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Prague Travel Guide: 48 Hours in the Czech capital

 

After my friend Toni and I kicked things off in Warsaw, the next stop on our inter-railing adventure was picture perfect Prague. I had already visited the Czech capital a few years previously, but was excited to go back and experience the city in warmer weather instead of in winter as I spent the whole of my last trip being FREEEEZING!! I spent my second visit to Prague seeing the sights again and finding new things to discover. Brimming with cobbled streets, stunning gothic architecture and an enormous amount of history, there’s so much to see in Prague and its hard to do it all in just 48 hours, but here are my tips on making the most of your short time in this fascinating city…

 

Take a walking tour

 

There’s nothing I love more than discovering a new city by foot, and the cobbled streets of Prague let you do exactly that! There are many different walking tours that’ll show you the city’s best sights and some of them are even free too. We took a free walking tour of the old town in the morning and then paid for a castle tour in the afternoon, which gave us access to the wonderful castle complex before finishing up at the iconic Charles Bridge. I know what you’re thinking, two tours in one day? Yep. Seven hours of walking? Yep. Our feet hurt and we barely sat down all day, but we made friends with everyone in our group and hung around afterwards with them for dinner, then for drinks, then we partied til 3am and we had the BEST TIME EVERRRR!

 

Explore Old Town Square

 

 

 

The focal point of the entire city is undoubtedly the old town square, with its astronomy tower, gothic church (Our Lady Before Tyn) and cobbled streets oozing character, charm and history. In and around the square you’ll find horse drawn carriages, souvenir shops and plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants to keep you occupied. At night the square totally comes alive and the tower and church are both lit up beautifully. Don’t forget to stand in front of the astronomy tower on the hour to see its enormous clock face come alive and create something very special. Prague’s New Town, with its Dancing House and famous Wenceslas Square are well worth a visit, but it’s the Old Town that totally steals my heart every time I visit this spectacular city.

 

Wander across Charles Bridge

 

Charles Bridge is one of the most amazing bridges I have ever walked across, and I’ve found myself just stopping in my tracks and gazing at it every time I’ve been lucky enough to be there. Built under the order of King Charles IV in 1352, the bridge crosses over the River Vltava and is part of the so called Royal Route. With statues, gargoyles and gothic towers at either end, the bridge is rich in history and is an absolute must see on your visit to Prague. Don’t forget to visit at night to see it lit up in all its glory!

 

Leave your mark on the John Lennon wall

 

 

I didn’t get to do this on my last visit, mainly because I didn’t know it existed and I had no idea what it was! Basically this wall is designed for anyone to come and leave their mark and express themselves, and is in memory of the late great John Lennon. The colours on the wall were so striking and it was such a cool, alternative thing to do in a city as historic as Prague. You can also stop by the world famous John Lennon pub if you fancy a pint – it’s conveniently located just across the road!

 

Discover the largest castle complex in Europe at Prague Castle

 

 

I’d been to Prague castle before on my last visit but kind of forgot how beautiful it was, especially when I was at the top of the fortress where the sun was shining and illuminating the pretty red roofs below. Our afternoon walking tour gave us access to the castle complex, including the grounds of the royal palace, the cobbled courtyards of the beautiful basilica and the inside and outside of the impressive St Vitus Cathedral. You could easily spend a few hours wandering around the complex, and exploring it’s many historical buildings too, and it was definitely a highlight of our visit to Prague.

 

Where to stay

 

 

We stayed in the super cool Sophie’s Hostel, located in a quiet neighbourhood just a 10 minute walk from Wenceslas Square and a 25 minute walk from the Old Town. The hostel had a real boutique hotel feel about it, and was much more glamorous than a standard hostel you’d expect to find. We had booked a private double room and we’re delighted to have been upgraded to an enormous apartment on arrival for the duration of our stay! We made the most of our giant bedroom, separate kitchen and big rainforest shower in the bathroom and loved having so much space all to ourselves. The bar and reception staff couldn’t have been more helpful throughout our stay, and we loved our pancakes at breakfast too! I would highly recommend Sophie’s Hostel as a fantastic place to stay during your visit to Prague, and it’s a great base for access to both the old and new town, as well as the airport and train station too.  Special thanks must go to the Sophie’s team for making our stay so wonderful!

 

Where to eat/drink

 

There are plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in Prague, and most of them can be found in and around Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square. We chose to eat in some of the side streets in the old town, as they generally tended to be much cheaper than the eateries that were situated on the square itself. We ate beef goulash in traditional tavernas and enjoyed wonderful meals both evenings – with so much choice you’ll find good food everywhere in Prague. We also ended up in the super cool Absinthe Bar on both of our evenings and had absolutely no regrets the next day – it was such a cool place to visit and our new friends from the tour loved it too!

