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My UK Travel Wishlist: 10 Places for a UK Staycation

As we enter the 13th week of lockdown here in the UK, I’ve slowly started thinking about the idea of travelling again. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be jumping on a plane anytime soon, but I am hoping to travel to a few places in the UK whenever we are able to. At the time of writing, we are currently not allowed to stay overnight anywhere in Britain, and we’re encouraged not to take any day trips or make any ‘non-essential journeys’. When lockdown is over and we are able to roam around the country again, I can’t wait to spend time exploring places I’ve never been to in our British isles. I’m grateful to have visited a huge portion of the UK over the past 27 years, but there are still so many places I’ve yet to discover. With that in mind, I thought I’d put together my ultimate UK travel wishlist so I can plan some day trips and staycations closer to home, post-lockdown of course. Here are 10 places in the UK that I’m just itching to visit whenever we are able to…

 

Stonehenge, England

 

 

This one feels pretty fitting as it was the Stonehenge Summer Solstice this weekend, celebrating the longest day of the year. I have driven past Stonehenge many times before on the way down to Cornwall and Devon but never actually stopped off and visited for the day. I would love to visit whilst en route to Southampton or Bournemouth and use it as a handy place to stop off and break up the journey. At over 4000 years old, Stonehenge is the world’s most famous pre-historic monument, and one of the most impressive landmarks in England. I can’t believe I still haven’t been yet!

 

Brecon Beacons, Wales

 

 

Apart from heading to Cardiff last year to see the Spice Girls on tour (yep, they were amazing) and climbing Mount Snowdon the year before, I haven’t actually spent a lot of time in Wales in recent years. Growing up as kids we would visit the likes of Tenby, Cardigan Bay, Newquay, Caernarfon and Pembrokeshire on our annual summer holidays, but I have never explored the Brecon Beacons before. Climbing Pen Y Fan is definitely on my UK travel wishlist, and I’d love to spend a few days getting well and truly lost in the mountains during an epic Welsh staycation.

 

Dublin, Ireland

 

 

Ok so don’t judge me but I have NEVER been to Ireland before!! I know, I know, it’s crazy that I haven’t visited yet. I think the problem I have is that I travel so much and often overlook places closer to home in favour of destinations that are further away or more exciting. Dublin, however, is somewhere I definitely want to visit as soon as possible. I’d love to explore the cobbled streets and the ancient castle, as well as have a good old night out in Temple Bar – it’s got to be done, right? As soon as we are able to fly again, I am 100% heading over to the Irish capital. Although I won’t be indulging in any Guinness, sorry to disappoint 😉

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

 

Despite only being to Scotland once before (last year, aged 26!) I still haven’t ticked Edinburgh off my UK travel wishlist. I I have NO IDEA why or how I have not yet visited this stunning city, but I am really hoping to go towards the end of this year if we are able to travel around the UK – fingers crossed! Everything about Edinburgh oozes charm, history and culture. From it’s striking castle to its cobbled streets, Edinburgh has something to offer all year round. As much as it’d be great to visit in summer, I’ve always thought December would be a great time to go as I am a sucker for a Christmas market and I know theirs are supposed to be amazing!

 

Windsor, England

 

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What's your favourite castle in Britain? 🏰 Edinburgh Castle? Conwy? Warwick? Leeds? Bodiam? For me, it's hard to beat the beauty of this incredible place – the near 1,000 year old Windsor Castle. Love this view of the “Long Walk” – swipe for a close up! Both shots by @_beans_on_toast_ Let's tuck into a large slab of delicious history: In 1066, when William the Conqueror claimed victory at the Battle of Hastings, the Forest of Windsor was already established – serving as a vital resource for the people who lived in the area. But it was William the Conqueror who was the first monarch to be inspired by the grasslands of Windsor Great Park as a place to build a residence In fact, the outer walls of Windsor Castle as they stand today are the same walls which were constructed by William the Conqueror in 1070AD – and some of the original oaks planted during his reign can still be seen standing tall within the Park now. Just amazing Ahh to be a King. Still, I'm the king of my garden shed and there is a slab of half nibbled fruit cake waiting for me there 🤓 This is @timholt wishing you a wonderful Thursday! Super photos by @_beans_on_toast_ 🇬🇧 To be featured, follow and tag us! ‘Ta! 🇬🇧

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Technically I’ve been to Windsor before as I went to Legoland on a school trip when I was 8 (what a day that was), but I was supposed to visit Windsor again properly back in April. Me and two of my besties were so excited for a fun filled girls day out and a little bit of sightseeing, but obviously Corona meant lockdown which meant our day out was cancelled. I am however still planning a little day trip to see the Queen’s Castle (and my best pal) as soon as we are able to travel safely again. Aside from seeing Queen Liz’s digs, I’d love to visit St George’s Chapel (where Harry & Meghan got married) and am sure we would enjoy a little river walk along the Thames too.

Newcastle, England

 

 

Up next on my UK travel wishlist is Newcastle. I have fancied a ‘night out on the Toon’ since I was 18 but I’ve never got round to visiting because a) it is very far away from me and b) it’s bloody cold up there! I think I’d like to do a stopover in Newcastle on the way up to Scotland and would enjoy a wander around the shopping district and a walk along the river Tyne. I definitely want to visit Durham and the famous Angel of the North statue too so would probably try to cram as much in as I could during my short stopover. Also, what are the chances of me meeting Ant and Dec?!…

 

Loch Ness, Scotland

 

 

I travelled to Loch Lomond and Glencoe last year whilst en route to Ben Nevis, but sadly I didn’t have time to visit the famous Loch Ness. A boat trip around the loch is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember, especially as I would be on the lookout for Nessie the whole time! There are so many beautiful parts of Scotland I am yet to visit, and I would love to dedicate a week or two to the North Coast 500 road trip which would allow me to tick off plenty of famous sights along the way. If anyone has any tips for doing this, or knows of any companies who offer group tours, please let me know as I really want to do this road trip but definitely don’t want to drive it solo!

 

Gower Peninsula, Wales

 

 

Not far from Swansea, the Gower Peninsula was the first place in the UK to be awarded the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status back in 1956. Stretching across 19 miles of fantastic coastline, the Gower Peninsula offers 25 fantastic beaches to enjoy. If I were to book a Welsh staycation I would spend my days taking cliff walks, going on countryside hikes and sunbathing on the beach (if the weather was good). I definitely think the Gower would make a great base for exploring some of the best areas in Wales and would really love to tick it off my UK travel wishlist sometime soon!

