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Happy New Year! My 2018 Resolutions

 

Happy new year everyone!

Welcome to my first post of 2018! It’s my first post of many for January and, given that we’re celebrating the start of a new month and a new year, I’m kicking off with a traditional resolutions tick list for you! If you read my 2017 resolutions post last January (how has it been a year already since that was published?!) you’ll know that I’m a big fan of making new year’s resolutions, and I do actually stick to them, promise! Last year I vowed to:

  • visit 10 countries (TICK)
  • grow my blog as much as possible (TICK)
  • get a part time job (TICK)
  • start spending more time with family and friends (TICK)
  • spend less time on social media (FAIL) – ooooops
  • stop buying scratch-cards (SEMI-FAIL) – these two were harder than I thought!

I’m really proud that I managed to achieve most of these things within a year, and even more so that I managed to surpass my expectations by visiting 11 countries instead of 10, got a part time job to run alongside my freelance business and then landed my dream full time position and started my career in the travel industry, and grew my blog to the biggest it’s ever been, going on press trips and working with some incredible brands.

All in all, 2017 was a pretty amazing year for me, but as one year ends another one begins and this brings me on to my resolutions for 2018. I’m already thinking ahead to the next few months and am super excited to fill in the empty pages of my new chapter for this new year. Here are my 2018 resolutions…

 

Visit at least 5 countries

 

 

Last year I was lucky enough to visit a whopping 11 countries as I embarked on my greatest year of travel yet as a full time blogger and freelancer, but this year I have annual leave restrictions that I need to be careful of, so that will definitely impact on how many trips I can take! I’ve already got two trips planned and am in the process of planning a third which will take a few weeks to get organised. My first holiday will (hopefully) be an inter-railing trip starting in Paris and Luxembourg and ending in Brussels and Bruges – I’m really excited to go inter-railing for a third time and can’t wait to finalise everything for this week-long European adventure with my sister! I’m then going to be hopping over to Amsterdam and Rotterdam with some of my fellow blogger friends for my third annual Traverse conference and I’m soooo excited that it’s going to be held outside of the UK this year for the first time ever! My next holiday will be a cruise round the Mediterranean taking in the sights of Croatia, Malta, Sicily, Greece and Montenegro. I’ve never been on a cruise before and I’m nervous/excited in equal measures but can’t wait to see how the week unfolds, and I’m going with 13 of my crazy family members, so whatever happens I’m sure it’ll be a week to remember. I’m sure that more last minute trips will pop up over the course of the next 12 months, but I’ll definitely be making use of my weekends off as well!

 

Reach 10,000 followers across my social channels

 

It's the last day of 2017 and I'm reflecting on everything that has happened in my little life over the past 12 months… My highlights include press trips to #Spain #Switzerland and #Germany with my blog, a holiday to #Tenerife and my #European interrailing adventures. 🌍 I celebrated my 24th birthday, freelanced full time, took 17 flights to 11 countries, bought a new car, started my career in the travel industry with my new job, opened a help to buy account to start saving for a house, became a charity ambassador and shared my story with the national newspapers, went on countless day trips, weekends away and nights out with my friends and family and pushed myself to say YES to things and make the most of every minute. 🌟 Sadly I've ended on a low note after losing my beautiful Cassie, but she is in a better place and she'll remain in my heart forever 💖 I'm so grateful that I've got amazing friends and family and am surrounded by love each and every day. 2017 has taught me a lot and has brought me so much, but I'm so excited to see how 2018 will top it and can't wait to see what the future brings. Happy new year everyone, here's to making every second count! 🎉 #2017bestnine #HappyNewYear #2017

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This is going to be a HUGE milestone and I really hope that it’s something I can achieve within the next year. Currently, I have 4200 Twitter followers, 1800 on Instagram, 600 on Linked In and 540 on Facebook, so I’ve got a long way to go before I hit my target of 10,000! I do think it’s going to take a lot of effort and hard work to get it done, but I love a challenge and am determined to make this happen, plus my stats on my media kit are going to look pretty damn good if I finally reach the big 10k!

 

Spend less time on social media

 

 

Ok, ok, so I know this is massively contradictory to my last resolution, but I want to try and spend less time on social media on a personal level, although I want to grow the followers for my blog as much as possible. I have a constant obsession with logging on to my apps, refreshing the news feeds and scrolling aimlessly for hours, consuming irrelevant content about things which mean absolutely nothing to me. It’s something we are all guilty of, but the constant scrolling is what really gets me down and I know I really need to stop. I’ve made a good start by deleting my apps and muting all of my notifications, so now I only get bothered when someone texts or calls me! My accounts are still active but I’m going to try and post less and, in turn, scroll less too. I also want to read more books and so, whenever I get the urge to scroll during the ad break of my fave TV show, or during a quiet 5 minutes on my lunch break, I’m going to read chapters of my books instead and keep my mind occupied on something more productive.

 

Work on new projects for The Pituitary Foundation

 

 

As part of my role as an ambassador for UK charity The Pituitary Foundation, I’m trying to raise as much money and awareness as I possibly can for an organisation which has been hugely important to me since my own prolactinoma diagnosis back in 2011. I became an ambassador last summer and have already taken part in a fun run, national newspaper campaign and a Go Orange event in order to raise awareness of the charity. This year I’d like to step it up a notch and get more involved, take part in more events and raise even more money than I ever have done. My plans include another fun run and Go Orange day, as well as a summer fete and a hike up Mount Snowdon as I aim to challenge myself as much as I can. More details will be emerging when I have them, but for now please wish me luck!

