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The day I became a tourist in my home city: Oxford!

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Hi everyone,

So last weekend I was in my beautiful home city of Oxford doing a bit of Saturday shopping and had a few spare hours to kill whilst waiting for a friend. I wondered whether I should wander aimlessly round the shops trying on dresses that I couldn’t afford, or whether I should do something more useful and get some cool photos for a brand new blog post and so, naturally, I chose the latter option! Firstly I headed in search of the famous Radcliffe Camera which is one of the must-see sights if you are visiting Oxford. After a short stroll off the high street and past Trinity College I came to the Bodleian Library and was in awe of the incredible architecture of this beautiful building.

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The Bodleian Library was home to The Hogwarts Infirmary in the blockbuster Harry Potter film series, and there were Harry Potter tours being carried out while I was there that I was trying to ear wig on! The surroundings really are stunning, so it’s hard not to see why it was chosen as a location for one of the country’s biggest films. IMG_30579857334588IMG_30572826134741 IMG_30618858017206

Next I found myself on Magdalen Street walking past the famous five star Randolph Hotel; what I would give to spend a night of luxury there! Directly opposite The Randolph is the beautiful Ashmolean Museum which is one of my favourite attractions in Oxford. Having been on plenty of school trips here when I was younger I know they it’s home to some of the best historical artefacts in the world . Entry is free so make the most of it and while away a few hours in this incredible building when your visiting.

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Finally I strolled back up towards the high street and past the Carfax Tower before catching up with my friend and going for dinner on the way home. We headed to Jacobs Inn, Wolvercote which I’d heard great things about and couldn’t wait to try for myself! I had the chicken pie and my friend opted for a burger – the food was great and the atmosphere was lovely, a spacious nut warm and welcoming pub right on the river Thames. We couldn’t have picked a better spot to enjoy some early evening dinner! You can read my review on Jacobs Inn here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g186361-d4606454-r253493733-Jacobs_Inn-Oxford_Oxfordshire_England.html#REVIEWS

I had a wonderful day being a tourist in my home city and can honestly say it’s been one of the most refreshing things I’ve done in a long time. It just goes to show that sometimes you don’t need to travel far to have a great day out.. things can be on your doorstep and, of course, life is what you make it! So next time your on your daily commute or are visiting somewhere you’ve been 100 times before just stop and spend a few minutes pretending that this is your first visit and see where your travel instinct takes you!

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Love Jess x

NEW YEAR NEWS!

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Hey everyone,

As it’s a new year I thought I would change a few things on my blog but also bring you a round up of stats that I’ve collected over the past 8 months. Since my blog began back in May 2014 I’ve gained new followers, enjoyed a large social media presence and have continued to build it as much as I can in order to share my adventures with you all.

As a breakdown, my followers on each of my social media sites are as follows:

WordPress – 62 followers/ over 2000 hits

Facebook – 68 Likes

Twitter – 816 followers

Instagram – 161 followers (not bad considering I’ve only had it for two weeks!)

LinkedIn – 222 connections

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As you can see, I have quite a large social media following across the board which I am very grateful for but am keen to grow as much as possible in order to increase my audience. Some interesting stats and information on hits to my blog were detailed in my WordPress Review of 2014 which you can of course read separately!

On the more visual side of things I’ve been wanting to get to grips with changing the layout and design on my blog for a while now as I feel this is quite limited and doesn’t allow as much freedom as I’d like. I’ve opted to edit the theme, homepage and navigation tabs on my site and, although I’ve only made a few basic changes, I’m hoping this will make my blog look a little more appealing and will read better on screen whether it be via a standard desktop computer, or a sleek mobile site.

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The main alteration I’ve made is to have a front page section with a navigation panel on the left hand side so my readers can choose which posts they want to read, rather than scroll through them all from the most recent to the oldest. I’m hoping this presents my blog much more clearly and allows room for my About page to be viewed first before any other posts are read. I’ve also included my contact details on the front page which makes it even easier to get in touch so if you have any questions, comments or feedback to pass on to me then I’d love to hear from you!

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The great debate on my mind at the moment is whether I should continue using my current WordPress blog that provides me with a service free of charge, or whether I should take the plunge and switch to a self hosted site with more flexibility to create exactly what I want without any limitations. I’ve seen a few other travel bloggers ask the same question and also followed the thread closely to see what the general response is. As far as my initial research goes, most of my fellow bloggers advise paying for a self hosted website to allow the degree of flexibility to heighten as much as I want, but I am unsure of taking this step for a number of reasons…

Firstly, as much as I love my blog, I am yet to start making money from it as a business and very much think of it still as just a hobby as I’m only in the early stages of it’s creation. As I’m not generating any income from my blog I therefore don’t have any expenditure, so am reluctant to spend money on websites and themes if I’m not getting anything back other than a pretty display. Obviously appearance and professionalism is important to me, but my writing style is where my skills lie and is unique to my blog so therefore I can write in whatever format I like as long as people are continuing to read that’s the most important factor! Secondly, I’ve built up quite a large number of hits/followers/likes on my WordPress account and really don’t want to lose these if i switch over to a different site! I love interacting with fellow WordPress bloggers and enjoy the ease of the site, along with the basic features that an IT novice like me can deal with!

