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3 Nights in Trento: Exploring The Dolomites at Traverse 19

 

Earlier on this summer I spent 3 nights in Trento (Northern Italy) as part of my fourth annual Traverse conference weekend. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have been a07ttending Traverse conferences for the past 4 years now, travelling to Cardiff, London and Rotterdam, so I was super excited when The Dolomites was revealed as the location for Traverse 19! Despite visiting Italy numerous times before, I have never been to the northern part, and was particularly excited about the prospect of exploring the Dolomites, which are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe! After enjoying 2 nights in Verona, I was super excited to hop on a super quick 1 hour train and spend a further 3 nights in Trento exploring everything that this pretty Alpine town had to offer. Here’s what I got up to during my 3 nights in Trento, and what I would recommend you see there during your visit too…

 

Wander around Buonconsiglio Castle

 

The beautiful views from the castle balcony

 

The most important castle in Trentino, Buonconsiglio Castle is the residence of the Prince Bishops and an iconic symbol of Trento. Built in the 13th century, the castle is split into three different parts, reflecting different historic eras of the city, showcasing arts and incredible frescoes from the Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic ages. Nowadays, the castle is an open air and indoor museum, with visitors able to access almost every part of it, and every year an excellent summer exhibition runs activities and workshops for schools. I would definitely recommend climbing the stone staircase towards the upper part of the castle, where there are some seriously stunning mountain views from the top balcony!

 

Take the cable car up to Trento Alta

 

Just look at that amazing landscape!!

 

This was probably my favourite thing about my 3 nights in Trento, and it was the perfect way to get my bearings and start exploring the city as this was the very first thing I did when I arrived (after devouring some pizza, of course). From Piazza del Duomo, a few other bloggers and I made the short walk across the River Adige over to the Trento Alta cable car, located at the foot of one of the enormous mountains that dominated the Trento skyline. As we had Trentino visitor cards, our cable car journey was totally free, but otherwise it costs just a couple of euros for the return trip. A rapid ascent will see you reach the top of Trento Alta in just a matter of minutes, and believe me when I say you will be totally mesmerised when you see the breath-taking views that are waiting for you when you get there! I’ll let the photograph above do the talking…

 

Walk inside Trento cathedral

 

Trento Cathedral

 

Trento Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of San Vigilio, is located in Piazza del Duomo, right at the heart of the city, with the majestic Fountain of Neptune in front of it. Built in the 6th century, over an ancient temple dedicated to the city’s patron saint, the cathedral as we know it now wasn’t constructed until the 11th century, when the Prince Bishop Uldarico II started work on it. The Roman Catholic cathedral is decorated beautifully inside, with Gothic architecture, ornate frescoes and a stunning rose window at the front, also known as the Wheel of Fortune. I admired the Cathedral from the outside many times when I was passing by the main square, but it wasn’t until I went inside on my last day that I really appreciated it’s true beauty – this place is an absolute must visit during your 3 nights in Trento!

 

Base yourself at Piazza del Duomo

 

The glorious main square, Piazza del Duomo

 

The focal point of the entire city, Piazza del Duomo is at the core of Trento and is the main square from which everything leads off. The surrounding cobbled streets are home to numerous bars, cafe’s, shops and restaurants, with the glorious mountains providing an impressive backdrop. The main part of the Traverse 19 conference was set up in Piazza del Duomo, and it’s a great place to base yourself in order to get your bearings of the city. Enjoy lunch and dinner in one of the many restaurants surrounding the piazza, or simply people watch whilst sat at the Fountain of Neptune to enjoy the views from wherever you’re positioned.

 

Where to stay

 

My balcony at Hotel Albermonaco

 

I stayed in the quirky Hotel Albermonaco during my 3 nights in Trento, located near the train station and directly adjacent to the castle. My room had a spacious balcony with amazing views of the mountains and castle which was a pleasant surprise as I hadn’t expected any view at all given that the price I paid was super cheap! Along with tonnes of other travel bloggers who also attended Traverse 19, I recently contributed to this accommodation guide to Trentino, which was put together by Teresa from Brogan Abroad. As Trento is a fairly small city, you’ll be able to access pretty much all of it on foot no matter where you choose to stay, but I found being close to the castle and the train station super handy at the Albermonaco, and it was just a 10-15 minute walk away from the main square too!

 

Where to eat/drink

 

Traditional Italian gelato in Trento

 

Fortunately, my Trentino visitor card and my Traverse 19 ticket came with some complimentary/discounted food and drinks vouchers that I could use throughout my visit during my 3 nights in Trento, but I did get to sample a lot of different meals and check out numerous restaurants and bars during my trip too. A few fellow bloggers and I decided to head for dinner at local restaurants most evenings, whilst lunches and evening drinks were generally included at the conference days. Particular restaurants which stood out to me were Uva e Menta and Ristorante Antica Trattoria, which served excellent pastas, pizzas, meat and fish dishes. Pretty much anywhere around the Piazza del Duomo is recommended, and it’s really not hard to find good food in Trento!

