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Oxford Castle Unlocked: A fun-filled day out for all the family

 

                                                             Going down the steps from the top of St George’s Tower

 

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Oxford Castle Unlocked, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire city, and perhaps one of the oldest too! With history dating back to the 11th century, this 1000 year old castle was largely destroyed by the English Civil War and, by the 18th century, it had become Oxford’s local prison. Home to some of England’s most notorious criminals, and still in use right up until 1996, Oxford Castle has now been turned into a major hotel, but part of the site has been opened up to the public to offer the full prison experience. With it’s original motte and bailey hill, real underground chambers from its prison days, and the magnificent St George’s Tower still in place, Oxford Castle oozes history, charm and sends shivers down the spines of those that visit… Here’s what I got up to during my time there…

 

The History

 

                                       Just one of the inmates at Oxford Castle Prison

 

This partly ruined Norman medieval castle is one of the oldest in the country, and was believed to have been built in the year 1071 according to the Abingdon Chronicle. The instruction of the castle was ordered by William the Conquerer after he granted extensive land in Oxfordshire to the baron Robert D’Oyly. The castle played a key part in British history during the 12th and 13th centuries, where it was attacked and seized many times. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, the castle was starting to be used as a prison, instead of being seen as a royal residency, although it was never officially given this title. By the time the 18th century had started, it was being used as a full working prison and remained that way right up until its closure in the mid 1990s.

 

The Guided Tour

 

                                                          With our lovely tour guide, Alastair!

 

Our tour guide, Alastair, brought the prison to life and really gave us an insight as to what it was like for inmates living in those cells all those years ago, and for those imprisoned in more recent times too as it was only closed down in 1996! Each room/corridor/level of the prison had a story to tell, from the trial of Mary Blandy (she was on trial for poisoning her father) to the escape of Empress Matilda (the cousin of King Stephen). Alastair, and all of the other tour guides, did a wonderful job of telling these historical stories in a way that captured your imagination, really immersed you in the atmosphere, and made you even more interested in the castle than you had been before you walked through the door.

 

The Location

 

                                                                                                   The gorgeous castle building

 

Situated in the historic Castle Quarter, Oxford Castle can be found just off the main high street in the centre of the city. At the foot of the new Westgate development site, and just next to the Seacourt Park and Ride bus stop, the Castle can be easily reached by bus, coach, train, taxi, or on foot.

 

Useful Information

 

                                                                        The entrance to Oxford Castle Unlocked

 

The castle is open daily, with tours starting between 10am and 4pm. Admission prices (£10.95 per adult, £7.75 per child) include a guided tour and access to St George’s Tower, the castle hill and the exhibition. There’s also a gift shop and cafe on site too. Booking ahead is advised due to increased demand. Parking is available nearby either at one of the many pay and display car parks in the city, or one of the 5 park and ride car parks that operate excellent services every single day.

My time at Oxford Castle was truly enjoyable; I loved learning about the history of somewhere so important to England, and with it being right on my doorstep too I felt like I was completely immersed in the experience. Our wonderful guide. Alastair, was so fantastic in portraying his character (Daniel Harris) and delivering the history of the castle in such a fun, interactive and informative way. A big thank you to Alastair, Robin, Ellie and the rest of the Oxford Castle team for looking after us during our visit – we had so much fun!

Love Jess x

NB. My day out was provided by the Oxford Castle Unlocked team but, as always, all opinions, words and photos are of course my own.

 

 

Hotel Review: 25 Hours Hotel, Vienna, Austria

Currently writing up my #review from my time at @25hourshotels in #Vienna last week and can't wait to share it with you all! 🏨

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Just over a week ago, as part of my mini European adventure with Lucy, the two of us were invited to stay at one of the quirkiest hotels in Vienna: 25 Hours Hotel at Museumsquartier. We stayed on a bed and breakfast basis for two nights and had the most amazing stay. Part of a chain, with other properties in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Berlin and Zurich, this hotel is a tourist attraction in it’s own right and boasts it’s own rooftop bar, restaurant, garden, gift shop and an actual, real life mermaid’s cave. Yep, you heard me right, this is what dreams are made of! If you’re looking for an edgy, quirky, extraordinary place to stay on your next trip to the Austrian capital, the 25 Hours Hotel is an absolute must…

The Location

The edgy, quirky district of #Museumsquartier made the perfect base to explore #Vienna 😍 @viennatouristboard

