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July Newsletter! Back down to earth with a bump…

My little work helper! 🐶💖 #bloglife

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Hey everyone,

Well this feels rather strange.. I haven’t written a monthly newsletter since May!! MAY!! Yes you heard me right, May seems like FOREVER ago now, but I was out of the country for the whole of June and the start of July and then the rest of the month was over with in a flash! Now that we’re in August though (saywhatttt) I thought I’d summarise what I’ve been up to over these past few weeks…

I came back from my American adventure

So after 28 amazing days the time has come for me to leave the US of A and travel home from my first solo adventure! I've white water rafted in Durango, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been speed boating in Miami and celebrated Independence Day in New York! I've had the time of my life with the most amazing people making 52 new friends as well as hundreds of new memories that will last a lifetime! Honestly the best thing I've ever done and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Now it's time for me to fly home from NYC in my contiki top and cowboy boots in true tourist style! Til next time America… Mum I'm coming homeeee 🇺🇸🎉💖 #noregrets @contiki @statravel_uk @travelstarwarsjoe

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So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month (or, ya know, you could just have been doing something else with your time other than reading my blog, it’s possible) you’ll know that I’ve just got back from the adventure of a LIFETIME! Yep, I’ve just spent the past month road tripping across America from LA to NYC on my first Contiki tour! Find out how my trip has literally changed my life, and why I think America is the best place on earth, by reading some of my previous posts.

I’m taking some time out for ME

Sometimes I just like to sit on fences and pose 📷🍃 #Cotswolds #oxfordshire #happymonday #countryside

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So, as you can imagine, I’m pretty damn gutted about being back home after my amazingly epic American adventure. Post travel blues generally suck but, this time, I’m feeling a whole other level of sadness and I don’t know why, I just can’t explain it. I’ve drafted something which kinda puts across my feelings, but I’ll post it when I’m good and ready as things are still a bit raw at the moment. Besides that I’ve been taking time out for ME and focusing on myself, which is something totally alien to me. Now that I’m not working it’s weird to adjust to not having a routine, so I’m trying to keep myself busy by enjoying long countryside dog walks, family days out and catch ups with my friends. For the first time in my adult life I don’t have to do ANYTHING I don’t want to do, and I’m just trying to embrace it!

I’m re-launching my blog

 

Yayyy, I’m so excited to be in the middle of a rebrand for my blog and I can’t wait to share the end result with you! It’s still a work in progress, but by now you should have noticed a few changes on the blog in terms of layout and theme, and I FINALLY have my own shiny new domain name – woooo! I’ve wanted to change my site for so long but work, life and America got in the way so, now that I’m back, this is my number one priority. Keep an eye out for further updates, but the finished project will be launched soon I promise!

I went to the beach (yes, it was in England!)

Beautiful day at a beautiful place 🇬🇧 #Cotswolds #wanderlustwednesday #visitgreatbritain #uk

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Okay, I know what you’re all thinking, why would you go to a beach in ENGLAND?! Wellll I’m happy to tell you that we experienced a somewhat freakishly hot heatwave last week across the UK and it was AMAZING, we haven’t felt heat like that in sooo long! What do us Brits do when we see some sun? We head for the beach of course! Instead of driving down the coast to all the tourist packed beaches though, me and my best friend drove the short 40 minutes to the beautiful Cotswold Water Park in Gloucestershire, our nearest manmade beach.

Row row row your boat ⚓️🚤 #Cotswolds #visitgreatbritain #uk #wanderlustwednesday

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It’s not quite the same, there isn’t sand that stretches for miles, or there’s not beautiful blue seas, but it’s as good as we can hope for in the Cotswolds with nothing around but hills, fields and, of course, the Great British countryside! We had a lovely day sunbathing, paddling and rowing a boat across the lake, as you do. Sun please make another appearance so I can go back to this wonderful place before the summer is over!

 

I celebrated my mum and dads Silver Wedding Anniversary <3

 

July also gave us a reason to celebrate as it was my parents Silver Wedding Anniversary – 25 WHOLE YEARS OF MARRAIGE?!?! Crazy, right?! We had a lovely day celebrating and we went out for a gorgeous Italian meal in the evening, just the five of us, before coming home to settle down in our pjs and watch my mum and dad’s wedding video! I’m so lucky to have such a close, tight knit family and occasions like this really bring it home. Love you mum and dad, thank you for always supporting me and for encouraging me to believe in my dreams! <3

I booked my next trip!