 

Trento really is a hidden gem at the heart of the Dolomites, and a fantastic place to base yourself if you want to explore more of northern Italy. As I mentioned, Verona is just an hour away by train, and is in close proximity to Lake Garda too – somewhere that has been on my bucket list for soooo long! I’d definitely suggest giving yourself at least 3 nights in Trento to spend time exploring everything properly, but you could easily spend a week or two using the city as a base and then discovering plenty of the surrounding areas nearby too. Have you ever been to Trento before? I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

 

Walking along the river Adige

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How to Spend 24 Hours in Manchester

 

Last weekend I stayed overnight in Manchester for a fab travel blogger conference, Blog at the Beach, hosted by Ice Lolly Holiday and Visit Barbados. I had an amazing time catching up with all my fave blogger friends and meeting loads of new ones, and was excited to explore Manchester properly for the first time in YEARS. In the past I’ve usually just headed straight to the Trafford Centre from Liverpool as I spend a lot of time with my family up there, but this time I was determined to see all that Manchester had to offer, so when Hotels.com asked me to create a guide on how to do a budget break to the city, I was more than up for the challenge! They offer some fantastic accommodation options including luxury hotels, budget B&B’s and the serviced apartments Manchester are a great choice too. Here’s what I got up to during my 24 hours in Manchester, and what I recommend you do there during your northern getaway…

 

Check out Exchange Square & the Northern Quarter

 

exchange square manchester

The Exchange Square

 

Located slap bang in the middle of the city, Exchange Square is home to the shopping district and is right behind the popular Arndale Centre. You’ll find street performers and live music in the square, with the Corn Exchange building as the impressive backdrop. There’s also the Printworks, which has now been converted to a food court with the likes of Five Guys & the Hard Rock Cafe dominating the skyline. The Northern Quarter is another quirky area of the city which is home to an abundance of bars, cafes, shops and restaurants as well as some fantastic street art too. Situated between the Ancoats and Piccadilly, the Northern Quarter is the retro part of Manchester and has plenty of character, with record shops, vintage stores and places where bands gather to play live music.

 

Shop til you drop on the high street  

 

the arndale centre

The Arndale Centre

 

Manchester has got some fantastic shopping, and the high street is one of the best places to go for this. You’ll find every kind of high street, designer and department store you can think of, and the enormous Primark is also home to the newly opened Central Perk Friends Cafe which is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. Located five miles west of Manchester city centre, The Trafford Centre is of course another obvious choice for shopping, and boasts a fantastic range of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. There’s also plenty of leisure options for those that don’t fancy shopping or eating, with an Odeon cinema, laser quest, mini golf course, escape room and even a Sealife aquarium offering a fantastic day out for all the family.

 

Visit one of the many museums

 

The National Football Museum

The National Football Museum

 

Manchester has some great museums, many of which are free to enter and are suitable for people of all ages. From football and music to art and fashion, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The National Football Museum, just a stones throw from Victoria station, is one of the city’s most popular attractions, detailing the successful history of the beautiful game. The Science and Industry Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery are well worth a visit, as is the Imperial War Museum located right on the waterfront at The Quays. For those of you who are soap lovers, Coronation Street The Tour at MediaCityUK in Salford is a great day out for all the family. You can explore the historic cobbles, wander through Weatherfield and even see where the pints are pulled in the Rovers Return.

 

Have a night out in Deansgate

 

 

One of the liveliest parts of Manchester, the Deansgate area is a great night out and is brimming with bars, clubs and restaurants. We had cocktails in the All Star Lanes bar, which is complete with a full bowling alley at the back, and then headed to Rudy’s for pizza. We passed the Peaky Blinders bar, a popular new hangout right in the centre of Deansgate, and also passed tonnes of other clubs and bars too. This area of the city is the place to be for a great northern night out, with the mile long road home to trendy eateries such as The Living Room, MOJO and The Botanist.

 

Getting around

a Manchester tram

The trams in Manchester

 

Manchester is quite a big city, so you may need to use public transport or taxis to get around, but the central area is best discovered on foot. You can walk from the high street up to Exchange Square in around 10 minutes, and head to the Victoria or Piccadilly train stations which are either a 5 or 15 minute walk away too. For a proper Mancunian experience, hop on a tram to get around like a local and explore everything much more quickly.

 

Where to stay

 

quad room at the macdonald manchester hotel

Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa

 

We stayed at the 4* Manchester Macdonald Hotel & Spa which was located a little out of the city centre, but was just a 3 minute walk from Picadilly train station. The hotel was in a perfect location for our Ice Lolly event as the office building was right around the corner, but we did have to get Uber’s/ taxis in and out of the city centre as the 25 min walk was a little too much for some of us who were wearing heels in the evening! The hotel had plenty of facilities including a tecnho-gym, swimming pool and spa with infra-red sauna, sensation shower, eucalyptus steam room and even an ice igloo. Please note that the spa was only accessible by paying a £10 supplement per person. I was in a room of 4 and we had 2 double beds between us which were super comfy and the bathroom was amazing. I’d definitely stay here again on my next visit as it was the perfect place from which to base ourselves during our 24 hours in Manchester.

 

Where to eat 

 

yard and coop manchester

Yard & Coop Manchester

 

Manchester has a great foodie scene, and we spent most of our time having lunch or eating dinner around the Deansgate area where we were going out on the Saturday night. There are some brilliant restaurants to choose from, with popular chains including Bella Italia, Nandos and Wagamama, but we opted to eat at Rudy’s which has been voted as one of the UK’s best pizza restaurants. For lunch the next day we headed to the Northern Quarter and ate at Yard & Coop, a speciality chicken restaurant serving every kind of chicken dish you could think of! Other great foodie areas include Peter Street and the Ancoats.

I had a great 24 hours in Manchester exploring all that the city had to offer, but I know there’s lots more that I didn’t see during my short time there. If I had longer I definitely would have spent more time seeing some of the museums and exploring the older buildings, as well as venturing out to the Trafford Centre too, but I definitely got a good feel for the city during my 24 hours in Manchester. Have you been to Manchester before? I’d love to know your top tips!

NB. My spending money during my time in Manchester was gifted by Hotels.com but all views, words and photos are of course my own.

