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5 tips for Travelling with an Invisible Illness

Hi guys,

As some of you may know, I have a medical condition called a Prolactinoma, which is a pituitary-related illness affecting different parts of my body. As the pituitary gland is in the brain, most of my symptoms involve headaches, blurred vision and dizziness, all relating to the head/brain area, but it does affect other parts of my body too. Despite sometimes getting overwhelmed and upset by my condition, I mostly have a positive outlook on it, and I sure as hell haven’t let it stop me travelling! Of course, travelling with any illness or condition is difficult, because there’s so much more to think about, however, having an invisible illness brings a whole host of other challenges as you are not easily recognisable as being ill. If you look on my Instagram page you’d think I’m just a smiley happy kinda girl who spends her life being positive and adventurous, which I am to a certain extent, but there are times when I can barely open my eyes because my headaches are so bad, and there are times when I feel I can’t even get out of bed, let alone get up and face the world. Having said that, I strongly believe that having an invisible illness shouldn’t stop you from travelling and having adventures though, so here are five tips for travelling with an invisible illness…

Make sure you’re covered

Insurance is a vital part of travel, but even more so when you have a pre-existing medical condition. Thankfully, it doesn’t mean you won’t get cover, it just might require a little more research into which cover will be best for you. Never scrimp out on travel insurance, especially not with an illness or condition. The best case scenario is that you won’t need it, but if you do, at least you know you’re covered and won’t be left with a huge bill at the end. Did you know, for example, that one week in hospital in the USA can cost over $30,000? Make sure you’re open and honest with your insurer about any illness so you’re fully covered. You may pay a little more in premiums, but it’s better than spending that kinda money on a hospital visit. This is something I was really serious about when I booked my whirlwind tour of the USA and I was able to find insurance no problem, you’ve just got to be transparent and honest!

 

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October is National Pituitary Awareness Month. As a proud ambassador for the wonderful @pituitaryfoundation I thought now would be the right time to write a bit of a personal blog post and to tell you about what it's really like to live with an invisible illness day in day out. My invisible illness is called a prolactinoma, a benign brain tumor which has had a massive impact on my life for the past 7 years. To look at me you may not think that anything is wrong with me, but that's the problem with an invisible illness, it's always there even when you can't see it. ✨Link in bio – please give it a read ✨ #pituitary #pituitaryawareness #prolactinoma #pituitarypatient #pituitaryawarenessmonth

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Pack everything you’ll need 

In this situation, it’s okay to over-pack. Make sure you have all the medications and equipment you might need, even if they’re not things you have to use every day, as it will be much easier than having to try and find them in a different country. Seriously, we take our 25p Ibuprofen and Paracetamol for granted here in the UK, and it costs a lot more when you’re abroad! I didn’t know this, but you’re actually allowed to pack your medication in your hand luggage which is great if you’ve got a long flight and don’t want to wait til you land to take your meds, plus they’re less likely to get lost if you’re carrying them in your hand luggage. I’d also suggest to pack anything that will make you feel more comfortable, whether that be hand warmers or your own pillow, as the easier you can make things for yourself when travelling, the more fun you’ll have and the less stressed you’ll be.

 

 

Schedule in days of rest

Try not to overdo it with the itinerary. As much as we all feel like we want to see and do everything all at once, it’s simply not practical, even without an invisible illness. Choose the things you’re desperate to tick off and see everything else as a bonus. Make sure you schedule in days to rest to avoid burning out as this is just as important as sightseeing. I’m not sure who I’m trying to kid though as I am the WORST person for this! I very much live by a YOLO motto when I’m travelling and try to tick off as much as I can in a short time, which is obviously fun and exciting, but sometimes I do need to remember to reign it in and calm down a little. Sometimes I forget I even have an illness, which is great on the one hand as I can be more care-free, but on the other hand I know I’ve got to be careful and I have to slow it down sometimes to ensure I don’t over do it, so having rest days is really important when you’re travelling.

 

 

Be honest about your needs

If you’re travelling with other people, don’t try to hide your illness; the more honest you can be, the better. This is the same for staff in hotels or in the airport – they can’t help you if they don’t know what you need. An invisible illness is hard to spot, so you’ll have to tell them if there’s something you need to request in order to make your trip easier or more comfortable. Doing this beforehand via email may make it easier, especially if you don’t feel comfortable approaching someone and telling them, but I’ve found that most people in this world are happy to help you, especially if you need a little more assistance than most. I have been honest about my illness since I was first diagnosed 7 years ago, which makes talking about it in public a little less daunting, but I can imagine it is still a huge thing to do for people who have never been as vocal about their conditions before.

 

 

 

Do whatever you need to do

The important thing is that you have a good time, so if that means you have to enjoy the scenery from inside the car because some aspect of your illness means you’re unable to get out, then that’s okay. I know it can be frustrating not doing all the things you set out to do, or not being able to keep up with your friends, but trust your body and allow yourself to listen to your gut instinct as that will tell you how well or unwell you might feel in certain situations. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you can handle – no one knows your body as well as you do. Some people might be well-meaning and try and encourage you to do more than you want to/are able to, and this can lead to exhaustion, or it might make you feel worse. Don’t be afraid to stick to your guns – if they’re real friends they will totally understand what you’re going through.

So I suppose what I’m trying to say is: don’t let your illness stop you from having amazing adventures! In fact, if anything, you deserve to have more fun – being unwell certainly isn’t easy, and we definitely need to learn to pat ourselves on the back every now and then. If you follow these tips, travelling with an invisible illness will hopefully become easier. Plus, once you start, you won’t want to stop! Have you got any other tips for travelling with an invisible illness? I have done it for the past 7 years and with each trip I become more content and confident in myself, and more at ease with my condition. Please let me know if, like me, you’re suffering with an invisible illness too?! I would love to hear your comments.

Love Jess x

NB. This was a collaborative post with Dale White Media.

