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Wanderlust Wednesday: Top 10 European City Breaks

Hi everyone,

Welcome to my new Wanderlust Wednesday feature.. with summer fast approaching the time will soon come for me to venture abroad for my next European city break. I’m really in to booking busy sight seeing weekends away as opposed to week long beach holidays and I want to fit in as many trips as I can over the next few years! Im currently trying to book a break away during our next UK bank holiday which falls at the end of August but I have no idea where to go! So with the help of some brilliant fellow travel bloggers (pics credited below) I thought I’d compile a wanderlust list to give me some inspiration! Here goes…

1) Rome, Italy

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Image courtesy of Emily Pearson of A Befuddled Life

Top of my list and for very good reason, Rome is the place I am absolutely desperate to visit as soon as physically possible! I’ve always loved the thought of exploring the historic coliseums’, visiting the religious Vatican area and consuming copious amounts of Gelato – authentic Italian ice cream-yum! I’ve wanted to make a wish at The Trevi Fountain and walk down the Spanish Steps ever since I was a little girl so The Eternal City is definitely calling my name!

2) Copenhagen, Denmark

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This image & my feature image of The Little Mermaid statue are both courtesy of Shelly Borga of Norway to Nowhere

The capital city lies in the heart of Scandinavia and boasts many exquisite landmarks and popular tourist attractions whilst having a very laidback feel. Home to Denmark’s Parliament and Royal Family, this city is by far the largest in the country. I’ve always wanted to go to Copenhagen to visit The Little Mermaid statue as everyone knows how much of a Disney geek/storybook fan I am! The picturesque Nyhavn Harbor and breathtaking Tivoli Gardens also look amazing places to visit. Although quite expensive this city break is definitely on my next go-to list for the summer!

3) Budapest, Hungary

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Image courtesy of Tangerine Trubiano of A Travelogue by Brock & Tanj

The capital of Hungary is split into two districts; Buda and Pest, hence the name, and is bisected via the River Danube. Home to The Hungarian Parliament Building, many museums and galleries and the largest thermal water system in the world, Budapest is a cultural paradise not to be missed! I’m so tempted to book a trip there this August and experience everything that this beautiful city has to offer.. prices are super cheap out there as well so that’s another reason it features high up on this list.. watch this space!

4) Berlin, Germany

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Image courtesy of Tangerine Trubiano of A Travelogue by Brock & Tanj

Famed for its large involvement in both world wars, Berlin offers a wealth of culture and history with plenty to do both in the summer and winter months. Well known attractions include The Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag Building, Checkpoint Charlie and The Berlin Wall. I’d love to visit during December to experience their fantastic Christmas markets but have been told it gets bitterly cold with temperatures as low as minus 18 degrees.. thermals at the ready!

5) Lisbon, Portugal

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Image courtesy of Maaike Van Kuijk of A Travellous World

A quirky alternative to Barcelona/Madrid, the coastal capital of Portugal offers a mix of a busy sightseeing break with a more relaxed beach style holiday. I’m always on the go when I do city breaks as I like to pack as much in as I can and never get a chance to relax, so the allure of a beach in the same city appeals to me a lot! Main points of interest include the beautiful Sao Jorge Castle, Lisbon Cathedral, the zoo and the oceanarium.

6) Bruges, Belgium

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Image courtesy of my good friend Stephanie Lett

This chocolate box capital in North West Belgium looks like something out of a fairy tale and I’ve been wanting to visit for years! Full of medieval buildings, winding canals and cobbled streets, the city offers tonnes of beautiful history as well as the best beer and waffles you’ll ever taste! What’s more, you can even get there via high speed Eurostar Train from London in just a couple of hours which is incredibly convenient and takes all the hassle out of flying.. there really is no excuse not to visit this beautiful city. Like Berlin, I’d love to visit Bruges at Christmas time to see the hundreds of little markets that take over the city centre.

7) Madrid, Spain

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Image courtesy of  Henar Gomez of Wanderwings

I’ve been going to Spain most years throughout my life and have visited a total of nine times so far! Spain is the perfect holiday destination for us Brits; sun, sea and sangria all within a two hour flight.. what more could we ask for?! The country boasts many beautiful beach resorts as well as plenty of interesting cities including Valencia, Marbella, Leon & Malaga and I’ve already been to Barcelona so would love to head over to Madrid to see how the two compare! Famous attractions include The Royal Palace (the largest in western Europe), Madrid Cathedral and The Bernabeu Football Stadium.

8) Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Image courtesy of Maaike Van Kuijk of A Travellous World

Best known for its colourful nightlife, elaborate canal system and artistic heritage, Amsterdam is the cultural capital of The Netherlands. Famous attractions include Anne Frank’s House, The Van Gogh Museum and The Royal Palace. In addition, The Red Light District is notorious amongst tourists with stag weekends a plenty so best to avoid this area if, like me, you’re looking for a more relaxed and cultural weekend break!

9) Venice, Italy

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Image courtesy of Sarah Gallo of The Five Foot Traveler

Perhaps the most romantic place in the world (along with Paris) is the stunning Italian city of Venice. Criss crossed with canals and pretty bridges, Venice is one of the largest pedestrian only areas in the world. I’d love to go here to experience the romance, although I think I need to find myself a boyfriend first!! This is probably one for my bucket list that I’ll definitely visit later on in life when I’m happy and settled.

10) Vienna, Austria

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Image courtesy of Menorca Chaturvedi of Europe Diaries

The enchanting city of Vienna, the capital of Austria, is well known as one of the most musical cities in the world, and was once home to the likes of Mozart & Beethoven. There are many museums, galleries and gothic Cathedrals to explore, or why not take a cruise down the River Danube for a more relaxed experience. I think I’d tie in a trip to Vienna with a weekend in Budapest and do the two at the same time, rather than booking two separate trips as the countries are quite close together.

All of the above cities are places I definitely want to visit soon so I’ve got lots of planning to do, but I think my top three are next on my immediate hit list. I’ll be researching each place in more detail before making my final decision, but I will of course let you all know once I’ve booked up… watch this space!

Love Jess x

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Throwback Thursday: Paphos, Cyprus

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Welcome to this month’s Throwback Thursday feature!

I’ve not done one of these for a while but I’m super excited to be blogging about one of my favourite places in the world! Paphos is truly a beautiful holiday destination which is perfect for families, friends and couples alike looking for a relaxing break away in the sun. I traveled here in June 2013 for a weeks holiday and had a fantastic time, so here’s my best bits!….

The Journey

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You can fly to Cyprus from pretty much any airport in the UK but I chose to go with Thomas Cook on a package holiday from East Midlands airport which offered great flight times at very reasonable prices. The average flight time is 4 and a half hours on the way there and just over five hours on the way back. These were actually the longest flights I’ve ever been on as I’m yet to venture out of Europe (sigh!) but both journeys went really quickly and we were well looked after by our cabin crew.

The Hotel

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We had booked into the four star Avanti Village in the heart of Paphos on a self catering basis for the duration of our stay. The complex was beautiful with a large fresh water pool, lazy river, pretty gardens and plenty of activities on offer. Our first floor one bedroom studio apartment was spacious and clean with good quality facilities and was situated at the front of the complex so we had a lovely view of the pool. We ate at the snack bar a couple of times and the food was great. I particularly enjoyed the swim up bar in the pool which was brilliant, a real novelty for me.

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There were a few restaurants (BBQ grill & an Italian) to the rear of the complex if you wanted to eat closer to home as the hotel was around a 30min walk from the centre of Paphos. If you dont fancy walking it the buses in Paphos are amazing, 1Euro each way per person, or 3Euro per person for a full day ticket so you could hop and hop off wherever you wanted! We did this a couple of times and uses our day tickets to go to Coral Bay, the Old Town/Market and into Paphos Harbour when we were feeling more tired! This actually worked well for us as we liked to be away from the hustle and bustle. The scenic walk along the coast was beautiful each night and we got to see the sun go down day after day which was a real treat. You can read my Trip Advisor review of the Avanti Village here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g190384-d622520-r164249468-Avanti_Village-Paphos_Paphos_District.html#REVIEWS

The Resort

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The resort is situated around Paphos Castle and Harbour, so everything is all in one place. There are tonnes of souvenir shops, bars, cafe’s and restaurants so we were never stuck for something to do. It’s well worth visiting Paphos Castle and having a wander round as the views over the harbour from the top are truly stunning.

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As we were on a self catering holiday, we chose to eat dinner out every night and I was so glad we did this as it gave us the opportunity to try out loads of beautiful restaurants. As is expected, the closer you are to the sea the more expensive the meals are, but you get what you pay for and the experience of enjoying an evening  of food and drink whilst watching the waves roll in was something we didn’t want to pass up on! As the centre of Paphos is situated around its harbour, the beach was a bit further away and wasn’t the focal point of the resort which actually made a nice change for me as I often get bored on beaches! The beach wasn’t typically long and sandy, but it was pleasant enough and was a great place to watch the sun set over the nearby harbour.