 

Start saving at least £500 a month

 

 

I’ve only been able to do this one since I went back to full time work at the end of last year, but in October I opened a Help To Buy bank account as I aim to start saving for my first house. It’s going to take me a good few years to get a deposit behind me, especially as property prices in my local area are ASTRONOMICAL, but if I can try to save at least £500 every single month then I’ll stand myself in good stead going forwards. Since landing my dream job I’m starting to feel really settled and really positive about creating a stable future for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to stop travelling and I’m certainly not ready to get married and have kids, but I just want to give myself the best future possible and saving lots of money will definitely help me to achieve that.

 

Incorporate exercise into my weekly routine

 

 

Exercise is something I have ALWAYS struggled with, I hated P.E. as a child and my idea of increasing my heartrate was standing at the back of the rounders pitch having a good gossip with my school friends and doing a few star jumps! As I’ve got older my attitude has changed a little, but I still feel faint at the idea of even going in to a gym, let alone doing a full blown workout. I do however really enjoy the gym once I get some blood pumping, but it’s the idea of going that makes me feel really demotivated, and maybe it’s because I’m a little intimidated by all the amazing girls and guys who go and look like their professionals. I’m going to start doing a small workout at home once a week though to improve my fitness, and my core strength. It’s not about losing weight or toning up, I think I just want to feel good about myself again and I know how much exercise can do for your mental and physical health. Here’s hoping I can do at least one workout a week to help with this – plus daily walks too!

 

Grow my blog as much as possible whilst working full time

 

 

I’m hoping to smash this one as I’ve already had a positive start to the year, but the first few months of being back to full time work meant that my blog really took a back seat at the end of last year. I was just so exhausted doing 40 hour weeks, plus 2 hours of driving a day, and didn’t want to do anything other than watch telly and get into bed during my week night evenings, and my weekends were for catching up with friends and making exciting plans. I also lost my beautiful dog Cassie at the end of last year and this had a massive impact on my motivation to do anything productive. If I’m honest, I barely slept or ate, let alone found the time to blog, and it did affect me. I was totally consumed by grief and loss, which is something I had never experienced before. But with the start of a new year comes new positivity and I’m really excited to throw myself back in to my blog and make proper time to publish regular posts, grow my followers and keep up my social media statuses. I’ll probably schedule in one evening a week and one day of the weekend to dedicate time to my blog and I’m hoping to stick to it over the coming weeks.

 

I like to think that these resolutions are all achievable and are all things that are going to enhance my little life over the next 12 months, and I’m feeling more motivated than ever to make this another incredible year. In addition to these resolutions, I’m also hoping to make more time for myself and put myself first. Little things like having a bath, popping on a face mask or reading a book will all help to give myself some well deserved ME time and I intend to do this a lot in 2018. Do you make New Years resolutions? Do you ever stick to them? Here’s hoping I achieve mine – happy new year everyone, wishing you all a successful, healthy and happy 2018!

Love Jess X

 

Happy new year y'all 🍾🍾 #NYE2017

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My End of Year Review: 17 Highlights From 2017

 

Having no regrets is all that she really wants 🌟

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OHMYGOD I literally cannot believe I am writing this. Like how did this year go by so quick? What the hell have I done over the past 12 months? Why does it only seem like 5 minutes since I wrote my 2016 end of year review? I cannot cope with how quick time is flying and how much life is passing me by. I didn’t think I could top 2016, I had the best year of my life to date when I quit my career to travel and become a full time freelancer. Surprisingly though, I think 2017 has been even bigger, ever better and even more amazing than I could ever have imagined. I’ve taken 17 flights, travelled to 11 countries and 14 cities and made memories that will last a lifetime. My blog has grown to the biggest it’s ever been and I’m enjoying countless new opportunities that I could only ever have dreamed of.

Although I’ve had an amazing year, sadly I’m ending it on a low as my beautiful dog Cassie went to sleep and left us just a few weeks ago. She had been poorly for a few months and just couldn’t go on anymore so we had to do what was best and let her go. We are all devastated and are struggling to come to terms with her loss; she has left a huge hole in our home, and in our hearts, and we miss her more than we ever thought possible. My heart physically hurts and I cry every single day, but I know with time it will get easier and I have amazing friends and family to support me. Love you princess, sleep tight my little snow angel. Despite ending on a low note, January – October gave me an incredible 10 months and I’ve found it so hard to narrow down just 17 highlights from my 2017 but I’m going to try and pick my stand out memories… Here goes…

 

I started the new year down in Cornwall – JANUARY

 

Bit late to the party after being on holiday but so pleased to have ended 2016 and brought in the new year down in Cornwall with my beautiful, crazy family. 2016 was my best year to date; I took my biggest leap of faith by quitting my job, travelling solo to LA and launching my freelance business. I road tripped across America, ticking off 30 cities & 23 states (making 52 new friends along the way) and inter-railed around Italy with my sister, visiting three of the most famous cities in the world. My blog turned 2, it underwent a major rebrand and it was nominated for an award. I've been bridesmaid for my best friend, celebrated my cousins wedding and my sisters 21st and have been to V Fest, the theatre and the races. I've made hundreds of new memories with my amazing friends and family and am entering 2017 feeling the happiest I've ever been! Here's to an even better year with many new adventures ahead as I take on Europe during my next 12 months of travel! Happy belated new year everyone, wishing you every happiness for 2017 🌎✈️💖

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After a quiet Christmas at home we couldn’t wait to get away for a break in Cornwall, our favourite UK county, for five days of beach walking, sea fishing and new year festivities. We stayed in a little apartment at the heart of St Ives and enjoyed ice cream on the beach, walks high in the hills and fancy dress and fireworks over the harbour on New Years Eve. We had an amazing few days away and it really started off our new year with a bang.

