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Travel Guide to Valletta, Malta: Europe’s Capital of Culture 2018

 

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Good morning beautiful Valletta! #VisitMalta

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Listed as 2018’s European Capital of Culture, Valletta is a lively city brimming with history and culture and it has been on my bucket-list for the past few years now. I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit Valletta during my recent Mediterranean cruise and, as it was my first time in Malta, I was super excited to wander around and couldn’t wait to explore. Malta actually turned out to be my 25th country and it was an amazing place in which to celebrate this achievement! I literally only had a day in Valletta which wasn’t nearly enough time to experience it all properly, but we did do quite a lot in our short time there, and we got a good feel for the city during this time. Luckily, I had my trusty Marco Polo Malta guidebook with me which really helped us plan our time and make the most of the few hours that we had to spend there. The book covers the entire areas of Malta and Gozo, but there’s a fantastic detailed section of the capital city, along with maps, photos and plenty of recommendations of things to see and do in Valletta, which was super helpful. If, like me, you only have a day to visit this pretty place, this is what I recommend you do there…

 

Take a glass elevator up to the Barrakka Gardens

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((link in bio)) A #Travel guide to #Valletta 🇲🇹 I got to visit this pretty city during my #Mediterranean cruise last summer and it was one of my highlights of the entire trip! 🚢 We spent our day in the Maltese capital wandering around the cobbled streets, checking out the enormous harbour and admiring panoramic views from the city walls 😍 I used my trusty @marcopologuides book to navigate myself around Valletta and it was an absolute God send! We found the cutest restaurants and bars after following recommendations from the book and the street maps came in super handy 🙌 Come and find out what I got up to whilst exploring 2018's European Capital of Culture, and it just happened to be my 25th country too! 🌍 . . . #ad #wanderlustwednesday #travelblog #travelblogger #bloggersofinstagram #girlslovetravel #visitmalta #marcopolo #travelbloggersofig #instatravel #travelgram #darlingescapes #mytinyatlas #cruise #europe #malta #igersvalletta #igersmalta #lovemalta #maltaphotography #maltagram #vallettamalta #lovevalletta #citybreak #cityscape #europetravel #europe_pics

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Once we had docked and left the ship we headed towards the general direction of the city centre and stumbled across a modern looking lift that connects the Grand Harbour with the Barrakka Gardens. I had spotted this place in my Marco Polo guide book and really wanted to visit, so we bought our tickets (€1 each) and headed up in a glass elevator towards the top exit. Installed in 2012, the elevator is 58m high and, within a matter of seconds, we arrived at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Home to fountains, flowers and war memorials, both the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens are a beautiful place to wander round and, as the Upper Gardens are the highest point of the city walls, they make the best place from which to marvel at the 2000 year old Grand Harbour below. For the past 500 years, Valletta’s guns protected the harbour from naval attack, and there is now a daily operation, the Saluting Battery, which is one of Valletta’s most famous attractions, and possibly the oldest Saluting Battery that is still in operation. Every day at 12 noon, soldiers begin a ritual and cannon fire can be heard and seen over the Grand Harbour as a mark of regulating peace across the city. I’d recommend getting to the Gardens early to get your spot for the Saluting Battery as it gets super busy and you’ll be pushed to find a decent spot much past 11.45am!

 

Visit the historic Fort Saint Elmo

 

 

Separating the Grand Harbour from the smaller Marsamxett Harbour, Fort Saint Elmo is a star shaped fortress that is perhaps best known for its role in the Great Siege of Malta back in 1565. After the 40,000 strong Ottoman Empire tried to invade the island in May 1565, a garrison of over 8000 soldiers and 700 Maltese men stood strong and resisted for four weeks until the Ottoman’s eventually took over St Elmo, but at the loss of 8000 of their men. The Ottoman’s then set their sights on St Angelo and, in August 1565, Malta saw some of the bloodiest battles of the Holy War. By September, the Ottoman troops finally started to retreat after losing thousands more men, and the Great Siege ended on 8th September 1565. This day became one of the most important dates in Maltese history and marks the founding of the capital city of Valletta, named after Grand Master Jean de la Valette, who was buried in the city three years later. Nowadays, Fort Saint Elmo is home to the National War Museum and offers a fascinating insight into its history as a working fortress, as well as pretty harbour-side walks along the sea.

 

Marvel at the Grand Harbour

 

 

As we were on a cruise we got to see this from the best view possible, whilst sailing in and out of the fantastic port during our visit! The Grand Harbour is truly stunning, and was one of the biggest ports we visited whilst on the cruise. There are loads of ships lined up that dock regularly and, after being in use as a natural, working harbour for over 2000 years, this place proves that Valetta really is the gateway to Malta and the rest of the Mediterranean. If you’re not on a cruise and want to see the harbour from land, head back up to the Barrakka Gardens for incredible panoramic views over the waterfront and fortifications below.

 

Go shopping down the high street

 

 

As a former part of the British colony until it gained its independence in 1964, Malta has a distinctly British feel to it, particularly in Valletta, which made us lot feel right at home! Our lovely Queen Elizabeth remained the Queen of Malta until the country became a Republic in the 1970s, and there are still a huge number of British ex-pats that still live and work in the country. Valletta was one of those cities where I instantly felt safe, and where I could easily navigate my way around, probably because the locals were so friendly and everything is sign posted in English which helped – there was even a bright red British post box right next to the tourist information centre! Walking down the main street felt like walking down any of our Great British high streets back home. There were tonnes of designer stores and well known retail shops including New Look, La Senza and even Peacocks – my own local high street doesn’t even have one of them anymore! Although it felt weird walking round all the normal shops like I do at home, it was interesting to see how our British culture is received abroad, and how similar Valletta is to some of our British cities, minus the gorgeous waterfront location and it’s fabulous city walls of course!

