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How to plan your European interrailing trip on a budget

 

 

Last month I took my first trip of 2018 as I went inter-railing round Europe (again!) with my sister. After inter-railing round Italy together back in 2016, we were super excited to be back on the road again, but this time exploring three countries in a row: France, Luxembourg and Belgium! We’d planned the route fairly quickly and, once we decided that we wanted to use the Eurostar to get there and back, had chosen our starting point as Paris and our final destination as Bruges, so just had one stop in between meaning that Luxembourg was the obvious candidate! Getting to and from the UK and each city was extremely easy, and both stress and hassle free. My sister and I organised every aspect of the trip before we left and we managed to get a week-long stay, including transport to and from the Eurostar stations, national and international trains plus six nights’ accommodation in 3-4* hotels for just £437pp! We had given ourselves a budget of £600pp for the entire week and well and truly smashed it. I like to think I’m quite good at getting a bit of a bargain, and this trip was certainly a steal. Being the geek that I am I’ve even worked out all the individual costings for this trip and included them in my total  pricing breakdown below. Want to know how I got a week’s inter-railing trip for less than £500pp? Let’s find out…

 

UK transport

 

 

Obviously this one depends on where you’re based, and I am lucky to live in Oxford so am very close to London, but our capital can be reached easily by most of the UK’s major cities, which makes getting to St Pancras Eurostar Station very accessible. We were travelling on Easter Sunday which may have slightly put the prices up, but usually a one way ticket from Oxford to London costs around £10 per adult, and is cheaper for me as I have a young person’s rail card. The Eurostar tickets themselves, from London – Paris and from Brussels – London were pretty reasonable and each journey was less than £70pp return. Have a look to see which trains are cheapest/most expensive on the day of travel as you could save a lot of money by going later in the day, or earlier on in the morning, or even the day before or after if you’re really flexible and want to get the best deal possible!

Costings:

Oxford – London return train – 1x adult, 1x rail card holder = £28.90pp and £19.05pp

London St Pancras – Paris Gare du Nord one way train – 2x youths = £65pp

Brussells Midi – London St Pancras one way train – 2x youths = £53.30pp (don’t forget your ticket should state that departure is from any Belgian station and includes onward travel between cities ie if you’re staying in Bruges and need to get back to Brussels Midi for your departing train, the journey between Bruges and Brussels is included in your ticket price, you don’t need to buy an additional ticket).

 

International trains

 

 

Sadly we were hit by the dreaded SNCF train strike during our time away – they had only just started and it caused havoc! Our train from Paris to Luxembourg was cancelled and, because it was bank holiday Monday, none of the phone lines were working and no one on the website online chat/social media pages were able to get back to me. Luckily we were able to use our existing ticket free of charge on the next available train which was only 3 hours later than our scheduled train, but if that one had been cancelled I don’t know what we would have done! I would recommend downloading the SNCF app for live updates to your train as this came in handy when the website crashed! All other trains ran smoothly though and international train travel is so enjoyable for me as I love the scenery between cities and the excitement when I pass over the border into a new country! My top tip is to book your trains as far in advance as possible for the best rates, be flexible on timings, and don’t forget if you’re under 26 you qualify for youth prices.

Costings:

Paris – Luxembourg international train (direct) – 2x youths = £25.61pp

Luxembourg – Bruges train (change at Liege) – 2x youths = £29.14pp

 

Accommodation

 

 

We picked some fantastic hotels for our trip and it made such a difference to have somewhere cosy and warm to come home to after a busy day of exploring. I knew the cities we had chosen weren’t the cheapest on earth and so we would have to use a significant amount of our budget to cover the cost of accommodation, but I think we did well considering we got 6 nights for under £600 which is just less than £300pp for the entire duration. I usually look at private rooms in hostels to keep costs down, but actually we found hotels that were still within our budget and so decided to spend a little bit more in order to get maximum comfort and security during our stay. Being a travel blogger, I usually reach out to hotels and offer my services (writing a review/promoting on social media) in exchange for a discounted/complimentary stay, however sadly I didn’t find any hotels that were free on my dates that were able to collaborate with me on this occasion which was a real shame. I did expect this though as we went over Easter weekend and the kids half term holidays, so be careful when you choose to travel if you are trying to pitch to hotels!

