,

A Little Life Update: What’s New For 2019

Hi everyone,

I’m not quite sure how it’s the middle of July all of a sudden, time is FLYING by more than ever this year and the last six months have certainly been a whirlwind! I thought I’d just do a little life update post for you as I try to do these a few times throughout the year, just to inject a bit more personality into my blog, and to break up all the travel content that I constantly seem to be churning out! As we are well into July, I thought now would be a good time to take a step back and see how things have been going, and to update you on some big life changes too! Here goes…

I quit my job & spent 4 months travelling and blogging full time

View this post on Instagram

This is the face of a girl who's just finished her last Monday at work! 😬😬 Really excited to share some news with you all… 🙈 1. I'm quitting my job (again) sorry mum 😂 2. I've been offered an internship at the Sunday Times Travel Magazine to see how the world of journalism works! Roll on 2 weeks in London for lots of learning 💻 3. In March I'm off to travel round Australia all by myself! This trip is an absolute dream come true and I can't wait to spend 6 weeks exploring the other side of the world 🇦🇺 After that I've got trips to Scotland, Spain, Italy & Greece lined up between May & September so I've got another busy year of travel coming up and I couldn't be more excited! 🌍 I've taken another leap of faith to give myself a better and brighter future and I'm soooo ready for my new chapter to begin!! 2019, let's do thissss 🙌 #MondayMotivation #NewBeginnings #BringItOn

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

After deciding I was going to hand my notice in at work in January, I left my full time job at luxury travel firm Abercrombie and Kent in February in order to backpack around Australia. Before that though, I spent 2 weeks in London interning at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine which was super fun! My month and a half in Australia was totally life changing and I had the best trip ever travelling from Melbourne – Sydney and everywhere in between! I blogged full time from March-June whilst also visiting Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Scotland, the Lake District, Verona and Trento after I returned from Oz in April, so I’ve certainly had a busy few months of travel!

I got a new puppy

Eeeek as well as backpacking my way around Australia, this was another one of the most exciting things to happen this year – we got a frigging PUPPY!!! Lola is a cavapoo pup which means she’s crossed with a cavalier spaniel and a miniature poodle. She was 9 weeks old when we got her and was the tiniest little bundle of fluff, but now she’s a spritely 8 month old who loves walkies, cuddles and running around the house chewing everything in sight! She has bought so much joy into our lives after we lost our beautiful Westie Cassie back in 2017 and we can’t imagine our lives without Lola now!

I celebrated my 5 year blog anniversary

View this post on Instagram

Sooo I just wanted to come on here and let you all know that Journeys with Jessica celebrated its 5th birthday this week! 5th!! That is CRAZYYYY! 😱 I remember when I started my little blog, back in 2014, when I was 21 years old and my world had just been turned upside down for all the wrong reasons. An awful relationship break up left me with no motivation, no energy, no desire to carry on and make something of my life. For 3 months I barely ate or slept. I was broken and didn't think I'd ever be happy again, until I started to travel and I started my blog. I didn't know it back then, but the decision I made to start travelling actually changed my life. 🌎 Instead of wallowing in self pity and worrying about trying to change the past, I started to look forward. I started to plan trips, book short weekend stays and long weeks away, and I started to live again. I couldn't fall in love with anyone else, but I did fall in love with travelling, and to this day it's been the best decision I've ever made. ❤️ I've driven across Route 66 in America, rode the Great Ocean Road in Australia, inter-railed around Europe, cruised around the Med and visited 28 countries by the age of 26. I've helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been on a gondola in Venice, climbed the Eiffel Tower, skydived over Uluru, flew over Fraser Island and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef. Sometimes I can't believe how much I've done and I have to pinch myself that this has been my life. 🎉 So if anyone out there is ever feeling like I did 5 years ago, or if you're not sure where your life is heading and need to make some changes, I urge you to travel. To discover new places, to meet new faces, to live a different life. 5 years from now I hope I'm still in love with travel, that I'm going to more countries than ever before and that I'm even happier than I am now. 🌟

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

Back in May I celebrated my little blog turning 5 years old and I still can’t quite believe it. Who’d have ever thought that my little space on the internet would ever reach the grand old age of 5?! I certainly never thought it would happen, especially when I only set it up as a way of documenting my travels so my mum and dad could read them. Fast forward half a decade and my blog now attracts over 7000 page views each month, with almost 10,000 followers on social media. My blog has been a consistent source of income; I’ve been paid for my writing for the past 4 years, I’ve worked with brands on sponsored posts and campaigns and I’ve even been sent on press trips and attended travel conferences, meeting people that I simply would never have met if it wasn’t for my blog. What a 5 years it’s been – roll on the next 5, I can’t wait to see what new heights my blog will reach next!

I won a trip to Riga

Off the back of attending my 4th annual Traverse conference in Italy in June, I was lucky enough to win a trip to the beautiful city of Riga with tourism board Magnetic Latvia who were one of the sponsors this year. I have always wanted to visit Latvia, and Riga in particular, so I was absolutely over the moon when I found out that I’d won free flights and a hotel stay in the quirky Baltic capital. I’m not sure when I’ll be heading to Riga yet, although I’ve got my sights set on December so I can pair it with a Christmas Market visit too. Have you ever been to Riga before? Send me all your blog posts please!

