Digital Travel Guru’s Interview with Portia Jones – Pip and the City.
Please tell us when you started your blog, what inspired you to start blogging & anything about your blog you want to share, including how you came up with your blog name, how long you have been blogging.
Pip and the City is a Lifestyle and Travel blog, combining my love for adventures, trips, food, drink and pretty things, written in the style of ‘delightful whimsy’. I mostly enjoy living out a Carrie Bradshaw fantasy of sipping wine and tapping away on a laptop. Hence the name ‘Pip and the City’, as a sort of wink to that. Blogging gives me a space to create posts that I am passionate about. It’s always lovely to write for other publications but with blogging you are the master of your own creativity. I love travelling and food so I didn’t want the blog to be too specific as I enjoy lots of different things, so I chose to start a multi themed blog. This means that posts can be anything from a cocktail masterclass, a travel guide, restaurant review, a guide to glamping or reviewing a 6 kilo turkey. I started my blog after a few years of writing and guest blogging for other websites and publications. I really wanted a platform for sharing tips on the fantastic places there are in Cardiff, Wales and the wider world, so after much wine and deliberation I thought it best to start a lifestyle and a travel blog, with the mantra being: Travel. Eat. Write. Repeat in the hope that readers may find my ramblings useful and hopefully entertaining.
Do you have any tips for our readers that want to start blogging.
I started my blog just because I loved writing, I had been writing for a few years for local magazines and websites and it grew from there. I always continually surprised when I get invited to blogger events and asked if I can do sponsored posts. My best advice would be to crack on with great content, write about what you love with personality.
There will be a million blogs out there already on a huge range of subjects and I find many of them really bland as there is no personality or character behind the writing. People want to hear about personal experiences and be entertained by the things they read. Don’t be afraid to inject your own personality into the writing as this is what will make you stand out.
I would also create your blog with WordPress and go self-hosted as well, I think this is especially important. When your site is self-hosted, you not only own the content but it looks so much more professional to have a dot com address rather than a url containing ‘Wordpress’ or ‘Blogspot’ etc.
Have you got any exciting travel plans for this year or planned? If so where are you going?
I’ve got quite a few trips coming up this year that I’m really excited about, I am shortly off skiing for the first time in Bankso Bulgaria. I think this will be great for content as I plan to take my GoPro to try and get some great action shots and footage on the slopes. Then in May I’m off to Rome for a romantic break with my husband Luke and we’re planning lots of sightseeing, lovely dinners and of course red wine. I’m also in talks with a few travel companies about doing some press trips later in the year which I’m really excited about.
Do you have any useful apps you use to plan your trips? If so which ones do you recommend & why?
I’ll be honest, I’m not an over planner when it comes to travel. I love to arrive in a place without everything mapped out already. I’ve had some of my best experiences when I’ve accidentally found an amazing bar, or heard about a great beach in the next town from locals. I love the spontaneity and freedom of travel and talking to locals and other travellers about where to go. On short trips I am a lot more organised however and I find a few apps to be invaluable. The first is the Hostel World travel app, I use this to book hostels whilst on the move. I have also come to love Trip Advisor, I use it more and more now, especially if I am short on time. It’s scanning through where are the good places to go. I find it especially valuable for discovering good food places, I absolutely love eating out and this is a great app to see where people recommend.
What’s been some of the best places you have visited / travelled to?
I travelled around the Balkans last year and one of my favourite places is now Bosnia. A country full of history, sadness, and hope for the future. It has incredible architecture, devastating history, fascinating people and probably some of the best food I have ever tasted. I seriously recommend eating your way around Sarajevo, you have to try the local dish of Ćevapi, which is the Bosnian equivalent of a kebab and is filled with little grilled sausages, onion and sour cream, unbelievable.
This year I was lucky enough to backpack around Central America for my honeymoon and we went to the Guatemalan island of Roatan and it was incredible. It was a Central American place but with chilled Caribbean vibes. We got to go snorkelling in beautiful clear water and see lots of marine life, eat breakfast burritos with plantain in the morning and by night, meat grilled on outside BBQ’s. We also got to watch tiny hummingbirds drink from special feeders in cafes whilst having a morning coffee, it was so relaxing and really romantic, we can’t wait to go back.
What’s your favourite city & why? Share some things to do that you enjoyed or must see’s.
One of my favourite cities in Vancouver, I adore the beautiful cityscape combined with views of the waterfront and a beautiful mountainous backdrop. I loved how vibrant and cool this city felt with such an array of things to see and do. You can hang out in cool and independent cafes and bars in the eclectic Gas Town, catch a hockey game in winter, or take a stroll through Stanley park and go and visit the huge aquarium.