I am a big advocate of using online promo codes/vouchers to book hotels though and my travel hack when booking accommodation would be to book using Expedia. I have used them for years and never had a bad experience! For every hotel I booked I was able to find a 10-15% off voucher online (literally just Google Expedia promo code and one usually always comes up!) and also received up to 200 nectar points for each booking which is another bonus for me. I’ll be talking a bit more about the hotels I stayed in over the course of the next few weeks as I will be putting together individual travel guides to each city, but I wanted to keep this post purely about the costings/planning of an inter-railing trip so hopefully these tips will come in handy when you’re looking to book something!

Costings:

Hotel De Seine, Paris – 2 nights = total £246 = £123pp

Hotel Parc Belle Vue, Luxembourg – 2 nights = total £204 = £102pp

Ibis Hotel Brugge Centrum, Bruges – 2 nights = total £140.98 = £70.49pp

 

Activities/optional tours

 

 

Luckily as a travel blogger I am able to reach out and pitch to tour companies/excursion brands in order to enhance my trip and book some much needed add-on’s. On this occasion I was lucky enough to work with tour company Triple and holiday company Euroventure whilst in Paris. I went on a guided tour around the secret passageways of Paris with Triple and went up the famous Montparnasse Tower with Euroventure and both of these experiences really enhanced our stay. Again I will be writing about both tours in more detail when my Paris travel guide goes live. I also worked with the Luxembourg Tourism Board whilst I was exploring their beautiful capital city and was offered complimentary visitor cards which enabled us to make use of free public transport, free museum entry and discounted entry to a range of other attractions which really helped our budget in a city which is quite expensive! Where possible, pitch to brands in order to keep costs down – you’re probably going to be writing about them for your blog anyway, so you may as well get something in return for it. Obviously we did more tours/trips whilst we were there, but here are the ones we pre-booked/pre-paid before we left and what they cost/saved us in money…

Costings:

Montparnasse access for 2 adults, Paris = £17pp – GIFTED to us by Euroventure

Guided passageway tour for 2 adults, Paris = £30pp – GIFTED to us by Triple

Luxembourg card for 2 adults, Luxembourg = £17.50pp – GIFTED to us by Luxembourg Tourism

 

Total breakdown

 

 

Transport: £284.55 (£142.28pp)

Accommodation: £590.98 (£295.49pp)

Extras: £129 (£64.50pp) if we hadn’t been kindly gifted them.

GRAND TOTAL = £437.77pp – still would have been under £500pp even if we had paid for the optional extras!

So as you can see, there were lots of different elements to this trip which did make it add up, but everything was kept at a relatively low cost, which definitely helped to stick within budget. Obviously we had additional spending money for food/drink, other excursions and attractions we wanted to visit, and this was covered by the euros we used for spends. When planning an inter-railing trip like this I would definitely take into consideration the time of year, dates of travel (ie try and go mid-week where possible) and try to book transport as far in advance as possible. As you can see, even with a train strike, we were still able to travel to our intended destination and it didn’t affect our holiday too much, but having as much planned in advance really helped to take the stress away from what was otherwise quite a hectic trip. We had a brilliant week away and I can’t wait for my next adventure… inter-railing is definitely my favourite method of travel and I hope this might inspire you to take a similar trip in 2018!

Have you ever been inter-railing before? Get in touch – I’d love to hear your train tales!

Love Jess x

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  1. The skiing, of course!

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

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

 

  1. Walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

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

 

  1. The weather

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

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

 

  1. Helicopter drop-offs

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

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

 

  1. Summer hikes

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

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

 

  1. Nightlife bars and restaurants

 

 

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

 

  1. Alphorns

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

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

 

  1. Mountain biking

 

Image courtesy of AllTheRooms

 

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

 

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

Love Jess x

 

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A Day in Oxford with Marco Polo Guides

Last weekend I spent a sunny Saturday wandering around my home city of Oxford, playing tourist and exploring it through different eyes as I joined a group of fellow travel bloggers and travel industry professionals for a fantastic event. Well known travel guide book company Marco Polo Guides, named after the famous Venetian merchant and explorer, were our hosts for the day and we were in Oxford to celebrate the launch of a brand new guide book for the city. This event was rather historic for Marco Polo, with it being their first ever blogger event, and with this book being the first ever UK guidebook (outside of London) to be published. The weather was super kind to us and we had a wonderful time checking out the landmarks, finding little hidden gems and talking all things travel with some wonderful bloggers and professionals. Here are my highlights from this wonderful day…

 

 

Brunch at Handle Bar Café

 

 

We kickstarted our day with late brunch at quirky café The Handle Bar, right in the heart of the city centre but tucked down the quiet St Michael’s Street, away from the hustle and bustle. This place was super cool and doubled up as a bicycle repair garage a well as a café. Specialising in dietary requirements, there were plenty of healthy, vegan and vegetarian options to choose from. Most of the fellow attendees went for a healthy poached eggs and avo combo, whereas I went for a big full English and made sure I enjoyed every mouthful! Although super busy, the vibe was really laid back, the staff were so friendly and lovely and it was a great place to meet everyone for the first time.