 

See the Triton Fountain

 

 

I had spotted this landmark in my Marco Polo guidebook and was super keen to see it during my visit to Malta as I love anything to do with mythology and legends! Located right near the City Gate of Valletta, Triton’s Fountain is one of Malta’s most recognisable and most important Modernist landmarks. Completed in  May 1959, the fountain comprises of three bronze Triton’s (Greek gods/Mermen also known as messengers of the sea) holding up a large platter, balanced on a seaweed base filled with water. The fountain is used as a stage for shows and national celebrations and each of the Mermen’s faces can be seen from the City Gate. The water and the Triton’s symbolise Malta’s links to the sea and were said to be inspired by the little-known Turtle Fountain in Italy’s capital city of Rome. When we visited there were lots of other monuments and art displays located in the central plaza where the fountain is based. I think this was to do with the Capital of Culture events that have been running across Valletta throughout 2018, so this really added to the area and the plaza was a really lovely place to stop for a drink or some food and marvel at the sculptures that were present.

 

Discover the stunning cathedrals

 

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St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta #VisitMalta

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Valletta is brimming with churches and cathedrals as it is quite a religious city, so I was in my element as one of my favourite things to do when exploring a new city is to wander round it’s many saintly buildings. Most of them were displayed in the Marco Polo guidebook, but the ones which caught my eye were the impressive Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, and the pretty Saint Paul’s Pro-Cathedral. St John’s is the most famous, with an elaborate design, 9 individual chapels, 2 tall bell towers and a stunning altar adorned with statues and Baroque style decoration. Built between 1572 and 1577, St John’s is a Roman-Catholic Cathedral and is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Nowadays the Cathedral is one of the most visited attractions in the city, and is well worth a visit. St Paul’s on the other hand is an Anglican Church and is built in a fantastic Neo-Classical style which dates back to the 1800’s. The spire from the top of the building is one of Valletta’s most recognisable landmarks rising to over 200ft, and it’s Corinthian columns make it look similar to the Pantheon in Rome. A pro-cathedral is a church with cathedral status but is not the main cathedral in the city, which is why St John’s is more famous in Valletta.

So as you can see, I didn’t have much time at all, but still managed to fit in plenty of things to see and do in Valletta during my quick visit there. I really loved the honey coloured buildings, cobbled streets and fantastic buildings that are dotted across the city, and it’s history and culture was fascinating too. The fact that it was right on the water front made Valletta appeal to me even more, as I love the idea of a city break on the sea so you can still get your fix of the ocean whilst wandering around and exploring a new town on foot. I really want to return to Malta to see what the rest of the island has to offer and I would like to take another day trip to Valletta too in order to see more of this stunning city. Have you been to Malta before? The Marco Polo Malta & Gozo guidebook really helped me to plan my trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to visit this country too!

Love Jess x

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo, but as always, all words and opinions are of course my own!

 

 

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A Travel Guide to Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

 

 

 

Despite having visited Somerset a few times before, it took me until the ripe old age of 25 to visit Cheddar Gorge for the first time, and my first thought upon arrival into this pretty village was… WHY ON EARTH HAVEN’T I BEEN HERE BEFORE??!! I visited Cheddar for a festive getaway with my family last week to see out 2018 and welcome 2019 in style. We stayed at Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, located about a 5 minute drive (or a 20 minute walk) from Cheddar Gorge. Our resort was in the perfect location from which to explore some of Somerset’s best loved highlights including Wells, Axbridge, Weston Supermare and the Mendip Hills. We had a lovely 4 days relaxing in our lodge on the resort and seeing some of the nearby area, so I thought I’d put together a travel guide for you all as I’d love to start sharing some more UK content on my blog! Here’s what we got up to, and what I would recommend you see during your time in pretty Cheddar too…

 

Visit the Gorge and Caves

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) A travel guide to Cheddar Gorge, Somerset 🧀🇬🇧 🌟 If walking, caving, rock climbing, hot tubbing, cheese tasting and pub lunching sounds like your kind of thing, you will feel right at home down in Cheddar Gorge. 😍 I spent the last few days of 2018 indulging in some fresh air and taking part in some outdoor activities whilst spending quality time with my family before seeing in the new year from our little cabin in the woods. 🏡 This post tells you all you need to know about pretty little Cheddar, and what you can expect from your trip there too. Have you ever been before? I'd love to know what you thought of it! 🌏 #VisitSomerset #LoveSomerset #Somerset #IgersSomerset #Cheddar #IgersCheddar #CheddarGorge #VisitEngland #VisitBritain #LoveGreatBritain #England #UK #BBCBritain #UKPics #GBPics #England_Insta #WeLoveEngland #Travel #TravelBloggersofIG #Wordpress #NewPost #Travelgram #InstaTravel #InstaGo #GirlsLoveTravel #DarlingEscapes #TravelPhotography #DarwinEscapes #CheddarWoods #WeekendAway

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The main attraction, and the main reason for most people’s visit, is the wonderful Cheddar Gorge and Caves. With over 500,000 visitors per year, this exhibition is listed as a world famous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is Britain’s biggest gorge. Dramatic cliffs reaching a depth of over 450ft and eerie caves filled with pre-historic stalactites make for a fascinating discovery, and the interactive audio guides make it easy to navigate yourself around the caves. We loved Gough’s Cave and the Aladdin’s Caves as both were truly stunning and filled with ancient stalactites and stalagmites! Your ticket price includes access to the caves as well as entrance to the Museum of Pre-history (located opposite the caves), Jacob’s Ladder, the interactive Dreamhunters exhibition, and the cinematic Beyond the View experience. We did all four of the individual experiences and really enjoyed them – it took us around 4 hours to do everything, but you could spend as little or as long as you wanted on them! We particularly liked the Dreamhunters exhibition which allowed you to walk through Cox’s cave and follow the story of early man as he battled through the ice age some 1.2 million years ago.