 

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12 Things I Learnt From 12 months of Freelancing as a Full Time Travel Blogger

 

 

Hi guys,

You lot seem to like it when I do personal posts rather than just constantly sharing write ups of my recent trips, so I thought I should break up all the recent cruise content and write about something which is a really popular topic at the moment: freelancing. It seems like every single blogger I know at the moment is quitting their job in order to become a full time freelancer and live the digital nomad life. This is obviously amazing as it seems our work lives are ever changing and creeping away from the standard 9-5 working week, and I would of course encourage everyone to follow their dreams and live their best lives, but there is also a side to freelancing that isn’t shared online, and a side which makes the freelance/nomad life a little less glamourous than Instagram shows it to be. I took the plunge myself and went freelance as a full time travel blogger two years ago but spent just a year doing that (amongst other things) before I realised I needed to make another life change at the age of 24. Some days I loved it, other days I hated it, but overall I’m so glad I did it. Here’s 12 things that I learnt during my 12 months of freelancing from September 2016 – September 2017, both the good, the bad and the ugly…

The flexibility is fantastic

One of the best things I loved about freelancing was the ability to be completely flexible all the time. By steering away from the standard 9-5 life I was able to fit more in to my day, and alter it to suit my needs. A typical day for me would be to wake up and get dressed and ready to start work by 10ish – I never worked in my pj’s and always made an effort to get changed even if I wasn’t leaving the house as this helped get my mind-set into work mode. I’d then work for 3-4 hours at home before breaking for lunch (30 mins to 1 hour depending on how busy I was) and then continued working (with breaks) until I got everything done. Sometimes it was a 6pm or 7pm finish, other days I woke up later and continued working until 9pm or 10pm. Although I typically worked longer hours than a usual 9-5 job, I didn’t really feel like I was over-working myself as I took regular breaks, was at home, didn’t have a commute and could pick up my work/emails whenever I wanted. I took my dog out for walks every day, spent time seeing friends and enjoyed being at home.

It’s really lonely

Probably the biggest downside to freelancing is the crippling loneliness that goes with it. Working in a lively estate agents from the ages of 18 – 23 made me realise how much I love people, and how much I thrive off a busy, fun environment. When I took all of that away, I started to realise that I don’t cope very well on my own. I get really low sometimes, and feel the need to constantly talk to someone when I feel that way, which is why having supportive colleagues around me is something I have always relied on and will always look for in future jobs. Some people are fine on their own and could spend days without seeing another soul, but I’m just not like that and don’t think I ever will be! Loneliness was definitely one of the reasons I didn’t freelance for longer, and I don’t feel ashamed to admit that.

 

 

You can work wherever you want

In the same way that the flexibility I mentioned above was hugely liberating, the fact I could work wherever I wanted (Wi-Fi permitting) was amazing and opened my eyes as to how different my working life could be without feeling the need to be trapped in an office. I wasn’t a digital nomad during my freelance life and was very much a ‘work from home’ kinda gal, but I do wish I’d have taken a few more trips in order to experience what it might be like to work on the road. I didn’t really experiment much with co-working or with trying out social office spaces and I could have worked from anywhere with Wi-Fi to be honest, but I found café’s quite distracting and preferred to sit at home with the telly on if I needed some noise in the background.

Not having a routine is hard

Something else which I struggled with was not having a set routine. Yes I know we all get bored of the 9-5 life, but when I have a set routine I know where I am with things and I find it easier to make decisions, get myself organised and get on with my day. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having a few lay in’s during the week and starting later than usual, but sometimes I’d find myself working til almost midnight and forgetting to take regular breaks because I was stressing about getting things done on time and meeting deadlines efficiently. I am good at being organised and self-disciplined, but not having a routine really threw me sometimes and I’ve since found I prefer to be in a set routine to help get my work/life balance on track.

You can say YES more

The thing I loved most about working for myself was the ability to say YES in circumstances I wouldn’t normally have been able to do so. I went on 3 press trips during my time freelancing, one was a long weekend in Hamburg but still would have required taking 2 days annual leave, and the other two were week long trips to Menorca and Switzerland, which would have required me taking over 12 days of annual leave. I went to PR events on a Tuesday night in London because I could get there and didn’t have to worry about rushing home to get an early night for work the next day. I scheduled in blog collabs on week-days when the place/city was generally quieter because not everyone was there on a weekend. I said yes to sooo many things and it made me so happy and content with life. I was more spontaneous, more fun and way more exciting than I was when I worked 9-5, and this is something I really miss about my freelance life!

 

 

Motivation isn’t always on tap

Again, something I struggled with and still do even now. Having the motivation to constantly write blog content, constantly pitch for new business and constantly find ways to make money when you’re freelancing is SO BLOODY DRAINING!! I found this really hard when I was working for myself and I wanted to give up all the time. Although I am good at being organised and self-disciplined, trying to stay motivated whilst not having the support of colleagues and a manager alongside you was really difficult for me. I ended up turning to social media to find support from fellow bloggers/freelancers and that did help, and I made a real effort to attend events, listen to webinars and get inspiration from joining in with Twitter chats and Facebook groups etc in order to combat the lack of motivation that I regularly suffered with.

You aren’t restricted by annual leave

Kinda like the point I made about saying YES more, this was another huge bonus of freelance life; the ability to go on loads of trips or to take days off without the restriction of crappy annual leave. I really really hate the fact that I only get 20 days of annual leave and it is something which makes me want to quit my job and freelance allll over again. I hate being restricted by leave, and think we should be encouraged to take time off and travel more, as long as we don’t fall behind with our work load of course, in order to obtain a better work/life balance. I really believe that I would work better if I worked slightly longer hours over 4 days instead of 5 and had one day a week off to catch up with life admin or to treat myself to a nice day out, or to spend time with friends and family. Working for myself gave me unlimited annual leave, as long as I got everything done that I needed to, and I do miss that aspect of freelance life.

You don’t get legal work perks

However, the big downside to being self-employed is the lack of support we get when we aren’t able to work. Being freelance means you don’t get sick pay, or compassionate leave or a pension. You don’t get paid holiday or childcare vouchers or paid time off for dentist/doctors/hospital appointments. I always took time off whenever I needed to for things like this, but obviously when I wasn’t working, I didn’t get paid. Time is money when you’re self-employed, and that saying couldn’t be more true! I also had to make a note of my income and expenditure and had to create monthly spreadsheets of my earnings and outgoings so I could keep an eye on things. I hired an accountant who helped me put my spreadsheets together into a tax return for HMRC by the time the deadline for self-assessments came around, and this was something I hadn’t even considered when setting up on my own. Luckily my dad is self-employed so he showed me a thing or two, and my A Level Business Studies came in handy, but there is so much legal stuff to think about when you’re self-employed and honestly it can be so stressful!

 

 

You have a better work/life balance

Working from home gave me such a good work/life balance and I really miss it sometimes. I miss just working from my sofa, without the need to commute to the office every day, and I loved wearing what I wanted and not putting make up on etc, I felt so free and it was really liberating. I loved being able to start and finish when I wanted, and sometimes when I was quiet I would only work for a few hours and then spend some time walking my dog, catching up with friends, or doing boring stuff like house work which I never get time to do during a full working week. I do miss having flexible working hours and allowing my home life to be more important than my work life, especially when the long days and hour long commute to and from my current job each day really starts to get me down.

