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An Evening on the Thames with CityCruises London Sundowner

 

 

 

Starting as we mean to go on…

 

A few weeks ago my sister and I had the pleasure of hopping on board The Sundowner, London’s number one evening cruise, hosted by the wonderful City Cruises team. This 2 and a half hour cruise showcases iconic London landmarks that line up along the Thames and can be seen from every angle, both in light and in the dark too. Canapes and sparkling wine greet you on arrival, whilst a local musician or jazz band play on board as you sail down the river. Sound too good to be true? It really was something special…

The cruise departs Westminster Pier at 6.30pm and lasts for approximately two hours. Once on board you’ll be treated to a complimentary glass of fizz before a delightful selection of canapes are passed round. The cruise is named The Sundowner in summer and Riverlights in winter which I think is super cool as everything is completely lit up after dark during the colder months! The boats’ downstairs has a large seating area with panoramic windows and a fully stocked bar, whilst upstairs holds plenty of uncovered seating and offers amazing views.

 

The upper deck of the Sundowner

 

As the Sundowner starts at Westminster Pier, it’s only right that the first landmarks you’ll spot are the iconic Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. You’ll get an amazing view of both as you pass them by, and you’ll see them again on the return journey too. The cruise then passes under several bridges before turning around and taking in some of the most famous sights in the city, such as The London Eye, The Globe Theatre, The Shard and HMS Belfast before going underneath the glorious Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge is undoubtedly the highlight of the cruise, and passing underneath it is definitely one of those ‘bucket list’ moments! You’ll get photo opportunities aplenty as the boat goes quite slowly and there’s plenty of time to take pictures from every angle you can think of whilst gazing in awe at one of London’s most iconic symbols.

 

The mighty Tower Bridge

 

 

There was a really nice atmosphere on board, everyone was super friendly and the jazz musician who entertained us for the duration did a fantastic job. He played an eclectic range of golden oldies and recent chart hits, offering something to suit everyone. There were couples, solo travellers, families and groups of friends on board showing that this type of cruise really is perfect for all.

I really enjoyed my time on board The Sundowner and would recommend it to anyone looking to see the sights of the city from the comfort of the River Thames. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a warm summers evening in the heart of our capital city, and unwinding with bubbly and canapes was the perfect way to end a lovely day in London.

 

The Shard – the tallest building in the UK

 

The Sundowner cruise runs Wednesday-Sunday and departs Westminster Pier at 6.30pm, returning at around 8.30pm. Tickets are priced at £32pp. Children under 13 years of age are sadly not allowed on board. CityCruises are currently offering a fantastic FLASH DEAL on all Sundowner cruises – book before 18th September to receive a 20% discount! Travel must be taken Sunday-Friday before 31st October.

What are you waiting for?! Treat yourself or your loved ones to a delightful cruise along the Thames – you can thank me later!

Love Jess x

NB. I was invited by CityCruises as a guest for the purpose of this review, but all words, thoughts and photos are of course my own. A big thank you t

 

 

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Oxford Castle Unlocked: A fun-filled day out for all the family

 

                                                             Going down the steps from the top of St George’s Tower

 

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Oxford Castle Unlocked, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire city, and perhaps one of the oldest too! With history dating back to the 11th century, this 1000 year old castle was largely destroyed by the English Civil War and, by the 18th century, it had become Oxford’s local prison. Home to some of England’s most notorious criminals, and still in use right up until 1996, Oxford Castle has now been turned into a major hotel, but part of the site has been opened up to the public to offer the full prison experience. With it’s original motte and bailey hill, real underground chambers from its prison days, and the magnificent St George’s Tower still in place, Oxford Castle oozes history, charm and sends shivers down the spines of those that visit… Here’s what I got up to during my time there…

 

The History

 

                                       Just one of the inmates at Oxford Castle Prison

 

This partly ruined Norman medieval castle is one of the oldest in the country, and was believed to have been built in the year 1071 according to the Abingdon Chronicle. The instruction of the castle was ordered by William the Conquerer after he granted extensive land in Oxfordshire to the baron Robert D’Oyly. The castle played a key part in British history during the 12th and 13th centuries, where it was attacked and seized many times. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, the castle was starting to be used as a prison, instead of being seen as a royal residency, although it was never officially given this title. By the time the 18th century had started, it was being used as a full working prison and remained that way right up until its closure in the mid 1990s.

