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48 Hours in Valencia: The Perfect Spanish City Break

 

 

Beautiful Valencia. Famed for its football team, its extra long beach and for being the home of everyone’s favourite Spanish dish, Paella. The third largest city in Spain, Valencia was the second stop on my recent interrailing trip with my sister, breaking up the journey between Madrid and Barcelona. It was equally as beautiful but much less touristy than the other two cities, which we actually loved and it felt so nice to explore somewhere that wasn’t super crowded. We stayed just outside of the old town centre, in the new modern area, but within walking distance to the old town and all its attractions. Valencia is almost like a city of two halves; its old town square being home to the historic cathedral and bell towers, and then the more modern part of the city with its enormous Oceanarium, bioparc and state-of-the-art science and culture park. Although we only had 48 hours in Valencia, we felt this was definitely enough time to see everything and tick off plenty of the best known sights from our list. Here’s what we got up to, and what I would recommend you do there too…

 

Discover the gothic architecture

 

views from Valencia cathedral

Views from the top of Valencia Cathedral

 

Did you know that Valencia has its very own Gothic architecture? Influenced by the city’s Roman past and Mediterranean construction techniques between the 12th and 15th centuries, some of Valencia’s most popular landmarks represent this type of Gothic architecture. The main square, Placa de L’Amoina, is where the gorgeous Valencia Cathedral is located, along with it’s adjoining bell tower and incredibly ornate interiors, with the ceiling said to be inspired by Rome’s Sistine Chapel. The cobbled streets surrounding the cathedral are brimming with shops, bars, café’s and restaurants , and you can climb the tower for stunning panoramic views over the entire city below. Whilst wandering the streets during our 48 hours in Valencia, we found a super cool area called Plaza Redonda, a unique area filled with tapas restaurants and boutique stores laid out in a round circle, offering traditional Spanish food and souvenirs. La Lonja de La Seda, otherwise known as The Silk Exchange, is a one of the most civil Gothic monuments in Europe with history dating back to the 15th century, and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

 

Walk through Jardin del Turia

 

Torres de Serranos Valencia

The Torres de Serranos lit up at night

 

Spanning nine kilometres of lush gardens, winding foot paths and sports areas, the Turia Gardens (or Jardin del Turia) is one of the largest urban parks in Spain and runs alongside the former River Turia that once meandered its way through the city. Torres de Serranos is the gateway to the old style Valencia, linking the gardens and the new town with the history of ancient monuments in the old town. We actually walked through the gardens to get from our hotel to the old town many times during our 48 hours in Valencia and the walk was so lovely, with plenty of trees, flowers and plants lining the pathways. The walk between the towns takes around 20-30 minutes depending on how fast or slowly you’re going, and you’ll pass no less than 18 bridges above you as you make your way there. As well as being the gateway to the old town, the gardens are sprinkled with modern touches and are also home to the City of Arts and Sciences centre and plenty of sports and recreational areas with football pitches and tennis courts too.

 

Chill out on Malvarossa Playa

 

palm trees on the beach in valencia

The palm trees at Malvarossa Playa

 

I wasn’t sure if we would have time to head to the beach during your short 48 hours in Valencia, but I am so glad we did as it was definitely one of the highlights of our time there! Instead of spending an afternoon there soaking up the midday sun, we actually headed over at around 5pm to catch the last parts of the early evening sunshine and still got to enjoy the heat whilst we were there. We headed for dinner on the beachfront and enjoyed a cocktail or three as the sun started to set behind us. Malvarossa Playa was super lively and there was so much going on that we could have easily spent another day/night checking out all the other bars and restaurants. There’s also plenty of water-sports action if that’s what you’re in to, and the long stretch of sand makes the perfect place for a spot of sunbathing.

 

Visit the Oceanografic Centre

 

Valencia's Oceanografic Centre

Photo credit: www.musement.com
Valencia’s Oceanografic Centre

 

Located in the Arts and Sciences complex at Jardin del Turia, and with impressive architecture that looks similar to Sydney’s iconic Opera House, the Oceanografic Centre is one of the tourist attractions that’s a real must see during your 48 hours in Valencia. Laid out over two levels, with nine underwater towers housing over 45,000 marine species, the Oceanografic Centre is considered to be more of a training and research centre as opposed to a zoological park, making it an aquarium like no other. Split into ten geographical areas, from the Mediterranean and tropical seas to the polar oceans of the Arctic and Antarctic, you’ll spot more than 500 different species of marine life, including sharks, sea lions, manta rays and penguins. There’s also a separate dolphinarium, with training talks and daily feeds as well as shows at the auditorium which seats over 2000 people. If all the fantastic marine life isn’t enough to tempt you to the Oceanografic Centre during your 48 hours in Valencia, I’d highly recommend checking out the underwater restaurant where you can sit and watch some of the amazing species of fish swim right past you as you dine.

 

Where to Eat

 

valencia's central plaza

The central plaza in Valencia – great for eating out!

