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Hotel Review: Mollie’s Motel & Diner, Oxfordshire

 

Last week I had the pleasure of staying at Mollie’s Motel, a brand new motel and diner complex in Buckland, Oxfordshire. Located just off the a420, with direct links to nearby Oxford and Swindon, Mollie’s Motel is perfectly positioned to enjoy a short stopover in pretty Oxfordshire. I was invited, along with my friend Steph who came as my plus one, to stay over at the motel and check out the diner last Thursday. Steph and I had a great time during our visit and loved everything about it. Here’s my full review on Mollie’s, and why I think you’ll love it too!

 

The Motel Rooms

 

 

Created by the brand behind Soho Farmhouse, Mollie’s Motel has an exclusive, luxury feel to it but without the expensive price tag. The motel boasts 79 cosy, comfortable rooms varying in size and space and you can choose from double, accessible, bunk or interconnecting rooms. With an enormous double bed, ample storage space, a rainforest shower and Cowshed toiletry products, our room had everything we would need and more for our short stay.

 

 

The TV doubled up as a room service style menu from which we could easily see what items were stocked in the general store/reception and there was info about the room as well as the rest of the motel and the diner too. Our room was located on the second floor overlooking the neon Mollie’s Motel sign below and we could see the courtyard garden slightly to the left. We got a great nights sleep and had the most amazing shower the next morning! With rooms starting from as little as ยฃ50 per night, a stay at Mollie’s is an absolute steal!

 

The Diner

 

 

With its retro decor, neon lights and classic menu, the diner is a flashback to 1950s America and will instantly transport you back to that era. There’s music playing in the background, the smell of burgers and fries in the air, and enormous milkshakes brought right to your table. Mollie’s diner is the real star of the show, and the main reason this place is so popular. Guests aren’t able to book so mealtimes get extremely busy with queues for walk ins, but there’s also a drive-thru service for those who don’t have time to queue for table service. For dinner I opted for the buttermilk chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries whilst Steph chose the dirty double bacon burger with sweet potato fries too.

 

 

If you choose the Dirty Deals package you get fries and a drink added to selected dishes at a small extra charge, and a selection of soft drinks are refillable which makes it great value for money. The next morning for breakfast I chose the veggie breakfast, swapping the avocado for an extra hash brown just because I fancied it, whilst Steph went for the maple syrup and bacon waffles which looked AMAZING!


The Location

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, Mollie’s is situated just off the a420, the road that links Swindon to Oxford and plenty of other towns and villages in between. There’s a BP petrol station just next to the car park and the motel and diner are right opposite each other, with plenty of free parking. If you want to explore nearby Oxford you can reach the city in just over half an hour by car, or the pretty Cotswolds towns of Bampton, Witney and Faringdon are around a 10-15 minute drive away. The staff on reception at the general store will be more than happy to help with any sightseeing recommendations, and it’s a great place to relax if you prefer not to be holed up in your room, with lounge areas, charging stations, free wifi and complimentary tea and coffee too!


The Staff

 

Photo courtesy of Mollie’s Instagram Page

 

 

I always say that the staff are such an important part of a hotel or restaurant and for Mollie’s this couldn’t be more true. Natalie on reception checked us in and was on hand to answer any queries that we had. She recommended a fab cocktail for us to try on the bar menu and was so lovely and friendly, just the kind of person you would want to see at check in! Brandon & Dave both worked in the diner and looked after us so well during dinner. Nothing was too much trouble, even when we asked for a couple of cocktails that weren’t even on the menu! They recommended food and drinks to us and seemed to know the menu inside out. At breakfast the next morning we were looked after by Dave again and a couple of different waitresses who were absolutely lovely and couldn’t have done more for us. The staff at Mollie’s really went above and beyond to make our stay that extra bit special and they were absolutely brilliant – I couldn’t fault their service one bit!

 

The App

 

 

Despite its 1950s theme and old fashioned retro touches, Mollie’s is right on trend with their brand new app which is available on both Apple and Android. Guests are encouraged to download and book rooms through the app in order to make check in as smooth as possible. Upon arrival, guests who have booked through the app will automatically be connected to the wifi which then tells them which room number they’re in and enables their phones to be used as their room key. The keyless system brings a futuristic feel and I think it’s a real standout feature of Mollie’s, but with the general store/reception being manned 24/7, there’s always a friendly face to speak to as well should you have any problems with the app, or if you just want to speak to an actual human upon check in!