 

The Guided Tour

 

                                                          With our lovely tour guide, Alastair!

 

Our tour guide, Alastair, brought the prison to life and really gave us an insight as to what it was like for inmates living in those cells all those years ago, and for those imprisoned in more recent times too as it was only closed down in 1996! Each room/corridor/level of the prison had a story to tell, from the trial of Mary Blandy (she was on trial for poisoning her father) to the escape of Empress Matilda (the cousin of King Stephen). Alastair, and all of the other tour guides, did a wonderful job of telling these historical stories in a way that captured your imagination, really immersed you in the atmosphere, and made you even more interested in the castle than you had been before you walked through the door.

 

The Location

 

                                                                                                   The gorgeous castle building

 

Situated in the historic Castle Quarter, Oxford Castle can be found just off the main high street in the centre of the city. At the foot of the new Westgate development site, and just next to the Seacourt Park and Ride bus stop, the Castle can be easily reached by bus, coach, train, taxi, or on foot.

 

Useful Information

 

                                                                        The entrance to Oxford Castle Unlocked

 

The castle is open daily, with tours starting between 10am and 4pm. Admission prices (£10.95 per adult, £7.75 per child) include a guided tour and access to St George’s Tower, the castle hill and the exhibition. There’s also a gift shop and cafe on site too. Booking ahead is advised due to increased demand. Parking is available nearby either at one of the many pay and display car parks in the city, or one of the 5 park and ride car parks that operate excellent services every single day.

My time at Oxford Castle was truly enjoyable; I loved learning about the history of somewhere so important to England, and with it being right on my doorstep too I felt like I was completely immersed in the experience. Our wonderful guide. Alastair, was so fantastic in portraying his character (Daniel Harris) and delivering the history of the castle in such a fun, interactive and informative way. A big thank you to Alastair, Robin, Ellie and the rest of the Oxford Castle team for looking after us during our visit – we had so much fun!

Love Jess x

NB. My day out was provided by the Oxford Castle Unlocked team but, as always, all opinions, words and photos are of course my own.

 

 

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*GIVEAWAY* A day out in London with Thames Rockets – and how you can win tickets! 🚀🚀

 

 

Last week I was lucky enough to hop aboard a speedboat on the Thames for a collaboration with a very special company. How cool is that?! Part of my job was to review a speedboat, and not just any old speedboat, a Thames Rocket if you please. Formerly known as London Rib Voyages, Thames Rockets has been renamed and rebranded since it was first launched in 2006, and has previously been awarded the #1 thing to do in London by TripAdvisor, the best tourist attraction by Visit London and, most recently, Family Friendly Attraction of the Year by Visit England. Fresh after their latest award win, the team at Thames Rockets seem to be getting bigger and better, with their awesome speed adventures offering quite possibly the best way to see London. Here’s how my trip went, and how you can WIN a pair of tickets for yourself too…

 

Boarding

 

thames rockets

Hopping on board 🚀🚀

 

Boarding for any Thames Rocket trip takes place on the London Eye Pier, at the heart of Westminster, right underneath the London Eye. Guests are advised to arrive 15 mins ahead of their allocated booking time and are given life jackets and a safety briefing before stepping on board the speedboat. The boats seat up to 12 people and no matter where you sit, you’ll get an amazing view of the sights from every angle! I took my little sister along for the ride and we were booked on to the Ultimate London Adventure, a 50 minute part guided tour/part speed experience showcasing the best that London has to offer.

 

The Tour

 

tour guide london 1

Our tour guide, Rory, showing us the sights!