Blogging alone isn’t enough, you must diversify

There are obviously some bigger bloggers out there who just blog all day and make a full time wage from it, but honestly, I have no idea how they are doing it or how that is even possible. During my 12 months as a full time travel blogger, I learnt pretty quickly that I absolutely had to diversify in order to make enough money to survive, and it was really tough at first. Being sent on press trips (with free accommodation and flights) is all good and well, but you don’t get a fee for being there, unless you do and I’m not aware of it! But writing content and promoting it on social media all day just isn’t enough to bring the pennies in, unless you’re writing 5 articles a week at over £100 a pop, the reality is you’ve got to find another way of making money. Before I even started going freelance I had a good think about this and realised that I wanted to use social media as my secret weapon, and started advertising my social media services on LinkedIn to try and gain my first clients. I was pretty lucky as my old boss saw I was advertising for clients and mentioned me to some of his friends at his local breakfast networking club, and within a couple of weeks I had 3 new clients from this alone. These new clients had friends/relatives who also needed social media help, so I gained 3 more clients from them, and then my uncle down in Essex needed some help, and before I knew it I had nearly 10 clients all needing my help and I was absolutely SNOWED UNDER! It was brilliant on the one hand, but overwhelming on the other and I soon realised I needed to prioritise my time in order to work to my full capacity and do a good job for each of my clients. As well as offering social media management, I also wrote freelance articles for a few online travel magazines and did some blogger mentoring too, charging a small amount of money to cover my time to give Skype lessons to newbie bloggers who wanted tips on growing your blog through your social channels. Without diversifying, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to stay freelance for as long as I did.

You learn loads of new skills

You have to juggle so many plates when you’re freelance, and this certainly helped me to develop skills I didn’t even know I needed before I took the plunge and quit my job. I had so many different roles to take on in order to make everything run smoothly, from blogger, writer and social media manager to PA, accountant and marketer. I had to learn how to market myself and generate new business, so networking events were crucial and I was constantly sending out email pitches too. I had to be my own PA and organise my diary, my time and schedule in meetings whenever I could. I had to learn how to create income and expenditure sheets and keep a log of what money was coming in and out so that, by the time my tax return was due, I could input it all correctly. All of these skills were imperative to making my job work, and I’m glad I was able to spin all these plates at once – it was tough, but it taught me to be determined, to be patient, and to never give up! Hopefully the skills I learnt during my freelance life will stand me in good stead for future employment and will show how diverse I can be as a candidate, and how much responsibility I’ve had to take on in the past.

 

 

Your salary isn’t consistent – you need savings

I’ll end on this because, after all, money makes the world go round, and it is the most important part of freelance life! During my 12 months of freelancing I was still living at home so that took the pressure off having to make a large amount of money each month as my outgoings were quite low (just my mums rent, my phone bill and my opticians bill which all come to approx. £230 a month). For the first couple of months I really didn’t have many clients at all and was only making around £300-£400 a month, which is obviously not enough to live on and I did end up dipping into my savings in order to support myself. I had around £4000 saved up when I went freelance and knew I didn’t really want to go down past the £3000 mark, but the money was there if I needed it and it was a comfort to know that. As I progressed with my freelance career, I picked up more and more clients and took on more and more work, but it wasn’t consistent: some months I would earn less than £500, some months I earnt over £1500! If you’re looking at going freelance and you need to have a certain amount of money coming in each month, bear this in mind before you take the plunge. Towards the end of my freelance life the work started to dry up a little and I lost a few clients due to circumstances beyond my control, including some using their own in-house marketing and others employing someone more local to work for them, so I was starting to panic and realised I needed more wages in order to get by. It was during this time that I got a part time job at a retail store and signed up for an 8hour (min) a week contract. I really loved working in retail again (for the first time since I was 17) and the short 4 hour shifts 3-4 times a week really helped to make me feel less lonely, and boosted my bank balance too. I soon became an accessories specialist and was put on regular delivery shifts (7am-1pm) which meant that I could still have a decent afternoon by the time I got home, but I had the possibility to say yes to loads more shifts and I took extra hours wherever I could to make more money. Some months I ended up doing 40+ hours week at the retail store, and then working up to 20 hours a week doing my freelance work. I was exhausted but I knew I had to keep making money so carried on for as long as I could, before I quit everything to take on my first job in the travel industry.

So as you can see, there are good and bad reasons to quit your job and pursue your dreams as a full time blogger/freelancer, and I certainly had a bit of a yo-yo year during my 12 months of trying it, but I learnt so much about myself and I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world. I got to spend more time at home, more time saying yes to stuff I would normally have to turn down, and I got to pursue one of my passions at a professional level. I would say the good outweighed the bad, but after 12 months I was more than ready to get back to the 9-5 life and have a proper routine again as this is something I really struggled with when I worked for myself. I missed the social element hugely and realised how much I thrive off others when I am in a lively environment. I’ve seen so many bloggers quit their jobs and travel the world as a digital nomad which is absolutely incredible and I am so inspired by their bravery, but equally I have seen people who, like myself, tried it and realised it wasn’t for them, and I’ve realised that that’s okay too. Whatever happens in your working life, it’s good to take a step back to assess what works for you, and what doesn’t. I have no idea what the next 12 months holds for me as I have been told my current job at a luxury villa rental firm is being made redundant in the new year, but after almost 18 months of office life I may well be ready for a change again by the time 2019 rolls around… I’ll be sure to post more life updates on my blog as and when I know myself exactly what is going on in my little life!

Love Jess x

 

 

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Sail the Three Seas Marella Cruises Itinerary – REVIEW

 

 

If you follow me on social media you’ll know that I recently went on my first ever cruise with 12 of my crazy family members to celebrate my mums 50th and my granddad’s 80th birthdays this year! I had no idea what to expect from my first cruise but was completely blown away and honestly loved every single minute of it! I am now a total cruise convert and am already looking to book my next one. We weren’t sure which cruise liner to go with when looking at booking our holiday, but some online research and some helpful pointers from family and friends told us that TUI’s Marella Cruises were a safe bet for newbie cruisers. We looked at the fleet of ships on offer with Marella and decided that we loved the look of their Celebration vessel, and their Sail the Three Seas itinerary definitely caught our eye. We were so taken with the itinerary, and the destinations that were on offer, that we booked almost immediately in the travel agents and were so excited to have made our final decision! Here’s what I got up to on board the Marella Celebration’s Sail the Three Seas itinerary during my 7 day cruise in August, and what you can expect from it too…

 

Day 1: Embarkation at Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

 

