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Hostel Review: Wombats London City

 

 

 

Whilst on my recent internship at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, I had the pleasure of staying at Wombats Hostel for a couple of nights during my two weeks in London. I was in need of somewhere to base myself for the first week, and on the first two nights I didn’t want to have to worry about finding a friends to stay at, or having to get the train to and from Oxford each day, so I booked myself into Wombats ready to embrace London life. Wombats have a series of budget hostels across Europe, from Vienna to Berlin, with a variety of rooms and locations to suit everyone. Whether you’re travelling as a group or riding solo, Wombats is the place to be. Here’s the lo-down of this quirky hostel, and everything you need to know about what to expect from your stay…

 

The Location 

 

 

Set in a historic building  that has been a hostel since the Victorian era, this place was first used in 1865 as a base for sailors before their overseas trips. Situated on Dock Street near Wapping, just 5 minutes from the historic St Katherine’s Docks, Wombats London City is perfectly positioned to explore everything that the Great British capital has to offer. After an easy 25 minute walk you’ll reach the likes of The Shard, City Hall, the Tower of London and of course the iconic Tower Bridge. I was working in offices at London Bridge, right opposite The Shard, and chose to walk each day so I could really get to know my surroundings and it was so much better to soak up the fresh air and riverside views rather than commuting by tube. If you do need to use the tube during your stay though, you’ll find Tower Hill is the nearest station, just an 8 minute walk away.

 

The Rooms

 

 

I stayed in a private, en suite double room which was comfy, clean and had everything I would need for my two night stay. I couldn’t believe it was a hostel as it totally had the feel and style of a hotel, but without the expensive price tag! The double bed was comfortable and there was plenty of floor, wardrobe and draw space to use. The bathroom was clean and modern with the most incredible rainforest shower which I just didn’t want to leave in the mornings! I definitely felt that my room gave me a little bit of luxury, and total privacy, which was really important to me for this particular stay. Obviously I can’t comment on the dorm rooms, but I’m sure they were of a similar quality throughout, minus the privacy of course. Wombats offer a variety of private and shared rooms at an unbeatable price.

 

The Staff

 

 

The staff at Wombats were so fun and friendly and really made me feel welcome throughout the duration of my stay. I didn’t check in until after 9pm as I’d had a long day at the office and then met a friend for dinner, but despite my late arrival everything went smoothly and I was shown to my room right away. I was presented with two breakfast vouchers and two drinks vouchers to redeem during my stay, and was told where to find the communal areas such as the bar, kitchen and dining area. Everyone was super friendly and I really felt that I was looked after during my stay. 

 

The Facilities 

 

 

This hostel has everything you’d need for a comfortable stay and offers plenty of things to do whilst on site. The breakfast area doubles up as a bar in the evening, with comfy futons, plenty of chairs and a big screen for watching sports events with fellow guests. There’s a communal kitchen for those of you who want to cook instead of eating out, and there’s also a courtyard patio and a pool table. I didn’t spend much time in the communal areas as I was staying for business not pleasure (sadly) but I had breakfast both mornings and used the kitchen to cook a meal on one of the evenings and found both areas to be absolutely fine. There were plenty of people around, but I didn’t really stop to chat or get to know any of the other travellers as I was short on time what with having to get to and from work each morning and evening. There was a good atmosphere in and around the hostel though, with plenty of groups and other travellers staying, so I think the bar would have been a great place to meet new people if I’d had the time to check it out properly.

 

 

As you can see I had a great stay at Wombats London and would definitely recommend this hostel to anyone looking for budget friendly accommodation in a fantastic central location. Having a private room was brilliant whilst I was doing my internship as it gave me somewhere relaxing to come back to after a busy few days of office life. I would most definitely stay at another Wombats if I ever needed accommodation in any of their other European cities and I wouldn’t hesitate to book their London hostel again. 

Thank you Wombats for an awesome stay!

 

NB. My 2 night stay was provided complimentary to me on a B&B basis as I was a guest of Wombats for the purpose of this review but all thoughts, opinions and photos are of course my own.

 

 

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A Travel Guide to Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

 

 

 

Despite having visited Somerset a few times before, it took me until the ripe old age of 25 to visit Cheddar Gorge for the first time, and my first thought upon arrival into this pretty village was… WHY ON EARTH HAVEN’T I BEEN HERE BEFORE??!! I visited Cheddar for a festive getaway with my family last week to see out 2018 and welcome 2019 in style. We stayed at Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, located about a 5 minute drive (or a 20 minute walk) from Cheddar Gorge. Our resort was in the perfect location from which to explore some of Somerset’s best loved highlights including Wells, Axbridge, Weston Supermare and the Mendip Hills. We had a lovely 4 days relaxing in our lodge on the resort and seeing some of the nearby area, so I thought I’d put together a travel guide for you all as I’d love to start sharing some more UK content on my blog! Here’s what we got up to, and what I would recommend you see during your time in pretty Cheddar too…

 