I’ve bagged myself a brand new job

View this post on Instagram

New week, new month, new JOB! 😬 Eeeek been keeping this under wraps for a little while, but today's the day I start my brand new job at a luxury travel company in Witney. 🌎 I'm so excited to have swapped a 2hr daily commute for a drive that takes me just 8 minutes to get to my new office 🙈 Instead of finishing at 5:30 and not getting home til nearly 7 I'll actually be home before 5:30 which means I can actually have a social life in the evenings and can fit it around working part time on my blog too ❤️ So excited for my new chapter to begin, after 4 months of travelling and spending way too much money I can't wait to get into a proper routine again and start settling down (kind of 😉) Operation 'Jess is saving up for a house' has been resumed! 🏡 #MondayMotivation #NewJob #NewChapter #WishMeLuck

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

If all of this wasn’t enough to take on in my life, I only went and got a brand new job too! On the 1st of July I started a new role at Oxford Private Travel, a luxury travel company specialising in tailor made holiday itineraries. It’s similar to my last job at Abercrombie & Kent, although I’ll be dealing with all types of holidays across the world, rather than just being a European villas specialist. I’m on my 4th week at work now and time is absolutely flying by! I’m loving it so much and the role is so varied, allowing me to deal with clients directly and host supplier meetings as well as being responsible for product and even website content meaning I can be creative and throw some writing into my day job rather than just saving it for my blog life. I’ve settled into the team really well, attending a few summer events already and even being asked to join the Social Committee! I feel so happy and content and having no commute (10 min drive as opposed to a 1hr drive in my last job) means I can actually have a social life and do things in the evenings like catch up with friends or focus on my blog. After I got back from Australia I wasn’t sure whether I should continue with the freelance stuff, get a new office job or start a completely new career, but I’ve definitely made the right choice in continuing in the travel industry and I’m super excited to see where this next chapter will take me.

Quite a lot has happened in my little life over the past 6 months, and it’s certainly been one hell of a ride! I spent so much time travelling between February and June (I wasn’t home for more than two weeks at a time for 4 months) and, whilst I don’t regret any of it at all, it’s made me realise I get burnt out so much when I travel and sometimes it’s nice to spend some time at home and take stock of everything once in a while. I am incredibly lucky to have travelled as much as I have done, but right now I want to spend some time at home and focus on building my savings back up so I can look to move out and get my own place within the next 12 months. It’ll mean that I have to cut down on spending, and that means I’ll no doubt have to stop travelling as much, but we all have to make sacrifices in order to achieve things we desperately want, so if not spending as much means I can afford to move out then so be it!

The next life update I write will be at the end of the year, when I’ll be sharing my 2019 round up and letting you know how I got on with my New Years Resolutions that were made back in January. In terms of trips, I’ve got weekends in Manchester, London and Brighton coming up as well as potentially a sunny week in Portugal, a Christmas market trip to Riga and my first work trip to either Menorca or Sardinia – exciting! I don’t want to wish time away so I hope it goes slowly, but in the meantime stay tuned for tonnes more Australia and Europe content from my recent travels coming right up!

View this post on Instagram

Happy #TravelTuesday everyone – I'm actually not travelling at the moment (for once) and you know what, I'm actually soooo happy about it! 🏡 I haven't spent more than 2 weeks at a time at home since February and have been on back to back trips since March, taking 10 flights in 3 months, and travelling thousands of miles across Australia, the UK and Europe which has made me bloody exhausted 😩 I know I shouldn't moan because I LOVE my life and I'm so lucky I get to travel so much, but all the constant running around from airport to airport and sleeping in different hotel beds every night has finally taken its toll and I've got so fed up with being on the road that I just want to have a base to come back to ✨ So I'm now totally ready to spend the next three months completely at home, as my next trip isn't until September, and focus on myself, my blog and something else which I haven't told you about yet but I will reveal all soon, I promise! 🙈 For now here's a pic of me loving life in sunny Italia and soaking up the stunning mountain views that were right behind me ⛰

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

,

How to Spend a Week in the Australian Outback

 

The Australian Outback is totally unique, and unlike anywhere else on this planet. I spent some time exploring this incredible part of Oz during my recent six week adventure and have never had a travel experience quite like my week in the Outback; I would go as far as to say it was a totally life-changing seven days for me. I swapped my bed for a swag, make up for a bare face and wifi for human interaction, all of which were welcome changes to my temporary Australian Outback life. I found that the phrase ‘sleeping under the stars’ quite literally meant sleeping in the open with nothing over me or around me whatsoever, and my fly net became my new best friend. Despite having never camped in my ENTIRE LIFE, I had an absolute ball and would do it all again in a heartbeat. Want to know how I did it? You’ve come to the right place! I booked my adventure with Intrepid Travel on their Adelaide – Alice Springs Overland tour; here’s my day by day itinerary, and how you can do travel the Australian Outback too…

 

Day 1: Adelaide – Flinders Ranges

 

View this post on Instagram

Every once in a while do something that scares you 💫 I've never been camping in my ENTIRE LIFE and for the past two nights I've been sleeping under the stars in the Australian friggin outback!! 😩 On night 1 I was terrified and slept in my hoody, pjs, fly net and sleeping bag with the zips done all the way up to to the top! I got woken up by kangaroos bouncing around my head but apart from that I actually slept pretty well 😂 By the second night I'd got the hang of it and literally just wore tiny pjs and slept with my legs out the sleeping bag as it was sooo hot! Kept flinching cos thought I had bugs on me when in reality it was just my hair 😅 Tonight we are sleeping in an underground bunkhouse 😳 (I hope there are no spiders 🕷) What an amazing adventure I'm having – experiencing the nature of the outback, not wearing a scrap of make up or having any wifi, pushing myself out my comfort zone and embracing every second. ✨ The stars here are so incredible, I've been gazing up at them every night before falling asleep realising just how lucky I am to be on a journey like this one 🌟 #JessDoesAustralia #Days8-9

