’d got lost. I always carry the court order when we’re travelling since I once got a stern telling off at immigration for not having any proof that we had permission to remove her from the country (Madame, do you realise how many children are trafficked internationally every year?). Not an experience that I wish to repeat, I really thought we were going to be denied entry..........anyway, I’m waffling........they eventually turned up so all’s well.

Our Estas are done and approved (massive relief - I hate doing those things!)

A lot of time has been spent this week drooling over food reports and trying to decide where we’re going to eat. This might be wishful thinking. DH and DD are not adventurous eaters - which is probably just as well as I’m sure anyone who’s witnessed the extent of my culinary abilities would agree! So eating out anywhere will be an improvement. But, with McDonalds, Denny’s and Golden Corral right on our hotel’s doorstep, they will, unfortunately, be quite happy if we never venture any further afield in search of food!

Despite this, I’m planning an ADR at Be Our Guest - just so we get to see inside the Beast’s castle. I’ve also ordered a Landry’s card and hope to use the welcome bonus at either Rain Forrest Cafe or Yak and Yeti on our Animal Kingdom day. I’ll also get a birthday bonus as my birthday has conveniently been relocated to February for the purposes of this trip! I want to use this at T Rex on our last day. I think that the experience will appeal to DD and it’ll be something to look forward to after we’ve done the Disney Springs check in for our return flights. These are the only meals that I’ll be booking but I’ve got plenty of other ideas - so if anyone’s interested in what we eat and where, you’ll have to wait for the trip report to see where we ended up!

A trip to Primark this week resulted in the purchase of the above top for DD and this note book for all my planning and trip diary. I’m sure that this shop will be raided for Disney goodies on a regular basis before we go.

I’ve saved what in my opinion is the best news for last! On reflection, we decided that travelling with one suitcase between us might be taking packing light to impossible extremes, especially with the unpredictable nature of the weather in February. So on Sunday I phoned Virgin Atlantic to enquire about adding a second case to our booking. Imagine my delight when I was informed that we weren’t booked in Virgin Light as I believed but in Virgin Classic. This means that we already have 1 checked case per passenger included - so plenty of room for all those Florida bargains & souvenirs - and I’ve been able to book our seats in advance so we now have the reassurance of knowing that we’ll all be seated together.

I was so shocked that I had to get the poor operator to check this several times; in the end she offered to do the seat selection over the phone to prove that she was correct. I’ve since checked this on the Virgin app and our seat numbers are indeed now showing!

DVC Dream

Today was our final day in NYC. It didn't feel as though we were leaving, even when the cases were packed and we'd checked out of the hotel.

Our flight wasn't due to leave JFK until 10pm so we stowed the bags in the hotel luggage room and set off to enjoy our last day in the city.

We headed into Central Park

We walked through Strawberry Fields and passed the Imagine memorial to John Lennon. There was a guy here singing Beatles songs, he was actually quite good so we stopped and listened for a while.

We then continued across the park towards our intended destination - The American Museum of Natural History. Chloe was absolutely fascinated with this place ever since learning that it was the museum from Night At The Museum. I'm not sure whether she thought the exhibits would really come to life, but it was one of the few places that she had asked to visit so we had to fit it in.

We were slightly disappointed to learn that the T-Rex from the film has been removed but apparently it wasn't real anyway. We did see these in the lobby whilst queueing to buy tickets.

There is a suggested ticket price here of $22 for adults and $12.50 for under 12s which they ask if you're happy to pay.
I'm not sure what would happen if you said no! Or maybe they're just hoping that you'll offer more, but we just paid the suggested amount.

The first room that we entered was full of animal exhibits.

Chloe thought this was King Kong!

We went from there into the African Peoples Exhibition. Nicola questioned whether we would be allowed into this room as we weren't African - I do sometimes wonder about her!

We wandered on through displays dedicated to Asian People's, Aztecs, Incas and many more.

It was all very interesting but we quickly realised that the place is vast and we could easily spend the entire day going round it all.

As time was limited, we decided to head upstairs to the main event - the dinosaurs!

Mission accomplished, we decided to call it a day in here but not before visiting the gift shop where Nic & Chloe each bought a Woolly Mammoth cuddly toy and I bought some dinosaur t-shirts to take back as presents for the grandkids.

We had a table reserved at The Boathouse for lunch as Ian and Georgie wanted a final look at their wedding venue.

However, Emily and Fiona had been wanting to eat at Bubba Gumps in Times Square all week and not got round to it. So we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet back at the hotel for 5.30pm to collect the luggage.

Our table was booked for 2.30pm but it was only about 1.30 when we arrived. As we didn't want to waste any time today we asked if it was possible to be seated any earlier. They promised to see what they could do and gave us a pager.

We went to the outside bar and ordered drinks while we waited but we'd only been there for about 10 minutes when the buzzer went off.

Once again we were seated at a great table with lovely views over the lake.

Ian, Georgie and I all had the New York Strip - which was amazing.

Daniel had the Duo of Boathouse Burgers.

and the girls both had the hotdog off the children's menu.

Ian and Georgie had the chocolate cake for dessert.

I had a caramel bread and butter pudding, this was amazing!

