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A Royal Day out: Ascot Races

Hi everyone,

I’ve recently returned from my very first Royal Ascot experience and I’m delighted to be sharing this with you all; I had a truly fantastic time and the atmosphere was incredible. Unfortunately my bets didn’t pay off so I didn’t win any mega bucks, but the day was brilliant none the less! So without further ado here is my Amazing Ascot round up…

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We travelled to Ascot as part of a coach trip group leaving from a local Burford pub, The Mermaid, located on the busy high street. I went with my mum, sisters, cousin and aunty and my cousin’s fiancé’s family actually own The Mermaid and they all came with us as well. There was a large group going from the pub and the coach was full so there was a brilliant party atmosphere on board!

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The journey took around an hour and a half and we stopped at a lovely village pub (The George on the Green, nr Maidenhead) on the way for a quick drink before heading towards Ascot. Our ticket price of £45pp included transport there and back, a champagne breakfast and access to The Silver Ring Enclosure at Ascot.

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Upon arrival at The Silver Ring Enclosure we split up in to our separate groups and enjoyed the day with our families. The enclosure is huge and the dress code is much more relaxed than the Grandstand and Royal Enclosures which require you to look very formal and to wear a certain attire. I chose to wear a coral coloured shift dress with matching clutch bag and comfy tan wedged heels. My dress was a bargain from Quiz clothing and I didn’t want to take it off I loved it that much! I would have liked to have worn a fascinator if we weren’t in the Silver Ring, but it wasn’t compulsory and not many other people wore one so I went without!

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The day doesn’t officially start until Her Royal Highness the Queen arrives in the Royal Procession which takes place each day at 2pm. We got a great spot on the sidelines so we could watch the carriages ride past and I got some lovely photos of the Royal family. I’d never seen the Queen before so it was super exciting!

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We placed our bets for the first race and watched the horses gallop past, they were so close we could feel the ground move and it was such a great experience. We moved around the enclosure for the other races that took part throughout the day so we could see the track from different areas. There were tonnes of betting stands dotted around so you could get the best odds on offer. Many race goers took picnics and drinks with them but, if you’re like us and hate carrying things, there’s plenty of food stalls and bars offering a range of products.. just be prepared to pay a bit more than average as it is Ascot after all!

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There are six races in total on each day of Ascot and famous jockeys from all over the world take part and compete for first place. We witnessed horse racing history as we saw the legendary Frankie Dettori win his 50th Ascot race with his horse Osalia. He was congratulated by the Royal family and cheered loudly by the enormous crowds. The racecourse was packed full of around 40,000 people on the day that we went and the atmosphere was electric!

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With a 300 year history, Ascot is a five day long world famous extravaganza best known for its sporting, social and fashion highlights. We had a truly amazing experience and I’d urge everyone to go at least once in their lives as its definitely something to tick off the bucket list! As their strapline says.. Ascot really is Like Nowhere Else..

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Have you ever been to Ascot or are you wanting to go next year? If you’ve been to the races before please comment and show me your best outfits I’d love to see them!

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Love Jess x

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What makes Britain Great?

Hi everyone,

With all the recent Royal Baby Fever that has swept the nation it’s an exciting time to be British so I thought I’d put together an inspiring post of what makes Britain Great! Here’s my personal pick of my top ten favourite places to visit in our lovely country…

1) London

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Steeped in hundreds of years worth of history and offering endless numbers of tourist attractions, the capital city has it all. In my opinion, London is without doubt one of the biggest reasons why tourists flock to Britain year after year. The most iconic landmarks include Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, The London Eye, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey & Buckingham Palace to name but a few. I’ve been going to London many many times since I was young and I never tire of it- I could wander round those streets forever! It’s my dream to live in the city one day and I’m very much determined to make that dream a reality in the not too distant future. London has so much to offer you need a good few days to do it all but there are lots of well organised bus tours and trips that can be done within a day if you are pushed for time. Have a read of my most recent day trip to London here:

2) Stonehenge

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One of the most iconic monuments in English history is the legend of Stonehenge in Wiltshire; a circular group of Stones that were said to have been a place of healing in medieval times. Alleged to have been built in 2000BC, the Stones offer a wealth of history and have been a tourist attraction for hundreds of years. People flock from all over the world to see Stonehenge, and it’s easy to see why with so much history. Also named a UNESCO heritage site, Stonehenge offers an interesting day out for all the family although the entry prices aren’t cheap! As a tip, you can see the Stones from the main road if you don’t want to pay to view them up front!