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Starting in Adelaide, I joined my 16 pax group and got acquainted with my tour leader (Kieran) and fellow tour-mates, where we got brief intro’s and awkward hello’s out of the way; little did I know that these people would become dear friends to me by the end of the week, and that I’d still talk to some of them every single day. Once on the road, on our comfortable coach with plenty of room for suitcases on the trailer which lagged behind us, we headed straight for Flinders Ranges, where we would be spending our first night on tour. We passed by Wilpena Pound (an incredible rocky landscape which was an epic backdrop for those all important Insta pics) and stopped for lunch before ending up in Flinders after around 5 hours of driving, where our camp was waiting for us. We went on an afternoon hike around the national park before heading back to camp for a tasty BBQ and then setting up our swags for the night. Let me just be clear with what I mean by the word ‘swag’ as you’ll hear it a lot throughout this post. A swag is another word for an Australian bedroll, which is basically a sleeping bag with a small foam mattress so you are sleeping slightly raised off the floor, but there is no tent/cover around or on top of you. I was terrified about sleeping on one of these, but honestly they were sooo comfy and I had an amazing night’s sleep with no interruptions from any bugs/spiders crawling over me (thank GOD), although there was a kangaroo or two hopping around at 4am 😉

 

Day 2: Flinders Ranges – William Creek (via Oodnadatta Track)

View this post on Instagram

So my Adelaide to Alice Springs tour has come to an end and I am soooooo sad 😭 This adventure has been one of the best weeks of my entire life and I've enjoyed every single second of it! 💖 We've done everything from sleeping under the stars and hiking national parks to watching countless sunrises and even doing skydives 🙈 I've pushed myself out my comfort zone every single day, forcing myself to embrace sleeping outside when I'm terrified of spiders/bugs, throwing myself off a plane when I have a fear of heights and making sure I continue to hike even when I feel exhausted and am suffering from the heat 😩 I've surprised myself by embracing everything and just living in the moment, but the best thing to come from this trip is the people I've met. Seven days ago these 18 people were just a bunch of strangers from different ages, countries and backgrounds, now we are a family who have enjoyed the trip of a lifetime together and I will never forget any of them ❤️ I love travelling on my own, but I do it to meet people like these 🌟 #JessDoesAustralia #Days8-15

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Day 2 saw us leave Flinders Ranges behind at around 7am (we soon learnt this would be classed as a lay in!) as we headed north towards William Creek, the smallest ‘town’ I have ever visited with a population of approx 10 people! We made stops at Lyndhurst, an outdoor sculpture park, and Parachilna, home to some of the world’s oldest fossils, before driving for around 5 hours, following the old Ghan railway & overland telegraph line where we stopped for lunch at the town of Marree, right next to the Ghan station. Once we’d hit the famous Oodnadatta track we stopped at Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest salt lake, and tasted some of the well known salt water itself – be warned, it tastes every bit as salty as it sounds! Dinner was cooked and eaten round the campfire that evening, and the stars that shone above us as we settled into another night in our swags truly took my breath away. I got to really know my fellow campers a bit more that night as we played card games, exchanged travel stories and just generally embraced Australian Outback life.

 

Day 3: William Creek – Coober Pedy

 

 

After leaving teeny tiny William Creek behind we headed towards Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world. Before arriving there though we admired the incredible desert landscapes as we drove straight through the iconic Red Centre and then passed by Anna Creek Station, the largest cattle station on the planet. After a long 6.5 hours of driving we finally arrived at Coober Pedy where we had a quick bus tour of the town and familiarised ourselves with our new home for the night. As Coober Pedy is incredibly hot, with temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees in the summer months, most of the houses and shops here are actually built underground as it is much cooler for people to live there. We went on a fascinating tour of the Coober Pedy mine and even tried our hand at ‘noodling’, or searching for opals in the sand. Afterwards we went to a local art gallery called Josephine’s which stocked Aboriginal paintings and doubled up as a kangaroo orphanage for rescued joey’s which were the cutest things I’ve ever seen! This evening we headed out for pizza (the only time on the tour we didn’t cook/wash up, hooray!) before making our way to the accommodation for the night, an underground bunkhouse with ACTUAL bunk-beds which felt like heaven after 2 nights of sleeping on the floor!

 

Day4: Coober Pedy – Yulara

 

As we were on our way out of Coober Pedy we made a quick stop at The Breakaways, one of the best natural landscapes I have EVER seen! This place was seriously stunning and reminded me so much of Arizona and Nevada in America, where you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d stepped into the Grand Canyon or Mojave Desert and would expect to see a Western film being shot at any moment! After taking literally HUNDREDS of photos, with me and some of the girls having a full on photo shoot, we reluctantly made our way back to the coach for our longest day of driving yet (a solid 9 hours). Our journey took us across the Moon Plains and past the Dingo Fence, which is the largest fence in the world, and we stopped off for a selfie at the Northern Territory border, officially marking my third Australian state during my trip so far. Upon arrival at our camp in Yulara we made headed to Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock as it’s more commonly known, where we eagerly awaited a special sunset and had drinks and nibbles to pass the time. Unfortunately there was no sunset at all as it was super cloudy and started to get dark very quickly, so us and the hundreds of other people who were also there were somewhat let down! To pick us back up again though we headed back to camp where a wonderful BBQ dinner was prepared and we enjoyed a great night’s sleep in our permanent tented camps.