As you can see, my plus one and I had SUCH a lovely time visiting Mollie’s last week! I can see why Mollie’s has been so successful since its launch, with its modern motel rooms and its great value diner food, there’s something to appeal to all ages. I’m a local girl who lives just a 20 minute drive away, so it’s very close to home for me and I know I’ll definitely be back at Mollie’s with some of my friends again soon!

NB. I was a guest of Mollie’s for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts and words are of course my own.

 

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5 Things I’ve Learnt from 5 Years of Blogging, and how Travelling Changed my Life!

 

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Sooo I just wanted to come on here and let you all know that Journeys with Jessica celebrated its 5th birthday this week! 5th!! That is CRAZYYYY! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ I remember when I started my little blog, back in 2014, when I was 21 years old and my world had just been turned upside down for all the wrong reasons. An awful relationship break up left me with no motivation, no energy, no desire to carry on and make something of my life. For 3 months I barely ate or slept. I was broken and didn't think I'd ever be happy again, until I started to travel and I started my blog. I didn't know it back then, but the decision I made to start travelling actually changed my life. ๐ŸŒŽ Instead of wallowing in self pity and worrying about trying to change the past, I started to look forward. I started to plan trips, book short weekend stays and long weeks away, and I started to live again. I couldn't fall in love with anyone else, but I did fall in love with travelling, and to this day it's been the best decision I've ever made. โค๏ธ I've driven across Route 66 in America, rode the Great Ocean Road in Australia, inter-railed around Europe, cruised around the Med and visited 28 countries by the age of 26. I've helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been on a gondola in Venice, climbed the Eiffel Tower, skydived over Uluru, flew over Fraser Island and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef. Sometimes I can't believe how much I've done and I have to pinch myself that this has been my life. ๐ŸŽ‰ So if anyone out there is ever feeling like I did 5 years ago, or if you're not sure where your life is heading and need to make some changes, I urge you to travel. To discover new places, to meet new faces, to live a different life. 5 years from now I hope I'm still in love with travel, that I'm going to more countries than ever before and that I'm even happier than I am now. ๐ŸŒŸ

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In case you missed my epic Instagram announcement earlier on this week, I am absolutely THRILLED to let you all know that my little blog celebrated it’s 5th birthday this week and it has made me so unbelievably happy! I cannot imagine my life without my blog, or without travel in it, and sometimes I genuinely have to pinch myself that I’ve lived the life I have. 5 years ago, when I first launched my little space on the Internet, I had no idea how much it would change my life. I didn’t know the friends I would make, or the opportunities I would gain. I didn’t know that I’d reach almost 10,000 social media followers across all platforms, or that a whopping 5000 people would view my blog every single month. I thought it would just give me something to do in my spare time, and would be a little hobby for me. I thought that only my mum and dad would read it, and that no one else would ever take an interest, but boy how wrong I was! Here’s 5 things I’ve learnt during my 5 years of blogging…

 

It’s given me so much confidence

 

 

Let’s take it back to the beginning, back to 2014 when this little blog was launched. I had just come out of a horrific relationship break up and was at an all time low. For three months I barely slept or ate, I had no confidence, no motivation, no desire to do anything or make something of myself. I wasn’t excited about anything, I had no appetite, I didn’t even want to see my friends or do anything with my family. I was completely broken, and I was a shadow of my former self, until one day when I decided to book a trip to Barcelona with 2 of my best friends. I didn’t know it back then, but that day would shape the course of my entire life for the next 5 years. Once I had my trip booked I had something to look forward to, something to get excited about. Once that trip was over I booked another one, and another one after that. I started my blog, so that writing about my trips would keep my travel dreams alive until I got on my next flight. I was obsessed with all things travel, and blogging, and it gave me a new lease of life. I started attending events, networking, going to conferences. I started speaking to more and more bloggers online and consumed myself with this new world – it was amazing, I felt like a new person, and it really gave me my mojo back.

