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Throwback Thursday: Paphos, Cyprus

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Welcome to this month’s Throwback Thursday feature!

I’ve not done one of these for a while but I’m super excited to be blogging about one of my favourite places in the world! Paphos is truly a beautiful holiday destination which is perfect for families, friends and couples alike looking for a relaxing break away in the sun. I traveled here in June 2013 for a weeks holiday and had a fantastic time, so here’s my best bits!….

The Journey

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You can fly to Cyprus from pretty much any airport in the UK but I chose to go with Thomas Cook on a package holiday from East Midlands airport which offered great flight times at very reasonable prices. The average flight time is 4 and a half hours on the way there and just over five hours on the way back. These were actually the longest flights I’ve ever been on as I’m yet to venture out of Europe (sigh!) but both journeys went really quickly and we were well looked after by our cabin crew.

The Hotel

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We had booked into the four star Avanti Village in the heart of Paphos on a self catering basis for the duration of our stay. The complex was beautiful with a large fresh water pool, lazy river, pretty gardens and plenty of activities on offer. Our first floor one bedroom studio apartment was spacious and clean with good quality facilities and was situated at the front of the complex so we had a lovely view of the pool. We ate at the snack bar a couple of times and the food was great. I particularly enjoyed the swim up bar in the pool which was brilliant, a real novelty for me.

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There were a few restaurants (BBQ grill & an Italian) to the rear of the complex if you wanted to eat closer to home as the hotel was around a 30min walk from the centre of Paphos. If you dont fancy walking it the buses in Paphos are amazing, 1Euro each way per person, or 3Euro per person for a full day ticket so you could hop and hop off wherever you wanted! We did this a couple of times and uses our day tickets to go to Coral Bay, the Old Town/Market and into Paphos Harbour when we were feeling more tired! This actually worked well for us as we liked to be away from the hustle and bustle. The scenic walk along the coast was beautiful each night and we got to see the sun go down day after day which was a real treat. You can read my Trip Advisor review of the Avanti Village here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g190384-d622520-r164249468-Avanti_Village-Paphos_Paphos_District.html#REVIEWS

The Resort

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The resort is situated around Paphos Castle and Harbour, so everything is all in one place. There are tonnes of souvenir shops, bars, cafe’s and restaurants so we were never stuck for something to do. It’s well worth visiting Paphos Castle and having a wander round as the views over the harbour from the top are truly stunning.

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As we were on a self catering holiday, we chose to eat dinner out every night and I was so glad we did this as it gave us the opportunity to try out loads of beautiful restaurants. As is expected, the closer you are to the sea the more expensive the meals are, but you get what you pay for and the experience of enjoying an evening  of food and drink whilst watching the waves roll in was something we didn’t want to pass up on! As the centre of Paphos is situated around its harbour, the beach was a bit further away and wasn’t the focal point of the resort which actually made a nice change for me as I often get bored on beaches! The beach wasn’t typically long and sandy, but it was pleasant enough and was a great place to watch the sun set over the nearby harbour.

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Price wise, the restaurants in Paphos are a little on the expensive side but again it does depend where you go and what you eat. An average meal and drinks for a couple was around 40-50 euros which is higher than what I’ve previously paid in places like Spain, Greece and The Canaries. On our last night we spent €80 on a posh dinner and cocktails by the sea which was a lot of money but it’s nice to be able to push the boat out once in a while! I can see how it would be costly to feed a family each night at this resort so hotels offering all inclusive or full board deals might be worth considering for larger parties.

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Nightlife in Paphos is great, there’s always something going on! There were a number of clubs, our favourites were Flairs and Linekars, which did great drinks deals and planned party nights. Hen do’s and stag weekend’s were arriving for the start of the season and we were told it gets extremely busy during the main summer months. For a more chilled night out there are plenty of bars on offer if you’re not looking to go clubbing.

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Day Trips

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There’s tonnes of excursions on offer in Paphos, from boat trips and jeep safaris to horse riding and wine tasting, there really is something for everyone. We did three day trips in total, one day exploring the old town and the markets, another on a half day boat trip and one on an all day jeep safari.