On our first day we flew from Manchester to Dubrovnik on the 5am flight out and arrived in the Croatian city just before 9am local time. Our flight onboard the new TUI Dreamliner was as smooth as you like with triple rows, TV screens on every chair and comfortable seating with decent leg room space. After arriving at the airport and going through security, we were taken straight to the coaches where we made the short 40 min journey from the airport to the cruise ship. By the way, as soon as you check your bags on to your flight back at your UK airport, you don’t see your luggage again until you arrive at your cabin onboard the ship which is something I LOVED! After reaching the ship and checking in at reception, we were allowed to access the on-board restaurants and were treated to a fantastic buffet lunch which was sooo needed. Our cases arrived shortly after, at around 1pm, and we then spent a little down time in our cabins before changing and heading out to explore Dubrovnik. By the time we got a taxi into Dubrovnik centre (it was a short distance and only 13EUR per car of 4) we had just a few hours to explore the city so spent time wandering around the tiny streets, admiring the beautiful harbour and gazing up at the city walls. We wanted to walk the walls but didn’t have time as it takes a good couple of hours, and I also wanted to do the cable car at the top of the hill  as the sights are meant to be stunning, but again we ran out of time. I have already earmarked Dubrovnik as somewhere to return to though, and this post has more details of what I would do if I went back and had more time there. We set sail at 10pm that evening so had to be back on board the ship by 9pm (we actually came back at 6 so we could shower and have dinner) but the sail-away that night was incredible and as we left the glowing skyline of Dubrovnik behind I had already fallen in love with the idea of cruising despite having only stepped foot on the ship less than 12 hours ago! Our first night was spent listening to fantastic live music and having a dance out on the Lido deck whilst enjoying one too many all-inclusive cocktails!

 

Day 2: A day in Kotor, Montenegro

 

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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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Kotor was the city I was most looking forward to visiting out of all the destinations on our itinerary, and mainly because Montenegro has been high up on my bucket-list since forever! I woke up at around 5am to get up on the deck and watch the sail in at 6am and it was hands down one of the most incredible travel experiences I’ve had to date. My parents and I got a great spot right on the top deck and we watched the sun rise over the mountains with the wind in our hair and the sea surrounding us everywhere we looked. As we entered the fjord we were treated to the most incredible views of the Bay of Kotor with a mountainous backdrop and as the sun started to warm our faces I had to stop and just take in the moment, put my phone away and just appreciate how awesome this place truly was – I fell in love with Kotor at that very moment, and all I had to do to experience that was wake up early! After we docked we had breakfast on board the ship before heading into the city and exploring everything that Kotor had to offer. We walked along the glamorous waterfront, which was lined with luxury yachts and other cruise ships, before meandering our way round the cobbled streets and ancient archways. The old town square is super cute and is filled with shops, bars, cafés and restaurants offering traditional Montenegrin cuisine at cheap prices. The city is home to tonnes of churches and we visited lots of these during our time there before climbing the fortress and part of the city walls – again we didn’t get the chance to do this fully as, like with Dubrovnik, it took a few hours to complete and we just didn’t have time. We had an early sail away (4pm) that day, and gliding away from Kotor was just as magical as sailing in to it, with even more incredible views of the picturesque landscape. if you have time to spare in Kotor, here’s what I recommend you do there during your visit. We spent our second evening having dinner in the a la carte restaurant before exploring some of other bars on board, including the Liberties, which hosted live music and entertainment, and the Hemingway bar which was a little more chilled with just the sound of the resident pianist for company.

 

Day 3: A day in Igoumenitsa, Greece

 

 

This day was super chilled and mainly consisted of sunbathing, swimming and more sunbathing as the tiny Greek port of Igoumenitsa was literally just a short stop and a chance for some beach action. We docked mid-morning and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and some free time at the Lido deck before hopping on the shuttle buses that were running from the port to the nearby Drepanos beach. The buses were only 7 EUR return for a 20 min bus ride each way (bookable at reception) and the gorgeous stretch of sandy beach and sparkling blue ocean that was waiting for us was welcomed with open arms. Our beach day gave us some time to catch some rays on the golden sand, as well as go swimming in the sea – despite being on a cruise there aren’t many swimming stops on most Med itineraries, unless you go to places where there are beach resorts! The on-site beach café served hot and cold drinks and food, at super cheap prices, plus when you bought an item from the café you got your sunbeds and parasols for free – bargain! We spent a few hours on the beach before catching the shuttle bus back and making our way on board the Celebration again. There really wasn’t anything to do in the town of Igoumenitsa, we just saw a handful of shops and bars but nothing more, and getting the bus back was the best option as we didn’t fancy the long walk in 33 degree heat! Later that afternoon we had some down time on the ship and joined in with the entertainment team’s bingo and trivia before having dinner and then drinks from the Liberty’s bar whilst sitting outside under the stars to end another wonderful night.

 

Day 4: A day in Argostoli, Greece

 

 

A short overnight journey saw us sail in to Argostoli at around 7am the following day, and we all had an early start as we needed to disembark the ship before 8am to head out on our pre-booked excursion. Half our group decided to wander round Argostoli itself, checking out the shops and bars and stopping off at the small cove for a swim – they saw turtles which I was sooo jealous of! – but there wasn’t much else to do in Argostoli itself. The other half of our group (myself included) opted for the pre booked excursion to some nearby caves and I was so glad to have taken this trip! Our coach took us to the Drogarati Caves, a natural rock formation which is over 150 million years old! These caves were seriously impressive, spookily dark and incredibly carved. The caves were discovered only 300  years ago, when an earthquake caused part of the rock to fall into itself and create an opening which lead to the caves – imagine the surprise on the local’s faces when they discovered those caves! In the early 1960s the caves were opened to the public as a tourist attraction and the big hall, decorated with stalactites and stalagmites, is even used as a venue for music concerts because of its exceptional base for acoustic sounds! After visiting Drogarati we hopped back on the coach towards our second stop, Melissani Lake. This place was gorgeous and one of the highlights of my entire cruise! After being excavated in 1963, archaeological artefacts including plates, figurines and lamps were found on site, all depicting the God of Pan. Legend has it that a Nymph named Melissanthe fell in love with Pan and then drowned in the Lake when he rejected her. I LOVE Greek mythology so this place was a real treat for me. We descended into the small caves in single file before jumping on a gondola (like the ones in Venice) and were then able to ride around the circular lake, taking in the impressive cave surrounding the lake, as well as the stunning turquoise waters. The lake is made up of a mixture of sea water and sweet water, creating the most amazing blue and green colours which glisten as the sun shines. Our third and final stop was a quick photo shoot at the pretty Myrtos Beach, one of the most popular on the island with spectacular views of the Ionian Sea. Lying at the foot of two mountains, the beach is shaped in a semi-circle and is surrounded by a dramatic rocky landscape topped with lush green terrain. I can imagine this place would be gorgeous to visit at any time of day, but particularly at sunset with incredible views of the horizon! We were at shore for approx. 4-5 hours on this excursion and I really enjoyed it. We spent the rest of the day on board the ship eating and drinking (you can tell this kind of holiday has a routine, doesn’t it ;)) before watching a fantastic theatre show from the entertainment team at the Broadway Lounge later that evening.