 

There are an abundance of restaurants, café’s and bars to choose from during your 48 hours in Valencia, most of which can be found in the old town, on the streets that lead from Placa de L’Amoina, where the cathedral is located. On our first night we ate in a tiny restaurant overlooking the cathedral, which was super cute and really cheap considering how good the location was. Our pizzas cost around 10 euros, and we had a cocktail each too. On our second night we hopped in a taxi from the old town square to Malvarossa Playa, the long stretch of sandy beach that I mentioned earlier on in this post. There were so many lively restaurants and bars to choose from, and there was even a club at the end of the pier too. We ate in a small beach bar that served an eclectic menu of Spanish and Italian dishes and enjoyed great sea views as we dined. We stayed out quite late that evening as it was a Saturday night and we were hitting up the cocktail bars, but a taxi back to our hotel was only 10-15 euros and was around a 20 minute drive away.

 

Where to Stay

 

The Expo Hotel Valencia

The rooftop pool at The Expo Hotel Valencia

 

We stayed out of the old town, in the new area with the El Cortes Ingles shopping centre just behind us which seemed to be v popular in Spain! Our hotel, The Expo Hotel, was around a 5-10 min taxi ride from the train station, where we came in and out of because we were interrailing, but it wasn’t too far from the airport either. A 20 minute walk through the Jardin del Turia took us under some of the historic bridges and through the gate at Torres de Serranos which marked the entrance to the old town. The Expo Hotel had a rooftop bar and terrace with fantastic city views which we loved, as well as a rooftop swimming pool too! It was super handy having the shopping centre right behind us and there was a courtyard of restaurants to choose from too if you didn’t fancy walking all the way into the old town for dinner. We ate lunch in one of the restaurants on the day it was raining and it felt like we were locals not tourists! Our room was spacious and modern, and the hotel was really stylish throughout, in a great location. If you want to stay in the heart of the action during your 48 hours in Valencia, I would recommend staying in the old town instead to really soak up the atmosphere.

 

My sister and I absolutely adored this city, and we discovered that 48 hours in Valencia was definitely enough time to explore and take everything in. We loved relaxing on the beach, enjoying the amazing foodie scene and admiring the gothic architecture. Valencia felt like true authentic Span, more like one of the Balearic islands than one of it’s cities, and I felt it was super similar to Palma in Mallorca with it’s ancient landmarks combined with lively nightlife. We had a fantastic 48 hours in Valencia and I would recommend this city to anyone looking for a true taste of Spain in a really beautiful city. Have you been to Valencia before? I would love to know what you got up to over there!

 

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Two Nights in Madrid: Visiting the Spanish Capital

 

 

Only have two nights in Madrid? Don’t worry, I did too, and I promise you’ll have enough time to see most of the sights and explore as much as you can during your short time there! Madrid was the first stop on my recent Spanish interrailing adventure with my sister, where we took in the beautiful cities of Barcelona and Valencia too, and what better place to begin than the beautiful capital city? From the lively squares of Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol to the Royal Palace and the Temple of Debod, there’s so much to see and do that you’ll want to return again and again. Here’s what we got up to during our two nights in Madrid, and some top tips for making the most of your visit there too.

 

Visit The Royal Palace

royal palace of madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid

 

One of the cities most famous attractions, the Royal Palace of Madrid should be the first thing you tick off your list during your two nights in Madrid. The palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family and was built back in 1735. With over 3400 rooms and one million square feet of floor space inside, it’s the largest functioning royal palace in Europe. Today, both the palace and gardens are open to the public during certain times and are certainly worth a visit. My sister and I kickstarted our two nights in Madrid by wandering around the gardens and admiring the palace’s extraordinary architecture from the outside. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go inside and do a tour as they only ran at certain times of the day, but we climbed the rooftop of the cathedral opposite to get a good birds eye view of the palace and its forecourt. We did manage to watch the Changing of the Guard though, which takes place every Wednesday and Saturday at 11am.

TOP TIP: If you’re an EU citizen, admission to the palace is free Mon-Fri 4pm-6pm from Oct-Mar and Mon-Fri 6pm-8pm from Apr-Sept. Quick, make the most of it before Brexit happens guys 😉

 

Chill out in El Retiro Park

 

el retiro park

The beautiful El Retiro Park

 

This was one of my favourite spots of Madrid because my sister and I stumbled upon it purely by chance whilst we were out wandering around the city on our first day. Located off the Gran Via, the main shopping district, El Retiro Park is a gorgeous green space stretching over 125 hectares with flowers, trees and plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by. There are small bars and cafes selling snacks, lunches, drinks and ice creams, as well as a gorgeous blue lake where you can rent a paddle boat and row across the water. The park is huge and is also home to Palacio de Cristal, a glass palace overlooking a huge pond filled with hundreds of tiny terrapins, and the Teatro de Titeres, the only theatre in Europe that puts on puppet shows every weekend! We walked a lot on our first day and rewarded ourselves with an ice cream and a mini siesta in the sunshine at El Retiro Park, but we could have easily spent longer there as it was such a beautiful place and didn’t feel too touristy either.