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The hotel is in the perfect location for exploring all of Vienna’s famous landmarks and is situated in the 7th district, Museumsquartier, one of the largest cultural neighbourhoods in the world. Home to an abundance of shops, restaurants, bars and, yep, you guessed it, museums, this place was seriously cool and you could easily spend a whole day here wandering around the parks and checking out all the fantastic buildings! Positioned between metro stops, tram stops and bus lines, the location of this hotel enables you to see everything that you could wish to see in the Austrian capital. We mainly used the metro to get around, and hopped on and off the trams whenever we got the chance, but with the nearest metro stop (Volkstheater) just 300m from the front door of the hotel, it was super easy to whizz around the city using this method of transport.

The Room

Oh my goodness I don’t even know where to begin! This room is hands down the coolest, funkiest, most frikkin’ freakiest room I have ever stayed in and I absolutely LOVED IT! I am used to staying in really lovely hotels whenever I travel, and I generally go for 3-4* mid range properties with a touch of luxury, but this place was something else altogether! I wouldn’t say it was because it was particularly luxurious, there were no silk linen duvets or duck feather pillows, but it was luxurious in that it was big, bright, modern, spacious and extraordinary and, for me, all of those things add up to something even better than luxury.

With a grand total of 217 rooms laid out over 7 floors, the 25 Hours Hotel is made up of M, M+, L, XL, Suites and Panorama Suites which are the equivalent of Economy, Standard, Luxury, Extra Luxury etc etc, you get the idea. We were staying in the M room, so the most basic of them all, and even that was a real treat and unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. With a colourful headboard, Bluetooth sound speakers, LCD flatscreen TV, workspace, wardrobe, mini bar and safe, the room was fitted with everything we could ever need and more.

I miss my super cosy room @25hourshotels #vienna – can I just be back there already pleaseeee?! 🏨🏨

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The smart bathroom, with incredible power shower, complimentary toiletries, hairdryer and little look-through window (cheeky) was just right for us in every way and was deceptively spacious. Lucy and I shared a double bed and it was so big that we didn’t have to worry about who was nicking the covers (or snoring in each others ears) and the pillows and duvet set were super comfy. We were also greeted with lovely goody bags from The Vienna Tourist Board and from 25 Hours Hotels themselves – thanks for making us feel so welcome!

The Breakfast

Breakfast each morning was served in the 1500foodmakers restaurant just next to the reception area on the ground floor. We were seated promptly and could then go back and forth to the buffet as many times as we fancied. With a whole host of yoghurts, fruits, cereals, breads, cakes and hot and continental items on offer, as well as juices, water and hot drinks, the breakfast was plentiful and set us up really well both days. I’ve gotta be honest though, as I always am with all of my blog posts, I don’t think I would have paid for this breakfast if it wasn’t included as the price is pretty steep. Although the food was great, the cost would set you back £16pp per day and, for me, it just really isn’t worth the money. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big breakfast eater, even at home I barely manage a slice of toast, so when I go away I usually just stay room-only and opt to get something small from the nearest café or shop when I start feeling hungry. Having said that, it made a really nice change to have breakfast included, so if you like your continental then GO FOR IT!

The Facilities

When looking for accommodation I always make sure there are facilities onsite to maximise your hotel experience, and the ones at 25 Hours Hotels certainly don’t disappoint! The property in Vienna was home to a super cool reception area complete with Apple macs, pinball game station, swing bench, photobooth and a gift shop/kiosk selling a range of quirky items. At the very top of the hotel you’ll find Der Dachboden, their rooftop bar, with views across the entire city that seemed to stretch for miles. The rooftop bar was incredibly busy during our stay, probably because the weather was so good, but also because its super popular with residents and locals alike, so get there during the early part of the afternoon if you want to reserve a seat! Outside and to the left of the hotel you’ll find their very own garden area complete with Burger de Ville, it’s very own burger van serving fast food to eat onsite or to take away with you, perfect if you want to grab something and go! As partners of Mini, 25 Hours Hotels also offer complimentary bicycle and Mini car hire to all of their guests, such a cool idea and it would have come in so handy, but sadly Lucy and I didn’t get chance to take these out for a spin during out visit!