Dan and Nic had a trio of ice-cream. This got a mixed response, neither of them were keen on the mint choc chip (said it tasted like toothpaste!) but they enjoyed the other flavours.

Chloe had the children's chocolate ice cream.

The lunch menu here is slightly different from the dinner menu. The kids preferred the choices today from the ones that were available on the wedding day. It was significantly cheaper. I paid $211 including drinks and tip.

After dinner Ian took me to see the boating lake (from Stuart Little) and the Alice in Wonderland statue, both of which I'd failed to find by myself.

We also saw the statue of Hans Christian Anderson.

We then toyed with the idea of visiting the zoo but decided that there wasn't enough time left to do it justice. We had to bribe Chloe with the promise of a trip to Twycross on our return home and set off to buy some last minute gifts from the souvenir shops instead.

Shopping completed, we headed back to the hotel for the last time. We spotted Emily and Fiona in Langan's, the Irish bar next door and called in to have a final drink with them. We all agreed that we'd had a fantastic holiday and made many memories that will last a lifetime.

Sadly we collected our luggage and the concierge booked us 2 cabs for the return journey to the airport. We were picked up at 6pm and the journey back took about an hour and cost $70 per vehicle including tolls, taxes and gratuity.

We browsed around the airport shops for a while and I bought the kids a McDonalds as none of them had really enjoyed the food on the plane flying out.

We took off about half an hour late and the flight passed very slowly! Chloe slept for most of it.

I was disappointed to find that the film selection was exactly the same as flying out so spent most of the flight reading or listening to music.

The meal choices were beef, chicken or pasta. I had the beef which was OK.

The children's meal was chicken nuggets and mash which looked very unappetising and Chloe didn't eat any of it.

About an hour before landing we were served a breakfast which consisted of a pot of raspberry yoghurt, an oat and honey cereal bar and a glass of orange juice. This was nothing special and most of it went in the bin.

We made up some time en route and landed only 10 minutes behind schedule. However this coupled with a long wait at passport control was enough to ensure that we missed our train. So I am writing this from the train and after a very long day travelling, should finally be home in about 15 minutes.

We have had an unbelievably good time in New York and the wedding was amazing. There isn't much that I would change about it at all, except maybe a little more time to get everything done.

We are all totally exhausted and will probably need a holiday to recover from the holiday - I'm very glad that I've got the rest of the week off work.

Thanks for reading and I hope that you've enjoyed our adventures as much we did!

As today was our last full day and the itinerary had pretty much gone out of the window days ago I knew that there was not going to be enough time to see and do everything that we'd wanted to. I did still want to explore some of the other boroughs though so me and the kids decided to get a cab to the Highline and then just walk back in the direction of the hotel and see how far we got before our feet gave up!

We met the others for breakfast. Fiona and Emily decided to join us but Ian and Georgie wanted to do some shopping and Georgie also wanted to find Carrie Bradshaw's house from Sex in the City, so they went off on their own.

We were dropped off on W14th right by one of the entrances to the Highline.

This is a really lovely walk, away from the hustle and bustle but with some lovely views over the city.

We saw some huge and iconic paintings on the buildings.

and some quirky art installations.

We had a pleasant stroll and it was nice to see a completely different part of New York.

When we'd had enough, we came down from the Highline and stopped for drinks and snacks before heading to the Chelsea Markets.

We loved this place and felt that it had quite a Camden vibe with all the stalls and hand crafted goods.

The kids had an ice cream each.

We enjoyed browsing around all the different food stalls but avoided the temptation to try anything because we had already booked to go out for a meal later and were still quite full from breakfast.

We all agreed that if we'd realised what was on offer here, we wouldn't have eaten at the hotel!

Fiona did however manage to find a "good cup of tea" - something that she'd been searching for all week!

Next we set off to walk through West Village to Greenwich Village. This is a lovely area with tree lined cobbled streets and has a completely different atmosphere from anything else that we've experience so far in New York - for some reason I don't seem to have taken many pics here.

Walking through Greenwich Village we spotted the Jekyll and Hyde Club. Someone had recommended trying this place to Emily a few days ago. The one in Times Square is currently closed so she was delighted to find another.

We were all in need of the restrooms by now so we decided to call in for a drink.

There were some spooky exhibits - some of which came to life when we were least expecting it!

The restrooms are actually hidden behind the books that line the corridor - not easy to find!

We spent quite a while in here just chilling and chatting to the bar tender who told us that we were just around the corner from the Slaughtered Lamb which featured in American Werewolf.

We didn't go in here but Emily had to have a photo as she is a massive Horror fan.

By now, we were all starting to feel hungry so we set off to look for a slice of authentic New York pizza to keep us going until dinner.

These things are huge! And tremendous value at $2.95 per slice.

After lunch, we all decided that we needed to take a break from the walking. Emily and Fiona wanted to head back to the hotel but the kids and I decided to carry on exploring for a bit.

We hailed a cab and drove through China Town and over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn.

China Town was one of the areas that I'd wanted to visit and now wouldn't have time for. Judging on what we saw from the cab, we're not missing much! It looked very chaotic and quite run down.