 

Our speed boat experience gave us the best of both worlds; an informative tour and history of all the famous landmarks along the river for 25 minutes, and then 25 minutes of full frontal speed as we broke through the Thames barrier, and the speed restrictions, and whizzed from one side of the riverbank to the other for as long we could. Our guide, Rory, was so much fun – he told us fun facts about each of the iconic sights whilst not making it sound like a history lesson! I’ve walked and toured London many times before, but I still found out things I hadn’t known about purely from Rory’s fantastic knowledge.

 

The Sights

 

 

Starting at The London Eye, the tour took us backwards to catch a glimpse of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament before heading up river all the way towards Tower Bridge. We passed 22 iconic landmarks along the way including St Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard, The Gherkin, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, HMS Belfast and The Tower of London. Although I’ve seen them all before, gazing at all these amazing monuments from the river gave me a totally new perspective and made me fall in love with them all over again. We also rode under all the famous bridges, from Blackfriars and the Millennium to Waterloo and London Bridge. If I had to pick just one though, it would be the mighty Tower Bridge; it’s somewhere that has a really special place in my heart and I can never ever tire of looking at it – it’s my favourite place in the world!

 

The Speed

 

speedboat tour london

Hanging on for dear life… We went SO fast but it was SO much fun! 🚀🚀

 

Ok so I know I was on a speedboat tour, but I did NOT expect us to go so frikkin fast! Once we’d got past the barrier and the speed restrictions had lifted, our wonderful driver Nick went full throttle on the acceleration and we were blasting past Tower Bridge quicker than we could have ever imagined. We rode up and down the river, side to side and round and round whilst the speakers were blaring loud music and giving us a party experience to remember. It was literally so much fun, just like being on a fast roller-coaster at a theme park, but even better as the sights of London were all around us. We had to grab on to our seats but we were in no danger at all of falling out as our crew kept us safe the whole time – just make sure you hold on to anything loose as they can’t be held responsible for flying hats or scarves!

My sister and I absolutely adored our time spent with the Thames Rockets team; the tour, the speed and the music were amazing, we just wish we could have had longer on board! The Ultimate London adventure was perfect for us, but you can choose from a variety of other experiences to suit your needs. Why not hop on board the Thames Lates cruise to see the city sights lit up in all their glory? Or if your need for speed outweighs your need for sightseeing, the Break The Barrier tour is the one for you! Whatever tour you choose, Thames Rockets will not disappoint! Summer is a great time to visit whilst the sun is shining and the landmarks look even more glorious, but this experience can be taken at any time of year, weather permitting of course.

 

 

As part of this review, I’m delighted to announce that I also have a pair of tickets for you to WIN so that you can experience The Ultimate London adventure too! All you have to do to win is:

  • Follow me on Twitter – @jessica16_x
  • Follow Thames Rockets on Twitter – @thamesrockets
  • Retweet my competition tweet (pinned tweet on my Twitter page)

**Competition opens 12/07/17 and closes 31/07/17 – entrants must do all three of the above to qualify. Quoted tweets will not count. Winners to be announced on my Twitter page 03/08/17 and will be sent a pair of Thames Rockets tickets via email.**

 

thames rockets 2

What an amazing adventure we had with the Thames Rockets crew 

 

Wishing you all the best of luck with the competition – this really is an amazing prize and I know whoever wins will have the most amazing day out in our beautiful capital city! I’m rather jealous that I won’t get to do The Ultimate London Adventure all over again, but I will most definitely be back on board with Thames Rockets again soon and can’t wait to try another one of their tours.

GOOD LUCK!

Love Jess x

NB. I was invited as a guest of Thames Rockets for the purpose of this review and giveaway but, as always, all thoughts, opinions and photos are my own. A big thank you to Rory, Kai, Nick, Greg and the rest of the Thames Rockets team for looking after us, and for making our day so special.

 

thames rockets 1

Thanks for having me guys – had a blast! 🚀🚀

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Traverse17 round up – still the best travel blogging conference on the planet!