The Mermaids Cave

Ok so this thing deserves its OWN PARAGRAPH and I don’t even care if it makes this post too long I just have to write about it and share it with you all! The mermaids cave, aka the sauna, steam room, gym, relaxation area, whatever you wanna call it, was single handedly the BEST thing about this entire hotel. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it ALL, but this place was just extra special. Located in the basement, the mermaids cave is kitted out with showers, a sauna, steam room, gym, workout area, relaxation hideaway and giant swings where you can be a child and put your hands in the air (and wave them around like you just don’t care – literally, I did this).

You can also soak your feet in large wooden tubs if you need to chill out for a while, and you can help yourself to hot drinks, bottled water and fresh fruit too. There’s toilets and washrooms for your convenience,  as well as lockers for your valuables which will save you going back and forth to your room. Both times Lucy and I visited the cave (around 8pm-10pm) it was completely empty and it we had it to ourselves which really made us relax and totally zen out for the duration of our time there. It really was the most magical place and, for me, it was the total highlight of the entire hotel – if you’re thinking of going anytime soon you HAVE to check this place out!

The Verdict

Room 309 – our little home during our time in #Vienna 🏨🏨 @25hourshotels

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Overall we had a fantastic stay at the 25 Hours Hotel and I would highly recommend staying here on a mid-week or weekend visit for a really cool and quirky stay in the heart of the Museumsquartier. Every aspect from the brilliant location to the buffet breakfast, amazing facilities and colourful bedroom made our stay such a pleasant one; the staff made us feel so welcome throughout the whole of our stay, from the minute we arrived at check in, to the second we checked out, nothing was too much trouble. They were super helpful when we were asking about public transport, and about how far away all the major sites were, and they even helped us sort out our train back to Bratislava upon check out – thank you SO much for really going above and beyond, you guys were amazing!

So there we have it, my full review of the wonderful 25 Hours Hotel. I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough for those looking for a stylish and comfortable stay in the heart of the Museumsquartier district – thank you to the lovely staff for making our stay so wonderful, we will most definitely be back! For more information or to book a room please visit their website directly.

NB. I was a guest of 25 Hours Hotel for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are of course my own.

Don’t forget, we are all mad here…

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Hotel Review: Copenhagen Admiral Hotel, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Last month on our wonderful winter city break to beautiful Copenhagen, my sister and I had the chance to stay at the fantastic Copenhagen Admiral hotel, right at the heart of the city just around the corner from the picturesque Nyhavn Harbour. We stayed on a room-only basis for three nights and had the most amazing stay. The historic building is a converted 18th century warehouse and everything from the waterfront location to the nautical themed décor, comfortable beds and welcoming staff made our stay truly brilliant. If you’re looking for a place to stay on your next trip to the Danish capital here’s why the Copenhagen Admiral is an absolute must…

 

The Location

 

 

Location is so important to me when booking accommodation for my city breaks, especially as I only have a few days for the trip and I like to be close to everything so I can make the most of my short break away. For me, the location of the Admiral hotel was perfect; situated on the Toldbodgade street right in the heart of the city, just around the corner from Nyhavn and right on the waterfront overlooking Paper Island. Amalienborg Palace was just a few steps away, whilst The Little Mermaid and Kastallet Fortress were a 20 minute stroll away along the waterfront, and Rosenborg Castle, The Round Tower and Christiansborg Palace were also a 20 minute stroll away, but in the opposite direction. The nearest metro stop, Kongens Nytorv, was just 5-10 minutes away allowing easy access to the airport and train stations.

 

The Room

 

 

I think my favourite thing about this hotel was our gorgeous, cosy room! The wooden beams really added to the charm and made it so authentic, whilst the desk/sofa area gave us an added sense of space. The bathroom with power shower was a godsend after a long days walking in the cold and there was plenty of wardrobe space too. The beds, and pillows, were super comfy and we both had an excellent sleep every single night.

 

The Facilities

 

 

The bar and reception area were spotlessly clean, modern and spacious with plenty of luggage area, large elevators and space to relax. The reception staff were so efficient, there were next to no queues and all our requests were dealt with very quickly. We didn’t dine in the restaurant area so I cannot comment on breakfast, lunch or dinner but I have heard wonderful reviews about the onsite SALT restaurant. We had a couple of drinks in the bar one night which was really enjoyable; the prices were expensive, but I would expect this from a 4* hotel bar, and the atmosphere was lovely, very relaxed and friendly. We decided to book an hour in the wellness centre one night to warm ourselves up after a cold day of exploring, and it was so nice to have it to ourselves and spend some time totally relaxing. The wellness centre, with sauna, steam room and power shower, can be booked for an hour free of charge and you will have the whole place to yourself – worth doing if you want some well deserved ME time!