 

Soak up ancient history at The Temple of Debod

 

the temple of debod

The Ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod

 

I am an absolute sucker for ancient history, particularly anything to do with Greek or Egyptian stuff, so when I found out that Madrid was home to an second century Egyptian temple I just HAD to go and check it out! Built waaaay back in 200 BC, the Temple of Debod was under threat in Egypt many moons later in 1960 due to the construction of the Aswan Dam. When Spain stepped into help with saving this and the nearby Abu Simbel temples, the Egyptian state donated Debod to the country in 1968. The temple was dismantled and flown over to Madrid, then rebuilt in Parque del Oeste, right near the Royal Palace. Since 1972, the modified Temple of Debod has been open to the public; entrance is free, but make sure you’re prepared to queue as only a small number of visitors are allowed in at a time. It really is a fascinating temple, with hieroglyphics and ancient markings carved into the walls, and it’s one of the few ancient pieces of Egyptian architecture that you can see outside of Egypt.

 

Explore the many cathedrals 

 

The beautiful Almudena Cathedral

The ornate Almudena Cathedral

 

The capital of Spain has GOT to have it’s fair share of cathedrals, right? Correct! There are plenty of churches and cathedrals to see during your two nights in Madrid, with some of the most stunning architecture and gothic style features. We made our way over to the Church of San Francisco, which was unfortunately closed when we got there but the gorgeous rose garden behind it was well worth a visit, with pretty views over to the city in the distance. We also visited the Crypt at Almudena Cathedral, a Neo-Romanesque church built below the ground that houses hundreds of ancient tombs as well as a 16th century image of the Virgen de la Almudena. The star of the show however has to be the beautiful Almudena Cathedral itself, located right opposite the Royal Place of Madrid. Construction began back in 1879 but was not completed until 1993, the same year it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. Nowadays, the cathedral is arguably one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, and you can climb the staircase to the rooftop for breath-taking panoramic views across the city below, and visit the onsite museum too.

 

Go shopping along the Gran Via

 

The buildings along the Gran Via are nothing short of spectacular

The magnificent buildings along the Gran Via

 

Likened to London’s West End, I enjoyed the Gran Via way more than I thought I would and actually loved strolling along it each day when we were getting around the city walking to and from our hotel. With gothic style buildings and designer stores lining the streets, the Gran Via was super lively both during the day and at night too. There were a handful of casinos and nightclubs as well as grand theatres showing amazing West End and Broadway shows like Anastasia the Musical, Ghost and The Lion King, making the Gran Via a fantastic entertainment district for locals and tourists alike. The Gran Via is absolutely buzzing at any time of day, and is the beating heart of the city, especially after dark when everything is lit up and it becomes a real hub with everything staying open until the early hours. You certainly won’t be short of things to see and do during your two nights in Madrid if you base yourself close to the Gran Via!

 

Where to eat

 

the colourful plaza mayor

The colourful Plaza Mayor is a great place to eat out

 

I suppose the bad thing about only having two nights in Madrid is that you can only try a handful of restaurants during your short stay, which is super annoying given that the foodie scene in the city is AMAZING! On our first night we ate at an authentic tapas restaurant just off the Gran Via and indulged in allll the patatas bravas, cheese and chorizo washed down with sangria. On night two we headed to Puerta del Sol to a tiny Italian restaurant just off the main square and ate up some delicious pasta. For lunches we did the classic supermarket food ‘picnic’ as we were out exploring all day everyday and were happy to just eat on the go so we could splurge in the evenings, but there were tonnes of cool places to stop for lunch too. The colourful Plaza Mayor, pictured above, also looked like a fantastic place to eat out as it was lined with tonnes of restaurants, but it looked quite a lot pricier than some of the other nearby restaurants. For something a little different, check out Mercado San Miguel, a covered market with bars and mini cafe’s serving every kind of Spanish food and drink you can think of, located a 5min walk from Plaza Mayor.

 

Where to stay

 

views over to the red rooftops from our hotel room

Views over the Madrid skyline from our hotel room

 

During our two nights in Madrid we stayed at the Hotel Madrid Plaza Espana by Melia, a stylish hotel right on the Gran Via, at the heart of the city. After taking the metro from the airport (tubes run every 5 mins from 6am-2am at either T2 or T4 and cost 3EUR per journey plus a small 2EUR airport supplement) we got off at the Plaza de Espana stop and our hotel was literally opposite, just a 10 second walk away. The hotel was in the perfect location for exploring all that Madrid had to offer and we walked absolutely everywhere, only using the metro on our last day to get us over to the train station. Our room was huge with spacious beds and modern bathrooms, and the view from our window wasn’t bad either! Make sure you ask for a room on one of the higher floors to get views like this too. There were other Melia hotels to choose from in Madrid, as well as Eurostars properties too, but we had a fantastic say at our Plaza Espana Melia and I would definitely stay here again if I ever came back to Madrid.

