Friday, 9 November 2018

My Month in Pictures: October

Independence of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Travel Blogger

Hey Owlets,

It feels so good to write something that isn't festive! Okay you might not have seen any of those posts yet but, trust me, I've been working on Christmas since August and by October I was well and truly ready for a break! This month is particularly special as I revisited the happiest place on Earth, and I'm sorry but that's not Disneyland. After last year's life changing trip I spent a good three months just waiting for October to roll around so I could get back on board Independence of the Seas. I didn't really do a lot other than my trip this month, so consider this a Follow Me To/ October in Pictures hybrid.

Cruise Ship Travel Blogger The Owlet

We'll start this month on the 4th - to be honest I don't have much to show you before the 5th because I was just packing, sorting my blog out for while we were away and running last minute errands. I do have to show you this though, half because I'm proud that our game of Tetris was successful, and half because it makes me laugh so much! A while ago I wrote a post about how to pack light when going on a cruise but I clearly didn't take my own advice, in fact I packed worse this time than I ever have before. I took two full size suitcases as well as the small carry on bag for overnight in the hotel - although granted the second full size suitcase was only half full, on the way at least. I think it took us about an hour to load the car, which I know is ridiculous but it was quite good fun so that makes it okay, although we did stop for a cup of tea afterwards!

P&O Ventura Cruise Ship Travel Blogger Southampton

On 5th October we set off for Southampton; we have a bit of a tradition where we drive down early so we can check into our hotel and watch the previous day's ships go out. It's kind of nerdy but I love seeing what all the different ships look like, and there's usually quite a lot of people there so you get to meet some of the people you'll be sharing your floating home with for the next few weeks.

Independence of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Southampton Travel Blogger

6th October was the day I'd been waiting for all year, when I could finally see the "Independence of the Seas" sign towering above the houses in Southampton. Having had beautiful weather for ship-watching the day before, we were treated to a free shower on our way to port. By the time we boarded I looked like I'd already been swimming! We skipped breakfast as we were all tired, so when we got on board we headed straight to Windjammer. As I was eating I heard my name being called and turned round to see Dennis, the restaurant manager that I'd met the previous year. It's at that point that I was like "okay, I feel like I'm home now". Without a doubt the best part of boarding day is the welcome parade down the street in the evening - I don't know if any other cruise lines do this but they absolutely should because as soon as I hear the music start I'm already grinning. Last year that was my first experience of Royal Caribbean so getting to see it again got me very emotional!

Independence of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Southampton Travel Blogger

The next day was a sea day; earlier this year the ship went for a refit so we spent most of the day walking round and taking in everything that had been added as well as just settling into ship life. In the evening we had the captain's reception which is always my favourite part. It's something that Mum and Dad didn't do when they went without me, but for me it's so special getting to meet one of the most important people on the ship, and it's lovely to be able to put a face to the voice on the daily announcements.

Independence of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Docked in Vigo Travel Blogger

8th October saw Independence of the Seas dock in Vigo for our first port of call and I wasn't that sure what to expect. Both Vigo and La Coruña are the closest port towns to Santiago De Compostela cathedral so you're expected to be going on trips from the ship; we did actually want to have a look but it was covered in scaffolding so there was no point going. Our plan for most of the ports on this itinerary was just "wander round and see what we find" and this worked really well in Vigo - it's definitely an under-hyped port. I can't lie, as well as being excited to be abroad I was excited to visit Alehop so that was our first stop, followed by walking through the pretty little streets and up the MASSIVE hill. I have a tradition where I collect snow globes or a fridge magnet from each place I visit and we found a very sweet Spanish shopkeeper who was explaining why there's owls everywhere and told us what they're called. However, I'm planning to start doing more destination/port guides in the new year, so I won't tell you too much!

What to do in Lisbon Portugal HippoTrip Independence of the Seas Cruise Ship Blogger

On 9th October we docked in Lisbon - this is my second time visiting and my parents' third so we wanted to do something different. Mum didn't get off the ship so Dad and I went on a bit of an adventure, starting with a Hippo Trip. The Hippo is basically a vehicle that can both drive on land and sail like a boat; we weren't sure what to expect and I have to be honest, in the back of my mind I was kind of waiting for us to sink, but it was incredible! The tour lasted for three hours, but we left really early so it was only 12pm when we got back to the ship and we weren't ready to get back on board. Dad's always wanted to do a Tuk Tuk tour so when we saw someone waiting we hopped in, and this was probably one of the best decisions we made throughout the holiday. During my visits to Lisbon I've done the sightseeing tour, a boat trip, the Hippo and a Tuk Tuk, but the latter is definitely the best way to see the city; our driver showed us the places where only Tuk Tuks are small enough to go, and relying on someone's local knowledge rather than a global company's route map meant we got to see parts of Lisbon that we never knew existed, including the most incredible view of the entire city from the highest point - it was truly beautiful and I couldn't recommend it enough.