Visit the Gorge and Caves

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) A travel guide to Cheddar Gorge, Somerset 🧀🇬🇧 🌟 If walking, caving, rock climbing, hot tubbing, cheese tasting and pub lunching sounds like your kind of thing, you will feel right at home down in Cheddar Gorge. 😍 I spent the last few days of 2018 indulging in some fresh air and taking part in some outdoor activities whilst spending quality time with my family before seeing in the new year from our little cabin in the woods. 🏡 This post tells you all you need to know about pretty little Cheddar, and what you can expect from your trip there too. Have you ever been before? I'd love to know what you thought of it! 🌏 #VisitSomerset #LoveSomerset #Somerset #IgersSomerset #Cheddar #IgersCheddar #CheddarGorge #VisitEngland #VisitBritain #LoveGreatBritain #England #UK #BBCBritain #UKPics #GBPics #England_Insta #WeLoveEngland #Travel #TravelBloggersofIG #Wordpress #NewPost #Travelgram #InstaTravel #InstaGo #GirlsLoveTravel #DarlingEscapes #TravelPhotography #DarwinEscapes #CheddarWoods #WeekendAway

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The main attraction, and the main reason for most people’s visit, is the wonderful Cheddar Gorge and Caves. With over 500,000 visitors per year, this exhibition is listed as a world famous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is Britain’s biggest gorge. Dramatic cliffs reaching a depth of over 450ft and eerie caves filled with pre-historic stalactites make for a fascinating discovery, and the interactive audio guides make it easy to navigate yourself around the caves. We loved Gough’s Cave and the Aladdin’s Caves as both were truly stunning and filled with ancient stalactites and stalagmites! Your ticket price includes access to the caves as well as entrance to the Museum of Pre-history (located opposite the caves), Jacob’s Ladder, the interactive Dreamhunters exhibition, and the cinematic Beyond the View experience. We did all four of the individual experiences and really enjoyed them – it took us around 4 hours to do everything, but you could spend as little or as long as you wanted on them! We particularly liked the Dreamhunters exhibition which allowed you to walk through Cox’s cave and follow the story of early man as he battled through the ice age some 1.2 million years ago.

Open all year round (apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day), tickets for Cheddar Gorge and Caves can be purchased on the gate or online in advance – save 15% off your ticket price if you book online! The full prices are £19.95 for adults, £14.95 for kids and under 5s go free.

 

Climb Jacob’s Ladder

 

 

Included as part of your Cheddar Gorge and Caves ticket, climbing Jacobs Ladder is an absolute MUST when you’re in Cheddar. It’s a steep 274 steps to the top, but if you can make it that far, the views of the surrounding Mendip hills and the famous gorge below are well worth the climb. I would recommend stretching yourself that little bit further (just 48 more steps!) and climbing up the Lookout Tower too if you can manage it. Sadly it was closed for refurbishment when we went, but I’ve heard the panoramic views from the top are INCREDIBLE! The clifftop walk at the top of the ladder takes you on a 3mile loop around the top of the caves and is not for the faint hearted, but the views and fresh air alone are totally worth it; on a clear day you can see across the gorge and surrounding countryside for miles!

 

Walk around the Mendip Hills

 

 

Walking/hiking is one of my favourite things to do, especially when I’m away, so I’m pleased to report that Cheddar Gorge has a number of walks and trails that you can follow to keep your legs exercised during your trip. We did loads of hikes around our resort as there were nature trails and woodland walks to follow, and we also did a big loop around Cheddar Gorge itself too. The clifftop walk that can be completed after climbing Jacob’s Ladder will give you some stunning views of the gorge and surrounding countryside below, but I really enjoyed wandering around the Mendip Hills as well. The natural stone walls which make up the gorge are fascinating to look at, and to walk around, but beware for the free roaming goats that can be found dotted around the caves!

 

Buy some famous cheddar cheese

 

 

Taking its name from the village, Cheddar cheese originates from Cheddar itself and is famous the world over, with records of cheese making in the village dating back to the 12th century. The caves in Cheddar Gorge have historically been used to mature the cheese, and this is still something which is in use today. The caves provide the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese and a section of the Gorge exhibition at Gough’s Cave will tell you all about this method. Cheddar cheese traditionally needs to be made within 30 miles of Wells Cathedral in order for it to be classed as official Cheddar from Somerset. Today you can buy Cheddar cheese in just about any supermarket in the world, but you’ll only find the best of its kind down in Cheddar village. There are lots of little shops and cafés in the village selling the cheese, and I’d recommend heading to The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, the only cheesemakers left in Cheddar, where you can go along and watch the various stages of the cheese being made and enjoy some free tasters too!