 

The Verdict

 

 

Overall we had a fantastic stay at the Copenhagen Admiral and I would highly recommend staying here on a mid-week or weekend visit for a cosy and comfortable stay in the heart of the city. Every aspect from the brilliant location to the nautical sea theme and the charming room made our stay such a pleasant one; the staff made us feel so welcome throughout the whole of our stay, from the minute we arrived at check in, to the second we checked out, nothing was too much trouble.

So there we have it, my full review of the wonderful Copenhagen Admiral. I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough for those looking for a stylish and comfortable stay in the heart of the city – thank you to the lovely staff for making our stay such a pleasant one! For more information or to book a room please visit their website directly.

 

 

NB. I received a small discount in exchange for providing an honest review of the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel and, as always, all thoughts are my own.

NB. Featured photo: image credit -Copenhagen Admiral Hotel website

Hotel Review: The Fat Fox Inn, Watlington (Oxfordshire) -The perfect base for exploring the Cotswolds and the Chiltern Hills

 

Just another hotel review 🏨🏨🍾🍾 #standardmonday #luxlife #ionlygetoutofbedforchampagne

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Last Monday I was invited to stay overnight at The Fat Fox Inn, a wonderful pub with 9 cosy rooms nestled in the medieval market town of Watlington in South Oxfordshire. Conveniently located just three miles off the M4o, with easy access to London and the Midlands, and a short drive from both the dreaming spires of Oxford and the delightful Henley on Thames, The Fat Fox Inn boasts the perfect location from which to enjoy some of the Cotswolds’ and the Chilterns’ finest tourist attractions. I invited my best friend Emily to be my travel companion for the night (she gets all the good jobs!) and so, without further ado, here’s my full review of this cosy property…

The Location

 

 

The Fat Fox is right at the heart of the Cotswolds and the Chilterns; close enough to explore everything this area has to offer, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the larger cities, so that you can get a good night’s sleep and a true taste of market town life in Watlington. As mentioned above, both Thame and Henley on Thames are approx. a 20 minute drive away, whilst other places of interest, including Reading and Oxford, are both a 30-40 minute drive away .

 

The Room

 

How cute does this cosy little room look?! Can't wait to get a good nights sleep here tonight 😴😴

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The Inn boasts 9 cosy rooms made up of standard and economy double and twins, premier doubles and a larger family room. The rooms are separate to the main building and are located to the rear of the car park, just opposite the pub. Each room boasts an en-suite bathroom, with large shower and bath tub, central heating, freeview TV, tea and coffee making facilities and there is free WIFI throughout. Our twin room was located at the top of the stairs on the right and was so cosy and warm. The bed (and the pillows!) were super comfy and the hot shower was amazing the next morning. We both had a great night’s sleep and really loved the homely, comfortable feel to our room.

 

The Bar

 

 

The Fat Fox is cleverly split into a few different areas, with the bar, pub seating areas and separate dining room all split up, but all next to each other, it felt like we were able to enjoy a restaurant and a pub atmosphere at the same time, giving us the best of both worlds. The atmosphere in the dining room was still as relaxed as the pub/bar area, but the food was exceedingly good and felt much more than just ‘pub grub’, with imaginative dishes and creative presentation, I’d liken it to a bistro or proper restaurant menu.

 

The Dinner and Breakfast

 

 

We were both so looking forward to dinner after a busy day at work and a long journey down to the hotel so couldn’t wait to tuck in to our food for the night! The menu was really interesting and offered a range of dishes to suit every palette.  We opted to skip starters (although I’ve heard the speciality scotched egg is a MUST!) and went straight for the main courses, choosing the braised shoulder of lamb (£16) and the bavette steak (£20) respectively. My steak came medium rare and was cooked to perfection, with mouth-wateringly good straight cut chips and gremolata as an accompaniment. Emily chose the lamb, which came with gratin potatoes and sprouting broccoli, and she loved the tenderness of the meat which was cooked perfectly.