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Cairns to Brisbane Road Trip: Travelling Australia’s East Coast

 

 

 

Ahh Australia’s East Coast… somewhere that should be on EVERYONE’S bucket lists if you’re heading Down Under! Whilst making my way around Oz on my six week adventure there back in March, I was really looking forward to exploring new states and cities on the East Coast after spending the first three weeks of my trip exploring Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory. My 10 day Cairns to Brisbane road trip took in the likes of Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays and Fraser Island along the way. I booked my East Coast trip through Topdeck Travel, a fantastic tour company who offer group tours for 18-39 year olds, similar to the Contiki I did in America back in 2016! I had an amazing time travelling Australia’s East Coast and really loved exploring a side to the country that was totally different to the vast Outback and the Great Ocean Road! Here’s the lo-down of my Cairns to Brisbane road trip, and everything I would recommend you see when planning your own East Coast adventure too…

 

Cairns – Magnetic Island

 

 

After meeting my new tour mates and having a full introduction from the Topdeck team at our Cairns hotel, the first day of our tour was spent exploring all that Cairns had to offer. Despite having already spent 2 nights in Cairns prior to the tour starting, it was actually really nice to spend more time exploring the city whilst getting to know my new tour mates at the same time. Some of the group decided to just chill out by the lagoon and stay in the centre, whilst others opted for high adrenaline sports including white water rafting and bungee jumping. I decided to join the rest of the group in doing a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest after my trip to Cape Tribulation was cancelled the day before due to bad weather! We rode a cable car over the forest below, went on a boardwalk amongst the trees, admired the awesome Barron Falls waterfall and walked around the tiny village of Kuranda. After lunch we then hopped on the Kuranda Express and took the train all the way back to Cairns. I absolutely loved exploring the rainforest as it enabled me to see a totally different side to Australia.

After a heavy night of dancing and drinking until the early hours on the first night of our tour, we were all up early and were ready for a day some of us had waited our whole lives for… it was time to head out to THE GREAT BARRIER REEF! Ahhh I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get my wetsuit on and jump in that gorgeous blue sea. I have to say, snorkelling the GBR was absolutely incredible and one of the best things I’ve ever done. I saw hundreds of different species of fish of all sizes, shapes and colours, a whole host of beautiful coral reefs and even came face to face with a small shark at one point! We spent most of the day out at sea, enjoying lunch on the boat as we sailed and we did two separate dives; the day was truly magical and I am so happy I got to tick the snorkelling off my bucket list!

 

Magnetic Island – Whitsundays

 

 

After spending 4 long days in Cairns (2 on the tour and 2 just before the tour started) I was totally ready to move on and explore somewhere new so was looking forward to heading to Townsville ready for our next destination. After around 5 hours of driving we made it to Townsville in time to catch the ferry over to Magnetic Island where we were spending the night. The ferry was only a short crossing and we were soon arriving onto Maggie Island, a world heritage listed island right on the Great Barrier Reef that’s teeming with sandy beaches, tropical fish and brightly coloured reefs. Shortly after arrival, we were ready to check in to our cute little motel in Arcadia with gorgeous sea views. I joined a few of my tour mates on an afternoon hike up to the historic world war two forts which were used by the Australian army to defend their coastline. We passed some fantastic 360 degree views of the sea from the top of the fortifications along the way and even spotted a few koalas resting sleepily in the trees. After our hike we spent some time on the pretty Alma Bay beach before chilling at the pool on our resort.

After dinner at the motel, we headed out to watch the sun set over the sea and went to the nearby rocks to feed the resident wallabies which was super cute! Our evening was spent having drinks at the one and only nightclub on the entire island, Base Backpackers, before heading back to our motel in Arcadia to get a good night’s sleep. The next morning we headed to Bungalow Bay Koala Village, the only accommodation resort in Australia that has it’s very own wildlife park on site! Sadly we weren’t staying here and were just visiting for the day, but we got to meet all the classic Aussie animals including koalas, crocs, snakes, echidnas, possums and even Harry the wombat who was HUGE but just the cutest thing! We held tropical birds and snakes on our hands and round our necks and petted the koalas and wombats too. After our visit to Bungalow Bay it was time to leave Maggie Island behind as we headed back to Townsville to continue with our Cairns to Brisbane road trip.

 

Whitsundays – Airlie Beach

 

 

This was the part of the trip that I was actually dreading the most as I get sooo sea sick and was terrified it was going to ruin my entire experience! After getting off the boat back in Townsville, we left the bus (and our suitcases) behind and boarded our very own private yacht ready for overnight sailing in the beautiful Whitsundays, a cluster of 74 islands off the central coast of Queensland founded by Captain Cook. After we had left our overnight bags and ditched our shoes on the boat we set sail and cruised along the beautiful Coral Sea, lapping up the waves and gazing at the sparkling turquoise waters blow. Shortly after, we arrived at our first stop, Whitehaven Beach, a natural wonder famed for its pure white sands that should be on everyone’s Aussie bucket lists! Unfortunately the weather was awful whilst we were there and it rained non-stop (typical), but we donned our stinger suits and swam in the waters where we saw tropical fish aplenty and some of our group even saw sharks and sting rays.

Back on the boat we wolfed down our lunch that was cooked on-board and sailed further out to sea, stopping again for a second time a few hours later to give people the option for more snorkelling or swimming as the boat stopped in the middle of the ocean. We sailed for another few hours, enjoying an incredible sunset along the way, before having dinner and drinks as it started to get dark. The anchor then docked for the night as we settled down in our cabins ready to catch some Z’s. Unfortunately I was starting to feel a little nauseous by that point, although my sea sickness tablets/patches had been amazing, so I opted to go on the sleeper boat in the hope that I would actually get a good night’s kip. Most of my tour mates were getting drunk and I wasn’t really feeling it so I am glad there was a more chilled option for those of us who wanted to chill out and Topdeck catered well for instances like this!