 

Where to stay

 

 

We had booked to stay at Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, which is a Hoseasons site located just a 5 minute drive from Cheddar village. As a family of 5 we sometimes struggle to find accommodation big enough for us all, and now that we are all adults we like having our own rooms. As separate hotel rooms can be notoriously expensive, we opted for a shared lodge and found this to be the perfect solution. We stayed in a 3 bedroom Axbridge Premier Lodge with a hot tub (it was amazing – well worth the extra money!), private decking with outdoor seating and a parking space. Although Hoseasons are often known for being overrun with kids, we didn’t actually find this to be a big problem during our stay (despite staying over the New Year’s period) and found there were plenty of couples and groups of adults staying too. The site itself was equipped with a restaurant and bar serving food and drinks almost all day. There was a games room with a bowling alley and snooker corner as well as a well-stocked shop selling all the essentials. There was also a spa and gym on site with a large heated swimming pool, sauna and steam room. We booked massages each and enjoyed these on the morning of New Year’s Eve before spending a couple of hours in the gym and pool area and making the most of our last day of 2018! There were plenty of activities for the kids that could be booked and the daily schedule looked so fun – I wanted to be 10 years old again! The grounds were stunning too, with most of the lodges offering views of the surrounding Mendip Hills, and there were woodland walks dotted around the site, as well as a tennis court/football pitch and a trampoline/aero ball section too. I’d definitely recommend this place for anyone looking for a base from which to explore the best that Cheddar and the rest of Somerset has to offer.

 

Where to eat and drink

 

 

Cheddar is home to an abundance of cute little pubs, cafes and shops all waiting to make you feel welcome. The village itself is pretty small and you can walk from one end to the other in around 15 minutes. As we visited the Cheddar Gorge and Caves first we parked there and started in that area, making our way through the streets and along the river, before ending up at the waterfall which was at the other end of the village. We passed several café’s, the most famous being The Lionrock Tearooms which can be found directly opposite part of the Gorge which is known as the Lionrock due to its striking resemblance to a rock that looks like a lion! The cute Mousehole Café caught our eye as it looked like something out of Disneyland, and we were also told that the Waterfall Café is a hit with tourists too due to its riverside location. We were looking for somewhere that did a traditional Sunday Roast after working up an appetite climbing Jacob’s Ladder, so chose the White Hart Inn which was located in a small area known as The Bays, right at the bottom of the village. There were plenty of places to choose from though and you’re certainly not going to be spoilt for choice for somewhere to eat here in Cheddar!

 

We had such a lovely few days down in Cheddar and it felt amazing to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019 whilst on holiday and away from home. If we’d have had more time we definitely would have visited the nearby towns of Wells and Axbridge as both looked picturesque and well worth a stop, but we chose to make the most of our time on the resort rather than driving around or venturing further than we needed to. I’d really recommend Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa for all ages, particularly if you’re travelling in a group, as there was so much going on that you barely needed to leave the resort! I feel like I did everything I needed to in Cheddar Gorge though and I’m not sure I’d go back, but I would definitely stop off to visit Wells next time I am passing through. Have you been to Cheddar Gorge or other areas of Somerset before? I’d love to know what you thought of it too!

Love Jess x

 

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My 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, Travel Plans and Life Goals

 

 

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a lovely festive break and overindulged on all the turkey and mince pies? I’ll be disappointed if you didn’t! 😉 As we welcome January (I am SO glad to see the back of 2018) I’m kick-starting my year with some traditional new year’s resolutions. Ok ok, I know they’re overrated and we’re all sick of the ‘new year, new me’ Facebook statuses, but I actually LOVE this time of year and always relish taking time to make plans for a new year, and a new start. If you read my 2018 end of year round up you’ll know that I pretty much aced my resolutions from last year, if I must say so myself, and I’m now ready to take on a new challenge and to make some new life/travel plans. So without further ado, here are my goals and resolutions for this year, and what I want to gain from 2019…

 

Go Veggie for the whole of January

 

 

This is gonna be a HUGE challenge for me and something which I’m not sure I’m going to be able to but I want to push myself and I’m going to give it a real good go!! I’ve been thinking about trying to be vegetarian for a little while now, and a few friends at work have convinced me that it would be great for my health, so I thought January would be a good a time as any to trial it for a month and give it a go! It’s been four days already so far and I’m not missing meat at all. I’ve been quite creative with my cooking (well, my mum has also helped cos I get home from work late!) and I’m enjoying trying new foods and flavours. I haven’t eaten out yet this month but I have a few meals planned over the coming weeks so I’ll see if I can resist allll the burgers and steaks that will try to tempt me… but so far, so good!

 

Read 2-3 books a month

 

 

I was good at this last year despite not making it a resolution, so I thought I would try it again this year and give myself a goal of reading 2-3 books a month. I absolutely LOVE to read and it’s the only time of the day I allow myself to indulge and just sit in bed and turn the pages. I love escaping the real world for a bit in order to immerse myself in a story, and last year I managed to read 15 books so thought I’d try to beat that this year. I’ve already read The Light Between Oceans so far and I have The Tattooist of Auschwitz next on my list, plus plenty of others downloaded and ready to go in my Kindle, so I’m fairly set for the next few months and can’t wait to read more throughout the year.

