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My Travel Guide to Paris, The City of Love

 

Ah, beautiful Paris, the city of light, the city of love and one of the most famous cities on the planet. Prior to my visit to the French capital on my recent inter-railing adventure, I had only ever been to Paris once whilst on a day trip from Disneyland. Although I whizzed around trying to see as much as I possibly could, it’s such a huge city and I found it so hard to fit everything in. Luckily this time round I had way more time to spare and managed to see pretty much everything I wanted to during my time there. Here’s what I got up to on my Easter weekend visit…

 

Stroll along the River Seine

 

 

One of the prettiest parts of Paris is definitely the River Seine. I walked alongside it during my last visit and couldn’t wait to see it on a sunnier day, taking a gentle stroll along the many bridges and spend some time people watching. Given that we were staying at Saint Germain, we were perfectly positioned to access the Seine and walked alongside it each morning to get to and from the city and our hotel. Why not grab a chocolate crepe and devour it whilst walking along the river? You can’t get more Parisian than that!

 

Visit The Notre Dame Cathedral

 

 

This was my second visit to the Notre Dame and it was even more impressive than I had remembered. We spent a good hour here on Easter Sunday, listening to the bells chime and admiring the incredible architecture from every angle. It was sooo busy though and the queue to get inside was ridiculously long, so we came back to the cathedral a couple of days later and managed to walk straight in – it seems 9am on a Tuesday morning is a good time to beat the queues! Inside it was even more amazing than I had remembered and the stained glass windows truly were a sight to behold.

 

Discover the Hidden Passages of Paris and visit Montmartre

 

 

Prior to my visit I was contacted by tour company Triple (formerly known as Local Guddy) asking if I would like to review one of their many European tours, all ran by locals in their respective cities. As I was going to be in Paris, I wanted to discover a different side to the city and picked a tour that was a little less obvious and one that covered more than just the standard touristy sights. After scrolling on the Triple website, it was the Hidden Passages of Paris tour, run by local teacher turned guide Lucien, that jumped out at me immediately. Running for approx. two hours (€30pp) Lucien was to start at the Royal Palace of Justice before taking us to some of the ancient hidden passageways (old buildings and arcades that used to connect different districts of the city) which are now used to house an abundance of restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, shops and bars. As there were only two of us on the tour, it was super informative, yet informal, and we really got to know some different areas of Paris that you won’t find in the guidebooks. Lucien was a fantastic guide, very knowledgeable, and friendly too – nothing was too much trouble. As there were just the two of us we actually finished the tour early, but instead of walking away and leaving us to it, Lucien asked if there were any other areas of the city we wanted to see and he gladly walked up to Montmartre with us when we expressed our interest in visiting this area. He accompanied us up the steep hill to the top of the Sacre Coeur where he left us to carry on with our day. Lucien was fantastic and Triple were great at being on call if I had any queries in the lead up to the tour. Thank you to both Lucien and Rebecka at Triple for a wonderful tour that turned out to be one of the highlights of our Paris trip!

 

Wander through the Luxembourg Gardens

 

 

The Luxembourg Gardens were a pleasant surprise to both my sister and I – we had no idea they were so close to where we were staying in Saint-Germain and they were a real hidden gem. The weather wasn’t particularly warm during our trip, but luckily we did have sunshine for a few hours when visiting the Luxembourg Gardens. A series of outdoor gardens linked with bridges, fountains, ornaments, trees and lots of beautiful flowers made this place look like heaven on earth. There is a small onsite café serving drinks, cakes and snacks making it the perfect place to enjoy some much needed respite after a busy day of exploring. Paris can often be a little overwhelming at times as it’s streets are so busy, so taking a stroll around these beautiful gardens is a lovely way of slowing the pace down a little.

 

Stop off at The Louvre

 

 

Home to the largest collection of art in the world, the Louvre is the most famous museum on the planet and one of the most iconic buildings in history. Located in the 1st arrondissement on the right bank of the River Seine, the Louvre is home to almost 40,000 objects dating back centuries ago. It is perhaps best know for housing the world-famous Mona Lisa portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci. Receiving over 8 million visitors each year, the Louvre is undoubtedly popular and it is highly recommended that tickets are bought online rather than just showing up on the day! We didn’t actually go inside the Louvre as the queues were insane and we hadn’t booked tickets, but to be honest we were limited on time and would rather have spent our days in Paris outside than in. It is worth seeing from the outside though, and getting a selfie with the all important pyramid is a definite bucket list item.

 

Ride up to the top of Montparnasse Tower

 

 

This was something I was soo excited about doing as I LOVE rooftops and had climbed the Eiffel Tower last time, so when the lovely team at  Euroventure kindly gifted me two tickets (€17pp) I was so grateful and jumped at the chance to see the Parisian skyline from a different angle. We chose to go at dusk, at around 7pm, so that we could see the skyline both in the light, and after dark once the sun had set. Located in the 15th arrondissement, just a 20 minute walk from our hotel in Saint-Germain, we found the tower easily enough and it is ENORMOUS at an impressive 210m high! Upon arrival we took a short ride up in the elevator and found ourselves at the top of the tower where we were met with the most amazing panoramic views over the city. There is a café/bar on site and this actually became the place where we stopped for dinner after realising we were far too hungry to go wandering around an area we weren’t familiar with in search of some much needed food. A short staircase climb took us to the very top of the tower, which was open air and home to a number of sofa’s, chairs and large seating areas as well as another bar which is open in high season. The views from the very top of Montparnasse Tower were absolutely breath-taking, and it was the perfect place to watch the sun go down, as well as to spot the Eiffel Tower lighting up after dark when it sparkles on the hour, every hour each day from 7pm. A magnificent experience and the most delightful way to end our last night in pretty Paris.