Thanks to @easyjet my next trip is now booked! Roll on a 9 day tour of #Italy in September with my sister eek!! #traveltuesday ✈️🌍

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Eeeek so probably the most exciting thing that happened in July was that I booked my next trip!! I know what you’re thinking, you’ve only just got back from America, right?! Yes, that’s right, but I also know that curing my travel blues is gonna take a lot more than pigging out on pizza and Ben & Jerry’s, so, I’ve booked my next trip! I’m off to Italy in September with my sister and we’re taking a full 9 day tour of the country visiting Venice, Florence and Rome. We are both SO EXCITED and are gonna be staying in boutique hotels, getting the train between each city and embracing the true history and culture of Italy during our time there. I’ll bring you more details once we’ve got everything fully booked, but if you have any city tips for either of the destinations we are visiting then PLEASE send them over to me- I want ALL your must sees and must dos!

So that’s pretty much it, my July wasn’t overly exciting compared to my June, but I’ve still been super busy and have had plenty to keep me going! How did your month go? Have you got much on for the rest of the summer? I’d love to hear your upcoming travel plans!

Love Jess x

☀️☀️ #happysaturday #sunshine #cotswolds #oxfordshire

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A Charming Cotswolds Retreat: Royal Afternoon Tea at Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham Spa

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Image courtesy of www.ellenboroughpark.com

 

Last Monday I was invited to the beautiful Ellenborough Park, a five star Cotswold manor house hotel located on the outskirts of Cheltenham Spa, to review their Royal Afternoon Tea. The promotion is running until 30th June 2016 in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebrations and offers guests a fantastic dining experience amongst stunning settings on the original Cheltenham Racecourse estate. I attended with my sister, Hannah, who absolutely LOVES afternoon tea. I thought she would be the perfect plus one to help me with my review and, I was right, she definitely didn’t take much persuading! 😉 We had a fantastic afternoon in the most beautiful of surroundings and were suitably stuffed by the time we had finished! Here’s how we got on…

Upon arrival we were greeted by the lovely Jonathan, one of the waiters who looked after us for most of the day. We were shown to our table, or in this case, an exclusive lounge on the first floor of the dining room where we were made to feel like true VIP’s for the day. With quirky antique tables and chairs and large windows as well as a balcony overlooking the rest of the dining room, our executive lounge made the perfect place from which to enjoy our Royal Afternoon Tea.

 

Exclusive lounge for our #royalafternoontea @ellenboroughpk yesterday! 🍰☕️#Cotswolds #cheltenham #review #traveltuesday

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Shortly after we were seated, and had finished gazing in awe at our new surroundings, we were shown the menus by Jonathan and were able to select our teas. There was a wide range of teas from traditional English breakfast to raspberry, rooibos and even chocolate flavoured. We both chose the strawberry and mango infused tea which was brought to our table in a cute little teapot with cups and saucers. We then ordered the Royal Afternoon Tea for two which was brought to us promptly.

 

 

Hannah and I couldn’t believe our eyes when the afternoon tea arrived, there was literally SO. MUCH. FOOD! The menu, by executive head chef David Kelman, boasted three tiers of sumptuous goodies including sandwiches, scones, cakes and sweet treats. The bottom tier comprised of a range of sandwiches including honey roast ham with Tewkesbury mustard, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise with cress and cucumber with tomato and spicy relish. We actually swapped the smoked salmon sandwiches for cheese and pickle ones as we aren’t huge fans of salmon but we both love our cheese! The sandwiches were perfectly cut, neatly filled and incredibly tasty.

 

The middle tier was home to freshly baked Ellenborough Park fruit scones with jam and clotted cream. The scones were fresh out the oven and were still warm so the jam and cream set on the top just nicely and were mouth-wateringly good! Finally, the top tier showcased some of the most fantastic dessert pieces I have ever seen. We were treated to meringue swans filled with fresh strawberries (they were GENIUS!) and Her Majesty’s  favourite chocolate cake with white chocolate flag which was truly scrumptious. There was also a salted caramel Tudor rose chocolate which was incredibly rich as well as Her Majesty’s passionfruit hat, a passionfruit mousse set on a biscuit base with passionfruit glaze and edible sugar flowers which was a delight!