 

I became a freelancer and worked part time too – JANUARY

 

This is how I feel right now. Today I calculated that I've earnt *almost* as much each month as I was earning in my old 9-5 job! I knew I could do it!!! I've started with nothing and built up my little business all by myself. At times I felt like giving up, like I wasn't good enough, and like I had no right to make a career for myself, but today I've felt so inspired and so pleased that my hard work seems to be paying off. Any doubts that may have been in my mind have now been dismissed and I am SO excited to continue my journey in my new career and see where this takes me! Here's to future success and many more adventures 📝💻✈️🌍 #MondayMotivation #freelancer #bloglife #virtualassistant

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At the end of 2016 I decided to go freelance with my blog and I also set myself up as a social media manager too. I had a handful of clients with steady work each month and I was really enjoying working from home and being my own boss. After a few months though I realised that I missed working alongside people and started to feel incredibly lonely. On my birthday I landed myself a part time job at New Look and this actually turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me. I started to get into a routine, earned extra money and made so many friends after thriving off that social interaction again. My part time contract meant that I could work as little or as much as I wanted to, which came in super handy for the months ahead when I  wanted to travel as much as I could.

 

I celebrated my sisters 18th birthday – JANUARY

 

 

My little baby sis turned 18 at the end of Jan and we had a wonderful weekend celebrating with our closest family members up in Liverpool. We booked a large table at the gorgeous Titanic Restaurant in the city and then spent the night partying until the early hours. Soph had an amazing birthday and it was so lovely to spent some quality time with our nearest and dearest.

 

I took a winter city break to Copenhagen – FEBRUARY

 

 

My first overseas adventure of 2017 came in February when my sister and I hopped over to Copenhagen for a long weekend. We had wanted to do a winter city break for a while, as it had been two years since our February break to Prague, and the Danish capital seemed to be the perfect place to go. We had an amazing few days wandering around the beautiful Nyhavn Harbour, climbing the Round Tower and finding The Little Mermaid and even popped over to Malmo in Sweden for a day trip too!

 

I wandered around Bratislava and Vienna for 5 days – MARCH

 

 

March saw me take two more trips, and tick off two more countries, as I flew over to explore Bratislava and Vienna with my friend and fellow blogger Lucy. We had an epic 48 hours discovering Bratislava’s Old Town and it’s stunning castle complex before catching the train to Vienna to indulge in its musical history. We then spent two nights in the best hotel I have ever stayed in and were able to visit some of Vienna’s many palaces and impressive buildings along the way – what an adventure we had!

 

I went to my second Traverse conference – APRIL

 

 

After attending my first Traverse conference in Cardiff in 2016, I knew I just had to go back to the 2017 one when details were announced. This time the blogging extravaganza was held in London, right next to The 02 arena, and was even better than the year before. I caught up with Lucy, Seanna, Steve and some of my other bloggy friends and also met the lovely Rachel for the first time, who I have now become firm friends with! Highlights of the conference included the Jet2 opening party at Millbank Tower, a CityCruises boat party along the Thames and the closing party in Canary Wharf with Visit Spain. Oh and the workshops were pretty good too, obvs I didn’t go there just to party 😉 I really interacted with all the brands and speakers this time round after being a little nervous during my first Traverse in 2016 and was lucky enough to be selected for two press trips after meeting sponsors in London. I’ve already bought my ticket for Traverse 2018 in Rotterdam and cant wait to go next May!

 

I went on a spontaneous city break to Sofia – MAY

 

 

After spotting £30 return flights with Ryanair, my lovely friend Toni and I decided to jet over to Bulgaria for a long weekend in Sofia. For both of us, this was the furthest we had gone in Eastern Europe and we absolutely loved exploring a new city, and a new country. We only had two nights there but spent it eating traditional Bulgarian food, taking a free walking tour, hiking up the Vitosha Mountain and admiring the stunning Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Sofia is a really quirky place and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an alternative city break in Europe.

 

I went on my first group press trip to Menorca – MAY

 

 

After my successful weekend at Traverse, I was lucky enough to be selected for my first ever group press trip, Must See Menorca. Traverse teamed up with both the Spain and Menorca tourism boards to put together a fantastic week of conferencing, workshops and excursions. Highlights included kayaking in the crystal clear waters, strolling around the capital of Ciutedella and going to a party in a cave at the fabulous Cova d’en Xoroi. I made so many friends and had the most amazing week getting to know everyone, learning tonnes of new blogging tips and getting to explore new parts of Menorca that I didn’t know existed.

 

I had a girly week with my sisters in Tenerife – JUNE

 

 

After a hectic couple of months of back to back trips I couldn’t wait for a chilled week in the Spanish sun in Tenerife with my sisters by the time June came around. We booked a package holiday with Jet2 and couldn’t have had better service the whole time we were there. We’ve been to Spain fifteen times but had never visited Tenerife and it’s safe to say we will definitely be returning soon. We had an amazing week relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea and even hiking up an active volcano! Seeing dolphins and whales swimming in the sea was a real highlight, as was being right in the heart of the action on the Las Americas strip and I already can’t wait to go back next summer.