Once we were on the other side of the river, we got dropped off near DUMBO. I had read about this area on the Internet and was expecting to find arty places and galleries to browse round - we couldn't find any!

I don't know if we were looking in the wrong place but I did ask a couple of people and they didn't seem to know what I was talking about.

This was the only art that we found - it is actually in the window of a Spa!

We headed down towards the river and spent a pleasant hour or so in the sun wandering around Brooklyn Bridge Park and the area between the 2 bridges.

Chloe and I had a ride on Jane's Carrousel.

Then it was time to return to the hotel and get ready for our planned evening out.

Tonight we were going to the Rockefeller Centre as we had tickets for the top of the rock. The idea was to time it for around sunset so that we got the views in both daylight and lit up at night.

Unfortunately, as it was quite cloudy, the sunset wasn't as spectacular as we'd hoped. But it was nice to be able to get the Empire State in some of the pics.

Personally, of the 2, I preferred the Empire State Building to the Rockefeller.

We did buy our souvenir photo package from here. At $40 for 2 prints and an Email link to the rest, I felt they were quite pricey. But they were nice pics of all of us and a fun reminder of our last evening.

We had booked a table at Bistro Milano for our final meal. We had all really enjoyed it here the other night. We were greeted on arrival by Ben with a complimentary bottle Muscato to toast the bride and groom.

I didn't get many food pics this time as most of the group had the same meal as on our previous visit.

I decided to try a chicken dish for a change (sorry I can't remember what it was called!). When they brought it out I thought that they had made a mistake because it looked like a pizza but it was actually chicken that had been beaten out really flat, cooked in breadcrumbs and topped with mozzarella. It was lovely and much larger than I'd expected.

It was served with a side salad and I'd also ordered a side of roast potatoes - I really didn't need these and ended up sharing them with Emily. The salad wasn't even touched.

Chloe, who hadnt eaten with us here last time, had the bolognaise. They don't have a children's menu but did her a half portion.

Nicola, who was also on her first visit, tried the lasagne that I'd had last time and Dan stuck with his usual pizza.

My share of the bill, including drinks and tip, was $185.

Chloe had fallen asleep at the table as soon as she'd finished eating so when we asked for the check. Nicola, who was sitting next to her, leant over to wake her up. As she did so, the leg of her chair cracked and gave way and she ended up in a heap on the floor!

The staff rushed to her assistance and were very apologetic. She wasn't hurt and just sat on the floor laughing. Like Ian says, if it had happened to an American they'd probably have sued but we found it hilarious.

As we were leaving the restaurant the heavens opened. We can't really complain as it's the first rain that we've seen all week but we got drenched!

We did try to find shelter but it was too late to make much difference. So, in the end we just ran for it.

Another enjoyable but exhausting day. Tomorrow morning we'll be packing😢

Today was the closest thing to a lie in that we'd managed since arriving in NYC. Although I'd been awake since 4.30 updating the trippie, the kids didn't surface till 8.30am. We decided to skip going down for breakfast. Chloe had a bowl of the cereal that I'd brought from home and by the time we were all showered and ready to go it was turned 10am.

Ian called in to see what we had planned for today and as everyone still wanted to see Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library, which we hadn't got round to doing on Day 2, we decided to stick together this morning.

We set of towards 5th Ave and were soon standing outside the library.

This time, we ventured inside and were amazed at the scale and grandeur of the building.

Nicola trying to look intellectual!

This was the only reading room not packed with people trying to work. I don't know how they concentrate with so much going on around them - it certainly isn't your usual Sssshhh type library!

We visited the gift shop where I bought a few bits to take back home and Chloe bought the Library Lion book - she was most impressed when the cashier stamped her book with the Library's lion logo.

We then headed down library walk towards Grand Central Station, stopping to read some of the literary quotes set into the pavement on the way.

We caught a glimpse of the Chrysler building in the distance.

And soon arrived at Grand Central Station.

This is another incredibly impressive building.

We quickly reached the Oyster Bar and had to try the whispering walls. This was truly amazing - we could hear each other clearly, even over all the hustle and bustle of the station.

The kids and I were beginning to feel hungry by now as we'd skipped breakfast. So we parted company with the others, who were going to the Empire State which we'd already done.

We stopped off at Juniors in the food concourse for some lunch. I'd read on the internet about the amazing cheesecake here and was determined to try it!

The meals here are colossal!

I had Brisket Melt which was packed with meat and very tasty.

Dan had a 10oz cheese burger with onion rings.

Nicola went for the Tuna melt

and Chloe had the children's chicken strips and fries. This was yet another place where the kids meals were more than big enough for an adult!

We were completely beaten by this meal, despite having no breakfast. Both Nic and Chloe had half of theirs boxed to go and none of us had any room for the famous cheesecake!

We chose 3 slices to take out and settled the bill - which with drinks came to $98. Our waitress was lovely so we left her a 20% tip.

The plan for the afternoon was to head up to Central Park and have a proper look around. Although we had already been here twice, we didn't feel that we'd seen much of it yet.

We walked down Madison Ave and some of the shops and shoppers have to be seen to be believed. If we'd thought some of the places on 5th Ave were a bit posh, this was in another league again. So much so that we didn't feel comfortable setting foot in many of them.