 

Getting around

 

 

I know this is super touristy, but in my opinion the best way of getting around is jumping on a hop on, hop off bus and relaxing on the top deck whilst the driver takes you around to admire all the sights. There are a number of different companies to choose from and we picked Big Bus Tours Paris, just because their stop was nearest to our hotel and we saw them driving around the streets more often than some of their rival companies. A little on the pricey side, our tickets were €36pp for a 1-day ticket. Looking back I would have preferred to do a little research and get a better deal as we saw tickets with CitySightseeing for less than that for a full 24hr ticket, but hindsight is a wonderful thing! We stayed on board for the majority of the two main routes, the red line and the blue line, which gave our little legs some much needed rest whilst we hopped on and off at whatever sights/areas took our fancy. As Paris is so huge, I do think that taking an open top bus is the best way of getting around and an audio commentary was a great way of seeing the sights without wasting too much energy! We did use the metro to get to and from the train station which was handy and super cheap, otherwise we tended to walk to the other places when we weren’t using the bus tickets.

 

Where to stay

 

 

During our time in Paris we stayed in the lively Saint-Germain area which was the perfect place to base ourselves for our 2 night trip. There are sooo many places to stay in Paris, some better than others, and I did struggle at first to find somewhere as a base. With so many options it can be a little overwhelming, but after a friend recommended the Saint-Germain area for its trendy jazz scene and its close proximity to the River Seine (5 min walk away), I knew that was definitely where I wanted to be. Saint-Germain isn’t too huge but there are plenty of bars, café’s, shops and restaurants to visit during your stay. There are plenty of choices for hotel options but we picked the beautiful Hotel de Seine, conveniently located on Rue de Seine, right opposite a pharmacy and a few doors down to a little green grocers where we bought fruit and pastries each morning for breakfast. You’re right in the heart of the action, a stone’s throw from the busy entertainment district and just a 5 minute walk from the nearest metro station to connect you to the rest of the city. The hotel was beautifully decorated in traditional Parisian style with comfortable bedrooms, lavish bathrooms and a cute reception/breakfast area. The staff were so friendly and helpful, especially when our ongoing train to Luxembourg got cancelled because of the SNCF train strikes – reception lady was on hold for ages and was great at being a translator for us! I would highly recommend Hotel De Seine for anyone looking to stay in the heart of Saint-Germain when visiting Paris.

I really enjoyed my time in Paris, even if it did feel super busy and crowded during our visit. I think because we went over Easter weekend it was just so packed and way too touristy, but I did enjoy being at the Notre Dame on Easter Sunday as that was definitely a bucket list moment for me. Yes it was busy in the city, and yes it sometimes isn’t as pretty as it looks with it’s dirty streets and smelly subways, but overall I did enjoy my time there and feel like I saw everything I wanted to see. I’m not sure if I would go back purely because it didn’t totally blow me away, and because there are sooo many other cities I want to visit, but it’s gotta be done at least once in your life, right?! In the words of Audrey Hepburn, Paris is always a good idea.

Love Jess x

NB. I was invited on the Hidden Passages of Paris Tour with tour company Triple, and I was a guest of Euroventure’s who kindly sent me up Montparnasse Tower. Both experiences were gifted to me for the purpose of this review, but as always all thoughts, comments and photos are of course my own.

 

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Sick of stressful airport travel? Ride in style with National Express!

 

So your alarm is set, your suitcase is packed and your trip is booked. Every final detail is confirmed, from your flights and transfers to your tour itineraries and restaurant reservations. Going on holiday can be pretty stressful, and it is often made worse by the hassle of getting to and from the airport. Flying is lots of fun, but let’s face it, who really wants to get there 3 hours before a flight and spend ages queuing at the check in desk?! Not me, that’s for sure! One of the things I find most stressful about travelling is actually the hassle of getting to and from the airport. I can drive but I prefer not to travel long distances in my car and would rather not leave it at the airport car park for a week.

Living in Oxford, I am lucky that I have several airports to choose from when considering booking flights, but the hassle of getting to and from each airport has often put me off in the past. However, as an avid fan of public transport, I would always try and catch a bus, coach or train to an airport wherever possible, and that’s where National Express comes in. I’ve been using National Express services for years and have always had fantastic journeys, so I was delighted to be asked to team up with them for the purpose of this blog review, and when I realised I needed transport for my upcoming European city break it was hard to refuse such a fantastic offer. Lets find out what I got up to on my recent trip with National Express…

 

An early start

 

My coach from Oxford to London Gatwick

 

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the world who will happily get up at 2am, after zero sleep and at the most awkward time possible, just to jump on a cheap flight to anywhere if it means I can get better value on my travel deals! Luckily, National Express is the largest operator of scheduled coach services in the UK operating high frequency services linking more than 900 destinations. National Express know that there are lots of people out there who, like me, need to get to an airport at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, and they operate coach services direct to the terminal for all major UK airports, 24 hours a day with 1,100 airport services running every day. They also offer generous luggage allowance of two medium sized suitcases and a small piece of hand luggage as well as driver assistance – pretty amazing if you ask me! My 2am wake up call didn’t seem so bad when I hopped on board my perfectly timed coach ready to start my next adventure.