 

Belfast, Ireland

 

 

As if I needed another reason to visit Ireland… Belfast is just perfect for a weekend city break staycation. The birthplace of the Titanic, and Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast is steeped in maritime history. Top of my Belfast bucketlist is the castle, city hall and botanic gardens, all of which are right up my street! If I had time I would love to do a week long road trip in Ireland so that I could visit Dublin and Belfast in one go, but I am also desperate to do the Giants Causeway too as the scenery looks totally breathtaking! Does anyone know of any good companies who do Ireland road trips? Again, I’d love to do this on a group tour instead of travelling on my own!

 

Cambridge, England

 

 

Another place I was supposed to visit at the end of March right before lockdown hit was beautiful Cambridge! My cousin Katie goes to uni there so me and my sisters were going to hop on the train to meet up with her for the day and enjoy a lovely lunch and a bit of sightseeing. Being from Oxford I think most people assume I will have visited Cambridge at some point in my life, but nope, I am still yet to tick it off my UK travel wishlist! I’d love to wander around the college buildings, see the Bridge of Sighs and go punting down the river – it sounds sooo similar to Oxford doesn’t it?!

 

These are all popular places to visit in Britain, some more well known than others, and I can’t believe I haven’t visited any of them yet! In terms of immediate travel plans, I’m hoping to go to Scotland to attempt to climb Ben Nevis again for The Pituitary Foundation in 2021, so I’m definitely looking at having a few extra days up there to explore some of the surrounding highlands. And as I’ve never been to Ireland before, I’d love to do a week long road trip and visit Dublin, Belfast and the Giants Causeway one after the other. How many of these places have you ticked off your British bucket list? And where are you planning your next UK staycation? Send over allllll your travel plans please!

Love Jess x

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My 2020 New Year’s Resolutions & Travel Plans

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating on new years eve? I spent my night with friends in Cheltenham, dressed in 1920s themed fancy dress and welcoming 2020 in style! I have to say, I have been reflecting a lot on the past year lately, and even the last ten years as we say goodbye to the 2010s and welcome in a brand new decade. I’ve grown a lot in the past ten years, from a shy sixteen year old to a confident, outgoing 26 year old who is grateful for many things in my life. I am grateful to have such wonderful family and friends around me, grateful to this blog for allowing me to have a hobby which I absolutely love, and grateful for the fantastic travel opportunities I’ve had in more recent years.

 

 

As I get older I definitely think you start to appreciate things more, and also start to feel more content with life, rather than constantly wanting more or pushing for things to be better. Don’t get me wrong, I am hugely ambitious and will always want to achieve more things, travel to more places and make more memories, but I don’t feel the need to set myself 10-20 resolutions that are unrealistic and will make me feel like a bad person if I don’t achieve them. With that in mind, I thought I would write down just 5 things I want from 2020, and hope that, by the end of the year, I can achieve all of them and feel content after what I’m sure will be another crazy 12 months for me! Here they are…

 

 

I want to buy a house

 

 

A pretty big ask, but something I finally feel I am now ready to do. I have saved up a house deposit for a number of years now, but kept putting it off to go travelling instead – oops! In 2016 I had just short of £8000, which would have been my share of a deposit, but decided to travel around America instead. A couple of years later in 2018 I had £10,000 but decided to blow half it on the trip of a lifetime to Australia. Do I regret my decisions to travel? Not for one second! But I do wish I’d have kept a bit more money back so I could have started building my savings back up a little quicker! I am however now in a place where I have comfortably saved a deposit and am more than ready to put down some roots here in Oxfordshire and have a little place to call my own. I’m actually going to look at buying with my sister, when the time comes, as we are both in the same boat and it means we can actually afford to buy a house instead of a flat. I’m confident that 2020 will be the year that I finally get on the property ladder, and am excited to help make my dreams a reality before 2020 is over!

 

 

I want to focus on my new job

 

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Working hard or hardly working?! 🌴 I actually took a couple of hours out of my holiday to go and do a site visit at this gorgeous hotel in Vilamoura whilst I was away recently… but it's not a hardship to work when your job is as good as this! 🌎 TBT to wearing a blue dress against a blue sky next to a blue pool 💧 . . . #throwbackthursday #hotelviews #portugal #vilamoura #algarve #europe #holiday #septembersunshine #loveportugal #lovethealgarve #visitportugal #visitvilamoura #visitalgarve #algarveportugal #algarvealive #algarvetourism #algarvecoast #vilamouramarina #vilamouraalgarve #vilamouralife #portugaltravel #portugal_lovers #portugal_places #portugal_photos #europetravel #travelgram #darlingescapes #instatravel #mytinyatlas #anantara

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During a time when everyone seems to be quitting their jobs to blog full time, I’m actually doing the opposite and taking a step back from my blog to focus on my day job. Don’t worry, I will still be blogging regularly and sharing relevant content, travel guides and life updates with you along the way, but I’m not going to be constantly pitching to brands and looking for sponsored posts this year as I really want to focus on my job instead. This is my second full time job in the travel industry and, now that I’ve finally found out what it is I want to do with my career, I really want to put all my energy into making it a success. Working at a luxury travel firm means I am lucky enough to learn all about new product and get to experience some amazing 5* hotels and resorts first hand too, so I can combine my love of travel and content creation and apply it to almost every aspect of my job role. I feel like I’ve finally found what I am meant to be doing with my life and am excited to continue my career in the travel industry over the next 12 months and beyond.