 

Day 5: Yulara – Uluru

 

This was without doubt one of my FAVOURITE days on tour and when you look at that impressive red rock, it’s not hard to see why. We started our morning with a sunrise hike around the base of Uluru; our 4:30am start was tough but the hike was incredible and we were rewarded with the most amazing sunrise at the end of it. We then headed to the cultural centre/museum to learn more about the Aboriginal history of Uluru and why it is one of the most sacred sites in Australia. We also attended a talk from an Aboriginal woman, with the help of a translator, who told us some interesting stories about Aboriginal life and its connections with Uluru. After lunch we had a free afternoon at camp to do whatever we fancied. Some of the group used the on-site pool to cool down from the mid-day sun whilst others went for a small walk around the area. I did something a little different to that… I just happened to jump out of a plane and do A FRIGGING SKY DIVE over Uluru!!! Seriously, what is wrong with me?! It was a total last minute decision which I made on a bit of a whim but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my whole life and a real highlight of my entire Aussie trip. I didn’t tell anyone back home about it either, I just face-timed my parents once I’d done it and their faces were an absolute PICTURE! I don’t think I’ll ever do a skydive again, but it was something I wanted to tick off my bucket list and what better place to do it than in the Australian Outback?!

 

Day 6: Uluru/Kata Tjuta – Kings Canyon

 

I was still on a high from my skydive on the previous day so barely slept at all and went straight to sleep after dinner, but this campsite had purpose built huts with proper mattress style beds so I actually felt I could relax a little and it made a welcome change from sleeping on the floor! Our 6th day gave us yet another 4:30am start as we took on another sunrise hike, this time over at Kata Tjuta, or The Olga’s as it’s also known, one of the most popular national parks alongside Uluru. I think I actually enjoyed this one more than Uluru, because it wasn’t as crowded and we had a bit more time to stop and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The afternoon saw us spend a lot of time driving (around six hours) but we had a few lunch/gas station/toilet stops along the way to break up the journey. Upon arrival at our campsite for the evening, Watarrka National Park, also known as Kings Canyon, we made dinner and played games around the campfire before getting an early night ahead of another early start the next morning.

 

Day 7:  Kings Canyon – Alice Springs

 

View this post on Instagram

*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) After weeks of writing and editing, it's finally here, my ultimate guide on How to Spend a Week in the Australian Outback 🔥 This blog post is very special to me, which is why it has taken me so long to write since I got back from Oz in April! I would go as far as to say that this trip was probably the most life changing trip I've ever taken. Travelling from #Adelaide to #AliceSprings I crossed the borders from #SouthAustralia to the #NorthernTerritory and ticked off everything in between 🌎 From sleeping under the stars at Flinders Ranges to admiring views over the plains of #CooberPedy, hiking Kings Canyon & #KataTjuta and skydiving over #Uluru, I sure covered some serious ground during my week long Outback trip 🇦🇺 But it wasn't the memories of the landscapes or the places we visited that'll stay with me most, it's how much I learnt about myself whilst I was there. I learnt that it's quite fun to sleep outside on the floor, I learnt that it's extremely liberating to go make up free, and I also learnt that it's bloody marvellous to have no internet for a week! 🙌 I bonded with 17 camp mates from all corners of the world, with ages ranging from 20 to 70, and every day we sang songs around the campfire, took turns to cook dinner and pitched in with the washing up. On day 1 we were strangers, but by day 7 we were a family ❤️ Reconnecting with nature and embracing change is what travel is all about, and if my week in the Australian Outback taught me anything, it's that you've got to stop and look at what's around you, take it all in, and learn from everything that this world gives to us ✨ #JessDoesAustralia

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

Our last day of the tour had rolled around and everyone was so sad that it was coming to an end, but we had one last day together and wanted to make the most of every second. We had our final 4:30am start (that’s the only bit I was glad to be ending) and headed straight to Kings Canyon, another of the incredible national parks that can be found in the Australian Outback. This was without doubt the hardest hike of the trip, starting with a taxing walk up the aptly named Heart Attack Hill, yep you heard me right, before making our way round the entire rim of the canyon (6km). It was an incredible walk though and we all stuck together taking it at a slow pace so that everyone in the group could enjoy it, no matter what their age or fitness level. We finished around 11:30am (just before they closed the park because the temperatures were reaching 40 degrees) and then headed for lunch back at our campsite. I was so sad at our final lunch as it really felt like the adventure was coming to an end, but I was looking forward to spending some time with my new friends in Alice Springs, once the tour was over, as I knew most of the group would be staying on in Alice for a few extra days. This evening our meal wasn’t included but we all went for one last group dinner together at a local restaurant in Alice and bid a fond farewell to our tour leader Kieran who was absolutely incredible throughout the entire week.

 

Can you tell that I had the most amazing week of my life travelling the Australian Outback?! I still can’t believe I conquered my fears and did some of those things; I never thought I’d be able to even camp in the wild let alone chuck myself off a bloody PLANE! Although it totally amazing, it was also incredibly tough at times, with 40 degree temperatures and gruelling hikes every day which I did struggle with, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world as it taught me so much about myself, and how strong I am as a person. It also taught me to just live in the moment, appreciate every single second of life and go back to basics sometimes when things are getting a bit overwhelming. I chose the perfect tour, met new people who are now friends for life and made memories that I will never forget. Travelling the Australian Outback is something that should be on everyone’s bucket lists, and I encourage you to do it if you get the chance one day, before it’s too late!