One of my big goals for next year is that I want to travel completely alone and I chose to ease myself into this by starting to explore the ports without my parents. My first solo wander was in Lisbon - it was a great place to start because I know the main streets of the city, it's one of my favourite places I've ever visited, the locals are incredibly helpful and I always feel safe there - I loved it and by doing my usual style of aimless wandering I discovered some amazing new places.

What to do in Cadiz Spain Cruise Ship Travel Blogger The Owlet

10th October was where it all went downhill - clearly someone hadn't been entirely honest when filling in the health questionnaire on embarkation day, because I woke up with the most awful cold I've ever experienced- truly I have never been made to feel so ill from a common cold, and of all the various medicines I'd packed for everything from sea sickness to sinus problems, it never occurred to me that I might get ill. Luckily we were docking in Cadiz that morning, so as soon as we docked I was off the ship to find the nearest pharmacy. I did actually vlog the whole trip but I wish I'd filmed on my mission to get medicine, because while I do speak a reasonable amount of Spanish I'd never had the need to learn any medical words so I was treated to an impromptu acting class as the poor Spanish pharmacist acted out any symptoms that I might be having, and yes, it was just as uncomfortable as you are probably imagining.

Even though I felt absolutely awful, I wanted to make the most of every port so I downed some of the questionable syrup I'd just bought and went on my way. Fair warning - if you ever dock in Cadiz or La Coruña be prepared for the weather to be awful, because speaking to the crew, they said it's the same every time they visit. I had the unfortunate timing of walking down a street with absolutely no cover just as the rain started, and it was torrential - being a 10 minute walk from the ship my only option was to hide under a cafe's leaky awning which provided very little shelter. I still wanted to explore so I walked up the hill to the main part of town, but after about half an hour I was soaked, my shoes were starting to fall apart and I felt even worse, so I went back to the ship and led in bed watching Gossip Girl for a few hours (I know, what a waste of a day on board, but I really was sick).

Independence of the Seas Izumi Sushi Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Travel Blogger

The next day the weird Spanish medicine had kicked in and it was just as well because it was a sea day and we had a sushi making class booked! I felt like with the changes they made during Indy's refurb they were just trying to get money off of you at any opportunity, but the sushi making experience was something I genuinely thought was worth it and I absolutely loved it, although mine did fall apart while Dad sat there being smug about his perfect sushi.

We were shown how to make three types of sushi and were told how to make each of the ingredients like the sticky rice, then got to eat what we made. We actually went back to Izumi for a meal on one evening and were really disappointed, both by the quality of food and the price, so if you want to try sushi on board I would absolutely recommend doing it this way as it's both cheaper and you get to experience something new too!

If I'm honest I don't remember a lot from the sea day other than sushi making, but I'm pretty sure it had a lot to do with the strange concoction of tablets that I'd been given in Cadiz - according to Dad I'd lost the ability to stay awake for most of that day, oops...

What to do in Arrecife Lanzarote Timanfaya National Park Camel Ride Coach Tour Plus size Travel blogger The Owlet

12th October was both one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had and the most terrifying and painful. We docked in Lanzarote that morning and while Mum stayed on the ship, Dad and I went off on a shore excursion to explore Timanfaya national park - from what I saw it was beautiful, but a lot of the time the coach had less than 1ft of space between the tyres and the edge of the cliff so I spent a lot of time trying not to look too closely because I really am not a fan of heights! Having survived the drive through the more awe-inspiring yet terrifying landscape, we then had a bit of free time at the end of the tour to get a drink or go for a wander. However, when we got off the coach and saw a line of camels we absolutely couldn't say no. Fair warning, camels are the most uncomfortable mode of transport I've ever been on, but it was AMAZING! It's one of those things that even if you're scared you need to tick it off the bucket list - honestly it was a once in a lifetime experience and, aside from feeling like I'd done some damage to my back, I would 100% go again!

We usually don't opt to go on shore excursions as a lot of companies earn extra money by making agreements to bring tourists to the same local businesses, but we couldn't have gone to Timanfaya any other way. On the way back we stopped at a vineyard that they were promoting, but Dad and I actually went into the cafe next door for a drink and a snack. One of my favourite part of being a "brit abroad" is the instant withering look you get from locals when they think "Oh no, what are they doing in here?" followed by the look of shock when you speak to them in Spanish. I know it's kind of a petty thing to find funny, but it goes to show that you really shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.

