Posts

, ,

Sick of stressful airport travel? Ride in style with National Express!

 

So your alarm is set, your suitcase is packed and your trip is booked. Every final detail is confirmed, from your flights and transfers to your tour itineraries and restaurant reservations. Going on holiday can be pretty stressful, and it is often made worse by the hassle of getting to and from the airport. Flying is lots of fun, but let’s face it, who really wants to get there 3 hours before a flight and spend ages queuing at the check in desk?! Not me, that’s for sure! One of the things I find most stressful about travelling is actually the hassle of getting to and from the airport. I can drive but I prefer not to travel long distances in my car and would rather not leave it at the airport car park for a week.

Living in Oxford, I am lucky that I have several airports to choose from when considering booking flights, but the hassle of getting to and from each airport has often put me off in the past. However, as an avid fan of public transport, I would always try and catch a bus, coach or train to an airport wherever possible, and that’s where National Express comes in. I’ve been using National Express services for years and have always had fantastic journeys, so I was delighted to be asked to team up with them for the purpose of this blog review, and when I realised I needed transport for my upcoming European city break it was hard to refuse such a fantastic offer. Lets find out what I got up to on my recent trip with National Express…

 

An early start

 

My coach from Oxford to London Gatwick

 

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the world who will happily get up at 2am, after zero sleep and at the most awkward time possible, just to jump on a cheap flight to anywhere if it means I can get better value on my travel deals! Luckily, National Express is the largest operator of scheduled coach services in the UK operating high frequency services linking more than 900 destinations. National Express know that there are lots of people out there who, like me, need to get to an airport at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, and they operate coach services direct to the terminal for all major UK airports, 24 hours a day with 1,100 airport services running every day. They also offer generous luggage allowance of two medium sized suitcases and a small piece of hand luggage as well as driver assistance – pretty amazing if you ask me! My 2am wake up call didn’t seem so bad when I hopped on board my perfectly timed coach ready to start my next adventure.

 

A comfortable outwards journey

 

Image courtesy of National Express

 

One of the benefits of getting on an early morning coach usually means that it’s not too busy, although surprisingly my coach was pretty full by the time I left Oxford to head to London! The coaches are also usually very quiet during the early morning times, which means I can catch up on some much needed sleep before arriving at the airport and being in holiday mode. National Express coaches are modern and comfortable with a variety of facilities and features including a free wifi and entertainment system which consists of a complimentary on-board app offering TV, films and magazines to passengers. On board the coach you’ll also find smart leather seats, convenient power sockets for charging your mobile devices, comfortable leg room for business class passengers, welcome air-conditioning on a warm day and clean toilets on every journey. My outwards journey from Oxford to London Gatwick took just under 2 hours and it was smooth, comfortable and extremely easy.

 

A relaxing homeward journey

 

Image courtesy of National Express

 

After my whirlwind weekend abroad, it was time to come home and I actually looked forward to my return journey back home given that my first coach journey on the way out was so comfortable. I wasn’t sure if I would actually make my return journey on time as my flight was delayed by almost an hour! But luckily we made up some time and I had booked the coach an hour later than I had actually needed to just allow for some additional time, so this really helped. If your flight is delayed though, I’m aware that you can hop on the next coach (up to 180 mins after your booked coach time) providing that the driver of the next available coach has room for you. My journey home was just as good as my journey out and I felt fully relaxed by the time I got back to Oxford – there’s nothing worse than a stressful drive home to dampen your holiday mood!

 

So as you can see I had a really pleasant journey to and from Oxford and London Gatwick during my recent trip and it definitely made my holiday both stress free and hassle free. Turning up and being able to get to and from the airport safely and swiftly really makes me relax before a holiday and, for me, is a great alternative to driving. The drivers were friendly, the seats were comfy, I felt safe at all times and even got a couple of hours kip before my flight… Oh and the free on board WIFI worked a treat too – bonus! Overall I had a fantastic return journey with National Express and I would highly recommend their services to anyone looking for a hassle free start and end to their airport trips. You can also benefit from a Coachcard if you’re a young person (aged 16- 26), a senior (aged 60+), or if you’re registered as disabled. For the price of just £12.50 a year you’ll get up to a third off standard and fully flexible fares, as well as benefiting from discounted travel to and from nationwide festivals, and 20% off Pizza Hut too!