 

I’ve made some amazing friendsย 

 

 

One of the best things about blogging has got to be all the new friends I’ve made over the past 5 years since I started Journeys with Jessica. I didn’t know that strangers I would interact with online would later become some of my best friends, and people I still speak to now on a daily basis. I’ve even gone on trips with some of them, and attended new events and parties with them too. The turning point for me came when I went to my first ever travel blogging conference, Traverse in Cardiff back in 2016. I went with Lucy, one of the girls I met on Twitter, stayed overnight at her house and ended up becoming firm friends. We went on a trip to Bratislava and Vienna two years later, and next week we are going to be reunited in Italy as I attend my 4th Traverse conference in Trento! I speak to so many fellow bloggers online, and count many of them as wonderful, real life friends as they’re no longer just strangers off the Internet! That’s the beauty of blogging, it brings you face to face with friends you’d never meet in every day life and gives you the opportunity to connect with like-minded people from all over the world.

 

It’s given me some epic travel opportunitiesย 

 

 

I didn’t start my blog in order to get free travel, it was never even something that crossed my mind, but 5 years later I have been lucky enough to benefit from some fantastic travel opportunities, and it’s all thanks to my little corner of the Internet! It took me 3 years before I started to go on press trips or get invites to go to things with my blog, so it’s definitely not something that happens overnight. A real turning point for me came when I went to my second Traverse conference, this time in London, and I met so many brands, bloggers and tourism boards who were ACTUALLY INTERESTED in working with influencers and creating content. I hit the jackpot when, just a couple of weeks later, I was invited to Menorca for a week long trip with Visit Spain, Turismo de Menorca and Traverse themselves for a weekend conference followed by 4 days of post-event adventures. I was selected as one of 50 UK bloggers and it was such an honour for me to be there. Later on that year I also went to Hamburg on a 3 day trip with 4 other bloggers and got to experience the best that the city has to offer with the German tourism board. Other press trips have included numerous hotel and restaurant reviews, gifted city cards and itineraries hand crafted by tourism boards ready for me to explore and share content on my blog. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that has been my job for the past few years!

 

I’ve pushed myself to be the best person I can be

 

 

Although travelling has made me the best person I can be, I would also say that blogging has too. I know the two go hand in hand, but before I started blogging I had no experience in the social media or marketing world, no idea how to present myself or pitch for work, and no clue on how to network and meet new people. Fast forward 5 years and I can now walk in to a room full of strangers and introduce myself and my blog. I can send pitch emails to brands who I want to work with, and I can tell them why I’m the right person they should choose to collaborate with. As well as the Traverse travel blogging conferences, I have also been twice to WTM, the biggest travel conference in the world, and have met with brands, tourism boards and airlines face to face to pitch directly to them and tell them all about me and my blog. I would NEVER have had the confidence to do something like this 5 years ago, and I think that shows just how far I have come in both my professional life and on a personal level. I push myself to do things that are out of my comfort zone because I know how much it will benefit me in the long run, and I think this has been a key part of my success as a travel blogger.

 

It’s taught me to appreciate everything in life

 

 

Travelling has taught me so much about the world, but also so much about myself too. When I’m on a trip I just throw myself into it every single day, I wake up early and go to bed late, I see as much as I can whilst I’m there and I enjoy every single second. When you’re travelling you realise just how small you are in comparison to the rest of the world. You see things in a different light, and you realise that some things just don’t matter. All perception of things become clearer when you travel, and I’ve had two life changing experiences through 2 different trips (4 weeks in America and 6 weeks in Australia) which have totally turned my world around. I also see things differently when I come home after trips like these too – they just open my eyes and make me realise there are things which aren’t important, and things that are, and they help to re-align my life and get things back on track.ย  Life is too short to be unhappy, so book that hotel, get on that flight and don’t look back! I honestly don’t know that I’d have done over the past 5 years if I haven’t had travelled, and I can’t ever imagine my life without it now.

 

Starting my blog was honestly the best thing I’ve ever done, and it definitely changed my life for the better. I cannot imagine what I would have done over the past 5 years if I hadn’t been blogging, or travelling, and I’m thankful every day that I decided to take my leap of faith and launch Journeys with Jessica back in 2014. If anyone out there is thinking of starting a blog, or if you’re hesitating about booking that dream trip my advice would be JUST DO IT! Life is too short to worry, too short to pass up opportunities and too short to be anything less than amazing. Travelling changed my life, I hope it changes yours too.

