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How to plan the perfect Italian Escapade!

Hi everyone,

So as you’ll probably know, I’ve just returned from yet ANOTHER trip of a lifetime; a wonderful Italian Escapade visiting some of the country’s most beautiful cities. My sister and I flew from London to Venice, and then caught the train to Florence and onwards to Rome before flying back to London. We had an incredible 9 days filled with lots of fun, laughter and SO. MUCH. SIGHTSEEING!

We effectively did three city breaks all in one go and, you know the best part? We planned it all totally by ourselves! No fees, no appointments in store, everything was booked online ourselves and we saved £500pp compared to quotes we received from a well known travel agent! £500pp?! That’s a whopping £1000 between the two of us – say whaaaatttttt?!-  I’m here to show YOU exactly how we did it, without the need for a travel agent! And as if by magic you can now BOOK the exact same trip I planned in one easy step – scroll down and read the last paragraph for details! In the meantime though, here’s what we got up to, and how you too can plan the perfect Italian Escapade…

So we've made it to #Venice and it is BEAuuuutiful 😍😍😍

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The cities

Italy is such a beautiful place, with tonnes of cities up and down the country brimming with history, culture and a whole host of iconic landmarks that are just waiting to be ticked off the bucket list! We chose the top 3 most visited; Venice, Florence and Rome, but you can pick whichever cities you like and work your itinerary around them. I’ll do full city guides on all three in the coming weeks and post these separately on the blog, but for now I’ll introduce you to them briefly:

Venice – the city of love; think candlelit al-fresco dining, gondola rides and bridge after bridge crossing the Grand Canal. Venice is a city unlike any other I’ve ever been to before;  its unique, pedestrianized centre is full of tourist attractions and getting around the city by boat is an experience in itself! Venice certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth a visit – we stayed for 2 nights and felt that was definitely enough time to see everything.

Ok so I can't leave #Venice out – just LOOK at it 😍🇮🇹 #Italy #ig_italy #venezia

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Florence – ah beautiful Florence, this place has it all! From climbing the to the top of the cathedral for panoramic views across the city, to strolling along the Ponte Vecchio bridge on the River Arno and watching the sunset cast its shadow, Florence is as pretty as a picture and offers a range of things to do. We stayed for three nights and used the Hop on Hop off bus as a way to explore and find our bearings. The city’s cobbled streets and lively piazzas are a haven for locals and tourists alike and there’s something happening on every street corner.

Rome – the eternal city, and my absolute FAVOURITE! I wouldn’t normally go back to somewhere I have been to before, as I’m a firm believer that we should always try new things and experience new places, but I will make an exception for Rome. I fell in love with it from the minute our taxi passed Piazza Repubblica on that sunny Tuesday afternoon! Think London and New York, but with thousands of years history instead of just a few hundred and you’re pretty much there. Rome is like an open air museum, there is something to discover on every road, in every alleyway and down every side street. The Collosseum and Trevi Fountain were personal highlights for me, but I guarantee you will fall in love with every aspect of Rome if you choose to visit!

Rome's Collosseum- colossal in every way! 🏟🏟 #Rome #Italy #ig_italy

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Other Italian cities that I REALLY wanted to visit were Pisa, Milan and Verona, but we just didn’t have the time. We were thinking of doing a day trip on our last day in Florence, either visiting Pisa and it’s legendary leaning tower, or hiking the stunning Cinque Terre and ticking 5 more Italian villages off our lists, but sadly we couldn’t make it work in our already packed schedules, so decided to spend more time exploring Florence instead. If you have a few extra days though, I’d highly recommend taking a day trip from Florence as you can see everything you need to there within 2-3 days and have an extra day for exploring somewhere new. You could also take a day trip to Pompeii from Rome and discover the historical volcanic site, which is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy with over 3 million visitors per year.

**TOP TIP – If you are planning a day trip away from your cities, book online before you go for the best deals, don’t leave it until the day as many trips are full day ones starting at 7 or 8am and they get booked up fast!**

Beautiful by day ….

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#Florence sunsets 😍🌅 #Italy #visitflorence #nofilter #takemeback

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The transport

Once you’ve flown to your first city, getting around Italy is super easy, and we used the well organised, high speed trains during our visit. I booked train tickets a few weeks in advance to get the cheapest rates, but you could just turn up at the station and buy a ticket if you needed to, I don’t think there was too much difference in price. I’d highly recommend trainlineeurope and goeuro – they also offer reduced tickets for those under 26 which is well worth taking advantage of. It was around 50 euros for both of us to get between Venice and Florence and then between Florence and Rome.