Although I’ve been to Prague twice now and have seen such a lot during my time there, I know there are tonnes of other things to see and do that I haven’t even discovered yet. If you’re short on time though, this 48 hour guide should give you a good starting point on the main sights to cover and will stand you in good stead for your trip. Have you ever visited Prague before and would you go back like I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love Jess X

 

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Tex Mex, Creole or All-American? Comparing the flavour of three Southern cities…

 

Over 12 months ago, when I embarked on my trip of a lifetime across the US of A, I was set to visit 23 states in 28 days; a mean feat for someone who had never left Europe before! Aptly named The Grand Southern Adventure, I knew most of my escapade would be spent discovering some of the best cities that the south had to offer, and knew that it’d be an adrenalin fuelled few weeks, and a real foodie haven too. Three of the cities on the trip really stole my heart, and not just because of their lively atmospheres and their colourful history. Spending two nights each in Orlando, Dallas and New Orleans gave me a chance to delve a little deeper into their charm, although I’m pretty sure I barely scratched the surface of these cities during my short time there. I enjoyed my few days in those places so much that, when the wonderful team at Trip.com asked me to take a look at the foodie history behind each city, I jumped at the chance to do a little more digging… Here’s how the three of them compare…

 

Dallas, Texas

 

The sun shining down on Dallas

 

The Texan powerhouse and one of America’s most famous cities, Dallas should be at the top of everyone’s bucket lists, and for good reason. Home to an enormous aquarium, along with a zoo, museums and memorials, Dallas is one of the liveliest cities in the deep South. Sadly, it’s also perhaps best known for being the site of President John F Kennedy’s assassination and has a memorial and museum dedicated to his untimely death. Whilst you’ll find large chunks of America’s history down in Dallas, you’ll also find it’s a complete foodie haven and a fantastic place for indulging in that iconic Tex-Mex cuisine.

A mouth-watering mix of Anglo and Mexican-Indian infusions, invented by Mexican immigrants in the late 1800s, Tex-Mex fast became one of the most popular dishes in the state of Texas, and across the rest of America and the world too. Although the main ingredients of the cuisine remain the same; think nachos, enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, chilli and tacos, the dishes have largely evolved over the years. It wouldn’t be right to devour some good ole Tex-Mex food in Dallas without a frozen margarita in hand though – it’s where it was first created back in 1974, and is still a hit with locals and tourists alike today. If you’re looking for the perfect hotel from which to base yourself on your next visit to this Texan city check out Trip.com’s best hotel deals in Dallas.

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

The fairy-tale that is Jackson Square

 

Positioned right on the Mississippi River, near the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is a Louisiana city packing a big punch. Nicknamed the “Big Easy,” New Orleans is famous for its crazy nightlife, fantastic live-music jazz scene and its eclectic cuisine. At the heart of the city you’ll find it’s French Quarter, the oldest part of the city and perhaps its most interesting. Jackson Square is the focal point of the district, complete with a pretty Church, manicured courtyard gardens and horse drawn carriages, making it look like something out of a fairy-tale. The biggest event on the calendar is of course the Mardi Gras parade, a winter carnival with show-stopping costumes, live music and fun filled street parties. New Orleans, and indeed the rest of Louisiana, is however best known for its delicious Creole cuisine; a spicy style of cooking which brings together a mixture of flavours from a whole host of different cultures including Spanish, Indian, Caribbean, West African and Latin American.

Invented in NOLA back in the 18th century, classic Creole dishes include fish and meat soups, shrimps in sauce, rice in gravy, baked chicken, red beans and smothered pork chops. The most popular dishes are gumbo (shrimp, chicken and sausage stew served with rice) and jambalaya (meat and vegetables mixed with rice). For dessert, Creole cuisine offers something for everyone, but NOLA’s most iconic sweet treat is the classic beignet – deep fried choux pastry served with powdered sugar on top and a café au lait (coffee with milk). Visit the world famous Café du Monde down in the French Quarter for the ultimate beignet experience. The café is open 24 hours all day every day and only has four items on the menu: dark-roasted coffee, white and chocolate milk, hot chocolate, freshly squeezed orange juice and, of course, the classic beignets. Whatever your foodie preferences, NOLA caters for all tastes and you’ll be sure to want to take a taste of Creole home with you when you leave the city! If you’re in need of a place to rest your head for a few hours after spending all night ‘dancing in the streets’ check out Trip.com’s best hotel deals in New Orleans.