 

Visit 7 countries

 

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Don't mind me, just posing in front of expensive boats like it's the most normal thing in the world 🙋 I'm currently writing up my #travel guide to #Kotor and can't wait to share it with you all! This pretty city is fast becoming the new go-to place for a European break in 2018, and with cute cobbled streets, an ancient old town and a glamorous waterfront like this, it's not hard to see why! 😍 I LOVED my time in #Montenegro when I visited as part of my recent #cruise and am already planning a return trip to explore more of this gorgeous country 🌍 Have you ever been to Kotor before? On this miserable windy day in England, I know where I'd rather be rn ✈️ #TBT #VisitKotor #VisitMontenegro #MarellaCruises #GoMontenegro #Insta_Montenegro #MontenegroWildBeauty #KotorMontenegro #KotorBay #CruiseLife #Europe #TravelGuide #TUI #ThrowbackThursday

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Last year I set myself a goal of visiting at least 5 countries and I actually managed to visit NINE! I went inter-railing and then on a multi-stop cruise so it was fairly easy for me to visit lots of countries in just a couple of trips, but I might find this year a little harder as I think I’ll be travelling a little differently. So far my confirmed trips are a week in Spain in May visiting Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, a few nights in Scotland visiting Fort William and Glencoe as I climb Ben Nevis (!!), and a week in Italy in June visiting Verona, Lake Garda and Trentino. I’ve got a huge trip lined up before that but I can’t say what it is yet… watch this space for more news on that though! And later on in the year I’m hoping to do a trip around the Baltics and take in Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and Helsinki all in one go, as well as do my first ever European Christmas Markets break, but we shall see what my bank account looks like after the summer! I don’t think 7 countries is unrealistic given that I already have a few trips lined up, and another inter-railing trip which means I can tick off lots in one go. Last year was the first year in two years I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked to, and yet I still ended up visiting a whopping nine countries so I am confident I can tick off at least 7 this year and am sooo excited for all my upcoming travel plans!

 

Take a leap of faith

 

 

So I know this is kinda vague and can apply to anything within life, but this year I really want to push myself out my comfort zone and do things that scare me. It might not be as drastic as jumping out a plane or booking a one way ticked to anywhere, but as I turn 26 I’m starting to realise that I want a couple more selfish years before I start to think about meeting someone and settling down with a house and kids. Don’t get me wrong, this is all I have ever wanted from life, but at the same time I have relished spending my 20s being selfish and putting myself first, as well as travelling to 25 countries and pushing myself to my limits. This year I already know what my leap of faith will be, even though I can’t share it with you guys yet, and I’m more than ready to ensure that 2019 becomes one of my best ever chapters. I promise to share my news with you soon, but after playing it fairly safe in 2017 and 2018, I think this will be the year that I truly ‘find myself’ and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it! I promise to share news with you as soon as I can!

 

Reach 10,000 social media followers

 

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#2018bestnine There's a brand new post on the blog today and it's all about my 2018 End of Year Review 🌟 This post sums up my highlights, lowlights and everything in between that has happened over the past 12 months. There's been ups and downs and what's ifs and maybes. There's been good times and bad times. There's been times when I've been so low I've not known what to do and there's been times when I've felt truly happy. 💖 2018 brought us the World Cup, a heatwave, 2 Royal Weddings & it marked 100 years since the Armistice, but it's also brought us GDPR, the Gatwick Drone and turmoil over Brexit. 😩 On a personal level, I experienced loss and grief when my dog and my grandad passed away. I've been told my job was being made redundant and I've ended up in hospital twice. I've watched my nan, dad and best friend battle serious health conditions and at times I've struggled with my own illness. 💔 But despite all of this, I've still continued to push myself and be the best person I can be. I've visited 9 countries on 4 different holidays, I've climbed Mount Snowdon and helped to raise over £25,000 for charity, my blog had its own stand at the biggest travel conference in the world, I've knuckled down and saved £10,000 in the bank so that I can try and buy a house soon, I've made countless memories with people I love and I feel blessed every time I wake up ✨ So whatever has happened in 2018, I hope you've had an enjoyable year. I'm completely ready for a new chapter in my life and am already putting plans in place to make next year my best year yet! 🌟 2019 I'm ready for youuu 💃

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You might remember that I set myself the same challenge this time last year, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful so I am giving it another go in 2019! 10,000 followers is an ENORMOUS number, and was probably a bit ambitious last year, but I’m on over 8600 in total across all platforms now, so I don’t think it’s unrealistic to gain another few thousand over the next 12 months! I’ve kind of fallen out of love with Instagram now to be honest so I’m not going to be wasting much of my time growing my followers on there, but I definitely want to focus on Facebook and Twitter as I get a lot of engagement and traffic from these two. It’s really interesting to know where your traffic is coming from, so that you can focus your energies on growing platforms that benefit you and your blog, so this is something I am going to pay close attention to throughout 2019!

