Category: Travel-tastic

Bodies change, and we need to get over it!

Coming back from a summer holiday (did I mention that?!); seeing people wearing less clothes than we’re used to on a day to day basis, you kind of realise even more so that people come in all shapes and sizes.

Bodies change...and that's ok

I have to admit that, before I went away, I was feeling pretty annoyed with myself for not losing any weight and not looking the way I wanted to in a bikini. I still felt that way when I arrived and even more so by the time I got home (a week of food, booze and lethargy takes it’s toll on a girl!)

But then, when I rationalise it, it’s pretty daft to:

a) restrict myself and enjoy life less for the weeks or months leading up to a holiday, just to fit a beauty ideal

b) think that other people are looking at me and judging me

The truth is, my body looks how it does because of the life I lead. I enjoy life. I enjoy food. I enjoy drinking. I don’t enjoy exercise!

When I was in my late teens and early 20s I was blessed with a high metabolism. I didn’t gain weight, whatever I ate or drank. I looked great in a bikini!

Now I’m in my late 30s (bleugh!) my metabolism has slowed down and I look less great in a bikini!

But you know what? I’m happier now than I ever was when I was younger. Not physically – I’d rather look the way I did then, if possible! But mentally and emotionally I’m content. And that’s way more important than a change in my body weight. It’s to do with mental strength, life experiences and feeling settled.

In my 20s I was single, riddled with insecurities, coming to terms with mental health issues and wondering where my life was going. Now I’m happily married which comes with the addition of eating out with my husband, takeaways with my husband, drinks with my husband (sense a theme?!) I have more financial security which affords me more holidays (which means more eating and drinking!) I know my own limitations and try not to beat myself up over things. I’ve also experienced life stuff like redundancy and my Dad’s illness which sometimes makes me think “fuck it, life’s too short not to indulge in the good stuff”.

I haven’t quite bounced back from the holiday mind set of eat, drink and be merry. I’ve already made excuses for not going to the gym (the weather’s nice; bad drive home from work; I just don’t want to!). So it’s no wonder the pounds aren’t retreating!

We’re conditioned to think that a beautiful body looks a certain way. Magazines perpetuate the myth that larger women or older women shouldn’t wear bikinis. Yet, in Greece, I saw older ladies, bigger ladies and everything in between wearing a bikini with pride. And why shouldn’t they? It’s hot, you need less clothes and comfort is important. I bloody hate swimsuits; they’re icky and sticky and you can’t tan your tum. If someone doesn’t like how you look in beach wear, they can bloody well look the other way.

I’m as bad as anyone for judging people. I think that’s just the way we’re conditioned. But I’m trying to change that about myself. Instead of looking at an overweight person and thinking they shouldn’t be wearing something, I’m teaching myself to squash that thought and replace it with “good for them”. Because if they’re ok with it then it really isn’t anyone else’s business.

I think I’ve reached the end of my meandering now. I’m not even sure there is an end! And I know I’m a hypocrite, because I’m still sitting here thinking I’d like to shrink my tummy. But I do know that, as I get older, trying to look after my body for strength and longevity becomes as important as weight loss. I want to look and feel more healthy.

But, of course, looking great in a bikini would be a bonus!

I’d love to hear your thoughts; hit me up in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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5 more destinations on my travel hitlist

A while ago I posted the top 5 places on my travel bucket list. But there’s nothing like coming back from a trip to make you think about all the other places you really want to go to!

I’ve realised I was way too optimistic in keeping it to just 5, so I’m going to do a part deux, in order to give myself more things to tick off (or, stress myself even more with regards to too many places, not enough time and money!)

Lisbon
It looks so quaint, with it’s winding streets and old fashioned street trams (I’m a sucker for a tram). I’ve never been to Portugal as it’s never really appealed for a beach holiday, but city-wise it has a lot to offer me. I also want to go to Porto which is full of bright coloured houses. It’s possible to do both in one trip, travelling by train in between.

 Lisbon

Tokyo
Wow. Tokyo just looks amazing. So bright, so busy, so frantic. I think it would be like nowhere else I’ve ever been and probably quite exhausting, but a total experience and feast for the eyes. Again it would be good to combine with more of Japan, like Osaka, and the connecting journey by bullet train would be a bucket list experience in itself.

Tokyo

Athens
The history! The architecture! It’s in Greece! (I love Greece!) I’ve looked into it and it’s feasible to add onto a trip to Santorini – fly into Athens from the UK, across to Santorini and then back to the UK. So hopefully, when we finally get around to going to Santorini, we can do Athens as well.