 

Airlie Beach – Myella Farm Stay

 

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Airlie Beach… The heart of the reef, the gateway to the Whitsundays and one of the most laid back places in #Queensland! 🇦🇺 Situated between Cairns and Brisbane, #AirlieBeach makes the perfect stop to break up the journey between these 2 epic cities, and will give you the chance to explore some of Australia's best beaches and it's gorgeous blue sea 🌊 I only spent a night here whilst making my way down from #Cairns to #Brisbane on my 10 day Topdeck tour back in March, but I had just spent the previous couple of days sailing the world famous #Whitsundays which was incredible ⚓️ Have you been to this part of #Australia before? I'll be writing up my East Coast guide on the blog very soon and can't wait to share my next instalment from my trip Down Under with you all 🌎 #JessDoesAustralia #TakeMeBack #EastCoastin #DownUnder #Topdecker

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Our second day on board our boat was spent sailing further out to sea and taking yet more swimming stops as we visited Blue Pearl Bay to try and see some more amazing marine life. We had actually seen a shark and baby dolphins the night before from top deck of our boat which was a real treat so I was keeping an eye out for some more activity! Unfortunately it rained again on our second day so the water wasn’t as clear as we’d hoped for, and the snorkelling wasn’t great either, but we did enjoy sailing for another few hours and having another great lunch before we disembarked the boat. After our overnight Whitsundays sailing had come to an end, and as we made our way into Airlie Beach, we spent time exploring the lagoon and the shops before having dinner and drinks in one of the most popular backpacker resorts in Australia. Our hotel for the night was the Mantra Club Croc which was amazing and the rooms were so luxurious – something that was much needed after an uncomfortable night’s sleep on a boat and I was so glad to be back on land!

 

Myella Farm Stay – Fraser Island

 

 

The next morning we enjoyed a hearty breakfast ahead of our longest driving day of the entire trip – a whopping 8 hours – ready to head to Myella Farm, a traditional working farm ran by a local family who welcomed us all with open arms. We spent two nights on the farm and took part in activities including horse riding, lassoing and feeding the baby joeys as well as enjoying some of the best home cooked meals we’d ever had! We went for sunset walks on the ranch, drives around the estate and chilled out in our hammocks whilst catching some rays. I spent time reading my book, contacting family and friends back home and doing some laundry too as we hadn’t had much chance to do any since our tour started. It was so lovely to experience a traditional way of Australian farm life for these two days and we also used it as a chance to recharge our batteries after a whirlwind start to our crazy Cairns to Brisbane road trip.

 

Fraser Island – Brisbane

 

 

The penultimate stop on our tour, and somewhere that I was super excited to visit, was the one and only FRASER ISLAND! Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest sand island in the world, Fraser boasts Queensland’s longest beach which stretches for 75 miles. We made the long drive from Myella Farm, stopping at Bundaberg to check out their famous rum distillery along the way, and then caught a ferry over in the afternoon. We started our time on Fraser with a four wheel driving experience across the bumpy sand. Shortly after, we went on an epic rainforest walk swapping sand for trees, and were then taken back to our Wilderness Lodges ready for dinner and a night of dancing in the tiny nightclub! Day 2 of Fraser was probably my favourite day of the entire trip as we packed SO much in to such a short amount of time. First up was tubing down Eli Creek and exploring the Maheno Shipwreck before jumping on an optional scenic flight over the entire island below which was amazing! After coming back down to earth, we spent the afternoon swimming in Lake Mackenzie, the bluest water I’ve ever seen, and even did some stand up paddle boarding too.

Night two of Fraser was our last official night on tour as a group as loads of us were jumping off in Brisbane the next day (myself included) so we wanted to enjoy one last evening together. We had a lovely sit down meal followed by more dancing and drinking at our lodges/the bar. Our last morning was spent enjoying one final breakfast together before we all hopped on the ferry back to the mainland and got back on the bus for the last time (sob!). We then had a 5 hour drive as we made our way over to Noosa where we had a few hours to stop for lunch and do some exploring. I had no idea what to expect from Noosa at all but really enjoyed walking up to Noosa Heads and the Fairy Pools for some epic ocean views. Only a few of us took part in this hike, and we were actually back late to the bus because we lost track of time (oops!) but I’m so glad we did it. Our final stop on the way down to Brisbane was at the Glasshouse Mountains, a set of dormant volacanoes that dominated the skyline. After a few more hours of driving we FINALLY reached the lively city of Brisbane ready to say goodbye to all our Topdeck pals. There were hugs and tears aplenty as those of us who were leaving got ready to wave everyone off, but I actually stayed one more night for a final dinner and drinks with the crew before my lovely friend Amy picked me up the next morning and my Cairns to Brisbane road trip came to an end!

 

 

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Dreaming of #Australia on today's #TravelTuesday 🇦🇺 I had no idea what to expect from #Noosa before I arrived as part of my @topdecktravel tour when I travelled the #EastCoast from #Cairns to #Brisbane but I was pleasantly surprised ☀️ I hit up the shops, explored the food markets, went to the beach and even hiked up to Noosa Heads and the magical Fairy Pools ✨ Me and some of my tour mates had so much fun exploring that we forgot what time it was and were late back to the bus that was waiting for us! 🙈 We ended up running like mad to try and make it to the bus as quickly as possible and I ran so fast I felt sick but it was allllll worth it for the incredible photos I took of these beautiful sea views 🌊 Has anywhere really surprised you before? I'll be publishing my East Coast Road Trip very soon on the blog and can't wait to share it with you all! 🌎 . . . #jessdoesaustralia #australia_shotz #australiagram #discoveraustralia #aussielife #noosaheads #noosanationalpark #noosafairypools #queensland #igersaustralia #igersnoosa #igersqueensland #roadtrip #eastcoastaustralia #topdecker #topdecktravel #cairnstobrisbane #downunder #australia_oz #australiatrip #travelblogger #darlingescapes #wanderlust #mytinyatlas

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As you can tell, I had a brilliant time on my Cairns to Brisbane road trip and absolutely adored travelling Australia’s East Coast. From snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and sailing the Whitsundays to feeding baby kanga’s at Myella Farm and flying over Fraser Island, I ticked plenty of Aussie bucket list items off my list and made 30 new friends whilst I was at it! A Topdeck tour is a great way of getting around Australia and seeing a large amount of the country in such a short time, so I would definitely recommend them if you’re looking to do an East Coast tour like I did! The final instalment of my Australia posts will be coming soon, and I’ll be sharing the last part of my journey from Brisbane-Sydney. Writing these posts is so much fun and is giving me so much nostalgia, but it’s also giving me serious travel blues and making me miss Australia even more! Take me backkkkkkkk.

 

 

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A Little Life Update: What’s New For 2019

Hi everyone,

I’m not quite sure how it’s the middle of July all of a sudden, time is FLYING by more than ever this year and the last six months have certainly been a whirlwind! I thought I’d just do a little life update post for you as I try to do these a few times throughout the year, just to inject a bit more personality into my blog, and to break up all the travel content that I constantly seem to be churning out! As we are well into July, I thought now would be a good time to take a step back and see how things have been going, and to update you on some big life changes too! Here goes…

I quit my job & spent 4 months travelling and blogging full time

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This is the face of a girl who's just finished her last Monday at work! 😬😬 Really excited to share some news with you all… 🙈 1. I'm quitting my job (again) sorry mum 😂 2. I've been offered an internship at the Sunday Times Travel Magazine to see how the world of journalism works! Roll on 2 weeks in London for lots of learning 💻 3. In March I'm off to travel round Australia all by myself! This trip is an absolute dream come true and I can't wait to spend 6 weeks exploring the other side of the world 🇦🇺 After that I've got trips to Scotland, Spain, Italy & Greece lined up between May & September so I've got another busy year of travel coming up and I couldn't be more excited! 🌍 I've taken another leap of faith to give myself a better and brighter future and I'm soooo ready for my new chapter to begin!! 2019, let's do thissss 🙌 #MondayMotivation #NewBeginnings #BringItOn

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After deciding I was going to hand my notice in at work in January, I left my full time job at luxury travel firm Abercrombie and Kent in February in order to backpack around Australia. Before that though, I spent 2 weeks in London interning at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine which was super fun! My month and a half in Australia was totally life changing and I had the best trip ever travelling from Melbourne – Sydney and everywhere in between! I blogged full time from March-June whilst also visiting Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Scotland, the Lake District, Verona and Trento after I returned from Oz in April, so I’ve certainly had a busy few months of travel!

I got a new puppy

Eeeek as well as backpacking my way around Australia, this was another one of the most exciting things to happen this year – we got a frigging PUPPY!!! Lola is a cavapoo pup which means she’s crossed with a cavalier spaniel and a miniature poodle. She was 9 weeks old when we got her and was the tiniest little bundle of fluff, but now she’s a spritely 8 month old who loves walkies, cuddles and running around the house chewing everything in sight! She has bought so much joy into our lives after we lost our beautiful Westie Cassie back in 2017 and we can’t imagine our lives without Lola now!

I celebrated my 5 year blog anniversary

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Sooo I just wanted to come on here and let you all know that Journeys with Jessica celebrated its 5th birthday this week! 5th!! That is CRAZYYYY! 😱 I remember when I started my little blog, back in 2014, when I was 21 years old and my world had just been turned upside down for all the wrong reasons. An awful relationship break up left me with no motivation, no energy, no desire to carry on and make something of my life. For 3 months I barely ate or slept. I was broken and didn't think I'd ever be happy again, until I started to travel and I started my blog. I didn't know it back then, but the decision I made to start travelling actually changed my life. 🌎 Instead of wallowing in self pity and worrying about trying to change the past, I started to look forward. I started to plan trips, book short weekend stays and long weeks away, and I started to live again. I couldn't fall in love with anyone else, but I did fall in love with travelling, and to this day it's been the best decision I've ever made. ❤️ I've driven across Route 66 in America, rode the Great Ocean Road in Australia, inter-railed around Europe, cruised around the Med and visited 28 countries by the age of 26. I've helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been on a gondola in Venice, climbed the Eiffel Tower, skydived over Uluru, flew over Fraser Island and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef. Sometimes I can't believe how much I've done and I have to pinch myself that this has been my life. 🎉 So if anyone out there is ever feeling like I did 5 years ago, or if you're not sure where your life is heading and need to make some changes, I urge you to travel. To discover new places, to meet new faces, to live a different life. 5 years from now I hope I'm still in love with travel, that I'm going to more countries than ever before and that I'm even happier than I am now. 🌟

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Back in May I celebrated my little blog turning 5 years old and I still can’t quite believe it. Who’d have ever thought that my little space on the internet would ever reach the grand old age of 5?! I certainly never thought it would happen, especially when I only set it up as a way of documenting my travels so my mum and dad could read them. Fast forward half a decade and my blog now attracts over 7000 page views each month, with almost 10,000 followers on social media. My blog has been a consistent source of income; I’ve been paid for my writing for the past 4 years, I’ve worked with brands on sponsored posts and campaigns and I’ve even been sent on press trips and attended travel conferences, meeting people that I simply would never have met if it wasn’t for my blog. What a 5 years it’s been – roll on the next 5, I can’t wait to see what new heights my blog will reach next!