 

Bar & pub stops at The Varsity Club and The Turf Tavern

 

 

After brunch we walked up the high street towards the famous Covered Market, which is home to tonnes of little shops, cafes and boutique stores. We wandered around the market and then had some free time to explore. As a local girl, I have walked round the Covered Market approx. 5000 times and although it is lovely, there isn’t loads to see. However, when I suggested heading to rooftop bar The Varsity Club for views of the dreaming spires, a large proportion of the group wanted to follow suit and I gladly lead the way up the steep staircase to this hidden gem located on Oxford’s High Street. Sunshine? Check. Aperol spritz? Check. Rooftop views? Check. What more could you want on a sunny Saturday afternoon?! After we re-grouped and went on a bit more walking, we then decided to head to famous pub The Turf Tavern, just off Holywell Street, and parked ourselves in their rather small but very cutesy beer garden. A regular haunt of the likes of CS Lewis, Thomas Hardy and, more recently a whole host of political figures including Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton, this historic Grade II listed building is super popular with locals and tourists alike and is a must-visit when in Oxford.

 

Walking tour of the city

 

 

As it’s so small, Oxford is best explored on foot and you can definitely see it all in a day. Obviously I’ve lived here all my life so I know pretty much everything there is to know about Oxford, but I know walking is always the best method of discovery – trust me when I say that parking/driving is a nightmare! Our walking tour took us from the Covered Market, down the High Street and towards the Head of the River where we stopped to watch the boats going punting up and down the Thames. We then made our way past both the Queens and Oriel colleges before stopping to take lots of photos down pastel coloured Holywell Street which is an Instagrammers DREAM! After that we headed towards the Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre and the Bridge of Sighs before making our way towards the most famous landmark in the city, the beautiful RadCam.

 

Free time at the Radcliffe Camera

 

 

Probably my most favourite building in oxford, and definitely the most popular, the Radcliffe Camera is a sight to behold at any time of year, but even more so when the skies are blue and the sun is shining! Belonging to Oxford University, and built in the 1730s in a Neo-Classical style, the Camera is used to house the Radcliffe Science Library and is situated just behind the High Street, between Brasenose and All Souls Colleges. The square it sits in is always busy with tourists, but it’s location opposite the pretty St Mary’s Church is enviable and I would definitely recommend climbing the steps of the church tower for breath-taking panoramic views of the Camera and the rest of the city’s spires below.

 

Champagne afternoon tea at The Vaults & Garden

 

 

We ended our day the way we started it – with lots of food and drink! Perfectly positioned directly opposite the Radcliffe Camera, the Vaults and Garden Café is within the crypt of St Mary’s Church and its outdoor garden offers unspoilt views of the Camera itself. We sat inside as there were so many of us, and the interior was beautiful, with original stone walls from the church and a lovely décor too. We were treated to the most amazing afternoon tea, with sandwiches, cakes and scones as well as hot and soft drinks and some bubbles too. Sitting down for afternoon tea in such a beautiful setting was the perfect way to end a fantastic day filled with travel, blog talk and lots of fun! The staff couldn’t do enough for us, they were all so friendly and super welcoming so I will definitely be coming back to the Vaults and Garden for more sweet treats and I already can’t wait to tell my friends all about it!

 

As you can see, our day consisted of lots of walking and lots of food and drink stops which was a great way of seeing the city and spending quality time with my new blogger friends. The team at Marco Polo were fantastic, super friendly and really welcoming. It was so nice to attend a local event as I am always travelling to and from London to attend blogging courses/conferences and work-shops etc, so it was so nice to stay so close to home! I was born in Oxford and have grown up there so obviously know the city like the back of my hand, but it was amazing to experience it in a different light and share some of my insider tips with the rest of the gang too. Have you ever been to Oxford before? What do you like most about it? I know I’m biased but I think it’s one of the prettiest cities in the UK, and there really is no place like home!