Athens

Krakow
I’ve never been to Poland but it looks fab. I always imagine it as a winter city break, wandering round all wrapped up and eating stodgy Eastern European food, but apparently it’s beautiful all year round. Warsaw is also on my list. It never used to be, as I imagined it to be very Eastern Bloc and grey, but a work colleague went a couple of years ago and said it was very beautiful.

Krakow

America
OK, so this is a huge cop out as I’m naming a country rather than a place! But it’s my blog and I make the rules! So much of America still to see. New York. The Deep South. Nashville. Dallas. Back to San Francisco to see more of it. So many possibilities. Next time we head over there I think we’ll make the most of the flight (both time and cost) and do a couple of places in one visit. Internal flights in the US are so cheap that it makes absolute sense.

America

So much of the world to explore…

What’s on your list?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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5 things that are totally the norm in Greece…

…but would blow your mind in the UK!

Greek flag

 

I know (and love) how part of going away to other countries is adapting to new cultures and seeing how other people live. Some things that happen overseas, that seem completely normal in situ, are actually totally bonkers when you transfer the concept to UK life.

  1. Not flushing toilet paper down the loo
    If you’ve never been to Greece I can imagine this one coming as something of a surprise. Basically the sewage pipes aren’t big enough to cope with…er…bodily waste and paper, so standard practice is to put your loo roll in the bin. Whatever you’ve done with it. Pretty gross, but it strangely becomes the norm!
  2. Shower cubicles
    Shower areas  in Greek holiday apartments can range from a tiny shower tray with a flimsy curtain to a drain in the ground and no shower screen. Shower holders are unusual so it’s a balancing act between stopping the shower hose from spraying everywhere while you lather shampoo in your hair.
  3. Wine – price, service and glass size
    Local wine is ridiculously cheap in Greece. We paid as little as 3 euros for half a litre (that’s about £2.50 for the equivalent of two large glasses in a pub in the UK – I was in my element). It’s served in a jug; sometimes glass, but sometimes a bashed up tin one like you used to get water from in the school canteen! Wine glasses are tiny tumblers. Which means you end up feeling incredibly naughty / like a hero because you’ve had 8 glasses of wine with dinner.Wine in a metal jug
  4. Free stuff
    From free crisps and nibbles with every drinks order, to water melon or dessert after a meal, to another jug of wine or an after dinner spirit, the generosity of Greek restaurateurs knows no bounds! And who doesn’t like free stuff?Free watermelon
  5. Cats wandering around restaurant tables
    There’s many hashtags on instagram dedicated to Greek cats as they are a prevalent feature of the mainland and the islands. They wander freely around the streets, on the beach and in restaurants, lingering by tables for scraps from tourists who can’t resist their cuteness. These pics are actual cats in actual restaurants from my recent holiday in Finikounda. The little ginger guy climbed up the table to steal our bar snacks!

It’s all part of the charm of the country. In case I haven’t mentioned it in previous posts, I love Greece!

Let me know if you’ve been, would like to go, would hate to go – tell me your Greece thoughts 🙂

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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A week in Greece

I’ve finally just about emerged from the fuzzy fug surrounding my week in Finikounda and the inevitable readjustment to real life so I thought I’d tell you all about it.

If you read my last “first of the month” post, you’ll know that I love Greece.

If you didn’t read it, here’s a précis. I love Greece. The people, the pace of life, the food, the climate. All of it. It’s probably my holiday destination of choice for a summer break.

This time we chose a new (to us) destination; a small Greek village on the Messinian Peninsula called Finikounda. We chose it knowing it was tiny, with one supermarket, one cash machine and a handful of restaurants. We chose it knowing that there were no loud bars or crazy watersports. We chose it knowing that the village is little more than one main street with a few shops and the demographic is largely Greek families holidaying and older people relaxing. And we loved it for all of those reasons.

We stayed at a relatively new aparthotel called Tsokas Hotel which was about 5 minutes walk from the beach. Unusually for Greek accommodation it was very modern; with large open plan bedrooms fully stocked with a small kitchenette, air conditioning, a power shower and a large balcony. With only 15 apartments overall the feeling was intimate and relaxed, with no fighting for sunbeds or noisy guests. The hotel has a lovely kidney shaped pool which was a godsend in the incredibly hot weather (it was 35 degrees wen we arrived on Sunday lunchtime) and by late afternoon it was like dipping into cool bath water. Bliss.

So, what did we do? Pretty much nothing! We I had hoped to go and visit a nearby town with venetian castle ruins, but in truth it was so ruddy hot that that the thought of doing full on sightseeing was too much to bear! So we settled into a delightful routine of breakfast in the apartment, lounge by the pool, walk to the village for lunch, an afternoon nap for me, a spot more sunbathing and then dinner in a different restaurant in the village. It was the perfect antithesis to the real world and, because every day was something of a mirror image, the time lapsed slowly in a delightful blur of nothingness – a feeling of complete escapism where the only thing that mattered was what to eat for dinner and whether to have a quarter or half litre of wine at lunch. We weren’t back at the hotel later than 11pm any night, and were fast asleep by midnight at the latest!

If you follow me on instagram you’ll have already seen a lot of these pictures, but in case you don’t (you should, by the way!) and also to indulge myself and relive the delightful memories, here are some snaps from our week.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat! There’s something quite comforting in knowing you have a destination in your travel bag that you can 100% rely on when you need a certain kind of holiday. Plus there are still all the things and places that we didn’t manage to visit last week to bring a different dimension to the trip when we go again.

Do you have a favourite country to holiday?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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What happened to my carrier pigeon?

Lovely people, I specifically asked for a carrier pigeon to be sent to Greece if the world went tits whilst I was away.

It never arrived.

Carrier pigeon

What an awful week of political stupidity (BoJo as Foreign Secretary?? Really??) which paled into insignificance when followed by the atrocities in France and Turkey. The Nice attacks were especially close to home, as we spent a long weekend there last May soaking up the beauty of the city, the cuisine, and the people. We walked along the very Promenade des Anglais that was home to so many pointless deaths and have been talking about returning ever since. To attack innocent civilians enjoying themselves and celebrating the freedom and success of their country is the ultimate in distaste and cowardice, and almost incomprehensible. To lose your life in the pursuit of happiness is so unseemly, so unjust, and so many other “uns” I lack the articulation to, well, articulate.

Anyway. I’m back from Greece. Beautiful beautiful Greece, with it’s own economic and political problems, yet a feeling of safety and solitude. A stunning landscape, friendly welcoming people and a wonderful climate means, for me, it’s impossible not to have a total escape-from-it-all break of amazing proportions. A new corner explored and duly loved; with promises to ourselves to return and soak up more of the inimitable atmosphere.

Maybe you’ve seen some of my instagram pics, but there’ll be a blog post, obvs. I can’t express my love for the county enough; especially at a time when more and more of the world is becoming dangerous. Greece, you may be skint in the eyes of the EU, but I’m happy to continue to pump my wages into you by way of food and drink consumption!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Leaving on a jet plane…

…don’t know when I’ll be back again…

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Actually that’s not true, I’ll be back next Sunday!

By the time you read this I’ll be in fabulous Greece for a (hopefully) fabulous week of relaxation. I can’t wait to eat Greek food, soak up the sunshine and chill out with the husband.

I wish you all a good week, whatever you’re up to, and fingers crossed the country doesn’t descend into any further chaos while I’m gone! (although if it does, send a carrier pigeon to let me know and I won’t bother coming back!)

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My first…part 5

It’s the first of the month again! Aren’t these long hot summer days amazing? (huge amounts of sarcasm). Grrrr….

Anyway, as I’m off to Greece in just 10 days time (woo and hoo!) I thought I’d talk about my first ever time on the Greek Mainland, in my early 20s.

I love Greece. Adore the place. The people, the climate, the food, some more of the food. Mmm…food. Greek cuisine is right up there with the best in the world, for me.

Greece is my first choice of holiday destination if I’m looking for a chilled, relaxed break with guaranteed enjoyment.

The first time I ever visited the mainland was with my Dad. After my parents separated things became fraught between me and my Dad for a while. I hadn’t taken sides in the split but I was living with my Mom, and she had a new partner which my Dad found difficult to deal with, especially my acceptance of it. In an attempt to build bridges I suggested that the two of us go on holiday.

Both having a love of Greece from previous visits to the islands, Dad suggested calling the travel agent (as you did in those days, before cheap airlines and hotel comparison websites, god I’m so old!) and finding out what was available within a few days; somewhere “typically Greek”. The travel agent suggested a place called Stoupa, which neither of were familiar with. It was described to us as being a small village on the Mani peninsula, with a mountainous backdrop, a handful of tavernas and bars and a very relaxed atmosphere. It sounded perfect.

And perfect it was. We arrived at Kalamata airport at around midday on a hot Sunday afternoon, after a 3am start from home. I hadn’t been to bed the night before as I was still packing so I slept all the way to the resort. On arrival we were shown to our apartment, which was a 2 story house, split into 3 apartments. We had loads of space, two balconies, 2 bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. It was very much a home from home.

After changing into shorts we wandered down towards the direction of the sea, passing small tavernas and shops. As we reached the end of the narrow street the whole of Stoupa opened up in front of us. A horseshoe shaped bay with a sandy beach and sparkling blue sea. Stepping out and looking backwards we saw the mountain backdrop promised by the travel agent. We fell in love with the place immediately.