 

A comfortable outwards journey

 

Image courtesy of National Express

 

One of the benefits of getting on an early morning coach usually means that it’s not too busy, although surprisingly my coach was pretty full by the time I left Oxford to head to London! The coaches are also usually very quiet during the early morning times, which means I can catch up on some much needed sleep before arriving at the airport and being in holiday mode. National Express coaches are modern and comfortable with a variety of facilities and features including a free wifi and entertainment system which consists of a complimentary on-board app offering TV, films and magazines to passengers. On board the coach you’ll also find smart leather seats, convenient power sockets for charging your mobile devices, comfortable leg room for business class passengers, welcome air-conditioning on a warm day and clean toilets on every journey. My outwards journey from Oxford to London Gatwick took just under 2 hours and it was smooth, comfortable and extremely easy.

 

A relaxing homeward journey

 

Image courtesy of National Express

 

After my whirlwind weekend abroad, it was time to come home and I actually looked forward to my return journey back home given that my first coach journey on the way out was so comfortable. I wasn’t sure if I would actually make my return journey on time as my flight was delayed by almost an hour! But luckily we made up some time and I had booked the coach an hour later than I had actually needed to just allow for some additional time, so this really helped. If your flight is delayed though, I’m aware that you can hop on the next coach (up to 180 mins after your booked coach time) providing that the driver of the next available coach has room for you. My journey home was just as good as my journey out and I felt fully relaxed by the time I got back to Oxford – there’s nothing worse than a stressful drive home to dampen your holiday mood!

 

So as you can see I had a really pleasant journey to and from Oxford and London Gatwick during my recent trip and it definitely made my holiday both stress free and hassle free. Turning up and being able to get to and from the airport safely and swiftly really makes me relax before a holiday and, for me, is a great alternative to driving. The drivers were friendly, the seats were comfy, I felt safe at all times and even got a couple of hours kip before my flight… Oh and the free on board WIFI worked a treat too – bonus! Overall I had a fantastic return journey with National Express and I would highly recommend their services to anyone looking for a hassle free start and end to their airport trips. You can also benefit from a Coachcard if you’re a young person (aged 16- 26), a senior (aged 60+), or if you’re registered as disabled. For the price of just £12.50 a year you’ll get up to a third off standard and fully flexible fares, as well as benefiting from discounted travel to and from nationwide festivals, and 20% off Pizza Hut too!

Have you ever travelled with National Express before? What did you think of their services? As I mentioned, I have used them for many years and never had a problem so am already looking forward to booking up next time I need airport transport. The question is, where will I travel to next? Answers on a postcard please!…

Love Jess x

NB. I was a guest of National Express and was gifted tickets to come on board for the purpose of this review but all thoughts and comments are of course my own.

For more information and to find the best value fares visit www.nationalexpress.com or call 0871 7818181

 

Image courtesy of National Express

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5 Hidden Gems That Can Only Be Found In Spain

 

 

If you know me, you’ll know that the beautiful country of Spain has a special place in my heart, and that it is my go-to place for a beach holiday, city break, adventure trip or just about any kind of getaway you can think of. As someone who has visited Spain 15+ times over the past 20 years I can say with certainty that is my favourite country in the world, and I love finding things off the beaten track that aren’t in the tourist brochures or the travel guidebooks. So when tour operator Holiday Gems challenged me to put together a list of top hidden gems from my favourite country, how could I say no?!

 

 

Mount Teide, Tenerife

 

The magnificent Mount Teide

 

If you’re a bit of an adventure seeker and would like to swap a day by the pool for a day hiking a mountain, the magnificent Mount Teide is definitely the place to be! Teide can be climbed, hiked, or walked around slowly if time is no issue, and it is the third highest active volcano in the world. As expected, Tenerife is warm all year round which makes it difficult to hike the mountain, so there is the option to take a cable car up to the summit which is a welcome alternative. I hiked around the base of the mountain on my visit last summer, but I heard the views from the top of the cable car were absolutely STUNNING so next time I would definitely choose this option instead. Whilst at Teide, I would also recommend making a pit stop at the nearby Los Roques de Garcia, a UNESCO world heritage site with rock formations that are over 170,000 years old. The rocky landscapes were incredible and made for the most amazing, Instagrammable photos – the whole place looked like something out of an ancient western movie and we instantly felt transported back in time!