 

 

Like my Great Ocean Road tour, this one too was a very ‘hands on’ experience, and we all pitched in with cooking, washing up, tidying away etc so that our tour leader Kieran wasn’t left to do all the work. All our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were made and served by us all, taking it in turns to do different jobs. As with most camping trips, this tour is pretty basic as you’re either sleeping in swags or huts, and there are only communal showers and toilets with no option to upgrade to anything, so please bear in mind that it may not suit every style of traveller. It is suitable for all ages though, from 8-99, and we had people of all ages and backgrounds in our group, from Brits in their 20s to Americans in their 30s and Europeans in their 60s and 70s. On this tour all your food is included, your campsites & swags are all there for you and your expert tour guides have knowledge which is second to none. For me, this really was the most authentic Australian Outback experience I could ever wish for and I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Just FYI, here are the inclusions that were covered in this trip:

  • 6 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 6 dinners
  • 2 nights swag camping, 3 nights in permanent tented camps, 1 night in an underground bunkhouse (all with shared bathroom facilities)
  • All transport
  • Entrance to numerous national parks, plus many more activities (pls refer to webpage)

 

View this post on Instagram

So I have something to tell you all and I haven't told a single person (not even my parents or sisters so they're gonna get a shock when they read this🙈) TODAY I DID A SKY DIVE OVER AYRES ROCK!!!! 😱😱😱 Ohmygodddddd best day ever, first ever sky dive, best thing I've ever done in my whole life in the best location with the most amazing atmosphere and I am soooo proud of myself!! Absolutely terrified of heights and thought I was gonna wet myself when I was sat on the edge of the plane at 12000 feet 😭😂 What an amazing experience and something I will never ever forget!! My bucket list is almost complete at the age of 26 and I've never been happier than I have been today! 🌟 You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough 💫 #JessDoesAustralia #Day10 #IAmInsane

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

, ,

Glamping in the Cotswolds: Croft Farm Waterpark

 

 

Last week I was invited to go glamping in the Cotswolds at Croft Farm Waterpark, a resort in Gloucestershire that boasts a variety of lakeside accommodation and a whole host of water based activities for all the family to enjoy. Located in the small village of Bredons Hardwick, just 5 miles from the pretty town of Tewkesbury, Croft Farm Waterpark is perfectly positioned to explore the surrounding Cotswolds countryside. Here’s what I got up to during my stay, and why I absolutely LOVED my first ever glamping experience…

 

The Accommodation

 

Lakeside glamping pod

lakeside pods at Croft Farm Waterpark

Croft Farm Waterpark is home to a variety of accommodation types to suit every guest. You’ll find pitches for caravans and tents, good sized cabins, chalets and lodges with hot-tubs as well as two bespoke lakeside pods which are used for the glamping experience. My friend and I stayed in a lakeside pod during our visit and we were so impressed with it! I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I have never been glamping before, but our pod was the perfect size for us and was actually pretty spacious with plenty of room for your luggage and clothes etc, a dressing table with a seat and a mirror, a kettle, mini fridge and numerous plug sockets.

 

Interior of lakeside pod with bed, sofa bed and dressing table

 

view from the lakeside glamping pod

The pod had space for a good sized double bed with bed-side tables as well as a sofa that doubled up as another single bed, although I think three people in one pod may be a little cramped! There were two chairs on the outdoor decking enabling you to sit and enjoy the fresh air and lakeside views right outside your pod, and there was room for 1-2 cars either behind or right beside the pod. Obviously the toilets/showers are communal, but this didn’t bother us at all and is to be expected when you’re staying on a camp site! We had a great night’s sleep and loved waking up to the pretty lakeside views the next morning.

 

The Facilities

Onsite gym

Kayaks and watersports equipment on the lake

 

Boasting an onsite gym, beauty salon, clubhouse, lake with water-sports and a spacious function room for events, Croft Farm Waterpark has plenty to offer to guests who are wanting to go glamping in the Cotswolds . The gym, aptly named Gym & Tonic, costs £5 to use and is equipped with treadmills, bikes, cross trainers, weights and more. In the same building as the gym you’ll find Beauty Tonic, a popular salon offering numerous treatments including massages, spray tans, manicures and pedicures. Unfortunately the clubhouse was closed during our stay (it’s closed Mon-Thurs except from school holidays throughout July & August) but when it’s open guests will be able to buy breakfasts, lunches and dinners at great prices and enjoy live music during weekends. 

 

Sun shining on the lake at Croft Farm Waterpark
green grass in front of the lake at croft farm waterpark

 

I think the real stand out feature of Croft Farm though has to be the fantastic lake which is the focal point of the entire site. The lake is large enough to comfortably accommodate plenty of people, but not too large so that it feels overwhelming. There were lots of school groups taking part in activities during our stay, but we got up early one morning and to hire a pedalo and enjoyed the entire lake to ourselves for half an hour at 9:30, before the kids started their sessions. Activities on offer included stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, sailing and power boating. There are so many things to do on the lake and it’s certainly got the wow factor; I can see why glamping in the Cotswolds at Croft Farm is such a hit with families, and when the sun is shining the lake looks truly mesmerising!