 

I took another group press trip to Switzerland – JULY

 

 

After a relaxing break in Tenerife it was time to get back to my hectic schedule as I headed over to Switzerland for the first time on another press trip, this time with the Nendaz tourism board and with villa rental company Travelopo. Along with four other bloggers I had the chance to stay in a luxurious chalet in the heart of Swiss ski resort Nendaz. I’m pretty sure that a ski resort isn’t an obvious choice when looking for a summer holiday, but we were delighted to showcase this amazing place to a whole new audience. Both Travelopo and the Nendaz tourism board were amazing and put together a fantastic itinerary for us during our week there. We did plenty of mountain hiking (and biking), had a spa day at a 5* hotel, went cheese making in the Alps and climbed 3300m up to one of the highest mountains in the country at Verbier’s Mont Fort. I also spent a couple of days in Geneva at the beginning and end of the week and really pushed myself out of my comfort zone on this trip so it turned out to be one of the best weeks I’ve ever had!

 

I became an ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation – AUGUST

 

 

On a personal level, this is something I am hugely proud of and definitely one of my biggest achievements from 2017. If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning you’ll know that I suffer with a rare condition called a prolactinoma, which is a small, benign tumor in my brain. I’m on medication for life and have regular blood tests, eye tests and check ups with my hospital consultant to monitor my condition, but generally my health is good and I never let anything hold me back! The Pituitary Foundation are a fantastic charity who have helped me enormously since my diagnosis back in 2011 and so I was absolutely delighted when they asked me to be an ambassador for them in August. I said yes right away and couldn’t wait to get involved with fundraising and spreading awareness. My first job was sharing my story online, and I couldn’t believe it when The Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sun all featured my story and reached millions of readers. Since then I have shared my story with other outlets and even organised a ‘turn your town orange’ day for Pituitary Awareness Month in October. I’m so proud to be ambassador for such an amazing charity and I can’t wait to work on new projects throughout 2018.

 

I hopped over to Hamburg for the weekend – AUGUST 

 

 

I got invited to another press trip after making great contacts at this year’s Traverse conference and was super excited to be heading to Hamburg with the Visit Hamburg team back in August. I spent two nights exploring the quirky and alternative sights of the city, including taking a street art tour, paddle boarding down the Alster river and attending the annual Vogelball music festival. We also went to an all you can eat ice cream festival which was INCREDIBLE and I spent some time wandering around the shipping port and exploring the old town with its famous Rathaus building too. Although it wasn’t my favourite city, I did really enjoy my first visit to Germany and had a lovely weekend making new friends and creating new memories.

 

I became a real life fairy godmother – SEPTEMBER

 

 

Ahh one of the best things to ever happen to me, I became fairy godmother to one of my best friend’s baby and we had such a lovely day! I’ve known my friend Kath for years, we even moved in together for a few months a couple of years ago, and I was sooo excited when she asked me to be godmother to her beautiful little girl Halle. We had a lovely day at the Church and Halle looked so cute in her little dress. I promise to love you and to look after you forever baby girl <3

 

I took on so many new blog opportunities – ALL YEAR ROUND

 

 

This year was my best year yet for new blogging opportunities and I’m delighted to say that I’ve had them in abundance over the past 12 months. From complimentary flights and week/weekend long trips in Spain, Switzerland and Germany to overnight hotel stays in The Cotswolds and boat tours along the Thames, it’s been an epic year of press trips. I really wanted to challenge myself this year and work on new collaborations with lots of new brands. As well as taking trips I’ve also worked with companies on sponsored blog posts, Instagram takeovers and competition giveaways. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I’ve wanted to be though, and I haven’t just waited for things to land in my lap. I’ve emailed brands, taken part in Twitter chats, created a media kit, networked, attended conferences and really got myself out there in order to be selected for some incredible opportunities that have really helped to grow my blog and make it the best it can be.

 

I inter-railed around Europe – SEPTEMBER

 

 

By mid September I hadn’t been on a trip away since Hamburg at the start of August and was desperate to travel again! When my friend Toni said she wanted to do the same, we knew we had to go on a real stand out trip and inter-railing around Europe seemed to fit the bill nicely! I’ve always wanted to go inter-railing, especially after my rail trip to Italy last year, so couldn’t wait to get planning our trip. After weeks of deliberation, flight/train searching and trying to find decent hotels at a decent price, we decided to do four countries and four cities within nine days. We started in the Polish capital of Warsaw then headed to Prague and Salzburg before ending up in lovely Ljubljana. We had an amazing two nights visiting each city and saw as much as we physically could during our time there. I’d visited Prague before but still loved it and I had a great time in Warsaw and Salzburg, but Ljubljana really stole my heart and I’m so glad we saved the best til last!

 

I got a new car & a new job – OCTOBER

 

 

When my beloved Vauxhall Corsa went to the big car heaven in the sky I found myself needing a new mode of transport and a new salary to support myself. After a year of freelancing and 9 months of part time work I landed on my feet when I got offered a brand new job that I’d had no intention of getting! I was starting to get fed up of unstable freelance income and I knew I definitely didn’t want to be in retail coming up to Christmas, so in September when I emailed my CV along with a generic cover letter to a local travel firm in Cheltenham I had no idea that I’d even get an interview, let alone get offered a job! I picked up my new car at the end of September and a few days later I started my new job as an operations co-ordinator at luxury travel firm Abercrombie and Kent. I work in the villas sector of the business and spend my days writing descriptions and editing photos for our luxurious villas, as well as contacting owners for availability requests and assisting the sales team with their holiday enquiries. My experience of property management from my estate agent days, coupled with my passion for travel through my blog, have helped to land my dream job and I’ve not looked back since I started! I believe that everything happens for a reason, and although having a full time job means I haven’t been able to blog as much, I’ve learnt to appreciate my weekends, use my annual leave wisely and have started saving a lot of money which will be used for future trips and treats for my nearest and dearest… Here’s to being a full-timer again!