I’m also a huge fan of Brussels, this is one of the most eclectic and oddball cities I have been to. In this town you can sample an insane amount of fruit beer in one of the many pavement style cafes, in the warmer months both locals and tourists spill out into the streets cheerfully clutching pints of frothy beers in the sunshine. It also has quirky cafes, museums, art nouveau buildings next to run down, graffiti covered ruins, this place is a hipster paradise that combines weird and wonderful.
What’s your favourite beach destinations & why?
For me the beaches in Australia are second the none. The beaches in OZ nearly always have their own distinctive feel and range from quiet secludes beaches, to busy surf spots, diving hubs to tropical paradises. I previously lived in Australia and was always amazed at the diversity of the beaches. My favourite beach has to be Whitehaven Beach, one of the best beaches in the world with gorgeous white sand and crystal clear waters which have lemon sharks and rays swimming around in them. It is so perfect that it doesn’t feel quite feel real.
Any travel tips you have for our readers?
My best tip is to be a friend to all that you meet. The level of kindness shown to me on the road continually amazes me, both locals and travellers have often gone out of their way to help me and to look after me. I always try and reciprocate this to the best of my ability. For me the best thing about travelling is the friends you make on the way, some of which turn into lifelong friendships. Some of my closest friends I met whilst travelling and many came to my wedding last year to celebrate with me.
In terms of more practical advice, I would say go easy on the souvenirs, you will inevitably always over pack for any trip, despite the ‘pack light’ mantra of travellers and buying a crap load of souvenirs will not help you. Ask yourself, ‘do I really need the goatskin hipflask?’
Best places for shopping, from the places you have visited? Any great finds? If so where?
I’m not really all that into shopping, when buying clothes at home I tend to treat shopping as a sort of military option, get in and out as quickly as possible. I do however like to peruse night markets in South East Asia, Cambodia and Laos have some amazing ones. I love looking at all the little trinkets and tacky souvenirs in between having a cheap massage or pedicure and grabbing some lush street food. If I do buy anything, I tend to purchase pieces of jewellery to remind me of my trip.
What’s on your bucket list?
Greenland, I am obsessed with the idea of visiting Greenland since watching ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’. In terms of practicality it sounds like a bit of a nightmare to get to and travel around in, but once I get an idea I find it hard to let go. I would also love to take the Trans-Siberian train from Russia to China, stopping off in as many unusual spots as I could along the way. I think the photos you could take of a trip like that would be stunning.
Favourite travel quote? Or a quote you have made?
“Freedom lies in being bold” – Robert Frost.
Have you had any scary travel moments? If so what happened?
I managed to lose my bank card, get robbed of my remaining cash and be hospitalised with Cholera all in the space of a week whilst travelling through Vietnam. The hospital looked like a scene from the original Saw movie and no one spoke any English. I think at one point I wrote my will on a used tissue – the entire contents of my possessions at the time being ‘My car, my signed star Trek poster and large book collection’. I pulled through obviously and the scariest part actually was having to ring home and explain that I was hospitalised with a disease I thought had been eradicated in the 1800’s, to my hysterical over-worrier mother, let’s just say she did not receive the news well.
What’s been some great places for food you have visitied?
Ferg burger in Queenstown New Zealand, the hype this burger had when I was travelling around New Zealand initially made me sceptical but when I finally got to eat one it was a freaking game changer, a huge hunk of moist, flavourful meatiness that is worth every cent of the $15 or so NZ dollars you pay.
I am also a huge fan of Massaman curry and the best can be found in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai, A rich yet mild curry combining meat, potatoes and peanuts that has the most amazing aroma. When visiting this foodie paradise, you should also try one of their renowned cookery schools to try and master your own Massaman.
What has travel taught you?
Travel has taught me many things, I have travelled on and off for over ten years and the road has many a lesson to teach us in terms of friendship, kindness and seizing every opportunity you can. The more practical tips I can offer are: If your flip flops split, bread clips make a great quick fix. Watch out for cliff edges when taking a selfie. When a hostel advertises a ‘Free BBQ’ know that this means a burnt sausage in a folded slice of bread. No one wants to hear you play ukulele. Don’t buy elephant trousers, you’ll look like a douche. Kiss a French man in the rain, make a blanket fort in your dorm bunkbed. Enjoy every Moment.
What three things you always pack?
My camera for documenting trips, my kindle as I love to read, and my beloved Bob Marley trousers, the most hideous trousers you can ever imagine. I love them.
A Sneek Peek of some great posts by Pip and the City:
Social Media Sites Where You Can See More from Pip and the City:
Thank you Pip and the City for taking the time to do a fabulous interview with Digital Travel Guru.