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NEW FEATURE Top 5 Things to do in… Oxfordshire!

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Hi everyone,

Welcome to a BRAND NEW monthly feature of mine: Top 5 Things to do in…! I thought I would compile lists of top five things to do in some of my favourite areas across Europe so I can share my experiences with you all and pass on some handy info! This week I have chosen to share my home county with you all; Oxfordshire really is a beautiful place to live in and I definitely take it for granted at the best of times! I think it’s because I’m always planning my next adventure and I’m always itching to travel to different places so I end up feeling bored if I have to stay home all weekend, but there’s so many things to see and do around here that I really should get out and make the most of it! As you may have seen from one of my previous posts, I was recently a ‘tourist for the day’ in my home city of Oxford and had so much fun! So, without further ado, please see my list of top five attractions below:

1)     University Parks, Oxford

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Take a stroll round one of the most famous universities in the world and soak up the history by walking round the colleges and grounds where people such as Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Thatcher & Hugh Grant once studied. The Uni Parks are particularly beautiful in the summer, so why not grab some of your friends together for a picnic and catch up over some Pimms & lemonade whilst you relax in one of the prettiest parts of the country! What’s more, the parks are totally free to walk around so you can just rock up whenever you fancy and can spend as little or as much time there as you see fit! The parks are right in the centre of Oxford so you can easily go shopping throughout the day and make the most of it, this is a must on my summer list as soon as I have a free weekend and the sun looks set to last!

2)     Blenheim Palace, Woodstock

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I adore this place simply because of how beautiful it is! Located in the picturesque village of Woodstock, this amazing building was the birth place of the great Winston Churchill and is the only building in the UK to be named as a palace despite not having any connections to the royal family. It is now home to the Dukes of Marlborough and the grounds and parts of the house are open to the public between February and November throughout the year. The grounds are amazing, we used to go and take the dog who was in heaven running round all the grassy areas and making friends with the other canines! We also used to collect conkers during the autumn months when the trees looked incredible and the leaves would all fall off creating a blanket across the whole area; it was even more beautiful in the snow too! Over the years, Blenheim Palace has been host to a number of high profile events, including half marathons & triathlons, battle of the proms, game fairs and celebrity weddings (Marvin & Rochelle Humes and John & Toni Terry both got married here). I haven’t been to Blenheim in a long time but am super excited to plan another day trip here with my family when the weather starts to improve in the Spring!

3)     Cotswold Wildlife Park, Near Burford

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I have been visiting the Cotswold Wildlife Park every year since I was a baby and even now I still adore it and love it just as much as I did when I was a kid.  The attractions keep on getting better and better each year, with new animals and enclosures added all the time to enhance the park. A particular favourite of mine has always been the penguin pool with the daily talks and feeds from the keepers which make the experience so interesting. The best thing about the park is that you can explore totally at your own leisure, following lots of different paths towards all the enclosures so you get to see it all throughout your trip. Make a day of it and stop for lunch – thats what we do everytime! Take a picnic and park up on the various benches and greens that are present throughout, or visit the cafe which serves numerous hot meals at decent prices. My last trip to the park was in September 2014, where I had a lazy Saturday but an incredibly busy Sunday!

4)     The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford & Bodleian Library, Oxford

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These two landmarks are located side by side and so go hand in hand; they are definitely a must see when visiting Oxford! They are truly beautiful and I am in awe every time I pass themwhen visiting Oxford for the day; it definitely doesn’t get old! These iconic buildings situated in the heart of Oxford should definitely NOT to be missed. After building began in the 1700s, the camera was inherited by Dr John Radcliffe (the royal physician) and was home to a stunning library housing around 600,000 books. Today they are used in connection with each other but sadly the Camera is not open to the public so must be marvelled at from the outside only. The Library is in use though and students often make the most of the serenity and go there to revise in peace! The Library has also been used in some major TV and film projects and is probably most famous for being home to The Hogwarts Infirmary in the blockbuster Harry Potter movies.

5)     White horse Hill, Uffington 

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This unique spectacle is certainly something to be marvelled at and can be seen from miles and miles away! The internationally-renowned Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse can be seen leaping across the head of a dramatic & beautiful landscape. As part of the National Trust, the house is situated in miles of rolling countryside and is a perfect place to head off for a long country walk or to park up for the day and enjoy a picninc. As kids we used to come here to fly our kites on a windy day and would spend hours getting lost in the expansive valleys. The horse is part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland. Bring the whole family for a day out where you really can escape in this stunning countryside.

So there you have it, my list of Top 5 Things to do in Oxfordshire. Next month’s feature is London and it’s going to be a gooden so make sure you keep an eye out for it!