 

Make time to meditate

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) I feel like every single person right now is leaving their jobs to become full time content creators/bloggers/freelancers. It's been just over 2 years since I made that same decision to quit my job & work full time as a freelance travel blogger. I had an amazing year working for myself with plenty of ups including flexible working hours, no annual leave restrictions, press trips and new clients/collaboration projects but there were inevitably lots of downs & it just didn't make me happy. I was incredibly lonely, I missed working in an office alongside colleagues, and I struggled with the inconsistent workload and lack of constant wages coming in. After a year I ended up at a new 9-5 job (this time in the travel industry to satisfy my wanderlust) which I needed in order to bring some routine back into my life. In this new blog post I'll be showing the good, the bad and the ugly sides of freelance life and that there's much more to it than just press trips and Instagram posts! If you've ever considered going freelance, or if you are currently working for yourself and wondering how our experiences might compare, then this post is for you! ✨#wordpress #newpost #bloglife #freelancer #bloggers

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I tried doing this last year and I did enjoy it but I sometimes found I didn’t have enough time to sit down and meditate properly so I got a bit bored and just gave up. My sister is really good at this though so I’m going to try and take a leaf out of her book and make time to meditate, even if it’s only once a week. The last app I tried was Headspace but I found it a bit repetitive, so I may give Calm a go this year and see how I feel. The main reason for wanting to meditate is mainly just to give myself time to switch off before bed – I am the worst person for falling asleep with my phone in my hand or scrolling on Facebook just before I go to bed, so I am going to make a conscious effort to minimise my screen time during the evenings and I think meditation will really help me with this.

I’m trying not to set myself too many goals this year as I don’t want to overwhelm myself and set challenges that aren’t realistic, but I think these resolutions are all achievable and will all enhance my life during 2019. I think the hardest one to complete will be going Veggie for a month as I’ve eaten meat all my life, but I want to do it for health reasons and to see how I get on. 2019 will mark 5 years since Journeys with Jessica was launched, so I’m definitely going to have a celebration by the time the anniversary rolls around in May and I can’t wait to share with you all the fab new content I have planned for my blog this year. As well as the travel plans I have mentioned above, I’m also making a conscious effort to explore more of the UK this year and to take more day trips. Plus I’ve already booked tickets to loads of concerts including Westlife, Robbie Williams and the Spice Girls – I am SUCH a 90s kid!! – so will be having plenty of UK day trips too. What are your travel plans for 2019? Do you make resolutions and stick to them? I’d love to hear how you plan to spend your 2019.

Happy New Year everyone!

Love Jess x

 

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Christmas at Blenhiem Palace: The Most Festive Place in the Cotswolds

 

 

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being invited to the VIP press launch of Christmas at Blenheim, an exclusive event being held at beautiful Blenheim Palace in the heart of Oxfordshire. Located in Woodstock, just 10 miles from the city of Oxford, Blenheim Palace is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country, and is open all year round. As the Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, tourists gather in their thousands every year to explore the house and it’s stunning grounds. As a local Oxfordshire girl I’ve been going to Blenheim since I was around 5 or 6 years old, and have been an annual pass holder many times. Blenheim is the perfect place for a family day out, a dog walk or just for a lazy stroll around the lake on a Sunday morning. The market town of Woodstock is worth a visit too, and I always pop in to some of the little shops, pubs and café’s when I’m stopping by – The Black Prince is a firm favourite of mine! The festive Christmas at Blenheim event was first launched back in 2016 and I can’t believe I haven’t visited until now! I’ve been wanting an excuse to attend so, when I was invited to the VIP press launch, I just couldn’t resist bringing my mum along for the ride and getting us both into the Christmas spirit. Here’s what we got up to, and what you can expect from your visit to Blenheim this Christmas…

 

 

The Great Court

 

 

Upon arrival we were taken into the Orangery for a welcome drink and a speech by the CEO of Blenheim before mingling and enjoying some festive nibbles. The Orangery is part of the estate I have never been to before, but it is decorated beautifully and is host to regular events at Blenheim, as well as being used as a restaurant serving evening meals, lunches and afternoon tea. Between the Orangery and the gift shop, with the small café inside, lies the Great Court. This is the starting point for the festivities of Christmas at Blenheim and is home to food stalls serving Bratwurst sausages and gourmet burgers as well as yummy churros and delicious donuts too. Opposite the food stalls you’ll find a helter-skelter, a carousel and a couple of other fairground favourites; tokens for which can be purchased at an additional cost. The Great Court looked super pretty all decorated in sparking lights, and got us feeling festive the moment we walked through the entrance archway.

 

The New Christmas Markets

 

 

A new attraction for 2018, the New Christmas Markets are located right in the middle of the main courtyard, just in front of the palace itself. Lined with lights and Christmas decorations, the markets sell every kind of gift you can think of, from cheese, chocolate and wine to portraits, bath products and pets toys. My mum and I spent some time wandering around the markets before we did the Cinderella exhibition and it was really lovely to see so many stalls set up all selling lots of fab gifts. We then sat down in the outdoor seating area (which was actually pretty small given that there were so many stands!) and indulged in a traditional German Bratwurst. The smells of the meat cooking, mixed with the smells of the sweet treats on sale, made our mouths water and I can see how people really get into the Christmas spirit whilst visiting this section!