 

 

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How to Travel the Great Ocean Road, the Ultimate Australian Road Trip!

 

One of the most iconic road trips in the entire world, Australia’s Great Ocean Road is up there with America’s Route 66, South Africa’s Garden Route and Scotland’s North Coast 500 as being an itinerary that’s on everyone’s bucket lists. Starting in Melbourne, Victoria and finishing in Adelaide, South Australia, the Great Ocean Road spans a distance of 243 kilometres, boasting fantastic coastal views and offering some epic scenery along the way. Listed as an Australian National Heritage Site, and the largest war memorial in the world, the Great Ocean Road is a sight not to be missed during your time Down Under. I kick-started my own Australian adventure there back in March with a three day Groovy Grape Great Ocean Road & Grampians tour booked through trendy travel company Ratpack Travel, so here’s my highlights from that tour, and my guide on how to plan the perfect Great Ocean Road itinerary…

 

Day One: Melbourne – Twelve Apostles

 

 

A 6am start is never fun, especially when you’re struggling with jet-lag, but after a couple of nights in Melbourneย travelling solo I was ready to embark on my first tour to kick-start my time in Australia, so I joined the rest of my new tour mates onboard the Groovy Grape mini van. After heading out of Melbourne, our first stop was the seaside resort of Torquay, the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road, and the home of global surfing brands Ripcurl and Quiksilver. Next up was Bells Beach, the setting for the final scene of hit 90s movie Point Break, and soon after we were on our way to the beach village of Apollo Bay and the pretty town of Lorne, which was our lunch stop. After lunch we headed back on the road and stopped off at the famous Great Ocean Road sign, where the iconic Memorial Arch is located. The road itself was painstakingly laid by hand and was worked on by 3000 soldiers who returned from the war and began the construction in 1919. Some soldiers even lost their lives building the road, which is now the largest war memorial in the world.

 

 

Our penultimate stop of the day was the Great Otway National Park, home to some of the oldest rainforests on the planet, where we roamed through trees and admired the sights. The Mait’s Rest Rainforest was a real treat and one of my favourite stop offs; it was pouring down with rain whilst we were there but I think that actually made it better! Our final stop of the day was the one I was most looking forward to: The Twelve Apostles, even though there are only 8 now due to erosion but supposedly there were never 12 in the first place! Anyway, we arrived just before sunset to catch a glimpse of the famous limestone stacks whilst it was still light and the views were amazing. The site itself was pretty crowded, but the boardwalk allows you to get around as slowly or as quickly as you like, and you can get some fantastic photos without feeling the need to rush. Our first night on tour was spent in shared accommodation (13 people in one room) at a local hostel, where we were treated to a delicious home cooked meal by our hosts.

 

Day Two: Twelve Apostles – Grampians

 

 

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep (I wasn’t expecting much after my first experience of sharing a room with 13 people!) we were soon back on the road ready for day 2 of our tour. Our first stop was sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge which was INCREDIBLE. I had a real ‘pinch me’ moment here, as I had zero expectations from this place, and watching the waves crash against the rocks whilst feeling the wind in my hair and the golden sun on my face as it rose above the sea was truly breath-taking. We then made our way along the Shipwreck Coast, stopping off at the Bay of Martyrs, The Grotto and London Bridge all in quick succession. Lunch was eaten at the spectacular Tower Hill Reserve, home to a dormant volcano which was active 30,000 years ago, and is now a nature park teeming with Aussie wildlife including emu’s, koalas, kangaroos and echidna’s.

 

 

After a long drive we reached our next stop, the magnificent Grampians National Park, where we paid a visit to the Brambuk Cultural Centre to gain a good understanding of the local Aboriginal history. We then trekked towards the Mackenzie Waterfalls, which were incredibly powerful and a real sight to behold; it was also here that I saw my first ever wild kangaroo, just bouncing around in front of me! We then headed to the Reeds Lookout Point for sunset in the heart of the Grampians, which offered panoramic views out to the surrounding mountains and dramatic landscapes below. Dinner and accommodation was in a shared wood cabin on night 2 and it was a really peaceful place to unwind after a busy day on the road.