 

Although two nights in Madrid was enough time to tick off pretty much everything that we wanted to, there was so much going on that you could easily spend another day or two wandering around the city and discovering even more. Madrid is a charming place and we fell in love with the foodie scene, the ancient landmarks, the gorgeous green spaces (v unusual in a city as large as Madrid), and the great nightlife. Have you ever spent two nights in Madrid (or longer) before? I’d love to know what you thought of it too!

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Cairns to Brisbane Road Trip: Travelling Australia’s East Coast

 

 

 

Ahh Australia’s East Coast… somewhere that should be on EVERYONE’S bucket lists if you’re heading Down Under! Whilst making my way around Oz on my six week adventure there back in March, I was really looking forward to exploring new states and cities on the East Coast after spending the first three weeks of my trip exploring Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory. My 10 day Cairns to Brisbane road trip took in the likes of Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays and Fraser Island along the way. I booked my East Coast trip through Topdeck Travel, a fantastic tour company who offer group tours for 18-39 year olds, similar to the Contiki I did in America back in 2016! I had an amazing time travelling Australia’s East Coast and really loved exploring a side to the country that was totally different to the vast Outback and the Great Ocean Road! Here’s the lo-down of my Cairns to Brisbane road trip, and everything I would recommend you see when planning your own East Coast adventure too…

 

Cairns – Magnetic Island

 

 

After meeting my new tour mates and having a full introduction from the Topdeck team at our Cairns hotel, the first day of our tour was spent exploring all that Cairns had to offer. Despite having already spent 2 nights in Cairns prior to the tour starting, it was actually really nice to spend more time exploring the city whilst getting to know my new tour mates at the same time. Some of the group decided to just chill out by the lagoon and stay in the centre, whilst others opted for high adrenaline sports including white water rafting and bungee jumping. I decided to join the rest of the group in doing a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest after my trip to Cape Tribulation was cancelled the day before due to bad weather! We rode a cable car over the forest below, went on a boardwalk amongst the trees, admired the awesome Barron Falls waterfall and walked around the tiny village of Kuranda. After lunch we then hopped on the Kuranda Express and took the train all the way back to Cairns. I absolutely loved exploring the rainforest as it enabled me to see a totally different side to Australia.

After a heavy night of dancing and drinking until the early hours on the first night of our tour, we were all up early and were ready for a day some of us had waited our whole lives for… it was time to head out to THE GREAT BARRIER REEF! Ahhh I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get my wetsuit on and jump in that gorgeous blue sea. I have to say, snorkelling the GBR was absolutely incredible and one of the best things I’ve ever done. I saw hundreds of different species of fish of all sizes, shapes and colours, a whole host of beautiful coral reefs and even came face to face with a small shark at one point! We spent most of the day out at sea, enjoying lunch on the boat as we sailed and we did two separate dives; the day was truly magical and I am so happy I got to tick the snorkelling off my bucket list!

 

Magnetic Island – Whitsundays

 

 

After spending 4 long days in Cairns (2 on the tour and 2 just before the tour started) I was totally ready to move on and explore somewhere new so was looking forward to heading to Townsville ready for our next destination. After around 5 hours of driving we made it to Townsville in time to catch the ferry over to Magnetic Island where we were spending the night. The ferry was only a short crossing and we were soon arriving onto Maggie Island, a world heritage listed island right on the Great Barrier Reef that’s teeming with sandy beaches, tropical fish and brightly coloured reefs. Shortly after arrival, we were ready to check in to our cute little motel in Arcadia with gorgeous sea views. I joined a few of my tour mates on an afternoon hike up to the historic world war two forts which were used by the Australian army to defend their coastline. We passed some fantastic 360 degree views of the sea from the top of the fortifications along the way and even spotted a few koalas resting sleepily in the trees. After our hike we spent some time on the pretty Alma Bay beach before chilling at the pool on our resort.

After dinner at the motel, we headed out to watch the sun set over the sea and went to the nearby rocks to feed the resident wallabies which was super cute! Our evening was spent having drinks at the one and only nightclub on the entire island, Base Backpackers, before heading back to our motel in Arcadia to get a good night’s sleep. The next morning we headed to Bungalow Bay Koala Village, the only accommodation resort in Australia that has it’s very own wildlife park on site! Sadly we weren’t staying here and were just visiting for the day, but we got to meet all the classic Aussie animals including koalas, crocs, snakes, echidnas, possums and even Harry the wombat who was HUGE but just the cutest thing! We held tropical birds and snakes on our hands and round our necks and petted the koalas and wombats too. After our visit to Bungalow Bay it was time to leave Maggie Island behind as we headed back to Townsville to continue with our Cairns to Brisbane road trip.

 

Whitsundays – Airlie Beach

 

 

This was the part of the trip that I was actually dreading the most as I get sooo sea sick and was terrified it was going to ruin my entire experience! After getting off the boat back in Townsville, we left the bus (and our suitcases) behind and boarded our very own private yacht ready for overnight sailing in the beautiful Whitsundays, a cluster of 74 islands off the central coast of Queensland founded by Captain Cook. After we had left our overnight bags and ditched our shoes on the boat we set sail and cruised along the beautiful Coral Sea, lapping up the waves and gazing at the sparkling turquoise waters blow. Shortly after, we arrived at our first stop, Whitehaven Beach, a natural wonder famed for its pure white sands that should be on everyone’s Aussie bucket lists! Unfortunately the weather was awful whilst we were there and it rained non-stop (typical), but we donned our stinger suits and swam in the waters where we saw tropical fish aplenty and some of our group even saw sharks and sting rays.