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Price wise, the restaurants in Paphos are a little on the expensive side but again it does depend where you go and what you eat. An average meal and drinks for a couple was around 40-50 euros which is higher than what I’ve previously paid in places like Spain, Greece and The Canaries. On our last night we spent €80 on a posh dinner and cocktails by the sea which was a lot of money but it’s nice to be able to push the boat out once in a while! I can see how it would be costly to feed a family each night at this resort so hotels offering all inclusive or full board deals might be worth considering for larger parties.

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Nightlife in Paphos is great, there’s always something going on! There were a number of clubs, our favourites were Flairs and Linekars, which did great drinks deals and planned party nights. Hen do’s and stag weekend’s were arriving for the start of the season and we were told it gets extremely busy during the main summer months. For a more chilled night out there are plenty of bars on offer if you’re not looking to go clubbing.

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Day Trips

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There’s tonnes of excursions on offer in Paphos, from boat trips and jeep safaris to horse riding and wine tasting, there really is something for everyone. We did three day trips in total, one day exploring the old town and the markets, another on a half day boat trip and one on an all day jeep safari.

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The old town was beautiful with lots of historical buildings and places of interest together with panoramic views across the resort. We spent time rambling down little side streets exploring the hidden gems and grabbed a few bargains at the local markets before catching the bus back to the harbour. As mentioned above, the buses in Paphos are brilliant and are excellent value for money, a great way of exploring further afield. As the old town was away from the sea it got incredibly hot and humid so just be wary of that if, like me, you struggle with the heat! June was a great time to visit Cyprus as the temp reached around 26-28 degrees so it wasn’t too hot. We were told that it gets as hot as 35 degrees during July and August as its peak season so I’d recommend avoiding these months if you want the weather to be a little more bearable.

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The half day boat trip with Paphos Sea Cruises was a brilliant day out and probably the highlight of the holiday. We boarded the luxurious Ocean Flyer from the harbour at midday and cruised along the West Coast of Paphos sailing the Mediterranean sea towards the nearby beautiful Coral Bay beach. There were a couple of swimming stops along the way and a buffet was served on board along with as much drink as you could handle- this was included in the ticket price of €40pp which we thought was great value for money. The cruise lasted for four hours and you could jump straight on to an evening one if you wanted to continue with your day at sea- with dinner, musical entertainment and fireworks on offer we were hugely tempted!

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The last day trip we did was the Akamas jeep safari, something I had never done before and it was truly amazing! We were in a group of around 8 people plus our driver/guide who took us high into the mountains and showed us a completely different side of Cyprus. We started with the magical sea caves which were breathtakingly beautiful and then made our way up to Avakas Gorge where we trekked through a pretty waterfall.

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After a short stop for lunch (included in €35 ticket price) we were taken to a couple of small fishing villages, Polis and Latchi, one of which was close to Turtle Beach but unfortunately we didn’t spot any of the turtles as it was out of hatching season! We were told July- September was the best time to catch them. Finally we headed to the Baths of Aphrodite where the famous Goddess of Love once bathed with her soul mate Adonis. On our journey back down to Paphos we passed through Greek and Turkish villages which were like ghost towns due to the after effects of one of the wars, our guide explained the history of the town’s and it was very moving. We were dropped back at our hotel by about 5pm and were shattered after a long days exploring! I’d definitely recommend this excursion to make the most of your time in Cyprus.

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So that’s this month’s Throwback Thursday finished – have you ever been to Cyprus or ever wanted to go? Feel free to ask any questions you might have, I’d be delighted to help!

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My next post will be a short write up on a recent day out to nearby Cheltenham, so watch out for this coming soon!

Love Jess x

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European City Break: Prague!

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Hi everyone,

So I’ve just returned from my first city break of 2015 and I headed to the beautiful Czech capital of Prague for a quick getaway with my sister! Prague 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 Friday 27th Feb and after a short 1hr35 flight (which literally flew by!) 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 Prague…

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During our adventure we stayed at the 4 star Hotel Louis Leger, located on Lergova Street a 15 minute walk from the famous Wenceslas Square. The hotel was clean and comfortable although a little old fashioned and dated in my opinion but I guess that’s just because I’m used to staying in big modern chain hotels, so this one definitely made a nice change! You can read my Trip Advisor review on Hotel Louis Leger here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d510395-r258188149-Hotel_Louis_Leger-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