 

Day Three: Grampians – Adelaide

 

 

Our third and final day saw us get up at the crack of dawn, ready for a two hour sunrise hike right in the middle of The Grampians.ย  We hiked a mountain called The Pinnacle, which was pretty tough going as some of the rocks/boulders on the main path were quite big, and the altitude was high so I struggled a little with my breathing. Any worries I’d had soon vanished though as I made it all the way to the top of The Pinnacle where my group and I were rewarded with the most spectacular views over the Grampians below. This was my first hike of many during my time in Australia and it was a really special time for me. I really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone and reaping the rewards at the end.

 

 

We didn’t do much else on our last day, other than having lunch and spending lots more time on the road driving before we reached our final destination and cruised into the vibrant city of Adelaide. Groovy Grape offer a very ‘hands on’ kind of tour experience, so breakfast, lunch and dinner was always made and served by all of us in the group, taking turns to do different jobs each day. We were also responsible for washing up and tidying away after meal times, and for sorting out all our linen etc too at our accommodation stops. This style of trip is pretty basic and doesn’t offer any luxuries so it may not suit every style of traveller, but your food is included, your accommodation is clean and tidy and your tour guides are excellent. I’d really recommend Groovy Grape for those travelling Australia on a budget, and don’t forget to contact Sammy at Ratpack Travel for all your Aussie needs!

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

  • 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners
  • 2 nights dorm accommodation (shared with the entire group)
  • All national park entry fees
  • All transport from Melbourne – Adelaide, or in reverse from Adelaide – Melbourne

NB. I received a small discount off this tour from Ratpack Travel in exchange for social media content and this blog post but, as always, all words are of course my own.

 

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Last night my Great Ocean Road tour came to the end ๐Ÿ˜ญ I've had an amazing three days travelling from Melbourne – Adelaide with some lovely people from my tour and have seen some INCREDIBLE sights ๐Ÿ˜ On day 1 we ticked off Bells Beach, Lorne and Apollo Bay, wandered through the Maits Rainforest & watched the sun set over the 12 Apostles. On day 2 we saw sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge, made our way to London Bridge & The Grotto, had lunch inside a dormant volcano (whilst emus strolled by!), marvelled at Mackenzie Falls and I saw my first ever wild kangaroo! On day 3 we took a difficult 2 hour hike up to the top of the Pinnacle, in the heart of the Grampian Mountains, and were rewarded with the most incredible views from the top before crossing the Victoria/South Australia border and cruising into Adelaide. What an adventure it has been! ๐ŸŒŽ I booked my trip @groovygrapetours through the fantastic team @ratpack_travel – go check them out for all your Aussie tours and itineraries! #JessDoesAustralia #Days2-5

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6 Weeks Down Under: How I Went Travelling Around Australia

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Swapping Scotland for Sydney ๐Ÿ˜Ž Some of you may have noticed on my Insta feed that I've been reading a fair few travel guides lately, and that I've been on an awful lot of trips too, but there's one travel company who have really helped me whilst I've been away, and that company is @marcopologuides ๐Ÿ“š I absolutely love their travel guides, so it gives me great pleasure to finally let you know that I am one of their Brand Ambassadors for 2019! โค๏ธ I'll be putting some of their brilliant guide books to the test on my upcoming travels and telling you all about them in my blog posts too๐Ÿ’ป First up is a round up of my epic 6 week Australian adventure which is now LIVE on the blog – go check it out for all your Aussie travel tips and to relive my wonderful experiences! (Link in bio)๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Stay tuned for more epic travel guides coming soon to Journeys with Jessica – i can't wait to share more of my adventures with you! ๐ŸŒŽ #ad #brandambassador #gifted

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If you’ve been following me on social media over the past few months you’ll know that I’ve recently returned from the trip of a lifetime travelling around Australia, where I spent 40 wonderful days exploring this beautiful country, taking in 10 cities, 5 states and covering thousands of miles of land. I planned my trip totally on my own, but had the help of my trusty Marco Polo Australia Guidebook with me all the way. Here’s my full itinerary in detail, and a breakdown of all six weeks so you can see how I planned my trip, and just how much I fitted in during my time travelling around Australia!