Have you ever travelled with National Express before? What did you think of their services? As I mentioned, I have used them for many years and never had a problem so am already looking forward to booking up next time I need airport transport. The question is, where will I travel to next? Answers on a postcard please!…

Love Jess x

NB. I was a guest of National Express and was gifted tickets to come on board for the purpose of this review but all thoughts and comments are of course my own.

For more information and to find the best value fares visit www.nationalexpress.com or call 0871 7818181

 

Image courtesy of National Express

,

5 Hidden Gems That Can Only Be Found In Spain

 

 

If you know me, you’ll know that the beautiful country of Spain has a special place in my heart, and that it is my go-to place for a beach holiday, city break, adventure trip or just about any kind of getaway you can think of. As someone who has visited Spain 15+ times over the past 20 years I can say with certainty that is my favourite country in the world, and I love finding things off the beaten track that aren’t in the tourist brochures or the travel guidebooks. So when tour operator Holiday Gems challenged me to put together a list of top hidden gems from my favourite country, how could I say no?!

 

 

Mount Teide, Tenerife

 

The magnificent Mount Teide

 

If you’re a bit of an adventure seeker and would like to swap a day by the pool for a day hiking a mountain, the magnificent Mount Teide is definitely the place to be! Teide can be climbed, hiked, or walked around slowly if time is no issue, and it is the third highest active volcano in the world. As expected, Tenerife is warm all year round which makes it difficult to hike the mountain, so there is the option to take a cable car up to the summit which is a welcome alternative. I hiked around the base of the mountain on my visit last summer, but I heard the views from the top of the cable car were absolutely STUNNING so next time I would definitely choose this option instead. Whilst at Teide, I would also recommend making a pit stop at the nearby Los Roques de Garcia, a UNESCO world heritage site with rock formations that are over 170,000 years old. The rocky landscapes were incredible and made for the most amazing, Instagrammable photos – the whole place looked like something out of an ancient western movie and we instantly felt transported back in time!

 

Cova d’en Xoroi, Menorca

 

The quirky Cova D’en Xoroi

 

Is there anything cooler than a bar built into a cave? I think not! The fabulous Cova D’en Xoroi is listed as one of the best bars in the world, with a fantastic selection of food and drink to choose from, and plenty of seating areas dotted all over the cave. The most magnificent sea views can be found from the front of the cave, and guests are encourage to arrive at dusk, just in time to watch the sun go down as it sets over the sparkling ocean below. After dark, the bar turns into a nightclub with DJ playing an eclectic choice of music for adults to let their hair down and dance until the early hours. If the idea of a bar in a cave wasn’t impressive enough, the myth behind the building is truly magical and gives an added sense of historic mystery to this epic place. Legend has it that a man named Xoroi survived a shipwreck and washed up into the cave where he took refuge from the dangerous seas. At the same time, a local girl from the village went missing and was never to be seen again. Months and years passed by, until she was eventually found alive and well in the cave, with Xoroi and three children, the fruit of their love. Finding himself cornered by the people who found him, Xoroi threw himself into the sea where his eldest son followed him. Both men were lost under the waves and their bodies were never found. Devastated, the girl and her two children were taken to another nearby village where they started to rebuild their lives without their family. A trip to Cova D‘en Xoroi is an absolute must when visiting Menorca and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different to do on their holiday.

 

 

Old Town, Ibiza

 

Ibiza Old Town

 

A visit to the White Isle usually consists of sun, sea, sand, alcohol and lots of partying until the early hours. Thousands of tourists flock to the biggest clubs, the best beaches and the busiest bars for a week of dancing, drinking and tonnes of fun. However, I discovered a totally different side to the island during my most recent visit a few years ago when I stayed at the quiet resort of Es Cana and took a day trip to the Old Town. Brimming with history, the cobbled streets, ancient walls and natural beauty of the Old Town can be found in abundance and is one of the most visited areas in Ibiza.  Why not spend some time walking along the city walls and finding the old war cannons? Or wander down by the sea front and watch as the sun glistens on to the sparkling turquoise waters. A trip to the Old Town is an absolute must when visiting Ibiza, and you won’t be short of things to see and do here.