DAY 1

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On our first day we spent some time checking out the local area, shopping in the various boutiques, and getting our bearings right before heading down to Wenceslas Square and then onto the Old Town to stop for some lunch. Food and drink prices in Prague are notoriously cheap and were amazed at how much we could get for our money; we definitely overindulged while we were there, but it was totally worth it! Once we had finished exploring and had been back to the hotel to freshen up we then headed to a nearby Italian, The Coloseum, for some yummy pizza, pasta & ice cream and enjoyed the evening together. The location of the hotel was quite a walk from the Old Town (30-40mins) but a manageable 15min walk from Wenceslas Square which wasn’t too bad. There were shops and restaurants lining the streets up to Wenceslas Square though so if your like us and didn’t fancy walking far on the first night you’ll have plenty of other choices for dinner a bit nearby! You can see my Trip Advisor review of The Coloseum restaurant here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d795457-r258189275-Pizza_Coloseum_Original_Pizza_Pasta-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

DAY 2

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We had booked a 4 hour tour for our second day and were so looking forward to seeing all the sights of the city. Martin Tours booked us on to The Grand Tour of Prague and we spent most of it on foot exploring everything there was to see. Trip advisor review here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d4960295-r258190924-Martin_Tour_Prague-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS Our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable and gave us plenty of time to take photos and ask questions etc, there were only a few of us on the tour so it was very personal which was great. We started in a minibus that took us from Wenceslas Square through the New Town, past monuments such as The Dancing House and The Rudolfenium, all the way to the top of Prague Castle.

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We then made our way around the complex, seeing the inside of the stunning St Vitus Cathedral, passing the Presidential suite (the flag was flying so the President himself was home!) and enjoying panoramic views across the city before beginning our descent towards the Old Town. Once we’d reached the bottom of the castle area we headed on foot to our next star attraction, Charles Bridge, which was truly a wonderful sight. Dating back to the 13th century, the bridge spans the width of the River Vltava and it’s history is etched into it’s bricks. Walking across the bridge was quite an experience, with our guide giving us the background on it’s purpose and it’s origins, and we could see for miles down the river.

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Next we headed to Old Town Square and saw the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn and the picturesque Old Town Hall before ending up at the breathtaking Astronomical Clock Tower to watch the clock strike on the hour – definitely a sight not to be missed! The figurine of a skeleton below the clock face pulls a cord which in turn opens four windows above to show the 12 disciples rotating around and the chimes can be heard loudly. There’s something quite eery and mystical about the whole thing and it’s worth seeing just make sure you are there on the hour!

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Later in the afternoon we were booked on to a river boat cruise which sailed up and down the Vlatva. The cruise lasted for an hour, complete with English speaking guide who gave a running commentary, and there were plenty of photo opportunities throughout as we made our way up towards Charles Bridge and back. We passed Prague Castle, the Prime Minister’s residential home and a few other attractions on our way downstream and the boat then dropped us back at the port where we had to walk back into the city.This only took 5 minutes and we were back in Old Town Square before we knew it!

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Later on in the evening we made our way to Wenceslas Square for dinner and ended up in a delightful restaurant, Como, which was part of the Javert Hotel right on the strip. The food was incredible, I had a tradtional Czech beef goulash whilst my sister opted for the homemade lasagne. Although the restaurant was quite fancy the prices were great and we thoroughly enjoyed spoiling ourselves! View my review of Como Restaurant here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d1568048-r258189073-Como_Restaurant_Cafe-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

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DAY 3

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On our third and final full day we had booked an afternoon World War Two Tour with a different company, Prague Tours and were very much looking forward to seeing what was in store for us. In the morning though we needed something else to do for a few hours and so decided to climb to the top of the Astronomical Tower (as you do!) for a panoramic view across the city. We paid 120 korona each (just £3!!) to climb right to the top of the tower and when we got there we saw the most amazing sights and the views were incredible. Plenty of photos were taken and we made the most of our view by just enjoying the atmosphere and admiring the city for a while before we had to come down!

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After a short stop for lunch we met our tour guide, Marketa (who was fantastic), outside the historic Powder Tower and were taken round the streets of the Old Town for the first part of our tour, passing various parts of the city which were heavily involved in WW2. We were taken on foot through the Old Town and then gained access to the lower part of the Astronomical Tower, exploring the underground chambers which we learnt were used for hideout by members of the Prague Resistance. This was a fascinating part of the tour and it was so interesting to walk through the areas that were used in such an important historical time period. We also learnt a lot about the assassination of Nazi SS leader Reinhard Heydrich by local Czech residents, and the terror that Nazi occupation brought to a city desperate to be free from invasion although it was key to Hitler’s quest for world domination.