For dessert we chose to share the chocolate cookie dough torte (£6 I think) because we were both soooo stuffed but felt we should at least make an attempt to taste it for you lovely lot, nothing to do with the fact that we wanted to be in cookie HEAVEN. The torte was amazing but super rich and I was so glad we shared as I couldn’t possibly have managed one on my own!

 

 

Breakfast the next morning was really lovely; a choice of fruit and cereals were served first, before we were shown the menu.We both opted for the Full English and enjoyed freshly cooked sausages, bacon, eggs, tomato, black pudding and mushrooms with toast and a handmade hash brown – my particular favourite! The breakfasts set us up for the day ahead and we left feeling content and with our tummies full, although I could have managed another hash brown or three before leaving! 😉

 

The Verdict

 

 

Overall we had a really wonderful stay at The Fat Fox and I would highly recommend staying here on a mid-week or weekend visit for a cosy and comfortable stay in Oxfordshire. Every aspect from the warm and welcoming staff to the brilliant dinner and gorgeous room made our stay such a pleasant one; the staff made us feel so welcome throughout the whole of our stay, from the minute we arrived at check in, to the second we checked out the next day

So there we have it, my full review of the wonderful Fat Fox Inn. I cannot recommend this place highly enough for those looking for a comfortable stay in the heart of the Cotswolds and the Chilterns– thank you to the lovely staff for making our stay such a pleasant one! For more information or to book a room please visit their website directly.

NB. I was a guest of The Fat Fox Inn for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are of course my own.

 

Another day, another hotel review! Here's my home for the night 🏨🏨

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The Secret to Happy Travel? VIP Treatment Before you Fly!

 

 

As most of you will know, I headed to Copenhagen last weekend with my sister for our first overseas adventure of 2017 and we had the most amazing time! A full city guide will be coming soon, as well as a hotel review too, but first of all I’ll start at the beginning where we were lucky enough to be invited by Executive Lounges to spend some time at the Aspire Lounge at London Luton Airport ahead of our morning flight…

After dropping off our bag and whizzing through security we made our way towards the Aspire Lounge to start our adventure in style. Luton Airport is pretty small, and there aren’t many shops or restaurants to eat at so we were really looking forward to having somewhere private, and comfortable, to sit and chill before our flight. The Lounge is conveniently located next to Accessorise on the 1st Floor of the departure area and is super easy to find.

Upon arrival we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and told that everything on offer was complimentary, apart from champagne and additional Prosecco. We headed to one of the empty tables, with comfy seating and a view across to the rest of the airport, before checking out the food and drink that was laid out for us. We had a morning flight so the breakfast menu was on offer and we opted for fruit juice, hot drinks, and cereal as well as croissants and a sausage sandwich each! The food was really good and we would have had more drinks had we had more time, and it not been so early in the morning – I think a glass of Prosseco each was more than enough for both of us!

 

 

 

The lounge itself was laid out really nicely, with plenty of space for people to chill out and relax. There were work stations, snooze pods, plenty of tables and comfy seating as well as sparkling clean toilets and showers too. There was also a spa where treatments including manicures and massages were on offer for a fixed price. The lounge was fairly busy with people taking advantage of the VIP treatment, but it didn’t feel overcrowded or that there wasn’t enough space for everyone, given that the lounge is big and there is plenty of room.

We only had around an hour to spend time in the lounge because we arrived slightly late from Oxford and were checking out the shops in the airport before we headed up, but I really wanted at least half an hour more just to relax and unwind before our flight – sadly we didn’t get chance to try out the snooze pods! I think if I were to visit another lounge before a flight I would definitely arrive a little earlier to try and make the most of the comfort, and the food and drink, that is on offer.

 

 

Overall we had a truly relaxing time at the Aspire Lounge at London Luton Airport and were looked after really well by all the staff – thank you for making our stay so enjoyable! The cost of the lounge experience is £23.99pp which is slightly pricey, but worth it if you are going to be spending more than a couple of hours there and can make the most of the comfort and food and drink that is on offer. If I were to go again I would probably make sure I have more time there and would maybe attend ahead of a longer haul flight instead of a short one, just to fully benefit from everything on offer. However, I would highly recommend booking the Aspire Lounge for a stress-free start to any trip and to find the secret to happy travel in the most comfortable way possible!

Love Jess x

NB. I was a guest of The Aspire Lounge for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are of course my own. Please book directly to reserve your experience!

 

Come fly with me ✈️✈️ @ldnlutonairport @easyjet

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