 

Orlando, Florida

 

The happiest place on earth…

 

Nestled between the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the sunshine state of Florida is one of the most visited areas in the whole of the USA. With hundreds of miles of coastline and a population of over 20 million, Florida is a tropical paradise with gorgeous turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. In particular, Orlando is famed for its designer shopping malls, vibrant seaside resorts and of course it’s enormous theme parks. Nicknamed the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World’, Orlando is home to the Universal resorts, Sea World, Discovery Cove, Legoland, Gatorland, Epcot and the most famous resort on earth, Walt Disney World. Cuisine is Florida is just as famous, with their iconic oranges – you’ll find them everywhere you go – as well as their Cuban inspired mojito’s and of course their very own key lime pie.

Cuisine found in Orlando is typical of All-American dishes and, whilst it mainly consists of fried chicken, French fries and just about any kind of fried food you can find, there are dozens of signature dishes too. Frozen yogurt, or Fro-Yo as Floridians affectionately call it, is super popular over in Orlando, and is much needed during the exhausting heat and tropical temperatures that remain in place all year round. Alligator tail is also a popular dish in the city, deep fried and served with hot sauce and a heap of ranch dressing on the side. Perhaps the most famous piece of Floridian cuisine though is the mouth-watering key lime pie. Invented by ship salvager William Curry in the sunshine state back in the 1800s, Curry became Key West’s first millionaire and his legendary dish is still a hit today. Need somewhere to stay during your holiday with Mickey and Co? Take a look at Trip.com’s top hotel deals in Orlando.

 

NB. This post is brought to you as part of Trip.com’s Underdog Cities campaign but all words and photos are of course my own.

 

So food is pretty BIG in Dallas

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Travel Guide to Warsaw: 48 hours in the Polish capital

 

 

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Warsaw for the first time, and it was my first ever visit to Poland too! Warsaw was the first stop on my recent inter-railing adventure with one of my best friends, and it was the perfect city from which to kick start our time in Europe. Warsaw is brimming with colourful buildings, cobbled streets and tonnes of history, and with so much to see and do it was impossible to get round everything in just 48 hours, but here’s my tips on making the most of your short time in this amazing city…

 

Take a FREE walking tour

 

 

I really love free walking tours and feel they are the best way to discover a new city for the first time, especially if you only have a couple of days and want to squeeze in as much as possible! The free Old Town Walking Tour in Warsaw begins right underneath Sigismund’s Column and departs every day at 10.30am. Our tour guide was so friendly and really gave us an insight into the history behind Warsaw, going into particular detail about the horrendous destruction of the city during world war two. The two hour tour passed by a number of points of interest and within that time we saw pretty much every important landmark there was to see in the historic Old Town, and got to make some brilliant photo stops along the way too.

 

Wander round the Old Town

 

 

If, like me, you only have a couple of nights in Warsaw I would definitely recommend basing yourself in the old town as I think this is the most popular area of the entire city. With its historic cobbled streets, vibrant market square and a vast array of colourful buildings, old town Warsaw is a UNESCO world heritage site and is best explored on foot meaning everything can be seen within a day or two. I really enjoy visiting cities that have a small historic centre, particularly if I’m pressed for time, as it means I can really immerse myself in the atmosphere and soak up the culture at the same time too. Don’t forget to climb the clock tower just opposite Sigismund’s column for spectacular panoramic views of the castle square below, and a visit to the famous mermaid statue is a MUST too!

 

Walk along the Vistula River

 

 

After a busy day of sightseeing I love nothing better than venturing a little out of the city and just taking a gentle stroll along the river. Warsaw’s old town is so compact that it was nice to explore a little further afield and see other parts of the city that were completely new to us, and the views from across the river were pretty stunning too! A wander along the Vistula will take you to Warsaw Zoo, Park Praski and the quirky neighborhood of Praga, which was the location for the award winning film The Pianist.

 

Visit one of the many museums

 

Warsaw is full of interesting museums to visit, containing everything from war and jewish history to music, science and modern art. I do think it’s difficult to find the time to visit museums if I’m on a super short city break though, so I don’t tend to put them at the top of my list, but there are so many in Warsaw that I just HAD to include them in my guide! We actually wandered around the Museum of Warsaw, which is located in the archway/city gate just behind the iconic market square, and found the history so interesting. Another must-do is the Uprising of the Jews and the Palace of Culture which is somewhere I really wanted to head to but sadly we ran out of time!

 

Where to eat/drink

 

 

There are a variety of restaurants in the old town, most of which serve a mix of traditional Polish food and popular European dishes too. We chose to eat at a local restaurant called Zapiecek on our first night as it was just a few doors down from our hostel and served amazing pierogi (dumplings) which are a traditional Polish dish. Serving a variety of mains including everything from pork and chicken to salmon and sausage, Zapiecek restaurants can be found dotted across Warsaw and are a must visit when looking for somewhere to eat in the city. Other restaurant recommendations I received, but sadly didn’t dine at, were Magda Polka in the Castle Square, and Michelin starred U Fukeria which can be found in the market square, just opposite the famous mermaid statue.