 

Cova d’en Xoroi, Menorca

 

The quirky Cova D’en Xoroi

 

Is there anything cooler than a bar built into a cave? I think not! The fabulous Cova D’en Xoroi is listed as one of the best bars in the world, with a fantastic selection of food and drink to choose from, and plenty of seating areas dotted all over the cave. The most magnificent sea views can be found from the front of the cave, and guests are encourage to arrive at dusk, just in time to watch the sun go down as it sets over the sparkling ocean below. After dark, the bar turns into a nightclub with DJ playing an eclectic choice of music for adults to let their hair down and dance until the early hours. If the idea of a bar in a cave wasn’t impressive enough, the myth behind the building is truly magical and gives an added sense of historic mystery to this epic place. Legend has it that a man named Xoroi survived a shipwreck and washed up into the cave where he took refuge from the dangerous seas. At the same time, a local girl from the village went missing and was never to be seen again. Months and years passed by, until she was eventually found alive and well in the cave, with Xoroi and three children, the fruit of their love. Finding himself cornered by the people who found him, Xoroi threw himself into the sea where his eldest son followed him. Both men were lost under the waves and their bodies were never found. Devastated, the girl and her two children were taken to another nearby village where they started to rebuild their lives without their family. A trip to Cova D‘en Xoroi is an absolute must when visiting Menorca and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different to do on their holiday.

 

 

Old Town, Ibiza

 

Ibiza Old Town

 

A visit to the White Isle usually consists of sun, sea, sand, alcohol and lots of partying until the early hours. Thousands of tourists flock to the biggest clubs, the best beaches and the busiest bars for a week of dancing, drinking and tonnes of fun. However, I discovered a totally different side to the island during my most recent visit a few years ago when I stayed at the quiet resort of Es Cana and took a day trip to the Old Town. Brimming with history, the cobbled streets, ancient walls and natural beauty of the Old Town can be found in abundance and is one of the most visited areas in Ibiza.  Why not spend some time walking along the city walls and finding the old war cannons? Or wander down by the sea front and watch as the sun glistens on to the sparkling turquoise waters. A trip to the Old Town is an absolute must when visiting Ibiza, and you won’t be short of things to see and do here.

 

The Pine Walk, Mallorca

 

Puerto Pollensa’s Pine Walk

 

I stumbled across this place whilst on a family holiday to Majorca a few years ago, where I was staying in the vibrant resort of Puerto Pollensa. The Pine Walk is the busiest part of the resort and is where the nightlife really comes alive, with loads of cosmopolitan cocktail bars, traditional Spanish restaurants and pretty little shops. It is quite a large entertainment district with many pubs and lots of places to eat and drink, and typically there are lots of tourists here but it is fun, it is lively and it offers lots of things to see and do. You’ll find street performers, sand sculptures, caricature artists and pretty much every kind of entertainer or performer you can think of. Set back slightly from the beach, and just away from the main road, the Pine Walk enjoys the perfect position just from which to allow visitors to enjoy a different area of Puerto Pollensa.

 

St Joseph La Boqueria Market, Barcelona

 

Barcelona’s famous food market

 

Located right on Las Ramblas, in the heart of the city, St Joseph’s Market is one of the hidden gems of Barcelona and is a hit with locals and tourists alike. Stocked with a colourful array of fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats, fish and cheeses, as well as sweet treats like cakes, smoothies, ice creams and much much more, this undercover market offers plenty of things to buy. Why not wander around Las Ramblas with one of their enormous ice creams, or grab a bargain and take some local produce back for your loved ones at home? There are also a variety of souvenirs and Barcelona merchandise on offer too. Whatever you decide to purchase, you can guarantee you’ll pick up a local, authentic token from the Catalonian capital.

 

So as you can see, these are just a few of the less known landmarks that can be found across sunny Spain, but there are hundreds more just waiting to be discovered! If you’re looking for a cheap, last minute getaway to this beautiful country, why not browse the Holiday Gems website to see if you can grab a bargain; I challenge you to see if you’ve found a much cheaper holiday? Have you been to Spain before, and if so where was your favourite city? Get in touch with all your Spanish stories as I would LOVE to hear them!

Love Jess x

NB. This was a sponsored post in partnership with Holiday Gems but, as always, all thoughts, words and photos are of course my own.

 

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Why Nendaz, Switzerland Should Be on Your Bucket List – AllTheRooms.com Guest Post!

 

Last year I took the trip of a lifetime and spent a summer in the beautiful ski resort of Nendaz, nestled in the heart of the Swiss Alps. 4 other bloggers and I were invited by Travelopo and the Nendaz Tourism Board to stay in a fantastic ski chalet and admire everything that the resort had to other. We had a fantastic itinerary, a wonderful home for the week and plenty of things to keep us occupied on what was my first ever visit to Switzerland. I had never though to visit a ski resort in summer before, but I was completely blown away and had an amazing time. I’ve been thinking a lot about my trip lately and reminiscing over on Instagram, so when I was approached by travel startup at AllTheRooms about hosting a Nendaz guest blog on my site I jumped at another chance to showcase this incredible resort to all of you guys, my fantastic readers. Here’s why the team at AllTheRooms think Nendaz should be your pick for a Swiss mountain getaway…

 

Perched high in the Swiss Alps, Nendaz looks like the kind of place where James Bond would slip out of some chic chateau and race down the slopes with masked bad guys at his heels. Mr. Bond may not have the time to fully appreciate the panoramic views of the dramatic peaks and deep valleys, nor the long list of outdoor activities for those looking for adventure, but luckily, you do. For those of you who have dreamed of an escape deep into the Swiss Alps with nothing but powder, wonderful views and incredible hikes to fill your days, Nendaz deserves a place on your bucket list.