Love Jess x

 N.B. Photos of Uni Parks, Blenheim Palace, Cotswold Wildlife Park & White Horse Hill are courtesy of Google Images. All other photos are my own.

London Day Trip: From Kensington to Westminster to Tower Bridge!

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London blog write up: The day we walked from Westminster to Tower Bridge!

Happy Friday everyone! Today’s post is all about London – my favourite city in the world! It was my birthday last week so me and my best friend caught the train to Paddington station to enjoy a fun filled day out in our wonderful capital city. First of all we headed to South Kensington to check out the Royal Albert Hall & Kensington Gardens as we both hadn’t been to that area of London since we went on a school trip at the tender age of 14! The Royal Albert Hall is such a unique and iconic London landmark, and I’d forgotten how beautiful it was. Opposite was the famous statue of King Albert & Queen Victoria together which presented yet another photo opportunity, greatly complimenting the beautiful Royal Hall.

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Next we took a wander past The Natural History Musuem, but decided against going in at that time as the queue reached almost as far as South Kensington tube station! We headed into the museum on our way back home though, so that will feature in this  post a little later on.

After catching the tube from South Kensington to Westminster we strolled round the area taking in all the well known sights, including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament.

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Next stop was the Embankment, one of my favourite parts of London, and we marvelled at The London Eye whilst stopping for a quick bite to eat. After passing the Sealife Aquarium, London Dungeons and amusements arcade we headed for a long stroll down The Queens Walk towards Jubilee Gardens and the famous Golden Jubilee bridges.

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Our intention was to end up at Tower Bridge via the underground District Line, but we ended up walking there rather than getting the tube as it was such a lovely day with bright sunshine! Our walk was amazing, and we were able to take in so many famous landmarks on our way including:

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I loved the freedom of exploring the city on foot, rather than by using the underground, and although it took over an hour to reach our final destination, it was totally worth it!

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Tower Bridge is my favourite place on earth, I absolutely love it and for me nothing else compares; it will always hold a special place in my heart for very personal reasons. We took many photos (including selfies!) and made friends with lots of lovely tourists who were seriously impressed with my selfy stick- a must have for any travel blogger! After walking across the monumental bridge and back down past the Tower of London we decided to head over to Tower Hill tube station and make our way back to South Kensington.

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Once there we ventured into The Natural History Museum (I told you it would return!) and explored the premises – I’d not been to the museum since I was ten years old so it was amazing to see how much it had changed, and how little I remembered! It was exciting to re-discover everything though, from the space and geographical areas to the fossils and historical departments which I found the most fascinating.

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After an incredibly tiring but amazing day we headed back to Paddington and onwards home to Oxford station. I had an amazing time celebrating my birthday in my favourite city, but was so ready for my bed that night! I hope you’ve enjoyed my write up of London, if you have any questions please get in touch.. what parts of the capital have you been to and which are your favourites?

Speak soon!

Love Jess x

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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.

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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Sorry…. delayed write up of Barcelona Day 2!

Hi everyone, hope you are enjoying this lovely sunny weather – who else keeps forgetting that they’re actually in England?! I know I do!!

Firstly I wanted to apologise for the delay in uploading this post, I haven’t been too well over the last few days hence the lack of activity! Unfortunately I also wasnt very well at all on day two of my trip (but this was down to too much drinking the night before!!) and so there isn’t actually a lot to tell you but I will do my best.. enjoy!!

So after being repetitively sick for more than 12 hours (stomach bug, alcohol poisoning – call it what you wish, but it was truly awful!) I wasn’t able to get out and enjoy the Spanish sunshine as I would have liked and was therefore confined to my room as I couldn’t even get out the door without needing to go straight back to the bathroom! I didnt want to spoil the day for my friends though, and so they went out on a boat trip round the port which they said was very enjoyable but was quite pricey at a staggering 48 euros each!! I think they boarded quite a small boat so it was more personal and they were on the water for around 2-3 hours. They did enjoy the trip but said there wasn’t much to see as it literally just went round the beach and  the port. I am sure it was worthwhile though!

Once they had returned and I started to feel a bit better towards the end of the day I managed to get changed and ready for our evening meal. After ordering the plainest thing on the menu I fell ill again and unfortunately had to rush to the toilet to be sick! Obviously this spoilt the evening and I had to go home, but the girls ordered some Tapas dishes at the restaurant and said it was good so I think they made the best out of it! We ate at a restaurant called Moka http://www.moka.es/ and it was laid out like a diner, quite cool inside with lots of different dishes to order.

That pretty much sums up day two of my trip, watch out for day three coming next which I promise is much more interesting! Thanks for reading!

Jess 🙂 x