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If you have any comments on any aspect of this post or would like to pass on any feedback please please do get in touch. I’d also love to hear any suggestions or opinions on the debate that’s at the forefront of my mind at the moment, so whether you vote WordPress or self hosted I’d love to hear your thoughts!

In another news, it’s actually my 22nd birthday on Friday so I’ve got lots planned for the weekend and I’ll be sure to bring you an update on my adventures soon!

Love Jess x

NB. All images other than my profile photo & screenshots of edits to my blog are courtesy of Google images.

Welcome to 2015: Happy New Year!

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Happy new year everyone, and welcome to 2015!

I had a brilliant time up in Liverpool celebrating the new year with all my closest family. We stayed for three days and managed to squeeze in a bit of shopping in the city centre to make the most of the time we had up there!

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I know I’ve said this before, but Liverpool truly is one of the best cities in the world. There is so much to see and do and the whole atmosphere is just incredible. I fit in as many trips up there during the year as I can so that time can be spent with the family, but I also try to visit the city centre as much as possible.

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Rather than heading back to the city for a night out to celebrate new years eve we decided to have a big family house party instead which was amazing! I love having everyone together, and singing Auld Lang Syne whilst watching the local fireworks was truly magical. 12 months ago I went to London’s embankment to see in 2013 which was amazing and an experience I will never forget, but this time I really wanted to spend it with the whole family instead.

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I had a magical end to the year, and I hope you did too! What did you all get up to? Please tell me your new year stories I’d love to know how and  where you all celebrated!

2015 has some big things in store for me, and I can’t wait to share all my new adventures with you! First of all I’m planning a European city break in February but need to figure out the best destination to go to; I’ve heard places like Budapest, Vienna and Krakow are incredible but I’m veering towards Prague at the moment. If you would like to share any suggestions with me for my city break please get in touch!

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Happy new year everyone, see you on my next post!

Love Jess x

2014 ROUND UP!

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Hi everyone, So as we are nearing the end of this year I thought I would round up my highlights of the last twelve months and showcase how much my blog has grown since I started my brand Journeys with Jessica. As many of you know, my blog has only been active for the last six months and I run it alongside my full time job as an estate agent so unfortunately cannot give it my undivided attention although I do try my absolute best to update it as much as I possibly can!

I’ve been on some brilliant trips this year and have loved sharing my adventures with you all, so long may it continue and here’s to more success in 2015! There have been so many to choose from, but my top three highlights of 2014 are as follows:

1) Family holiday to Majorca

2) Winter city break to Reykjavik

3) Summer city break to Barcelona

Please click on the relevant links to view my blog posts for the separate trips! As well as growing my blog I’ve also updated my Trip Advisor account to Senior Contributor with currently over 30,000 readers and have been voted in the top 1%  in Oxfordshire. Please click here to view my Trip Advisor account and to view my travel map!

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I have grown my social media outlets this year and have a record number of followers on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress so that’s all down to you lovely lot! Thank you so much for choosing to keep up to date with all my latest adventures, I hope you continue reading and enjoy my posts – I can’t wait to bring you more in 2015! My current plans for next year are a bit up in the air at the moment, but I am hoping to go interailing around Europe over the summer and will squeeze in lots of city breaks so that I have tonnes to write about whilst getting my latest travel fixes!

Finally, I have made some wonderful friends in the blogosphere over the past 6 months and am excited to take this to the next level when I start attending travel conferences next year. I cant wait to meet some of the people that I have been interacting with recently! A big thanks to you for all your tips, friendly messages and helpful words of advice. Special mentions must go to the lovely Char from Taylor Hearts Travel and to the brilliant Jess from The Travelista as you two have been particularly helpful to me – can’t thank you enough!

That completes my round up for 2014 – it’s been a blast! I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and fun-filled 2015… speak soon!!

Love Jess x

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EXCLUSIVE: INTERVIEW WITH AWARD NOMINATED BLOGGER TAYLOR HEARTS TRAVEL!

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Hi everyone,

As mentioned on a few of my previous posts I am delighted to bring you an exclusive interview with Char from the award nominated blog Taylor Hearts Travel which was carried out recently! Char has been blogging for the past year and has already built up an impressive social media following as well as being shortlisted as Best Female in lowcostholidays Best Blogger Awards 2014. You can view Char’s website here:  http://taylorheartstravel.com/

It was an absolute pleasure to interact with Char, she was very professional but extremely down to earth and gave me a real insight into her exciting life; I even picked up a few blogging tips for my own site! So here’s the interview in full.. enjoy!