What to do in Gran Canaria City Sightseeing Tour Bus Travel Blogger The Owlet Blog

On 13th October we docked in Gran Canaria, which I quickly decided was my favourite island. As much as I pretend to relax, I'm definitely a city girl at heart and I find it hard to switch off, so I'm that irritating person that is ready to make the most of every single minute of their day. While Lanzarote was beautiful, I was constantly thinking "where is everyone?", so the more lively city environment fo Las Palmas de Gran Canaria suited me perfectly.

I feel like it's quite a controversial opinion among travel bloggers, but I actually love the city sightseeing busses. Yes they are expensive, but when you only have a day to explore they're invaluable and you don't have to worry about finding your way back to the port because it starts and stops in the same place. If the city isn't massive, then we like to go around the route once, then on the second loop we know exactly where we most want to explore. We ended up finding a designer outlet centre right on the beach that had an incredible roof terrace, so we stopped for lunch and took in the amazing views around us. I wish we'd had more time in Gran Canaria - the residents were very kind and helpful, and everywhere you looked the city was a rainbow patchwork - I genuinely don't think I've ever visited a more positive place, both in terms of the people and the skyline.

What to do in Tenerife Puerto De La Cruz Luxury Travel Blogger The Owlet

On 14th October we docked in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and while I would've been happy to explore there, back in the days when Mum and Dad could fly they would go to Puerto de la Cruz all the time so they wanted to go back and relive their memories. Unfortunately this was one of the most disappointing days - we had to book a shore excursion to get there and we were told when we were driving out of the port that we'd only have two hours there, meaning we barely got to see anything before we had to leave again. In a way it could've worked out well because I also had time to look around Santa Cruz in the afternoon, but it was both a Sunday and the day after Fiesta Nacional De España where the Spanish celebrate Christopher Columbus' discovery of America (he left from Cadiz and there's a huge statue in the park to commemorate it), meaning everything was closed. There probably were places to explore in the city, but if I'm being completely honest with myself I was just tired and needed to take the afternoon to rest a little.

La Palma Canary Islands Luxury Cruise Ship Travel Blogger Independence of the Seas Royal Caribbean The Owlet Blog

15th October gave me the rest day I'd so desperately been craving, when we docked in La Palma - despite docking in the capital there wasn't an awful lot there. It was one of those pretty Spanish towns that you imagine to be anywhere that isn't a major tourist hub, full of old buildings, backstreet cafes and little independent shops. As well as my 4000 shipmates, there was another cruise ship docked next to us, yet the town still felt quiet and relaxed. In terms of the big destinations it was kind of a "nothing port" and no one spoke English so I'm guessing  that a lot of people had chosen to stay on board, but it really did feel like we had the island to ourselves. We went for a walk along the marina, wandered through the tiny little shopping streets, visited the most beautiful church I've ever seen as well as the weirdest market I've ever seen, and stopped for a drink and a snack at this little cafe before heading back, although if I'm honest that was mainly because it was the second week of almost daily port calls and we were tired and wanted to sit down. We then headed back to the port, although Dad suddenly decided he wanted ice cream so we stopped in the McDonalds by the port - on a side note, did you know they do Dulce De Leche milkshakes in Spain? Compared to the Spanish menu England is woefully behind, including one of the best salads I've ever eaten - where on earth is that on the UK menu?!

What to do in Funchal Madeira Toboggan Basket Ride Cruise Ship Travel Blogger the owlet

16th October gave me another opportunity to tick some things off the bucket list as we docked in Madeira. Despite our cruise being to the Canary Islands, this was probably my favourite port of call out of the whole trip! It's just incredible how much Madeira had to offer just in Funchal alone. We started with a hike up to a church at the top of the hill with the most amazing view across the island, although it was clear at this point that two weeks of alcohol and no gym time had taken it's toll because after 300 steps I felt like I needed a lie down! When we got over the crest of the hill we took the easy route back down, although it was possibly the most scared I've felt in quite a while! In the 19th century these toboggans were used as a form of public transport for people to get from the village of Monte at the top of the hill, down to the city of Funchal, although now they're simply a tourist attraction - one I wasn't looking forward to, but Dad wanted to go. The baskets have sleds on the bottom that are polished so they slide down the hill, which is fine until you find yourself going sideways around a corner. While they couldn't really have flipped over it felt like it was going to, and poor Dad had marks on his arm for days afterwards, where I'd dug my nails in while clinging onto him for dear life. It was an incredible experience, but it's not one I'd be looking to repeat any time soon!