 

Hannah and I devoured almost everything on each tier and were fit to burst by the time we had finished! We thoroughly enjoyed each and every aspect of the afternoon tea and there was no item on the menu which wasn’t expertly made or presented. The 5 star surroundings added to the luxurious atmosphere and it was certainly a dining experience to remember.

 

Can I eat all of these again please?! ☕️🍰 @ellenboroughpk #cotswolds #cheltenham #review #afternoontea

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Ellenborough Park’s Royal Afternoon Tea prides itself on reflecting “the Queen’s love of horses, decades of fashionable hats for royal engagements and guardianship of the nation’s swans.” Executive head chef David Kelman’s “celebratory afternoon tea adds a touch of regal splendour to this quintessentially British delight, served on china fit for a queen.”

With its stunning buildings and sprawling grounds, Ellenborough Park prides itself on “providing guests with the finest hotel accommodation and service in the Cotswolds.” You’ll find 60 large bedrooms and suites as well as two on-site restaurants lead by award winning executive head chef David Kelman. Facilities include an impressive Indian-themed spa and a 15m heated outdoor swimming pool  whilst other leisure activities within the hotel grounds can also be arranged.

 

Beautiful day, beautiful hotel! Thanks so much for having me @ellenboroughpk ☀️🏨 #Cotswolds #visitgreatbritain #cheltenham

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To celebrate all things British and enjoy a quintessentially English dining experience book your table at Ellenborough Park today! Royal Afternoon Tea is priced at £22pp Monday – Thursday or £25pp Friday-Sunday. An optional glass of Champagne Billecart-Salmon can be added for an extra £12pp. To book, please call the hotel directly on 01242 545454 or email info@ellenboroughpark.com. Thank you to all at Ellenborough Park for looking after us and for giving us such a wonderful afternoon – I cannot recommend the hotel highly enough and I will certainly be back!

Love Jess x

NB. I dined with Ellenborough Park as a guest for the purpose of this review but all views are my own.

 

 

Hotel Review: A relaxing stay at the luxurious Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars

Sooo this is my view for the weekend.. another hotel another review! 😍😍

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of staying at the fantastic Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars, a luxurious 4* hotel located in the heart of Gloucestershire. I stayed with my mum and two sisters for a surprise 21st birthday weekend away and we had the most fantastic time! We were greeted with friendly smiles and made to feel like VIP’s by the wonderful staff from the minute we stepped foot on site. The sun was shining all weekend and the weather ensured we definitely made the most of our outdoor balconies! Here’s my full review of this wonderful complex…

The location

 

Perfectly positioned at the edge of the Cotswolds, the hotel is nestled amidst the Cotswold Water Park complex in South Cerney, Gloucestershire. Although close to the hustle and bustle of the nearby water park, with its inland beach, 140 lakes and water sports aplenty, the hotel is busy but surprisingly quiet with its enviable location offering guests a relaxing and luxurious stay in 4* surroundings.

 

#throwback to last weekend's home from home 📷🏡 @cotswoldwaterpark

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Situated off the A419 just 3 miles from the market town of Cirencester, with its abundance of shops, pubs and restaurants, the hotel is in a prime location from which to explore the Cotswolds and its wonderful Gloucestershire countryside.

 

The rooms

 

The hotel is made up of 328 double/twin standard, superior and deluxe rooms, studio, one bed and two bed apartments, all of which are en-suite and are equipped with modern features including flat-screen TV’s, working desk areas and free internet access. Many of the rooms boast beautiful lakeside views and external balconies with seating areas and decking.

 

 

We had the privilege of staying in two deluxe lakeside rooms in the Watersedge block, both of which were beautiful and offered wonderful lakeside views. We were treated to robes, two bottles of Prosecco, a fridge stocked with water, wine and snacks and handwritten notes from the staff wishing us all a wonderful stay for my sisters 21st birthday! Those special touches really added to our stay and we felt so looked after the whole time!

 

 

Missed waking up to this view this morning!! 😍😍 #cotswoldwaterpark @cotswoldwaterpark

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The facilities

 

The hotel boasts a number of features including 24 hour reception, bar and The Brasserie restaurant and a Sky TV Lounge – definitely one for the sports fans – as well as conference and wedding rooms, a gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam room. Spa 6 offers guests the chance to unwind and de-stress in one of their many relaxation rooms whilst treatments such as massages, mud rasul’s and pedicures can be booked to enjoy a little bit of luxury on site.