In terms of flights, good old EasyJet worked a treat for us, it cost £70pp for a one way from London Gatwick to Venice Marco Polo and then £79pp for a one way from Rome Fiumicino back to London Gatwick. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to book your airport transfers too – especially in Venice. We booked a private shared water taxi (super cool speed boat just for us and two other ladies) online with HolidayTaxis for £70 and this got us there in next to no time. We could have just turned up and taken the public ferry for just 15euros each, but this would have taken well over an hour and the ferry’s get so full, especially with peoples suitcases. If you’re on a budget, go with the ferry but if you prefer to arrive in style definitely pre-book a water taxi; it started off our holiday so nicely!

Arriving in style by private water taxi! Bonjourno #venice 🙋 #Venezia #Italy #wanderlustwednesday

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We also pre-booked our train tickets from Rome Termini station to the airport for just 14euros pp – much cheaper than a 50euro taxi, and we arrived in half the time! We used standard cabs when getting between Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station and our Florence hotel, and between Rome Termini and our Rome hotel, and they weren’t too pricey but, depending on where your hotel is, I’d avoid cabs if you can as they can be very costly.

**TOP TIP – Save money on luggage if you’re traveling with airlines like EasyJet as they charge per bag. We took one 20kg suitcase (£38) plus one carry on case (free of charge) between us and this was more than enough!**

**COST – £140pp for flights there and back, booked separately with Easyjet. £38 for one suitcase. £70 for private taxi in Venice. 10euros for private taxi in Florence (each way). 5 euros for private taxi in Rome (each way). 25euros pp for train between Venice and Florence. 25 euros pp for train between Florence and Rome. 15euros pp for train transfer between Rome Termini and Rome Fiumicino airport. **TOTAL – approx. £265pp on transport.**

Sometimes a Hop on Hop off bus is the best way to see the #city #sights! #Rome #italy #wanderlustwednesday #citysightseeing

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The accommodation

This is something that should be entirely down to your personal taste, depending on if you prefer hotel or hostel and luxury or budget, but I found that having a nice hot shower and a lovely warm bed to come back to after a long day of walking was soo nice and I wouldn’t have swapped our hotels for the world! We knew hotels in Italy were going to be pricey, so we gave ourselves a maximum budget of £300-£350 for the two of us for 3 nights. Granted, Venice cost us that for just two nights, but we did expect that.

Little #Italian hotels with cute Italian decor! #Venice #Venezia #Italy #wanderlustwednesday

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We found that all our hotels were very centrally located; close enough to get to where we needed to get to without being noisy at night. Our Venice one, Hotel Gorizia, was located right in the middle, and we were surrounded by bustling shops and restaurants down every tiny side street. Our Florence one, Hotel De Rose Palace, was a little further out than we thought it would be, and was a good 15-20 minute walk to the historical centre, but we could walk along the River Arno past all the wonderful bridges so it felt we weren’t too far from the charm of the city. Finally, Hotel Opera Roma was a 4* luxurious property right at the heart of Rome, just seconds from via Nazionale, the main strip of the city. Bars, restaurants and shops were within easy reach and the landmarks were all within a 10 minute walk – I’ll be posting a full review of this hotel on my blog in due course.

Another city, another hotel! 🛌 #Florence #firenze #italy #hotel #wanderlustwednesday

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Depending on your budget, I would say hotels are definitely a great option giving you a place of comfort each night after a long day’s walking! Some days we walked between 12 and 16km exploring our new surroundings, so it was lovely to be able to get some decent sleep and have a nice hot shower before we got up and did it all again. If hotel’s aren’t your thing though, have a look on Air BnB or see which cheap hostels you can find if you have less of a budget.

**TOP TIP – Don’t forget that almost everywhere in Italy (and other parts of Europe) now charge a city tax per person for each night of your stay. This is charged upon check out and the cost varies depending on the class of your hotel ie. you’ll be charged more if your hotel is a 4 or 5* as opposed to a 2 or 3* property. Make sure you leave yourself with some cash upon check out as it is mandatory to pay this tax – ours was around 3-4 euros per night per person.