 

I saw the most snow we’ve had in years – DECEMBER

 

Six weeks ago we were told the devastating news that our darling Cassie had a tumor in her tummy and she didn't have long left to live. We hoped and prayed that she would get better, that she would get back to her normal self, or that she would at least make it til Christmas. Sadly we don't think our prayers have been answered, as our little girl has been getting worse day by day. We didn't think she would ever see snow again, but this morning when she got up from her bed and walked out into the garden it looked like her last wishes had come true. Cass has always loved the snow and we feel so blessed that she was able to enjoy it for one last time. Soon we will have to make a decision that no pet owner wants to make and our hearts are breaking, but for now we are treasuring every second with our little snow angel and are loving her as much as we have done every day for the past 12 years. We just don't ever want to let you go baby 💔

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Although I am devastated to be writing this because we lost our precious Cassie, I am so grateful that in December it snowed for the first time since 2009 and our darling girl got to play in the snow one last time. Pulling back the curtains and waking up to so much snow was truly magical and, if I closed my eyes for a few seconds, it really felt like I was a child again. My sisters and I were supposed to be going to Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball that day, but the snow had meant all trains/coaches from Oxford were cancelled so we had no way of getting there. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we spent the day with our little Cassie giving her so many cuddles, watching Christmas films and telling her we loved her. Although it was her last day with us, and we spent the next few weeks crying uncontrollably every single day, I will always be grateful that it snowed and that she spent her last day being surrounded by love. We miss you so much baby and our hearts are hurting without you. We wish that you could still be here with us, that we could stroke your head or play with your ears or snuggle you tight, but we know that you were in pain and we couldn’t bear for you to carry on. We know now that you are at peace and are looking down on us each and every day, and whenever it snows we will know that it’s you showing us that you love us. Forever in our hearts, princess <3

 

When I take a step back and look at everything I’ve done this year I can’t help but feel immensely proud of myself. I’ve overcome a lot and I’ve made so many life changes in just one year, all of which have made me happier and a better person. Oh and remember those New Years Resolutions I made back in January? I’ve nailed them all. Travel to 10 new countries – tick, I even did 11! Stop looking for love – tick, goodbye tinder! Spend more time with family and friends – tick, I’ve removed toxic people from my life and put my loved ones first! Stop buying scratchcards – semi tick, I buy one every few months but I’m nowhere near as bad as I used to be! I’m quite impressed that I’ve managed to successfully complete the challenges I set myself this year and it just reinforces my belief that, if you want something badly enough, you’ve gotta go out there and get it!

As for 2018, I have no idea what the coming year will hold, but that’s what makes it so exciting. I really love January, I know it’s my birthday month so I’m biased but I love the challenge of starting a new year, totally afresh, and I set myself goals and plans that I aim to accomplish. It really gives me a sense of perspective and helps to get what I really want out of life. Thanks to all of you lovely lot for supporting Journeys with Jessica for yet another year – this little blog will be celebrating its fourth birthday in 2018 and I can’t believe how far we have come! I’ve love every second of being a travel blogger and can’t wait to take you on more adventures with me next year.

Happy new year everyone!

Love Jess X

 

Work Christmas party 🎅🌲☃🌟 #sparklesparkle

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48 Hours in Salzburg: Discover The Magic Behind The Sound of Music

 

 

If you’ve been following my blog or social media channels lately you’ll know that I have recently returned from my epic inter-railing adventure around Europe with my lovely friend Toni and we had the most amazing ten days! After back to back whistle stop tours of Warsaw and Prague, next up on our trip was the stunning Austrian city of Salzburg. Famed for its Sound of Music film locations, its authentic puppet museum and its beautiful castle on the hill, Salzburg stole my heart as soon as I stepped off the train and I fell totally in love with everything about it.  I was lucky enough to arrange a meeting with the lovely Stephanie from Visit Salzburg who really helped us to plan our break to make the best possible use of our time, as well as providing us with our trusty Salzburg cards, but I  could have easily spent another day wandering around the Mirabell Gardens or admiring the view from the castle courtyard. Being the avid travel blogger that I am, I planned my trip well and did everything I wanted to do and more, so here are my tips on making the most of your short time in this incredible city…

 

Take a Sound of Music tour

 

 

An absolute must see whilst in Salzburg, The Sound of Music by Panorama Tours  offers a fun filled half day for all the family. With either a morning or an afternoon slot, and pick up from the central bus station, the tour starts and ends in the same location and ferries you around all day. Stopping at iconic film locations in and around Salzburg, the route begins at the beautiful Mirabell Gardens, where the famous Do-Re-Mi was filmed. You’ll then be driven to the Leopoldskron Palace, the location for the Von Trapp house and the lake and gardens where the boating scene took place. Next up is the Hellbrunn Palace grounds with its gazebo where the musical number ‘Sixteen going on Seventeen’ was filmed.  Afterwards you’ll stop by Nonnberg Abbey, the convent used in the film, and the Salzburg Lake District area where many of the picnic and outdoor scenes were filmed. Your sixth and final stop will be the beautiful town of Mondsee, where you’ll enjoy some free time to explore the cafe’s and shops at your leisure, before heading inside the stunning St Michael’s Church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp were married. The four hour tour was truly amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting all the locations and seeing all the sights, as well as having a singalong on the tour bus in between stops! If you’re a Sound of Music fan this is the only tour you’ll want to take in Salzburg.