We did however pop into a delightful little gallery called Eden Fine Art where we saw this representation of the Beatles Abbey Road cover.

The guy in here was very friendly and was asking us all about England and what we were doing in New York.

He said that he was happy for me to take photos.

The girls agreed that their favourite exhibitor was an artist called David Krakov who makes these delightful 3D butterfly sculptures. The one above represent the 9/11 disaster and the butterflies are the departing souls.

The gallery owner joked with us about which piece we would like boxing up and sending back to Derby but with a starting price well into the $1000s, I think he realised that (short of a lottery win) this wouldn't be happening any time soon.

We carried on up Madison Avenue calling in at the Apple Store so that Dan could buy some Beats headphones. These were $199.

Our intention on reaching Central Park was to get a pony and carriage ride as it was getting really hot by now and our feet were starting to ache. However, I hadn't realised that approaching it on Madison rather than 5th meant that we were at completely the wrong end of the park! So we set off walking again, passing this monument to New York's 7th Infantry on the way.

We finally arrived at the pick up point for the carriage rides and began our tour around the park. I decided to do the short loop, which I felt at $50 for 20 minutes would be enough to give us a feel for the place. The longer loop took 40 minutes and cost $90.

This provided a welcome break from walking and our driver pointed out places of interest as we drove round.

At the end of our ride, he gave Chloe some carrots to feed to our horse, who's name was Patricia.

With the carriage ride over, we bought a park map for $2 and went to find the fun fair which Chloe had spotted from the carriage.

It is situated at the Wollman ice rink and we soon reached it but were disappointed to find that there is a $9 entrance fee just to enter the area - you then buy a wristband on top of this for the rides. As only Chloe was interested in doing any of the rides, we decided that $27 for the rest of us to just stand around and watch was a bit excessive.

Anyway, by now we really had had enough and were looking forward to getting back to the hotel for a rest.

On the way out of the park we saw a lot of pavement artists and Nicola decided to get a picture done of her and Chloe. At $15 for 2 people this one seemed more reasonably priced than most but, be warned, when he had finished he offered to frame it. Then informed us that the cost of the frame was $20!

We had to get one as the drawing was charcoal on flimsy paper and would have been pretty impossible to transport home without it.

The girls were pleased with their picture but I felt that the frame was a complete rip off which slightly soured the experience.

Once back at the hotel we had a much needed sleep in order to recouperate for the evening.

Nicola and I were meeting up with Emily to see Phantom of the Opera. Ian and Georgie had kindly offered to look after Chloe and were taking her and Dan to see Matilda. Fiona had already set off to meet up with her brother's family for their cruise on the Hudson.

Phantom was absolutely breath taking. It is Emily's favourite show and this production reduced her to tears. I wasn't sure quite what Nic would make of it as the musicals that she seen previously have been more light hearted, but she loved it too.

Unfortunately the others were less impressed with Matilda. Chloe enjoyed it but Ian and Georgie thought it really was just aimed at kids.

When we got back to the hotel Fiona had already returned. She'd had a pleasant evening. They'd decided against dining during the cruise and instead had dinner in Little Italy which she said was lovely and very reasonably priced.

She had returned with a bottle of wine so, when the kids were in bed, she invited me to join her and Emily for a glass or 2. We had a good natter for an hour or so before finally turning in at 12.30am.

Today we were off to the Premium Outlet Mall at Woodbury Common. I had booked the tickets for this bus trip ages ago through Groupon for the bargain price of $22 each (the bus fare is normally double that!).

None of the others had been interested in joining us for this one, so it was just me and the kids today. We had our usual brekkie in the hotel and headed out to the Row NYC hotel just up the road on 8th St, where we were to meet our bus.

We were half an hour early but there was already a rapidly growing queue at the bus stop. Some people had large suitcases which they were obviously intending to fill with their bargains - they made me feel like quite an amateur!

Whilst standing waiting for the bus we witnessed a fight worthy of Jerry Springer break out between 2 of the ticket touts - these people are everywhere, trying to sell tickets for the various bus tours - one of them accused the other of poaching 2 of his customers and stealing the $2 commission. They were really going for it, pushing, kicking and screaming abuse at each other. At one point, the woman was pushed into the road and fell over in front of the oncoming traffic. Really could have been very nasty, and all over $2. It kind of put things into perspective that people can be so desperate when most of us in the queue were planning on spending 100s if not 1000s of dollars that day.

Drama over, the bus pulled up. The driver exchanged our voucher for tickets and we were soon on our way. The drive out of the city was really quite pleasant and provided some different views across the Hudson. It took just over an hour.

Once we arrived, the driver explained the procedure for our pick up. We were booked on the 3pm return and if we wanted to change this we would still have to meet our drive at the allotted time to see if there were any available seats on later shuttles.

Now, I have been to the Premium Outlets in Orlando on several occasions and also to the likes of Cheshire Oaks back in the UK but nothing had prepared me for the scale of this place - it is huge! So the pressure to shop was now on.

We went to the visitor centre to pick up a map and collect our VIP book of discount vouchers. I had already printed a lot of coupons off the website, so hoped that this would lead to even bigger bargains.