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The old town was beautiful with lots of historical buildings and places of interest together with panoramic views across the resort. We spent time rambling down little side streets exploring the hidden gems and grabbed a few bargains at the local markets before catching the bus back to the harbour. As mentioned above, the buses in Paphos are brilliant and are excellent value for money, a great way of exploring further afield. As the old town was away from the sea it got incredibly hot and humid so just be wary of that if, like me, you struggle with the heat! June was a great time to visit Cyprus as the temp reached around 26-28 degrees so it wasn’t too hot. We were told that it gets as hot as 35 degrees during July and August as its peak season so I’d recommend avoiding these months if you want the weather to be a little more bearable.

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The half day boat trip with Paphos Sea Cruises was a brilliant day out and probably the highlight of the holiday. We boarded the luxurious Ocean Flyer from the harbour at midday and cruised along the West Coast of Paphos sailing the Mediterranean sea towards the nearby beautiful Coral Bay beach. There were a couple of swimming stops along the way and a buffet was served on board along with as much drink as you could handle- this was included in the ticket price of €40pp which we thought was great value for money. The cruise lasted for four hours and you could jump straight on to an evening one if you wanted to continue with your day at sea- with dinner, musical entertainment and fireworks on offer we were hugely tempted!

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The last day trip we did was the Akamas jeep safari, something I had never done before and it was truly amazing! We were in a group of around 8 people plus our driver/guide who took us high into the mountains and showed us a completely different side of Cyprus. We started with the magical sea caves which were breathtakingly beautiful and then made our way up to Avakas Gorge where we trekked through a pretty waterfall.

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After a short stop for lunch (included in €35 ticket price) we were taken to a couple of small fishing villages, Polis and Latchi, one of which was close to Turtle Beach but unfortunately we didn’t spot any of the turtles as it was out of hatching season! We were told July- September was the best time to catch them. Finally we headed to the Baths of Aphrodite where the famous Goddess of Love once bathed with her soul mate Adonis. On our journey back down to Paphos we passed through Greek and Turkish villages which were like ghost towns due to the after effects of one of the wars, our guide explained the history of the town’s and it was very moving. We were dropped back at our hotel by about 5pm and were shattered after a long days exploring! I’d definitely recommend this excursion to make the most of your time in Cyprus.

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So that’s this month’s Throwback Thursday finished – have you ever been to Cyprus or ever wanted to go? Feel free to ask any questions you might have, I’d be delighted to help!

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My next post will be a short write up on a recent day out to nearby Cheltenham, so watch out for this coming soon!

Love Jess x

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Blenheim Palace: A brilliant family day out!

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Hi everyone,

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the lovely sunshine we have been having lately! Last Saturday I went on a family day out to the beautiful Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire (the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill!) and had such a fantastic time. We had bought annual passes for my mum for her Mothers Day present so we took the opportunity to use them and spent the whole day at the palace and gardens.

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The arrival to the Palace is truly spectacular, it’s such a beautiful building and looks so impressive from the outside. The interior is equally as stunning and, as this was my first time going in to the Palace since a primary school trip, I couldn’t wait to start exploring properly! We were taken into the Palace bedrooms where Winston Churchill resided and learnt a lot about the history of the rooms. We then joined The Untold Story which outlined the heritage of the Churchill family and took us back in time to the 1700s. The tour was a walk round event but each room had interactive features including touch screen monitors, audio speakers and screen projectors. Lasting for around 30 minutes, the tour was really informative and I’d recommend attending to ensure you make the most out of your visit to the Palace.

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After a short stop for lunch at the on site Cafe we then headed to the Pleasure Gardens to enjoy the afternoon sun. The Pleasure Gardens are a 5-10 minute walk from the Palace or a short train ride away if you prefer to use this method of transport- bear in mind that it will set you back 50p per adult! The Gardens is home to the exotic butterfly house, model village, family maze and children’s play area. You could bring a picnic and easily spend a couple of hours here exploring, and there is a nice restaurant/cafe on site. The maze was brilliant, and yes I did get lost as it was much more difficult than I thought!