**COST – £350 for 2 nights at Venice hotel. £300 for 3 nights at Florence hotel. £350 for 3 nights at Rome hotel. **TOTAL – £500pp approx. on accommodation**

The food

Where do I even BEGIN?! Not gonna lie, the food was one of the main reasons I had always wanted to visit Italy – gimme all the pizza, pasta and gelato! Eating out can be expensive though, especially as the recommended service charge is at least 13% – not as pricey as America, but not as cheap as it is back here in the UK! I can, however, see why that charge is necessary; the restaurant trade is huge in Italy, yet the wage packets of waiters and waitresses are next to nothing. When the food is as good as it is in those little authentic restaurants though, you really don’t begrudge paying it!

Ending the day with gelato by the Trevi Fountain… Bellissimo! 🍦🇮🇹 #beautifuldestinations #ig_italy #italy #rome

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I’d say the food felt a little more ‘mass produced’ in Rome and Venice than it did in Florence, although don’t get me wrong it was still lovely and fresh, it just felt like it was served more promptly and they wanted us in and out quicker as opposed to the more relaxing vibe we felt when we were in the Tuscan capital. Make sure you try some proper Italian Prosecco during your visit – it’s not like the cheap stuff we get at the supermarket back here! And it’s reasonably priced too, approx 4 euros a glass, I paid over 5 euros for a glass of sprite one night (!) – that’ll teach me to think I’m better off avoiding alcohol 😉

**TOP TIP – Try an Aperol Spritz, one of the signature drinks over in Italy and it’s especially popular with tourists in the cities. Grab a table at a local bar overlooking the piazza and people-watch  whilst sipping on your new favourite tipple; it’s quintessentially Italian and will leave you totally refreshed!**

**COST – a meal for two with drinks and service charge ranges between 35 and 45 euros, depending on what you choose for main; fish and meat are more expensive than pizza and pasta.** TOTAL – 50- 60 euros per day on lunch, snacks and dinner.**

When in #rome – fine dining is a must! #pizza #pasta #prosecco #aperolspritz #gimmeallthefoodndrink 🍴🍸🍾🍕

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The excursions

There are plenty of trips that you can do during your time in Italy, and most can be done within the cities you are actually staying in, as opposed to venturing further out and potentially incurring more costs. In Venice we took a gondola ride for half an hour for a total cost of 80 euros. YEP – you heard me right, 80 euros!!! I know, expensive right? Butttt we had decided that it was pretty much the only touristy thing we were going to do during our 2 nights in Venice, and you can’t NOT visit the city of love without hopping on a gondola- us sisters had a wonderfully romantic time 😉

Ride a gondola in Venice – TICK! ✅✅ Next stop Florence 🚂🚂 #bucketlist #italianescapade #tourists

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Florence was the least touristy of all the cities we stayed in, but we did pay 15 euros each to discover the Cathedral in the centre and climbed the bell tower as well as exploring the baptistery, museum and the beautiful basilica as well – a great price for an all in one ticket! Most people climb the Duomo for panoramic views of the city, but we climbed the bell tower (414 steps up & 414 steps back down again) and were able to see the Duomo as part of the Florence skyline which was arguably better, in my opinion! Don’t forget to take a Hop on Hop off bus (23 euros pp for a 24hr ticket) to make your way around the entire city, and you can also explore the nearby town of Fiesole and climb Michaelangelo’s Piazza, a must when in Florence!

Panoramic views over #Florence? Yasssssss 🙌🙌 #Firenze #michaelangelo #italy #ig_italy #sundayfunday

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Rome felt like it had the most excursions on offer, particularly with the vast amount of museums and ancient sites that we were able to discover. We paid for a 1 day Hop on Hop off bus (20 euros pp) which enabled us to get around from place to place; it’s well worth getting one as Rome is huge!  You obviously don’t need to pay to see the big landmarks in Rome, such as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, but we did pay to gain access to the world famous Collosseum -when in Rome, right?! I’m a massive history fan and I LOVE anything to do with the ancient Romans so couldn’t wait to explore one of the oldest buildings on the planet. We turned up without booking and were sold two tickets (30 euros each) by Gladiator Tours which granted us access to both the Collosseum and the Roman Forum, both with guided tours in small groups. I found both tour guides to be really interesting and informative and it was much better than going in alone, not knowing about the facts and the history etc. Each tour lasted for around an hour and you could then spend time wandering around the attractions at your own leisure.