3) Cornwall

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I’ve been visiting the beautiful county of Cornwall pretty much every year since I was born- it was the first ever holiday I was taken on as a baby and we’ve returned as a family countless times since then. Our most recent visit was in 2007 but we are heading back this July for a week and I’m so excited! The little fishing village of St Ives is my all time favourite part of Cornwall, bringing back so many of my childhood memories with every visit. Situated around the harbour, there is such a buzz about the place and there are lots of things to see and do. Enjoy the famous cream teas in a local Cornish pub, visit the well known Tate Gallery, fish off the end of the harbour, while away the hours with the kids in one of the many sea front arcades or simply relax on the beach. The rest of Cornwall has so much to offer, including the nearby Flambards Themepark at Helston, the mystical Zennor where you can learn about the local mermaid myths, the beautiful beaches of Kynance & Sennen Coves and experience the famous Eden Project at Bodelva. For a truly amazing and magical day out head to Lands End- the place where it really does feel as if you’re standing at the edge of the world.

4) Liverpool

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I’ve grown up visiting Liverpool since I was born and my family are from there but, although I am obviously a bit biased, there are tonnes of reasons why this city is on my list! Named European Capital of Culture in 2008, it’s easy to see why it achieved that impressive title with all the things there are to see and do. The historic Albert Docks are one of my favourite parts of the city and my grandad always has endless stories from his Royal Navy days to tell me & my sisters whenever we visit! Shopping and nightlife in Liverpool are fantastic, with so much choice you’re never stuck for somewhere to go! Head to the new Liverpool One shopping centre for a mix of high street and designer stores, or check out Concert Square for an evening of night time clubbing and entertainment. The historic Cavern Club, where it all began for 60s icons The Beatles, is also a must see attraction. Read my most recent Liverpool write up here:

5) Oxford

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Ok so I know that this one’s going to be biased AGAIN as this is my home city but no visit to the UK is complete without a trip to Oxford! Famous for its first class global university status, Oxford has it all. Go punting on the River Thames, wander round the many impressive Churches or museums, take a picnic in the uni parks or hit the shops on the pretty high street; there really is something for everyone. For me, I love nothing more than exploring the landmarks that are tucked away behind the hidden side streets- don’t miss The Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library and The Bridge of Sighs. Oxford isn’t the largest city so you don’t need too long to see the sights, but you can make the most of your day by hopping on one of the tourist buses and doing everything all at once. A visit to the nearby Blenheim Palace in the picturesque Cotswold village of Woodstock is also an absolute must. It’s the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill so it’s an obvious tourist destination and I’ve blogged about Blenheim ALOT lately as I’ve recently become a season ticket holder, but it really is a fantastic day out for all the family and should definitely be included in a visit to Oxford. Read my latest Blenheim & Oxford write ups here:

6) Bath

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Named a UNESCO world heritage site and famed for its Roman roots, the city of Bath is stunning and well worth a day trip when visiting our historical country. Relax in the thermae spa’s, the only place in the UK where you can bathe in the same natural hot springs as the Celts and Romans did over 2000 years ago. Visit the Roman Bath museum to learn of the origins of the hot springs and the roles they played in Roman times, and listen to an interactive audio commentary as you explore. Other famous attractions are The Royal Crescent and Pultney Bridge which are beautiful pieces of architecture. Dining in Bath is very good, with a lovely selection of bars and restaurants the city caters for all types of appetite. Don’t forget to enjoy afternoon tea with cake and scones at one of the many traditional cafe’s in the heart of the city. Shopping wise, Bath offers a mix of well known high street and designer stores and everything is located close by. Don’t miss the stunning Abbey which is truly spectacular, especially when lit up at night. I visited the Christmas markets a few years ago and there were hundreds of little wooden stalls located in the Abbey grounds, along with carol singing in the Church itself which was just magical. If you have time, climb up to the top of the Abbey for magnificent views across the city.

7) York

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Similar to Bath, the city of York is a rich in romance and culture with history dating back to Roman times. Famed for its winding streets, cobbled roads and one of the largest pedestrian only areas in Europe, York is the perfect place for a quintessentially English break. Take a ghost tour after dark to explore the mythical haunted areas of the city or visit the York Dungeons for a jaw droppingly spooky experience which is fun for the whole family. The Jorvik Viking Centre and the iconic York Minster are also must see attractions. When visiting York I love nothing more than sitting in a cosy little pub enjoying traditional British (and Northern!) pie and chips on a cold winters day. A visit to Betty’s Tea Rooms in the heart of the city is also a must and their world famous cakes aren’t to be missed. York in December is particularly special with all the Christmas markets and the Minster looks even more beautiful especially when lit up at night. There are many bars, restaurants and a few clubs in the city which make for a brilliant night out- just watch your heels on all those cobbles!