Love Jess x

N.B. A huge thankyou must go to Hayley, Senja, Diane and Petra from Marco Polo for putting on such a fantastic event, and to the Handle Bar and The Vaults for a wonderful brunch and afternoon tea to start and end the day! I was invited to this event as a guest of Marco Polo Guides, but as always all thoughts, comments, and words are of course my own.

 

 

 

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Travel Guide to Geneva, the Chic Swiss City

 

 

Last summer I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days exploring the Swiss city of Geneva. It was my first time to the city, and to the country of Switzerland, and nothing could prepare me for its undeniable beauty (and its extortionate prices!). My visit to Geneva came at the start and end of my trip to the ski resort of Nendaz, where I spent a week enjoying summer in the Alps for the first time in my life. Just a short flight from London (1h 40m), Geneva plays host to the United Nations HQ and is the perfect place for a short weekend city break no matter what time of year. Surrounded by stunning countryside and boasting an enormous, clear blue lake with the famous Jet D’Eau water fountain at its heart, Geneva is truly captivating. The cobbled streets of the old town provide history and culture, contrasting perfectly with the snazzy sidewalks of the new town, with its designer shopping quarter reflecting the city’s wealth. I only had 1 night/2 days to explore this pretty place, but here’s what I got up to during my time there…

 

Marvel at the Jet D’Eau & wander round Lake Geneva

 

Lake Geneva in the summer sunshine

 

The focal point of the entire city and probably its most famous attraction, Lake Geneva and it’s wonderful Jet D’Eau are an absolute must-see when in the Swiss capital. You can’t really miss them to be honest, and you wouldn’t want to either as they are stunning! The blue water shimmers in the bright sunshine whilst the Jet D’Eau, an enormous fountain that shoots water 100ft high into the air, dominates the city skyline, with surrounding mountains in the background. You can take a boat across the river to see the rest of the city from the water, or just simply walk around the lake and admire it from every angle whilst staying nice and dry. I walked round the lake a couple of times during my short stay in Geneva and loved nothing more than parking myself on a bench, devouring some gelato and staring into the deep blue water watching the world go by. Look out for the swans though – they are EVERYWHERE!

 

Take a stroll around the Old Town

 

The gothic St Pierre Cathedral

 

I’m a sucker for an Old Town, and I wasn’t sure where Geneva’s was during my first couple of hours as I wandered around aimlessly on my own whilst waiting for the other girls on my blogger trip to arrive. However, after consulting my map and tearing myself away from the Lake for a few minutes, I realised that the Old Town lay just behind the busy district quarter and could see the spire of St Pierre’s Cathedral peeping from behind the tall buildings. The Old Town is quite small, but really cute with cobbled streets, tiny buildings and traditional shops and restaurants. Just as you’d expect, there was a wonderful cathedral right at its beating heart, and St Pierre’s was a really beautiful church with a tall, striking spire. The Old Town is also home to the longest wooden bench in the world, The Marronnier de la Treille, and was built in 1767. At 413ft long, the bench snakes around Geneva’s promenade and is tucked behind the city hall, overlooking the pretty La Treille Park. Despite having almost every aspect of an Old Town, this area didn’t actually have a central market square from which everything centred around, and I kind of missed that element when comparing Geneva to other European cities. It is split right in half from the New Town to the Old Town though, so I guess the split kind of centres everything, I just missed having a market square to wander round!

 

Wander through Jardin Anglais

 

The famous flower clock with the Geneva ferris wheel in the distance

 

One of the most popular areas of Geneva is without doubt the beautiful Jardin Anglais. Best enjoyed in summer, the gardens are a colourful spectacle which come alive in the sunshine and create picture perfect photo opportunities at every turn. The famous ‘clock face’ is built into the floral displays and is the busiest place for a quick selfie, although you may have to battle your way through the crowds first! You can take a train through the gardens for a relaxing ride around the park, or why not hop on a boat at the edge of the pier and take a trip over the lake? There are small shops, café’s and ice cream vans at every turn offering plenty of food and drink if you fancy a picnic, but you’re still just a stones throw from the Old Town with its winding cobbled streets if you’re wanting to eat a little more substantially.