 

I want to travel to 5 countries

 

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🚨My 2019 Year in Review is here!! 🚨 ((Link in bio)) My #topnine photos from 2019, a year which has seen me quit my job, do a travel writing internship at the Sunday Times, have my work published in a magazine, celebrate 5 years of blogging and get myself a brand new job in the travel industry which I absolutely love! 🌎 Not to mention seeing my all time faves Westlife and Spice Girls in concert, as well as watching Robbie Williams and Celine Dion along with 70,000 others in Hyde Park! 💃 2019 has also been my best ever year of travel, after I spent 6 weeks traveling around Australia and a further 6 weeks having holidays and taking work trips around Europe. Highlights include skydiving over Uluru, driving the Great Ocean Road, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, inter-railing round Spain, riding a gondola in Venice and doing Christmas markets in Riga. 🌟 8 trips abroad, 19 flights and 12 weeks travelling out of 52 weeks of the year, not bad huh ✈️ 2019, I think you might just have been my best year yet! Feeling so full of love and happiness for the past year, and the past decade, and I'm so grateful to have my amazing friends and family around me. I hope 2020 is even better ❤️ It took me 4 hours to put this blog post together – I hope you enjoy reading it! ✨

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I travelled to 7 countries in 2019 and 9 countries in 2018, so have done really well over the past couple of years, but I think that aiming to tick off 5 countries this year is definitely doable. I’m going to be really busy with work and saving up for a house this year, so I think some of my travel plans might have to take a back seat, but that’s not to say that I won’t be going on plenty of little mini trips throughout the year, so am confident I will still visit at least 5 countries! In terms of travel plans, the only thing I have set in stone at the moment is a trip back to Scotland to have a second atempt at climbing Ben Nevis! I am also bridesmaid for two weddings next year, for one of my best friends and one of my cousins, so I have 2 hen do’s to attend which will be lots of fun. I’d like to do a few European mini breaks and I am also hoping to squeeze in a Christmas markets interrailing trip around Poland in December with my sisters. Work sent me on two trips last year and I have only been here for six months, so I am hoping that in 2020 I may get to take a couple more work trips which would be amazing! I’d also really like to explore more of the UK this year, and am planning on heading back to Cornwall for the first time in 3 years which is seriously overdue! I’d also like to go back to York, and head over to Edinburgh and Cambridge for the first time if I can squeeze them in, so I’m hoping for another fun filled year of travel, but don’t think I’ll end up as far afield as Australia this year!

 

I want to start working out three times a week

 

 

I started this towards the end of last year, but then it was December which meant Christmas was coming and I just wanted to spend the entire month eating food and not worrying about exercise! However, I do think January is a great time to start new hobbies/make new promises, so I do really want to start working out three times a week to add some proper exercise into my life. I am not a gym person at all and can’t think of anything worse than running on a treadmill or doing spinning classes, but I experimented with some power walking and dance fitness videos last year and found a couple that I really liked, so I think I’m going to give them another go and try to stick to them this time! I am so unconfident with my looks at the moment, I definitely feel I have put on weight on my hips and stomach and on my face too, which I hate, so I really want to start incorporating exercise into my weekly routine this year so I feel fitter and stronger and look better. Fingers crossed I find a workout routine that works well for me – I also need to get my fitness up for Ben Nevis in May – wish me luck!

 

I want to start dating again

 

 

I’ve definitely lost confidence with dating recently. In fact, my last date was back in January 2019 which is a whole year ago! It feels a bit ridiculous that I’m writing this on my resolutions list to be honest, as I think sometimes things like this happen without thinking, and if something’s meant to be its meant to be, but I also think that you only get out of life what you put in, and I can’t sit around all year waiting for someone to just walk into my life! So I think in 2020 I am going to make a conscious effort to try and get out into the dating world again. I really really hate online dating, but it seems to be the only way that people meet at the moment, as I don’t go out in the evenings that much anymore and I’m always going away/making plans so I think I’m going to find it harder to meet guys if I’m not looking online as well. I don’t want to make promises and say that I’m definitely going to go looking for love and am going to start attending speed dating events or singles nights (as much as my mother would want me to!) but I’m just going to put myself out there a bit more and try to boost my confidence. Let’s see how this one turns out and, who knows, by the end of the year there may or may not be someone new in my life! If anyone knows any decent looking guys who love to travel, please send them my way?!

 

 

No matter what happens in 2020 I am going to try and be more present and content with life rather than getting bogged down with feeling like I constantly have to better myself, or comparing myself to others. I’m going to try not to worry about what everyone else is doing because everyone is different and life should be taken day by day, at your own pace rather than being determined by others actions. I get so upset sometimes worrying that I’ve not got a house or a husband or have had a baby like some of my friends and cousins have. I get upset that it hasn’t happened to me yet, that I’ve been single for nearly six years, that I’m so far away from all of those things happening to me when, really, it’s all I’ve ever wanted in life.

 

Everyone’s ‘decade challenges’ on social media have been filled with people saying that they went to uni, graduated with a degree, met the love of their life, got engaged, got married, bought a house, had three kids, got two dogs and a cat and had countless holidays to Disneyworld over the past ten years, but my decade has been very different to that. I didn’t go to uni, or get married and have kids, but I passed my A Levels, I’ve spent the past 8 years working full time, I’ve bought two cars, I’ve been diagnosed with a serious health condition and become a charity ambassador, I’ve saved up for a house deposit, I’ve travelled to 30 countries and I’ve ran a successful travel blog. My decade looks very different to lots of girls my age, but I’ve learnt that it doesn’t matter, because this is what I’ve achieved in my life, and what I am hugely proud of.

 

 

By the end of the next decade I will be 36 years old (OH MY GOD I WANT TO CRY AT THE THOUGHT OF APPROACHING 40!!!!) and I really hope that, by then, I will have achieved the other things I wanted to achieve this decade. I hope I’m happily married with a couple of kids, a dog, and a nice house and that I still love travel as much as I do now. I hope that I’m still super close with my family and friends, that I’ve still got a great job that will allow me to support my family but, most importantly, I hope that I am happy. Money doesn’t matter to me, only health and happiness. I hope my grandparents are still alive, I hope that my parents are still loving life, I hope that my future kids are healthy. I seem to have gone off on a tangent, and I guess this post has turned into more of a ‘hope for the next decade’ post rather than a 2020 resolutions one, but I’m just excited to see what the next ten years holds for me and everyone in my life. Whatever it holds for you, I hope it brings you happiness.

Happy new year (and new decade everyone!)

Love Jess x

PS. I wonder if I’ll still be blogging in ten years’ time, or if blogs will be a distant memory by then with social media taking over completely?! I bloody hope not!

 

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My 2019 Year in Review

 

Happy belated Christmas everyone!