Open all year round (apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day), tickets for Cheddar Gorge and Caves can be purchased on the gate or online in advance – save 15% off your ticket price if you book online! The full prices are £19.95 for adults, £14.95 for kids and under 5s go free.

 

Climb Jacob’s Ladder

 

 

Included as part of your Cheddar Gorge and Caves ticket, climbing Jacobs Ladder is an absolute MUST when you’re in Cheddar. It’s a steep 274 steps to the top, but if you can make it that far, the views of the surrounding Mendip hills and the famous gorge below are well worth the climb. I would recommend stretching yourself that little bit further (just 48 more steps!) and climbing up the Lookout Tower too if you can manage it. Sadly it was closed for refurbishment when we went, but I’ve heard the panoramic views from the top are INCREDIBLE! The clifftop walk at the top of the ladder takes you on a 3mile loop around the top of the caves and is not for the faint hearted, but the views and fresh air alone are totally worth it; on a clear day you can see across the gorge and surrounding countryside for miles!

 

Walk around the Mendip Hills

 

 

Walking/hiking is one of my favourite things to do, especially when I’m away, so I’m pleased to report that Cheddar Gorge has a number of walks and trails that you can follow to keep your legs exercised during your trip. We did loads of hikes around our resort as there were nature trails and woodland walks to follow, and we also did a big loop around Cheddar Gorge itself too. The clifftop walk that can be completed after climbing Jacob’s Ladder will give you some stunning views of the gorge and surrounding countryside below, but I really enjoyed wandering around the Mendip Hills as well. The natural stone walls which make up the gorge are fascinating to look at, and to walk around, but beware for the free roaming goats that can be found dotted around the caves!

 

Buy some famous cheddar cheese

 

 

Taking its name from the village, Cheddar cheese originates from Cheddar itself and is famous the world over, with records of cheese making in the village dating back to the 12th century. The caves in Cheddar Gorge have historically been used to mature the cheese, and this is still something which is in use today. The caves provide the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese and a section of the Gorge exhibition at Gough’s Cave will tell you all about this method. Cheddar cheese traditionally needs to be made within 30 miles of Wells Cathedral in order for it to be classed as official Cheddar from Somerset. Today you can buy Cheddar cheese in just about any supermarket in the world, but you’ll only find the best of its kind down in Cheddar village. There are lots of little shops and cafés in the village selling the cheese, and I’d recommend heading to The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, the only cheesemakers left in Cheddar, where you can go along and watch the various stages of the cheese being made and enjoy some free tasters too!

 

Where to stay

 

 

We had booked to stay at Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, which is a Hoseasons site located just a 5 minute drive from Cheddar village. As a family of 5 we sometimes struggle to find accommodation big enough for us all, and now that we are all adults we like having our own rooms. As separate hotel rooms can be notoriously expensive, we opted for a shared lodge and found this to be the perfect solution. We stayed in a 3 bedroom Axbridge Premier Lodge with a hot tub (it was amazing – well worth the extra money!), private decking with outdoor seating and a parking space. Although Hoseasons are often known for being overrun with kids, we didn’t actually find this to be a big problem during our stay (despite staying over the New Year’s period) and found there were plenty of couples and groups of adults staying too. The site itself was equipped with a restaurant and bar serving food and drinks almost all day. There was a games room with a bowling alley and snooker corner as well as a well-stocked shop selling all the essentials. There was also a spa and gym on site with a large heated swimming pool, sauna and steam room. We booked massages each and enjoyed these on the morning of New Year’s Eve before spending a couple of hours in the gym and pool area and making the most of our last day of 2018! There were plenty of activities for the kids that could be booked and the daily schedule looked so fun – I wanted to be 10 years old again! The grounds were stunning too, with most of the lodges offering views of the surrounding Mendip Hills, and there were woodland walks dotted around the site, as well as a tennis court/football pitch and a trampoline/aero ball section too. I’d definitely recommend this place for anyone looking for a base from which to explore the best that Cheddar and the rest of Somerset has to offer.

 

Where to eat and drink

 

 

Cheddar is home to an abundance of cute little pubs, cafes and shops all waiting to make you feel welcome. The village itself is pretty small and you can walk from one end to the other in around 15 minutes. As we visited the Cheddar Gorge and Caves first we parked there and started in that area, making our way through the streets and along the river, before ending up at the waterfall which was at the other end of the village. We passed several café’s, the most famous being The Lionrock Tearooms which can be found directly opposite part of the Gorge which is known as the Lionrock due to its striking resemblance to a rock that looks like a lion! The cute Mousehole Café caught our eye as it looked like something out of Disneyland, and we were also told that the Waterfall Café is a hit with tourists too due to its riverside location. We were looking for somewhere that did a traditional Sunday Roast after working up an appetite climbing Jacob’s Ladder, so chose the White Hart Inn which was located in a small area known as The Bays, right at the bottom of the village. There were plenty of places to choose from though and you’re certainly not going to be spoilt for choice for somewhere to eat here in Cheddar!