 

Week 1: Melbourne – Adelaide

 

 

I kick started my tour of Australia with a couple of nights in Melbourne on my own, staying in a private room at the Melbourne Metro YHA, which was brilliant FYI. After a 24hr flight and HORRENDOUS jet lag, it was sooo nice to have my own room and just take things at my own pace for a few days whilst I started to adjust to life in Australia. You can read all about my time in Melbourne here. On my last day in the city I had an early 6am start as I embarked on my tour of the Great Ocean Road down to Adelaide. I booked this 2night/3day Groovy Grape tour through Ratpack Travel, a trendy travel company based in Byron Bay.

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, this tour was operated by Groovy Grape and there were 15 of us in total. Most of the group were solo travellers like me, but there were a few couples as well. There’s a fair amount of walking to do on this tour, including hiking the Grampians and trekking down to Mackenzie Falls, so you need a moderate level of fitness but it wasn’t too taxing. You can read my full review of this Great Ocean Road tour in more detail here, but my highlights included watching the sunrise over Loch Ard Gorge, visiting the Twelve Apostles and having lunch in the Tower Hill wildlife reserve, which is an active volcano!

 

Week 2: Adelaide – Alice Springs

 

 

Upon reaching Adelaide I spent 4 nights here with my lovely friend Jess, who I’d met in America three whole years ago! It was the first time we had been reunited since our US trip back in 2016 so I was so excited to get to Adelaide. Jess showed me allll the sights and we spent time wandering around the city itself (I was lucky enough to be there when the world famous Fringe Festival was on!) and we also headed to the German town of Hahndorf where I felt like I was actually in Germany and not in Australia at all. Other highlights included visiting the brilliant Cleland Wildlife Park, where I got the CUTEST kanga selfies, and we also drove to the seaside resort of Glenelg which boasted a gorgeous beach, promenade and plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. I was super sad to be leaving Jess behind in Adelaide but knew we’d be reunited once more in Sydney at the end of my trip.

 

 

In Adelaide I got picked up ready for my new tour, the Adelaide – Alice Springs Overland Adventure which was operated by Intrepid Travel. I’d heard great things about Intrepid but was super nervous about my outback tour as I had never been camping IN MY LIFE and I was about to spend an entire week sleeping on the floor with bugs and spiders ahhhh! I needn’t have worried though, from the minute I walked on board the tour bus to the minute I left all my new friends behind a week later I can honestly say I had the best experience of my entire life on that outback trip! Again, I’ll be blogging about the tour in much more detail separately, but my main highlights (god there were so many) included sleeping in an underground bunkhouse at Coober Pedy, skydiving over Uluru(!!), hiking Kata Tjuta and watching the sunset over the mountains in Alice Springs.

 

Week 3: Alice Springs – Cairns

 

 

After my outback tour ended I spent an additional 3 nights in Alice Springs just chilling out, walking around the town and spending time with some of my tour friends who were staying on in Alice too. I really wanted to spend a day hiking in the Western Macdonnells National Park, but unfortunately I didn’t have quite enough time to do a full day trip and I was exhausted from my tour so I just focused on recuperating in Alice instead.

 

 

My short flight to Cairns went smoothly and I spent 2 nights in the city ahead of my next tour starting. One of my outback friends, Rick, just happened to be in Cairns too, so I explored the area with him and we had a great couple of days wandering around the lagoon and esplanade, hitting up the nightlife and checking out the famous Rusty’s food market (which was recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook). We also took a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest after my Cape Tribulation tour was cancelled due to flooding. We got the cable car up to Kuranda village, stopping off at different parts of the rainforest and the spectacular Barron Falls along the way, and then hopped on the express train back to Cairns along the old fashioned railway.

 

Week 4: Cairns – Brisbane

 

 

My 10 day Cairns – Brisbane tour was operated by Topdeck Travel and I was so looking forward to joining another tour, especially as I’ve always fancied doing an 18-35 Topdeck one! The first half of the trip took us from Cairns – Airlie Beach, where we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef (BUCKETLIST RIGHT THERE), went hiking and koala spotting up to WW2 forts on Magnetic Island, and we stopped off at the stunning Whitehaven beach after our epic overnight sailing on the Whitsundays.