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Q1)      Hi Char! When did you know you wanted to start travel blogging, and how did you take that first big step? Did you work in the travel industry previously or have a completely different job? I note that you have a full website for Taylor Hearts Travel rather than just a WordPress or Tumblr blog – are there larger benefits for doing this? Did you have a small blog to start with and then grow it from there?

A) It was just after I returned from Peru. I’ve always, always loved travelling and friends have often said I should work in travel. The idea of a travel blog pinged into my head and I decided to do it! There are no major costs in starting a blog, it can fit in alongside a full time job and it’s a great way to document travels. It was a no brainer for me – I had nothing to lose. My memory isn’t the best, so I love being able to keep track of my favourite travels and recommendations. I work in the sport industry, so it’s very different to travel. I started my contacts list from zero and have really enjoyed meeting fellow like-minded travellers. I started on a WordPress hosted site and then moved over to a self hosted one after a year or so. To be honest I wish I had started on the self hosted one, but at the time I had no idea how long I’d be blogging for or what would come of it. If you host it yourself you have more say in terms of creativity and advertorials.

Q2)      How important is social media for generating interest on each of your blog posts? I can see that you are using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc and I wondered whether or not this was the single most powerful way to grow your online presence? I’m thinking of getting an Instagram account for my own blog so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this particular app.

A) I think social media is really important. It allows me to share my posts to my audience, but also a wider one if I use hashtags or someone shares/retweets it. It all moves very, very quickly and I love that aspect of it. I’m quite a visual person and people often comment on my photos, so for me Instagram is a dream. I love seeing other people’s pretty pics and again, using hashtags, it allows me to meet more people.

Q3)      Are you blogging full time and getting paid for it, or do you have another job on the side as your main source of income? Many bloggers I have spoken to simply blog as a hobby but I’d love to know the percentage of bloggers who actually get paid to travel and review their trips as this is the sort of industry I would like to start getting in to. I currently have over 27000 readers on my Trip Advisor account and was voted in the top 2% in Oxfordshire so I’d like to put that to good use!

A) Like most, I currently have a full time job, as well as another full time job (my blog!). I probably spend more time than most on mine, but that’s just down to my personality. If I’m going to do something, I do it 110%. I really go for it. I have no patience whatsoever, so I’d rather do it, than spend years planning it or worrying about what-ifs. I’ve made a lot of contacts in the industry and have worked with some amazing brands. Sometimes they might approach me and other times, I pitch to them. I think it’s all about being professional, committed and reliable. If you deliver what you set out to do, then chances are people will notice and existing clients will come back again. One of my favourite quotes is ‘Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground’. Well done re your readers on TripAdvisor! I was also really into that site and wrote loads of reviews, earning the badge of being in the top 3% on the site. Now that I document my trips on my blog I don’t really write as many for TripAdvisor, as I don’t have time, but also because as far as I understand you’re not supposed to write a review if you have a business relationship with the company.

Q4)      How often are you posting updates to your blog and social media outlets? I try to aim for once or twice a week with a few tweets/status updates in between but I realise that perhaps this isn’t enough. Do you also have any tips on the best times/days to publish posts so I can increase traffic to my blog?

A) Again, I’m probably in the minority here, but I aim to publish a new post at least four – five times a week, if not every day. I try to write the blog that I like to read. I hate it when I go to one of my favourite blogs they haven’t updated it, so I like to keep mine fresh and varied. I don’t think there is any right or wrong approach though. If there was, we’d all be doing the same and then that’d be boring! I think if you have an editorial schedule that works for you, then go with it. Don’t be distracted by what everyone else is doing (though it’s obviously helpful to learn from others). You can look at the analytics within Facebook/Twitter etc to find out what time of day most of your audience is online. Once you’ve worked that out, aim to share your info then. I think it’s also important to not run away with pre-programmed stuff. Yes, it’s helpful and time saving, but people also want to talk to a real person and see interactions. Keep it real!

Q5)      Finally, where are you currently blogging from at the moment? Are you all cosy back at home in the UK or are you on the move again?

A) I’m at home at the moment after returning from a weekend break in Paris and then one in Madrid. It’s only for a few more days though, as I’m off to San Francisco very soon. I’m manically trying to wash and repack everything! I note that your most recent trip was Madrid so I’d love to hear a short summary on the city – I was thinking of heading there earlier on this year but ended up in Barcelona instead! I’m sure Madrid would have been just as good though! Do you have any immediate plans for your next upcoming trip?I’d heard mixed reviews before I went, with the majority being quite negative. However, I absolutely loved Madrid. There are so many pretty cafes and restaurants, like the gorgeous ones you always see on Pinterest. Two days was definitely not enough – Madrid, I’ll be back. If you get the chance to visit, you should. The flights from the UK are so unbelievably cheap.

So there you have it, my interview with the wonderful Char from Taylor Hearts Travel in full – I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together!

Love Jess x