I hope you’ve all had a fantastic festive season with your friends and family, and that you’ve been well and truly spoilt with gifts, food and fun. I’ve had a lovely few days at home with my family, enjoying Christmas and everything that comes with it. Now that the big day is out the way, I’m looking forward to celebrating a new year, and a new decade, and can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for me! Before that though, here’s my annual round up of my highlights throughout the year – it was certainly one of my biggest and best years to date! Here’s what I’ve got up to over the past 12 months, and how I got on with my 2019 New Years Resolutions too…

 

January & February

 

I had a great start to the year, with my sister Hannah surprising me with tickets to go and see Disney’s Aladdin on the West End for my 26th birthday! I had a magical day shopping, lunching and indulging in all things Disney with my sis, and it definitely made me want to see more West End shows. I also spent time with my friends, going out for dinner and having a games night in instead of doing a clubbing night out – defo showing my age now! January was also a special month as we got our new puppy Lola, a beautiful little Cavapoo who has brought so much joy to our lives this year. It snowed a lot at the end of Jan and Lola absolutely loved running around in it, feeling the soft white powder beneath her paws – what I would give to see snow again this winter!

 

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That's a wrap! My internship at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine has come to an end 💻 I've had a great couple of weeks learning about the world of journalism and I even got to write an article that got approved and will be published in the May issue of the magazine which means… MY NAME WILL BE IN PRINT! 🗞 It's been a great experience but I can't wait to come home – I'm not sure London life is meant for me as I've spent the majority of the time getting lost and ending up in places I didn't even know existed, and no one smiles or talks on the tube which makes it soooo lonely 😭 Until next time, London, I won't be back for a while! 👋 Ps. Omg forgot I'm there Tuesday to fly to Australia 😂✈️ #whatislife

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February also saw me quit my job at luxury travel firm at Abercrombie & Kent (where I had been working for the past 18 months) in order to take a leap of faith and try something new. I left my job on 15th February and did a two week travel writing internship at the Sunday Times Travel Magazine, learning all about the world of journalism at the News Building in London. I really enjoyed my internship, and even got one of my articles published in the May edition of the magazine, which is probably my biggest writing achievement to date!

 

March & April

 

March and April were my favourite months of the year as I spent them both exploring the beautiful country of Australia, and what an adventure I had! I travelled alone and was away for six weeks in total, going from Melbourne – Sydney and ticking off the likes of the Great Ocean Road, Adelaide, the Outback, Cairns, the Whitsundays, Brisbane and Bondi Beach along the way. I skydived over Uluru, camped under the stars in the Outback, snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef and took a scenic flight over Fraser Island, ticking sooo much off my Aussie bucket list! I made some wonderful friends, who I still speak to now, and had the most amazing time in Australia. It was honestly the best trip I have ever done – I was so sad about leaving and wish more than anything that I could return right this second. Australia – I will be back one day!

 

 

The rest of April saw me enjoy Easter at home with my family and spending time catching up with all my wonderful friends. I headed to Bristol at the end of the month for a charity gala night to celebrate 25 years of the Pituitary Foundation, who I of course am a proud ambassador for. I went with my mum and dad, their two friends and one of my best friends – we had all climbed Mount Snowdon together the year before so it was a lovely way to reunite and celebrate such a wonderful achievement for the charity.

 

May & June

 

May was a great month of travel for me, as I headed to Spain with my sister Hannah to embark on our Spanish interrailing adventure. We were away for 8 nights/9 days and spent time in Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona. We had a brilliant trip and absolutely loved visiting some of Spain’s most iconic cities. I loved Valencia and Barcelona for their beaches, ancient cathedrals and lively atmospheres, but I think Madrid was my favourite out of all three of them as I just loved the history and the authentic Tapas. My nan and grandad and aunty and uncle also came down to stay with us just after we got back from Spain, so it was lovely to spend time with them as I hadn’t seen them since before going to Australia and we had a lot to catch up on!

May also saw me head to the Lake District and Scotland with my mum and dad – we were heading up to climb Ben Nevis for the Pituitary Foundation and had a lovely break away, although my dad sadly broke his wrist whilst we were climbing the mountain so we didn’t make it to the top which we were absolutely GUTTED about! Later on in the month I headed to Cardiff with one of my besties to go and see the Spice Girls which was absolutely amazing and brought back allll the 90s feelings from when I was a little girl growing up! I also celebrated my five year blogging anniversary at the end of the month which is absolutely CRAZY – I can’t believe I am still blogging and am thankful every day for the amazing trips I’ve taken and the wonderful people I have met through my blog, I know for sure that my life would be very different without it!

 

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Happy #TravelTuesday everyone – I'm actually not travelling at the moment (for once) and you know what, I'm actually soooo happy about it! 🏡 I haven't spent more than 2 weeks at a time at home since February and have been on back to back trips since March, taking 10 flights in 3 months, and travelling thousands of miles across Australia, the UK and Europe which has made me bloody exhausted 😩 I know I shouldn't moan because I LOVE my life and I'm so lucky I get to travel so much, but all the constant running around from airport to airport and sleeping in different hotel beds every night has finally taken its toll and I've got so fed up with being on the road that I just want to have a base to come back to ✨ So I'm now totally ready to spend the next three months completely at home, as my next trip isn't until September, and focus on myself, my blog and something else which I haven't told you about yet but I will reveal all soon, I promise! 🙈 For now here's a pic of me loving life in sunny Italia and soaking up the stunning mountain views that were right behind me ⛰

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In June my lovely nan came down to stay with us for a week and it was sooo amazing to spend some quality time with her. We enjoyed lovely days out in the Cotswolds just as the weather was getting good and had so much to catch up on as, like with my other nan and grandad, I hadn’t seen her since before I left for Australia! June also saw me head to Italy for my 4th annual Traverse conference which, as you know, I attend every year! I headed over to Verona for two nights first, ticking off all the sights such as Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony, the Castel San Pietro and the impressive Arena – I really liked Verona and would definitely like to return one day to spend a bit more time there. After Verona I travelled onwards to the city of Trento, in the Dolomites, where the Traverse conference was being held. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the region of Trentino and it was great to discover a part of Italy I knew nothing about, all whilst attending my fave travel conference and catching up with my fave blogger friends. At the end of June I also went to see Westlife for the 4th time with one of my besties and it was amazing – I love them so much and am already planning to see them again in 2020!