We started at the Vans store where both Nic and Dan were interested in buying a pair of classics. They tried on several pairs but couldn't find the required size / style / colour. Chloe however fell in love with the "colour your own" Vans (above left). Priced at $24, all kids Vans were on buy one get a another half price - so it would've been silly not to get a 2nd pair😉. I paid $36 for both.

We then spotted the Bare Minerals shop where Nic found a starter kit of travel sized foundation, warmth and mineral veil with brushes for $19.50.

Next stop was G Star where Dan tried on several pairs of jeans without success. Followed by Nike, where he failed to find either Air 90s or Huaraches in pure white.

Ralph Lauren was more successful. Here Dan purchased 2 tops. A white polo shirt and a long sleeved white top. The long sleeved top was in the sale for $39. The polos were only on offer if you bought more than one so he took it to the till expecting to pay the RRP of $64.99. However, much to Dan's delight the other top counted towards the discount so he paid $38.99 for the polo - making his total bill $82.24 (including sales tax).

Next we ventured into Levi's where I had instructions to pick up 2 pairs of 501s for DH. They are the only jeans that he will wear so he always takes the chance to stock up when we are in America. They were priced at $49.99 but dropped to $39.99 if you bought 3 pairs of jeans or more. Dan also bought some jeans here so we got the discount and were able to use a voucher for 15% off if you spend over $100.

Up til now, we had been wandering around and just popping into stores that we liked the look of as we came to them. But after queueing for ages to pay in Levi's, it was almost 12pm and time was rapidly passing us by.

We decided that a change of strategy was called for. We stopped at the food court for a bite to eat and over dinner consulted the map and made a plan of which shops were our priority.

We chose McDonalds for our lunch. This was a big mistake as it was complete chaos and cost us more valuable shopping time. The food was actually OK and we all managed to find options not currently available in the UK.

Dan and I had the Double Quarter Pounder Meal which was discontinued some time ago back home.

Nicola had the new crispy buttermilk chicken sandwich, which comes in a glazed bun. She said this was really nice.

Chloe had her usual chicken nugget Happy Meal but over here it comes with a fruit bag or yoghurt (she chose fruit) and either milk or apple juice to drink, so at least it has some nutritional value!

Dinner quickly demolished, we continued our trip round the shops. Stopping next at the Disney Outlet where they had an assortment of cups, bowls, plates etc on a 3 for $12 offer. Chloe chose the Frozen cup (which has a cute little Olaf on the straw that you can't see in this pic), a new Frozen drink bottle for school and the Mickey Mouse bowl to eat her cereal from back at the hotel.

This offer must have been driving the staff to distraction! Nearly every customer who approached the till had picked up 1 or 2 items off the display and had to have it explained to them that they needed to choose 3 if they didn't want to pay full price.

Next stop was Adidas so that Dan could continue the hunt for trainers. He wanted Superstars in either white or white with black stripes (yes, he does have a slight obsession with white at the moment!). Unfortunately, yet again they didn't have his size.

The Lacoste shop is virtually next door so we nipped in here for another item off DH's shopping list. He wanted a polo shirt in either green or burgundy. As with Ralph Lauren, these are discounted if you buy more than one ($69.99 each for 2, $49.99 each for 3 or more). However, DH only needs a size 3 and I don't think that America makes people that small as we always really struggle to find them over here! I managed to find the green but couldn't get the burgundy in any fit or style so settled for just the one. At $89 this was still a saving on what he'd have paid in the UK.

The next thing on Nicola's wish list was a Michael Kors handbag. She had seen one that she liked earlier in the week in the 5th Ave store which was priced at $298, she could've got a $50 discount which the sales assistant told us was "for this day only" but decided to wait til we came here, so we were both hoping that she hadn't made a mistake.

They didn't have the bag that she'd seen previously - but they did have a 40% discount off the entire store! So she chose this one and paid just over $180 = one very happy girl 😀.

We also looked at the watches in here but felt that all the ones on display were very big and blingy. As both Nic and I have very skinny wrists we decided that they would be a bit much.

So we then headed for Watch Station to see if we could find anything more to our taste in there. Nicola quickly picked out a sliver Marc Jacobs watch which she'd seen on the Internet a long time ago.

All the Marc Jacobs range was discounted by 25%. On top of this, there was a 40% discount on the entire shop if you bought more than one watch. So I chose a gold coloured Michael Kors one and we paid $201 for both - bargain!

They were both too big but they alter the bracelets to fit for free. Unfortunately, since returning to the hotel, Nic has decided that hers is now too tight so we'll have to get a link put back in when we return to the UK.

We were now running out of time and Chloe had been really good and patient all day so we set off to find Toys R Us. She loves her Lego Friends and spends hours playing with them at home so she bought this Emma's House set for $72.

The Yankee Candle shop was right next door so I popped in for a quick look (and a sniff!). They has some fantastic offers - 6 large jar candles were $60 - but I really don't need any more and was worried about the weight allowance coming home.
Anyway, as my Mum always says, nothing's a bargain unless you needed it in the first place! So I resisted temptation.