 

Day 5: A day in Messina, Italy

 

 

After a relaxing couple of beach days in Greece, it was time to head over to our fourth country of the trip so far, beautiful Italia. I’ve been to Italy twice but have never ticked Sicily off my list, so I was really excited about stopping off at Messina for the day and couldn’t wait to get off the boat once we had docked! Our sail in was nice and early, and cruising past the ancient monuments and harbour walls that lined Messina Port was a cultural experience to say the least. Once we had docked we headed towards the town centre (approx. 10 min walk) and found the Piazza Duomo (old town square) complete with the stunning Cathedral of Messina and it’s world famous clock tower. We wandered inside the impressive Cathedral and then hopped on a tourist bus for an hour long tour of the highlights of the old town. The bus was small enough to take a small group of 10-12 guests which was nice as I often find tourist buses ridiculously busy! Rather than hopping on and off we just stayed on the bus the whole time and admired the sights, including the Municipal Building, the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele and the Strait of Messina, all from our window. Our bus got back to the Piazza Duomo shortly before 12 noon, just in time for the daily showing of the carousel of the bell tower. Every day at 12 noon, the clock strikes and chimes to the soothing sounds of Ave Maria whilst each of the golden statues adorning the tower (lion, rooster, moon & planetarium) rotate in unison. The bell tower contains the biggest and most complex mechanical and astronomical clock in the world and was first opened to the public in 1933. The daily spectacle lasts 12 minutes and is a real sight to behold, where it remains the city’s main attraction. Unfortunately it starting thundering and lightning during our time in Messina, and started raining heavily during the show, so we missed the end of it as we darted into a nearby café to shelter from the storm, but I was really glad we got to see more than half of it. The main reason for stopping at Messina is to take an excursion to Mount Etna, but we opted not to do this as a) it was super expensive and b) the weather was terrible! Messina isn’t somewhere I would return to as it is super small and we saw pretty much all of it in the few hours we were ashore, but it was nice to see some of Sicily and both the sail in and sail out were pretty special. Later on that afternoon the weather brightened up and we enjoyed some sunbathing on the top deck of the ship and I swam in the pool whilst the rest of my family decided to take part in the afternoon entertainment. During the evening we enjoyed a buffet dinner on the Lido deck and then went to another show in the Broadway theatre lounge, this time to see comedian/musician Paul Daniels who was absolutely brilliant and had us in stitches!

 

Day 6: A day in Valletta, Malta

 

 

The last stop on our cruise was marvellous Malta, my first visit there and another new country to tick off – it just so happened to be my 25th country so it was a real milestone for me! We docked early in Valletta and had the whole day to explore in 30 degree heat, which to be honest was absolutely EXHAUSTING! We started walking along the Grand Harbour front before taking the Barrakka Lift, a 58m high glass elevator installed in 2012, which connects the Grand Harbour to the pretty Upper Barrakka Gardens. We wandered around the both the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, which are home to flowers, fountains, monuments and memorials of famous British governors including Sir Winston Churchill. The gardens are the highest point of the city walls and it’s terrace offers stunning panoramic views over the 2000 year old Grand Harbour below. We then walked along the walls and through the ancient archways to discover other parts of the Gardens before moving on to the Parliament Square (we even saw the Maltese President who was in town during our visit!) We then made our way towards the fabulous Triton Fountain, which is a real landmark, and then headed towards some other nearby gardens and churches. We spent the afternoon heading back towards the city centre and into the new town, which was verrrrry British and was filled with shops, café’s and bars. A stroll past the Courts of Justice, Grandmasters Palace and St John’s Cathedral made for great sight-seeing stops, and we then ended up at Fort Saint Elmo which is an old waterfront fortress now home to the National War Museum. I really enjoyed Valletta and will shortly be putting together a full travel guide to the city – I already want to return to Malta as it was seriously stunning! We couldn’t cope with the Maltese heat and the many kilometres of walking much past 4pm so headed back to the ship late afternoon to unwind and enjoy some pool and ship time before changing into our evening clothes ready for another fun filled night of eating and drinking – and we tried out the casino and some new bars too! This was our last stop off before a full day at sea for our last day and I was sad not to have any more new destinations but definitely ready for a day of relaxation on board!

 

Day 7: Full day and night at sea

 

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Doing the Titanic pose all by myself cos this Rose doesn't need a Jack in her life 😎 I've been home for just 24 hours and I'm already missing being at sea 🌊 Words can't describe the amazing experience I had on my first ever cruise 🚢 I was so nervous before going as I suffer so much with travel sickness (ironic as I'm a travel blogger) but luckily I was absolutely fine and kept well the entire time! It's only now that I'm home I'm suffering with motion sickness despite being back on land! What is THAT all about?! 😩I think it means I need to book another cruise asap, I'm a total convert now and loved waking up in a new place each day, but my favourite thing was spending hours looking out at the blue waters, with nothing but the ocean staring back at me 🐬 Can I go be a mermaid again please? #cruiselife #titanicpose #takemeback #marellacruises

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I was a little apprehensive of spending a whole day and a whole night at sea as I thought I would get a) bored and b) travel sick, but I actually got NEITHER and it was sooo nice to spend some time on the ship rather than rushing around on our shore days and trying to cram as much in as possible. There is so much to do on-board a cruise ship, particularly on the Marella fleets, and I’ll do a full ship review of the Celebration in a separate post, promise! It was nice to have our sea day as the last day of our cruise so we could really relax before flying home the next day, and actually a day at sea was the perfect way to end our holiday. We had a leisurely lie in rather than waking up at the crack of dawn to watch the sail in, and spent time enjoying breakfast and some sunbathing before taking part in the entertainment throughout the day. There was a morning trivia quiz, afternoon bingo and evening music with plenty of activities going on throughout the day. I treated my mum and I to a spa day for her birthday and we had a treatment each and used the sauna – I had no idea you could even get a spa on a ship and it was lovely to just have some proper relaxation time together. We also had a professional photo shoot booked in as there were 12 of us and we were celebrating a special occasion. The photographer got some amazing shots of us all and we loved them,  but the shoot and the choosing of the photos took around 2-3hrs in total so we felt we spent most of our last night stressing about this rather than actually enjoying our last evening together. Note to self – don’t do this again! We had our last meal in the a la carte restaurant and the social team did a special thankyou to all the kitchen staff including chefs, porters, waiters and waitresses so it was lovely to give a big round of applause and say thank you to everyone who had looked after us so well all week. After dinner we hung out at some of our favourite bars listening to live music, watching the stars one last time out on the deck and enjoying each other’s company before the sad realisation that tomorrow we would all be going home. I really loved our full day and night at sea and would welcome this with open arms next time I do a cruise, and would encourage people not to feel apprehensive of it at all!