Back on the boat we wolfed down our lunch that was cooked on-board and sailed further out to sea, stopping again for a second time a few hours later to give people the option for more snorkelling or swimming as the boat stopped in the middle of the ocean. We sailed for another few hours, enjoying an incredible sunset along the way, before having dinner and drinks as it started to get dark. The anchor then docked for the night as we settled down in our cabins ready to catch some Z’s. Unfortunately I was starting to feel a little nauseous by that point, although my sea sickness tablets/patches had been amazing, so I opted to go on the sleeper boat in the hope that I would actually get a good night’s kip. Most of my tour mates were getting drunk and I wasn’t really feeling it so I am glad there was a more chilled option for those of us who wanted to chill out and Topdeck catered well for instances like this!

 

Airlie Beach – Myella Farm Stay

 

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Airlie Beach… The heart of the reef, the gateway to the Whitsundays and one of the most laid back places in #Queensland! 🇦🇺 Situated between Cairns and Brisbane, #AirlieBeach makes the perfect stop to break up the journey between these 2 epic cities, and will give you the chance to explore some of Australia's best beaches and it's gorgeous blue sea 🌊 I only spent a night here whilst making my way down from #Cairns to #Brisbane on my 10 day Topdeck tour back in March, but I had just spent the previous couple of days sailing the world famous #Whitsundays which was incredible ⚓️ Have you been to this part of #Australia before? I'll be writing up my East Coast guide on the blog very soon and can't wait to share my next instalment from my trip Down Under with you all 🌎 #JessDoesAustralia #TakeMeBack #EastCoastin #DownUnder #Topdecker

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Our second day on board our boat was spent sailing further out to sea and taking yet more swimming stops as we visited Blue Pearl Bay to try and see some more amazing marine life. We had actually seen a shark and baby dolphins the night before from top deck of our boat which was a real treat so I was keeping an eye out for some more activity! Unfortunately it rained again on our second day so the water wasn’t as clear as we’d hoped for, and the snorkelling wasn’t great either, but we did enjoy sailing for another few hours and having another great lunch before we disembarked the boat. After our overnight Whitsundays sailing had come to an end, and as we made our way into Airlie Beach, we spent time exploring the lagoon and the shops before having dinner and drinks in one of the most popular backpacker resorts in Australia. Our hotel for the night was the Mantra Club Croc which was amazing and the rooms were so luxurious – something that was much needed after an uncomfortable night’s sleep on a boat and I was so glad to be back on land!

 

Myella Farm Stay – Fraser Island

 

 

The next morning we enjoyed a hearty breakfast ahead of our longest driving day of the entire trip – a whopping 8 hours – ready to head to Myella Farm, a traditional working farm ran by a local family who welcomed us all with open arms. We spent two nights on the farm and took part in activities including horse riding, lassoing and feeding the baby joeys as well as enjoying some of the best home cooked meals we’d ever had! We went for sunset walks on the ranch, drives around the estate and chilled out in our hammocks whilst catching some rays. I spent time reading my book, contacting family and friends back home and doing some laundry too as we hadn’t had much chance to do any since our tour started. It was so lovely to experience a traditional way of Australian farm life for these two days and we also used it as a chance to recharge our batteries after a whirlwind start to our crazy Cairns to Brisbane road trip.

 

Fraser Island – Brisbane

 

 

The penultimate stop on our tour, and somewhere that I was super excited to visit, was the one and only FRASER ISLAND! Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest sand island in the world, Fraser boasts Queensland’s longest beach which stretches for 75 miles. We made the long drive from Myella Farm, stopping at Bundaberg to check out their famous rum distillery along the way, and then caught a ferry over in the afternoon. We started our time on Fraser with a four wheel driving experience across the bumpy sand. Shortly after, we went on an epic rainforest walk swapping sand for trees, and were then taken back to our Wilderness Lodges ready for dinner and a night of dancing in the tiny nightclub! Day 2 of Fraser was probably my favourite day of the entire trip as we packed SO much in to such a short amount of time. First up was tubing down Eli Creek and exploring the Maheno Shipwreck before jumping on an optional scenic flight over the entire island below which was amazing! After coming back down to earth, we spent the afternoon swimming in Lake Mackenzie, the bluest water I’ve ever seen, and even did some stand up paddle boarding too.