 

We had such a lovely few days down in Cheddar and it felt amazing to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019 whilst on holiday and away from home. If we’d have had more time we definitely would have visited the nearby towns of Wells and Axbridge as both looked picturesque and well worth a stop, but we chose to make the most of our time on the resort rather than driving around or venturing further than we needed to. I’d really recommend Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa for all ages, particularly if you’re travelling in a group, as there was so much going on that you barely needed to leave the resort! I feel like I did everything I needed to in Cheddar Gorge though and I’m not sure I’d go back, but I would definitely stop off to visit Wells next time I am passing through. Have you been to Cheddar Gorge or other areas of Somerset before? I’d love to know what you thought of it too!

Love Jess x

 

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My 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, Travel Plans and Life Goals

 

 

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a lovely festive break and overindulged on all the turkey and mince pies? I’ll be disappointed if you didn’t! 😉 As we welcome January (I am SO glad to see the back of 2018) I’m kick-starting my year with some traditional new year’s resolutions. Ok ok, I know they’re overrated and we’re all sick of the ‘new year, new me’ Facebook statuses, but I actually LOVE this time of year and always relish taking time to make plans for a new year, and a new start. If you read my 2018 end of year round up you’ll know that I pretty much aced my resolutions from last year, if I must say so myself, and I’m now ready to take on a new challenge and to make some new life/travel plans. So without further ado, here are my goals and resolutions for this year, and what I want to gain from 2019…

 

Go Veggie for the whole of January

 

 

This is gonna be a HUGE challenge for me and something which I’m not sure I’m going to be able to but I want to push myself and I’m going to give it a real good go!! I’ve been thinking about trying to be vegetarian for a little while now, and a few friends at work have convinced me that it would be great for my health, so I thought January would be a good a time as any to trial it for a month and give it a go! It’s been four days already so far and I’m not missing meat at all. I’ve been quite creative with my cooking (well, my mum has also helped cos I get home from work late!) and I’m enjoying trying new foods and flavours. I haven’t eaten out yet this month but I have a few meals planned over the coming weeks so I’ll see if I can resist allll the burgers and steaks that will try to tempt me… but so far, so good!

 

Read 2-3 books a month

 

 

I was good at this last year despite not making it a resolution, so I thought I would try it again this year and give myself a goal of reading 2-3 books a month. I absolutely LOVE to read and it’s the only time of the day I allow myself to indulge and just sit in bed and turn the pages. I love escaping the real world for a bit in order to immerse myself in a story, and last year I managed to read 15 books so thought I’d try to beat that this year. I’ve already read The Light Between Oceans so far and I have The Tattooist of Auschwitz next on my list, plus plenty of others downloaded and ready to go in my Kindle, so I’m fairly set for the next few months and can’t wait to read more throughout the year.

 

Visit 7 countries

 

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Don't mind me, just posing in front of expensive boats like it's the most normal thing in the world 🙋 I'm currently writing up my #travel guide to #Kotor and can't wait to share it with you all! This pretty city is fast becoming the new go-to place for a European break in 2018, and with cute cobbled streets, an ancient old town and a glamorous waterfront like this, it's not hard to see why! 😍 I LOVED my time in #Montenegro when I visited as part of my recent #cruise and am already planning a return trip to explore more of this gorgeous country 🌍 Have you ever been to Kotor before? On this miserable windy day in England, I know where I'd rather be rn ✈️ #TBT #VisitKotor #VisitMontenegro #MarellaCruises #GoMontenegro #Insta_Montenegro #MontenegroWildBeauty #KotorMontenegro #KotorBay #CruiseLife #Europe #TravelGuide #TUI #ThrowbackThursday

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Last year I set myself a goal of visiting at least 5 countries and I actually managed to visit NINE! I went inter-railing and then on a multi-stop cruise so it was fairly easy for me to visit lots of countries in just a couple of trips, but I might find this year a little harder as I think I’ll be travelling a little differently. So far my confirmed trips are a week in Spain in May visiting Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, a few nights in Scotland visiting Fort William and Glencoe as I climb Ben Nevis (!!), and a week in Italy in June visiting Verona, Lake Garda and Trentino. I’ve got a huge trip lined up before that but I can’t say what it is yet… watch this space for more news on that though! And later on in the year I’m hoping to do a trip around the Baltics and take in Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and Helsinki all in one go, as well as do my first ever European Christmas Markets break, but we shall see what my bank account looks like after the summer! I don’t think 7 countries is unrealistic given that I already have a few trips lined up, and another inter-railing trip which means I can tick off lots in one go. Last year was the first year in two years I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked to, and yet I still ended up visiting a whopping nine countries so I am confident I can tick off at least 7 this year and am sooo excited for all my upcoming travel plans!

 

Take a leap of faith

 

 

So I know this is kinda vague and can apply to anything within life, but this year I really want to push myself out my comfort zone and do things that scare me. It might not be as drastic as jumping out a plane or booking a one way ticked to anywhere, but as I turn 26 I’m starting to realise that I want a couple more selfish years before I start to think about meeting someone and settling down with a house and kids. Don’t get me wrong, this is all I have ever wanted from life, but at the same time I have relished spending my 20s being selfish and putting myself first, as well as travelling to 25 countries and pushing myself to my limits. This year I already know what my leap of faith will be, even though I can’t share it with you guys yet, and I’m more than ready to ensure that 2019 becomes one of my best ever chapters. I promise to share my news with you soon, but after playing it fairly safe in 2017 and 2018, I think this will be the year that I truly ‘find myself’ and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it! I promise to share news with you as soon as I can!