 

July & August

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New week, new month, new JOB! 😬 Eeeek been keeping this under wraps for a little while, but today's the day I start my brand new job at a luxury travel company in Witney. 🌎 I'm so excited to have swapped a 2hr daily commute for a drive that takes me just 8 minutes to get to my new office 🙈 Instead of finishing at 5:30 and not getting home til nearly 7 I'll actually be home before 5:30 which means I can actually have a social life in the evenings and can fit it around working part time on my blog too ❤️ So excited for my new chapter to begin, after 4 months of travelling and spending way too much money I can't wait to get into a proper routine again and start settling down (kind of 😉) Operation 'Jess is saving up for a house' has been resumed! 🏡 #MondayMotivation #NewJob #NewChapter #WishMeLuck

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July and August were a little quieter for me and I didn’t leave the country once (shock horror!) but I did have some exciting news which was that I started my brand new JOB at luxury travel firm Oxford Private Travel! I was so excited to start working again after 4 months off and was keen to take the next steps of my career in the travel industry. I also swapped a 2hour daily commute for just a 20 minute round trip compared to my last job, and I feel so much happier in my new role, which is much more varied than my last one – I’ve been there six months now and still love going into work every single day. July also saw me head to London’s Hyde Park for their British Summertime Festival two weekends in a row as I saw the legend that is Robbie Williams with my sister and the absolute Queen that is Celine Dion with my mum! I’d wanted to see them both since I was a little girl, and both concerts were absolutely amazing so I will definitely remember them forever.

 

 

August saw one of my friends I met in Australia come and visit me for a couple of nights which was so lovely. She’s from The Hague in the Netherlands so wanted to visit Oxford and do a Cotswolds trip – to which I was her tour guide and host for the weekend! I love the fact that travelling allows you to meet people from all walks of life who you’d never meet otherwise, and for that I will always be grateful as some of my best friends are people I met whilst I’ve been travelling! At the end of August I headed up to Liverpool for my cousins wedding and my nan’s 80th birthday which was an amazing, fun-filled, family weekend with all my nearest and dearest. During the bank holiday weekend I also went to The Big Feastival, an amazing show here in the Cotswolds which is brimming with food stalls, family entertainment and big name artists – I went with my two friends and their little girls and had such a lovely time!

 

September & October

 

September was a great month for blogging events as I headed to London for the inaugural Borderless Live event run by the Traverse team, and then up to Manchester the week after for the popular Blog at the Beach event with Ice Lolly Holiday. Normal travelling service had resumed by the time September came around, as I flew out to Sardinia for my first work trip. We stayed at the gorgeous Forte Village Resort and spent time doing site inspections and enjoying all the facilities that the resort had to offer, but what I loved most was just swimming in the sea and taking in all the beautiful surroundings. The next day after I got home I was straight back to the airport to head on a girls holiday with my friend and two sisters to Vilamoura – it was my first time in Portugal and I was so excited! Vilamoura certainly didn’t disappoint and we had a great week enjoying the glitzy marina, swimming in the sea and checking out the fantastic waterpark. The day after we got back from Vilamoura we went up to Liverpool for my cousins baby shower which was a lovely family filled day.

 

 

October saw me take my second work trip in just 2 months, and my 6th visit to Italy in less than 3 years, as I headed to Venice as part of a travel agent fam trip. I only spent two nights there but had a great time seeing lots of hotels and taking part in excursions including visiting a gondola workshop, seeing the hidden gardens in the city and taking a boat trip over to the nearby islands of Murano and Burano. Despite visiting Venice for the first time back in 2016 (and not falling in love with it as much as I thought I would) I actually really enjoyed my second time in the city and had a much better experience this time round! In October I also took a first aid course (and passed) so I’m now a fully qualified first aider which is great and I also popped into Oxford for an evening with the Pituitary Foundation to listen to Professor John Wass, the founder of the charity, give an interesting speech. I also did a couple of blog reviews at The Botanist, Cheltenham and The Ivy, Oxford which were great evenings out, saw Grease the Musical in Oxford and I went to Brighton with two of my besties for a fun girly weekend!

 

November & December 

 

In November I went to WTM London for the third time, but this time with work rather than as a blogger which was totally different! I had back to back meetings all day and not much free time but still managed to catch up briefly with a few of my fave blogger pals who I hadn’t seen since Traverse in June or Borderless Live in September. November also saw me heading to our local fireworks display for Bonfire Night, and popping into Oxford for my work Christmas party which I had the task of organising and, luckily, a great night was had by all! At the end of November I took my sister Sophie to nearby Blenheim Palace in Woodstock for their annual Christmas at Blenheim event which was even better than last year’s one! The Alice in the Palace was beautiful, the illuminated lights trail was spectacular and we left feeling truly festive.

 

 

At the start of December I attended Sudeley Castle’s Spectacle of Light event in Winchcombe, near Cheltenham, with my sister and parents – we had a lovely festive evening and it was just what we needed to kick-start our December! A week later my sister Hannah and I headed to the beautiful Baltic city of Riga for a Christmas Markets break and we had the most wonderfully festive weekend. I actually won this trip in a competition I entered whilst at Traverse 19 in Trento back in June, which was sponsored by Magnetic Latvia. We had a fantastic time in Latvia and I couldn’t think of a better place to tick off my 30th country, which was a definite travel milestone for me! Of course December has also brought Christmas, a quiet one at home with family this year, and I’m excited to be heading to Cheltenham for a 1920s Great Gatsby themed party on New Years Eve so I can see in 2020 in style!

 

My 2019 New Years Resolutions

At the start of the year you might remember that I set my 2019 New Years Resolutions, and I always love to reflect and look back, so here’s how I got on…

 

Go Veggie for 1 month – SUCCESS – I actually kept this up for an entire SIX MONTHS instead of just for 1 month which I am really proud of myself for. Unfortunately I am still having problems with my tummy, and think that my constant bloating and stomach pains may be something to do with my ovaries instead of being food related, so I am going to investigate this further but I definitely didn’t miss meat at all during my 6 months of being veggie and have only recently started eating chicken in order to get more protein into my diet – I still avoid red meat and don’t eat fish at all so I’ve done really well with this resolution, and it was much easier than I thought!

 

Visit 7 countries – SUCCESS – I managed to tick off Australia, Abu Dhabi, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Italy (x3) and Latvia during my 2019 travels so I am really glad I was successful at this one! As a travel blogger, ticking off countries is a big deal for me, so I’m going to try and visit as many as I can each year and already can’t wait to see where my 2020 travels take me!