 

Shop til you drop in the business quarter

 

The water front divides the old and new town in the city

 

For a city with so much history, it may surprise you to see a vast row of ultra-modern office buildings and high end stores and eateries right in the middle of the city. Located just behind Lake Geneva, and with St Stephen’s Cathedral and the Old Town in the distance, the business quarter screams luxury and adds a new dimension to Geneva. Women totter around in high heels, guys stride confidently in their suits, and there are children being pushed in designer prams everywhere you look! Geneva is well known for its jewellery and watch-making, and this plays a huge part in the retail market here. I don’t tend to shop or spend much time in business quarters when I’m on a city break, mainly because I can’t think of anything worse than going clothes shopping when I’m abroad, but this place has a different feel to it and I was weirdly drawn to its luxurious centre. Whilst you wouldn’t catch me in Prada, I did find myself wandering around for an hour admiring all the glamorous locals and people watching to the max whilst I was stuffing my face with gelato and trying to look posh! When in Geneva…

 

Where to eat/drink

 

The marina is home to a number of restaurants, cafes and bars to enjoy

 

I had such a short amount of time in Geneva that I didn’t really get chance to sample the Swiss cuisine or try out any of the local restaurants. As I spent the night in a hostel with my blogger friends, and it was chucking it down with rain, we actually decided to get food from the supermarket for a quick meal and had a movie night in the hostel common room, chatting with fellow travellers and soaking up the bacpacker vibes before we were treated to 5* luxury in our ski chalet over in Nendaz! We passed a number of fancy restaurants by the lake and in the old town though, and they did look amazing! There were some on the waterfront with gorgeous views, and some tucked away down side streets in the old town, and they all looked super cute but quite expensive. As we were staying close to the train station, there wasn’t a large selection of restaurants within close walking distance and we didn’t want to go far as it was raining so much. If I had  more time though, and wasn’t on as much of a budget, I definitely would have wandered down to the lake to check out some of the eateries that were on offer. I know cheese fondue is huge in Switzerland (we had it loads in Nendaz!) so I would highly recommend treating yourself to this delicious dish whilst you’re in Geneva!

 

Where to stay

 

Image courtesy of Booking.com

 

As we were only there for one night at the start of our blogger trip, we didn’t want to pay a lot of money and were on a limited budget. Everything in Geneva is damn right expensive,  but when we found a hostel for £30pp we jumped for joy and booked it as quickly as we possibly could! We stayed in City Hostel Geneva which was in a great location, not far from the train station and within walking distance to all the major attractions in the city. Unfortunately it was really hot that night and the air con wasn’t great, but it was only for one night and we survived! The proximity to the train station really helped though and I would definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for somewhere cheap to stay in a city which is super expensive. Otherwise, have a look at some of the independent/chain hotels located near the train station, they all looked very fancy and expensive, but if you can afford to splash the cash then there’s no better place to do it than Geneva!

 

As you can see, my time in Geneva was short and sweet but super fun, and it made for a lovely start and finish to my week long trip in Nendaz. Although one of the most expensive cities I have EVER visited, Geneva is one of those places with serious wow factor, and you actually don’t mind paying over the odds to just enjoy being in the Swiss city. Summer was a great time to visit and made the gorgeous lake look even more blue and sparkly, but I can imagine in winter the place feels super festive and looks amazing too. Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be sure to have a magical stay in wonderful Geneva. Have you ever been before? Let me know what you thought of it, and if it was worth the money!

Love Jess x

 

Til next time, Geneva!

 

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48 Hours in Ljubljana, Slovenia & a Fairytale Day Trip to Lake Bled

 

 

I know I start most of these posts with the same line, but if you’ve been following my blog for the past few months you might remember my travel guides to Warsaw, Prague and Salzburg from my autumnal inter-railing adventure last September that I took with my friend Toni. We spent nine days travelling around Europe and had the most magical time. The last stop of our adventure was lovely Ljubljana, and I think we certainly saved the best til last! This was my first visit to Slovenia, and it’s capital city had been high up on my bucket list for the past couple of years, since the tourist hype from the fairytale Lake Bled found its way on to my Instagram feed. My time in Ljubljana exceeded all of my expectations, and I had the most amazing couple of days which ended my inter-railing adventure perfectly. Two nights/three days was definitely enough time to spend in the city, and I even had time to take a full day trip to Lake Bled and explore some other beautiful areas too including the stunning Vintgar Gorge and the medieval town of Skofja Loka. Here’s what not to miss during your stay…

 

Look out for the numerous city bridges

 

 