 

Reach 10,000 social media followers

 

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#2018bestnine There's a brand new post on the blog today and it's all about my 2018 End of Year Review 🌟 This post sums up my highlights, lowlights and everything in between that has happened over the past 12 months. There's been ups and downs and what's ifs and maybes. There's been good times and bad times. There's been times when I've been so low I've not known what to do and there's been times when I've felt truly happy. 💖 2018 brought us the World Cup, a heatwave, 2 Royal Weddings & it marked 100 years since the Armistice, but it's also brought us GDPR, the Gatwick Drone and turmoil over Brexit. 😩 On a personal level, I experienced loss and grief when my dog and my grandad passed away. I've been told my job was being made redundant and I've ended up in hospital twice. I've watched my nan, dad and best friend battle serious health conditions and at times I've struggled with my own illness. 💔 But despite all of this, I've still continued to push myself and be the best person I can be. I've visited 9 countries on 4 different holidays, I've climbed Mount Snowdon and helped to raise over £25,000 for charity, my blog had its own stand at the biggest travel conference in the world, I've knuckled down and saved £10,000 in the bank so that I can try and buy a house soon, I've made countless memories with people I love and I feel blessed every time I wake up ✨ So whatever has happened in 2018, I hope you've had an enjoyable year. I'm completely ready for a new chapter in my life and am already putting plans in place to make next year my best year yet! 🌟 2019 I'm ready for youuu 💃

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You might remember that I set myself the same challenge this time last year, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful so I am giving it another go in 2019! 10,000 followers is an ENORMOUS number, and was probably a bit ambitious last year, but I’m on over 8600 in total across all platforms now, so I don’t think it’s unrealistic to gain another few thousand over the next 12 months! I’ve kind of fallen out of love with Instagram now to be honest so I’m not going to be wasting much of my time growing my followers on there, but I definitely want to focus on Facebook and Twitter as I get a lot of engagement and traffic from these two. It’s really interesting to know where your traffic is coming from, so that you can focus your energies on growing platforms that benefit you and your blog, so this is something I am going to pay close attention to throughout 2019!

 

Make time to meditate

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) I feel like every single person right now is leaving their jobs to become full time content creators/bloggers/freelancers. It's been just over 2 years since I made that same decision to quit my job & work full time as a freelance travel blogger. I had an amazing year working for myself with plenty of ups including flexible working hours, no annual leave restrictions, press trips and new clients/collaboration projects but there were inevitably lots of downs & it just didn't make me happy. I was incredibly lonely, I missed working in an office alongside colleagues, and I struggled with the inconsistent workload and lack of constant wages coming in. After a year I ended up at a new 9-5 job (this time in the travel industry to satisfy my wanderlust) which I needed in order to bring some routine back into my life. In this new blog post I'll be showing the good, the bad and the ugly sides of freelance life and that there's much more to it than just press trips and Instagram posts! If you've ever considered going freelance, or if you are currently working for yourself and wondering how our experiences might compare, then this post is for you! ✨#wordpress #newpost #bloglife #freelancer #bloggers

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I tried doing this last year and I did enjoy it but I sometimes found I didn’t have enough time to sit down and meditate properly so I got a bit bored and just gave up. My sister is really good at this though so I’m going to try and take a leaf out of her book and make time to meditate, even if it’s only once a week. The last app I tried was Headspace but I found it a bit repetitive, so I may give Calm a go this year and see how I feel. The main reason for wanting to meditate is mainly just to give myself time to switch off before bed – I am the worst person for falling asleep with my phone in my hand or scrolling on Facebook just before I go to bed, so I am going to make a conscious effort to minimise my screen time during the evenings and I think meditation will really help me with this.

I’m trying not to set myself too many goals this year as I don’t want to overwhelm myself and set challenges that aren’t realistic, but I think these resolutions are all achievable and will all enhance my life during 2019. I think the hardest one to complete will be going Veggie for a month as I’ve eaten meat all my life, but I want to do it for health reasons and to see how I get on. 2019 will mark 5 years since Journeys with Jessica was launched, so I’m definitely going to have a celebration by the time the anniversary rolls around in May and I can’t wait to share with you all the fab new content I have planned for my blog this year. As well as the travel plans I have mentioned above, I’m also making a conscious effort to explore more of the UK this year and to take more day trips. Plus I’ve already booked tickets to loads of concerts including Westlife, Robbie Williams and the Spice Girls – I am SUCH a 90s kid!! – so will be having plenty of UK day trips too. What are your travel plans for 2019? Do you make resolutions and stick to them? I’d love to hear how you plan to spend your 2019.

Happy New Year everyone!

Love Jess x

 

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WTM London 2018: How To Survive the Bloggers Speed Networking Event

Hi guys,

So last week I attended World Travel Market (the biggest travel exhibition show on the planet) for only the second time in my blogging career, and what a whirlwind of a day it was! After my first visit back in 2016 left me feeling pretty overwhelmed, I was understandably feeling anxious ahead of my second visit. Set in London’s ExCel centre, WTM is the biggest and best travel show of the year, with thousands of people from all corners of the industry attending across the three day period. You’ll find everyone from bloggers and journalists to travel agents and tourism boards all hoping to meet new faces, catch up with old friends and of course do some business networking. Last time I visited I wrote a blog post sharing my top tips on how to survive your first time at WTM, which gives an insight of what to expect from the exhibition, so I hope some of you found that useful! This time though was a very different visit for me as I was lucky enough to be selected as one of only 120 bloggers to take part in the digital influencers speed networking event, so I was very focused and determined to walk away from WTM with some new business as a result of my visit. Here are my top tips on surviving the Bloggers Speed Networking and how to get the most out of your valuable time there…