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) How to spend a day in #Verona 🇮🇹 Back in June I spent a very short time running around Italy's city of love ticking off alllll the sights as quickly as I could! 🌎 If, like me, you're on limited time during your flying visit to Verona, check out my travel guide to make the most of your day in this beautiful city and see some of the top sights including the Verona Arena, Ponte Pietra and Juliet's Balcony 😍 This pic was taken at the top of Castel San Pietro, a hillside fortress which can be reached on foot if you're active, or by funicular if you're feeling tired (like me) and offers some of the best views of Verona ✨ . . . #traveltuesday #travelblogger #travel #travelgram #uktravelbloggers #lonelyplanet #mytinyatlas #darlingescapes #veronaitaly #veronainlove #igersverona #insta_verona #veronacity #veronapictures #italy #italia #igersitaly #italytravel #topitalyphoto #italy_vacations #europe #europetravel #europe_pics #europe_tourist #europe_greatshots #citybreak #citypics #citylife #cityscape

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Read 2-3 books a month – SUCCESS – I have been really good at this one and read a whopping 24 books this year, which is bang on 2 books a month! I am really glad I have been able to do this as I absolutely love reading and have spent more time focusing on this instead of scrolling on my phone, so that’s a definite positive!

 

Take a leap of faith – SUCCESS – I was really vague about this when I set this resolution at the start of the year, but it was because I already knew what it was, I just couldn’t tell you as I hadn’t given in my notice at work! This year, my leap of faith was to quit my job and travel around Australia, and I did exactly that! I’m really proud of myself for pushing myself out of my comfort zone, leaving a job I was unhappy in and travelling the other side of the world on my own. Life is too short to be unhappy, so take a leap of faith and follow your dreams before it’s too late!

 

 

Reach 10,000 social media followers – FAIL – I tried this one last year and failed, and sadly I didnt manage to achieve it this year either. I’m now on 9344 followers across all social media platforms, so I’m not a million miles away, but I would have loved to reach my 10,000 milestone in 2019. Ah well, maybe next year I will finally get this one!

 

Make time to meditate – FAIL – Bad news, I didn’t get this one either, but it’s because I am so flipping busy all the time I never have time to sit down and meditate! I have obviously spent more time reading books this year though, so I’m taking that as a positive and not worrying that I haven’t meditated because you can’t do everything, right?!

 

What I want from 2020

 

If I’m honest I’m really not sure what I want from 2020. This year surpassed all my wildest dreams as I travelled for 13 weeks of the year, got a new job which I absolutely love, spent time with family and friends and saw some incredible concerts which I will remember forever! I’m just grateful to have had a really wonderful 12 months after a difficult 2018. The only thing I really want to achieve is to buy a house – I’ve wanted to move out for a while and have finally got a decent deposit saved up, so I’m confident that 2020 will be the year I finally get on the property ladder! Other than that though, I just want to continue taking little trips throughout the year and hopefully I’ll get sent on some more amazing work trips too!

I will most likely write up my 2020 New Years Resolutions in January so will share them with you when I’m ready and have thought more about what I want to acheive from the year ahead. Until then though, I hope you’re all still enjoying the festive period and that you have a happy and healthy start to 2020. Happy New Year everyone – thank you as always for reading my little blog, I love that I can still share my life updates with you five years after starting Journeys with Jessica – long may it continue!

Love Jess x

 

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Lush green mountains, sunny blue skies and glorious countryside views, this is what I love most about the beautiful #LakeDistrict ⛰ I didn't go abroad until I was 8 years old and spent many half term holidays up here with my sisters, so Lakeland is a huge part of my childhood and I have fond memories running up and down hills, chasing sheep in fields and having fun with my family ❤️ One year we even ended up getting lost on a mountain when my mum thought we were following yellow arrows on stones and sticking to a proper pathway but it turned out to just be yellow MOSS that she was following and we had been going round in circles for 8 hours!! 😂 A phone call to Mountain Rescue got 3 kids, 2 adults and 1 dog back on the straight and narrow but it took us forever to get off that bloody mountain and I never wanted to see another one for weeks after that 🙈 Luckily I started to love them again as I got older, and now they hold a special place in my heart and help me to appreciate all the natural beauty we have right here in England 🇬🇧 Do you have a silly travel story? I'd love to hear them on this chilled Sunday evening! ✨

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Travel guide to Vilamoura: Planning your trip to The Algarve

 

The beautiful Algarve, one of Portugal’s most visited regions and one of the most popular beach destinations in Europe. I visited Portugal for the first time back in September when I spent 5 days in Vilamoura on a girls holiday – how it took me 26 years to visit Portugal I will never know!! I absolutely fell in love with the Algarve during my trip; the weather was amazing, the beaches were stunning and the food was incredible! If, like me, it’s your first time visiting the Algarve or you’re planning a return trip there for 2020, here’s my travel guide to Vilamoura, and how I would recommend you spend your time there…

 

Wander around the marina

 

The beautiful Vilamoura marina

 

The marina is without doubt THE place to be in Vilamoura, with a wide range of shops, bars and restaurants lining the harbour. Sip cocktails as you watch the mega dollar yachts bobbing up and down in the harbour, or take your pick of some of the Algarve’s best restaurants and enjoy lunch or dinner by the sea both day and night. There are plenty of lively bars (including at least three Irish bars!) that are open until late, offering lots of places to enjoy a few drinks. The marina is the hub of Vilamoura and has a real buzz about it, so you’ll definitely find yourself spending lots of time here during your holiday, and no travel guide to Vilamoura would be complete without it!

 

Go to the Aquashow Waterpark

 

The Aquashow Waterpark

 

Located in Quarteira, just a 10 minute taxi ride (or short bus ride) away from the marina, the Aquashow Waterpark is a fantastic day out for all the family and offers something different on my travel guide to Vilamoura. There are huge water slides for the thrill seekers, smaller rides and flumes for the less adventurous and even land rides for those not wanting to get too wet. An onsite café and shop allows you to purchase food, drinks and souvenirs, and there are lockers available for a small charge. There’s a lazy river, wave pool and large swimming pool if you’re looking to have a more chilled out day instead of going on ride after ride. We spent the morning on the big rides and then the afternoon on the smaller rides and had an amazing day doing something different that didn’t involve the beach or the marina, but whatever your reasons for visiting, you’ll be sure to have a fun filled day out at Aquashow – an absolute must see on your travel guide to Vilamoura!