As you can probably tell, I had the most incredible week on board my cruise and loved everything about my holiday, from the ship and it’s fantastic food and entertainment facilities, to the variety of different destinations we docked at each day. The Sail the Three Seas itinerary was perfect for first time cruisers like us as it had destinations to suit everyone, no matter what your travel style. I thought I would get fed up with being in one place for the entire week, but the ship was so busy and had so much to do that I didn’t get bored once, even on our full day at sea which I was really apprehensive about. The Marella Celebration is a big ship, but not nearly as big as other cruise ships we saw docked at each port, and I liked that you could make your way around without feeling lost, and that every staff member knew your name and offered such brilliant, personal service that I think you’d struggle to get on larger ships. Probably the only downside to cruising is that you don’t get to enjoy your evenings in each destination as the sail-away is usually between 4pm and 8pm, so you never really see the ports after dark. When I’m on holiday I love wandering into the town or the city centre during the evening as everything looks so pretty lit up at night, but I guess cruising is just a different type of holiday, and you do get used to it very quickly. I would highly recommend the Marella Celebration and their Sail the Three Seas itinerary to those of you who are looking for a fantastic Mediterranean cruise, and particularly for you first timers out there who may be anxious about setting sail for the first time. Have you been on a cruise before? Let me know as I would love to hear what you thought of it – I’ve totally fallen for them hook, line and sinker and am already planning my next one for 2019!

Love Jess x

 

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Thoughts from a Pituitary Patient: What It Feels Like To Live With an Invisible Illness

Hi everyone,

I’m sure you might have noticed that my content over the past few months has been really travel focussed, which is obviously a good thing given that I’m running a travel blog(!!), but I wanted to do something a little different today. I haven’t done any personal posts for a while, and, although I love writing about my trips, I’m conscious that churning out travel guides and hotel reviews will make my blog seem less informal and less ‘me’, so I wanted to inject a bit of personality into this post and put myself at the forefront of it. If you know me personally, or you’ve been following my blog/social media channels online, you’ll know that as well as being a travel blogger I am also a proud ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation, a small UK based charity which supports patients, and their families, who are suffering with a variety of pituitary related conditions including Cushings Disease, Diabetes Insipidus and Prolactinoma’s. I have the latter condition, which is basically a benign tumor on the pituitary gland in the brain, and was diagnosed 7 years ago as a young 18 year old girl. I first told you about my condition in this post 2 years ago, and have since shared my story with The Daily Mail and even wrote something for Contiki Holidays last summer about how to travel with an invisible illness, but it just so happens that October marks National Pituitary Awareness Month, so I thought now was the right time to give you another little insight in to my world, and what it’s really like to be a Prolactinoma sufferer on a daily basis…

 

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Today is National Rare Disease Day, so what better way to share my news about a new challenge I have set myself this year… last year I turned my town orange, the year before I ran a 5 mile fun run, and this year I'm going all out and CLIMBING A BLOODY MOUNTAIN!! 🏔 For those of you who don't know, I've been living with a condition called a prolactinoma for the past seven years. Put simply, a prolactinoma is a small tumor on the pituitary gland in the brain and it's something which affects me every day. Although I'm on life long medication, I still need to have tests, scans and consultations regularly throughout the year. After becoming an ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation last summer I'm trying to raise as much money and awareness as possible for a wonderful charity who have supported me every step of the way during my diagnosis. I'll be climbing Mount Snowdon in June with my wonderful friends and family in the shape of my mum, dad & my lovely friends Tiff and Flo (if shes better as she's currently poorly!!) and can't wait to take on my biggest challenge yet! I'm trying to raise as much as I can, so please donate if you are able to – no matter how big or small, every little helps! 💰 In order to kick start the fundraising I will donate 50p for every like that this status receives over the next 24 hours… go go go! Please help me raise some cash for an incredible charity who are fairly unknown in this country. Please read my story on my JustGiving page (link in comments) and donate whatever you can! Thank youuuuu! Lots of love, Jess and the Snowdon team 😘💖 xxx #pituitaryfoundation #pituitaryawareness #charity #fundraising #mountsnowdon #uk #charityevent #ambassador #justgiving #prolactinoma

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My Diagnosis

Back in 2011, when I was just 18 years old, I started to notice major changes in my body. I was tired all the time, had horrendous headaches every day, blurred vision and constant nausea, so I knew something wasn’t quite right. Weirdly, I started lactating from my breasts and I’d come home from sixth form with cotton wool pads stuffed down my bra because I was worried I’d have patches showing through my top. Up until that point I wasn’t overly worried, but when the lactation started that’s when I knew I had to see a doctor. Was I pregnant? Was I going through some strange hormonal condition? I had no idea and, at first, neither did the doctors! I had MRI scans, heart scans, blood tests, hormone tests and every kind of investigation you could think of. After endless tests, prods and scans I was passed between the hospital, GP surgery and MRI departments until I was finally diagnosed with my condition. At 18, I was told I had a tumor in my brain. The medical term is a Prolactinoma, which is a small (benign) growth on the pituitary gland in the brain. That doesn’t sound so scary when you break it down, but when you’re 18 years old the only words you hear are ‘brain’ and ‘tumor’ and hearing those words together in the same sentence truly scared the life out of me. I was immediately put on long term medication (Cabergoline) and told that I most likely would be on them for the rest of my life.

 

My Daily Symptoms

 

The following months were a blur, but I do remember my symptoms starting to disappear as the medication slowly worked its magic on my body. The headaches became less frequent, the blurred vision eased a little and the lactation pretty much stopped completely. Fast forward seven years and, whilst I still get headaches on a daily basis and still suffer with nausea, most of my original symptoms have now disappeared. The medication lowers the level of the prolactin hormone in my body and helps to keep it under control. Whilst the medication does reduce the size of the tumor and improves my day to day wellbeing, there are inevitably some side effects which do impact me daily. The tablets cause horrendous mood swings; some days I’m so low I can barely get out of bed and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry, other days I’m loving life and am as high as a kite! It’s ridiculous, it’s stressful and sometimes it’s really embarrassing. I would say 70% of the time I’m happy and I’m pretty content with life, but I do suffer with terribly low moods and there are genuinely days where I’m just on auto pilot and I’m merely existing, not living, and that’s really upsetting when you’re a bubbly, outgoing person like me who tries to live life to the full every day.