Night two of Fraser was our last official night on tour as a group as loads of us were jumping off in Brisbane the next day (myself included) so we wanted to enjoy one last evening together. We had a lovely sit down meal followed by more dancing and drinking at our lodges/the bar. Our last morning was spent enjoying one final breakfast together before we all hopped on the ferry back to the mainland and got back on the bus for the last time (sob!). We then had a 5 hour drive as we made our way over to Noosa where we had a few hours to stop for lunch and do some exploring. I had no idea what to expect from Noosa at all but really enjoyed walking up to Noosa Heads and the Fairy Pools for some epic ocean views. Only a few of us took part in this hike, and we were actually back late to the bus because we lost track of time (oops!) but I’m so glad we did it. Our final stop on the way down to Brisbane was at the Glasshouse Mountains, a set of dormant volacanoes that dominated the skyline. After a few more hours of driving we FINALLY reached the lively city of Brisbane ready to say goodbye to all our Topdeck pals. There were hugs and tears aplenty as those of us who were leaving got ready to wave everyone off, but I actually stayed one more night for a final dinner and drinks with the crew before my lovely friend Amy picked me up the next morning and my Cairns to Brisbane road trip came to an end!

 

 

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Dreaming of #Australia on today's #TravelTuesday 🇦🇺 I had no idea what to expect from #Noosa before I arrived as part of my @topdecktravel tour when I travelled the #EastCoast from #Cairns to #Brisbane but I was pleasantly surprised ☀️ I hit up the shops, explored the food markets, went to the beach and even hiked up to Noosa Heads and the magical Fairy Pools ✨ Me and some of my tour mates had so much fun exploring that we forgot what time it was and were late back to the bus that was waiting for us! 🙈 We ended up running like mad to try and make it to the bus as quickly as possible and I ran so fast I felt sick but it was allllll worth it for the incredible photos I took of these beautiful sea views 🌊 Has anywhere really surprised you before? I'll be publishing my East Coast Road Trip very soon on the blog and can't wait to share it with you all! 🌎 . . . #jessdoesaustralia #australia_shotz #australiagram #discoveraustralia #aussielife #noosaheads #noosanationalpark #noosafairypools #queensland #igersaustralia #igersnoosa #igersqueensland #roadtrip #eastcoastaustralia #topdecker #topdecktravel #cairnstobrisbane #downunder #australia_oz #australiatrip #travelblogger #darlingescapes #wanderlust #mytinyatlas

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As you can tell, I had a brilliant time on my Cairns to Brisbane road trip and absolutely adored travelling Australia’s East Coast. From snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and sailing the Whitsundays to feeding baby kanga’s at Myella Farm and flying over Fraser Island, I ticked plenty of Aussie bucket list items off my list and made 30 new friends whilst I was at it! A Topdeck tour is a great way of getting around Australia and seeing a large amount of the country in such a short time, so I would definitely recommend them if you’re looking to do an East Coast tour like I did! The final instalment of my Australia posts will be coming soon, and I’ll be sharing the last part of my journey from Brisbane-Sydney. Writing these posts is so much fun and is giving me so much nostalgia, but it’s also giving me serious travel blues and making me miss Australia even more! Take me backkkkkkkk.

 

 

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A Greek Blogging Event with Jet2: JetMeToTheGreek

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic networking event in London with Jet2, one of the UK’s leading airlines and holiday search engines. Alongside 30 other travel and food bloggers, I was invited to a Greek cookery class at funky venue Jenius Social in Islington to whip up some fantastic Mediterranean treats and was able to learn all about Jet2’s new destinations of Lefka and Parga whilst stuffing my face with souvlaki, feta and allll the Grecian goodies you could think of.

 

 

Upon arrival we were welcomed with a cold glass of fizz and a big smiley hello from the Jet2 girls Frankie and Fran, who were so lovely and super friendly. I had met Frankie before as we’d been on the Traverse/Jet2 Must See Menorca trip together back in 2017 and have stayed in touch on social media ever since. I didn’t really know many people who were going to the event other than the lovely Danielle, who I became firm friends with and Traverse 2019 back in June, and Georgie who I also spent a week with on the Menorca trip! I never really get nervous at events now as I’ve been to so many, and this one was super causal and felt very chilled, so I instantly clicked with a couple of the other girls and spent time talking to Hanna, Char and Katie too – we’d spoken on Twitter a few times and it was so nice to finally meet some internet friends in real life!

 

Our cookery class was soon well underway as all 30 of us headed into the kitchen and took our places at one of the many workbenches that had been set up for us. We had an intro from the lovely chef and then were told what dishes we were going to make. I have recently become semi vegetarian as I don’t eat red meat at all and only occasionally eat chicken, so I was a little worried that I’d be limited on what I could eat, but as the Greeks traditionally have a diet which is rich in vegetables and meat free ingredients I needn’t have worried and I ended up eating every single dish that we made!

 

 

From starters of feta salads and stuffed peppers and tomatoes to sides of spanakopitakia (spinach and cheese parcels) and mains of souvlaki and chicken skewers in pitta bread, every single dish we made tasted absolutely amazing and was super easy to follow after being shown the steps for each dish in the cookery class. The recipes were even emailed to us after the event so we could cook them at home for our friends and family and I really want to do this at some point because I’d forgotten how easy it is to whip up some amazing Greek food!