 

The Location

Welcome sign for Croft Farm Waterpark
Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire

 

Situated in Bredons Hardwick, Croft Farm is sign-posted just off the B4080 and is super easy to find, making it a great place to go  glamping in the Cotswolds. The closest big town is Tewkesbury, where you’ll find plenty of high street stores, independent shops, cafe’s, pubs and restaurants as well as Tewkesbury Abbey which is absolutely stunning and well worth a visit! Others areas of interest nearby are the Malvern Hills, listed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a 30 minute drive away, as well as the thriving town of Cheltenham Spa (20 min drive) which boasts great nightlife, a fantastic high street and of course the famous racecourse. Ellenborough Park, a 16th century manor house offering fine dining and spa retreats on the outskirts of Cheltenham, is well worth a visit too. There’s a local pub just opposite the entrance to Croft Farm, which is perfect for walking to and enjoying a drink or a bite to eat, or you can head to the clubhouse for a meal if it’s open. We actually went in to Tewkesbury for the evening and found a great spot for dinner, but you could also order takeaways to the campsite too, and there’s information on local takeaways in reception.

 

The Staff

croft farm welcome sign
a swan on the lake at croft farm waterpark

Perhaps the most important part of any campsite is the people who run it and who are onsite 24/7 to ensure that everything runs smoothly with their guests. The owners of Croft Farm, Alex and Martin, are the absolute life and soul of the campsite and couldn’t have done enough for us during our stay. I had contacted them a few times prior to our arrival with a few questions regarding onsite activities and bed linen etc for the pod, and Alex was super helpful with her responses, ensuring I fully understood what to expect upon arrival. Alex and Martin also helped with access to the onsite gym as well as recommending what we should do for dinner as the club house was sadly closed during out stay. We hired a pedalo on the lake during our stay and another staff member, Jake, was on hand to ensure we were well looked after whilst we were on the water. The staff at Croft Farm are an absolute credit to the site and go above and beyond to ensure all their guests have the most fantastic time during their stay!

As you can see, I had a wonderful stay at Croft Farm Waterpark, especially as the sun was shining and we had glorious weather that was perfect for doing outdoorsy activities. The lake was so well equipped for water-sports with something to suit all ages and abilities, and the surrounding countryside made the resort such a relaxing place to stay. I would highly recommend Croft Farm Waterpark to couples, groups of friends or families looking to go glamping in the Cotswolds for a fantastic getaway in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside and would like to say THANKYOU to the team for a wonderful stay!

NB. I was hosted by Croft Farm Waterpark in exchange for an honest review on my blog, but all thoughts and words are of course my own. Thank you also to Campsites.co.uk for helping to arrange the visit!

 

jess on the lake

,

Seven Picture Perfect Places to Visit in The Lake District

 

Wandering around Derwentwater Lake in the Lake District. The Marco Polo guidebook in front of the lake.

Ah the lovely Lakes, one of my favourite parts of England, and one of the most beautiful parts too. I started visiting The Lake District when I was a little girl, probably aged 6, when my parents would take me and my sisters away on our first family holidays. I didn’t go abroad until I was 8 years old, so spent a large chunk of my childhood exploring all over the UK, but The Lakes were always very special to me. From Keswick and Kendal to Grasmere and Glenridding, there’s something for everyone and plenty of things to see and do in The Lake District for families, couples and groups alike. My most recent visit was just a few weeks ago, where I spent some time exploring Cumbria with my fantastic Marco Polo guidebook, which was an absolute god send, with pull out maps, hotel and restaurant recommendations as well as plenty of suggested road trip itineraries and suggested walking routes. To help you plan your visit, I’ve put together a list of some of the most picture perfect places to visit in The Lake District…

 

Ullswater

 

 

Listed as England’s second largest lake, Ullswater is one of the most visited parts of The Lake District. Set amongst some of the finest fells, trees and hills in Cumbria, Ullswater is also the setting for one of William Wordsworth’s most famous poems, ‘Daffodils’. You’ll find plenty of things to do on the lake, from sailing and kayaking to swimming and fishing, and you can even hop on board one of the well known Ullswater Steamers, where a one hour boat ride will take you to all corners of the 8 mile lake. If hiking is your thing you’ll be spoilt for choice with tonnes of popular walking routes nearby, or why not climb Helvellyn mountain for something a little more challenging?

 

Coniston

 

 

Turn to page 50 in your Marco Polo Lake District guidebook to discover everything there is to see and do in pretty Coniston. The village is located in between Coniston Water and Coniston Old Man (a mountain), in the Southern part of the Lakes, and is popular with tourists at any time of year. The Ruskin Museum is a well-known attraction, where you can explore the life of local writer John Ruskin who was born in the Lakes.  If you’re visiting during summer, why not board one of the Steam Yacht gondola’s to enjoy a smooth ride across the water? The 19th century Furness Railway originally launched the route as an addition to their railway line, allowing passengers to travel by boat instead of train to experience all that Coniston Water had to offer.

 

Keswick

 

 

Without doubt Keswick is one of the Lake District’s most visited towns, attracting coach loads of tourists from all over the world desperate to explore one of England’s prettiest areas. The summer months are notoriously busy, so it’s probably best to avoid visiting at this time of year if you can, but as the resort is so popular you’ll find it’s got plenty of things going on throughout spring, autumn and winter too. It’s a haven for shoppers, with high street stores and independent little boutiques selling everything you can think of, and there are tonnes of eateries to choose from, with café’s, pubs and restaurants all waiting to welcome you into their doors. Keswick is a great place to base yourself for your Lake District adventure as you can explore many of the other surrounding towns and villages from here too. For an idyllic walking route, turn to page 97 of your Marco Polo guidebook and read itinerary number 4, ‘A Walk Through Keswick & Surrounding Area’. This 1.5hr walking route will take you on a round trip of the town, passing Derwentwater, Friars Crag and Castle Head along the way, giving you the perfect start to your time in Keswick.