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We bought Annual Passes for Blenheim so we can come back as many times as we want and therefore we didn’t experience all that there is on offer. For our next visit we will be taking the dog and going on a long walk around the grounds, so I’ll be sure to write another blog post on this! Blenheim really is a beautiful place and is fun for all the family. As a tip I would definitely recommend getting an Annual Pass as it’s the same price as a 1 day ticket! Don’t forget to head over to the kiosk next door to the Palace Cafe to get your pass. For an extra £5 you can also upgrade to a prestigious card which will get you 15% off all purchases in the cafe and gift shop – definitely worth it!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my Blenheim write up- have you ever been/ever wanted to go? Make sure you do – you won’t regret it! If you have any questions at all please just ask 🙂

Love Jess x

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European City Break: Prague!

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Hi everyone,

So I’ve just returned from my first city break of 2015 and I headed to the beautiful Czech capital of Prague for a quick getaway with my sister! Prague is such a beautiful city and, with so much to see and do, we had the most amazing time! We took off from London Gatwick airport on the morning of Friday 27th Feb and after a short 1hr35 flight (which literally flew by!) we landed safely at our destination. And as if by magic you can now BOOK the exact same trip I planned in one easy step – scroll down and read the last paragraph for details! In the meantime though, here’s what we got up to in Prague…

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During our adventure we stayed at the 4 star Hotel Louis Leger, located on Lergova Street a 15 minute walk from the famous Wenceslas Square. The hotel was clean and comfortable although a little old fashioned and dated in my opinion but I guess that’s just because I’m used to staying in big modern chain hotels, so this one definitely made a nice change! You can read my Trip Advisor review on Hotel Louis Leger here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d510395-r258188149-Hotel_Louis_Leger-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

DAY 1

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On our first day we spent some time checking out the local area, shopping in the various boutiques, and getting our bearings right before heading down to Wenceslas Square and then onto the Old Town to stop for some lunch. Food and drink prices in Prague are notoriously cheap and were amazed at how much we could get for our money; we definitely overindulged while we were there, but it was totally worth it! Once we had finished exploring and had been back to the hotel to freshen up we then headed to a nearby Italian, The Coloseum, for some yummy pizza, pasta & ice cream and enjoyed the evening together. The location of the hotel was quite a walk from the Old Town (30-40mins) but a manageable 15min walk from Wenceslas Square which wasn’t too bad. There were shops and restaurants lining the streets up to Wenceslas Square though so if your like us and didn’t fancy walking far on the first night you’ll have plenty of other choices for dinner a bit nearby! You can see my Trip Advisor review of The Coloseum restaurant here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d795457-r258189275-Pizza_Coloseum_Original_Pizza_Pasta-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

DAY 2

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We had booked a 4 hour tour for our second day and were so looking forward to seeing all the sights of the city. Martin Tours booked us on to The Grand Tour of Prague and we spent most of it on foot exploring everything there was to see. Trip advisor review here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d4960295-r258190924-Martin_Tour_Prague-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS Our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable and gave us plenty of time to take photos and ask questions etc, there were only a few of us on the tour so it was very personal which was great. We started in a minibus that took us from Wenceslas Square through the New Town, past monuments such as The Dancing House and The Rudolfenium, all the way to the top of Prague Castle.

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We then made our way around the complex, seeing the inside of the stunning St Vitus Cathedral, passing the Presidential suite (the flag was flying so the President himself was home!) and enjoying panoramic views across the city before beginning our descent towards the Old Town. Once we’d reached the bottom of the castle area we headed on foot to our next star attraction, Charles Bridge, which was truly a wonderful sight. Dating back to the 13th century, the bridge spans the width of the River Vltava and it’s history is etched into it’s bricks. Walking across the bridge was quite an experience, with our guide giving us the background on it’s purpose and it’s origins, and we could see for miles down the river.

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Next we headed to Old Town Square and saw the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn and the picturesque Old Town Hall before ending up at the breathtaking Astronomical Clock Tower to watch the clock strike on the hour – definitely a sight not to be missed! The figurine of a skeleton below the clock face pulls a cord which in turn opens four windows above to show the 12 disciples rotating around and the chimes can be heard loudly. There’s something quite eery and mystical about the whole thing and it’s worth seeing just make sure you are there on the hour!