8) Bournemouth

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The seaside town of Bournemouth is always popular with tourists and residents alike, especially during the summer months when we catch a rare glimpse of the sun! Typically, our weather over here is incredibly dull and rainy but when the sun shines it’s certainly brightens the place up and hundreds of people flock to our beaches to try and tan their pasty legs! Bournemouth is lined with arcades, bars, cafes and restaurants all along the sea front and the pier is one of the main attractions. Home to a brilliant Sea Life Aquarium, National Exhibition Centre and the best fish and chips in England (Harry Ramsden’s is a must visit!!) Bournemouth is a brilliant day out for all.

9) Stratford upon Avon

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Set on the River Avon in Warwickshire, Stratford is the birthplace of the great William Shakespeare and is a typical example of a historical little English town with lots of attractions on offer. The buildings in Stratford are beautiful, and with so many to marvel at you could easily while away the hours wandering round the streets just admiring the architecture. The centre of the town is situated around the river with canal boats often cruising up and down making their way through each lock. On my most recent visit a couple of years ago I hired a boat and rowed down the river with a friend- on a lovely day it’s a great way to enjoy some fresh air! The Royal Shakespeare Company put on some great shows at their flagship theatre and there are many references to the man himself throughout the town. Visit his birth place and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage to get your fix of tourist attractions. Stratford also has many high street shops, lively bars and pretty pubs if you’re looking to relax and take some time out.

10) The Lake District

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Home to many beautiful national parks, The Lake District is one of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty in the whole country. I’ve been visiting most years since I was little and have never had so much fresh air in one week! I’ve spent hours climbing up mountains and hills, going on endless dog walks, and cruising along the lakes in large boats whilst breathing in the wonderful sea air. The Lake District is a perfect getaway if you’re looking to explore the wilderness and be away from the hustle and bustle of normal city life. The winter is a great time to visit although it does get bitterly cold! Admire the stunning snow topped mountains, cosy up in pubs with roaring log fires, and visit a number of pretty national parks. The Lake District is simply English countryside and landscape at it’s very best.

So there you have it, my list of top ten places to visit in the UK. I’ve also been to many other cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff that haven’t made the top ten but are still worthy of a visit if you are in the country! I’ve primarily been to places that are based in England which is why there is no mention of Scotland and Ireland, but there are also lots of other cities which I am still yet to tick off my list and am planning on visiting in the near future. Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh and Newcastle are in the pipleline for me so hopefully I can squeeze in a few trips sooner rather than later! Are there any places I’ve missed off that you would like to have seen on the list? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love Jess x

N.B All photos are my own, other than the Stonehenge images 1,2 & 3 and York images 3&4 which are from Google Images.

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Blenheim Palace: A brilliant family day out!

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Hi everyone,

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the lovely sunshine we have been having lately! Last Saturday I went on a family day out to the beautiful Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire (the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill!) and had such a fantastic time. We had bought annual passes for my mum for her Mothers Day present so we took the opportunity to use them and spent the whole day at the palace and gardens.

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The arrival to the Palace is truly spectacular, it’s such a beautiful building and looks so impressive from the outside. The interior is equally as stunning and, as this was my first time going in to the Palace since a primary school trip, I couldn’t wait to start exploring properly! We were taken into the Palace bedrooms where Winston Churchill resided and learnt a lot about the history of the rooms. We then joined The Untold Story which outlined the heritage of the Churchill family and took us back in time to the 1700s. The tour was a walk round event but each room had interactive features including touch screen monitors, audio speakers and screen projectors. Lasting for around 30 minutes, the tour was really informative and I’d recommend attending to ensure you make the most out of your visit to the Palace.

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After a short stop for lunch at the on site Cafe we then headed to the Pleasure Gardens to enjoy the afternoon sun. The Pleasure Gardens are a 5-10 minute walk from the Palace or a short train ride away if you prefer to use this method of transport- bear in mind that it will set you back 50p per adult! The Gardens is home to the exotic butterfly house, model village, family maze and children’s play area. You could bring a picnic and easily spend a couple of hours here exploring, and there is a nice restaurant/cafe on site. The maze was brilliant, and yes I did get lost as it was much more difficult than I thought!

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We bought Annual Passes for Blenheim so we can come back as many times as we want and therefore we didn’t experience all that there is on offer. For our next visit we will be taking the dog and going on a long walk around the grounds, so I’ll be sure to write another blog post on this! Blenheim really is a beautiful place and is fun for all the family. As a tip I would definitely recommend getting an Annual Pass as it’s the same price as a 1 day ticket! Don’t forget to head over to the kiosk next door to the Palace Cafe to get your pass. For an extra £5 you can also upgrade to a prestigious card which will get you 15% off all purchases in the cafe and gift shop – definitely worth it!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my Blenheim write up- have you ever been/ever wanted to go? Make sure you do – you won’t regret it! If you have any questions at all please just ask 🙂

Love Jess x

All about the stats!

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Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you’ve all had a good weekend?! I always like to take an extra day to catch up from my notoriously busy Saturday’s & Sunday’s so use Monday’s as a good opportunity to take stock of important things like blog updates & stat counts! When I logged in to WordPress this afternoon I was thrilled to receive a notification stating that my blog was attracting more traffic than usual.. Intrigued, i headed over to my stats section to see what had been going on..

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The weekend tends to be a good time to attract readers to my blog as people tend to be off work browsing the net and are likely to have more free time on their hands, and this weekend was certainly no exception. As you can see from the print screen below, my blog attracted 169 views with 5 visitors in just 24 hours yesterday (Sunday 29th March) – that’s 33.5 views per visitor! For me, that’s a massive achievement given that I’ve been very poorly lately and haven’t blogged in almost two weeks so haven’t had any new material to share with my readers.

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Surprisingly, my blog was viewed by readers in the US over 160 times yesterday as opposed to the minority of just 4 readers based in my home country of the UK which is where most of my audience are from. Although I don’t have the ability to see who my readers are or what area they live in, the country identifier is really handy and I’m always interested to know what parts of the world my blog is reaching out to. It’s incredible to think that my posts are being read internationally, and that’s something which I hope will continue for a long time to come. The table on the left also shows how many times previous posts were viewed, with some of my posts dating back to May last year, so it’s nice to know that people do still read them!

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Finally, referrals are a really important area for me to focus on and I’m constantly wanting to know whether people just happened to stumble across my site on Google or whether they follow me on social media and have linked to my blog via that avenue. Interestingly, most of the referrers in yesterday’s stat review were from WordPress itself which heightens my opinion that it’s best for me to stick with my current WordPress site rather than switching to a self-hosted page. (Read more about my dilemma on this matter here!) It’s also useful to know that Twitter & LinkedIn don’t feature on yesterday’s stat review although a lot of my posts are always shared on those sites. I’ve actually given up Facebook for lent so haven’t been expecting any traffic to come from that, but it’s good to know that at least one referral came from there yesterday!

As mentioned earlier in this post, I haven’t been very well at all lately and actually spent most of last weekend in hospital. I’ve used the past week to recover and focus on getting better which might explain why I haven’t been very active in the blogosphere lately! I’ve got some great posts coming up though, and lots planned for the Easter break which I’m very excited about. Thanks to my lovely readers, as always, for your continued support and I promise to be back to normal soon!

Love Jess x

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The day I became a tourist in my home city: Oxford!

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Hi everyone,

So last weekend I was in my beautiful home city of Oxford doing a bit of Saturday shopping and had a few spare hours to kill whilst waiting for a friend. I wondered whether I should wander aimlessly round the shops trying on dresses that I couldn’t afford, or whether I should do something more useful and get some cool photos for a brand new blog post and so, naturally, I chose the latter option! Firstly I headed in search of the famous Radcliffe Camera which is one of the must-see sights if you are visiting Oxford. After a short stroll off the high street and past Trinity College I came to the Bodleian Library and was in awe of the incredible architecture of this beautiful building.

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The Bodleian Library was home to The Hogwarts Infirmary in the blockbuster Harry Potter film series, and there were Harry Potter tours being carried out while I was there that I was trying to ear wig on! The surroundings really are stunning, so it’s hard not to see why it was chosen as a location for one of the country’s biggest films. IMG_30579857334588IMG_30572826134741 IMG_30618858017206

Next I found myself on Magdalen Street walking past the famous five star Randolph Hotel; what I would give to spend a night of luxury there! Directly opposite The Randolph is the beautiful Ashmolean Museum which is one of my favourite attractions in Oxford. Having been on plenty of school trips here when I was younger I know they it’s home to some of the best historical artefacts in the world . Entry is free so make the most of it and while away a few hours in this incredible building when your visiting.

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Finally I strolled back up towards the high street and past the Carfax Tower before catching up with my friend and going for dinner on the way home. We headed to Jacobs Inn, Wolvercote which I’d heard great things about and couldn’t wait to try for myself! I had the chicken pie and my friend opted for a burger – the food was great and the atmosphere was lovely, a spacious nut warm and welcoming pub right on the river Thames. We couldn’t have picked a better spot to enjoy some early evening dinner! You can read my review on Jacobs Inn here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g186361-d4606454-r253493733-Jacobs_Inn-Oxford_Oxfordshire_England.html#REVIEWS

I had a wonderful day being a tourist in my home city and can honestly say it’s been one of the most refreshing things I’ve done in a long time. It just goes to show that sometimes you don’t need to travel far to have a great day out.. things can be on your doorstep and, of course, life is what you make it! So next time your on your daily commute or are visiting somewhere you’ve been 100 times before just stop and spend a few minutes pretending that this is your first visit and see where your travel instinct takes you!

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Love Jess x