 

The Pine Walk, Mallorca

 

Puerto Pollensa’s Pine Walk

 

I stumbled across this place whilst on a family holiday to Majorca a few years ago, where I was staying in the vibrant resort of Puerto Pollensa. The Pine Walk is the busiest part of the resort and is where the nightlife really comes alive, with loads of cosmopolitan cocktail bars, traditional Spanish restaurants and pretty little shops. It is quite a large entertainment district with many pubs and lots of places to eat and drink, and typically there are lots of tourists here but it is fun, it is lively and it offers lots of things to see and do. You’ll find street performers, sand sculptures, caricature artists and pretty much every kind of entertainer or performer you can think of. Set back slightly from the beach, and just away from the main road, the Pine Walk enjoys the perfect position just from which to allow visitors to enjoy a different area of Puerto Pollensa.

 

St Joseph La Boqueria Market, Barcelona

 

Barcelona’s famous food market

 

Located right on Las Ramblas, in the heart of the city, St Joseph’s Market is one of the hidden gems of Barcelona and is a hit with locals and tourists alike. Stocked with a colourful array of fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats, fish and cheeses, as well as sweet treats like cakes, smoothies, ice creams and much much more, this undercover market offers plenty of things to buy. Why not wander around Las Ramblas with one of their enormous ice creams, or grab a bargain and take some local produce back for your loved ones at home? There are also a variety of souvenirs and Barcelona merchandise on offer too. Whatever you decide to purchase, you can guarantee you’ll pick up a local, authentic token from the Catalonian capital.

 

So as you can see, these are just a few of the less known landmarks that can be found across sunny Spain, but there are hundreds more just waiting to be discovered! If you’re looking for a cheap, last minute getaway to this beautiful country, why not browse the Holiday Gems website to see if you can grab a bargain; I challenge you to see if you’ve found a much cheaper holiday? Have you been to Spain before, and if so where was your favourite city? Get in touch with all your Spanish stories as I would LOVE to hear them!

Love Jess x

NB. This was a sponsored post in partnership with Holiday Gems but, as always, all thoughts, words and photos are of course my own.

 

, ,

How to plan your European interrailing trip on a budget

 

 

Last month I took my first trip of 2018 as I went inter-railing round Europe (again!) with my sister. After inter-railing round Italy together back in 2016, we were super excited to be back on the road again, but this time exploring three countries in a row: France, Luxembourg and Belgium! We’d planned the route fairly quickly and, once we decided that we wanted to use the Eurostar to get there and back, had chosen our starting point as Paris and our final destination as Bruges, so just had one stop in between meaning that Luxembourg was the obvious candidate! Getting to and from the UK and each city was extremely easy, and both stress and hassle free. My sister and I organised every aspect of the trip before we left and we managed to get a week-long stay, including transport to and from the Eurostar stations, national and international trains plus six nights’ accommodation in 3-4* hotels for just £437pp! We had given ourselves a budget of £600pp for the entire week and well and truly smashed it. I like to think I’m quite good at getting a bit of a bargain, and this trip was certainly a steal. Being the geek that I am I’ve even worked out all the individual costings for this trip and included them in my total  pricing breakdown below. Want to know how I got a week’s inter-railing trip for less than £500pp? Let’s find out…

 

UK transport

 

 

Obviously this one depends on where you’re based, and I am lucky to live in Oxford so am very close to London, but our capital can be reached easily by most of the UK’s major cities, which makes getting to St Pancras Eurostar Station very accessible. We were travelling on Easter Sunday which may have slightly put the prices up, but usually a one way ticket from Oxford to London costs around £10 per adult, and is cheaper for me as I have a young person’s rail card. The Eurostar tickets themselves, from London – Paris and from Brussels – London were pretty reasonable and each journey was less than £70pp return. Have a look to see which trains are cheapest/most expensive on the day of travel as you could save a lot of money by going later in the day, or earlier on in the morning, or even the day before or after if you’re really flexible and want to get the best deal possible!