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Next we headed into the Jewish Quarter to see the areas known as Ghetto’s during WW2 and learnt about how badly they were treated by the Nazi’s. I found this part of the tour very emotional, and so did a lot of the others as Marketa explained the horror that was bestowed upon these innocent people during one of Prague’s darkest times. At points, Jews were shot at by Nazi soldiers if they so much as walked on the pavement! Shocked and disgusted, I couldn’t even imagine something like that happening in today’s world; Marketa spoke with such deep emotion when she explained things that had happened and it moved a lot of us in the group to tears. We ended up near Charles Bridge again and wound up our tour having an open conversation, raising questions and pointers about the main areas before saying goodbye and returning back to the city centre. My sister and I thought this was the best city tour we had ever been on and had real admiration for Marketa; she knew her facts, was very passionate and extremely friendly. You can view my Trip Advisor review on the tour here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d2254923-r258191625-World_War_II_in_Prague_Tour-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

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Dinner that night was at the incredible Hard Rock Cafe, the biggest one in Europe, and we certainly had a dining experience to remember! We each chose huge burgers for our main and had a couple of cocktails, the music played in the Cafe was shown on big TV screens on the walls and really added to the ‘rock’ vibe that was present. The food was great, the atmosphere was brilliant and we couldn’t fault the friendly service; we even wandered around the shop afterwards in search of some merchandise! Read my rocking review of this place on my Trip Advisor account: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d1516182-r258189525-Hard_Rock_Cafe-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

On our fourth and final day we woke early for breakfast, checked out of our room, and headed to nearby Praha airport (a 30 min taxi ride away) to catch our flight back to London Gatwick. We had a brilliant time in Prague and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a short European break in a cultural, historical and beautiful city. With so much to see and do you are certainly spoilt for choice, although three nights was plenty of time for us to explore everything we needed to.

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My next trips are concerts & day trips in Oxford and London so I’ll keep you posted on these, I have family down for a couple of weeks for Easter and then I’m heading back to Liverpool again in April so I’ve got plenty to be blogging about!

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

Winter city break to Reykjavik, Iceland!

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Hey everyone,

So as most of you probably know, I’ve not long got back from a brilliant trip away to the beautiful city of Reykjavik in Iceland and I had a truly amazing time so wanted to share my write up with you all! I’ve reviewed quite a few aspects from the holiday on my separate Trip Advisor account so I will post links to those where appropriate. 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 Reykjavik…

THE HOTEL

When booking with Easyjet Holidays we opted to stay at the 4* Reykjavik Lights hotel, which only opened in June 2013, and it turned out to be the perfect choice for us! The hotel was immaculate, with modern features including a brilliant power shower, flatscreen LCD TV and free wifi throughout.

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Breakfast was included in the deal and was plentiful with lots of pastries, cereals, breads, cheeses, hams and fresh fruit available along with hot drinks, milk and fresh juices to choose from. The bar area was located alongside the reception and the breakfast was served at the bottom of this room too, so everything was together which see it easy and very accessible considering the lift was 50metres away!

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Our twin room was bright, airy and spacious with large windows letting lots of light in and the beds were so comfy! I just wish we had a view from our room as front facing rooms looked out across to the snow topped mountains which would have been incredible, but unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to be allocated a room with a view.  A word of advice though; email the hotel directly before you travel and if you ask for a mountain view room you should be able to get one!

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My only slight criticism about the hotel was its location from the city centre as it was a good 40 minute walk away and was too far away for us to travel to day and night. We did however benefit from the mini strip which ran along side our hotel and was home to a number of restaurants, shops, a bank and  a pharmacy which came in useful. Had we not been on the mini strip we would have got taxis into the city each night to go out for dinner, but we wanted to save our money for tours and the sights that we were going to see!

You can view my Trip Advisor review for the Reykjavik Lights Hotel here.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

Our hotel was located just outside of Reykjavik city centre, around a 40 min walk or a 10 min taxi ride away. We were a five minute walk away from Laugardalur, Reykjavik’s well known recreation centre, which was home to the botanical gardens, family zoo and park, the sports hall, ice skating rink and the famous outdoor thermal pool. We visited nearly all of these attractions as they were so close to our accommodation and also booked a number of tours through Reykjavik Excursions who operated a pick up and drop off service directly to the hotel which was brilliant.

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The outdoor swimming pool and the family zoo were our favourite attractions; we loved the water slide (big kids!) and the pool was a lovely 30 degree temperature which we didn’t want to get out of! Just a warning though, in Iceland and other parts of Europe you are required to shower naked before you enter the pool area. There are communal showers but there are also a few private showers allocated so don’t worry if you panicked like us about stripping in front of strangers! There were hot tubs around the pool area which was very relaxing; we visit around 7pm and stayed for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel area for dinner.