I won a trip to Riga

Off the back of attending my 4th annual Traverse conference in Italy in June, I was lucky enough to win a trip to the beautiful city of Riga with tourism board Magnetic Latvia who were one of the sponsors this year. I have always wanted to visit Latvia, and Riga in particular, so I was absolutely over the moon when I found out that I’d won free flights and a hotel stay in the quirky Baltic capital. I’m not sure when I’ll be heading to Riga yet, although I’ve got my sights set on December so I can pair it with a Christmas Market visit too. Have you ever been to Riga before? Send me all your blog posts please!

I’ve bagged myself a brand new job

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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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If all of this wasn’t enough to take on in my life, I only went and got a brand new job too! On the 1st of July I started a new role at Oxford Private Travel, a luxury travel company specialising in tailor made holiday itineraries. It’s similar to my last job at Abercrombie & Kent, although I’ll be dealing with all types of holidays across the world, rather than just being a European villas specialist. I’m on my 4th week at work now and time is absolutely flying by! I’m loving it so much and the role is so varied, allowing me to deal with clients directly and host supplier meetings as well as being responsible for product and even website content meaning I can be creative and throw some writing into my day job rather than just saving it for my blog life. I’ve settled into the team really well, attending a few summer events already and even being asked to join the Social Committee! I feel so happy and content and having no commute (10 min drive as opposed to a 1hr drive in my last job) means I can actually have a social life and do things in the evenings like catch up with friends or focus on my blog. After I got back from Australia I wasn’t sure whether I should continue with the freelance stuff, get a new office job or start a completely new career, but I’ve definitely made the right choice in continuing in the travel industry and I’m super excited to see where this next chapter will take me.

Quite a lot has happened in my little life over the past 6 months, and it’s certainly been one hell of a ride! I spent so much time travelling between February and June (I wasn’t home for more than two weeks at a time for 4 months) and, whilst I don’t regret any of it at all, it’s made me realise I get burnt out so much when I travel and sometimes it’s nice to spend some time at home and take stock of everything once in a while. I am incredibly lucky to have travelled as much as I have done, but right now I want to spend some time at home and focus on building my savings back up so I can look to move out and get my own place within the next 12 months. It’ll mean that I have to cut down on spending, and that means I’ll no doubt have to stop travelling as much, but we all have to make sacrifices in order to achieve things we desperately want, so if not spending as much means I can afford to move out then so be it!

The next life update I write will be at the end of the year, when I’ll be sharing my 2019 round up and letting you know how I got on with my New Years Resolutions that were made back in January. In terms of trips, I’ve got weekends in Manchester, London and Brighton coming up as well as potentially a sunny week in Portugal, a Christmas market trip to Riga and my first work trip to either Menorca or Sardinia – exciting! I don’t want to wish time away so I hope it goes slowly, but in the meantime stay tuned for tonnes more Australia and Europe content from my recent travels coming right up!

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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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How to Spend a Week in the Australian Outback

 

The Australian Outback is totally unique, and unlike anywhere else on this planet. I spent some time exploring this incredible part of Oz during my recent six week adventure and have never had a travel experience quite like my week in the Outback; I would go as far as to say it was a totally life-changing seven days for me. I swapped my bed for a swag, make up for a bare face and wifi for human interaction, all of which were welcome changes to my temporary Australian Outback life. I found that the phrase ‘sleeping under the stars’ quite literally meant sleeping in the open with nothing over me or around me whatsoever, and my fly net became my new best friend. Despite having never camped in my ENTIRE LIFE, I had an absolute ball and would do it all again in a heartbeat. Want to know how I did it? You’ve come to the right place! I booked my adventure with Intrepid Travel on their Adelaide – Alice Springs Overland tour; here’s my day by day itinerary, and how you can do travel the Australian Outback too…

 

Day 1: Adelaide – Flinders Ranges

 

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Every once in a while do something that scares you 💫 I've never been camping in my ENTIRE LIFE and for the past two nights I've been sleeping under the stars in the Australian friggin outback!! 😩 On night 1 I was terrified and slept in my hoody, pjs, fly net and sleeping bag with the zips done all the way up to to the top! I got woken up by kangaroos bouncing around my head but apart from that I actually slept pretty well 😂 By the second night I'd got the hang of it and literally just wore tiny pjs and slept with my legs out the sleeping bag as it was sooo hot! Kept flinching cos thought I had bugs on me when in reality it was just my hair 😅 Tonight we are sleeping in an underground bunkhouse 😳 (I hope there are no spiders 🕷) What an amazing adventure I'm having – experiencing the nature of the outback, not wearing a scrap of make up or having any wifi, pushing myself out my comfort zone and embracing every second. ✨ The stars here are so incredible, I've been gazing up at them every night before falling asleep realising just how lucky I am to be on a journey like this one 🌟 #JessDoesAustralia #Days8-9

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Starting in Adelaide, I joined my 16 pax group and got acquainted with my tour leader (Kieran) and fellow tour-mates, where we got brief intro’s and awkward hello’s out of the way; little did I know that these people would become dear friends to me by the end of the week, and that I’d still talk to some of them every single day. Once on the road, on our comfortable coach with plenty of room for suitcases on the trailer which lagged behind us, we headed straight for Flinders Ranges, where we would be spending our first night on tour. We passed by Wilpena Pound (an incredible rocky landscape which was an epic backdrop for those all important Insta pics) and stopped for lunch before ending up in Flinders after around 5 hours of driving, where our camp was waiting for us. We went on an afternoon hike around the national park before heading back to camp for a tasty BBQ and then setting up our swags for the night. Let me just be clear with what I mean by the word ‘swag’ as you’ll hear it a lot throughout this post. A swag is another word for an Australian bedroll, which is basically a sleeping bag with a small foam mattress so you are sleeping slightly raised off the floor, but there is no tent/cover around or on top of you. I was terrified about sleeping on one of these, but honestly they were sooo comfy and I had an amazing night’s sleep with no interruptions from any bugs/spiders crawling over me (thank GOD), although there was a kangaroo or two hopping around at 4am 😉