As Ljubljana is fairly small, it’s super easy to walk around and it helps that it’s connected by a series of historic bridges in the middle!  Well known for being home to no less than SEVENTEEN bridges, the Slovenian capital is a visual treat and it’s bridges add to its interesting history. My favourite ones were the iconic Triple Bridge, Dragon Bridge and Butchers Bridge too. Dating back to the 1800s and at the heart of Preseren Square – the focal point of the city – the Triple Bridge is the city’s most famous and most visited too. I also loved the Dragon bridge which was built in 1901 with yep, you guessed it, huge green dragon statues at the end of each walkway. The Butchers Bridge is lined with glass walkways giving a view of the Ljubljanica river below, and the support cables either side are decorated with ‘lovelocks’ left by tourists and locals alike. I walked along these bridges many times during my stay to get from one end of the city to the other as they connect the old town with the new town and I found it to be a great way to get my bearings and explore the area!

 

Cross over the Ljubljanica river

 

 

Ljubljana is a modern, up and coming city with cool bars, nice restaurants and plenty of green spaces in between.  If, like me, you love nothing more than wandering around for hours and exploring a new city on foot, you will fall in love with Ljubljana. During the summer months I imagine the streets will be packed with tourists, but during my visit in September it was fairly quiet and we pottered about quite happily. Much like the bridges, the Ljubljanica river is at the heart of the city and its’ one of the most well known features. The city comes alive at night, and the numerous bars, cafe’s and restaurants that are dotted along the riverbanks make it a vibrant place to be no matter what time of year you’re visiting.

 

Climb up to the top of the castle tower

 

 

One of my favourite things to do when exploring a new city is climb a tower, or find a castle, or do BOTH! Luckily in Ljubljana I was able to do just that and discovered the medieval fortress that has been present since the 11th century. The castle was thought to have been constructed in the 15th century, and it’s prominent position on top of a hill enables it to take in some spectacular views over downtown Ljubljana below. After a short walk from the central Preseren Square, Toni and I took the funicular up to the top of the castle fortress where we were treated to stunning views over the city below just as the sun was starting to set. Exploring the castle grounds at dusk was a magical experience, as was catching the last of the sun’s rays as the red roofs shone in a bright orange glow on our first afternoon in Slovenia… Truly mesmerizing!

 

Take a day trip to Lake Bled…

 

 

Despite only having two nights to cram everything in, we knew that no visit to Ljubljana would be complete without a day trip to the most talked about lake in the world right now… the stunning Lake Bled! The wanderlust inducing images that I’ve seen all over social media made me want to visit this place months ago, and I’m soo glad we were able to squeeze in a visit during our time in Slovenia. The wonderful guys at Roundabout Travel booked me on to their full day Alpine Fairytale Tour which sounds as magical as the name suggests. One of the highlights was of course the magnificent Lake Bled which looked incredible against a backdrop of blue sky and yellow sunshine as we enjoyed a warm sunny day in September. Bled was everything I thought it would be and a little trip across to the island on a traditional Pletna made for the most photogenic boat ride I have ever taken. Despite its beauty, Bled was absolutely HEAVING with tourists and their annoying selfie sticks, especially at the cafe at the top of the hill which gave us some breathtaking panoramic views of the lake below. We did however enjoy an ice cream with our view before climbing up to the castle and seeing yet more spectacular scenery. I can see why it’s so popular – it took my breath away every time I looked at it and looked picture perfect from every single angle!

 

…and Lake Bohinj…

 

 

On our Apline Fairytale Tour we spent a full nine hours exploring different parts of Slovenia that you can’t see whilst in Ljubljana alone, and the tour really gave us a chance to see other important areas of the country. There was only six of us, and our tour of the Julian Alps began with a visit to the traditional medieval town of Skofja Loka, elevated 1000ft high and built in between two rivers, where we walked along its cobbled streets and stumbled across its ancient town square. Next up was a stop at Triglav National Park, with its resident glacial lake and mountainous backdrop. I’m gonna be a little controversial here and say that I actually thought this place, Lake Bohinj, was EVEN BETTER than Lake Bled because the mountains surrounding the lake were insane and there was literally no one around and it was so peaceful and beautiful and I just loved it so much. Isn’t it amazing what you can discover when you steer away from the tourist hot-spots and find hidden gems like this?! Our tour guide was amazing – super knowledgeable and really friendly whilst allowing us plenty of free time to explore at our own pace too – thank you Jerry for looking after us during our time in Slovenia!