The second half of the day was much more my speed; we had to walk back up the huge hill but this time to experience the cable car down from the mountain with the most amazing views.When we got to the bottom we were given some free time and it was "suggested" that we visited the embroidery shop but we ignored this and walked around the corner and found a market. This was probably one of the highlights as all of the stallholders were trying to sell to tourists so I got to try loads of different fruits that I'd never tried before, and the smell of all the different spices was incredible. We then took a short walk into town and while everyone else was at the "suggested" visit to the wine shop we stopped for a drink at a gorgeous cafe in the middle of a tiny park. While sometimes it is essential to take a shore excursion if you want to see something specific, they're always pretty flexible so you can use the sponsored visits as a chance to have some free time, and for me it makes it more special because you have the town to yourself while everyone else is at the same crowded place.

What to do in La Coruna Luxury Cruise Ship Travel Blogger The Owlet

17th October was a sea day and we spent most of our day relaxing and catching up on sleep, so I'll skip that photo as this post is already so long!

The next day was our final port of call in La Coruña - I was eager to make the most of it while Dad was tired and running late so I went on ahead. My first thought was "there's nothing here" so pulled out my phone and looked on Google maps. There was a main street with some shops and restaurants on but that was about it. It was also absolutely freezing, so while I waited for Dad I got back on board to get changed into something more weather appropriate. When he was finally ready to go he had much the same reaction as me, and as we were walking out of the port we were stopped by a small start up tour agency. It was around €20 for two tickets so as it was cold and quiet we decided to go. We actually ended up having an amazing time, and from thinking it was a nothing port we left with some amazing memories.  If you're wondering why I'm sprawled across a giant octopus, apparently they're a symbol of the town and a local artist installed several of them.

After the tour we were both kind of dreading getting back on the ship for the last time, so we went for a walk through the town and pooled our last bits of change to get some lunch. We stopped at a little bakery on a backstreet, picked up a baguette and a chocolate pretzel and sat on a bench in the freezing cold, eating lunch while enjoying our last look at Indy before Southampton. It was kind of nice, but in a really sad way as I wasn't at all ready to leave.

Independence of the Seas Royal Caribbean Luxury Cruise Ship Travel Blogger

For me the worst part of a two week cruise is the last full day. On the final morning you've packed, you've said goodbye and you know you have to go, but on the final full day you say goodbye to all of the friends you've made, pack up your cabin, go to the farewell show and reality starts to sink in. Honestly, I could've filled this post with photos with our friends. Most of the people in this photo I met on my first cruise last year, same with a photo of us with Marlon and Carlos who we met on the previous trip, Dennis who yelled my name on the first day and our new friend, Jean, who was our waiter, as well as being the most kind and caring person with the most dry sense of humour - I genuinely left dinner in stitches every night! Okay this photo is blurry and our friend's thumb is over the lens, but I have to share this one as it absolutely summed up how well we got on.

Independence of the Seas Royal Caribbean Luxury Cruise Ship Travel Blogger Southampton Port

20th October was the day that we were all trying not to think about, yet came around far too quickly. At 6am when we woke up and looked out the balcony window, it was dark, cold, raining and gloomy. We went to Cafe Promenade for breakfast and the lovely barista made my last "Independence coffee" as she called it, for me to take off the ship with me. I haven't got a lot to report from here onwards, because we went home and went to bed for the day to catch up on two weeks of no sleep. There is one bright note from the day though, and that's the fact that I FINALLY have my sea legs! For two days after we got back I found myself walking in zigzags and bumping into random pieces of furniture, and I couldn't be more happy to be covered in bruises, because I'm finally part of the sea sickness survivors club!

Bristol Travel Lifestyle Blogger The Owlet

I'm going to leave my October in pictures here as it's already so long! When we got back I spent the last week of the month catching up on emails, running errands and going to appointments, so compared to two weeks in paradise I feel like that's pretty mundane.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to write a post about my trip - I know not every trip is going to be the epic fairytale from last year, but I feel like each cruise I go on is special and remembered for different reasons, and while being back on Indy was still special the ship had lost a little of her magic. I'm not sure - I've got lots of Christmas/Winter content for you now I'm back, so maybe it's something I'll write in the new year. Let me know if you'd be interested in hearing it.

Make sure you come back for my festive content starting next week - I'm so excited to share it with you!

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have your say; it's a hoot!