It was now almost 3pm and time for our return journey. I could've spent so much longer here but we already had quite a lot to carry and had found all the main things that we came for (with the exception of Dan's trainers) so we decided to stick with our original time.

The journey back to NYC took a lot longer due to heavy traffic. We were back at the hotel just before 5pm.

We caught up briefly with Ian and Georgie who had been to collect their wedding certificate. They were going out for dinner with Amelia and Will tonight. We also called in on Fiona to see if she fancied joining us for dinner later but she'd decided to stay in and have an early night. Emily was still out as she'd taken the chance to meet up with a friend who lives in the U.S. today.

After a quick freshen up and examining our purchases, we headed out into Times Square to resume the hunt for trainers. Unfortunately Footlocker had neither the Nike or Adidas ones in the size and colour that Dan required.

Chloe had been waiting all week to go into the big Toys R Us on Times Square so, as we had none of the others with us, we decided to take the chance.

Chloe and I had to have a go on the ferris wheel. Although, at $5 per ticket, this turned out to be a bit of a waste of money as it is continually stopping to let people off.

This shop is great fun. Dan and Chloe met this fearsome creature.

We admired the Lego models - although they're not quite on the same scale as DTD.

And Chloe bought some sweets from the Wonka room.

I couldn't resist treating myself to this.

After finishing in Toys R Us, we set off to look for Macy's and, yes, you've guessed it - trainers!

We caught this glimpse of the Empire State as we walked up the road.

Nicola spotted the massive Victoria Secret opposite Macy's and had to go in. Dan refused to be seen in there and waited outside so we had a quick rush round and she parted with $42.50 for a flimsy piece of satin (otherwise known as a nightie). It is very pretty though.

Once inside Macy's Dan at last found some trainers that he wanted. At $69.99 they weren't much cheaper than in the UK but we were fed up of looking by now so he bought them anyway.

We had a bit of a browse around the other departments and I managed to find the other Lacoste polo that DH wanted so bought that.

By now I was starting to feel hungry so we set off to look for Ellen's Stardust Diner - again, this was something that we wanted to try but the others in the party weren't interested, so today was the perfect opportunity.

Nicola was tired and didn't want another meal. So she just ordered the Stardust Rainbow Milkshake - these are gorgeous and more like a dessert than a drink.

I had the Mud Slide Adult Shake, which has Baileys in it and tastes divine.

I also had the Bee Bop a Lula burger. Which had mushrooms, onions and cheese in it.

2 burgers in one day - naughty, and I'll no doubt suffer for it later but I'm on holiday!

Dan had the Mighty Mo burger and a glass of coke.

Chloe had the chicken dinosaurs and her usual glass of water with an added drop of black currant.

Unfortunately, the glass was rather full and at some point she must have flicked her straw, splattering Dan's brand new white top with black currant.

This brought the meal to a rather abrupt end. The entertainment at Ellens is excellent and I would have loved to have stayed longer and listened to the singers but we had to get the check and go. The bill, with tip, came to $90.

On our return to the Sanctuary I put Dan's top in soak immediately and finger crossed but it looks as though the stains have come out OK.

We have finally arrived at the day that inspired the entire trip. Ian and Georgie's Wedding Day.

The original plan had been for Ian and Nicola to swap rooms last night so that the bride and groom didn't see each other before the ceremony. However, with Nic being ill, we decided that it wasn't wise to expose Georgie to any bugs that she might have. So the happy couple had to stay together and Ian came in to us at about 8am so that Georgie could start getting ready.

Georgie had a hairdresser booked for 9am and Fiona had ordered breakfast in the room for herself, Georgie and Emily.

We went down for breakfast and decided to order from the hot menu for a change - Ian, Dan and I had omelettes whilst Nic went for waffles with strawberry topping. Very nice it was too!

After breakfast we Face Timed DH back home just to make sure that everything was working OK for this afternoon. He spoke to Ian and wished him well.

Me and the girls then nipped out into Times Square while Ian and Dan went back up to the room. Ian had forgotten to pack his aftershave so I wanted to get him a new one as a little extra wedding present. After a quick phone call to consult Georgie I settled on Armani Code.

We stopped off at the Red Steps for a quick photo op - it had always been too packed when we'd walked this way in the evenings!

We bought a bottle of champagne to take back to the room to toast Ian and wish him all the best for the afternoon.

When I returned, there was a lovely surprise waiting for me. Ian and Georgie had treated Fiona and myself to a beautiful pair of silver and pearl earrings each to say thanks for helping them arrange everything.

We spent the morning getting ready and making sure that Ian and Georgie didn't bump into each other in the corridor.

It was soon time for Ian and Dan to set off for Central Park. I think that I was more nervous than Ian - he said that there was no need to be because he "knew that he was doing the right thing" and remained completely calm!

We girls continued putting finishing touches to hair and make up until it was time to go down to the hotel lobby.

In the lobby, we met up with Emily and Amelia (Georgie's boss) and her partner Will and waited for Georgie to make her grand entrance with her Mum.

She looked absolutely stunning!

The limousine had arrived to take us to the park - this was part of Ian and Georgie's wedding package but they had very generously offered to let the rest of us travel with them.

When we pulled up at Central Park quite a crowd gathered and began taking photos. Georgie said later that she felt like a movie star.