 

Hop on a dolphin watching boat tour

 

Photo courtesy of www.tripadvisor.co.uk

 

I reeeallly wanted to do this during my time in Vilamoura but sadly we ran out of days and didn’t manage to squeeze it in! There are plenty of boat trips to take in Vilamoura as the area is fantastic for dolphin watching, with the Atlantic Sea being one of the best places to spot them in the wild. Some trips take you out to the middle of the sea and into the Benagil Caves for a fantastic experience, whilst others just focus on offering amazing opportunities to see some brilliant marine life. Next time I am in the Algarve I will definitely be taking a boat trip as I have only seen dolphins in the wild a handful of times and they are my favourite animals in the world so you can imagine how gutted I was that I didn’t get chance to try and see them this time round!

 

Explore the two long sandy beaches

 

Having fun on Praia de Vilamoura beach

 

There are two beaches at the heart of Vilamoura, Praia de Vilamoura to the east – the most well known as it is right by the marina – and Praia da Falesia to the west which is located a little further away. Both beaches are equally as beautiful, with long stretches of golden sand and deep blue waters that are perfect for swimming in. I was really apprehensive about swimming in the sea as Portugal sits on the Atlantic Ocean which is notoriously chilly and no where near as warm as the Med, but once I got over the initial shock of coldness and started swimming properly I completely forgot I was in the Atlantic and enjoyed spending plenty of time in the water! Both beaches have sunbeds and umbrellas to hire, and there are small beach bars too, with the luxurious Puro Beach on Praia de Vilamoura being part of the Anantara Vilamoura hotel (more info below) and THE place to sunbathe if you’re looking for VIP treatment.

 

Get involved with the golfing

 

Photo courtesy of www.anantara.com

 

Known for its excellent golfing facilities, home to no fewer than 40 golf courses across the resort, no guide to Vilamoura would be complete without mentioning the G word, even though I am quite possibly the least likely person in the world to play golf! I think September must be big in the golfing calendar because there were sooo many groups of men there who were either on stag do’s or group golfing trips – the majority of which were taking over the Irish bars night after night! The Portugal Masters, held in October, are a super popular time to visit, so I would avoid going to Vilamoura at this time if you aren’t bothered by the golfing as accommodations are more expensive and restaurant capacities are limited as they are often inundated with groups.

 

Where to stay

 

Our hotel, Dom Pedro Portobelo

 

We chose to stay at the Dom Pedro Portobelo Hotel, which is in a perfect location for exploring all that Vilamoura has to offer. Just a 4 minute walk away from the marina, the hotel is close enough to the action without being right on the harbour and offers fantastic value for money. There’s a restaurant and large pool onsite with accommodation options ranging from standard double/twin rooms to spacious 1 or 2 bedroom apartments. We had a 1 bed apartment that slept 4 of us comfortably, and our spacious balcony had views overlooking the pool and the sea in the distance. Faro Airport is a 25 minute drive away, and I would recommend booking a shuttle transfer before you travel as they are so cheap (£13pp return) instead of just jumping in a taxi when you get to the airport. The Dom Pedro Portobelo is one of many hotels in Vilamoura from the Dom Pedro brand and I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone looking to enjoy a fantastic stay in Vilamoura without the hefty price tag that comes with staying on the marina!

 

Hanging out at Anantara Vilamoura

 

If you have a bigger budget, you’ll be spoilt rotten at the Tivoli Marina, right at the heart of the resort and commanding some of the best views in the area! The excellent location, top notch restaurant and spa and the exquisite rooms with stunning marina views will give you a fantastic stay at any time of year. Alternatively head to Anantara Vilamoura, located a 15 minute drive from the marina by complimentary shuttle, which is a world away from Vilamoura’s buzzy atmosphere but amazing for golfers and those who want luxury, privacy and peaceful surroundings. There are 4 pools, 3 restaurants and 2 bars as well as a spa and state of the art gym with a world class golf course home to the Portugal Masters directly opposite the hotel. I was lucky enough to see both of these 5* hotels during my time in Vilamoura as I was doing some site inspections for work (even whilst on holiday – dedication or what?! ) and got to really experience the luxurious nature of them both, so can whole-heartedly recommend them if you’re looking to splash the cash and I definitely wanted to include them on my travel guide to Vilamoura.

 

Where to eat/drink

 

The glitzy Vilamoura marina

 

The marina is really the only place to go in Vilamoura to ensure you get a top notch meal, and I have to say we were blown away by the quality of food night after night during our holiday here. The meat and sea food dishes were amazing, with fresh produce and eclectic menus to choose from no matter which restaurant you ended up at. We ate at Italian, Portuguese and Mediterranean restaurants during our holiday and certainly weren’t disappointed. For drinks, I would head to the cocktails bars along the harbour front if you’re looking for something sophisticated and casual, but if you want somewhere a bit more lively I would definitely choose one of the Irish bars to get you in the mood for dancing!

As you can see from my photos, I had an absolute ball during my time in Vilamoura, and I definitely could have spent another few days lazing on the gorgeous beach, admiring the glitzy marina and swimming in the deep blue sea. With so much to see and do, the Algarve provides the perfect place for a week long holiday or a weekend escape for couples, families and groups alike. Hopefully my travel guide to Vilamoura has shown you that this part of Portugal is perfect for all types of travel, but if you need convincing further, take a look at this gorgeous candyfloss sky which lit up the marina night after night once the sun had started to set – truly magical, am I right?!