 

 

Choose the right category upon registration

 

This is probably the single most important piece of advice I can give to anyone looking to take part in the speed networking. Upon registration you will be asked to provide some information about yourself and your blog and will then need to select which category you feel you fit into best (solo, group, family, adventure, budget, luxury etc). I found this quite tricky actually as my blog is so varied and I do a little bit of luxury travel, a little bit of adventure and a little bit of solo sometimes, so I could have slotted in to a few of the categories, but I settled on adventure as I felt this suited me best. When I arrived to set up my stand I was sooo glad I chose this category as they are listed A-Z (I didn’t realise this til I got there) and adventure is on the front row meaning you get to see all the prospective brands and PRs queuing to approach you before they actually arrive at your stand. I was also listed on the print out brochure on the first category as adventure was right at the start, so I definitely think I got more footfall as a result of this, but I do think it would be great if the organisers put a little bio or a line or 2 about your blog on the print out brochure so brands looking can find out more about what you do before they approach you, rather than just having a name to go on!

 

Dress to impress

 

Wandering around WTM is overwhelming, stressful and completely exhausting, and I would definitely recommend you wear something comfortable on your feet as you will rack up the FitBit steps in no time! However, it is important to remember that you are in a working environment, meeting people from all areas of the industry who want to do business, so looking the part is key to making a good first impression. I’m not saying you need to wear a dress and 6 inch heels, but pop on a blazer and fix your hair so it looks presentable. I treat my time at WTM as if I am going for either a work meeting or a job interview and like to look my best – there are also lots of photo opportunities so it doesn’t hurt to take pride in your appearance!

 

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So today, after four long years of blogging, I had a career highlight when Journeys with Jessica was given its very own stand at WTM – the biggest travel conference in the entire world! 🌍 I was selected as one of 120 travel bloggers to come and showcase what it is that I do and how my blog works. I had brands approaching ME, not the other way round, and I met and spoke to tonnes of people who had a genuine interest in my blog and wanted to know more about me as a person too. 🎉 I ended up staying an hour longer than I was supposed to because I was talking way too much to too many people and having way too much fun! I've learnt so much today and I've never felt prouder of my little blog 💖 Here's to the next 4 years of blogging, adventures and even more fun! Thanks @wtmlondon for an amazing day ✨#WTMLDN #travelblogger #London

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Visually represent your blog

 

As it was my first time doing the bloggers speed networking I really didn’t know what to expect and had no idea what was included with your stand upon set up. I didn’t know if your business card or logo would be printed and attached to the stand, and I didn’t know if there would be a picture of me on it or not. I took some chocolates with me as a way to break the ice if I needed to, and so my stand didn’t look totally bare, but I also spent some time printing out A4 media kits and taking plenty of business cards too. Business kits are an absolute must at networking meetings so always remember to take more than you need! I’m also glad I printed out my media kits (x50) as it really helped me to talk potential clients through my blog. My media kit is very clear and concise, with important notes including audience demographics, social media statistics and a brief bio about me and my blog. This, coupled with my laptop on display, allowed me to visually showcase my blog to everyone I spoke to at the speed networking. I think they found it really useful that I could make a point and then back it up with imagery, or facts, and liked the fact that I was able to show some of my most popular blog posts on my laptop screen in front of me, rather than just talking about something and not actually having anything physical to show them. I would 100% take a laptop with me if I ever took part in the speed networking again, and business cards/media kits are a definite too.

 

Show that you’re confident (even when you’re not!)

 

Confidence is an attractive trait, but it doesn’t come natural to everybody. At places like WTM it is important to have your business hat on, but you also need to be yourself. Being yourself is the only thing that makes you unique, and that makes you stand out. You are representing your blog and, in some cases, this might be your entire business, but don’t forget that your blog is something personal and something that represents YOU, so don’t be afraid to show your personality and inject a bit of passion in to your meetings! I took a few notes as a cue card, and had my blog on my laptop screen so I could scroll and show people what it looks like, but to be honest it felt so natural once I’d had my first or second meeting I just kept talking and interacting and I think this was because I so relaxed and was completely myself which made me feel so much more confident!

 

 

Be active on social media

 

I know it can be really hard to try and keep up with social media whilst you’re physically at an event, rather than posting about it afterwards, but I always find I get the most out of my events when I keep up with current news from the hosts and post live ‘real time’ updates. Twitter and Instagram stories are my go-to platforms when posting live content, and my notifications on Twitter tend to go through the roof when I engage with people whilst I’m actually on-site. I met up with a few fellow bloggers at some of the Traverse Events talks on the WTM Global Main Stage because I’d seen their whereabouts on social media, and I even set up 2 meetings with brands on the day purely because they had seen my tweets and wanted to meet me, so I told them which table I was on at the bloggers speed networking and they then came to find me! I know it can be difficult to spin so many plates, but I strongly believe that being active on social media before, during and after the event made it a real success for me. Lots of companies ask you to take part in online competitions throughout the day too, so make sure you’ve got your power pack handy and tweet away whilst you’re there!

 

 

The speed networking gives you a chance to have one-on-one time with various travel brands, including tourism boards, hotels and PR companies, and is the perfect way to meet people and make new contacts. Sometimes it really is who you know, not what you know, in this business so making important connections at events like WTM is absolutely vital! Overall I really enjoyed my time at the bloggers speed networking, so much so that I ended up staying over an hour longer than I was supposed to because I was too busy chatting away… oops! I genuinely feel I made some fantastic connections at this event with real people and real brands who took a real interest in me and my blog. I’m already hoping to do it again at next year’s WTM and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to take the next steps in their travel blogging career.