 

…Oh and pay a visit to Vintgar Gorge too

 

 

As if you needed any more reasons to visit Slovenia than your very own WATERFALL! I had never heard of Vintgar Gorge until I booked on to the Alpine Fairytale Tour and it definitely ended up being one of the highlights of our entire trip, not just on our visit to Slovenia. Walking through the Gorge, with it’s caves, bridges, narrow walkways and glorious waterfalls was a truly amazing experience and one I definitely won’t forget in a hurry. You can walk at your own pace whilst following the trail, stopping to take in the scenery and to take a million photos like I did. The walk takes around an hour to complete and isn’t too difficult, just a little hilly and narrow in places but there are plenty of people about and a cafe/shop/toilets at the end for you to make use of. I got the most stunning photos of this place and every now and then I have to pinch myself and remember that I ACTUALLY went there because it was just so beautiful. If you get the chance to visit this place whilst in Ljubljana, please please go – I promise you’ll love it just as much as I did!

 

Where to eat/drink

 

The restaurants along the riverbank come alive at night

 

 

Ljubljana is brimming with trendy bars, cafe’s and restaurants to choose from during your stay and we were certainly spolit for choice when it came to finding some yummy food after a busy day of exploring. After crossing the Dragon Bridge you’ll walk alongside the Ljubljanica river and find numerous places to choose from. There are restaurants from all corners of Europe, most notably Austria and Italy where Slovenia takes lots of food influence from, and we ate in a fancy Italian restaurant one night which was AMAZING. We also found a cute cafe which served traditional Slovenian cakes including apple pie, derived from Balkan influences and one of the most popular dishes in the country. Whatever your tastebuds desire, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Ljubljana.

 

Where to stay

 

Image Courtesy of Cube Central Rooms For 2

 

As my friend and I were inter-railing for ten days we were on a budget and most of our accommodation consisted of hostels/cheap hotels. We were a little limited for choice in Ljubljana as we left it late to secure anywhere and we found there was a huge conference event taking place during the weekend we were there which meant that lots of hotels were already booked up months in advance. I did however manage to find a little gem just a stones throw away from the centre of the city which meant we could enjoy all the sights with the comfort of knowing that everything was within walking distance. Cube Central Rooms For 2 provided exactly as the title suggests – compact rooms for two in an unbeatable central location. This place was neither hostel nor hotel, more like tiny little self catering apartments with shared common rooms and bathrooms. Perfectly formed, despite being super small, and with key codes instead of physical keys, our double room barely had any space for ourselves let alone our suitcases and hoards of clothes, but it was cute and the beds were comfy which is all we really needed. I think the rooms were all full during our stay, but we rarely bumped into any other guests at all and pretty much had bathroom use whenever we wanted it – no queues for the toilet in the middle of the night! If you’re looking for luxury, this isn’t the place for you, but if you just want somewhere to rest your head for the night and enjoy a peaceful residential location just away from the city centre, I would definitely recommend Cube Central Rooms For 2! Thank you to Petra the lovely receptionist for making our short stay so comfortable!

 

As you can see, I managed to fit an awful lot in to my short time in Ljubljana, but I am sure there are many things that I missed and did not get chance to include. If, like me, you’re limited on time I would suggest that these sights are a good place to start. Ljubljana is so pretty and so full of greenery it would be nice to just find a park on a sunny day and enjoy the scenery, but equally it’s great fun for a jam-packed city break and the area has so much to offer. Have you ever been to Ljubljana before, or is it on your bucket list for 2018? Let me know as I would love to hear your thoughts!

Love Jess x

NB. My stay at Cube Central and my tour with Roundabout Travel were offered to me at a discounted rate for the purpose of this blog post, but all thoughts, images and notes are of course my own.

 

I'm currently drafting my #Ljubljana travel guide and it's giving me alllll the throwback feels 😍 The Slovenian capital was the last stop of my interrailing adventure back in September and I think we definitely saved the best til last! Here's the view from the top of Ljubljana Castle with the red roofs, green trees and shady mountains in the distance 🏰🏔 #ThrowbackThursday #VisitLjubljana #Slovenia #ifeelsLOVEnia . . . #travel #bloggers #travelblogger #wanderlust #worlderlust #travelphotography #traveladdict #instago #instatravel #travelgram #inspo #passionpassport #incredibledestinations #tourism #darlingescapes #lonelyplanet #beautifuldestinations #mytinyatlas #icelollyloves #travellover #girlsvsglobe #europe #interrail #girlslovetravel

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