 

Candyfloss skies

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How to Spend a day in Verona

 

Fair Verona. Home to Romeo and Juliet, the second oldest Colosseum in Italy and excellent pizza, pasta and gelato. Well known for it’s excellent location close to Lake Garda, Verona makes the perfect place for a city break during your travels to Italy. I visited Verona for the first time back in June whilst I was in Italy to attend my 4th annual Traverse conference which was being held in the small city of Trento, nestled in the Dolomites. I only had time to spend a day in Verona but still managed to tick off most of the sights and get a real feel for the city during this short time. The city centre is pretty compact and is super easy to get around on foot, with all the major attractions in walking distance of each other, so only having a day in Verona really isn’t a problem and is actually doable! Here’s what I got up to during my visit, and how I recommend you spend a day in Verona too…

 

Check out the Verona Arena

 

me in front of verona arena

The historic Verona Arena

 

This was the first thing I did when I spent a day in Verona and it was a great way to get my bearings and to kick-start my time in the city learning about some of its fascinating ancient history. Tickets cost 10 euros and offer access into the main Arena as well as the tunnels surrounding the amphitheatre. The inner part isn’t huge and is a bit underwhelming if you have been to the iconic Colosseum in Rome, but I would say it is still worth a visit if you want to learn more about Verona’s history during Roman times. Built all the way back in 30 AD, on a site which used to be pas the city walls, the Arena is in fact one of the best-preserved ancient structures in the world. Nowadays, the Colosseum is used to host concerts, shows, sporting events and plays throughout the year in Verona and is a great hub seating up to 30,000 guests in the middle of the city, with the surrounding restaurants, bars and café’s in Verona’s main square being great places to people-watch.

 

Climb the Torre dei Lamberti tower

 

verona rooftops from the top of the tower

The amazing views over Verona from the top of Torre dei Lamberti

 

Located behind Piazza dei Signori, the Torre dei Lamberti is one of the tallest towers in the city at 84 metres high and is definitely worth a visit if you’ve only got a day in Verona. Construction first began in 1172, with the bell tower being added in 1295. Some 110 years later, the top of the tower was struck by lightning and remained damaged until restoration works began 16 years later in 1448. For just a couple of euro’s you can either hop in an elevator or walk the staggering 368 steps to the top of the tower, which in my opinion is a much more exciting option, especially when you are rewarded with stunning panoramic views over the city below! Catch a glimpse of the iconic terracotta rooftops, the winding river Adige and some of the beautiful houses and courtyards that can be found across the city, making your journey up to the top well worth a visit, especially at sunset or after dark when the city is lit up and dazzles below you right before your eyes!

 

Visit Juliet’s Balcony

 

me in front of juliet's statue

Well it’s worth a try, right girls?!

 

Definitely one for the Verona bucket list, but beware of the crazy amounts of tourists all flocking to do the exact same thing! Located on Capello Street, Juliet’s Balcony is perhaps one of the most famous tourist attractions in Italy, and for good reason. Based on the iconic Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s Balcony is said to be the place where Romeo declared his eternal love for Juliet, and you can visit the onsite museum which allows you to take photos on the world famous balcony. Although ridiculously busy, I still think it’s worth stopping by to tick this one off your list of things to do if you only have a day in Verona. There’s a life-size bronze statue in the courtyard garden below and, according to legend, if you touch Juliet’s right breast you will be granted eternal love! I’m not sure how accurate it is though gals – I tried it and, guess what, I’m still single 😉

 

Take the cable car up to the top of Castel San Pietro

 

the views from the top of the castel san pietro

One of the best viewpoints in Verona!

 

This is an absolute must see when spending a day in Verona, and the best time to visit is at sunset so you can watch the city turning a vibrant shade of orange as the glow of the sun reflects off the red rooftops below. A trip in a cable car up to the top of Castel San Pietro, part of Verona’s castle complex, will set you back just a couple of euro’s, and you can take a slow walk down the sloping hill afterwards if you prefer to return on foot instead. The views from the top of the hill are breath-taking, and especially good during sunset – I would recommend taking a good hour or so out of your day in Verona to visit this so you have enough time to go up and down and take in the amazing views as well!

 

Walk along the River Adige

 

the beautiful ponte pietra bridge

The best known bridge in Verona, the Ponte Pietra

 

The Adige is the second longest river in Italy, flowing over 400km through the northern part of the country towards the Adriatic Sea, and it is the same river that runs through Trento, the place that I was visiting next after spending a day in Verona. Cross the many bridges to see the city from both sides as the river runs below you, and walk the as far along as you wish to explore some of Verona’s beautiful surrounding countryside away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Verona’s most famous bridge, the Ponte Pietra, is a Roman arch bridge which provided the city with access to the Arena and was completed in 100 BC, making it the oldest bridge in the city. The arch nearest to the right bank of the Adige was rebuilt by lord of Verona Alberto I della Scala in the 1200s and sadly four of the arches were destroyed in world war two but rebuilt in 1957 using original materials.

 

Where to stay

 

the exterior of stravagante hostel verona

StraVagante Hostel Verona. Image courtesy of booking.com

 

I was on a budget so stayed at the brand new StraVagante Hostel which had only recently opened and really enjoyed my stay as the hostel was clean, comfortable and central, with much more of a hotel feel than a hostel which I really liked. The hostel is in a great location for both the airport and train station – I arrived by plane and found the Aerobus super easy and cheap to use (make sure you buy tickets – 6 euros each way – at the ticket office or on the bus using cash) and the train station was just a 10 min walk away too. If you’re looking to spend a little more, there are plenty of great hotels to choose from in central Verona, including the Grand Hotel des Arts and Hotel Milano and Spa.

 

Where to eat/drink

 

piazza bra in verona

Piazza Bra, a great place for food and drinks in Verona

 

Unfortunately I didn’t eat out much at all during my day in Verona as I wasn’t there for very long, but I did manage to have a fantastic pizza in Piazza del Signori, right near to Juliet’s Balcony. Verona has a fantastic foodie scene and there are plenty of restaurants serving pizza, pasta and gelato so you can indulge in alllll the Italian food; I’d recommend eating in Piazza Bra and Piazza delle Erbe as well as the areas by Torre dei Lamberti and the Colosseum for a brilliant choice of authentic Italian restaurants. I was actually pretty gutted that I didn’t eat out anywhere else during my time in Verona, but I guess that’s just another excuse to go back, right?!

As you can see, I had a great time soaking up the ancient Roman feel about this beautiful city, and what Verona lacks in size it certainly makes up for in charm, culture and history! If, like me, you only have the time to spend a day in Verona, I would definitely recommend you see these main sights as they are all totally doable. I would definitely return to do a day in Verona if it was planning a trip back to Italy, which I am sure I will do in the next year or two, and I would try and visit Lake Garda next time too as that place has been on my bucket list for soooo long. Have you ever been to Verona before? I’d love to know what you thought of it!

 

stood in front of the river adige in verona

Saying a fond farewell to fair Verona – I will certainly be back!