Costings:

Oxford – London return train – 1x adult, 1x rail card holder = £28.90pp and £19.05pp

London St Pancras – Paris Gare du Nord one way train – 2x youths = £65pp

Brussells Midi – London St Pancras one way train – 2x youths = £53.30pp (don’t forget your ticket should state that departure is from any Belgian station and includes onward travel between cities ie if you’re staying in Bruges and need to get back to Brussels Midi for your departing train, the journey between Bruges and Brussels is included in your ticket price, you don’t need to buy an additional ticket).

 

International trains

 

 

Sadly we were hit by the dreaded SNCF train strike during our time away – they had only just started and it caused havoc! Our train from Paris to Luxembourg was cancelled and, because it was bank holiday Monday, none of the phone lines were working and no one on the website online chat/social media pages were able to get back to me. Luckily we were able to use our existing ticket free of charge on the next available train which was only 3 hours later than our scheduled train, but if that one had been cancelled I don’t know what we would have done! I would recommend downloading the SNCF app for live updates to your train as this came in handy when the website crashed! All other trains ran smoothly though and international train travel is so enjoyable for me as I love the scenery between cities and the excitement when I pass over the border into a new country! My top tip is to book your trains as far in advance as possible for the best rates, be flexible on timings, and don’t forget if you’re under 26 you qualify for youth prices.

Costings:

Paris – Luxembourg international train (direct) – 2x youths = £25.61pp

Luxembourg – Bruges train (change at Liege) – 2x youths = £29.14pp

 

Accommodation

 

 

We picked some fantastic hotels for our trip and it made such a difference to have somewhere cosy and warm to come home to after a busy day of exploring. I knew the cities we had chosen weren’t the cheapest on earth and so we would have to use a significant amount of our budget to cover the cost of accommodation, but I think we did well considering we got 6 nights for under £600 which is just less than £300pp for the entire duration. I usually look at private rooms in hostels to keep costs down, but actually we found hotels that were still within our budget and so decided to spend a little bit more in order to get maximum comfort and security during our stay. Being a travel blogger, I usually reach out to hotels and offer my services (writing a review/promoting on social media) in exchange for a discounted/complimentary stay, however sadly I didn’t find any hotels that were free on my dates that were able to collaborate with me on this occasion which was a real shame. I did expect this though as we went over Easter weekend and the kids half term holidays, so be careful when you choose to travel if you are trying to pitch to hotels!

I am a big advocate of using online promo codes/vouchers to book hotels though and my travel hack when booking accommodation would be to book using Expedia. I have used them for years and never had a bad experience! For every hotel I booked I was able to find a 10-15% off voucher online (literally just Google Expedia promo code and one usually always comes up!) and also received up to 200 nectar points for each booking which is another bonus for me. I’ll be talking a bit more about the hotels I stayed in over the course of the next few weeks as I will be putting together individual travel guides to each city, but I wanted to keep this post purely about the costings/planning of an inter-railing trip so hopefully these tips will come in handy when you’re looking to book something!

Costings:

Hotel De Seine, Paris – 2 nights = total £246 = £123pp

Hotel Parc Belle Vue, Luxembourg – 2 nights = total £204 = £102pp

Ibis Hotel Brugge Centrum, Bruges – 2 nights = total £140.98 = £70.49pp

 

Activities/optional tours

 

 

Luckily as a travel blogger I am able to reach out and pitch to tour companies/excursion brands in order to enhance my trip and book some much needed add-on’s. On this occasion I was lucky enough to work with tour company Triple and holiday company Euroventure whilst in Paris. I went on a guided tour around the secret passageways of Paris with Triple and went up the famous Montparnasse Tower with Euroventure and both of these experiences really enhanced our stay. Again I will be writing about both tours in more detail when my Paris travel guide goes live. I also worked with the Luxembourg Tourism Board whilst I was exploring their beautiful capital city and was offered complimentary visitor cards which enabled us to make use of free public transport, free museum entry and discounted entry to a range of other attractions which really helped our budget in a city which is quite expensive! Where possible, pitch to brands in order to keep costs down – you’re probably going to be writing about them for your blog anyway, so you may as well get something in return for it. Obviously we did more tours/trips whilst we were there, but here are the ones we pre-booked/pre-paid before we left and what they cost/saved us in money…