 

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So this morning while everyone was tucked up in their beds I woke up at 3.30am, took 3 ski lifts to a height of 3300 meters, and attempted to watch the sun rise from the top of one of the highest mountains in #Switzerland! Sadly the sky was too cloudy to see the sun come up, but what an amazing experience to be surrounded by so much snow! Whilst I was halfway up I began feeling really poorly and started suffering from one of my #pituitary related headaches, but this one was so bad I could barely open my eyes. After we started our descent and had breakfast in an igloo at 2900m I started to cry. I cried because I was in so much pain and I didn't know what to do to make it stop. And then I realised that I could either let it get me down and ruin my Swiss experience, or I could wrap up warm, push past the pain and try to make the most of every second of my journey. With the help of my wonderful new blogger friends I chose the latter option. Sometimes being poorly is unavoidable, but today I made the best out of a bad situation and still managed to have an incredible bucket list experience. Travelling forever leaves me speechless, and it'll always teach me to enjoy each moment, live each day and remember every second. 💖 #InLoveWithNendaz

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How I’m Affected

 

Sadly the medication affects my life in other ways, and one of the biggest worries it gives me is that I may not be able to have children or conceive naturally if I stay on the tablets. If I come off them though, my tumor will most likely grow and I’d be back to square one. This is something that plays on my mind daily, despite being nowhere near ready to settle down and have a family, all I’ve ever really wanted to do in life is be a mum, and it breaks my heart to think that this dream might never come true for me. As well as living with my condition, I also suffer with recurring cysts on my ovaries and found out at a recent ultrasound scan that I have a tilted womb – it’s totally back to front – great! So even if I can have kids, I think I’d have a pretty horrendous pregnancy/birth/life for those 9 months! Obviously I try to push this to the back of my mind as I am not ready to start a family yet, but I’m 25 and the reality now is that I do think about this every single day. On a day to day basis though, I just take things one day at a time and deal with the headaches/nausea/mood swings first before allowing myself to be overwhelmed with thinking about the future, and what that means for me and my condition.

 

My Fundraising

For the past 4 years I have taken part in a series of events to raise money for The Pituitary Foundation, and in doing so I have met sooo many people who suffer with the same or similar conditions to me, and who are in some way impacted by problems the pituitary gland can cause. In 2015 I ran the Big Fun Run in Milton Keynes and raised over £350 for the charity. In 2017 I was honoured to become an official charity ambassador and turned my local town orange for The Pituitary Foundation’s Go Orange Day, raising over £100 as well as capturing press coverage in 2 local newspapers. This year I took on my biggest challenge yet as I climbed Mount Snowdon and helped to raise a whopping £25,000 for the Foundation which is absolutely phenomenal and such an incredible achievement for the entire team – we got press coverage for this event too! To put it into perspective, £18,000 covers the yearly wages of an endocrinology nurse to be available at the end of the phone and to offer support for patients – without this money from fundraising, support simply cannot be offered to patients in need. Next year, I’m joining the Snowdon team again, but this time we’ll take on Ben Nevis and this will undoubtedly be the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I am more than ready for the challenge so BRING IT ON! I absolutely love raising money and awareness for The Pituitary Foundation, and for my little known condition, and will continue to be an ambassador for this fantastic charity for as long as they’ll have me!

 

 

 

My Outlook

 

My life nowadays consists of 3 monthly blood tests, 9 monthly eye tests, and annual check-ups at the hospital with my consultant to see if I am responding to the meds or if the tumor is growing. Things have pretty much remained the same for the past few years, but as I get older and my body continues to change, and as I inevitably discuss potential options for having children, I think I’ve still got a long road ahead and will continue to battle this condition for the rest of my life. If I want to come off the meds and want to consider surgery as a different option, this is something I can discuss with my consultant, but it involves evasive brain surgery (through my nose and up into my brain) which is something I am absolutely terrified of as it has dangerous implications and I will try to avoid at all costs! To look at me you may not ever think that anything was wrong with me, but that’s the trouble with living with an invisible illness – you can never see it, but it’s always there. My consultant and the endocrinology team at the Oxford Churchill Hospital (OCDEM Ward) are fantastic and I wouldn’t have got through the past 7 years without them! As well as that, the team at The Pituitary Foundation have been a constant source of help and comfort throughout my diagnosis and ongoing struggle, and I couldn’t have been more thankful for their support over the past 7 years. Not many people know about the charity, or the conditions that can affect pituitary glands, so I’m extremely proud to be an ambassador for them and will continue to raise awareness and money for them for as long as I can!

 

I hope this honest and personal post gives you a little insight as to what it feels like to be part of my world. It’s not all doom and gloom, I promise! I have good days and bad days, I take each day as it comes, and I always try to remain positive despite sometimes feeling like my world is caving in around me. I’ve learnt to live with my condition, and cope with it in the best way possible, whilst always putting things into perspective and reminding myself that people are suffering with far worse conditions on a daily basis. I’m stuck with this condition for life, but I’m sure as hell not gonna let it hold me back! I’ve worked hard since the age of 16, bought my first car, ran my own business, owned a successful travel blog and travelled to 25 countries, with many more on my bucket list! I’ve helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, celebrated Independence Day in New York, done extreme water sports in Menorca, climbed Mount Verbier in Switzerland and ticked sooo many physical achievements off my ever expanding bucket list. I will not be defined by my illness, and I will not let it hold me back! A huuuuge thank you again to the fantastic team at The Pituitary Foundation – I am honoured to be an ambassador for your incredible charity, and I hope I can continue to work alongside you for years to come. I also want to thank my amazing family and friends who continue to support me in every way possible, especially my amazing mum who is my absolute rock and the only person who can pick me up when I’m down – sometimes she literally has to pick me up off the floor when I’m crying and tell me that it’s all going to be okay. Sometimes I don’t believe her, but I know things will work out in the end, and if this post helps even one person suffering with this condition too, then it will have all been worth it.