 

  1. The skiing, of course!

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

Located at the heart of the famed Four Vallees, Nendaz gives you access to 92 lifts and over 250 miles of runs in the immediate area. We recommend you check out Mont-Fort, Verbier, La Tzoumaz and Bruson. If you want to venture to another area, bring your skis over to the Sector Printse, where you’ll find 50 lifts and more than 130 miles of runs. It’s hard to go wrong when choosing between the two as both offer incredible slopes and scenery. Four Vallees is significantly larger and better known, so Sector Printse may feel a little more off the beaten track. However, you can’t really go wrong with either. Both deliver an exhilarating rush.

 

  1. Walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

Not everyone is up for the fast-paced exploring method that is downhill skiing. Some of us like to take in the scenery at a slower, steadier speed. Maybe that’s Mom and Dad, or maybe it’s a member of the group looking for a little change in routine after hitting the slopes hard for days in a row. Nendaz has over 60 miles of marked winter walking trails that beg to be explored. We highly recommend this route for photographers eager to capture the scenery. There are also numerous cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails for people looking to cover some rougher terrain. Whichever route you choose, you’ll end up with a spectacular view.

 

  1. The weather

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

We’ve emphasized the scenery, but one of the best parts of Nendaz is the weather. Famous for its consistently sunny weather, while in Nendaz you can expect clear days and plenty of sunshine, casting light over the incredible landscape.

 

  1. Helicopter drop-offs

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

In another James Bond fashion, you can reserve a helicopter to pick you up in Nandez and whisk you off over the mountains to the famous Zermatt resort. Once on the ground, your guide will lead you through some of the resort’s best skiing and take you to a fine-dining restaurant for a little break from the slopes. At the end of the day, the helicopter will pick you up and bring you right back home. While the scenery is breathtaking from the slopes and the valleys, the view from above is even more stunning. A helicopter may seem a touch over the top, but we believe a Nandez vacation is one worth maximizing. Just imagine the photos and videos.

 

  1. Summer hikes

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

Skiing is certainly the main attraction, but we have to say, Nendaz in the summer is equally impressive. Trade you ski boots for hiking boots, catch a chairlift (they run in the summer) and glide your way up the mountain to a wide range of hiking options. Simply choose a trail and enjoy the views. The temperatures hover in the mid-sixties during the summer months so the temperate climate and consistent sunshine make the perfect combination for outdoor exercise. For a cooldown, finish up the day poolside with views of the peaks.

 

  1. Nightlife bars and restaurants

 

 

Nendaz is small and doesn’t feel overwhelmingly touristy, and it also doesn’t leave you empty-handed at night time. Check out La Lanterne et le Vieux-Chalet for gourmet French cooking and a seat next to the fireplace. In the summer you can sit outside and take in the peaks while you eat. Head to Cactus Saloon for a few drinks and some live music or a DJ. Alternatively, if you feel like staying in, swing by Cafe a lait for a bottle of wine.

 

  1. Alphorns

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

This is a page right out of National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Gather the whole group and sign up for an Alphorn lesson. Giving the instrument all the air you’ve got while looking out over the Alps is quite an experience. If you can’t quite master the horn, experts will show you how at the Alphorn International Festival held every year in late July.

 

  1. Mountain biking

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

Like many of the world’s best ski areas, Nendaz doubles as excellent mountain biking terrain when temperatures increase. Replace white with green—get a Camelbak and spend the day on the slopes.

 

These are just a few reasons why Nendaz should definitely be on your bucket list. Have you ever been to a ski resort before? Have you done summer in the Alps or would you only go during winter? Let me know as I would love to hear from you! Thanks must go to the brilliant team at AllTheRooms for putting this guest post together for me, and for catapulting Nendaz right back to the top of my travel highlights from my amazing summer of travel last year!

Love Jess x

 

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My End of Year Review: 17 Highlights From 2017

 

Having no regrets is all that she really wants 🌟

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OHMYGOD I literally cannot believe I am writing this. Like how did this year go by so quick? What the hell have I done over the past 12 months? Why does it only seem like 5 minutes since I wrote my 2016 end of year review? I cannot cope with how quick time is flying and how much life is passing me by. I didn’t think I could top 2016, I had the best year of my life to date when I quit my career to travel and become a full time freelancer. Surprisingly though, I think 2017 has been even bigger, ever better and even more amazing than I could ever have imagined. I’ve taken 17 flights, travelled to 11 countries and 14 cities and made memories that will last a lifetime. My blog has grown to the biggest it’s ever been and I’m enjoying countless new opportunities that I could only ever have dreamed of.