Costings:

Montparnasse access for 2 adults, Paris = £17pp – GIFTED to us by Euroventure

Guided passageway tour for 2 adults, Paris = £30pp – GIFTED to us by Triple

Luxembourg card for 2 adults, Luxembourg = £17.50pp – GIFTED to us by Luxembourg Tourism

 

Total breakdown

 

 

Transport: £284.55 (£142.28pp)

Accommodation: £590.98 (£295.49pp)

Extras: £129 (£64.50pp) if we hadn’t been kindly gifted them.

GRAND TOTAL = £437.77pp – still would have been under £500pp even if we had paid for the optional extras!

So as you can see, there were lots of different elements to this trip which did make it add up, but everything was kept at a relatively low cost, which definitely helped to stick within budget. Obviously we had additional spending money for food/drink, other excursions and attractions we wanted to visit, and this was covered by the euros we used for spends. When planning an inter-railing trip like this I would definitely take into consideration the time of year, dates of travel (ie try and go mid-week where possible) and try to book transport as far in advance as possible. As you can see, even with a train strike, we were still able to travel to our intended destination and it didn’t affect our holiday too much, but having as much planned in advance really helped to take the stress away from what was otherwise quite a hectic trip. We had a brilliant week away and I can’t wait for my next adventure… inter-railing is definitely my favourite method of travel and I hope this might inspire you to take a similar trip in 2018!

Have you ever been inter-railing before? Get in touch – I’d love to hear your train tales!

Love Jess x

 

,

Why Nendaz, Switzerland Should Be on Your Bucket List – AllTheRooms.com Guest Post!

 

Last year I took the trip of a lifetime and spent a summer in the beautiful ski resort of Nendaz, nestled in the heart of the Swiss Alps. 4 other bloggers and I were invited by Travelopo and the Nendaz Tourism Board to stay in a fantastic ski chalet and admire everything that the resort had to other. We had a fantastic itinerary, a wonderful home for the week and plenty of things to keep us occupied on what was my first ever visit to Switzerland. I had never though to visit a ski resort in summer before, but I was completely blown away and had an amazing time. I’ve been thinking a lot about my trip lately and reminiscing over on Instagram, so when I was approached by travel startup at AllTheRooms about hosting a Nendaz guest blog on my site I jumped at another chance to showcase this incredible resort to all of you guys, my fantastic readers. Here’s why the team at AllTheRooms think Nendaz should be your pick for a Swiss mountain getaway…

 

Perched high in the Swiss Alps, Nendaz looks like the kind of place where James Bond would slip out of some chic chateau and race down the slopes with masked bad guys at his heels. Mr. Bond may not have the time to fully appreciate the panoramic views of the dramatic peaks and deep valleys, nor the long list of outdoor activities for those looking for adventure, but luckily, you do. For those of you who have dreamed of an escape deep into the Swiss Alps with nothing but powder, wonderful views and incredible hikes to fill your days, Nendaz deserves a place on your bucket list.

 

  1. The skiing, of course!

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

Located at the heart of the famed Four Vallees, Nendaz gives you access to 92 lifts and over 250 miles of runs in the immediate area. We recommend you check out Mont-Fort, Verbier, La Tzoumaz and Bruson. If you want to venture to another area, bring your skis over to the Sector Printse, where you’ll find 50 lifts and more than 130 miles of runs. It’s hard to go wrong when choosing between the two as both offer incredible slopes and scenery. Four Vallees is significantly larger and better known, so Sector Printse may feel a little more off the beaten track. However, you can’t really go wrong with either. Both deliver an exhilarating rush.

 

  1. Walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

Not everyone is up for the fast-paced exploring method that is downhill skiing. Some of us like to take in the scenery at a slower, steadier speed. Maybe that’s Mom and Dad, or maybe it’s a member of the group looking for a little change in routine after hitting the slopes hard for days in a row. Nendaz has over 60 miles of marked winter walking trails that beg to be explored. We highly recommend this route for photographers eager to capture the scenery. There are also numerous cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails for people looking to cover some rougher terrain. Whichever route you choose, you’ll end up with a spectacular view.