 

 

Wander around the Castle Courtyard

 

 

Gazing up at the castle on the hill

 

If you’re anything like me, castles will be one of your favourite things to see in any city and the Hohensalzburg Castle certainly didn’t disappoint. Set on top of the Festungsberg, a small hill at the heart of the city, the castle is complete with an incredible stone fortress and gives a real medieval feel when walking around the site. Erected by the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg, who were already powerful political figures, construction first began in 1077 with expansions, including the towers and ring walls, later added in the 1460s. Situated at an altitude of over 500m, the castle offers incredible panoramic views over the old town and nearby hills below and is the focal landmark of the entire city. Take the funicular up to the top of the fortress and then wander round the interior and exterior of the castle at your leisure – don’t forget to check out the amazing Marionette museum to see the history behind this puppet art and you might even be treated to a miniature opera too!  The funicular ride and castle entrance are both free with your Salzburg card.

 

Discover DomQuartier’s architecture

 

The pretty cathedral and carousel on site for the Rupertikirtag Festival

 

This was my favourite part of the whole of Salzburg as it looked oh so beautiful both during the day time and lit up at night too. We were lucky to be staying whilst the historic Rupertikirtag Festival was on and were treated to fairground rides, marching bands, traditional food and a real authentic Austrian party. Despite the Festival giving plenty of reasons to keep us occupied, the DomQuartier area would keep you entertained for hours even if the Festival wasn’t taking place. The cathedral-museum complex, designed in traditional Baroque style, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to five museums and the stunning cathedral which is the focal point of the entire area. Choose to explore the state rooms of the Alte Residenz, the terrace above the cathedral arches or St Peter’s Abbey with its spiritual treasures exhibition of the oldest abbey in the German-speaking world. The stunning cathedral is one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen; everything from its stained glass windows and its intricate altar to its enormous ceilings and its silent underground chamber complete with chapel and light room, left me with goosebumps and was a real highlight of my trip to the city. Don’t miss out!

 

Visit Mozart’s Birthplace

 

Photo courtesy of Visit Salzburg Tourism Board

 

Built in the 12th century and located in the centre of the historic old town, Number 9 Getreidegasse was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1756, the seventh child of Leopold Mozart who was a musician of the Salzburg Royal Chamber. As we all know, the young Mozart became one of the most famous musicians the world has ever seen, and was perhaps best known for his iconic composition The Magic Flute. In 1880 his birthplace was turned into a museum and it has been welcoming guests ever since. Visitors can find out about the early life of the classical composer where they can see his first musical instruments being exhibited and they can also take a tour through some of the many residency rooms inside the building. Owned by the Mozart Foundation, entrance to the museum is free with your Salzburg card.

 

Where to Eat/Drink

 

Inside the cafe of the decadent Hotel Sacher

 

There are plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in Salzburg, and they can be found in and around the DomQuartier area. We actually failed at being good travellers as we didn’t have a proper sit down meal at all during our time there – bad Jess!! On our first night it was pouring it down with rain so we sat in the common room in our hostel and watched The Sound of Music whilst eating takeaway pizza and chips! Our second night was spent having a traditional Austrian dish consisting of potatoes and sausage which we quickly chomped down whilst attending the Rupertikirtag Festival in the cathedral courtyard – think Oktoberfest and you’ve got it! I’d highly recommend taking the time to check out some of the other restaurants in the city centre though as they looked fantastic, and one thing you absolutely MUST do is have a slice of Sacher Torte (heavenly dark chocolate cake/cheesecake) at the world famous Hotel Sacher, the place that Julie Andrews stayed in whilst she filmed the Sound of Music!

 

Where to Stay

 

Photo courtesy of Hostelworld

 

As this was an budget inter-railing trip we spent both nights in Salzburg at the YoHo International Youth Hostel, located halfway between the train station and the historic city centre, both of which were a ten minute walk away. The hostel was kitted out for all ages and provided clean and tidy accommodation in an unbeatable location. Although pretty basic, our bunk bed room was a private room and did the job but we had shared toilets and showers which wasn’t ideal –  you could pay more to have a private en-suite room though if you’re not keen on sharing bathrooms. The bar and breakfast area was a great way of socialising and meeting fellow travellers and they play The Sound of Music film in the downstairs common room EVERY SINGLE NIGHT so I would suggest embracing this whilst you’re in Salzburg and making the most of the cheap pizza and giant screen! I’d highly recommend this hostel to those looking for a cheap place to stay for a couple of nights as hotels in Austria are notoriously expensive – thanks to the team for making our stay a great one.

Although not as big as the other two cities we had visited prior to our stopover in Austria, what Salzburg lacked in size it certainly made up for in charm. With its cobbled streets and wonderful cathedral at its small historic centre, there’s a lot to see in Salzburg and 48 hours gives just about enough time to do it all, especially if, like me, you have a snazzy Salzburg card. Thanks again to the lovely Stephanie at the Salzburg Tourism Board for helping to make our time in the city so special, and for our wonderful Salzburg cards, I can’t wait to return one day!

Love Jess X

NB. Our Salzburg cards and Sound of Music tour were complimentary for the duration of our visit and for the purpose of this post, but all thoughts and comments are of course my own.