Although I’ve had an amazing year, sadly I’m ending it on a low as my beautiful dog Cassie went to sleep and left us just a few weeks ago. She had been poorly for a few months and just couldn’t go on anymore so we had to do what was best and let her go. We are all devastated and are struggling to come to terms with her loss; she has left a huge hole in our home, and in our hearts, and we miss her more than we ever thought possible. My heart physically hurts and I cry every single day, but I know with time it will get easier and I have amazing friends and family to support me. Love you princess, sleep tight my little snow angel. Despite ending on a low note, January – October gave me an incredible 10 months and I’ve found it so hard to narrow down just 17 highlights from my 2017 but I’m going to try and pick my stand out memories… Here goes…

 

I started the new year down in Cornwall – JANUARY

 

Bit late to the party after being on holiday but so pleased to have ended 2016 and brought in the new year down in Cornwall with my beautiful, crazy family. 2016 was my best year to date; I took my biggest leap of faith by quitting my job, travelling solo to LA and launching my freelance business. I road tripped across America, ticking off 30 cities & 23 states (making 52 new friends along the way) and inter-railed around Italy with my sister, visiting three of the most famous cities in the world. My blog turned 2, it underwent a major rebrand and it was nominated for an award. I've been bridesmaid for my best friend, celebrated my cousins wedding and my sisters 21st and have been to V Fest, the theatre and the races. I've made hundreds of new memories with my amazing friends and family and am entering 2017 feeling the happiest I've ever been! Here's to an even better year with many new adventures ahead as I take on Europe during my next 12 months of travel! Happy belated new year everyone, wishing you every happiness for 2017 🌎✈️💖

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After a quiet Christmas at home we couldn’t wait to get away for a break in Cornwall, our favourite UK county, for five days of beach walking, sea fishing and new year festivities. We stayed in a little apartment at the heart of St Ives and enjoyed ice cream on the beach, walks high in the hills and fancy dress and fireworks over the harbour on New Years Eve. We had an amazing few days away and it really started off our new year with a bang.

 

I became a freelancer and worked part time too – JANUARY

 

This is how I feel right now. Today I calculated that I've earnt *almost* as much each month as I was earning in my old 9-5 job! I knew I could do it!!! I've started with nothing and built up my little business all by myself. At times I felt like giving up, like I wasn't good enough, and like I had no right to make a career for myself, but today I've felt so inspired and so pleased that my hard work seems to be paying off. Any doubts that may have been in my mind have now been dismissed and I am SO excited to continue my journey in my new career and see where this takes me! Here's to future success and many more adventures 📝💻✈️🌍 #MondayMotivation #freelancer #bloglife #virtualassistant

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At the end of 2016 I decided to go freelance with my blog and I also set myself up as a social media manager too. I had a handful of clients with steady work each month and I was really enjoying working from home and being my own boss. After a few months though I realised that I missed working alongside people and started to feel incredibly lonely. On my birthday I landed myself a part time job at New Look and this actually turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me. I started to get into a routine, earned extra money and made so many friends after thriving off that social interaction again. My part time contract meant that I could work as little or as much as I wanted to, which came in super handy for the months ahead when I  wanted to travel as much as I could.

 

I celebrated my sisters 18th birthday – JANUARY

 

 

My little baby sis turned 18 at the end of Jan and we had a wonderful weekend celebrating with our closest family members up in Liverpool. We booked a large table at the gorgeous Titanic Restaurant in the city and then spent the night partying until the early hours. Soph had an amazing birthday and it was so lovely to spent some quality time with our nearest and dearest.

 

I took a winter city break to Copenhagen – FEBRUARY

 

 

My first overseas adventure of 2017 came in February when my sister and I hopped over to Copenhagen for a long weekend. We had wanted to do a winter city break for a while, as it had been two years since our February break to Prague, and the Danish capital seemed to be the perfect place to go. We had an amazing few days wandering around the beautiful Nyhavn Harbour, climbing the Round Tower and finding The Little Mermaid and even popped over to Malmo in Sweden for a day trip too!

 

I wandered around Bratislava and Vienna for 5 days – MARCH

 

 

March saw me take two more trips, and tick off two more countries, as I flew over to explore Bratislava and Vienna with my friend and fellow blogger Lucy. We had an epic 48 hours discovering Bratislava’s Old Town and it’s stunning castle complex before catching the train to Vienna to indulge in its musical history. We then spent two nights in the best hotel I have ever stayed in and were able to visit some of Vienna’s many palaces and impressive buildings along the way – what an adventure we had!

 

I went to my second Traverse conference – APRIL

 

 

After attending my first Traverse conference in Cardiff in 2016, I knew I just had to go back to the 2017 one when details were announced. This time the blogging extravaganza was held in London, right next to The 02 arena, and was even better than the year before. I caught up with Lucy, Seanna, Steve and some of my other bloggy friends and also met the lovely Rachel for the first time, who I have now become firm friends with! Highlights of the conference included the Jet2 opening party at Millbank Tower, a CityCruises boat party along the Thames and the closing party in Canary Wharf with Visit Spain. Oh and the workshops were pretty good too, obvs I didn’t go there just to party 😉 I really interacted with all the brands and speakers this time round after being a little nervous during my first Traverse in 2016 and was lucky enough to be selected for two press trips after meeting sponsors in London. I’ve already bought my ticket for Traverse 2018 in Rotterdam and cant wait to go next May!

 

I went on a spontaneous city break to Sofia – MAY

 

 

After spotting £30 return flights with Ryanair, my lovely friend Toni and I decided to jet over to Bulgaria for a long weekend in Sofia. For both of us, this was the furthest we had gone in Eastern Europe and we absolutely loved exploring a new city, and a new country. We only had two nights there but spent it eating traditional Bulgarian food, taking a free walking tour, hiking up the Vitosha Mountain and admiring the stunning Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Sofia is a really quirky place and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an alternative city break in Europe.