 

The Fairytale Cinderella Experience

 

 

Another new attraction for this year, the Fairytale Cinderella Experience was something I was really looking forward to seeing as I am a TOTAL Disney Princess 😉 Upon entrance into the main palace you are greeted by Christmas tree after Christmas tree, glittering with lights, bows, flowers, stars, anything you can think of that is slightly sparkly is waiting for you in the entrance hall! We said hello to one of the staff members before heading off on the Experience. I’ve been to the palace many times so know what all the rooms are like, but the sheer amount of twinkling lights and decorations made it so much more magical and they have really done a fantastic job of making the palace look extra special. Each room is decorated with props and clothing from a certain character from Cinderella, so you have Prince Charming, the Wicked Stepmother, the Ugly Sisters and then lovely Cinderella herself right at the end, with a gorgeous display of her dresses illuminated against a back drop, and the stunning glass slipper encased in a glass box! There are of course some of Cinderella’s friends dotted throughout the trail and I think you are supposed to count the mice in each room along the way, but I was totally distracted by the sheer beauty of every room that I totally forgot to count! I was really impressed by the Cinderella Experience and I do think it is worth the money to pay extra and see this exhibition whilst you’re at Blenheim for the evening… it was truly magical!

 

The Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail

 

 

This was what we had been waiting for, the main reason I wanted to attend and the focal point of the entire event, the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail was the last stop on our itinerary for the evening and it certainly didn’t disappoint! I had seen so many photos online which looked amazing but, if I’m honest, totally didn’t do the place any justice, and it doesn’t really look as good until you see it in person. But let me tell you, it is well worth being surprised and seeing everything up close and personal as every single section is just incredible! You’ll be taken on a winter wonderland and lead through a variety of different areas including a tunnel of lights, a majestic waterfall, a sea of flowers hanging from the trees and a singing statue in the middle of the lake. The lights, the animation, the music, everything is seriously spectacular and I could have done that trail over and over again. It takes around an hour to complete the trail, maybe a little longer if you have small kids who want to run around and take everything in, and there are some muddy paths and steep hills in places, so be careful if you’re bringing the buggy. The trail was the best part of our entire evening and I would recommend that everyone does this part of Christmas at Blenheim as it’ll leave even the Scrooges amongst us feeling full of festive cheer!

 

 

As I’m sure you can tell from the insane amount of twinkly lights and Christmas trees, I had such a fantastic time at Blenheim for this event and it really got me feeling festive!  Everything from the Great Court to the Christmas Markets looked absolutely stunning, and the attention to detail on some of the décor was second to none. The brand new Cinderella Experience was better than I thought it was going to be, and I can see this being a real hit with kids and adults alike – especially if they’re visiting the Palace for the first time. The real crowning glory though was of course the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail which totally blew me away. Every single section was expertly decorated, with the music, lights, silhouettes and props looking incredible from every angle. I honestly had the most magical time at Blenheim and I really can’t wait to go back again next year! Have you been to Blenheim Palace before? And have you been at Christmas time? Let me know what you thought of it, and I would love to see all your festive photos!

Don’t forget to head to the Blenheim Palace website to purchase your tickets for this event, but be patient as it is hugely popular. I spoke to the CEO of the Estate when I was at the press launch and he told me that a whopping 82,000 tickets had already been sold before the launch night had even started, so get yours here if you want to book your preferred dates! Tickets cost £36pp for combined entrance to the Cinderella Experience and the Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail, whilst tickets to just the Lights Trail cost £26pp.

Love Jess x

NB. Big thanks to the fab teams at Flamingo PR and Blenheim Palace for hosting me on this wonderful event! My tickets to Christmas at Blenheim were provided to me complimentary for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts, words and photos are of course my own.

 

 

 

 

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Travel Guide to Dorset – How to Spend a Weekend in the West Country

Ahh beautiful Dorset; I really love this place. I love Great Britain and all that comes with it, especially as we have some real gems in our country that often get overlooked in favour of travelling abroad. I know we aren’t famed for our good weather, but when the wind is still and the sun is shining, there’s plenty of reasons to have something to smile about when in the UK. Last month I took a spontaneous visit down to Dorset for a weekend of sun, sea and sand and had the most wonderful time exploring places I hadn’t been to since I was a kid. The weather was warm, the sky was blue and I had tonnes of fun. I spent one day and one night in Bournemouth wandering along the sea front, sunbathing on the beach and playing games in the arcade before driving over to the pretty village of Lulworth to see its famous cove and Jurassic landmark, Durdle Door. Here’s a taster of what I got up to on my weekend down in the West Country, as well as my top ten things to see and do in Dorset too…

 

 

Hit the beaches

Bournemouth has one of the best beaches in the country, and when the weather is warm and the sun is shining, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better location for a summer seaside break! Bournemouth’s long stretch of sandy beach coupled with its shallow waters and historic pier make it the perfect place for a seaside staycation. Why not have fish and chips on the pier, or take a dip in the sea if you’re feeling brave enough? The Atlantic isn’t the warmest sea on the planet, but with the UK heatwave we had this year I heard the waters were positively tropical and were the perfect temperature for swimming in! If you’re really wanting to push yourself you could always zip line from the pier to the beach whilst gazing in awe at the blue waters beneath your feet. This is something I didn’t attempt during my visit, but the queues were huge and it looked a fantastic thing to do for both kids and adults alike.