Made it to the Collosseum! 🏟🏟 #Rome #twinnies #matchingeverythinggggg

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**TOP TIP- If you’re using the CitySightseeing Hop on Hop off buses save your tickets and get discount off your next ticket purchases in your next city! We did this in Florence and Rome and saved 4 euros each. You can also use the buses as a way of getting from one stop to the next without feeling the need to get off – use it as your method of transport and save money on taxis and the metro etc.**

**COST – Gondola in Venice, 80 euros. Hop on bus & cathedral all in one tickets in Florence, 23 euros and 15 euros pp. Hop on bus & Collosseum/Roman Forum tour in Rome, 18 euros and 30 euros pp. **TOTAL – approx. 130 euros pp on excursions.**

The breakdown

We booked the entire trip for just over £800pp, with £400 (500 euros) extra for spending money pp when we were over there. We felt this was a fair price for a 9 day holiday, with decent flights, good accommodation and transport between each destination and airport included. If you really scrimp on meals and souvenir shopping when you’re over there you won’t spend much money at all, apart from on excursions and tours etc.

Italy offers some wonderful history, culture and architecture and you can tick plenty of wanderlust inducing landmarks off your bucket lists day after day! Getting around by train is a really efficient way to explore as many cities as possible, and you’re guaranteed to have a smooth journey between each destination. The whole trip can be as luxurious or as budgeted as you wish, but embrace the Italian culture and enjoy some of La Dolce Vita when you’re there!

So, there we have it, you’re now fully informed and able to book your epic Italian Escapade! Remember, the above was focused on our itinerary of Venice, Florence and Rome, but you can pretty much tailor this to suit your needs depending on which cities you choose for your trip.

As mentioned above, you can now book the EXACT trip I did in one easy step – just click on the link below for more details and to request a quote!

Get a quote for this trip

What did you think of my itinerary? Would you consider going on a holiday like this, and would you book it yourself just like I did? Call me crazy but I loved the whole process from start to finish, from the research to the booking to the reservations, that I’m even toying with the idea of offering my services to people just like YOU – let me know if you’d consider employing someone like me to take the stress out of booking your travel plans.. I’d love to know what you think!

Love Jess x

T H I S P L A C E 🏟🏟 #Rome #collosseum #italy #ig_italy

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My Italian escapade awaits!

The best of #Florence of the week is @jackforin, congratulations! #visitflorence

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Hi everyone,

Happy hump-day! So I’m ridiculously excited that today is Wednesday because I am going on HOLIDAY tomorrow! Yippeeeeee! The bags are packed, the passports are ready and the euros have arrived. It only feels like yesterday that I got off the plane at Heathrow after my epic American adventure, but now it’s time for something oh so different…

 

 

I’m going back to what I do best – EUROPEAN CITY BREAKS! I really missed being in little cities during my time in the U S of A. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved exploring state after state and city after city over there, especially with the likes of Miami, Vegas and NYC on offer, but there was something so huge and so overwhelming about America that I just felt I couldn’t wait to get back to my little European cities and get my tourist discovery mode on again.

This time tomorrow I’m going to be in Venice. Yep, you heard me right – V E N I C E!! The most romantic city in the world – I am so excited! Me and my sister are going on a 9 day Italian escapade stopping at Venice, Florence and Rome along the way. We’ll be arriving by water taxi in Venice (of course) and inter-railing between the other two cities during our time in Italy.

 

Follow @italian_landscapes_and_cities Foto by @_enk

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We’re going to be visiting all the famous landmarks as well as checking out the best hidden gems for gelato, pizza and pasta – I have a feeling we’re going to be 2 stone heavier when we get back, but it’ll be soooo worth it for all the Italian food we’re going to devour! When in Rome, right?!

If any of you have any tips on what to see and do in either Venice, Florence or Rome please do send them my way – I’d love to hear your recommendations! As always, head over to my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages to follow our Italian escapade every step of the way, and I’ll also be doing a vlog for TransferTravel while I’m there -see you on the other side!

Love Jess x

 

Follow @italian_food_and_beverage Photo by @hccouture selezionata da @frensisgram

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A Magical Disney Christmas

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!🎄🎁🎊

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful break! So if you’re an avid follower of my  Instagram account you’ll know that I’ve not long returned from an AMAZING trip to the beautiful Disneyland Resort Paris with two of my best friends, Lauren and Tiffany, where I had the most magical time! Here’s some of the highlights from our Disney trip, as well as a lo-down on the parks, hotel, restaurants and attractions.. get ready to be mesmerised!