 

I went on my first group press trip to Menorca – MAY

 

 

After my successful weekend at Traverse, I was lucky enough to be selected for my first ever group press trip, Must See Menorca. Traverse teamed up with both the Spain and Menorca tourism boards to put together a fantastic week of conferencing, workshops and excursions. Highlights included kayaking in the crystal clear waters, strolling around the capital of Ciutedella and going to a party in a cave at the fabulous Cova d’en Xoroi. I made so many friends and had the most amazing week getting to know everyone, learning tonnes of new blogging tips and getting to explore new parts of Menorca that I didn’t know existed.

 

I had a girly week with my sisters in Tenerife – JUNE

 

 

After a hectic couple of months of back to back trips I couldn’t wait for a chilled week in the Spanish sun in Tenerife with my sisters by the time June came around. We booked a package holiday with Jet2 and couldn’t have had better service the whole time we were there. We’ve been to Spain fifteen times but had never visited Tenerife and it’s safe to say we will definitely be returning soon. We had an amazing week relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea and even hiking up an active volcano! Seeing dolphins and whales swimming in the sea was a real highlight, as was being right in the heart of the action on the Las Americas strip and I already can’t wait to go back next summer.

 

I took another group press trip to Switzerland – JULY

 

 

After a relaxing break in Tenerife it was time to get back to my hectic schedule as I headed over to Switzerland for the first time on another press trip, this time with the Nendaz tourism board and with villa rental company Travelopo. Along with four other bloggers I had the chance to stay in a luxurious chalet in the heart of Swiss ski resort Nendaz. I’m pretty sure that a ski resort isn’t an obvious choice when looking for a summer holiday, but we were delighted to showcase this amazing place to a whole new audience. Both Travelopo and the Nendaz tourism board were amazing and put together a fantastic itinerary for us during our week there. We did plenty of mountain hiking (and biking), had a spa day at a 5* hotel, went cheese making in the Alps and climbed 3300m up to one of the highest mountains in the country at Verbier’s Mont Fort. I also spent a couple of days in Geneva at the beginning and end of the week and really pushed myself out of my comfort zone on this trip so it turned out to be one of the best weeks I’ve ever had!

 

I became an ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation – AUGUST

 

 

On a personal level, this is something I am hugely proud of and definitely one of my biggest achievements from 2017. If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning you’ll know that I suffer with a rare condition called a prolactinoma, which is a small, benign tumor in my brain. I’m on medication for life and have regular blood tests, eye tests and check ups with my hospital consultant to monitor my condition, but generally my health is good and I never let anything hold me back! The Pituitary Foundation are a fantastic charity who have helped me enormously since my diagnosis back in 2011 and so I was absolutely delighted when they asked me to be an ambassador for them in August. I said yes right away and couldn’t wait to get involved with fundraising and spreading awareness. My first job was sharing my story online, and I couldn’t believe it when The Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sun all featured my story and reached millions of readers. Since then I have shared my story with other outlets and even organised a ‘turn your town orange’ day for Pituitary Awareness Month in October. I’m so proud to be ambassador for such an amazing charity and I can’t wait to work on new projects throughout 2018.

 

I hopped over to Hamburg for the weekend – AUGUST 

 

 

I got invited to another press trip after making great contacts at this year’s Traverse conference and was super excited to be heading to Hamburg with the Visit Hamburg team back in August. I spent two nights exploring the quirky and alternative sights of the city, including taking a street art tour, paddle boarding down the Alster river and attending the annual Vogelball music festival. We also went to an all you can eat ice cream festival which was INCREDIBLE and I spent some time wandering around the shipping port and exploring the old town with its famous Rathaus building too. Although it wasn’t my favourite city, I did really enjoy my first visit to Germany and had a lovely weekend making new friends and creating new memories.

 

I became a real life fairy godmother – SEPTEMBER

 

 

Ahh one of the best things to ever happen to me, I became fairy godmother to one of my best friend’s baby and we had such a lovely day! I’ve known my friend Kath for years, we even moved in together for a few months a couple of years ago, and I was sooo excited when she asked me to be godmother to her beautiful little girl Halle. We had a lovely day at the Church and Halle looked so cute in her little dress. I promise to love you and to look after you forever baby girl <3

 

I took on so many new blog opportunities – ALL YEAR ROUND

 

 

This year was my best year yet for new blogging opportunities and I’m delighted to say that I’ve had them in abundance over the past 12 months. From complimentary flights and week/weekend long trips in Spain, Switzerland and Germany to overnight hotel stays in The Cotswolds and boat tours along the Thames, it’s been an epic year of press trips. I really wanted to challenge myself this year and work on new collaborations with lots of new brands. As well as taking trips I’ve also worked with companies on sponsored blog posts, Instagram takeovers and competition giveaways. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I’ve wanted to be though, and I haven’t just waited for things to land in my lap. I’ve emailed brands, taken part in Twitter chats, created a media kit, networked, attended conferences and really got myself out there in order to be selected for some incredible opportunities that have really helped to grow my blog and make it the best it can be.