 

  1. The weather

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

We’ve emphasized the scenery, but one of the best parts of Nendaz is the weather. Famous for its consistently sunny weather, while in Nendaz you can expect clear days and plenty of sunshine, casting light over the incredible landscape.

 

  1. Helicopter drop-offs

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

In another James Bond fashion, you can reserve a helicopter to pick you up in Nandez and whisk you off over the mountains to the famous Zermatt resort. Once on the ground, your guide will lead you through some of the resort’s best skiing and take you to a fine-dining restaurant for a little break from the slopes. At the end of the day, the helicopter will pick you up and bring you right back home. While the scenery is breathtaking from the slopes and the valleys, the view from above is even more stunning. A helicopter may seem a touch over the top, but we believe a Nandez vacation is one worth maximizing. Just imagine the photos and videos.

 

  1. Summer hikes

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

Skiing is certainly the main attraction, but we have to say, Nendaz in the summer is equally impressive. Trade you ski boots for hiking boots, catch a chairlift (they run in the summer) and glide your way up the mountain to a wide range of hiking options. Simply choose a trail and enjoy the views. The temperatures hover in the mid-sixties during the summer months so the temperate climate and consistent sunshine make the perfect combination for outdoor exercise. For a cooldown, finish up the day poolside with views of the peaks.

 

  1. Nightlife bars and restaurants

 

 

Nendaz is small and doesn’t feel overwhelmingly touristy, and it also doesn’t leave you empty-handed at night time. Check out La Lanterne et le Vieux-Chalet for gourmet French cooking and a seat next to the fireplace. In the summer you can sit outside and take in the peaks while you eat. Head to Cactus Saloon for a few drinks and some live music or a DJ. Alternatively, if you feel like staying in, swing by Cafe a lait for a bottle of wine.

 

  1. Alphorns

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

This is a page right out of National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Gather the whole group and sign up for an Alphorn lesson. Giving the instrument all the air you’ve got while looking out over the Alps is quite an experience. If you can’t quite master the horn, experts will show you how at the Alphorn International Festival held every year in late July.

 

  1. Mountain biking

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

Like many of the world’s best ski areas, Nendaz doubles as excellent mountain biking terrain when temperatures increase. Replace white with green—get a Camelbak and spend the day on the slopes.

 

These are just a few reasons why Nendaz should definitely be on your bucket list. Have you ever been to a ski resort before? Have you done summer in the Alps or would you only go during winter? Let me know as I would love to hear from you! Thanks must go to the brilliant team at AllTheRooms for putting this guest post together for me, and for catapulting Nendaz right back to the top of my travel highlights from my amazing summer of travel last year!

Love Jess x

 

,

A Day in Oxford with Marco Polo Guides

Last weekend I spent a sunny Saturday wandering around my home city of Oxford, playing tourist and exploring it through different eyes as I joined a group of fellow travel bloggers and travel industry professionals for a fantastic event. Well known travel guide book company Marco Polo Guides, named after the famous Venetian merchant and explorer, were our hosts for the day and we were in Oxford to celebrate the launch of a brand new guide book for the city. This event was rather historic for Marco Polo, with it being their first ever blogger event, and with this book being the first ever UK guidebook (outside of London) to be published. The weather was super kind to us and we had a wonderful time checking out the landmarks, finding little hidden gems and talking all things travel with some wonderful bloggers and professionals. Here are my highlights from this wonderful day…

 

 

Brunch at Handle Bar Café

 

 

We kickstarted our day with late brunch at quirky café The Handle Bar, right in the heart of the city centre but tucked down the quiet St Michael’s Street, away from the hustle and bustle. This place was super cool and doubled up as a bicycle repair garage a well as a café. Specialising in dietary requirements, there were plenty of healthy, vegan and vegetarian options to choose from. Most of the fellow attendees went for a healthy poached eggs and avo combo, whereas I went for a big full English and made sure I enjoyed every mouthful! Although super busy, the vibe was really laid back, the staff were so friendly and lovely and it was a great place to meet everyone for the first time.