 

 

After Airlie Beach (and it’s crazy nightlife) we headed onto Myella Farm for a traditional Australian farm stay. We got to see how everything works and how well the animals are looked after and we even hung out with the resident baby joeys! Next stop was the beautiful Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, which fast became one of the highlights of my entire trip. We went 4 wheel driving on the sand and river tubing down Eli Creek before stopping off at the Maheno Shipwreck then catching a scenic airplane flight over the island below. Our last stop was Brisbane and I was super sad to say goodbye to my new friends but also excited for the next part of my adventure.

 

Week 5: Brisbane/Gold Coast – Sydney

 

 

I spent the next 3 nights with my lovely friend Amy, another of my Contiki pals who I’d met in America 3 years ago. She showed me everything there was to see in beautiful Brisbane, including the vibrant Southbank and lagoon, the botanical gardens and the magnificent Story Bridge. Brisbane turned out to be one of my fave Aussie cities, and we then went on a road trip of the Gold Coast which I absolutely loved!

 

 

We spent a night at Byron Bay, hiking up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset and enjoying the nightlife on the main strip. We also stopped off at Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, Tweed Heads, Rainbow Bay and Snapper Rocks so I saw a fair bit of the Gold Coast and really adored my time there with Amy! I then hopped on my last domestic flight of my trip and headed to Sydney for my final week of travelling around Australia.

 

Week 6: Sydney/Umina Beach – Bondi

 

 

I reunited with my friend Jess and more of my Contiki pals Tamara and James in Sydney which was amazing and we spent 3 nights exploring a city I have wanted to visit for sooo long. We did all the typical touristy stuff like the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Darling Harbour as well as the quirky Paddys Markets and we even hopped on a ferry over to Manly Beach for an afternoon. I really loved my time in Sydney and feel like I saw such a lot there during my visit. After leaving Sydney, Jess and I headed to nearby Umina Beach to stay with Tamara for a few nights. We really enjoyed the laid back vibe in this pretty area and took a day trip to Palm Beach, where the long running TV soap Home and Away is filmed. We enjoyed seeing different parts of the set and hiked up to the lighthouse for spectacular views over the bay below.

 

 

After Umina we headed to Bondi Beach for 2 nights and I was pleasantly surprised by this place; it wasn’t what I expected at all! It wasn’t particularly touristy (probably because we were there before the weekend rush) and I really liked the beaches of Clovelly and Tamarama as well as Bondi. Jess and I met up with another of our Contiki pals, Matt, and the three of us spent an afternoon hiking the epic Bondi to Coogee coastal path (recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook) which was amazing and boasted some incredible views along the way. Bondi was the perfect place to spend my last few days in Australia and it was so beautiful I just didn’t want to leave!

 

Ahh writing up this post has brought back sooo many wonderful memories from my Aussie adventure. What an absolutely AMAZING time I had on the other side of the world; I would go as far to say that this trip was totally life changing for me and I had the most incredible experience travelling around Australia! I hope this posts helps you if you’re thinking about planning your very own trip Down Under. Let me know if you need any tips as I’d be more than happy to help and share more knowledge from my own experience, but the Marco Polo Australia Guidebook will work an absolute TREAT as well!

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Guides as I am one of their brand ambassadors for 2019, but all words and photos are of course my own.

 

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A Suffolk Travel Guide: Things to See and Do in Suffolk, England

 

A traditional English district brimming with history, culture and plenty of things to see and do, Suffolk is perhaps East Anglia’s best loved county, and it’s not hard to see why. With the lively towns of Ipswich, Felixstowe and Newmarket dotted in-between the quieter areas of Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and Long Melford, there is something for everyone in Suffolk. I’ve been coming to the county myself many times over the years as my grandparents moved there from Essex to enjoy their retirement and a slower pace of life. It really is a beautiful part of England and here’s what I recommend you see and do during your time there…

 

Visit Ipswich

 

 

One of England’s oldest towns, and known as the ‘capital’ of Suffolk, Ipswich is a great place to kickstart your time in East Anglia. With its waterfront location right on the River Orwell, it’s luscious green parks, lively shopping streets and vibrant night life, there’s something for everyone and things that will appeal to all ages. Why not check out one of the towns many museums to find out all about its rich maritime heritage? Or catch a show in one of the grand theatres? Whatever you’re looking for from your time in Suffolk, you’re bound to find it right here in Ipswich.