 

 

Our weekend included full use of all the facilities and one choice of spa treatment each. My mum and sister opted for massages (back/neck/shoulder and an Indian head massage) whilst my other sister and I chose the mud rasul for something a little different. The therapists were so friendly and nothing at all was too much trouble for them. My sister was treated to a glass of Prosecco for her 21st (naturally) and the whole ambience was just perfect. The swimming pool however was rather noisier, with children and armbands taking over the water and the steam room and sauna was pretty crowded. We were staying over a weekend and chose to go to the Spa on the Saturday afternoon which was probably the busiest part of the day but we still had a lovely time.

rasul

We booked for dinner in the brasserie on the Saturday evening and the place was HEAVING! The restaurant manager, Valentin, was fantastic and made sure we were looked after all night. We were promptly taken to our seats and our food arrived shortly after; the menu choice was good with plenty of options to suit all tastes. Between us we chose the fish and chips and the angus steak burgers, all of which were delicious and beautifully cooked. For pudding we opted for ice cream, a blueberry cheesecake and petit fours, again all were very tasty and were brought to our table quickly. Despite the busy restaurant we were made to feel like we were high priority and our dining experience was wonderful – thank you Valentin for looking after us!

 

The breakfast

 

Breakfast the next morning was served in The Brasserie and we were greeted by the lovely Valentin once more before being shown to our table. Again I think we picked the busiest part of the morning as there were queues out the door but guests were seated promptly and the self-service style buffet certainly helped to speed up the queue!

 

 

There was so much choice at breakfast we didn’t know where to start! There was a plentiful continental section with croissants, pastries, breads, fruit and cereals, as well as a hot plate section for those looking to start off their day with a good Full English. We all chose to have a bit of both and started with a bowl of cereal followed by a couple of Danish pastries before demolishing a hearty cooked breakfast made up of sausages, bacon, beans, mushrooms, hash browns and tomatoes. We were so full we didn’t eat until later on that night and we thoroughly enjoyed kick-starting our day with a fantastic big breakfast which really made our stay complete.

The staff

 

All of the staff were so friendly and helpful, with beaming smiles and fantastic attitudes. Diaina, the general manager, was wonderful and really made our stay that extra bit special. She greeted us personally at reception, escorted us to our rooms via the hotel buggy and was on hand to answer any queries or arrange any other requests we might have had. The staff at the Cotswold Water Park hotel are a credit to the Four Pillars network and I hope to revisit soon.

Up bright and early to catch the sunrise over the lake 🌅🌅 #cotswoldwaterpark

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So there we have it, my full review of the stunning Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars Hotel. I cannot recommend the hotel highly enough for anyone looking for a little bit of luxury in unique surroundings in the beautiful Cotswolds! For more information or to book a room please visit their website directly.

 

Looking for #reflections 👀 #cotswoldwaterpark

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Thank you @cotswoldwaterpark for an amazing stay.. hotel review coming soon! 📝🏨#cotswoldwaterpark

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Charming Cotswolds Escape

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Hi everyone,

I can’t believe it’s June already, the rainy weather we’ve been having over here in South West England certainly doesn’t reflect the time of year at the moment which is super depressing! I have however just returned from a lovely family weekend break at nearby Bourton on the Water, a pretty village nestled in the heart of The Cotswolds. Although its only around 30 minutes drive from home, we were meeting family for a special anniversary get together and wanted to pick somewhere that wasn’t too far for a party of 15 to travel to! Bourton provided the perfect location for us and offered plenty to see and do whilst giving us the relaxing break we had hoped for.

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We booked 7 rooms at the gorgeous Chester House Hotel right (http://www.chesterhousehotel.com/) in the centre of the village and had a brilliant stay, all the staff were so welcoming and the rooms were lovely. The interior of the hotel is very pretty and we loved the old fashioned Victorian decor mixed with impressive new mod cons such as power showers and flat screen TVs. Most of the rooms are located in the main part of the hotel, but there is also an area referred to as The Coach Houses which offer a mixture of larger ground and upper floor rooms and have a more self contained/studio feel. All of these rooms are located outside but are adjoined to the hotel and the ground floor rooms are dog friendly should you be bringing a furry companion! Our stay included bed and breakfast for two nights, and the breakfasts were plentiful and so filling- you could choose from either cooked breakfasts or cereals, fruit and pastries.