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Later in the afternoon we were booked on to a river boat cruise which sailed up and down the Vlatva. The cruise lasted for an hour, complete with English speaking guide who gave a running commentary, and there were plenty of photo opportunities throughout as we made our way up towards Charles Bridge and back. We passed Prague Castle, the Prime Minister’s residential home and a few other attractions on our way downstream and the boat then dropped us back at the port where we had to walk back into the city.This only took 5 minutes and we were back in Old Town Square before we knew it!

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Later on in the evening we made our way to Wenceslas Square for dinner and ended up in a delightful restaurant, Como, which was part of the Javert Hotel right on the strip. The food was incredible, I had a tradtional Czech beef goulash whilst my sister opted for the homemade lasagne. Although the restaurant was quite fancy the prices were great and we thoroughly enjoyed spoiling ourselves! View my review of Como Restaurant here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d1568048-r258189073-Como_Restaurant_Cafe-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

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DAY 3

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On our third and final full day we had booked an afternoon World War Two Tour with a different company, Prague Tours and were very much looking forward to seeing what was in store for us. In the morning though we needed something else to do for a few hours and so decided to climb to the top of the Astronomical Tower (as you do!) for a panoramic view across the city. We paid 120 korona each (just £3!!) to climb right to the top of the tower and when we got there we saw the most amazing sights and the views were incredible. Plenty of photos were taken and we made the most of our view by just enjoying the atmosphere and admiring the city for a while before we had to come down!

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After a short stop for lunch we met our tour guide, Marketa (who was fantastic), outside the historic Powder Tower and were taken round the streets of the Old Town for the first part of our tour, passing various parts of the city which were heavily involved in WW2. We were taken on foot through the Old Town and then gained access to the lower part of the Astronomical Tower, exploring the underground chambers which we learnt were used for hideout by members of the Prague Resistance. This was a fascinating part of the tour and it was so interesting to walk through the areas that were used in such an important historical time period. We also learnt a lot about the assassination of Nazi SS leader Reinhard Heydrich by local Czech residents, and the terror that Nazi occupation brought to a city desperate to be free from invasion although it was key to Hitler’s quest for world domination.

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Next we headed into the Jewish Quarter to see the areas known as Ghetto’s during WW2 and learnt about how badly they were treated by the Nazi’s. I found this part of the tour very emotional, and so did a lot of the others as Marketa explained the horror that was bestowed upon these innocent people during one of Prague’s darkest times. At points, Jews were shot at by Nazi soldiers if they so much as walked on the pavement! Shocked and disgusted, I couldn’t even imagine something like that happening in today’s world; Marketa spoke with such deep emotion when she explained things that had happened and it moved a lot of us in the group to tears. We ended up near Charles Bridge again and wound up our tour having an open conversation, raising questions and pointers about the main areas before saying goodbye and returning back to the city centre. My sister and I thought this was the best city tour we had ever been on and had real admiration for Marketa; she knew her facts, was very passionate and extremely friendly. You can view my Trip Advisor review on the tour here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d2254923-r258191625-World_War_II_in_Prague_Tour-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

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Dinner that night was at the incredible Hard Rock Cafe, the biggest one in Europe, and we certainly had a dining experience to remember! We each chose huge burgers for our main and had a couple of cocktails, the music played in the Cafe was shown on big TV screens on the walls and really added to the ‘rock’ vibe that was present. The food was great, the atmosphere was brilliant and we couldn’t fault the friendly service; we even wandered around the shop afterwards in search of some merchandise! Read my rocking review of this place on my Trip Advisor account: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d1516182-r258189525-Hard_Rock_Cafe-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

On our fourth and final day we woke early for breakfast, checked out of our room, and headed to nearby Praha airport (a 30 min taxi ride away) to catch our flight back to London Gatwick. We had a brilliant time in Prague and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a short European break in a cultural, historical and beautiful city. With so much to see and do you are certainly spoilt for choice, although three nights was plenty of time for us to explore everything we needed to.

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My next trips are concerts & day trips in Oxford and London so I’ll keep you posted on these, I have family down for a couple of weeks for Easter and then I’m heading back to Liverpool again in April so I’ve got plenty to be blogging about!

As mentioned above, you can now book the EXACT trip I did in one easy step – just click on the link below for more details and to request a quote!

Get a quote for this trip

Love Jess x

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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