The celebrant, Alexandra and the photographer were at the entrance to the park to greet us and led the procession through the park.

This was quite a long walk with high heels and aching feet. A few of us were struggling!

When we reached Belvedere Castle, Ian and Dan were there waiting with the rest of the guests.

Georgie made her entrance down the steps on the arm of her sister and the ceremony began.

It really was a beautiful wedding. The words were perfect and so touching, it was quite an emotional experience.

I'm sorry that there are no pics from the actual ceremony but I was busy Facetiming the Dads back in the UK!

As soon as the service was over Ian and Georgie spoke to their Dads'. There were tears shed on both sides of the Atlantic but both said that although they weren't there, they were glad to have had the chance to watch the wedding.

It was then time to take photos of the new Mr & Mrs Mee......

.....and all the group shots with friends and family.

It was a picture perfect location and I can't wait to see the professional photos.

Georgie won't be easily pleased as she has a degree in photography herself but I'm sure there will be some amazing shots.

Ian and Georgie then went off with the photographer to get some shots in other areas of the park.

They also had a horse and carriage ride booked as part of their package with knotbythesea so we knew that they would be gone for quite a while.

We had considered doing a horse and carriage ride ourselves to pass the time and see some of the sites but it would have been further to walk back to the entrance to the carriages than it was to go straight to The Boathouse. So we settled on going for a drink.

The time passed fairly quickly - helped by a couple of large glasses of wine and the bride and groom soon returned.

Georgie showed off her gorgeous Manolo Blahnik wedding shoes and the garter made for her by her best friend Laura, who unfortunately couldn't be here.

Georgie's cousin Callum then decided to take them out for a row on the lake. This was so funny - but I guess you had to be there to appreciate it!

We had booked the meal for 5.30pm and we were seated at one long table, right by the window with a perfect view of the lake.

It was hard to choose what to eat as so many of the options sounded delicious.

In the end, Dan and I both settled on crab cakes for our appetisers.

and pork tenderloin for our entrees. I also ordered a portion of fries to share.

This was massive!

The girls both ate off the children's menu. Nicola had a cheese toasty.

And Chloe had grilled chicken with fries.

She hardly made a dent in this but the children's meals were huge and would easily have fed most adults.

We all had the moist chocolate fudge cake for dessert, except Chloe who had chocolate ice cream.

My bill came to $345 but this included several drinks and will almost certainly be the most expensive meal of the holiday.

For a special occasion it was definitely worth it.

We stayed and enjoyed the views and the ambience for a while before hailing cabs to take everyone back to the Sanctuary.

We enjoyed a drink in the bar - so much for never returning - the service was a lot more attentive than yesterday! I'm not sure if something had been said or if it was just because we were obviously a wedding party.

By 10.30pm Chloe had fallen asleep so we called it a day - leaving the others to party on into the night.

The day really could not have gone any better. Everything went without a hitch, which really is amazing considering that it was all arranged by Email from the other side of the Atlantic.

A lot of credit for this has to go to Alexandra Paez from knotbythesea who arranged all the transport, the flowers, the photographer and the bride's hairdresser. She also conducted the ceremony and helped Ian and Georgie to write their vows........and all for a fraction of the price quoted by Virgin for their most basic package!

I can't speak highly enough of her and would definitely recommend her service to anyone considering getting married in New York.

A completely wonderful and exhausting day - tomorrow Woodbury Common Outlets to "shop til we drop"!

Another early start this morning as we had tickets booked for the 9am ferry to The Statue of Liberty.

Nicola wasn't feeling too good so stayed in the room while the rest of us went down for breakfast. By the time we returned she'd been sick and looked ghastly. She was however adamant that she wanted to continue with today as planned because she didn't want to waste a day of her holiday and it would be the only opportunity to do The Statue.

So, breakfast demolished, we said our goodbyes to Ian and Georgie. who'd done this already on their previous trip and headed out to meet Fiona's brother (another Ian) and family who were making the climb with us.

We quickly managed to grab a cab outside our hotel. We had a very chatty driver who was telling us all about life in New York and pointing out the sites on our drive through the Financial District and down to Battery Park. He dropped us right by the ferry terminal. The journey took just over half an hour and cost $20.

Ian, Anita and their 2 boys Callum & Sam were already there so we headed straight off to exchange our vouchers for tickets and after clearing security we were soon on the ferry.

Once on the island we stowed our belongings in the lockers (you aren't allowed to take bags in) and headed into the Statue herself.

We stopped for a look at the original torch which is on display inside the pedestal.

We then made the climb up the pedestal. There is an elevator up to this point but we decided to use the stairs.

The views across the Hudson to Manhattan are spectacular.

Enough photos duly taken we prepared for our climb up the terrifying looking spiral staircase to the Crown. Some of our group had been dreading this!

If you plan on doing it, be aware that once on the stairs, you can't come down until you reach the top - the descent is by a completely separate staircase and the stairs are so narrow that it would be impossible to get back passed the continual stream of people following you up. That said, there are platforms where you can step off the staircase for a rest and we were actually at the top a lot more quickly than I'd expected.