 

This building is one of my favourites in the whole of #London 🇬🇧 #TheO2 #VisitLondon #Traverse17

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Hi everyone,

So if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I spent the whole of the May bank holiday weekend down in London for Traverse 17, the second conference I’ve been to which has been held by the fantastic Traverse Events. I went to my first one in Cardiff last year and had an incredible day, but this year it was bigger and better than ever before and was held in London for the first time. With two days of conferences instead of one, and more parties, workshops and social events to attend I had the most amazing weekend meeting new blogging friends, catching up with old ones and networking my bum off! If you’re yet to attend Traverse, here’s why I think you really should, and why I think it’s the best travel blogging conference on the planet…

You’ll meet so many like minded people

 

 

One of my favourite things about Traverse is that you get to catch up with so many blogger friends and get chatting to so many new ones too. Everyone’s in the same boat, we’re all there to mingle, and make contacts with new brands, as well as reconnect with fellow bloggers and old friends too. Here’s me with some of my faves, Lucy, Rach and Matt! Miss you guys! X

 

You’ll get opportunities you won’t find anywhere else

 

 

Where else can you take part in a competition with Topdeck Travel, play a crystal maze style game with Affilinet and come home with a cuddly toy from Cathay Pacific? Only at Traverse, that’s where! The brands and sponsors at the event are all there to speak to bloggers, work with influencers, and run fantastic giveaways and competitions, and the more you network, the more you’ll be remembered by the brands and the more chance you have of working on new projects with your new contacts. I’d highly recommend speaking to every single one of the brands just to say hi and to introduce yourself; hand out those business cards, give a friendly smile and show genuine interest, even if you’re not sure if the brand is a right fit for your blog. Make sure you send a follow up email to say hello and to thank people for their time if you’ve engaged in meaningful conversation too – I love staying in touch with new contacts as it really helps to forge longer lasting, working relationships.

 

You’ll learn so much from the workshops and talks

 

 

With two full days of workshops and lectures to attend at this years conference, I went into full ‘back to school’ mode and had my pen and paper to hand ready to take copious notes at every opportunity. I really love learning and try to improve my knowledge and my blogging skills as much as I can so I am a huge fan of the workshops and try to get to almost all of them! During my time at Traverse this year I attended lectures given by fellow bloggers, PR companies and SEO experts and I learnt so frikkin much! Each and every one of them were insightful, informative and super interesting so I can’t wait to put my new found skills into practice and grow my little blog even more!

 

You’ll get tonnes of freebies

 

 

This is definitely one of the perks of Traverse, and the goodies seem to get better and better after each event! Last year I came away with a beach towel, beach ball, sturdy bag and much more, but this year I was given a selfie stick (yay), baseball hat, phone charger, piggy bank, pens, keyrings and notepads too. A big thanks to all the sponsors for being so generous with their fantastic freebies this year!

 

You’ll grow in confidence

 

 

This is probably the single biggest reason you should go to Traverse. I can’t tell you how much my confidence has sky rocketed since attending my first couple of conferences this past year. I’ve always been bubbly and outgoing, but in the past found it difficult to approach people I didn’t know for fear of not making a good first impression, or of not sounding intelligent enough! Now though, after two conferences and countless events, I can happily walk into a room full of strangers and introduce myself to all the people and brands there without feeling nervous one bit. My confidence is at an all time high and that’s 100% down to the experiences I’ve had with Traverse over the past year!

 

You’ll attend some epic parties

 

 

Like this one – the opening night at Altitude London hosted by Jet2 – we had canapés, champagne and incredible 360 degree views over London… what’s not to love?!

 

 

… and this one! The closing party was hosted by Visit Spain and was held at the stunning Iberica Restaurant in Canary Wharf. The tapas was delicious, the cava was flowing and everyone was having a fiesta and celebrating the end of a fantastic weekend.

 

 

.. but the highlight was this one – a boat party on the Thames hosted by Cheapflights and CityCruises. Watching the sunset over The O2 and then seeing Tower Bridge lit up after dark was truly special and something I will remember forever!

 

And you’ll network every second of the day!