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The zoo was very small and low key, more of a farm park than a zoo but it was very cute and we did enjoy ourselves! There were daily shows where the keepers fed the reindeer and seals and there was a mini aquarium and farm area with pigs, cows and sheep. I wouldn’t recommend it for a day out as you can only spend around 2hours max at the park but for kids it’s great or you can go there to kill some time if you have a late flight.

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THE EXCURSIONS

We booked a couple of tours through Reykjavik Excursions, one of Iceland’s biggest tour operators and we certainly weren’t disappointed with the service we received! We booked two trips whilst during our stay; The Blue Lagoon Tour and The Golden Circle Tour both of which were incredible! We only had three full days to fit everything in and also wanted to spend some time exploring the city centre so choosing these two tours gave us enough flexibility to do this.

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The Blue Lagoon is a large geo thermal spa which is set on a large power station in South West Iceland and is one of the country’s most famous attractions, listed as ‘One of the 25 Wonders of the World’ according to National Geographic! We booked to go in the evening so we could see it all lit up and it looked absolutely stunning. We were picked up by Reykjavik Excursions from our hotel and taken to the site via a comfortable 1hour coach journey with a few more hotel stops along the way.

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On arrival we made our way straight to the lagoon to make the most of our time there. The water was a sweltering 40degrees but it was amazing and as soon as we got in we knew we didn’t want to leave! There were jets of natural steam surrounding the lagoon which added to the atmosphere and there were wooden boxes around the pool areas which contained the famous silica mud face masks, designed to leave your skin feeling incredible. We then stood under a powerful waterfall which gave a rejuvenating head, back, neck and shoulder massage as you stayed under it for as long as you could manage; it genuinely felt as if there were human hands massaging my body it was incredible!

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There was a bar located in the lagoon itself which served drinks and refreshments- you could purchase these items using wristbands which were allocated to you on arrival, and could then pay at the end before your departure. On site there was a cafe serving drinks and snacks as well as the well regarded Lava restaurant which was fully booked during our visit. The Blue Lagoon shop stocked all the natural skin products on offer in the spa as well as the usual tourist souvenirs, and there was also a viewing platform where you could see the lagoon lit up in all it’s glory.  The coach collected us at 9.30pm as the last trip of the night and we were dropped safely back to our hotel by around 10.30pm. ! The tour was brilliant and we were so glad we booked – I would definitely go back if I were to visit Iceland again.

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The Golden Circle Tour was a shortened version of the full eight hour day trip organised through Reykjavik Excursions and is probably the most popular tourist destination in the whole of a Iceland. Visiting the same attractions but with shorter stops at each one, we were on the road for six hours. Firstly we visited the UNESCO World Heritage site, Pingvellir National Park, which gave some stunning views over the mountains, rivers and hills surrounding the area. This park was historically important for many famous events in Iceland and is renowned for its geological significance.

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Next up was the geothermal field of Haukadalur, home to the spectacular phenomenon that is the ‘Great Geyser’. The area is a natural wonder of hot springs and boiling mud pools, with the Strokkur Geyser erupting every 5-10 minutes shooting up a column of hot water and steam into the air. We were lucky enough to see the Geyser erupt three times and I caught one on film which was brilliant, the memories will stay with me for a long time and I showed my family and friends when I got home and they were amazed! The souvenir shop on site was excellent with lots of lovely gifts and there was also an informative museum detailing why the Geyser’s erupt as they do.. We had a wonderful time at the Geyser’s and I managed to take some brilliant photos!

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Our third and final stop was Gullfoss, or the Golden Waterfall as it is also known. Gullfoss is apparently more powerful than the Niagra Falls and we walked down the 110 steps to get there before we were able to take in the sight ahead of us; it truly was breathtaking! After admiring the waterfall and learning about the history of it, we made our way back up the steep steps and headed for yet another souvenir gift shop! Afterwards we made our coach journey back to the hotel and then headed out to dinner after a long day out on the road.

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On our last full day we headed straight to Reykjavik city centre to explore the local shops, restaurants and landmarks. I particularly liked the famous Hallgrimskirkja cathedral which was definitely worth visiting, as well as the eye catching Harpa building which is home to popular Icelandic concerts and shows. We spent the day shopping for souvenirs and had lunch in a lovely restaurant located near the city’s popular club scene which supposedly comes alive at night!

