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HAPPY NEW YEAR! Top 15 InstaTravel Moments of 2015!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

I hope you all had fun partying last night.. I know I did! I thought I’d kick-start the day/year/month with a round up of my Top 15 InstaTravel Moments of 2015! This has been my first EVER year of using Instagram and it has fast become my favourite social media platform! So here are my top moments of the past 12 months…

JANUARY

Spending my birthday in London with an epic walking tour across the city with one of my best friends! We walked from Kensington to Tower Bridge and took in all the major landmarks- what a way to start the year!

FEBRUARY/MARCH

Taking in the beautiful sights of Prague by climbing to the top of the Old Astronomy Tower! This was my first city break of the year with my sister and what a trip we had!

APRIL

Myself and my sisters purchased season tickets for our family to the beautiful Blenheim Palace which is just down the road from us! We’ve had so many lovely days out at this place!

MAY

For my nans 80th birthday celebrations we headed for a family weekend away in the nearby Cotswolds. We had a wonderful weekend and the weather was just perfect!

JUNE

I had a fantastic day out to Royal Ascot this month along with my sisters, cousin, mum and aunty. We got all dressed up, bet on lots of horses and even saw the Queen!

I also headed to London at the end of June for a fantastic day out at Hyde Park’s annual British Summertime Festival. Myself and my close friend had great fun watching Kylie in concert who was incredible live!

We have had the besstttt dayyy!! Roll on next year wooo 😁🎉🐴👑 #ascot #races #family #love #girls #dayout #weloveascot #wesawqueenie

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

JULY

This month brought our annual family holiday and we headed down to Cornwall to spend a week in our own holiday cottage right in the heart of lively St Ives. The weather was fantastic ALL WEEK and we had the best time with each other making lots of memories and revisiting places from our childhood!

AUGUST

August Bank Holiday weekend brought a fantastic day out filled with music, fun and laughter! I took my sisters to their first ever festival, Fusion Festival near Birmingham, and we had a brilliant day out seeing lots of top artists perform- the highlight was McBusted who were amazing!

SEPTEMBER

This month it was time for my second city break of the year so my sister and I flew to Budapest for a long weekend of sightseeing. We both fell in love with the city; it was beautiful and we had the best time away!

OCTOBER

This month was super busy for me but my highlight was a personal achievement which saw me run a 5k charity fun run for The Pituitary Foundation. I raised over £300 on my Just Giving page and beat my personal best! I had a fantastic day and was so proud of myself. A big THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to this fantastic charity who have supported my since my prolactinoma diagnosis in 2011.

NOVEMBER

I had a jam-packed November but my highlight was getting my first EVER paid job as a freelance travel writer! I was absolutely over the moon and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet- hopefully I’ll take on more roles which will allow me to become a freelance writer full time!

DECEMBER

The last month of the year was kick-started with a magical trip to the beautiful Disneyland Paris! I went with two of my closest friends for a pre-Christmas treat and we had the most amazing time, it really was beautiful and certainly got us in the festive mood!

Hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle-stop recap of my InstaTravel highlights from 2015! I’d love to hear what your favourite was? I just can’t pick one!

Wishing you every happiness for 2016!

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

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Blenheim Palace: A brilliant family day out!

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Hi everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

Love Jess x

Happy Easter – Bank Holiday Fun in the Sun!

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Happy Easter everyone – I hope you all had a lovely break!

Mine was jam packed solid I didn’t stop from the minute I finished work on Maundy Thursday to the second I went to sleep on Easter Monday! It was great to be so busy though and I had such a good time packing things into my days and making the most of my time off. So, here’s what I did….

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On Good Friday my nan, grandad and cousin from Liverpool came down to stay for the weekend and it was so lovely to see them! We spent the afternoon catching up and having a chit chat and then had a nice Good Friday supper together.

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On Easter Saturday I took my sisters and my cousin to Oxford for the day to see the sights and do a bit of shopping! We started at Broad Street and saw the National Museum of Science and the beautiful Bridge of Sighs. We then walked through the Bodleian Library (being as quiet as we could!) before ending up at The Radcliffe Camera. We then wandered around the stunning St Mary’s Church before making our way up the High Street to explore all the brilliant shops that Oxford has to offer.

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I spent Saturday night with my family having a big meal at The Royal Oak in nearby Burford which was really lovely. They serve the most amazing food there and are famous for their steak and ale pies – a definite must for anyone wanting to sample good old British pub food!

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After the meal I headed home to see my two best friends and we went out to Oxford for the evening. We decided to get into the spirit of things and dress up as Easter bunnies which was lots of fun and we had a great night!

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Unfortunately I did waste my Sunday a little as I was recovering from Saturday night but I still managed to spend some time with my family before they headed back up North. Mum & Dad also cooked a big Easter dinner for us as well which was nice but I just wanted to rest and so was feeling a bit sorry for myself!

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To make up for my wasted Sunday I decided to go on a road trip with my best friend on the Monday and, seeing as the weather was so good, we decided to trek to the beach! I’d wanted to go down to Bournemouth for the day but we knew it would be packed and the traffic would be a nightmare so we decided to go a little closer to home and headed to the Cotswold Water Park in nearby Gloucestershire.

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The Water Park covers a large area across the Cotswolds but we specifically wanted to spend the day at the beach so we drove to Keynes Country Park which is home to large lakes, a manmade beach and lots of water sports!

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Once we arrived we chose our spot at the end of the lake and ate our picnic which we had brought with us for the day. We then spent time sunbathing, chatting and having lots of fun. We watched all the people taking part in the water sports which included rowing, boating and even zorbing! I’d have loved to have a go at the zorbing but we weren’t feeling particularly adventurous so decided to stick to the sunbathing and people watching. We also got attacked by an over excited swan who was after our sausage rolls so we decided to run for the hills when he came zooming towards us – I’m sure it gave the passers by a bit of a giggle!

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We were out for such a long day on Easter Monday and didn’t get home til late so I was dreading work the next day – I always hate going back after having a long weekend off! I hope you had a brilliant break, what did you all get up to?! I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment below or get in touch via my social media channels!

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Love Jess x

NEW FEATURE Top 5 Things to do in… Oxfordshire!

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Hi everyone,

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

1)     University Parks, Oxford

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

2)     Blenheim Palace, Woodstock

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

3)     Cotswold Wildlife Park, Near Burford

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

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

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

5)     White horse Hill, Uffington 

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

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

Love Jess x

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