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With so many eateries in Bourton there are plenty of places to go for dinner, but as there was such a large group of us, we decided to eat in two of the hotel’s restaurants on both nights. The Croft was a restaurant serving traditional pub food whilst L’Anatra was an Italian restaurant serving authentic Italian cuisine. We had to pre-book our meals as there was such a large group of us, but the quality of food both nights was very good and I’d highly recommend the Italian in particular.

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In terms of tourist attractions, there are plenty of things to see and do in Bourton; we only had one full day there so didn’t fit everything in (although I’ve been many times before!) but it does get extremely busy especially during the summer months. The weather was good on Saturday and the sun was shining, so hundreds of people flocked to the village to enjoy a picnic on the riverside! The Dragonfly Maze, Model Village, Motor Museum and the brilliant Birdland are all popular attractions and provide families and couples alike with plenty of fun. There’s also the pretty St Lawrence’s Church situated towards the end of the village along with a number of B&B’s, hotels, cafe’s, restaurants and shops. Don’t forget to take part in the hourly Duck Race on the river- pick a duck and if yours wins the race you get a prize! Great fun for all the excitable children running up and down the river bank egging on their chosen ducks!

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We had a lovely relaxing family break in Bourton and I’d highly recommend the village to anyone looking for a relaxing break in the charming Cotswolds. People flock from all over the world to see Bourton on the Water; with its meandering river, pretty bridges and lovely countryside it’s easy to see why!

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Have you ever been to visit The Cotswolds or stayed somewhere similar? I’m lucky enough to live in the area so am on hand to answer any questions you might have.. I’d be delighted to help!

Love Jess x

Bank holiday weekend: Chill out in the Cotswolds

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Hi everyone,

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the second bank holiday of the month, May is spoiling us and the weather has certainly been living up to all of our expectations. I was actually meant to be going away for the weekend but after a change of plan I found myself staying at home instead. Luckily, I live in such a beautiful part of the country and I’m never stuck for something to do, especially when the sun is shining!

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On Sunday I headed to the nearby town of Burford for a spot of afternoon tea with the family. Known as The Gateway to the Cotswolds, Burford is the perfect place to go for a day out although it does get very busy with all the tourists, particularly in the summer months. Visit one of the many local pubs, shop in the little boutique stores or take a scenic walk along the river windrush for a relaxing day out in this pretty Cotswolds town.

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We always visit the famous Huffkins tea rooms for cake or a light lunch and have never been disappointed. Typical delicacies on the menu include scones with jam and cream, chocolate brownies and vanilla slices as well as savoury bites such as pasties, pies, sandwiches and main meals. The food is quite pricey but you do pay more in Burford and its so yummy so its totally worth it!

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After lunch we strolled down the high street and popped into the beautiful St John the Baptist Church at the bottom of the hill. Dating back to the 12th century, the Church is full of history and definitely shouldn’t be missed. In 1649 the infamous Oliver Cromwell imprisoned 340 Levellers inside the Church and ruled that three of the men should be shot whilst the remaining prisoners watched the execution from the Church roof. Many of the Levellers carved their names into the walls whilst waiting to be freed, and to this day the words that were inscribed can still be seen on the brickwork.

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On Monday we drove to Blenheim Palace in Woodstock for the first annual food festival that was being held in the grounds. With tens of stalls selling foods from all over the world, cookery demonstrations, kids face painting and even champagne bars, there was something for everyone on offer. We bought a selection of homemade fudge, cookies, muffins and breads and that was before we’d even decided what we were having for lunch!

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After a stroll round Blenheim’s grounds to work up our appetites we settled on a Spanish treat of paella and tapas for our festival lunches. There were no tables to sit on, only hay bales which made a right mess but it did add to the festival vibe! You could however bring your own blankets and chairs if you wanted to set up for the day.

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The food festival was great, not overly priced at all and with so much going on you could easily spend a whole day there with the family. Free entry if you’re a Blenheim season ticket holder, or £22 per adult for a day ticket to the palace and grounds but don’t forget to convert your ticket to a 12 month pass for no extra cost- excellent value for money as we’ve used ours six times this year already!

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My blog turns one tomorrow and I’m very excited so I’ve got a brand new post and a special announcement for you all.. watch this space!

Love Jess x