 

Day 2: Flinders Ranges – William Creek (via Oodnadatta Track)

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So my Adelaide to Alice Springs tour has come to an end and I am soooooo sad 😭 This adventure has been one of the best weeks of my entire life and I've enjoyed every single second of it! 💖 We've done everything from sleeping under the stars and hiking national parks to watching countless sunrises and even doing skydives 🙈 I've pushed myself out my comfort zone every single day, forcing myself to embrace sleeping outside when I'm terrified of spiders/bugs, throwing myself off a plane when I have a fear of heights and making sure I continue to hike even when I feel exhausted and am suffering from the heat 😩 I've surprised myself by embracing everything and just living in the moment, but the best thing to come from this trip is the people I've met. Seven days ago these 18 people were just a bunch of strangers from different ages, countries and backgrounds, now we are a family who have enjoyed the trip of a lifetime together and I will never forget any of them ❤️ I love travelling on my own, but I do it to meet people like these 🌟 #JessDoesAustralia #Days8-15

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Day 2 saw us leave Flinders Ranges behind at around 7am (we soon learnt this would be classed as a lay in!) as we headed north towards William Creek, the smallest ‘town’ I have ever visited with a population of approx 10 people! We made stops at Lyndhurst, an outdoor sculpture park, and Parachilna, home to some of the world’s oldest fossils, before driving for around 5 hours, following the old Ghan railway & overland telegraph line where we stopped for lunch at the town of Marree, right next to the Ghan station. Once we’d hit the famous Oodnadatta track we stopped at Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest salt lake, and tasted some of the well known salt water itself – be warned, it tastes every bit as salty as it sounds! Dinner was cooked and eaten round the campfire that evening, and the stars that shone above us as we settled into another night in our swags truly took my breath away. I got to really know my fellow campers a bit more that night as we played card games, exchanged travel stories and just generally embraced Australian Outback life.

 

Day 3: William Creek – Coober Pedy

 

 

After leaving teeny tiny William Creek behind we headed towards Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world. Before arriving there though we admired the incredible desert landscapes as we drove straight through the iconic Red Centre and then passed by Anna Creek Station, the largest cattle station on the planet. After a long 6.5 hours of driving we finally arrived at Coober Pedy where we had a quick bus tour of the town and familiarised ourselves with our new home for the night. As Coober Pedy is incredibly hot, with temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees in the summer months, most of the houses and shops here are actually built underground as it is much cooler for people to live there. We went on a fascinating tour of the Coober Pedy mine and even tried our hand at ‘noodling’, or searching for opals in the sand. Afterwards we went to a local art gallery called Josephine’s which stocked Aboriginal paintings and doubled up as a kangaroo orphanage for rescued joey’s which were the cutest things I’ve ever seen! This evening we headed out for pizza (the only time on the tour we didn’t cook/wash up, hooray!) before making our way to the accommodation for the night, an underground bunkhouse with ACTUAL bunk-beds which felt like heaven after 2 nights of sleeping on the floor!

 

Day4: Coober Pedy – Yulara

 

As we were on our way out of Coober Pedy we made a quick stop at The Breakaways, one of the best natural landscapes I have EVER seen! This place was seriously stunning and reminded me so much of Arizona and Nevada in America, where you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d stepped into the Grand Canyon or Mojave Desert and would expect to see a Western film being shot at any moment! After taking literally HUNDREDS of photos, with me and some of the girls having a full on photo shoot, we reluctantly made our way back to the coach for our longest day of driving yet (a solid 9 hours). Our journey took us across the Moon Plains and past the Dingo Fence, which is the largest fence in the world, and we stopped off for a selfie at the Northern Territory border, officially marking my third Australian state during my trip so far. Upon arrival at our camp in Yulara we made headed to Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock as it’s more commonly known, where we eagerly awaited a special sunset and had drinks and nibbles to pass the time. Unfortunately there was no sunset at all as it was super cloudy and started to get dark very quickly, so us and the hundreds of other people who were also there were somewhat let down! To pick us back up again though we headed back to camp where a wonderful BBQ dinner was prepared and we enjoyed a great night’s sleep in our permanent tented camps.

 

Day 5: Yulara – Uluru

 

This was without doubt one of my FAVOURITE days on tour and when you look at that impressive red rock, it’s not hard to see why. We started our morning with a sunrise hike around the base of Uluru; our 4:30am start was tough but the hike was incredible and we were rewarded with the most amazing sunrise at the end of it. We then headed to the cultural centre/museum to learn more about the Aboriginal history of Uluru and why it is one of the most sacred sites in Australia. We also attended a talk from an Aboriginal woman, with the help of a translator, who told us some interesting stories about Aboriginal life and its connections with Uluru. After lunch we had a free afternoon at camp to do whatever we fancied. Some of the group used the on-site pool to cool down from the mid-day sun whilst others went for a small walk around the area. I did something a little different to that… I just happened to jump out of a plane and do A FRIGGING SKY DIVE over Uluru!!! Seriously, what is wrong with me?! It was a total last minute decision which I made on a bit of a whim but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my whole life and a real highlight of my entire Aussie trip. I didn’t tell anyone back home about it either, I just face-timed my parents once I’d done it and their faces were an absolute PICTURE! I don’t think I’ll ever do a skydive again, but it was something I wanted to tick off my bucket list and what better place to do it than in the Australian Outback?!

