Ahoy, pirates! Welcome back to the second instalment of Travel Tip Tuesday, where we interview inspirational travel personalities to inspire you to go and see the world. We hoped you enjoyed last week's talk with Dannielle Noonan of While I'm Young - and maybe booked your own trip!
This week, we're chatting to Welsh wonderwoman and long-term traveller Portia Jones, the brains behind Pip and the City. While the name suggests Pip might spend a lot of time in the city (a nod towards the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle) the seasoned globetrotter has actually explored countries rural and urban across the world. Her blog specialises in mid-range travel, city breaks and luxury travel, with a focus on solo female travel too. But whatever your budget, her extensive travel knowledge is sure to inspire you!
Tell our readers a little more about how your love affair with travel began!
I first started dreaming about travelling from a young age. I have really vivid memories of a large globe in my primary school and how I would love to spin it and see what country my finger landed on. Geography was one of my favourite lessons and I would positively hound my teacher for details of countries that were far away from my home country of Wales. I took my first solo trip to Paris at 18. It was minus 10 degrees and snowing, I hadn’t packed anything practical to wear, I had limited funds and I didn’t really have a clue. However, as I wandered around the city of lights, snow gently falling all around me, I knew this was all that I ever wanted. To have total freedom, to go where I wanted when I wanted and not be on anyone else’s schedule. My solo travel career was born and I have travelled around the world ever since. Since that trip, I have travelled extensively over the years. I’ve worked in summer camps in the states, studied abroad, volunteered abroad, hiked through the Australian outback, scuba dived off Thai islands, backpacked across Canada, interrailed around Europe, got lost in rural Bosnia and sipped cocktails on a rooftop bar in Palestine. There have been various mishaps, missed trains and encounters with border control, but I have managed to stay in one piece somehow. I now travel for work as a travel writer and I now also take trips with my husband and favourite human Luke.
I try to combine the two where possible, the main ethos of Pip and the City is ‘affordable luxury’, how to have those special experiences without breaking the bank. You can achieve this by using online tools to get deals on flights, accommodation and tours, or by seeking out boutique hostels and hotels, hunting down mid-range independent restaurants and cafes on your travels.
You’re a full-time blogger and content creator - phew! How can we have your life?!….ok, just kidding (ish), but how did you end up on your career path?
Travel has been my entire world from a very young age. It’s all I ever wanted and over the years I have built my entire life around travel. I live my life always looking to the next trip, living a modest life at home and not accumulating lots of material items. It’s the years of travel experience and the variety of travel experiences I have had that allow me to write about travel now. I set up my website a few years ago with the aim of inspiring people to travel by sharing my love of travel and imparting stories and advice on my website and social channels, based on my years of wanderlust. What I would say to anyone who wants to be a travel writer is travel far and wide and gain some experience first. You have to live it and you have to love it and most importantly, you have to be confident and researched in the advice you are giving. If people are basing their trip choices on your words, you have a responsibility to be accurate and informative as well as entertaining.
Food and drink plays a starring role on Pip and the City. What’s the most memorable dining experience you’ve enjoyed abroad and why?
Can I be cheeky and pick my two favourites? One of the most memorable was ‘dining with a view’ at Dubrovnik’s popular Panorama Restaurant. The Panorama Restaurant dishes up beautifully cooked and fresh seafood and steak dishes and offers unparalleled views of Dubrovnik. You can dine 415 meters up Mount Srdj, at this contemporary restaurant. Accessible by foot, car or cable car, this is the place to get some seriously amazing #platedpics for your Instagram account! My other favourite dining experience was at Restaurant Nili, I dined there in a very snowy Lapland at the start of the year. When visiting Santa's hometown make sure you dine there for authentic Lappish food in gorgeous, traditional settings. There are some serious Hygge vibes here and the entire winter lodge theme restaurant looks like a Pinterest account, with handicraft decoration and reindeer horns adorning the walls. I would recommend the beautiful smoked salmon, Laplandish cheese and of course, Finnish Vodka.
You’re obviously a HolidayPirates fan - *high five*! What’s the best deal you’ve booked through our site? We’d love to hear about it!
I am a big fan of using websites, newsletters and apps to get crazy good travel deals. I have bagged quite a few on HolidayPirates including uber cheap flights to European destinations, UK staycation breaks and spa deals. One of my fave Pirates deal was getting a 4-star UK spa stay for an absolute steal!