Have you been to WTM before? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!

Love Jess x

 

 

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Travel Guide to Dorset – How to Spend a Weekend in the West Country

Ahh beautiful Dorset; I really love this place. I love Great Britain and all that comes with it, especially as we have some real gems in our country that often get overlooked in favour of travelling abroad. I know we aren’t famed for our good weather, but when the wind is still and the sun is shining, there’s plenty of reasons to have something to smile about when in the UK. Last month I took a spontaneous visit down to Dorset for a weekend of sun, sea and sand and had the most wonderful time exploring places I hadn’t been to since I was a kid. The weather was warm, the sky was blue and I had tonnes of fun. I spent one day and one night in Bournemouth wandering along the sea front, sunbathing on the beach and playing games in the arcade before driving over to the pretty village of Lulworth to see its famous cove and Jurassic landmark, Durdle Door. Here’s a taster of what I got up to on my weekend down in the West Country, as well as my top ten things to see and do in Dorset too…

 

 

Hit the beaches

Bournemouth has one of the best beaches in the country, and when the weather is warm and the sun is shining, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better location for a summer seaside break! Bournemouth’s long stretch of sandy beach coupled with its shallow waters and historic pier make it the perfect place for a seaside staycation. Why not have fish and chips on the pier, or take a dip in the sea if you’re feeling brave enough? The Atlantic isn’t the warmest sea on the planet, but with the UK heatwave we had this year I heard the waters were positively tropical and were the perfect temperature for swimming in! If you’re really wanting to push yourself you could always zip line from the pier to the beach whilst gazing in awe at the blue waters beneath your feet. This is something I didn’t attempt during my visit, but the queues were huge and it looked a fantastic thing to do for both kids and adults alike.

 

Wander through Bournemouth’s pretty gardens

I discovered these a few years ago and now go every time I’m in Bournemouth just to escape the hustle and bustle of the beach and pier. The gardens are located right in the town centre, just a 5min walk from the beach and shops,  and are filled with tall trees, exotic plants, colourful flowers and quirky things too. Made up of over 2000 acres of land, the gardens are split into three areas: the Lower Gardens, Upper Gardens and the Central Gardens, and are open to the public all year round. Why not wander down the curved pavements and past the pretty borders towards a viewing point over the bay, where you can take in the fantastic sea views in front of you. Alternatively, head over to the recently renovated Boscombe Gardens where you can play Mini Golf on one of the lawns, take the kids trampolining, or watch as they run around the brand new water play area. The gardens are home to a series of events throughout the year, and each season brings something new so there will be plenty to see and do whatever time of year you decide to visit!

 

Make the most of the amusement arcades

Who doesn’t love an amusements arcade when you’re on holiday?! I’ve been visiting seaside towns since I was a baby and, for me, nothing beats the thrill of winning a few pennies on the 2p machines or hitting the £5 jackpot on the one arm bandit! Bournemouth’s amusements arcade have been present since 19xx and they’ve really upped their game over the past few years with new attractions including dance machines, air hockey tables and basketball hoops too. I never tend to spend too long in arcades for fear of missing out on the good weather outside, but if it’s a rainy day then this is the perfect way to while away a few hours.

 

 

Have a girls night out on the town

Bournemouth is a great night out and is the perfect place if you’re looking for a fun evening with the girls (or guys). I’ve been out in Bournemouth a few times now and it never fails to disappoint, particularly because there’s a huge range of bars to suit all music tastes and ages, and there are plenty of restaurants to grab some food in before you start drinking. As Bournemouth is a uni town, there are inevitably lots of young people out (I’m 25 and I felt OLD when I went out last month!) but it’s great to meet lots of new people from different parts of the country, and the cheap student deals on drinks helps the bank balance too. Each time I’ve been out in Bournemouth I’ve started with one of the causal bars like Slug and Lettuce, All Bar One or Be At One, had some food at either and then ended up in mega nightclub Halo for lots of dancing. Halo is a nightclub built into a church which is super cool and offers a great night out.

 

Spend half a day in Lulworth

If you’re done with the bustling streets and bright lights of Bournemouth, why not take a day trip to the nearby Lulworth Cove? Just an hour’s drive from Bournemouth and close to Poole and Weymouth too,  Lulworth Cove is one of Britain’s best kept secrets. A charming town with shops, restaurants and places to stay, Lulworth is famed for it’s horseshoe shaped Cove which lies on a pebbled beach at the bottom of the main street. You can easily spend a day wandering around the cute souvenir shops, eating fish & chips on the beach and marvelling at the pretty cove. There are walks and hikes to take around the area too, and the perfect way to end the day is to cosy up in one of Lulworth’s pubs and enjoy some home cooked British food.

 

 

Hike from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door

Durdle Door is one of the most famous landmarks in Britain and, in my opinion, certainly one of the most impressive too! I hadn’t been to Durdle Door since I was a spritely 10 year old, as I mentioned above, but visiting again as an adult gave me a totally different perspective and made me appreciate it so much more. On my last visit I played on the beach with my sisters and went fishing in the rock pools, barely paying attention to the huge stone arch that lay in the sea in front of me, but this time round I simply just stared at it from every angle, taking it all in, and realising just how amazing nature really is. We sat on the beach admiring the view before heading up the steep hill and making our way back along the walking trail to Lulworth Cove. I always forget how majestic Durdle Door is and it reminded me of just how much I loved my time in Dorset as a child. The backdrop makes for the most AMAZING photos too so your Instagram grid will certainly thank you after you’ve had a photo shoot at this UNESCO World Heritage Site!