 

The Journey

We chose to travel the most convenient way possible to Paris and hopped on the fantastic Eurostar from St Pancras in the heart of London direct to the Marne-La-Vallee station at the entrance of Disneyland itself. The journey couldn’t have been easier! All it took was a quick check in at St Pancras, a smooth 2 and a half hour train ride between England and France and before we knew it we were on Disney soil! Don’t forget to check out the GIANT Christmas tree at the station made up of hundreds of Disney toys- so beautiful!

Our booking included the Disney Express option which was fantastic and well worth adding on if you’re travelling as a family. The option enabled us to check in to our hotel on board the Eurostar; Disney cast members registered our bags and handed out our park tickets and accommodation vouchers before we arrived at Marne-La-Vallee station. We then made our way up to the Disney Express stop to drop off our luggage, safe in the knowledge they would be waiting for us at our hotel later, and were then able to head straight to the parks for our first taste of Disney magic!

The Hotel

We stayed at the cosy 3* Sequoia Lodge Disney Hotel which was perfectly located right on Lake Disney just to the rear of the fantastic Disney Village. The hotel was impressive on arrival and, after a brief check in, we were taken to the outdoor luggage store to retrieve our bags and take them straight up to our room. As we had already ‘checked in’ on the Eurostar this usually painful process was nice and easy and super speedy!

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As there were three of us we had two comfortable double beds in a good size room which was clean and tidy and boasted a fantastic view across to Lake Disney. The bathroom was spotless and there was plenty of hanging safe along with a fully working safe to store our valuables.

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The cosy bar and onsite boutique store at the Sequoia made for excellent facilities onsite and we heard great things about the swimming pool – unfortunately it was closed during our visit but we would have loved to go!

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Breakfast was included with each day of our stay and we were treated to an unlimited continental feast of cereals, croissants, breads, meats and cheeses. We were seated in the Hunters Grill or Beaver Creek areas which doubled up as buffet restaurants in the evening- both looked lovely but sadly we didnt have chance to eat in the hotel!

Top Tip! Take some rolls and fillings and make your own lunch to take with you to the parks- this will save you a fortune on daytime meals throughout your stay!

Click here to read my Trip Advisor review of the Sequoia Lodge Hotel.

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Disneyland Park

The Park is split into 5 lands all filled with fun and adventure offering something different for Disney’s guests….

Main Street USA is where most of the action happens, including the many daily parades and character appearances. The star of the show is the beautiful Sleeping Beauty’s Castle which looks even more magical lit up for Christmas!

Fantasyland best for little ones, fly with Dumbo and Peter Pan or lose yourself wandering around Alice’s maze in Wonderland. There’s also plenty of opportunity for Meet n Greets and a chance to spot Royalty outside the Princess Pavilion!

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Adventureland best for boys who’ll adore the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and the rides/attractions that are in this section. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafe’s to choose from.

adventureland

Frontierland the Wild West theme runs prominently throughout this land and is reflected in the fantastic Cowboy shops, restaurants and attractions. Yee-hah!

frontierland

Discoveryland explore the sci-fi element of Disney and find your inner geek. The scariest ride in the park is also found in this land – Space Mountain Mission 2 is not for the faint hearted!

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Walt Disney Studios

Split into two parts, Front Lot and Back Lot, the Studios offer a wealth of fun and discovery and are a fantastic way to spend the day! There’s a whole host of top rides including Crush’s Coaster (scarier than it looks!), Aerosmith Rock n Roller Coaster and the terrifying Tower of Terror.

There’s a Toy Story village for kids (yeah we definitely didn’t go on those rides… ;)) as well as animation shows and Stitch Live over on the Disney Junior stage. Although the Studios no longer hosts a daily parade, there are plenty of Meet n Greets throughout as well as restaurants, kiosks and Disney stores.

Disney Village

The Village is an additional bonus and a great way of extending the Disney magic way into the evening after a long day of exploring at the parks. The Village is home to a number of popular restaurants, bars and cafe’s as well as a large range of Disney Stores for hours of endless shopping!

We chose to go on the fantastic Panoramagique, a hot air balloon ride, which took us 100ft up in the air for the most magnificent views across the parks and the rest of Marne-La-Vallee. The cost was just 12 euros per adult and this was a great way to end our last day at Disney!

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Disney Attractions

If the parks and studios aren’t enough to keep you entertained and you’re still wanting MORE you’ll be pleased to know that Disney runs tonnes of extra shows and programs throughout the year and Christmas is no exception! We were truly mesmerised by the incredible lights show, Disney Dreams of Christmas, an illuminated musical extravaganza bringing the magic of Disney (and Christmas) to life with water fountains, glittering lasers and spectacular fireworks!

disney dreams

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During our stay there was also a host of other shows on offer throughout the week, including a Frozen Sing-a-long show at the brilliant Chapparel Theatre (kids will love it!), a special Frozen parade, and a Royal Christmas Wishes show on the Castle Stage featuring all your favourite Disney Princes and Princesses. We caught this show twice throughout our stay and it was beautiful. The Disney Magic On Parade runs daily through the park and is not to be missed!

We also bumped into the Princes and Princesses walking through the parks just after the shows had finished, and we caught them at the start as well just before they went on stage! Little finds like that just add to the magic and we were so pleased to have seen the shows. At the end of each day there’s also a Magical Tree Lighting Ceremony with Mickey & Friends where the giant Disney tree is spectacularly illuminated- don’t miss it!

Eating Out

Our stay was offered with a free Half Board Meal Plan which I had never used before, I’ve previously only stayed Bed and Breakfast but the Meal Plan worked surprisingly well! Our standard option entitled us to breakfast and dinner as well as an afternoon Tea Time Treat (soft drink and sweet snack) on each night of our stay. The Meal Plan limits the restaurants you can eat out in for dinner, so booking ahead is strongly recommended. Don’t do what we did and leave it til the day otherwise you’ll miss out!

dinner

We ate in the Silver Steakhouse in the Disney Park, the Empire State Lounge in Hotel New York and the superb Cafe Mickey in the Disney Village. For lunches/afternoon snacks we ate in the parks outlets including Bella Notte, Toad Hall and Casey’s Corner as well as Annette’s Diner in the village. The food was expensive when we weren’t using our vouchers so money wise it’s a great option to have the meal vouchers included!

Disney Characters

We were on the lookout for plenty of characters throughout our stay and we certainly weren’t disappointed- we saw LOADS! Christmas was a great time to see extra characters in additional parades and there were lots of Meet n Greet locations set up between the two parks. My friend Lauren brought an autograph book and we were like little children running around chasing all the characters for their signatures!

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We queued for over an hour to meet Winnie the Pooh, Marie from Aristocats and, the stars of the show, Mickey & Minnie themselves. We also met Pluto, Goofy, Chip n Dale, Gepetto from Pinocchio and Rafiki & Timon from The Lion King as well as glimpsing the Princes and Princesses and lots of other characters in the fantastic parades.

For us, character interaction was a massive part of our trip and the highlight was the incredible Cafe Mickey, an amazing dining experience for adults and children alike. Located in the Disney Village, the menu is pricey but it is worth it to have the interaction with the characters!

The likes of Mickey, Minnie, Tigger, Eeyore, Goofy, Pluto and many more come round to each table to spend time and have photos with each guest making you feel truly special whilst enjoying your meal. I’ve been three times throughout my life at different ages and I have just ADORED every single visit, I’ve had wonderful experiences which will always stay with me!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my amazing Disney trip.. I can’t wait to go back to my happy place in the not too distant future! Have you been to Disneyland before? Or have you been to Walt Disney World in Florida? How do the two compare? I’d love to find out!

Hope you’ve had a magical Christmas!

Love Jess x

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European City Break: Budapest

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Hey everyone,

So most of you will probably know this by now, but I’ve not long returned from my second European city break of 2015 where I headed to the beautiful Hungarian capital of Budapest for a quick weekend getaway with my sister. Budapest is such a beautiful city and, with so much to see and do, we had the most amazing time! We took off from London Gatwick airport on the morning of Saturday 26th September and after a short 2hr flight with the fantastic Easyjet Holidays we landed safely at our destination. And as if by magic you can now BOOK the exact same trip I planned in one easy step – scroll down and read the last paragraph for details! In the meantime though, here’s what we got up to in Budapest…

The Hotel

We were delighted to be staying on a room only basis at the luxurious 4* Hotel President located a short walk away from the stunning St Stephen’s Basilica and close to the major attractions on the Pest side of the city. Situated on the same historical streets as the US Embassy and the National Bank, the boutique hotel enjoyed prime position for the parliamentary parts of the city.