Unfortunately we weren’t also able to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights as the weather was pretty cloudy during our stay and we had booked ourselves up with the other tours we had already committed to!! I would love to go in search of the Aurora Borealis again though, whether that be via a return trip to Iceland, or somewhere different like Finland or Norway – watch this space!

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On Friday 7th November we headed back to Iceland via Keflavik airport, and their excellent duty free section! Overall we had a brilliant trip full of fun, adventure and memories which will stay with me forever! I would highly recommend Reykjavik as an exciting city break or weekend away with friends, family or partners and would love to return to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights which we unfortunately weren’t able to see!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post about everything that Iceland has to offer, please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know more on certain areas of the country! 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

Throwback Thursday – Disneyland Paris 2013!

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my latest blog post – THROWBACK THURSDAY – which will be a new monthly feature and will detail information about some of my favourite past trips so that I can relive some of my best travel moments! I tend to post reviews on my Trip Advisor account whenever I travel, so I will also include links to relevant reviews and you can ask me questions about my past trips which I will try to answer as best I can!

So on to the first Throwback Feature and it’s definitely a gooden….

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DISNEYLAND PARIS 2013

For those of you that know me, I am a massive Disney fan (well, I suppose geek is a better term!) and I’d visited Disneyland Paris before when I was 13, but when I went last November with my ex-boyfriend I was so excited to be able to go and do everything properly, as an adult!

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We visited between 5th-9th November 2013 just in time to watch Mickey’s Magical Bonfire & Fireworks display and we also caught the first few days of the Christmas period which was beautiful.

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The giant Christmas tree had been put up and the decorations were appearing more each day. We were even lucky enough to see the Christmas Calvacade which was a new parade so that was very exciting! Just so you know, it’s kinda hard for me to go through this trip in detail as I’ve had a difficult break up with my ex this year so I’ll just focus on this happy time and share my experience with you all!

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THE JOURNEY:

We travelled by Eurostar from London St Pancras direct to the Disney station at Marnee La Vallee and caught an early train so we could make the most of our first day! We had never gone by Eurostar before and found the experience to be completely stress and hassle free and super convenient!

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The only change we made was at Lille station for a short connection that then took us straight in to Disney itself. The train journey was around 2 and a half hours, and with short check in times and no limit on baggage we much preferred the train line to the airport!! I would definitely choose the Eurostar over flying to Disney when I plan my future trips.

THE HOTEL:

You can read my official review of the Newport Bay hotel on my Trip Advisor account here.

We stayed for four nights five days in the three star Newport Bay Hotel which was located a short ten minute walk away from the Disney Village and the parks. We had requested a Lakeside room as we were staying for our anniversary, and the view we got certainly didn’t disappoint as it looked out across the impressive Lake Disney.

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We were located on the ground floor which we didnt mind too much but I think I would have chosen to stay a bit higher up if I could and will factor this in to my next visit. Breakfast each morning was plentiful but the Continental did get a bit boring after a few days and we missed a good old English fry up! I did love the hotel though, it’s the biggest of all the Disney hotels and it’s stature is certainly impressive.

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Facilities include an indoor swimming pool, captains bar, cape cod restaurant and the yacht club restaurant which offers a varied buffet dinner should you choose to eat there one evening which is what we did! I loved the nautical theme that ran throughout the Newport but my favourite elements by far were the meet and greet area and the merchandise shop located in the foyer, both of which were truly magical! The characters did meet and greets at all the Disney hotels and you could pop in and out of the reception areas of each hotel which we thought was brill – photos below were taken in ours, The Newport Bay (Pluto & Goofy)  and the stunning Hotel New York (Minnie) which I would love to stay in next time!

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THE PARKS:

We found November a great time to visit as the queues for rides were virtually non existent! We visited Monday-Friday which was definitely the best time to go as I’ve heard weekends can be stupidly busy with some queues over 100mins long! We didn’t experience waiting times anywhere near as long as this and were so pleased that we could go on all the rides and enjoy it without spending our days queuing. The Disneyland park has five different lands:

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Photo map of parks courtesy of dedicatedtodlp.com

Main Street USA – home to loads of merchandise shops and boutique stores lining the way up to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the prettiest part of the park! This is also where all the character parades take place throughout the day.

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Fantasyland– also where the castle is located but filled with kids rides, restaurants and character meet and greets. You can queue up in the Princess Pavillion and get a photo with your favourite Princess although you don’t know who you’ve got until you enter the booth which keeps a lovely element of suprise – some of the looks on the kids’ faces were priceless!

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Discoveryland– the sci-fi area, a favourite with the boys, home to the ever popular high thrill Space Mountain roller coaster, Wall E photo opportunity and Videopolis which previews great shows with Mickey and Co.