I have also signed up to HolidayPirates Whatsapp alerts so that I can get the best deals straight to my phone and be one of the first to bag them! I’m just about to book the latest Pirates deal of return flights to the Canary Islands for £20! For less than the price of a meal out in my hometown, I can go and grab such winter sun. Bargain.
We know you’re super happy to shout about your home country of Wales. Where is your favourite place in Wales and why should our users visit?
It’s so hard to choose! Wales is full of picturesque villages, breath-taking mountains, scenic hikes, fairytale castles and dreamy landscapes. I think one of my favourite places though is Portmeirion. This whimsical and enchanting tourist village in Gwynedd, is a little slice of Italy in North Wales. It was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and was the filming location of the British television series ‘The Prisoner’. You should visit as it is ever so surreal to wander around an Italian themed village in the middle of rural North Wales! With pastel coloured buildings, charming fountains and manicured gardens, it’s also total Instagrammer’s dream. Spend a day wandering around this dreamy village and make use of the onsite shops, spa, cafes and restaurants.
Your top three destinations you’ve visited so far? (We know, we’re mean!)
Oh, this is a tough one, I love so many of the places I have visited! Ok, so in no particular order my top three are probably:
New Zealand – Every single place in NZ looks like a postcard, the scenery is frankly jaw-dropping. It’s also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and you can see a vast range of geographical features, from lakes, mountains, beaches, glaciers, hot springs and even Hobbit houses! New Zealand is spread out over two islands that both have a lot to offer in terms of sights, adventure activities and foodie finds. I would recommend booking a group bus tour if you are going as a solo traveller, it’s a great way to make friends and to see New Zealand in an efficient and time-saving way.
Bosnia – This under-the-radar destination has bags of natural beauty, poignant history, stunning food and surprisingly good wine. There’s plenty to see and do in this fascinating country, soak up history and culture in Sarajevo, take a dip in the aqua blue Kravice Waterfalls and explore the picture-perfect town of Mostar. Despite years gone by since the conflict, there are very few visitors coming to this intriguing country, which is a shame, as the landscapes are beguiling, and the people have stories to tell.
Arkansas – When you travel as much as I do, you like to be surprised by a destination every now and then. I hadn’t really considered Arkansas as a destination for a travel enthusiast like me, that is until I spent some time there recently. This charming southern state is not only a hub of blues music but has the best BBQ food, enchanting national parks and many cultural activities. It’s capital, Little Rock, is also a tremendous foodie destination with an eclectic mix of local brewers, bakers, fine dining and ice cream shops. Many of which use each other’s products in their own offerings. Arkansas is a vibrant, welcoming state with the friendliest people you are ever likely to meet. I have actually grown rather fond of being addressed as ‘ma’am’. Arkansas should for sure be on your travel radar.
Do you prefer travelling solo or with friends?
I spent years travelling solo as I never wanted to wait for anyone else to be ready for an adventure. These days I have a mix of solo travel for work as well as travelling with my husband on various trips. Before I met Luke, I would have said I prefer to explore alone but now I appreciate how nice it is to make travel memories with someone and to share in those special moments on the road. It’s also pretty handy to have an ‘Instagram husband’ to help take those gram worthy shots!
What trips do you have lined up?
I currently have a 24-hour trip to Amsterdam via ‘rail and sail’ [Getting the train and ferry over from the UK] coming up. I’ll also be exploring London’s Winter Wonderland and Christmas spots shortly. I’m then in Rome for a few days for a winter city break and then I’m off to explore Sri Lanka in the New Year with Luke. There are lots of exciting trips in the pipeline for 2019 but I don’t want to give too much away right now, you’ll just have to follow me to see what adventures I get up to next year!
Finally, what’s your number one travel hack?
The best tip I can give after years on the road is to pack lightly. Trust me, you don’t need seven pairs of shoes for your 3-night city break. Get around faster on your travels by only taking what you need, you feel lighter, you’ll lose less stuff and you’ll also have space for souvenirs if you happen spot a ‘must have’ sparkly trinket in a market stall.
Sounds good to us! Thanks so much for the chat, Pip! You can keep up with her adventures at Pip and the City, or follow her at the following links: