The real ‘Beach’: Ang Thong National Marine Park

Destinations, Thailand

The real ‘Beach’: Ang Thong National Marine Park

2 Comments 21 June 2013

Everyone heads to Ko Phi Phi for the famous lagoon film location featured in The Beach. It’s stunning and a great day trip, but wouldn’t you rather visit the original?

Ang Thong National Marine Park, off the coast of Koh Samui is the real inspiration behind Alex Garland’s secret paradise in his novel. The un-touched group of islands are worth a trip without any films or books to lure you in. Plus, the 42-island archipelago is especially superior to the must-see Maya Bay, because there are far less people. Walking around Ko Mae Ko and its natural lagoon with only a boat full of people, you’ll actually feel like you’ve stumbled upon a undiscovered paradise.

Ric and I visited Ang Thong National Marine Park on a day trip from Koh Samui. They picked us up in a fishing boat with about 20-30 people on board.

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I got excited when islands started to appear in the distance. I was taken aback by the changing sea color. It would go from a deep blue to a light green and back again.

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The day tour includes a guided kayak trip, during which our guide pointed out the blow hole Richard would have escaped the shark that was chasing him in The Beach.

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The real hidden lagoon where the Swedes would fish and beach colony would play cricket located on Ko Mae Ko.

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The scene from the lookout point at Ko Mae Ko.

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The day ends with snorkeling and lunch at Mu Koh Ang Thong National Park. People can camp over night on this island with special permission, but we only spent about an hour here doing epic jump shots before returning to Koh Samui.

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Ang Thong National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

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Jackson Apartments for working holiday makers

Australia, Australia, Destinations, Moving Abroad

Jackson Apartments for working holiday makers

8 Comments 20 June 2013

Moving to Australia with a working holiday visa puts people in a somewhat weird position. You’re visiting places for longer than most travelers, often working and living, so you don’t really want to spend that amount of time in a hostel and it be a senseless waste of money to spend it on a hotel. Yet, most will only spend between six months to a year living a destination, making it hard to find a company that will lease you a private place for that short a contract.

This was the predicament Ric and I found ourselves in when we reached Melbourne in November 2010. I only had about three months left on my visa, so there were few real estate companies that wanted to work with us, but we were a new couple at that point and wanted our privacy, which wouldn’t happen in a hostel.

It was actually the day I arrived, a few weeks after Ric, that we actually found out about Jackson Apartments. The Melbourne rental agency focuses on short-term apartment seekers. In fact, they prefer them. I saw their ad in a backpacker magazine, but through internet searches for similar terms I couldn’t find them anywhere. The company ended up being perfect for our situation and you might find they are for you as well. Here is a round-up of our experience with the company.

The Hunt

As with most cities Ric and I arrive in, we had to act pretty fast in finding a place in Melbourne as our money was very low and we knew any place we wanted to rent would require a deposit. With a bit of pressure on us and a pretty wide range of choices, we literally moved into our new place the same day we went searching for apartments with the agency.

I have to say I was a little bit worried about the introduction process as we had to pay our deposit in cash $AUD500 as well as a week’s rent $AUD360, but we really didn’t have a choice. Luckily, it ended up working out. They were really good with paperwork and moved us in our new pad on the same day. They showed us at least four different properties during our hunt, taking us to them by car and were really friendly.

Location

We stayed in two different apartments during our two and a half months with Jackson. The first was in St. Kilda and it didn’t quite work out as we were a bit too noisy for our neighbors. It was somewhat of an retiree complex. But the company didn’t blame us or hassle us, just recommended a new location and even came to pick up us and all our things on moving day. The second place we stayed was a million times better. Our three-bedroom apartment was fully-furnished and located right on Chapel Street in Windsor, which is full of bars, cafes and shopping. We had a deck, parking and we were right next door to this really cool Scandinavian clothing store that made their own beach in the back alley way.

Jackson Apartments

These were our neighbors… Only in Melbourne. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Price

Between Ric and I, it costs $AUD360 per week for a fully-furnished room in a three-bedroom apartment. Now I’ll be honest and say that you can find cheaper if you’re willing to sign at least a six-month contact for a place in Melbourne, but we didn’t have that luxury. I’d say for our own private room in a really good location, we paid the same as it costs in Melbourne for two bunk beds per week in a six or eight person dorm. For this reason, I thought the apartment was worth it.

Customer Service

Everyone we talked to or worked with during our stay was really laid back and genuine. We didn’t have any problems. In fact, I felt like they really tried to make sure we were in the right place. A true testament to them being good people is that I needed information recently, three years later, for partner visas for Ric and I and they went above and beyond in providing it, asking for nothing in return.

Comfort

It’s hit or miss with the apartments and rooms you’ll find. Don’t expect anything glamorous and some of the places are older and a bit shabby as there are a lot of older places in Melbourne. But the apartments are clean and if you have any complaints about things they’ll work on helping with it. We got very lucky with our second place. It had been refurbished not too long before we arrived.

Jackson Apartments

Christmas 2010 on the deck with our roommates. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Overall

I stayed in a million different places in Australia: hostels, trailers, bus stations, tents, friend’s couches and rooms that just happened to open somewhere by chance. Ric and I had only been seeing each other for about two months when we arrived in Melbourne and I didn’t want to go through that time with him in a hostel, but we had very little other choice. We tried to find a room with people on Gumtree, but even there they wanted people who were going to stay in the city longer. We had to move fast, so Jackson Apartments was actually the best possible solution for us. Not to add sentiment, but we had our first apartment together with them and I feel very lucky that they made it a good experience.

I highly recommend them to couples or even just friends traveling in pairs who are only staying in Melbourne for a short period, but want somethings a bit more private.

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Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2013/06/how-to-move-to-new-zealand-five-steps/#sthash.XJJLyyv4.dpuf
Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2013/06/how-to-move-to-new-zealand-five-steps/#sthash.XJJLyyv4.dpuf
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5 London Escapes for Summer

Other

5 London Escapes for Summer

No Comments 19 June 2013

This post is brought to you by Cosmos.

Summer may be upon us in London, but the weather sure does like to tease people. Blue skies and glistening sun one day, rain and fog the next. While the city has enough activities to keep visitors entertained, locals might be longing for a real summer escape one weekend.

Luckily, Cosmos Holidays gives England’s capital city many options for that much needed break. The affordable booking company offers countless flights and package trips departing from London at affordable prices. These are just a few ideas for a relaxing, weekend getaway this summer, all less than a five hour flight from London town.

Barcelona, Spain

This Spanish city is a major tourist destination all year round, but it especially comes to life at summer. Visit Antonio Gaudi’s masterpieces like Park Guell, Hotel Gaudi and Sagrada Familia. Beach-hop from Barceloneta to Icaria to Mar Bella. Though don’t be afraid to bare it all at the last one, as it’s a nudist beach. Most importantly, have some Sangria while taking in the sun.

Lanzarote, Spain

Though Lanzarote is another great Spanish Island on this list, its location, just off the coast of Morocco, adds a North African-feel to the island. It’s home to Timanfaya National Park, which is known for its volcanic fields and is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Luckily the sea is never far away from this smouldering desert activity. Some desolate, ends of the earth sort of prestigious beaches, include Papagayo, Las Conchas and Famara. Lanzarote offers a more earthy vibe for laid back explorers. Discover Cosmos package deals to Lanzarote and enjoy an unforgettable holiday in this extraordinary island.

Photo provided by Cosmos

Photo provided by Cosmos

Bodrum, Turkey

This Turkish seaside escape is not only easy on the eyes, but full of history. You’ll be captured by the sight of sail boats lined up on emerald seas of the Aegean Coast amongst a medieval castle. Learn all about the history of Bodrum and see artifacts at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology in the Bodrum Castle.

Menorca, Spain

This is a quick and easy Spanish getaway for a lot of Europeans, but to truly appreciate this destination, you need to get off the track and into the sea. Kayak to one of Menorca’s coves. This area also has several hidden beaches you can swim or kayak to. Jump in and discover one for yourself.

Madeira, Portugal

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago located 1000kms off the coast of Africa. You can find a bit of everything at this island destination, mountain, beach and adorable little towns. Visit Funchal to try horse back riding and see Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Madeira is known for its array of flowers. Get lost in the quaint and untouched beauty of this year-round holiday destination.

This post is brought to you by Cosmos.

How to move to New Zealand: five steps

Destinations, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

How to move to New Zealand: five steps

4 Comments 13 June 2013

You’ve taken the plunge.

Despite all your 20-something friends getting married and having babies, plus your parents pressure to find a “real job” and settle down, you’ve decided to leave your home country for one year and move abroad on a working holiday visa.

And what a plunge it is.

New Zealand.

Land of the long white cloud. One of the most scenic and most peaceful places to live on earth. A place where there are more sheep than people and even hobbits are celebrated. For most, it’s the other side of the world. Two large islands floating out in the Pacific. Not far from Australia or Antarctica, you don’t get much more off the map than here.

That can be daunting for people planning to make a home there for the year, but it doesn’t have to be. The truth is that New Zealand is one of the friendliest nations in the world and I’ve found, one of the most accepting of foreign guests. These five steps will help those 18-30 years old move to New Zealand on a working holiday visa.

1.) Start saving

You’ll want to separate your budget into two things for New Zealand, flights and money required on arrival.

I point out flights, because no matter where you are flying from, a one-way ticket to New Zealand is not cheap. Expect to pay about $US1,500 for a one-way ticket. Add $US200 on if you are flying somewhere other than Auckland.

After putting money aside for your flight, the rest of your budget depends on what you expect to do upon arrival in the country.

New Zealand’s immigration website states that people must have a minimum of $NZ4,200 to be eligible for the US Work Holiday Scheme. I’ll be completely honest and say that they don’t verify it. I didn’t have to prove I had those funds before applying, nor at the airport upon arrival.

That said, I really recommend having at least that much. I wasn’t checked, but you might be. Plus that is a good safety net for anyone unsure of when or where they will be finding a job in their new country.

I would recommend no less than $US2,000 to feel secure from the time you arrive until the time you find a job.

People should also consider whether they will be working, soon after arrival or after traveling around a bit. New Zealand can be an expensive country to travel. It has a lot of extreme sports that you would be silly not to try, but it’ll cost you.

Milford Sound

Head to the bottom of the South Island to see Milford Sound. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2. Apply for a working holiday visa

Just do it! I don’t know why people, and by people I mean me, put this off. Most are happily accepted and if they are not, it’s usually for a very valid reason. You’ll be asked to pay an application fee, which varies depending on where you’re from. When I did it, it was free to US citizens, at the time this post was written it cost $US140, but it can change so click here to see how much it will cost you to apply.

The process is pretty similar for all the countries eligible and it’s very straight forward. You can apply online. To do so, you must fill in all your personal information, including passport number. You must answer questions about your health and your character.

Depending on your answers, you may be asked to submit more information, such as a medical, but usually you won’t be. Just follow the process and be honest.

While on the topic of applying, NZ immigration requires visitors to have travel insurance. If you’re from a country that does not have national healthcare or something corresponding the the New Zealand healthcare system, I highly recommend getting travel insurance. It literally could be a lifesaver.

sunset mount maunganui

Another beautiful sunset in Mount Maunganui. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

3. Book a flight

I mentioned the cost of flights earlier, but there are a few more things to consider when booking a flight to New Zealand.

For starters, don’t buy a return ticket. I’ve done this twice on long term trips and both times I had to pay ridiculous fees to change my ticket. You have no idea where you will be or what you’ll be thinking at the end of your working holiday experience in New Zealand, so save yourself the money and don’t book a return flight. Plus, on a trip like this, it’s better to not have an expiration date.

Remember that with a working holiday visa people are NOT required to have a return ticket to enter New Zealand. Just keep a copy of the visa as flight attendants at the check-in counter almost always ask about this.

The easiest place to arrive is Auckland, but also look into Wellington and Christchurch. Those destinations are usually the next most affordable landing spots. Research and consider where to land seriously as flying and moving around in New Zealand is expensive.

If you are flexible about dates then do some research and find what time of year has the cheapest airfare. I would set a date early, so you have enough time to save and prepare. Some things to consider; seasons (ski season is big in Queenstown, but you’ll want to get there at the start of it), the holidays, obligations at home (housing contracts, etc.) and the amount of time it will really take for you to save up.

Queenstown Air New Zealand

I arrived in Queenstown via Auckland when I first came to New Zealand. Fly Air New Zealand if you can. They’re amazing. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

4. IRD number and bank account

Both an IRD number and bank account are needed to work in New Zealand.

Inland Revenue will supply you with your IRD number. For US citizens, this is similar to a social security number and important for tax purposes. To apply, you must fill out an application and present your passport as well as another form of ID, such as a driver’s license (it can be from overseas). All documents must be verified and photocopied.

This cannot be completed online. You must visit either a post office in New Zealand or Automobile Association Driver Licensing Agent. The post office should have applications available. The process is very quick. You should receive your IRD number within 8-10 days

Setting up a bank account is pretty similar everywhere. Be sure to bring your passport, another form of identification and proof of address.

Proof of address could be the letter your IRD number arrived in or it could just be a note written about by a staff member at your hostel stating that this is the address where you are living at the moment and signed. Don’t stress over how long you’ll be staying at that address. It’s not extremely important, especially if you are applying for an online banking account, which you should be.

Some banks charge a fee for people to hold certain bank accounts. Most places offer online banking accounts, which are free and the best option for temporary visitors only in need of an account to be paid into. I had accounts with both Kiwibank or Westpac. Neither of them charged for online accounts and I actually got a really good interest rate for my savings account with Westpac, earning $NZ12 some months.

Hobbiton

Hobbiton was one of my favorite tours in New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee hitchon

5. Find a job

Backpackers or temporary workers will find the most jobs available in hospitality, agriculture, raising money, telemarketing and publicity.

I’ve actually tried all these things while working abroad and suggest hospitality for the most fun, best money and most interesting experience. That said, the jobs available to you depend on where you are located and your experience.

The best source for finding jobs online in New Zealand is Trade Me. You can also find a job just walking around town. Make sure you are prepared with a CV and other things needed. Also, make sure your CV caters to the industry you’re applying for jobs. Don’t present a resume that list your IT experience when applying for a job as a cook. I know this should make sense, but it’s lost on a lot of people.

Most of the New Zealand population are located in its major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Besides a few holiday towns and some heavy farming areas, most of the country is quite rural. I only mention this because it makes finding a job in certain areas a bit more difficult.

It was really easy for me to find work in Wellington. I had about seven interviews after looking for only one day, but I struggled in Blenheim, which is a small town. The jobs offered there were mainly on farms, which usually require you have a car and I didn’t. I use this as an example of things to consider about where to live and work first. A lot of times, the best option may be in a city or a place where people can get around without private transportation. That way you can save up for a car and buy one if you want.

Most places will ask you to commit to six months or a season. So try and get to a place at the start of a season as more jobs will be available and you can fully commit.

I spent a few months working in the kiwifruit industry in Te Puke to get an extension on my working holiday visa. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I spent a few months working in the kiwifruit industry in Te Puke to get an extension on my working holiday visa. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

By the end of these steps you should be working and holidaying in New Zealand. This experience is so special, because every activity in a new country, even the mundane ones like work, is different from home. It’s a new experience, which is what makes this opportunity so special.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2013/06/going-back-in-time-at-the-blitz-party/#sthash.nylXurU4.dpuf

Ready to go? Apply for your working holiday visa here NOW! Not interested in New Zealand? Check out How to move to Australia: five steps.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about ;)

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2013/06/going-back-in-time-at-the-blitz-party/#sthash.nylXurU4.dpuf
Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2012/03/a-day-in-hobbiton/#sthash.WvPTTER6.dpuf
Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2012/03/a-day-in-hobbiton/#sthash.WvPTTER6.dpuf
Going back in time at the Blitz Party

Destinations, England, Favorite Things, Vintage World Shopping

Going back in time at the Blitz Party

3 Comments 11 June 2013

There is no better city for a period-themed party than London. It seems to have sections that represent pretty much every era in its long history. For this reason, Ric and I felt like we had slipped back to the 1940s, long before even entering Great Suffolk Street Warehouse for the Blitz Party.

It happened as soon as we left Southwark Tube Station.

I notice two girls with Victory curls in front of us, one in a red flowing dress the other wearing a pink with fur wrapped around her shoulders. As we walk further from the station, skyscrapers and apartment complexes give way to a brick tunnel system and old pubs. It feels like we we’re entering into the shadows of a scary and mysterious time in world history, only finding relief in the gathering of like-minded people.

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

And there are plenty of them.

It’s hard to give a general name to the location of the venue used for our bunker for the night, but I’d describe it as a system of brick tunnels with warehouse-size rooms. It looks like a storage place for ammunition during World War II, but during the Blitz Party, its many rooms are illuminated by red light, decorated in red, white and blue flags and filled with big bands and swing dancers.

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We arrive just before 9 p.m. and head to the furthest bar at the venue as the bar in room one is already packed. There are about four of five bars set up here. While chatting at a table with Ric about how crazy this party is and wondering where exactly we are, I look up to see three girls talking at the end of our table, only lit up by a spotlight behind them. They almost look like spies. I have to remind myself where I am and what day it is, but eventually I give in.

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Our room is filled within an hour. I notice a circling spotlight to the right of a stage in the room. A band takes the stage and an explosion of confetti goes off the introduce them.

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The place is packed and there are soldiers spinning their ladies around and throwing their bodies in the air. Ric and I explore the venue more to find an army truck and hordes of people taking photos in it, a wall with WWII propaganda and a make up station with the Beauty Queens offering free vintage make overs to people at the party.

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We eventually find ourselves in a smaller room that’s pitch black besides a few gas lanterns hung on the wall and a bar that’s illuminated in red. As my eyes get used to the darkness, I notice couples laying together on a few cots set up in the room. We go to the bar and purchase a punch made of earl grey, orange sherbet and liquor for £7. They’re served in blue tin coffee cups.

Blitz Party

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This is a a different cocktail from those offered in the rations book at the main bars. It must be a reward for those adventurous enough to wonder through all the rooms here.

But then again, any person that would come to a party like this is already adventurous enough.

The Blitz Party is truly to feel the styles and trends of the past. They really succeeded in that affect. Be prepared to shell out a bit of money in your wardrobe for a party like this. It’s really important you come dressed for the part, because if you don’t you’ll feel pretty left out. I spent £47 on a Katharine Hepburn-inspired pants look. I did my own hair which was actually a lot easier than I thought and can be learned from watching Youtube videos.

The next Blitz Party is July 13 at the Village Underground, tickets are £20 and can be purchased on their website.

To view more photos from the Blitz Party, check out my Facebook album.

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The Blitz Party gave me press admission to review this party.

Preparing for an era party on a budget: Blitz

Blog, Destinations, England, What I'm thinking

Preparing for an era party on a budget: Blitz

1 Comment 07 June 2013

I’ve never been to a city that does throw back parties as well as London. Maybe it’s because the city has such a long and rich history, maybe they just know how to party, but I love it.

A “fancy dress” requirement is regular at private parties here and the themes are always so interesting, tarts and vickers anyone? Plus, dress up parties aren’t just for private gatherings, there a common affair at locations all over the city.

Last month I visited the Belle Epoque Party in Shoreditch, dedicated to late 19th century Paris, and I really don’t think I was completely prepared for it. I didn’t realize how much people dress up for themed parties here and honestly couldn’t afford to do it myself. It’s something quite special for 20-somethings to still embrace dress-up as much as they did at four and this time I intend to play the part.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the Blitz Party, a 1940s-themed party in a bunker just in time for D-Day. Times obviously were not great in the world back then, but style was, and I have a pretty good idea of how to dress for this party, without breaking the bank.

1940s girls

Photo: Young Red Violets

Hair

First thing’s first, when it comes to dressing up for a 1940s party: it’s all about the hair. For this era, you could get away with doing just your hair to fit the part and keeping everything else pretty simple. Victory curls are the most well-known 1940s look, so that’s what I am going to go for. There are some well-known vintage hair stylists in London, like La Belle Jolie in Crystal Palace, but I’m going to give this a go on my own, so I can splurge on a dress. All you really need to do is Youtube 1940s hair to find a few looks to choose from then and learn how to do it yourself.

Make up

Luckily, this step is fairly easy for my party’s era. Dark eyebrows, simple eye makeup, red lips and maybe a flick at the end of your eyelids with wet liner. Plus at the last era party I attended they had vintage make up artists, The Beauty Queens, on site giving complimentary makeovers. So I’m going to leave myself a bit blank in hopes of that. If all else fails, think WWDD (What would Dita do?).

1940s make up

Photo: Chlo-beau make-up

Dress

One complaint people might have about visiting an era-themed party is that they have nothing to wear.

This is my problem as well.

No, I don’t just carry a 1940s vintage dress with me around the world, but I would like to. I’ve chosen to invest in this, because I know I’ll wear it again. It’s very trendy right now and I love the look anyway. Luckily, there is no shortage of vintage stores in London. I’m going to head to Carnaby Street and Portobello Market today as well as hit some second-hat shops along the way. I’m looking to spend no more than £60 on my dress and I’m not too fussed whether or not it’s actually vintage, but they are a good place to go for inspiration. Time Out has a great listing of vintage stores in London. 

Moves

Other than creating a dance to “Zoot Suit Riot” by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies in my friend’s basement when Swing was a fad in the 90s, I have no idea how to dance for the 1940s and just realized the meaning of that bands name… I don’t think it really matters that much, but it would be cool to show up with some moves. Returning to Youtube, practice these dance techniques while getting ready for the night.

By tomorrow you should be look mighty spiffy! Looking forward to seeing how my look is actually going to turn out and of course going to the Blitz Party tomorrow night. Are you going? What did you do to complete your look?

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Creating their own genre of entertainment: Wam Bam Club

Destinations, England, Favorite Things, The Arts and Cabaret

Creating their own genre of entertainment: Wam Bam Club

6 Comments 06 June 2013

A seven-man jazz band playing swing music at the entrance, a complimentary glass of champagne after receiving my ticket and two big-chested men smiling and offering me a Lindt chocolate in red wrapping, I knew I was in store for a different sort of cabaret as soon as I arrived at the Bloomsbury Ballroom last Friday.

At the Wam Bam Club, you don’t just watch a show, you’re a part of it.

The set up of the show, entertaining guests and interacting with them from the start, invites you to join in. The seating arrangement in the ballroom and the way the show is carried out actually gives you the chance to.

With an art deco interior design, the Bloomsbury Ballroom has one main stage at the front and the Wam Bam Club adds another to the middle. Small tables and chairs border the room. You’ll have to get cozy with your neighbor and the performers, as it’s a packed house, but you’ll want to as one of them is the bubbly and hilarious Lady Alex.

“These are my cabaret bitches,” she screams as an even number of male and female sex pots, known as the Wam Bam Buff Boys and Wam Bam Belles, run down the middle of the ballroom and surround her on stage.

Wam Bam at Bloomsbury Ballroom from Lady Alex on Vimeo.

The show just felt laid back and inclusive of all interests from the start, but I didn’t really think about why, just went with it. At intermission I talked to someone at my table about the show and she mentioned how she noticed it was a lot different from most burlesque and cabaret, because it wasn’t just women taking off their clothes, but also yummy men.

Mysterious and cutesy burlesque acts by female bombshells are matched with a sailor-themed double striptease to “In the Navy” by two buff men, which ends in nothing but skin and soap I must add.

Further, Lady Alex, the MC and show creator, is a woman, which is another major difference to most cabarets. (Note, there are several other amazing women that make up the burlesque and cabaret scene in London, whether it be in their performance or creativity. In fact, I’d say there are more women in the industry than man. I only notice by this statement that I’ve not seen any female MC’s in London or in performances around the world. It was something different at Wam Bam Club in my experience.)

It doesn’t seem like the Wam Bam Club is trying to make a stand. They’re just having fun the best way they know how. That’s the biggest impression this show leaves. Laugh, leave your worries behind and never take yourself to seriously.

This is clear by how many comedy acts are offered in the two-hour show. It starts with the fabulous Bunny Galore. In a blond wig and red dress, the drag act sings, “When you’re good to momma,” and the entire audience replies, “Mama’s good to you.”

Then there’s Ninia Benjamin. Dressed in Primark clothes, not one sequin, you wonder what she has to do with cabaret as she comes to the stage. The loud-mouthed comedian lets it all out and will have you laughing so hard her non-burlesque wardrobe won’t matter by the end of her routine.

“I’m a dirty fucking bitch,” she warns everyone within minutes of hitting the stage. That’s apparent with her sex lessons that include Kit Kat references.

But the definite highlight for me came with the show’s headlining act, Up and Over It. The duo may have cleaned their act up for America’s Got Talent, but they held nothing back for the Wam Bam Club.

“This is what happens when Irish dancing goes a little bit tits up,” Lady Alex says before introducing them.

Their performance starts with just one woman and one man sat at a table with two open bottles of booze. Black eyes on both of them, ripped-up clothes and wild hair, they look as though they’ve been on a three-day bender.

The male part pours an obvious white powder across the table and snorts it, only to be outdone by his female counterpart. This “Anything you can do I can do better” persona continues as they go back and fourth with an incredible tap dance routine, first done only by hand but then taken to their feet.

Smoke surrounds them from the powder on the table as they stare furiously at each other and wait for the other to mess up during the strenuous routine. Neither does. In fact, their flawless. They take a few swigs from their bottles, carrying on with one hand, without even flinching.

The show ends with a Marie Antoinette-like extravaganza. Lady Alex is at the center of it, wearing a boat around her waist that shoots confetti. She’s surrounded by the Wam Bam Buff Boys and Wam Bam Belles.

It’s grand, fabulous, hilarious, beautiful, flawless and colorful. It’s not just cabaret or comedy or dance or burlesque, it’s a genre unto itself. It’s Wam Bam Club.

The show doesn’t end when the performers leave the stage either. The Top Shelf, the seven-man swing band mentioned at the start, take to the stage along with DJ Earl of Ealing and the floor opens up to the crowd for the show’s after party. 

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

General admission costs £25 and includes a free glass of wine and seating at shared tables. For £35 you’ll receive a complimentary glass of wine again and find seating at private tables closer to the stage. Plus, they provide seating for groups in the sofa area. You can also pay £10 to enter only for the after party. Their next show at the Bloomsbury Ballroom is Friday, June 28, but they also perform every Saturday at Cafe de Paris. All tickets can be purchased on their website.

Wam Bam Club offered me press admission to review this show. All opinions are my own.

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*GIVEAWAY* WIN a SUITSUIT Case

Giveaway, Other

*GIVEAWAY* WIN a SUITSUIT Case

132 Comments 03 June 2013

I’ve never really cared too much about what luggage or backpack I own. In fact, my one backpack is from 2006 and still in perfect shape. My suitcase is on loan, well a Homer Simpson sort of loan as I borrowed it from my Uncle in 2007 and still haven’t returned it.

I’ve seen people post about their fancy new travel luggage purchases for the past three years with not so much as an afterthought. That all changed recently when Brooke Schoenman posted a photo of a SUITSUIT case on her Facebook page.

It was pastel green, shiny and retro and I fell in love.

And I had a feeling my readers would too, which is why I’m giving away one SUITSUIT case to one of you this summer holiday season.

Which SUITSUIT case are you?

SUITSUIT is a Dutch company that launched in 2008. Their aim is to make high quality suitcases that stand out in a crowd or on a baggage carousel at the airport. They also sell suitcase covers. All luggage comes with TSA locks, Turtle Trace and a 10-year warranty. Turtle Traceis a global lost and found service for baggage. They offer three different sizes of cases on two and four wheels, making them easy to roll and the ideal size no matter what sort of trip you go on. The smallest size, the weekender, is 100% cabin proof on all airlines.

I personally would choose their Fabulous Fifties Globe Trotter. I love actual luggage from the 40′s and 50′s, but they didn’t have wheels back then and I’m not one to carry things from anywhere other than on my back when I’m traveling. SUITSUIT created the best of both eras with this collection.

Photo provided.

Photo provided.

But SUITSUIT is allowing the lucky winner to choose whatever size and style of bag they wish. So whether you’re a Social Media Weekender or a Union Jack Tourister, SUITSUIT has a case for you and your travels.

Their suitcases value you at up to € 169,00, so this would be a pretty epic win.

How to enter

There is more than one way to enter this competition and the more ways you enter, the better a chance you have at winning. Using Rafflecopter, see the entry form below, you can enter by:

    • Leaving a comment at the end of this post telling me what size and style suitcase you would want after having a look at SUITSUIT’s website. Don’t worry if you change your mind, I won’t need a definite until I pick a winner.
    • Liking Heels and Wheels on Facebook,
    • Liking SUITSUIT on Facebook,
    • Tweeting about this competition,
    • Following Heels and Wheels on Twitter
    • and following SUITSUIT on Twitter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All these things MUST be done using the Rafflecopter application above to keep track of your entries. If you do not use the application above than your entry will not be counted.

The contest will run until July 4, 2013 12:00 a.m. EST and the winner will be announced that day. Be sure to read the term and conditions below.

Terms and conditions

There are just a few to consider when entering this competition:

      • The SUITSUIT case you win is subject to availability.
      • Allow time for your suitcase to arrive after the winner is announced.
      • This contest is not open to myself, Ric, anyone in my immediate family or his.
      • You can enter as often as you would like.
      • The winner is chosen completely randomly using Rafflecopter.

That’s is folks! Best of luck to everyone who enters and I look forward to announcing a winner in one month.

Find this contest on Blog Giveaway Directory.

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A day in London if money wasn’t an option

Destinations, England

A day in London if money wasn’t an option

2 Comments 30 May 2013

When Expedia asked me to write about what I would do in London if money wasn’t an option, I have to say I jumped at the chance. Traveling the world for three years straight comes at a price, so I’ve always kept my budget very low, opting for hostels and shabby huts instead of suits and villas.

I wouldn’t have the past three years any other way, but I’d be lying if I told you my mind didn’t wonder when we pulled up to lush resorts on tours or visited posh restaurants, only for drinks.

How would it feel to travel luxuriously? Where would I go? What would I do?

There’s no better city to answer that question than London. Home to royalty and the world’s most expensive residential building, people in England’s capital city know how to spend it and for one day in my imagination, I do too.

Wake up in comfort

I wake up so engulfed in pillows, I can’t even see Ric. Pastel, floral drapery covers the windows and a tea pot sits next to my bed stand. I feel like I’m staying at a manor in the country side, but jump out of bed and rip open the curtains to remind myself I’m not.

Looking down at the River Thames and the Eye, I see the city I’m set to conquer today, London.

Ric opens his eyes and screams, “Ahhh, this is so nice.”

He takes over all the pillows in the bed and I get ready for the day.

After a long bath in our one bed river view suit, I snuggle into a complimentary robe and slippers and jump back into bed.

“Wake up Ric,” I say.

“I can’t get out of bed,” he replies.

“You have to,” I say. “I want to see London.”

After a half and hour of opening his eyelids and dancing around the room, too giddy to sit still, we’re both finally up and dressed, ready for the day.

Walking through the checkered lobby, I think of all those before me who have done the same. Churchill. Sinatra. Monet. When it comes to hotels, I’m a sucker for the old, prestigious pads. That’s why I chose The Savoy.

The Savoy London

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Tea, Dinner and a show

We stop by concierge at The Savoy and ask them to schedule us in for tea at the The Dorchester at 2 p.m. and dinner at The Ivy at about 10 p.m.

“But I hate tea,” Ric says.

“You can’t visit London and not go for tea,” I reply.

Steven, whose helping us out a concierge, smiles and laughs at us.

“I can plan that out for you,” he says.

“Do you think you would be able to find us tickets to The Book of Mormon,” Ric asks him.

“Oooh,” he says. “I will try.”

Tickets to this show by the creators of South Park are the hardest to come by at the moment.

“In case, I can’t find them, any other requests for the theater tonight,” he asks.

“We’ll leave that up to you Steve,” Ric replies.

We exchange smiles and salutations and Ric and I exit The Savoy and walk a few minutes for breakfast at Simpsons in the Strand.

Rolls Royce London

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Breakfast and London’s best view

Two full English, four glasses of bucks fizz and two cups of coffee later and we’re out the door. Ric spots our ride first. We hired a chauffeur for our visit to take us around in a black Rolls Royce. We met him when he picked us up for Heathrow yesterday.

“Morning Jim,” we say.

“Morning guys,” he says. “Where to?”

We look at each other and reply in unison, “The Shard.”

“And don’t spare the horses,” Ric adds, laughing to himself.