I know a lot of people are concerned about the climb to the top but our party included everyone from the very young to those of us who are (slightly) older (a little) overweight and definitely a lot less fit - we all made it in one piece!

I don't know quite what I was expecting to see at the top but it is actually quite a tight space and with the number of people waiting to come up behind you, you only have time to take a couple of photos before getting onto the other staircase to start the descent.

The views from the top aren't even particularly good because the windows are so small and you get them in every shot.

I found coming down worse than going up because you can see where your heading. My legs were really quite wobbly by the time we were back on solid ground.

So, was it worth it?
Yes, just to be able to say that I've done it.
Would I do it again?
Probably not! Once was enough.

By now, Nicola was beginning to feel quite queezy again so we bought some bottles of water and went to have a quiet sit down in the shade for a while.

Fortunately she was soon feeling a bit better and we returned to the ferry for our journey back to the mainland.

We decided not to get off at Ellis Island. I would have quite liked to have a look around the museum but the kids had had enough. The girls both fell asleep on the ferry - I had Nicola on one side of me leaning on my shoulder fast asleep and Chloe on the other side asleep across my knee!

Back on dry land we said goodbye to Ian and Anita and family and headed into Battery Park.

We past the remains of the Sphere that stood outside the World Trade Centre and made our way to the cafe for refreshments.

Dan and I each had a hotdog. Fiona and Emily got toasted sandwiches. Chloe just had a packet of crisps and a cookie and Nicola still didn't feel like eating. The adults all had a refreshingly cold glass of shandy.

We contacted Ian and Georgie who were meeting up with us to visit the 9/11 Memorial this afternoon and we sat and enjoyed the sun while we waited for them.

When Ian and Georgie arrived we set off to the Memorial. This was a very moving experience and really brings home the scale of the tragedy and how many lives were taken that day. We spent over an hour just looking round and reading the names of some of those lost.

We saw the only tree that survived the attack.

and the new One World Observatory. We decided against going up the tower due to time, cost and the fact that we already have a lot of tall buildings on the agenda - there is a limit to the number of views over NYC that anyone needs!

We then set off to walk to Brooklyn Bridge.

We didn't walk all the way across as it was getting very hot by now and both Fiona and I were having trouble with our feet swelling. With the wedding tomorrow, we were both beginning to worry that we might not be able to get into our shoes!

We walked towards City Hall where we grabbed a cab back to our hotel. Nicola decided to go up to the room for a rest, the rest of us headed to the bar for a drink.

This is where I found my one and only complaint about the Sanctuary hotel. The bar staff are disinterested to the point of rudeness! It took ages for the guy behind the bar to even acknowledge our presence. When he did eventually dane to serve us he forgot half the order and didn't even bother to apologise.

Discussing this with Fiona, I discovered that they had experienced exactly the same lack of service in the rooftop bar the previous evening from a girl who was more interested in chatting to her friends than serving them.

Our conversation was overheard by a manager who sent over complimentary baskets of fries - which was a nice touch but I don't think that we'll bother going back in there again!

It is just such a shame because the attitude of the bar staff is in stark contrast to that of the staff in every other part of the hotel who provide excellent customer service,

The problem seems to stem from the fact that the bars are actively promoted as a party venue to people who are not guests at the hotel. They are trying to create a cool and trendy vibe to attract the young and affluent, so we obviously don't fit the target audience. The staff appear to have been recruited for their looks and image rather than their ability to do the job!

Sorry - Rant Over!

We returned to our rooms to find that Nicola was in bed. She decided that she didn't want to go out for a meal tonight and would have an early night and try to sleep off whatever was wrong before the wedding.

As Chloe was also tired, we left her with Nic and headed out for dinner. Tonight Ian and Georgie were taking us to their favourite Italian, Bistro Milano, where they had enjoyed several meals during their previous holiday.

We were seated outside where we could people watch while we ate. Our waiter, Ben recognised Ian and Georgie from 3 years ago so they told him that they were back to get married and introduced the rest of us.

He is a really friendly guy, very funny and very knowledgeable about the food. As we were leaving we heard other customers asking for him by name (I think he needs to show the servers at the hotel bar how it SHOULD be done!)

I had Lasagne which was absolutely lovely.

Fiona had mushroom risotto

Georgie had salmon

and the other 3 all opted for pizza- Margarita for Emily and siciliano for Ian & Dan.

Everyone enjoyed their meals here. We didn't have desserts but we didn't feel rushed in any way so we relaxed over a couple of glasses of wine and enjoyed the atmosphere before asking Ben for the check. When he brought it over, he poured us each a complimentary glass of champagne and congratulated Ian and Georgie on their up coming wedding. We will definitely try to eat here again before we go home.

My bill for me and Dan came to just over $90 but we all added a 20% tip which was well deserved.

We walked back towards our hotel stopping at the "Love" sculpture for a romantic photo op.

We also passed the Manolo Blahnik shop where Georgie had to get a pic because that is where her wedding shoes came from!

I then got a phone call from Nic saying that she and Chloe were now both awake and would we pick them up a McDonalds on the way back. She was thankfully feeling better........

........ Tomorrow the BIG day xx

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Updated: 17:30 23/10/2018