 

Day 6: Uluru/Kata Tjuta – Kings Canyon

 

I was still on a high from my skydive on the previous day so barely slept at all and went straight to sleep after dinner, but this campsite had purpose built huts with proper mattress style beds so I actually felt I could relax a little and it made a welcome change from sleeping on the floor! Our 6th day gave us yet another 4:30am start as we took on another sunrise hike, this time over at Kata Tjuta, or The Olga’s as it’s also known, one of the most popular national parks alongside Uluru. I think I actually enjoyed this one more than Uluru, because it wasn’t as crowded and we had a bit more time to stop and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The afternoon saw us spend a lot of time driving (around six hours) but we had a few lunch/gas station/toilet stops along the way to break up the journey. Upon arrival at our campsite for the evening, Watarrka National Park, also known as Kings Canyon, we made dinner and played games around the campfire before getting an early night ahead of another early start the next morning.

 

Day 7:  Kings Canyon – Alice Springs

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) After weeks of writing and editing, it's finally here, my ultimate guide on How to Spend a Week in the Australian Outback 🔥 This blog post is very special to me, which is why it has taken me so long to write since I got back from Oz in April! I would go as far as to say that this trip was probably the most life changing trip I've ever taken. Travelling from #Adelaide to #AliceSprings I crossed the borders from #SouthAustralia to the #NorthernTerritory and ticked off everything in between 🌎 From sleeping under the stars at Flinders Ranges to admiring views over the plains of #CooberPedy, hiking Kings Canyon & #KataTjuta and skydiving over #Uluru, I sure covered some serious ground during my week long Outback trip 🇦🇺 But it wasn't the memories of the landscapes or the places we visited that'll stay with me most, it's how much I learnt about myself whilst I was there. I learnt that it's quite fun to sleep outside on the floor, I learnt that it's extremely liberating to go make up free, and I also learnt that it's bloody marvellous to have no internet for a week! 🙌 I bonded with 17 camp mates from all corners of the world, with ages ranging from 20 to 70, and every day we sang songs around the campfire, took turns to cook dinner and pitched in with the washing up. On day 1 we were strangers, but by day 7 we were a family ❤️ Reconnecting with nature and embracing change is what travel is all about, and if my week in the Australian Outback taught me anything, it's that you've got to stop and look at what's around you, take it all in, and learn from everything that this world gives to us ✨ #JessDoesAustralia

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Our last day of the tour had rolled around and everyone was so sad that it was coming to an end, but we had one last day together and wanted to make the most of every second. We had our final 4:30am start (that’s the only bit I was glad to be ending) and headed straight to Kings Canyon, another of the incredible national parks that can be found in the Australian Outback. This was without doubt the hardest hike of the trip, starting with a taxing walk up the aptly named Heart Attack Hill, yep you heard me right, before making our way round the entire rim of the canyon (6km). It was an incredible walk though and we all stuck together taking it at a slow pace so that everyone in the group could enjoy it, no matter what their age or fitness level. We finished around 11:30am (just before they closed the park because the temperatures were reaching 40 degrees) and then headed for lunch back at our campsite. I was so sad at our final lunch as it really felt like the adventure was coming to an end, but I was looking forward to spending some time with my new friends in Alice Springs, once the tour was over, as I knew most of the group would be staying on in Alice for a few extra days. This evening our meal wasn’t included but we all went for one last group dinner together at a local restaurant in Alice and bid a fond farewell to our tour leader Kieran who was absolutely incredible throughout the entire week.

 

Can you tell that I had the most amazing week of my life travelling the Australian Outback?! I still can’t believe I conquered my fears and did some of those things; I never thought I’d be able to even camp in the wild let alone chuck myself off a bloody PLANE! Although it totally amazing, it was also incredibly tough at times, with 40 degree temperatures and gruelling hikes every day which I did struggle with, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world as it taught me so much about myself, and how strong I am as a person. It also taught me to just live in the moment, appreciate every single second of life and go back to basics sometimes when things are getting a bit overwhelming. I chose the perfect tour, met new people who are now friends for life and made memories that I will never forget. Travelling the Australian Outback is something that should be on everyone’s bucket lists, and I encourage you to do it if you get the chance one day, before it’s too late!

 

 

Like my Great Ocean Road tour, this one too was a very ‘hands on’ experience, and we all pitched in with cooking, washing up, tidying away etc so that our tour leader Kieran wasn’t left to do all the work. All our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were made and served by us all, taking it in turns to do different jobs. As with most camping trips, this tour is pretty basic as you’re either sleeping in swags or huts, and there are only communal showers and toilets with no option to upgrade to anything, so please bear in mind that it may not suit every style of traveller. It is suitable for all ages though, from 8-99, and we had people of all ages and backgrounds in our group, from Brits in their 20s to Americans in their 30s and Europeans in their 60s and 70s. On this tour all your food is included, your campsites & swags are all there for you and your expert tour guides have knowledge which is second to none. For me, this really was the most authentic Australian Outback experience I could ever wish for and I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Just FYI, here are the inclusions that were covered in this trip:

  • 6 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 6 dinners
  • 2 nights swag camping, 3 nights in permanent tented camps, 1 night in an underground bunkhouse (all with shared bathroom facilities)
  • All transport
  • Entrance to numerous national parks, plus many more activities (pls refer to webpage)

 

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So I have something to tell you all and I haven't told a single person (not even my parents or sisters so they're gonna get a shock when they read this🙈) TODAY I DID A SKY DIVE OVER AYRES ROCK!!!! 😱😱😱 Ohmygodddddd best day ever, first ever sky dive, best thing I've ever done in my whole life in the best location with the most amazing atmosphere and I am soooo proud of myself!! Absolutely terrified of heights and thought I was gonna wet myself when I was sat on the edge of the plane at 12000 feet 😭😂 What an amazing experience and something I will never ever forget!! My bucket list is almost complete at the age of 26 and I've never been happier than I have been today! 🌟 You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough 💫 #JessDoesAustralia #Day10 #IAmInsane

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