 

I inter-railed around Europe – SEPTEMBER

 

 

By mid September I hadn’t been on a trip away since Hamburg at the start of August and was desperate to travel again! When my friend Toni said she wanted to do the same, we knew we had to go on a real stand out trip and inter-railing around Europe seemed to fit the bill nicely! I’ve always wanted to go inter-railing, especially after my rail trip to Italy last year, so couldn’t wait to get planning our trip. After weeks of deliberation, flight/train searching and trying to find decent hotels at a decent price, we decided to do four countries and four cities within nine days. We started in the Polish capital of Warsaw then headed to Prague and Salzburg before ending up in lovely Ljubljana. We had an amazing two nights visiting each city and saw as much as we physically could during our time there. I’d visited Prague before but still loved it and I had a great time in Warsaw and Salzburg, but Ljubljana really stole my heart and I’m so glad we saved the best til last!

 

I got a new car & a new job – OCTOBER

 

 

When my beloved Vauxhall Corsa went to the big car heaven in the sky I found myself needing a new mode of transport and a new salary to support myself. After a year of freelancing and 9 months of part time work I landed on my feet when I got offered a brand new job that I’d had no intention of getting! I was starting to get fed up of unstable freelance income and I knew I definitely didn’t want to be in retail coming up to Christmas, so in September when I emailed my CV along with a generic cover letter to a local travel firm in Cheltenham I had no idea that I’d even get an interview, let alone get offered a job! I picked up my new car at the end of September and a few days later I started my new job as an operations co-ordinator at luxury travel firm Abercrombie and Kent. I work in the villas sector of the business and spend my days writing descriptions and editing photos for our luxurious villas, as well as contacting owners for availability requests and assisting the sales team with their holiday enquiries. My experience of property management from my estate agent days, coupled with my passion for travel through my blog, have helped to land my dream job and I’ve not looked back since I started! I believe that everything happens for a reason, and although having a full time job means I haven’t been able to blog as much, I’ve learnt to appreciate my weekends, use my annual leave wisely and have started saving a lot of money which will be used for future trips and treats for my nearest and dearest… Here’s to being a full-timer again!

 

I saw the most snow we’ve had in years – DECEMBER

 

Six weeks ago we were told the devastating news that our darling Cassie had a tumor in her tummy and she didn't have long left to live. We hoped and prayed that she would get better, that she would get back to her normal self, or that she would at least make it til Christmas. Sadly we don't think our prayers have been answered, as our little girl has been getting worse day by day. We didn't think she would ever see snow again, but this morning when she got up from her bed and walked out into the garden it looked like her last wishes had come true. Cass has always loved the snow and we feel so blessed that she was able to enjoy it for one last time. Soon we will have to make a decision that no pet owner wants to make and our hearts are breaking, but for now we are treasuring every second with our little snow angel and are loving her as much as we have done every day for the past 12 years. We just don't ever want to let you go baby 💔

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Although I am devastated to be writing this because we lost our precious Cassie, I am so grateful that in December it snowed for the first time since 2009 and our darling girl got to play in the snow one last time. Pulling back the curtains and waking up to so much snow was truly magical and, if I closed my eyes for a few seconds, it really felt like I was a child again. My sisters and I were supposed to be going to Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball that day, but the snow had meant all trains/coaches from Oxford were cancelled so we had no way of getting there. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we spent the day with our little Cassie giving her so many cuddles, watching Christmas films and telling her we loved her. Although it was her last day with us, and we spent the next few weeks crying uncontrollably every single day, I will always be grateful that it snowed and that she spent her last day being surrounded by love. We miss you so much baby and our hearts are hurting without you. We wish that you could still be here with us, that we could stroke your head or play with your ears or snuggle you tight, but we know that you were in pain and we couldn’t bear for you to carry on. We know now that you are at peace and are looking down on us each and every day, and whenever it snows we will know that it’s you showing us that you love us. Forever in our hearts, princess <3

 

When I take a step back and look at everything I’ve done this year I can’t help but feel immensely proud of myself. I’ve overcome a lot and I’ve made so many life changes in just one year, all of which have made me happier and a better person. Oh and remember those New Years Resolutions I made back in January? I’ve nailed them all. Travel to 10 new countries – tick, I even did 11! Stop looking for love – tick, goodbye tinder! Spend more time with family and friends – tick, I’ve removed toxic people from my life and put my loved ones first! Stop buying scratchcards – semi tick, I buy one every few months but I’m nowhere near as bad as I used to be! I’m quite impressed that I’ve managed to successfully complete the challenges I set myself this year and it just reinforces my belief that, if you want something badly enough, you’ve gotta go out there and get it!

As for 2018, I have no idea what the coming year will hold, but that’s what makes it so exciting. I really love January, I know it’s my birthday month so I’m biased but I love the challenge of starting a new year, totally afresh, and I set myself goals and plans that I aim to accomplish. It really gives me a sense of perspective and helps to get what I really want out of life. Thanks to all of you lovely lot for supporting Journeys with Jessica for yet another year – this little blog will be celebrating its fourth birthday in 2018 and I can’t believe how far we have come! I’ve love every second of being a travel blogger and can’t wait to take you on more adventures with me next year.

Happy new year everyone!

Love Jess X

 

Work Christmas party 🎅🌲☃🌟 #sparklesparkle

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