 

 

Shortly after all the dishes were made we sat down to dinner at the cute tables that were laid out for us by the Jet2 team and devoured all the yummy food we’d just cooked whilst chatting away to each other. Shortly after we all took part in a Greek themed quiz and the star prize was a holiday to one of Jet2’s new destinations of Lefka or Parga. Unfortunately I didn’t win as I was pretty rubbish at the quiz but one of the girls got the highest score so she was the worthy winner!

 

 

I had a great time at the JetMeToTheGreek event and really loved learning about their new destinations as well as trying my hand at something new as I had never taken part in a cookery class before! All the fellow bloggers were so friendly and the teams from Jet2 and Jenius Social were amazing. I loved the fact that the event was on a Saturday night as it meant I could actually attend; I am fed up of being invited to events in London on a Tuesday at 7pm when it’s impossible for me to get there because I work full time! Anyway, this event was a total breath of fresh air and  I think it’s time to get me back to Greece now, what do you think?! Pass me that tzatziki…

 

 

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A Little Life Update: What’s New For 2019

Hi everyone,

I’m not quite sure how it’s the middle of July all of a sudden, time is FLYING by more than ever this year and the last six months have certainly been a whirlwind! I thought I’d just do a little life update post for you as I try to do these a few times throughout the year, just to inject a bit more personality into my blog, and to break up all the travel content that I constantly seem to be churning out! As we are well into July, I thought now would be a good time to take a step back and see how things have been going, and to update you on some big life changes too! Here goes…

I quit my job & spent 4 months travelling and blogging full time

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This is the face of a girl who's just finished her last Monday at work! 😬😬 Really excited to share some news with you all… 🙈 1. I'm quitting my job (again) sorry mum 😂 2. I've been offered an internship at the Sunday Times Travel Magazine to see how the world of journalism works! Roll on 2 weeks in London for lots of learning 💻 3. In March I'm off to travel round Australia all by myself! This trip is an absolute dream come true and I can't wait to spend 6 weeks exploring the other side of the world 🇦🇺 After that I've got trips to Scotland, Spain, Italy & Greece lined up between May & September so I've got another busy year of travel coming up and I couldn't be more excited! 🌍 I've taken another leap of faith to give myself a better and brighter future and I'm soooo ready for my new chapter to begin!! 2019, let's do thissss 🙌 #MondayMotivation #NewBeginnings #BringItOn

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After deciding I was going to hand my notice in at work in January, I left my full time job at luxury travel firm Abercrombie and Kent in February in order to backpack around Australia. Before that though, I spent 2 weeks in London interning at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine which was super fun! My month and a half in Australia was totally life changing and I had the best trip ever travelling from Melbourne – Sydney and everywhere in between! I blogged full time from March-June whilst also visiting Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Scotland, the Lake District, Verona and Trento after I returned from Oz in April, so I’ve certainly had a busy few months of travel!

I got a new puppy

Eeeek as well as backpacking my way around Australia, this was another one of the most exciting things to happen this year – we got a frigging PUPPY!!! Lola is a cavapoo pup which means she’s crossed with a cavalier spaniel and a miniature poodle. She was 9 weeks old when we got her and was the tiniest little bundle of fluff, but now she’s a spritely 8 month old who loves walkies, cuddles and running around the house chewing everything in sight! She has bought so much joy into our lives after we lost our beautiful Westie Cassie back in 2017 and we can’t imagine our lives without Lola now!

I celebrated my 5 year blog anniversary

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Sooo I just wanted to come on here and let you all know that Journeys with Jessica celebrated its 5th birthday this week! 5th!! That is CRAZYYYY! 😱 I remember when I started my little blog, back in 2014, when I was 21 years old and my world had just been turned upside down for all the wrong reasons. An awful relationship break up left me with no motivation, no energy, no desire to carry on and make something of my life. For 3 months I barely ate or slept. I was broken and didn't think I'd ever be happy again, until I started to travel and I started my blog. I didn't know it back then, but the decision I made to start travelling actually changed my life. 🌎 Instead of wallowing in self pity and worrying about trying to change the past, I started to look forward. I started to plan trips, book short weekend stays and long weeks away, and I started to live again. I couldn't fall in love with anyone else, but I did fall in love with travelling, and to this day it's been the best decision I've ever made. ❤️ I've driven across Route 66 in America, rode the Great Ocean Road in Australia, inter-railed around Europe, cruised around the Med and visited 28 countries by the age of 26. I've helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been on a gondola in Venice, climbed the Eiffel Tower, skydived over Uluru, flew over Fraser Island and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef. Sometimes I can't believe how much I've done and I have to pinch myself that this has been my life. 🎉 So if anyone out there is ever feeling like I did 5 years ago, or if you're not sure where your life is heading and need to make some changes, I urge you to travel. To discover new places, to meet new faces, to live a different life. 5 years from now I hope I'm still in love with travel, that I'm going to more countries than ever before and that I'm even happier than I am now. 🌟

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Back in May I celebrated my little blog turning 5 years old and I still can’t quite believe it. Who’d have ever thought that my little space on the internet would ever reach the grand old age of 5?! I certainly never thought it would happen, especially when I only set it up as a way of documenting my travels so my mum and dad could read them. Fast forward half a decade and my blog now attracts over 7000 page views each month, with almost 10,000 followers on social media. My blog has been a consistent source of income; I’ve been paid for my writing for the past 4 years, I’ve worked with brands on sponsored posts and campaigns and I’ve even been sent on press trips and attended travel conferences, meeting people that I simply would never have met if it wasn’t for my blog. What a 5 years it’s been – roll on the next 5, I can’t wait to see what new heights my blog will reach next!