 

Make a seaside stop off at Poole or Weymouth

I’ve never actually been to Poole, but I’ve heard there’s plenty of things to see and do, including visiting the popular Sandbanks Beach and the Splashdown Waterpark. You can also head over to Brownsea Island to look out for wildlife, go hiking and take part in some water-sports too. Poole is also home to one of the biggest natural harbours in the UK, receiving its status as a designated world heritage site back in 1999. Weymouth is like a smaller Bournemouth, with a long sandy beach, plenty of shops, restaurants and bars and lots of amusements arcades too. The nightlife is a little more vibrant in Weymouth than it is in Poole, and there are lots of events taking place all year round. I’d also recommend taking a daytrip to Chesil Beach to eye up even more of Dorset’s fantastic Jurassic Coast.

 

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Last time I visited this place I was just a little girl who was too busy looking in rockpools for fish and too intent on trying to find the prettiest shells to even stop and take in the beautiful views of the #JurassicCoast 😍I loved visiting as a kid and have fond memories of attempting to copy my dad skimming stones whilst playing on the beach with my sisters and our little westie as my mum tried desperately to keep an eye on us all! 😂 Despite loving our family holiday as a kid, my visit back to #DurdleDoor at the weekend made me see this UNESCO world heritage sight in a totally different light. I appreciated it 100x more the second time round, as an adult, and couldn't stop staring at its incredible natural beauty 🌊 Have you ever been somewhere as a child and an adult and had a totally different experience? #WanderlustWednesday #VisitDorset #IgersDorset #LoveDorset #ExploreDorset #DiscoverDorset #DorsetCoast #Dorset 🌍

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Where to Eat/Drink

As I mentioned above, Bournemouth is a great night out and has some fantastic food and drink places to enjoy during your visit. There are plenty of well-known chain and high street restaurants to choose from, as well as plenty of independent eateries too. I’ve tended to eat at the branded places like Prezzo or Ask just because I know what I’m getting and I like their food, but I need to be a little more adventurous next time. Harry Ramsden’s on the pier is the BEST place for fish and chips and I always have lunch there every time I’m in Bournemouth! For drinks I would choose Slug and Lettuce/All Bar One for pre-drinks and then end up in either Halo or Cameo if you’re looking for a nightclub to party at. Lulworth is much smaller but still has café’s and pubs to choose from for lunch or dinner. Try the café next to the visitor information centre for top notch scones with clotted cream and jam, or try The Castle (as mentioned above) for their home cooked pub meals. I haven’t eaten out at all in Weymouth or Poole but I have heard the Dorset Burget Company in Weymouth is amazing – it is owned by my old bosses son and has won plenty of foodie awards so I defo need to try it out and pop in to say hello next time I’m down in the West Country.

 

Where to Stay

During my time in Bournemouth I tend to opt for cheap hotels like Premier Inn’s or Travelodge’s in order to get the best value for money, and they often have great central locations too. On my most recent stay I booked the Bournemouth Travelodge Central Hotel, located just off the sea front and a few doors down from the posh Marriott Hotel. Our double room was basic but spacious and clean with a nice hot shower in the bathroom and we could *just* make out a sea view from our bedroom window! The price was an absolute STEAL at just £70 for the night and the location couldn’t have been better. There is parking on site (£6 for 24hrs) but we couldn’t find any spaces so left the car on one of the residential streets just opposite the exit and it was fine here all weekend – oh and it was totally free too! You could pay for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the hotel if you wanted it but we opted to do neither and ate out the entire time as there are so many foodie places in Bournemouth. As for Lulworth, I haven’t stayed there for a long time, but the last time I did I was probably 9 or 10 years old and shared a family room with my parents and sisters at the 16th century Castle Inn, located right in the heart of the village. With a thatched roof, gorgeous garden and bright bedrooms, my memories from The Castle Inn are certainly happy ones and the location is unbeatable. A 5 min walk will take you into the centre of Lulworth, with its shops and restaurants on your doorstep, and the Cove itself is right at the bottom of the mini high street.

As you can see, there are sooo many things to do in Dorset that you’ll barely scratch the surface if you spend just a weekend there. I have visited Dorset many times over the years and still haven’t seen all of it, but it is such a pretty part of the world and I could visit again and again without getting bored. I’m a massive fan of promoting UK travel and think Dorset makes the perfect place for a Great British staycation at any time of year, but even more so in the summer months when the weather is warm and the sea is (almost) bearable to swim in! Have you been to Dorset before? Let me know if you love it as much as I do!

Love Jess x

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) I feel like every single person right now is leaving their jobs to become full time content creators/bloggers/freelancers. It's been just over 2 years since I made that same decision to quit my job & work full time as a freelance travel blogger. I had an amazing year working for myself with plenty of ups including flexible working hours, no annual leave restrictions, press trips and new clients/collaboration projects but there were inevitably lots of downs & it just didn't make me happy. I was incredibly lonely, I missed working in an office alongside colleagues, and I struggled with the inconsistent workload and lack of constant wages coming in. After a year I ended up at a new 9-5 job (this time in the travel industry to satisfy my wanderlust) which I needed in order to bring some routine back into my life. In this new blog post I'll be showing the good, the bad and the ugly sides of freelance life and that there's much more to it than just press trips and Instagram posts! If you've ever considered going freelance, or if you are currently working for yourself and wondering how our experiences might compare, then this post is for you! ✨#wordpress #newpost #bloglife #freelancer #bloggers

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