 

Where to stay

 

 

During our time in the city we chose to stay at the super cool Oki Doki Hostel, one of the only original pre war buildings left in the city. The location couldn’t have been more perfect for us as we were right in the middle of the old town with a number of shops, bars cafes and restaurants within a few minutes walk. We were staying in a private double room on the third floor with our own en suite bathroom. The beauty of staying in a private room is that you pay hostel prices for hotel standards and this couldn’t have been more true for our stay at Oki Doki. The communal areas including the kitchen, garden and breakfast place were kept very clean and tidy but were also great places to hang out and meet fellow travellers. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Oki Doki Hostel to anyone looking for a comfortable stay at a fantastic price right in the heart of Warsaw’s old town. Special thanks must go to Agata for making our stay so wonderful!

I could have spent at least another two days exploring everything that Warsaw has to offer, and even then I still don’t think I’d have scratched the surface! Considering Warsaw lost pretty much everything during World War Two, the defiant spirit of this city is incredibly powerful and shines through its core. Have you ever visited Warsaw before? I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

Love Jess x

 

 

September Newsletter

Happy 1st October!

One of my favourite months of the year is now upon us, and I can’t quite believe that we have just three months left of 2017! How the HELL did that happen?! I’ve had a whirlwind of a summer and been fortunate enough to travel to some amazing places, but now I’m looking forward to winding down a little bit, swapping sunny days for cosy nights in and embracing all things autumnal before our long cold winter inevitably hits. September has been another crazy month for me, I went on my interrailing adventure visiting 4 countries and 4 cities, and have also bought myself a brand new car and started a brand new job! Here’s what’s been happening over the past 30 days…

 

I became a god mother for the first time

 

 

I’m sooo proud to announce that I am now (fairy) godmother to beautiful little Halle, daughter of one of my best friends! The christening took place a few weeks ago now but it was so lovely and Halle looked so adorable. I was so honoured to be asked to be her godmother, it’s something I’ve never had the privilege of doing before and I cried as soon as I was asked! I promise to love you and look after you forever little Halle bean <3 xx

 

I went interrailing around Europe for ten days

 

 

Last weekend I got back from one of my biggest trips of 2017; I interrailed around Europe for 10 days with another of my best friends and we had SUCH an amazing trip! We flew to Warsaw to start off our adventure, enjoying walking tours, traditional Polish food and learning about its war history along the way, before heading over to Prague for our second stop. It was my second visit to the city and I fell in love with it even more than I did the first time. We partied until the early hours, wandered around the biggest castle complex in Europe, and spent time gazing in awe at the beautiful Old Town Square.

 

 

Our third stop was the stunning city of Salzburg, home to strudel, sacher-torte and of course, the Sound of Music film set. We took the funicular up to the top of the castle complex where we were treated to incredible panoramic views over the entire city below, and then sang our hearts out on the wonderful Sound of Music Official Tour. The fourth and final stop of our interrailing adventure was the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, somewhere that had been on my bucket list for such a long time. Again, we took a funicular up to the top of the castle to watch the sun set, then spent time wandering around the cobbled streets and meandering along the river. Our last full day was spent at the nearby Lake Bled, which seems to be top of everyone’s go-to lists at the moment! We had the most amazing trip and I wish we could go back and do it allll over again!

 

I treated myself to a new car

 

 

Last month my lovely little corsa gave up the ghost after 5 short years of us being together and I was totally gutted!! Sadly a bust head gasket meant that we had to part ways, so to cheer myself up I treated myself to a brand new, 67 plate Vauxhall Adam and it has definitely put the smile back on my face! After a month of having no car I’m fully embracing being back behind the wheel and am loving whizzing around in my new purchase.

 

I started a brand new full-time job

 

 

Most people think getting a new car is a big enough event for one month, but not me, I only went and got myself a brand new job too! After 18 months of travel, 12 months of freelancing and 9 months of part time work, I felt the time was right for me to have a new challenge and ease myself into a career in the travel industry. As much as I’ve loved blogging and travelling almost full time over the past year and a half, I realised that I needed to catch my breath, slow down and build a career in the industry I am hugely passionate in. I’m by no means settling down, and I’ll still be making the most of my weekends and annual leave by traveling as much as possible, but for now I’m really excited to have a new challenge and am looking forward to becoming a Villa’s Coordinator at a luxury travel firm in Cheltenham… Wish me luck!

So that’s how my September went… How did yours go? I’m hoping to have a quiet October where I can save some money, spend some time with my friends and family and just enjoy being at home for the next few weeks. Weirdly, I don’t actually have any new trips coming up which is kind of a strange concept for me, but I just want to settle in to my new life and see how things go. You know me though, I’m pretty sure I’ll book some kind of spontaneous getaway before 2017 comes to an end 😉

Love Jess x

 

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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