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Our rooms were spacious, modern and clean and we made use of the excellent spa facilities on offer at the Wellness Centre on the ground floor. The hotel also boasted a fantastic 360 degree panoramic roof terrace offering spectacular views across the city but unfortunately we weren’t able to enjoy this as it was for restaurant reservations only.

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All the staff at the hotel were so friendly and helpful and made our stay even better, a big thank you to the reception team and the staff member who helped us with our luggage upon both arrival and departure! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel to anyone looking for a comfortable and luxurious stay in the heart of the city, it was truly wonderful.

The Restaurants

We stayed on a room only basis and found this to work brilliantly for us as there were many cafes, diners and restaurants nearby where we were able to go for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As Budapest is generally very cheap compared to other European cities we got great value for money and enjoyed some amazing meals out!

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We mainly ate in the square by St Stephens Basilica as everything seemed to centre around that point, although there were many different roads leading off the square all of which housing more restaurants, cafes and shops. Our highlights had to be Platz, a French café-restaurant serving amazing cocktails, TG Italiano, a brilliantly authentic Italian restaurant and Gelarto Rosa, a gorgeous little ice cream parlour where all the ice creams were made into beautiful rose shapes- enjoying one of these in the September sun whilst gazing at the beautiful basilica made for a perfect piece of heaven! Another of our highlights was Café Smuz located adjacent to the grand Parliament Building- there was a funky mirror outside giving us the perfect chance to take that all important Buda-selfie!

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Prices were great in Budapest, we paid on average £7pp for a large main course and found lunches to be around the £4 mark. Drinks prices were about what you’d expect to pay in the UK (£7 for a cocktail, £5 for a mixer) whilst soft drinks, snacks and breakfast items were relatively cheap.

Getting around

We used the fantastic Giraffe Hop on Hop off Bus Tours which were by far the most straight forward and most convenient way of exploring the city. With 5 lines, 43 stops and 22 languages to choose from, the Giraffe Tours were accessible for anyone to use with comfort and gave us the best opportunity to see the whole of Budapest. The lines included 2 bus tours, walking tours and a fantastic boat trip all as part of the price! Charges for 24hr and 48hr tickets are fairly similar so it’s worth paying the higher price to get the full extra day, but we knew we were going to spend our last day at the thermal spas so didn’t pay for an extra day.

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However, it turned out that there was a major marathon through the city on the day we used the bus so the company automatically upgraded everyone to 48hr tickets at no additional cost- winner! This in turn enabled us to catch the bus to the spas, via the incredible Heroes Square, thus saving us the cost of an organised package trip and allowing us more time to explore a side to the city we were yet to see. I’ve been on many tourist buses in my time, exploring places such as Paris, Barcelona and London, but I have to say that the Giraffe buses in Budapest were by far the best I have ever been on. Thanks to the lovely staff and drivers for making the experience so enjoyable!

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Tourist Attractions

Budapest isn’t the largest city so pretty much all the sights can be seen in a couple of days, but you’ll need to use a mode of transport rather than walking as the city is split into two sides by the river Danube: Buda and Pest. The Buda side is west of the river, whilst the Pest side is on the east bank. I’ve done a handy round up below of where to find all the biggest attractions so you can plan your days accordingly! Without doubt the most popular and well known attractions are The Hungarian Parliament Building, Buda Castle, the Chain Bridge and of course the River Danube.

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Spanning 2860km and flowing through ten countries, the Danube is Europe’s second largest river and, as I’ve mentioned, it totally splits Budapest in two. Home to no less than 8 grand bridges, the Danube itself is an impressive sight, particularly at night when the whole riverfront is lit up and sparkling! Arguably the best way to see the city in all its glory is by taking a river cruise down the Danube, either at night or during the day, to gaze in awe at all of the beautiful sights.

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We took an afternoon cruise and had the most incredible views of perhaps the most impressive building I’ve ever seen; the stunning Hungarian Parliament Building which was truly beautiful from any angle, both in daylight and after dark. We also got up close and personal with the pretty Chain Bridge and marvelled at Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion and many statues and landmarks high up in the hills that could be seen from the river. Amazingly, our boat trip was included in our Giraffe Bus ticket price, but there are many day time and evening cruises on offer running daily, most with the option of a lunch or evening meal and live music on board.