 

 

This word used to scare me shitless. The thought of ‘networking’ or making small talk with complete strangers used to really make me feel nervous. I didn’t want to put myself out there for fear of looking like an idiot, or for sounding stupid, but I’ve found my networking mojo over the past year and, for me, that’s something that is a great achievement. Being pushed out of my comfort zone has been so rewarding, so I now absolutely LOVE networking. I just try to be myself, be engaging, bubbly and friendly, and people seem to remember me so I must be doing something right!

 

These are just some of the many reasons to attend the wonderful Traverse conference, which will be held outside of the UK for the first time next year in the Dutch city of Rotterdam! Whether you’re a total newbie or you’re a blogging pro, every attendee comes together and is made to feel completely equal, which is why Traverse is so fantastic. No matter how small or large your blog is, you’re all treated the exact same and the parties are so good for mingling with new people you would never have met otherwise!

Michael, Paul and the whole of the Traverse team go above and beyond to make sure every single attendee gets the most out of the conference, and it wouldn’t be what it is today without them! Thanks for another amazing weekend guys – see you in Rotterdam for #Traverse18! Have I sold it to you yet, and are you thinking of attending the conference next year? Register your interest for tickets and hopefully I’ll see you there! 😀

Love Jess x

 

That sky tho 😍 #VisitLondon #London #Traverse17 @citycruises

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The Secret to Happy Travel? VIP Treatment Before you Fly!

 

 

As most of you will know, I headed to Copenhagen last weekend with my sister for our first overseas adventure of 2017 and we had the most amazing time! A full city guide will be coming soon, as well as a hotel review too, but first of all I’ll start at the beginning where we were lucky enough to be invited by Executive Lounges to spend some time at the Aspire Lounge at London Luton Airport ahead of our morning flight…

After dropping off our bag and whizzing through security we made our way towards the Aspire Lounge to start our adventure in style. Luton Airport is pretty small, and there aren’t many shops or restaurants to eat at so we were really looking forward to having somewhere private, and comfortable, to sit and chill before our flight. The Lounge is conveniently located next to Accessorise on the 1st Floor of the departure area and is super easy to find.

Upon arrival we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and told that everything on offer was complimentary, apart from champagne and additional Prosecco. We headed to one of the empty tables, with comfy seating and a view across to the rest of the airport, before checking out the food and drink that was laid out for us. We had a morning flight so the breakfast menu was on offer and we opted for fruit juice, hot drinks, and cereal as well as croissants and a sausage sandwich each! The food was really good and we would have had more drinks had we had more time, and it not been so early in the morning – I think a glass of Prosseco each was more than enough for both of us!

 

 

 

The lounge itself was laid out really nicely, with plenty of space for people to chill out and relax. There were work stations, snooze pods, plenty of tables and comfy seating as well as sparkling clean toilets and showers too. There was also a spa where treatments including manicures and massages were on offer for a fixed price. The lounge was fairly busy with people taking advantage of the VIP treatment, but it didn’t feel overcrowded or that there wasn’t enough space for everyone, given that the lounge is big and there is plenty of room.

We only had around an hour to spend time in the lounge because we arrived slightly late from Oxford and were checking out the shops in the airport before we headed up, but I really wanted at least half an hour more just to relax and unwind before our flight – sadly we didn’t get chance to try out the snooze pods! I think if I were to visit another lounge before a flight I would definitely arrive a little earlier to try and make the most of the comfort, and the food and drink, that is on offer.

 

 

Overall we had a truly relaxing time at the Aspire Lounge at London Luton Airport and were looked after really well by all the staff – thank you for making our stay so enjoyable! The cost of the lounge experience is £23.99pp which is slightly pricey, but worth it if you are going to be spending more than a couple of hours there and can make the most of the comfort and food and drink that is on offer. If I were to go again I would probably make sure I have more time there and would maybe attend ahead of a longer haul flight instead of a short one, just to fully benefit from everything on offer. However, I would highly recommend booking the Aspire Lounge for a stress-free start to any trip and to find the secret to happy travel in the most comfortable way possible!

Love Jess x

NB. I was a guest of The Aspire Lounge for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are of course my own. Please book directly to reserve your experience!

 

Come fly with me ✈️✈️ @ldnlutonairport @easyjet

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