 

Grasmere

 

View this post on Instagram

Lush green mountains, sunny blue skies and glorious countryside views, this is what I love most about the beautiful #LakeDistrict ⛰ I didn't go abroad until I was 8 years old and spent many half term holidays up here with my sisters, so Lakeland is a huge part of my childhood and I have fond memories running up and down hills, chasing sheep in fields and having fun with my family ❤️ One year we even ended up getting lost on a mountain when my mum thought we were following yellow arrows on stones and sticking to a proper pathway but it turned out to just be yellow MOSS that she was following and we had been going round in circles for 8 hours!! 😂 A phone call to Mountain Rescue got 3 kids, 2 adults and 1 dog back on the straight and narrow but it took us forever to get off that bloody mountain and I never wanted to see another one for weeks after that 🙈 Luckily I started to love them again as I got older, and now they hold a special place in my heart and help me to appreciate all the natural beauty we have right here in England 🇬🇧 Do you have a silly travel story? I'd love to hear them on this chilled Sunday evening! ✨

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

I’ve been to Grasmere many times and really enjoyed it, but my most recent visit made me fall in love with this tiny village even more. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel called The Lancrigg, which was secluded enough to feel like you’re staying in a remote hideaway, but also just a short walk into the village with all its amenities, including restaurants, shops and cafe’s. Grasmere boasts many walking routes, with a mixture of smaller fell walks, winding hills and impressive mountains to climb, most notably Helm Crag being the one which attracts keen hikers. The famous poet William Wordsworth spent his entire life in the Lake District, and you can visit his grave right here in Grasmere, where he is buried alongside his sister, wife and children in the graveyard of St Oswald’s Church. Did you know Grasmere is also famous for its gingerbread? Me neither, until I read about it in my Marco Polo guidebook! Check out the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop located just next to the St Oswald’s Church, and take some of this delicious cake home with you.

 

Wastwater

 

 

At a depth of almost 260ft, Wastwater is the deepest lake in England, and it sure is proud of its best known asset. Tourists and locals alike spend many a summers day walking around the lake and enjoying the spectacular scenery, with only its resident sheep for company.  Flanked by the mountains of Yewbarrow, Lingmell and Great Gable, Wastwater has an epic backdrop and commands stunning views from every angle. The tiny village of Wasdale, with it’s well known pub The Wasdale Head, makes the perfect base for those keen to explore the local area. Mountain enthusiasts, or those taking part in the popular Three Peaks Challenge, will want to tick off Scafell Pike whilst they’re in the area. At over 3200ft tall, climbing England’s highest mountain is not for the faint hearted, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic mountain views once you reach the top and it’ll certainly be a day to remember.

 

 

Lake Windermere

 

 

Although Wastwater is classed as the deepest lake in England, beautiful Windermere is holds the record for the largest lake in England, making it one of the most popular parts of Lakeland. This place is absolutely perfect for families as there are plenty of child-friendly activities and attractions for all ages. I’ve spent so many summer holidays taking a boat across the lake, checking out the fantastic aquarium and visiting the World of Beatrix Potter, a fantastic museum located in nearby Bowness dedicated to the woman who created Peter Rabbit, with scenes and figurines from the iconic children’s books. If you’re looking for something more physical, Lake Windermere itself is a haven for water sports, with a whole host of activities on offer and the opportunity to hire rowing or electric boats, yachts and even go sailing. Summer is super busy on Windermere, and accommodation gets booked up fast, so I’d recommend visiting outside of peak season to get the most out of your visit, and to avoid the crowds!

 

Derwentwater

 

 

I actually stayed in Derwentwater on my most recent visit to the Lakes, just a few weeks ago, so I’d recommend staying at The Derwentwater Hotel in Portinscale and basing yourself there for a couple of nights whilst exploring everything the area has to offer. The hotel is set in sprawling 18 acre grounds with fabulous views over to the hills and the famous Derwentwater Lake in the background. We only spent 1 night in Derwentwater but that was definitely enough time to check out the local area. We took a walk around the lake, stopped off for brunch at one of the cute nearby cafe’s and wandered down to the pretty Derwentwater Marina where you could rent boats, kayaks and even stand up paddle boards! If you have more time to spare and fancy venturing a little further afield, why not visit Keswick? It’s 2 miles away and would probably only take 25 mins to walk there, or you could hop on one of the local buses to get you there in a flash!

 

There are so many other towns and lakes that I could have included in this list, but these are some of my favourite, and are well worth seeing during your visit to The Lake District. Using your Marco Polo guidebook you can easily plan a week-long road trip, or pack lots in to a weekend break, ensuring you see as much as you can during your time in Cumbria. If you’ve got a trip lined up soon let me know where you’re planning to visit and I can give you some top tips! But for now I’m off to reminisce about my recent trip and plan my next visit to the lovely Lake District too…

 

Wandering around Derwentwater Lake in the Lake District. Jess holding the Marco Polo guidebook in front of the lake.