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Buda highlights

Margaret Island – a recreational delight with beautiful green parks and dancing fountains accessible by boat!

Buda Castle – home to the Kings of Budapest and listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, this fairytale castle is in a prime position overlooking the river Danube

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Fishermans Bastion – part of the adjacent Matthias Church, the Bastion is a stunning neo-gothic and neo-Romanesque style terrace near to Buda Castle.

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Citadella Fortress – located at the highest point of the road system, this fantastic photo stop was on the red Giraffe bus route and allowed us to enjoy amazing 360degree views across the whole of the city. Well worth a visit!

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Pest highlights

Hungarian Parliament Building – seriously the most impressive building I’ve ever seen! Don’t believe me? Check out this photo..

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St Stephen’s Basilica – gorgeous Roman Catholic Church which is breath-taking both inside and out. Climb the 302 steps to the top of the tower for incredible panoramic views across the city!

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Shoes on the Danube Memorial – a poignant tribute to some of the Jewish community who were ordered to line up, take their shoes off and be shot by the Arrow Cross Party during the Second World War just because of their religion. Incredibly sad and a shocking reminder of how many Jews sadly lost their lives during the War.

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Heroes Square – a vibrant area in the heart of the city and home to statues of seven Hungarian Tribe leaders as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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Szechenyi Thermal Baths – One of Europe’s largest thermal Spas home to over 10 different indoor and outdoor pools, with temperatures in some reaching an incredible 40 degree heat, along with saunas and steam rooms for the ultimate spa experience.

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On Tuesday 29th September we headed back to London via Budapest airport, and their excellent duty free section! Overall we had a brilliant trip full of fun and adventure and I would highly recommend Budapest as an exciting city break or weekend away with friends, family or partners. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post about everything that Budapest has to offer, please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know more on certain areas of the city!

As mentioned above, you can now book the EXACT trip I did in one easy step – just click on the link below for more details and to request a quote!

Get a quote for this trip

Love Jess x

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Preparing for Beautiful Budapest!

Hey everyone,

So my second city break of the year is almost here and I AM SO EXCITED to be heading to Budapest on Saturday!! Me and my sister visited Prague back in February (we had a whale of a time!) so we thought we’d plan adventure number two and chose the beautiful Hungarian city as our next go-to destination! First of all I just want to say a massive THANK YOU to my lovely fellow travel bloggers Vicky from Eat Sleep Love Travel  and Rebecca from The World As Bec Sees It for providing me with the stunning images to enable me to write this post! They’re both amazing – go check out their blogs and, if you’re after some more Budapest-esque info, they’ve both compiled posts and handy guides to the city…

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Budapest looks to be absolutely AMAZING and I can’t wait to experience the local history and culture that the European capital has to offer. We’ll be staying in the 4* Hotel President on the Pest side of the river Danube and location wise it looks perfect for us. Its described as a luxury boutique hotel and we’re particularly excited about trying out the spa facilities and marvelling at the city views from the panoramic roof terrace – who said anything about high expectations?!

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As we’re only staying for three nights we are trying to cram in as much as we can so that our city break is as adventurous and fun filled as can be. So far we’ve pin pointed Chain Bridge, St Stephen’s Basilica & the stunning Hungarian Parliament Building as main attractions that we are just dying to see! We’re also planning to head to the Thermae Spa’s both in the evening and during the day and are super excited to be spending some relaxation time in one of the world’s prettiest spots of natural beauty.

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We’re catching our Easyjet flight from London Gatwick on Saturday morning and anticipate arriving in the capital during the early part of the afternoon ready for a few hours of exploring whilst daylight is still present! We’ll then be staying until Tuesday 29th September before flying home around dinner time and arriving back in the sunny UK close to midnight (booo).

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I’ll obviously be too busy having fun to be blogging whilst on my travels but you can keep up to date with my Budapest antics over on my Instagram page– I’ll be posting wanderlust inducing photos whenever I get a spare minute… and usage of some free wifi!

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Have you ever been to Budapest before? If so, what are the main sights I should see without fail, and do you have any local tips and hints I should know about before I travel?! If you haven’t been, is Budapest on your wanderlust list at all? If you have any advice for me please leave a comment below and I’ll catch up with you all when I’m home…

Bon Voyage!

Love Jess x