Love Jess x

 

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🏃‍♀️WE DID IT! 🏃‍♀️ What an amazing day!!! 33000 steps, 4000 calories burnt, 18 kilometres walked and 7 hours long! One of the best things I've ever done, and definitely the hardest thing I've ever done, both physically and mentally. 🏔 Didn't think I would make it up to the top at one point but these amazing people got me through!! Couldn't have wished for a better group of people to climb #Snowdon with, and am hoping we've almost smashed our fundraising target! You can still donate if you want to 😘 Collectively our group have raised over £22000 so far for @pituitaryfoundation which is INCREDIBLE!! My illness gets me down sometimes, but when events like this bring people together I wouldn't change it for the world 🌍 https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jessica-bucks-team

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Kotor Travel Guide – 1 Day in Montenegro’s Fairytale City

 

Last month I returned from my first ever cruise and had the most amazing time exploring new parts of the Mediterranean I had never visited before. I was on board Marella Cruises Celebration ship doing their ‘Sail the Three Seas’ itinerary and after a day in Dubrovnik, our next port of call was charming Kotor, one of Montenegro’s most beautiful cities. A trendy destination for 2018, Kotor is fast becoming THE go-to place for your next European city break, and with its cobbled streets, quaint town square, dramatic mountain backdrop and water front location, it’s not hard to see why. I only spent half a day in Kotor as we had an early sail away on our cruise (the ship departed at 4pm) but we sailed in nice and early so still got to see a good chunk of the city before we had to leave. If, like me, you only have a few hours to spend here, this is what I recommend you should do…

 

Wander round the Old Town

 

 

Walking on foot is always the best way to get around, and what better way to explore a new city than to soak up its charm and culture from its pretty old town? Kotor is a tiny city, and its old town is even smaller, with cute cobbled streets, an abundance of restaurants and shops, and some gorgeous buildings thrown in too. The old town was just a short stroll from the harbour where our cruise ship was docked, and the walk past the waterfront and the ancient archways brought us right in to the heart of Kotor within a matter of minutes. One thing I really loved about the old town was that it was completely pedestrianised, so we could wander around as much as we liked without having to worry about cars or buses driving by loudly and filling the air with petrol fumes!

 

Climb St John’s Fortress and it’s city walls

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((link in bio)) A Travel Guide to #Kotor City walls ✅ Red roofs ✅ Waterfront location ✅ Mountainous backdrop ✅ The pretty city of #Kotor makes the perfect place for a quick European weekend getaway ✈️ Kotor was the second stop on my recent #cruise with @tuiuk and I think it may have just been my favourite destination of our entire itinerary 🌍 We walked along the cobbled streets and marvelled at the many churches before meandering through the ancient archways and taking a walk along the glamorous waterfront where we found luxury yachts, enormous cruise liners and posh boats a plenty 🚢 If you're planning a trip to the prettiest city in #Montenegro, come and read my #travel guide which has just gone live on the blog on today's #wanderlustwednesday! 💻 journeyswithjessica.net #marella #marellacruises #marellacelebration #cruiselife

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I wouldn’t recommend doing this in the height of summer as Kotor gets very hot, but during the cooler months, a hike from the old town up to St John’s fortress is an absolute MUST. Starting at the North Gate, wander through the old town and then climb up alongside the city walls to discover more of Kotor than you can see from the ground. The construction of the walls started way back in the 9th century, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that the walls joined together to form a loop up into the hillside, stretching for a full 4.5 kilometres. Your hike will take you 260m above sea level and you’ll climb over 1350 steps, up steep slopes and winding stone staircases, until you reach the top of St John’s Fortress (or San Giovanni as it is also known) where you’ll be treated to the most amazing views over the bay of Kotor below. What an absolute TREAT this sounds like! I was gutted I didn’t to do this during my visit as a) it was ridiculously hot at 35 degrees, and b) the hike takes approx. 2-3hrs to complete and we just didn’t have enough time to fit it in to our short stay. It’s at the top of my bucket list for my return visit though!

 

Walk down to the water front

 

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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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This was easy for us as we HAD to walk past the water front to get into Kotor itself, but if you’re not visiting on a cruise I would definitely recommend taking the 5-10 min walk from the city centre down to the waterfront. The walk alone is worth it just to look at the line-up of magnificent yachts, cruise ships and fancy boats all docked in the harbour whilst their owners descend on the city. It can get extremely busy in the city centre when cruise ships are in town, and as Kotor is so tiny, it can feel a little overwhelming and very overpopulated in a short space of time. That’s why I think spending some time down on the water front allows you to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets and gives you a little breathing space, plus the views of the harbour with the magnificent mountains in the background are seriously stunning!

 

Visit one of the many Churches

 

 

I absolutely adore churches and try to see at least 1 or 2 in every city that I visit when I’m travelling, so I hit the jackpot with Kotor which is home to a number of religious buildings and each one tells their own story. All of the churches are either Catholic or Orthodox, with the majority being Orthodox, and they are dotted all across the city, with some perched high up in the mountains too. We went inside the miniature St Luke’s Church which was ornate and delicate with a stunning altar and small confessional room to the rear. We also visited the stunning St Tryphon’s Cathedral, the most famous in the city, which was built in 1166 and houses the relics of St Tryphon, the Patron Saint and Protector of Kotor. If you’re feeling energetic, hike up to the hills where you’ll discover St George’s Church, a 1000 year old ancient building perched at the back of St John’s hill which can be reached when climbing the city walls. These are just a few of the many Churches that can be found in Kotor, I just wish I had time to see them all!

 

Take a boat trip round the Bay of Kotor

 

 

We didn’t really fancy the idea of getting off one boat and on to another one so we didn’t actually take a boat trip around the Bay of Kotor, but if I hadn’t been visiting whilst on a cruise I definitely would have done! We saw tonnes of sales people up and down the waterfront trying to lure passing customers to one of their pretty boats, with yachts, small boats and even speedboats offering fantastic rides around the bay. As we had already seen the bay whilst sailing in to Kotor, I didn’t feel it was necessary for us to do a different boat trip here, and knew the sail away later that evening would be just as spectacular as the sail in that morning, with incredible views around the fijord each time. I would however have loved to do a speedboat or small boat tour around the Blue Caves of Kotor as this place looked amazing! The waters are gorgeously clear (and blue, obvs) and offer fantastic snorkelling spots. On most of the tours we were offered you can combine the Blue Caves with a stop off at Our Lady of the Rocks, an ancient church and museum which is one of Montenegro’s most popular attractions situated on its own island just in front of Perast, a UNESCO World Heritage Town. I’d definitely do one of these tours next time I return to Kotor and would recommend it to anyone who has time to do a 3hour tour whilst they are in the city.

 

These are the main things I would recommend to do if you’re short on time, but if you’ve got a few days to spare I would also squeeze in a visit to the nearby town of Budva, which looks stunning and I’ve heard amazing things about it! There’s also a tiny beach in Kotor, tucked around the corner away from the old town but I could see it from my cruise ship and it didn’t look like it was too far to walk to at all, so if you want a little beach time then you can do that too. Oh and if you’re visiting whilst on a cruise, make sure you wake up bright and early for the sail in – it was INCREDIBLE! My favourite sail in of the entire trip – gliding into the fijords was breath-taking and honestly one of the most magical travel experiences of my life. Montenegro is truly gorgeous and I can’t wait to return one day! Have you been to Kotor, or other parts of Montenegro before? I’d love to know what you thought of it!

Love Jess x