 

Bar & pub stops at The Varsity Club and The Turf Tavern

 

 

After brunch we walked up the high street towards the famous Covered Market, which is home to tonnes of little shops, cafes and boutique stores. We wandered around the market and then had some free time to explore. As a local girl, I have walked round the Covered Market approx. 5000 times and although it is lovely, there isn’t loads to see. However, when I suggested heading to rooftop bar The Varsity Club for views of the dreaming spires, a large proportion of the group wanted to follow suit and I gladly lead the way up the steep staircase to this hidden gem located on Oxford’s High Street. Sunshine? Check. Aperol spritz? Check. Rooftop views? Check. What more could you want on a sunny Saturday afternoon?! After we re-grouped and went on a bit more walking, we then decided to head to famous pub The Turf Tavern, just off Holywell Street, and parked ourselves in their rather small but very cutesy beer garden. A regular haunt of the likes of CS Lewis, Thomas Hardy and, more recently a whole host of political figures including Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton, this historic Grade II listed building is super popular with locals and tourists alike and is a must-visit when in Oxford.

 

Walking tour of the city

 

 

As it’s so small, Oxford is best explored on foot and you can definitely see it all in a day. Obviously I’ve lived here all my life so I know pretty much everything there is to know about Oxford, but I know walking is always the best method of discovery – trust me when I say that parking/driving is a nightmare! Our walking tour took us from the Covered Market, down the High Street and towards the Head of the River where we stopped to watch the boats going punting up and down the Thames. We then made our way past both the Queens and Oriel colleges before stopping to take lots of photos down pastel coloured Holywell Street which is an Instagrammers DREAM! After that we headed towards the Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre and the Bridge of Sighs before making our way towards the most famous landmark in the city, the beautiful RadCam.

 

Free time at the Radcliffe Camera

 

 

Probably my most favourite building in oxford, and definitely the most popular, the Radcliffe Camera is a sight to behold at any time of year, but even more so when the skies are blue and the sun is shining! Belonging to Oxford University, and built in the 1730s in a Neo-Classical style, the Camera is used to house the Radcliffe Science Library and is situated just behind the High Street, between Brasenose and All Souls Colleges. The square it sits in is always busy with tourists, but it’s location opposite the pretty St Mary’s Church is enviable and I would definitely recommend climbing the steps of the church tower for breath-taking panoramic views of the Camera and the rest of the city’s spires below.

 

Champagne afternoon tea at The Vaults & Garden

 

 

We ended our day the way we started it – with lots of food and drink! Perfectly positioned directly opposite the Radcliffe Camera, the Vaults and Garden Café is within the crypt of St Mary’s Church and its outdoor garden offers unspoilt views of the Camera itself. We sat inside as there were so many of us, and the interior was beautiful, with original stone walls from the church and a lovely décor too. We were treated to the most amazing afternoon tea, with sandwiches, cakes and scones as well as hot and soft drinks and some bubbles too. Sitting down for afternoon tea in such a beautiful setting was the perfect way to end a fantastic day filled with travel, blog talk and lots of fun! The staff couldn’t do enough for us, they were all so friendly and super welcoming so I will definitely be coming back to the Vaults and Garden for more sweet treats and I already can’t wait to tell my friends all about it!

 

As you can see, our day consisted of lots of walking and lots of food and drink stops which was a great way of seeing the city and spending quality time with my new blogger friends. The team at Marco Polo were fantastic, super friendly and really welcoming. It was so nice to attend a local event as I am always travelling to and from London to attend blogging courses/conferences and work-shops etc, so it was so nice to stay so close to home! I was born in Oxford and have grown up there so obviously know the city like the back of my hand, but it was amazing to experience it in a different light and share some of my insider tips with the rest of the gang too. Have you ever been to Oxford before? What do you like most about it? I know I’m biased but I think it’s one of the prettiest cities in the UK, and there really is no place like home!

Love Jess x

N.B. A huge thankyou must go to Hayley, Senja, Diane and Petra from Marco Polo for putting on such a fantastic event, and to the Handle Bar and The Vaults for a wonderful brunch and afternoon tea to start and end the day! I was invited to this event as a guest of Marco Polo Guides, but as always all thoughts, comments, and words are of course my own.