 

Wander through Bournemouth’s pretty gardens

I discovered these a few years ago and now go every time I’m in Bournemouth just to escape the hustle and bustle of the beach and pier. The gardens are located right in the town centre, just a 5min walk from the beach and shops,  and are filled with tall trees, exotic plants, colourful flowers and quirky things too. Made up of over 2000 acres of land, the gardens are split into three areas: the Lower Gardens, Upper Gardens and the Central Gardens, and are open to the public all year round. Why not wander down the curved pavements and past the pretty borders towards a viewing point over the bay, where you can take in the fantastic sea views in front of you. Alternatively, head over to the recently renovated Boscombe Gardens where you can play Mini Golf on one of the lawns, take the kids trampolining, or watch as they run around the brand new water play area. The gardens are home to a series of events throughout the year, and each season brings something new so there will be plenty to see and do whatever time of year you decide to visit!

 

Make the most of the amusement arcades

Who doesn’t love an amusements arcade when you’re on holiday?! I’ve been visiting seaside towns since I was a baby and, for me, nothing beats the thrill of winning a few pennies on the 2p machines or hitting the £5 jackpot on the one arm bandit! Bournemouth’s amusements arcade have been present since 19xx and they’ve really upped their game over the past few years with new attractions including dance machines, air hockey tables and basketball hoops too. I never tend to spend too long in arcades for fear of missing out on the good weather outside, but if it’s a rainy day then this is the perfect way to while away a few hours.

 

 

Have a girls night out on the town

Bournemouth is a great night out and is the perfect place if you’re looking for a fun evening with the girls (or guys). I’ve been out in Bournemouth a few times now and it never fails to disappoint, particularly because there’s a huge range of bars to suit all music tastes and ages, and there are plenty of restaurants to grab some food in before you start drinking. As Bournemouth is a uni town, there are inevitably lots of young people out (I’m 25 and I felt OLD when I went out last month!) but it’s great to meet lots of new people from different parts of the country, and the cheap student deals on drinks helps the bank balance too. Each time I’ve been out in Bournemouth I’ve started with one of the causal bars like Slug and Lettuce, All Bar One or Be At One, had some food at either and then ended up in mega nightclub Halo for lots of dancing. Halo is a nightclub built into a church which is super cool and offers a great night out.

 

Spend half a day in Lulworth

If you’re done with the bustling streets and bright lights of Bournemouth, why not take a day trip to the nearby Lulworth Cove? Just an hour’s drive from Bournemouth and close to Poole and Weymouth too,  Lulworth Cove is one of Britain’s best kept secrets. A charming town with shops, restaurants and places to stay, Lulworth is famed for it’s horseshoe shaped Cove which lies on a pebbled beach at the bottom of the main street. You can easily spend a day wandering around the cute souvenir shops, eating fish & chips on the beach and marvelling at the pretty cove. There are walks and hikes to take around the area too, and the perfect way to end the day is to cosy up in one of Lulworth’s pubs and enjoy some home cooked British food.

 

 

Hike from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door

Durdle Door is one of the most famous landmarks in Britain and, in my opinion, certainly one of the most impressive too! I hadn’t been to Durdle Door since I was a spritely 10 year old, as I mentioned above, but visiting again as an adult gave me a totally different perspective and made me appreciate it so much more. On my last visit I played on the beach with my sisters and went fishing in the rock pools, barely paying attention to the huge stone arch that lay in the sea in front of me, but this time round I simply just stared at it from every angle, taking it all in, and realising just how amazing nature really is. We sat on the beach admiring the view before heading up the steep hill and making our way back along the walking trail to Lulworth Cove. I always forget how majestic Durdle Door is and it reminded me of just how much I loved my time in Dorset as a child. The backdrop makes for the most AMAZING photos too so your Instagram grid will certainly thank you after you’ve had a photo shoot at this UNESCO World Heritage Site!

 

Make a seaside stop off at Poole or Weymouth

I’ve never actually been to Poole, but I’ve heard there’s plenty of things to see and do, including visiting the popular Sandbanks Beach and the Splashdown Waterpark. You can also head over to Brownsea Island to look out for wildlife, go hiking and take part in some water-sports too. Poole is also home to one of the biggest natural harbours in the UK, receiving its status as a designated world heritage site back in 1999. Weymouth is like a smaller Bournemouth, with a long sandy beach, plenty of shops, restaurants and bars and lots of amusements arcades too. The nightlife is a little more vibrant in Weymouth than it is in Poole, and there are lots of events taking place all year round. I’d also recommend taking a daytrip to Chesil Beach to eye up even more of Dorset’s fantastic Jurassic Coast.