 

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A Travel Guide to Cornwall: The Capital of the South West

 

Located on the southwestern tip of England, and famed for its sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and glorious bays, the rugged county of Cornwall offers the perfect stay-cation to thousands of holiday makers year after year. The Cornish Riveria is home to popular seaside resorts, beautiful harbour towns and awesome surfing regions too, offering a fun filled family holiday or weekend break. Whether you’re going surfing in Sennen Cove or fishing in Falmouth, you’re sure to have an amazing holiday with so many things to see and do. I’ve been going to Cornwall almost every year since I was a six month old baby and, to this day, I never tire of its beautiful scenery and it’s long sandy beaches. I love Cornwall so much that I thought I’d put together a round up of my top things to do in one of the UK’s most loved go-to getaways at any time of year, and with a little help from the guys over at Clickstay, you can find your dream Cornish holiday home too…

 

Stand on the edge of England at Lands End

 

My whole world in one picture, at our favourite place

 

I don’t know what it is about this place, I can’t help but feel emotional each and every time I visit. I’ve been going to Lands End, the most westerly point of England, for years now; I’ve been as a baby, as a child, as a teenager and as an adult, and each time I go I get the same feeling. I get goosebumps on my arms,  shivers down my spine, and tears running down my cheeks. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve stood near one of the cliff edges, standing alone and just gazing out into the sea, lost in my own thoughts. As the name suggests, standing in those places and looking out to sea literally does make it feel as if you’re standing on the edge of the world, at the place where the land ends, and it’s pretty damn special if you ask me! As well as offering stunning views across to the Atlantic Sea, you’ll also find a whole host of fun things to do for all the family, including exploring one of their interactive exhibitions, playing in the park, visiting the wildlife centre and stopping off at the  shop and large restaurant.

Go surfing in Newquay

 

Image courtesy of Visit Cornwall – I only have hard copy photographs from my time in Newquay a few years ago but  they’re all in the loft!

 

Newquay is perhaps one of the best loved surfing spots in the whole of the UK and for very good reason. With its large sandy beach, crystal clear waters and awesome tidal waves, Newquay provides the perfect surfers paradise and attracts thousands of tourists year after year. Some of the UK’s surfing competitions are held there and their surfers rank amongst some of the highest in the world. There’s more to Newquay than surfing though, with its busy high street and pretty promenade which is popular with locals and tourists alike. This seaside resort is located on the North Atlantic coast of Cornwall and offers one of the best beaches in the entire county. As well as surfing, Newquay is also famed for its vibrant nightlife and is often a hit with men and women on stag and hen do’s looking for a memorable weekend away down on the Cornish coast. The last time I went to Newquay I headed straight to the Sealife Centre to discover some of our beautiful marine life and spent an afternoon in the sunshine devouring homemade ice cream – bliss!

 

Go mermaid spotting in Zennor

 

Image courtesy of Encounter Walking Holidays (I don’t have any pics from my time in Zennor when I was a little girl!)

 

I love a good fairytale, and Cornwall has myths and legends at every corner, which is one of the main reasons I find it so magical! The Zennor Mermaid is something that has fascinated me since I was a little girl, and it still continues to do so even now… Legend has it that Mathey Trewella, son of the local churchwarden, became transfixed with a female parishioner who attended services and sang every hymn sweeter than all the rest. With her enchanting beauty and haunting voice, Mathey followed her home and was never seen at Zennor Church again. Years passed and, one Sunday, a ship allegedly cast anchor in a nearby cove prompting a mermaid to rise from the ocean and beg for the anchor to be removed as it was trapping her home beneath the sea. Recoiling in horror, the sailor quickly set sail believing that the mermaid was an ill omen and that she would curse them. When the villagers heard of this, they agreed that the mermaid was the same lady who had long visited their church, and that she had enticed Mathey Trewella to come and live with her under the sea. Today, the famous “mermaid chair” at St. Senara’s Church can still be seen and is one of the popular tourist attractions in Cornwall, putting Zennor firmly on the map for centuries to come.

 

Go back in time at Tintagel Castle

 

Image courtesy of English Heritage – sadly I haven’t managed to get to Tintagel yet!

 

This medieval fortress is one of the best known in the whole of England, and one of the most visited too. Located in North Cornwall, Tintagel Castle was built in the 13th century by Richard, first Earl of Cornwall, and was settled during the early Medieval period. The castle was believed to have fallen into disrepair and was left to rot for hundreds of years before archaeological investigation on the site began in the 19th century. Like many castles in England, Tintagel was linked to yet another hisotric myth, this time the legend of King Arthur, where the castle was believed to be the place of his conception. Since the mid 1900s the castle has been turned into a major tourist attraction and is now owned by Prince Charles and managed by English Heritage.

 

Celebrate the New Year on St Ives Harbour

 

Fireworks over the beach on NYE

 

I’ve only actually done this once, and I can’t believe I haven’t done it more times if I’m honest! I love celebrating New Years, even more than I love Christmas, because I love the idea of reflecting on the past year but also looking forward to the next year ahead too.  My family and I celebrate NYE together every single year and last year we went to St Ives for the first time during the festive period. It’s an old tradition for everyone in St Ives to wear fancy dress on new years eve, with literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the town going all out and dressing up – you end up looking pretty stupid if you DON’T dress up so we knew we had to go hard, or go home! Once we’d picked our outfits we headed down to the main street to do a pub crawl. Everyone tends to have the same idea and it’s so much fun looking at all the different outfits – I was people watching til my heart was content! Just before midnight everyone runs down to the harbour to get their spot for watching the fireworks over the sea, and there’s then a marching band that goes on parade up and down the harbour front and off onto the cobbled side streets. The whole night was amazing and we had so much fun! I would highly recommend St Ives for NYE for a quirky, alternative place to go – it definitely beats queuing in clubs and paying for overpriced drinks!

 

So there we have it, just a few of my top picks for your visit to this beautiful county. Whether you’re off surfing, rock pooling or standing on the edge of England, you’ll be sure to have a fantastic time. Have you ever visited Cornwall before? I’d love to know what you thought of it! Don’t forget to find your dream holiday home with Clickstay to make your holiday extra special.

Love Jess x

NB. This post was brought to you in collaboration with holiday rental company Clickstay, but all thoughts & comments are of course my own.