 

Explore Framlingham Castle

 

 

Located in, yep you guessed it, the market town of Framlingham, this stunning Norman castle was built in 1148 but was destroyed by King Henry II less than 30 years later after the revolt of 1173-74. Towards the end of the 13th century though, Framlingham was no longer a castle as it had become a luxurious Manor House instead, with enormous grounds and parklands that were used for hunting. Nowadays the castle has been restored to its former glory and remains largely intact. Owned by the English Heritage and named as a Grade 1 listed monument, Framlingham is open to the public and hosts various events and historical shows all year round.

 

Have a day out at Newmarket Racecourse

 

 

Founded back in 1636, when King James I was on the throne, Newmarket is a racecourse steeped in royal history. Over 30 years later, in 1671, the new King Charles II became the first and only reigning monarch to ride a winning horse right here at Newmarket. Nowadays, the thoroughbred horse riding venue is one of the most popular in England, with two separate racecourses named the Rowley Mile and the July Course. As well as horse racing, Newmarket hosts several big events throughout the year and are well known for their spectacular ‘Newmarket Nights’, a series of concerts during the summer, with 2019’s line up including the likes of Madness, The Kaiser Chiefs and Chic & Nile Rogers.

 

Relax and unwind at a top spa hotel

 

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GOLDEN TICKET SPA DAY OFFER! To celebrate the reopening of our fabulous hydrotherapy pool we have put together an exclusive one-time offer with limited availability. The first 20 people to book this Golden Spa Day offer will receive a complimentary upgrade worth ยฃ77 per person! What's included: *Welcome drink in our spa lounge *ESPA Natural Facelift Facial (80 minutes) *Delicious cream tea *Full use of heat & hydrotherapy facilities The first 20 to book will be upgraded to: *Welcome Drink in our spa lounge *ESPA Natural Facelift Facial (80 minutes) *Complimentary Hot Stone Back Massage (30 minutes) *Champagne Afternoon Tea *Full use of heat & hydrotherapy facilities Price per person: ยฃ137.00 To book your day of total relaxation call us on 01638 676130 – be quick though places are limited!!

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No visit to the great British countryside should be complete without a stay at a top hotel, and one with a spa is an added luxury that you won’t want to say no to. The Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa should be top of your list, and with its 4 Red Star Hotel rating and it’s 5 Bubble Spa rating, it’s not hard to see why. Located in the middle of Newmarket, right opposite the racecourse, the Bedford Lodge is perfect for those looking for somewhere to stay after the races, or just for a night away in a peaceful setting. The hotel boasts the 2AA rosette winning Squires Restaurant for exquisite fine dining, as well as the trendy Roxana Bar offering Champagne and afternoon tea. If it’s the Spa you’re most looking forward to though, you certainly won’t be disappointed. With exciting features such as a rooftop hot tub, private mud rasul, hydrotherapy pool, experiential showers and even an ice fountain, you’ll never want to get out of your swimsuit!

 

Wander around Sudbury and Long Melford

 

 

Located just a few miles from each other, these traditional English towns are a must see when in Suffolk. Long Melford is home to Kentwell Hall, a red brick Tudor mansion set in glorious gardens and farmlands offering a variety of events throughout the year, including open air cinemas and historic educational weekends. Long Melford is also reputed to have one of the largest High Streets in Britain, filled with shops, cafes and pubs. Sudbury on the other hand is a market town, with its twice weekly markets taking place in front of St Peter’s Church right in the town centre. Sudbury is also home to 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough, with his house and birthplace, Gainsborough’s House, open to the public as a museum and art gallery, one of the towns most visited attractions.

I could list many more things to see and do in Suffolk, but these are the main highlights I suggest you should see during your time in this pretty county. Have you ever been before? I’d love to know if there’s anything you think I’ve missed off this list!

NB. This post was sponsored by The Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa but, as always, all words are of course my own.