 

,

One Week in California: The Ultimate Multi-Centre Holiday

 

We all know that the USA is mind-blowingly huge, with plenty of incredible states, cities and towns just waiting to be discovered. It’s impossible to see it all in one go, but it is possible to choose one state and focus your time on that by booking a multi-centre holiday instead. Without doubt, one of the most popular US states to visit is California; with it’s glorious beaches, vibrant cities and bucket-list tourist attractions. Whether you’re looking to tick off the original Disneyland, make your way to Hollywood or take a ride over to Alcatraz, California offers something for everyone. With this in mind, I’ve joined forces with the wonderful team over at TravelPlanners to show how multi-centre holidays are a great way to travel, and I’ve included three of my dream destinations. Here’s how you can create your own itinerary and have the trip of a lifetime over in sunny California too…

 

San Diego – 2 nights

 

Fly to San Diego airport, hire a car and let your Californian road trip begin. In this super cool city, that’s thriving with nightlife and an abundance of things to see and do, there are attractions which will appeal to all ages. San Diego is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and boasts numerous beaches as well as its famous natural deep-water harbour. For those looking for an active start to their multi-centre holiday, why not check out one of the many green parks that are dotted across the city? The Sunset Cliffs nature reserve is worth a visit, with glorious walks, stunning coastal views and fantastic beaches to enjoy, but Balboa Park is arguably the most popular, with beautiful buildings, neatly manicured lawns and spectacular fountains. Spend your first night in San Diego checking out the bars and restaurants in the Downtown or Pacific Beach areas as you immerse yourself in ‘Navy Town USA’.

 

 

 

 

If you’re into your history, a trip to the USS Midway Museum on day 2 is an absolute must see. Enabling visitors to follow in the footsteps of former soldiers, this interactive museum offers an eye-opening insight into what life was like on board 20th century America’s longest serving US Navy carrier. Spend the afternoon chilling out at La Jolla, meaning ‘The Jewel’ in Spanish, and discover why this place is such a gem. Perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, La Jolla is the perfect place to swim, surf and kayak in the sea or just relax on the golden sandy beach. Other attractions include San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland California and Coronado Island, a small peninsula between San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean that boasts its own beach, hotel and a funky Downtown district.

 

Los Angeles – 2 nights

 

Check out of your hotel and get straight on the road, heading 120 miles north towards the city of stars, Los Angeles. Most people choose to do this three hour drive all in one go, or with a couple of comfort stops, but if you do want to break it up and see some more of California, I’d recommend stopping at Anaheim for 4 or 5 hours. Home to the original Disneyland, this magical theme park should be on everyone’s bucket lists, especially because no visit to the States is complete without a trip to Disney, right?! Depending on how early/late you get to LA, spend your first afternoon/evening doing the famous Hollywood sign and visiting the iconic Walk of Fame, looking out for the stars of your fave A-listers along the way. Afterwards, why not wander down Rodeo Drive for the ultimate shopping experience, or spot Beverly Hills from afar? You’ll feel just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

 

 

LA is incredibly busy, and with so much going on at all times of day, it can be a little overwhelming. If you’re looking to recharge your batteries after a busy day of sightseeing, why not head to one of the city’s many beaches? Santa Monica pier is packed with carnival rides, food stalls and has glorious mountain views. Continuing on from Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach is fast becoming the hottest place in LA, with insta-models working out at Muscle Beach, volleyball or basketball nets up for activity lovers, and a fantastic boardwalk that enables you to walk the entire stretch of sand whilst soaking up the Californian vibes. If you’re a foodie, Downtown LA is a great place to go for an evening meal; there’s plenty of restaurants offering all types of cuisines, with Chinatown and Little Tokyo particularly popular with locals and tourists alike.

 

San Francisco – 3 nights

 

After a busy few days, and a huge 420 mile drive, you’ve certainly saved the best til last with super cool San Fran! Before you get there it’s definitely worth breaking up the journey with stops at the likes of Malibu, Santa Barbara and Big Sur (maybe a few hours in each/an overnight stop to do them all!) Once you’ve arrived in SF, three nights here is a good amount of time to see pretty much everything on offer, but you could easily spend longer exploring California’s 4th largest city. On your first day you’ll want to see some of the sights, so head over to the Golden Gate Bridge to take in one of the most photographed landmarks in the entire world. Next up is Fisheman’s Wharf, with Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square to the East and West of the Wharf respectively. Both areas boast trendy shopping and eating areas, as well as rides, aquariums and San Fran’s iconic sea lions. Head to the Richmond neighbourhood or the Marina for the best restaurants/bars to soak up the lively nightlife that this city has to offer.

 

 

Spend your second day hopping on a ferry over to one of America’s most notorious islands; Alcatraz. A former federal prison, Alcatraz is located on a rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, and is one of the city’s most visited attractions. Self-guided or audio tours are essential to getting the most out of your visit, and don’t miss the hospital area too for an insight into the medical care during the prison’s working days. On your third and final day why not head to Union Square to shop and people watch, and if you’re there during the Christmas holidays you can go ice-skating too! For something different, I’d recommend catching a ferry from Pier 41 and heading to Angel Island, famed for its history as a civil war fort and, more recently, its Immigration Station Museum. For a once in a lifetime experience you’ll want to go hiking right to the top of Angel Island, where breath-taking views over San Francisco Bay below will be waiting for you with open arms.

 

As you can see, I’ve based this itinerary on a one week road trip, but you could adapt this to 10 days or 2 weeks to spend more time in each destination, and to include more cities along the way too! Despite starting my own American adventure in Los Angeles three years ago, I never got to explore the area or see anything of California at all, so these three cities are at the top of my US bucket list and California is certainly a state I want to explore properly one day! Have you considered taking multi-centre holidays before? I think they are a fantastic way of seeing so many cities in such a short time and I’d recommend this style of travel to anyone looking to make the most of their epic US road trip!

NB.  This post was brought to you in collaboration with TravelPlanners but, as always, all words are of course my own.