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Tex Mex, Creole or All-American? Comparing the flavour of three Southern cities…

 

Over 12 months ago, when I embarked on my trip of a lifetime across the US of A, I was set to visit 23 states in 28 days; a mean feat for someone who had never left Europe before! Aptly named The Grand Southern Adventure, I knew most of my escapade would be spent discovering some of the best cities that the south had to offer, and knew that it’d be an adrenalin fuelled few weeks, and a real foodie haven too. Three of the cities on the trip really stole my heart, and not just because of their lively atmospheres and their colourful history. Spending two nights each in Orlando, Dallas and New Orleans gave me a chance to delve a little deeper into their charm, although I’m pretty sure I barely scratched the surface of these cities during my short time there. I enjoyed my few days in those places so much that, when the wonderful team at Trip.com asked me to take a look at the foodie history behind each city, I jumped at the chance to do a little more digging… Here’s how the three of them compare…

 

Dallas, Texas

 

The sun shining down on Dallas

 

The Texan powerhouse and one of America’s most famous cities, Dallas should be at the top of everyone’s bucket lists, and for good reason. Home to an enormous aquarium, along with a zoo, museums and memorials, Dallas is one of the liveliest cities in the deep South. Sadly, it’s also perhaps best known for being the site of President John F Kennedy’s assassination and has a memorial and museum dedicated to his untimely death. Whilst you’ll find large chunks of America’s history down in Dallas, you’ll also find it’s a complete foodie haven and a fantastic place for indulging in that iconic Tex-Mex cuisine.

A mouth-watering mix of Anglo and Mexican-Indian infusions, invented by Mexican immigrants in the late 1800s, Tex-Mex fast became one of the most popular dishes in the state of Texas, and across the rest of America and the world too. Although the main ingredients of the cuisine remain the same; think nachos, enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, chilli and tacos, the dishes have largely evolved over the years. It wouldn’t be right to devour some good ole Tex-Mex food in Dallas without a frozen margarita in hand though – it’s where it was first created back in 1974, and is still a hit with locals and tourists alike today. If you’re looking for the perfect hotel from which to base yourself on your next visit to this Texan city check out Trip.com’s best hotel deals in Dallas.

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

The fairy-tale that is Jackson Square

 

Positioned right on the Mississippi River, near the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is a Louisiana city packing a big punch. Nicknamed the “Big Easy,” New Orleans is famous for its crazy nightlife, fantastic live-music jazz scene and its eclectic cuisine. At the heart of the city you’ll find it’s French Quarter, the oldest part of the city and perhaps its most interesting. Jackson Square is the focal point of the district, complete with a pretty Church, manicured courtyard gardens and horse drawn carriages, making it look like something out of a fairy-tale. The biggest event on the calendar is of course the Mardi Gras parade, a winter carnival with show-stopping costumes, live music and fun filled street parties. New Orleans, and indeed the rest of Louisiana, is however best known for its delicious Creole cuisine; a spicy style of cooking which brings together a mixture of flavours from a whole host of different cultures including Spanish, Indian, Caribbean, West African and Latin American.

Invented in NOLA back in the 18th century, classic Creole dishes include fish and meat soups, shrimps in sauce, rice in gravy, baked chicken, red beans and smothered pork chops. The most popular dishes are gumbo (shrimp, chicken and sausage stew served with rice) and jambalaya (meat and vegetables mixed with rice). For dessert, Creole cuisine offers something for everyone, but NOLA’s most iconic sweet treat is the classic beignet – deep fried choux pastry served with powdered sugar on top and a café au lait (coffee with milk). Visit the world famous Café du Monde down in the French Quarter for the ultimate beignet experience. The café is open 24 hours all day every day and only has four items on the menu: dark-roasted coffee, white and chocolate milk, hot chocolate, freshly squeezed orange juice and, of course, the classic beignets. Whatever your foodie preferences, NOLA caters for all tastes and you’ll be sure to want to take a taste of Creole home with you when you leave the city! If you’re in need of a place to rest your head for a few hours after spending all night ‘dancing in the streets’ check out Trip.com’s best hotel deals in New Orleans.

 

Orlando, Florida

 

The happiest place on earth…

 

Nestled between the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the sunshine state of Florida is one of the most visited areas in the whole of the USA. With hundreds of miles of coastline and a population of over 20 million, Florida is a tropical paradise with gorgeous turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. In particular, Orlando is famed for its designer shopping malls, vibrant seaside resorts and of course it’s enormous theme parks. Nicknamed the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World’, Orlando is home to the Universal resorts, Sea World, Discovery Cove, Legoland, Gatorland, Epcot and the most famous resort on earth, Walt Disney World. Cuisine is Florida is just as famous, with their iconic oranges – you’ll find them everywhere you go – as well as their Cuban inspired mojito’s and of course their very own key lime pie.

Cuisine found in Orlando is typical of All-American dishes and, whilst it mainly consists of fried chicken, French fries and just about any kind of fried food you can find, there are dozens of signature dishes too. Frozen yogurt, or Fro-Yo as Floridians affectionately call it, is super popular over in Orlando, and is much needed during the exhausting heat and tropical temperatures that remain in place all year round. Alligator tail is also a popular dish in the city, deep fried and served with hot sauce and a heap of ranch dressing on the side. Perhaps the most famous piece of Floridian cuisine though is the mouth-watering key lime pie. Invented by ship salvager William Curry in the sunshine state back in the 1800s, Curry became Key West’s first millionaire and his legendary dish is still a hit today. Need somewhere to stay during your holiday with Mickey and Co? Take a look at Trip.com’s top hotel deals in Orlando.

 

NB. This post is brought to you as part of Trip.com’s Underdog Cities campaign but all words and photos are of course my own.

 

So food is pretty BIG in Dallas