We’re both suckers for good views and there is no better one than London’s highest sky scraper. Building on The Shard completed in 2012 and its 69th and 72nd floors are now open to the public. From the top of The Shard, we look for our room at the hotel and point out Big Ben, Tower Bridge and other popular spots in the city.

“I really hope Steve can get tickets to the show,” Ric says in the lift down.

“I wonder what I should wear,” I reply. “Can we go shopping?”

Ric looks at me hesitantly then smiles and nods yes.

The Shard

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Higher than high street

We meet Jim outside the building and tell him to go to Savile Row. There isn’t enough time for a bespoke suit for Ric, specially tailored suits that the street is known for. Luckily Gieves & Hawkes has a few suits in store that fit Ric and look great. He chooses a bright navy single-breasted suit with a skinny black tie. They keep it to tailor some specifications and promise to send it to our hotel by 5 p.m.

Next stop is Harrods. Ric stays behind me nodding, no and yes to things I pull off the racks. After choosing 10 dresses, I head to the fitting room and Ric sits down on one of the chairs just outside.

Ric gives me sort of yes looks for every dress until the seventh one. His eyes light up.

“Bob,” he says. “That’s the one.”

It’s a black lace number by Burberry. Unlike usual, I actually agree with him on this one. They wrap it up and we’re back in the car en route to The Dorchester for tea. We opted for the Vintage Afternoon Tea on the Balcony. Ric lets me eat all the smoked salmon and I let him have all the coronation chicken, because we both know that’s each other’s favorite. I drink all the tea, and he the champagne. Since we have minor food comas, we ask a woman at the front desk if the spa can fit us both in for massages. Luckily, she says they can.

We leave The Dorchester two and a half hours later, feeling like putty. Slightly buzzed and completely relaxed.

Savile Row

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Preparations for the night

Jim drops me off at La Belle Jolie in Crystal Palace for my vintage hair and makeup appointment. Ric heads back to the hotel for a nap. I return to the hotel just after 6 p.m. Ric is in front of the bathroom mirror shaving. His suit is hung up in an open armoire.

“Ric,” I say. “What do you think?”

“Wow,” he says. “I have such a pretty girlfriend.”

I smile and kiss him.

I call room service and order a two Bloody Mary’s.

“So what happened with the tickets,” I say as I slip into my new dress.

Ric steps out of the bathroom and says, “He got ‘em.”

“Yes,” I yell.

We look out the window, him in his suit, me in my dress, drinks in hand and cheers to a great day. The show is incredible. Dinner is even better. We bump into Gordon Ramsay and Ricky Gervais, just like in Extras and finally return to the room just after midnight. We jump into bed and exhale.

What a day?

That’s how I would spend a day in London if money wasn’t an option, how would you?

All the places chosen for this post were picked by me, but it is brought to you by Expedia.

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Photo walking tour of Fitzroy-Melbourne

Australia, Destinations, Other, Photography

Photo walking tour of Fitzroy-Melbourne

4 Comments 28 May 2013

No area of Australia is quite as quirky as Fitzroy. I heard about this section of Melbourne long before I visited the country. People said the coffee there is amazing, the street art is even better. It’s colorful, yet historic. The shopping is vintage and bars have interesting themes.

It sounded like my sort of place, so I booked a hostel in Fitzroy for my first visit to the city. Walking around the morning I arrived, we instantly clicked.

I first head to Brunswick Street for a coffee. A tram rolls by as I walk up the street snapping photos and looking for the perfect cafe to watch the world go by.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

There isn’t much of a world as it was about 8 a.m. on a weekday.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The streets are empty besides a blond girl smoking a cigarette. Dressed in 80′s attire, I wonder whether she is just getting home from a night out or heading into work at one of the vintage shops on the street.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

One massive characteristic of Melbourne is its street art, so I let that lead me this morning.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It takes me down alley ways I wouldn’t normally venture.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

And shows me an edgy side of the locals.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Street art is more than just spray paint graffiti here. It’s inventive and historic. One of my favorite things to see in a city is old signs painted on buildings.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This section of the city somehow manages to pull off two very different looks.

On one hand, it’s a bit trashy and rebellious. You’ll see beer bottles lying all over the streets, leftover food with burnt-out incense and overgrown gardens in front of houses with paint peeling off.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

On the other hand, the area is classic and quaint. It’s home to French brasseries, boutique shops and cafes. The buildings here have history and an incredible, old-world design.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It’s decorated with gas lamps, brightly-colored doors and neighborhood gardens.

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This mash up of lifestyles and looks probably wouldn’t work anywhere else in the world, but in a place as unique as Fitzroy, anything goes.

Photos for this post were primarily taken on Brunswick and Nicholson Streets, as well as a few side streets. Have you ever visited Fitzroy in Melbourne, Australia? What did you think?

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