I won a trip to Riga

Off the back of attending my 4th annual Traverse conference in Italy in June, I was lucky enough to win a trip to the beautiful city of Riga with tourism board Magnetic Latvia who were one of the sponsors this year. I have always wanted to visit Latvia, and Riga in particular, so I was absolutely over the moon when I found out that I’d won free flights and a hotel stay in the quirky Baltic capital. I’m not sure when I’ll be heading to Riga yet, although I’ve got my sights set on December so I can pair it with a Christmas Market visit too. Have you ever been to Riga before? Send me all your blog posts please!

I’ve bagged myself a brand new job

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New week, new month, new JOB! 😬 Eeeek been keeping this under wraps for a little while, but today's the day I start my brand new job at a luxury travel company in Witney. 🌎 I'm so excited to have swapped a 2hr daily commute for a drive that takes me just 8 minutes to get to my new office 🙈 Instead of finishing at 5:30 and not getting home til nearly 7 I'll actually be home before 5:30 which means I can actually have a social life in the evenings and can fit it around working part time on my blog too ❤️ So excited for my new chapter to begin, after 4 months of travelling and spending way too much money I can't wait to get into a proper routine again and start settling down (kind of 😉) Operation 'Jess is saving up for a house' has been resumed! 🏡 #MondayMotivation #NewJob #NewChapter #WishMeLuck

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If all of this wasn’t enough to take on in my life, I only went and got a brand new job too! On the 1st of July I started a new role at Oxford Private Travel, a luxury travel company specialising in tailor made holiday itineraries. It’s similar to my last job at Abercrombie & Kent, although I’ll be dealing with all types of holidays across the world, rather than just being a European villas specialist. I’m on my 4th week at work now and time is absolutely flying by! I’m loving it so much and the role is so varied, allowing me to deal with clients directly and host supplier meetings as well as being responsible for product and even website content meaning I can be creative and throw some writing into my day job rather than just saving it for my blog life. I’ve settled into the team really well, attending a few summer events already and even being asked to join the Social Committee! I feel so happy and content and having no commute (10 min drive as opposed to a 1hr drive in my last job) means I can actually have a social life and do things in the evenings like catch up with friends or focus on my blog. After I got back from Australia I wasn’t sure whether I should continue with the freelance stuff, get a new office job or start a completely new career, but I’ve definitely made the right choice in continuing in the travel industry and I’m super excited to see where this next chapter will take me.

Quite a lot has happened in my little life over the past 6 months, and it’s certainly been one hell of a ride! I spent so much time travelling between February and June (I wasn’t home for more than two weeks at a time for 4 months) and, whilst I don’t regret any of it at all, it’s made me realise I get burnt out so much when I travel and sometimes it’s nice to spend some time at home and take stock of everything once in a while. I am incredibly lucky to have travelled as much as I have done, but right now I want to spend some time at home and focus on building my savings back up so I can look to move out and get my own place within the next 12 months. It’ll mean that I have to cut down on spending, and that means I’ll no doubt have to stop travelling as much, but we all have to make sacrifices in order to achieve things we desperately want, so if not spending as much means I can afford to move out then so be it!

The next life update I write will be at the end of the year, when I’ll be sharing my 2019 round up and letting you know how I got on with my New Years Resolutions that were made back in January. In terms of trips, I’ve got weekends in Manchester, London and Brighton coming up as well as potentially a sunny week in Portugal, a Christmas market trip to Riga and my first work trip to either Menorca or Sardinia – exciting! I don’t want to wish time away so I hope it goes slowly, but in the meantime stay tuned for tonnes more Australia and Europe content from my recent travels coming right up!

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Happy #TravelTuesday everyone – I'm actually not travelling at the moment (for once) and you know what, I'm actually soooo happy about it! 🏡 I haven't spent more than 2 weeks at a time at home since February and have been on back to back trips since March, taking 10 flights in 3 months, and travelling thousands of miles across Australia, the UK and Europe which has made me bloody exhausted 😩 I know I shouldn't moan because I LOVE my life and I'm so lucky I get to travel so much, but all the constant running around from airport to airport and sleeping in different hotel beds every night has finally taken its toll and I've got so fed up with being on the road that I just want to have a base to come back to ✨ So I'm now totally ready to spend the next three months completely at home, as my next trip isn't until September, and focus on myself, my blog and something else which I haven't told you about yet but I will reveal all soon, I promise! 🙈 For now here's a pic of me loving life in sunny Italia and soaking up the stunning mountain views that were right behind me ⛰

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