 

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Last time I visited this place I was just a little girl who was too busy looking in rockpools for fish and too intent on trying to find the prettiest shells to even stop and take in the beautiful views of the #JurassicCoast 😍I loved visiting as a kid and have fond memories of attempting to copy my dad skimming stones whilst playing on the beach with my sisters and our little westie as my mum tried desperately to keep an eye on us all! 😂 Despite loving our family holiday as a kid, my visit back to #DurdleDoor at the weekend made me see this UNESCO world heritage sight in a totally different light. I appreciated it 100x more the second time round, as an adult, and couldn't stop staring at its incredible natural beauty 🌊 Have you ever been somewhere as a child and an adult and had a totally different experience? #WanderlustWednesday #VisitDorset #IgersDorset #LoveDorset #ExploreDorset #DiscoverDorset #DorsetCoast #Dorset 🌍

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Where to Eat/Drink

As I mentioned above, Bournemouth is a great night out and has some fantastic food and drink places to enjoy during your visit. There are plenty of well-known chain and high street restaurants to choose from, as well as plenty of independent eateries too. I’ve tended to eat at the branded places like Prezzo or Ask just because I know what I’m getting and I like their food, but I need to be a little more adventurous next time. Harry Ramsden’s on the pier is the BEST place for fish and chips and I always have lunch there every time I’m in Bournemouth! For drinks I would choose Slug and Lettuce/All Bar One for pre-drinks and then end up in either Halo or Cameo if you’re looking for a nightclub to party at. Lulworth is much smaller but still has café’s and pubs to choose from for lunch or dinner. Try the café next to the visitor information centre for top notch scones with clotted cream and jam, or try The Castle (as mentioned above) for their home cooked pub meals. I haven’t eaten out at all in Weymouth or Poole but I have heard the Dorset Burget Company in Weymouth is amazing – it is owned by my old bosses son and has won plenty of foodie awards so I defo need to try it out and pop in to say hello next time I’m down in the West Country.

 

Where to Stay

During my time in Bournemouth I tend to opt for cheap hotels like Premier Inn’s or Travelodge’s in order to get the best value for money, and they often have great central locations too. On my most recent stay I booked the Bournemouth Travelodge Central Hotel, located just off the sea front and a few doors down from the posh Marriott Hotel. Our double room was basic but spacious and clean with a nice hot shower in the bathroom and we could *just* make out a sea view from our bedroom window! The price was an absolute STEAL at just £70 for the night and the location couldn’t have been better. There is parking on site (£6 for 24hrs) but we couldn’t find any spaces so left the car on one of the residential streets just opposite the exit and it was fine here all weekend – oh and it was totally free too! You could pay for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the hotel if you wanted it but we opted to do neither and ate out the entire time as there are so many foodie places in Bournemouth. As for Lulworth, I haven’t stayed there for a long time, but the last time I did I was probably 9 or 10 years old and shared a family room with my parents and sisters at the 16th century Castle Inn, located right in the heart of the village. With a thatched roof, gorgeous garden and bright bedrooms, my memories from The Castle Inn are certainly happy ones and the location is unbeatable. A 5 min walk will take you into the centre of Lulworth, with its shops and restaurants on your doorstep, and the Cove itself is right at the bottom of the mini high street.

As you can see, there are sooo many things to do in Dorset that you’ll barely scratch the surface if you spend just a weekend there. I have visited Dorset many times over the years and still haven’t seen all of it, but it is such a pretty part of the world and I could visit again and again without getting bored. I’m a massive fan of promoting UK travel and think Dorset makes the perfect place for a Great British staycation at any time of year, but even more so in the summer months when the weather is warm and the sea is (almost) bearable to swim in! Have you been to Dorset before? Let me know if you love it as much as I do!

Love Jess x

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) I feel like every single person right now is leaving their jobs to become full time content creators/bloggers/freelancers. It's been just over 2 years since I made that same decision to quit my job & work full time as a freelance travel blogger. I had an amazing year working for myself with plenty of ups including flexible working hours, no annual leave restrictions, press trips and new clients/collaboration projects but there were inevitably lots of downs & it just didn't make me happy. I was incredibly lonely, I missed working in an office alongside colleagues, and I struggled with the inconsistent workload and lack of constant wages coming in. After a year I ended up at a new 9-5 job (this time in the travel industry to satisfy my wanderlust) which I needed in order to bring some routine back into my life. In this new blog post I'll be showing the good, the bad and the ugly sides of freelance life and that there's much more to it than just press trips and Instagram posts! If you've ever considered going freelance, or if you are currently working for yourself and wondering how our experiences might compare, then this post is for you! ✨#wordpress #newpost #bloglife #freelancer #bloggers

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