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Frontierland– a cry from the Wild West with the trademark Big Thunder Mountain ride, cruise liner that sails round the land, the Haunted Mansion experience and cowboy saloons a plenty! The Aladdin Agrabah experience is also not to be missed.

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Adventureland– climb aboard the mighty ship and the virtual ride inspired by the famous Pirates of the Caribbean films and journey with Indiana jones on a white knuckle roller coaster ride. We also loved the swinging bridge that connected you to a different part of the land.

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Walt Disney Studios – the studios are located adjacent to the Disneyland Park with many rides and new attractions.  Crushes Coaster, Aerosmith Rock n Roller and The Tower of Terror are there for the  thrill seekers plus there’s plenty for kids too.

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The animation studios offer a fascinating insight into how many of the famous Disney films were made, from the original Snow White & the Seven Dwarves to modern greats including The Aristocats, Fox & The Hound & Tangled. The studios are home to many daily shows including the famous animagique and cinemagique as well as Stitch Live.

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When we were there we watched the Stars & Cars parade which was fab and had some great floats including my all time favourite The Little Mermaid who I didn’t see on my first visit back in 2007 so I was super happy to catch a glimpse of Ariel!

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There is plenty to do in both parks but Disneyland itself is my favourite as it is truly magical! I would recommend spending at least 2 days in the park and 1 day in the studios to make sure you can get everything done and you can allow time for queues, meet and greets and parades etc.

DISNEY VILLAGE:

The Village is located near the front of the parks and is near to all of the Disney hotels, you actually walk through the village to get to them which is lovely! The Village is home to a large cinema showing the latest Disney related films, plenty of restaurants and bars (please see the next section EATING OUT for more info) as well as loads of lovely merchandise shops where you can buy anything from fridge magnets to cuddly toys.

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We loved the look of the PanoraMagique which was a large hot air balloon that takes you over the village and Lake Disney offering spectacular views of the resort. Unfortunately this attraction was closed during our visit but it’s definitely something I’m keen to try next time I go!

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EATING OUT:

There are loads of places to eat and drink throughout both parks and the brilliant Disney Village which we loved! We ate in Cafe Mickey, Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Cafe and Earl of Sandwich in the village, all of which were amazing, but the dining experience we had at Cafe Mickey was incredible!

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I’d been back in 2007 but there were more characters this time and it wasn’t as busy during lunch hour (may have been different during the evening) but we got to spend more time getting photos with the characters which was a bonus! Unfortunately, I stupidly managed to delete around 200 photos from our last couple of days at the park which I was completely gutted about. I had taken loads of pics with the characters from our Cafe Mickey lunch but they were all lost; I guess it just means that I’ll have to go back on another trip as soon as possible though!

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We also ate in the Hakuna Matata and the Bella Notte restaurants in the parks but didn’t stop anywhere in the Studios so I’d like to try somewhere there next time I go. Eating out can be pricey but after all it is Disneyland and if you don’t go all out you won’t make the most of everything this amazing place has to offer!

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Ooh just a tip, make up some baguettes at breakfast to save money on lunch and take a few empty water bottles with you as you can fill up for free at the various water fountains throughout the parks!

DISNEY DREAMS

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This magical light show, which runs every evening at 7pm, is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen and definitely deserves a paragraph to itself! It costs the park around £1,000,000 to put on this show every single night but, for thousands of Disney fans, it’s definitely worth that! Sleeping Beauty’s castle turns into a wonderful sight with laser beams, water fountains, music and the most beautiful lighting you’ll ever see.

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The show tells the tale of Peter Pan trying to chase his shadow and, with the help of Tinkerbell, he goes through lots of different magical worlds before he finally pins his shadow down. With music from Tangled, The Lion King, Beauty  & the Beast, Brave and many more this is a truly brilliant all singing all dancing phenomenal masterpiece which will leave even the most grown up of grown ups wanting to watch it all over again!

I don’t really know how to summarise my Disney trip as it was completely incredible and I just didn’t want to leave! We packed in as much as we could into the five days and truly got immersed into the wonderful Disney spirit; it’s hard not to soak up the amazing atmosphere that is present throughout every corner of Disney. I can’t wait for my next visit and am already planning to go next Halloween to see what that’s like as I’ve heard it’s brilliant – I’ll keep you updated on my plans for that one!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my first ever Throwback Thursday feature and I can’t wait to share my next trip down memory lane with you all! Again if you have any Disney related questions that you need help with just get in touch.

Bye for now everyone!

Love Jess x