It was a week of lounging in the sun, reading books, sleeping and eating amazing food. We took an organised trip to the Diros Caves. We walked to Agios Nikolaos. And we overcame our difficulties and had a lovely Dad and daughter time.

Years later my Dad took his now wife, and she also fell in love with the place in the same way that we had years previously.

I never once suggested it to the husband, as he tends to get bored easily on holiday and I thought Stoupa would be way too quiet for him. I think he felt left out, because my Dad and his wife and I used to talk so fondly of our times there, and the husband had never been. So, eventually, and under some duress, I agreed that we would go. I warned him before we went that if he hated it he wasn’t to tell me, because he would spoil it for me!

But guess what? He loved it too! Absolutely adored the place, immediately. Such is it’s magic! And what did we do? Exactly the same as my Dad and I had done over a decade previously – eat, drink, sleep and read. We didn’t even leave the village because we were so content. Not only that, he was so taken with it that we went back 6 weeks later for our 5th wedding anniversary.

Here are some pictures of the bay.

And the mountains. Can you see the tiny villages? At night they look like little patches of sparkles in a sea of blackness because they’re so remote.

Stoupa mountain villages

And there are the most fabulous sunsets. Every. Single. Night.

Stoupa sunset

I very much want to see more of the world – all of the world – but I think I will always return to Stoupa. It holds such happy memories and is everything I could ever want in a relaxing holiday.

We talked about going back again this year, but I vetoed it because my Dad is ill. He was supposed to go last year and had to cancel because of his cancer treatment, and I don’t feel right going when he can’t.

So, this year, the husband and I are off to the other side of the peninsula – a place called Finikounda. I’ve read reports from some people that say it makes Stoupa look overly touristy, so I’m intrigued to see just how quiet it is! And of course I’ll be blogging all about it when I get home.

10 days to go!

Do you have any summer holidays planned? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Holiday buys from H&M

I’m lucky enough to be going on holiday in a couple of weeks (hurrah!) and I can’t wait to escape the British doom and gloom (weather, politics, football – it’s all pretty crap, isn’t it?!) Besides the obvious Brexit shaped elephant in the room, which I’m hoping won’t affect tourist relations, I can’t wait to lie in the Greek sun, eat Greek food and R.E.L.A.X.

Greece

In anticipation, I’ve bought a few cheeky bits and pieces for my sojourn to the sun. In truth I don’t really need any new holiday clothes, but when did that make a difference to anything?!

As usual H&M has come up trumps, with some ace stuff which just so happens to be mega bargainous in their sale too.

This playsuit was reduced from £12.99 to just £4.99. It’s a lovely soft fabric, quality but not too thick, with pockets (everything should have pockets, IMO). H&M patterned playsuit

So I might have bought it in plain black and black and white Aztec print too…

A couple of pairs of shorts – black lace reduced from £12.99 to £5.99, and imitation suede with front patch pockets reduced from £12.99 to £4.49.

These trousers, which the husband immediately screamed “pyjamas” at when I asked his opinion, but I think with a tan, a simple cream vest and loads of silver jewellery these will look suitably boho hippie and not like I’ve escaped from some kind of cult (£14.99 down to £5.99)

H&M mustard yellow hippy trousers

And finally, a new bikini, because holiday (bought as separates – £20.98 down to £10.98)

Mucho bargainous – gotta love the H&M sale!

Have you picked up any bargains recently? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading!

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A trip to Wales and a stay at the River Café in Glasbury

About 5 years ago the husband and I were invited to a wedding just over the Welsh border. The bride and groom included a list of accommodation which was local to the wedding venue, which is how we found the River Café.

Situated in Glasbury on Wye, it sits in an enviable position on the river, with a large decking area looking over the water, a well recommended restaurant and just 5 rooms available on a B&B basis. We were so taken with our stay, albeit brief, that we said we’d love to go back another time and just chill out.

That time was this weekend.

Setting off early (for us!) on Saturday morning in the bright sunshine we drove through country lanes and small towns, meandering down the west of England towards Wales. First stop was Hay on Wye, famous for it’s literary festival happening in a couple of weeks. Hay has a proliferation of bookshops and pretty little streets which were decorated with brightly coloured bunting.

We had a little wander round and a mooch around a small vintage market. How cool is the stuff on this stall?

Hay on Wye vintage stall

Hay Castle was built in the 12th Century. It’s not open to visitors, although there is a restoration project planned.

Then on to Glasbury on Wye. The River Café is run alongside Wye Valley Canoes which, unsurprisingly, is a canoe centre! They hire out single and double kayaks and canoes, as well as mountain bikes, tandems, and lambretta scooters! As I mentioned, there’s direct access to the river so it’s easy to get going, and the team at Wye Valley will come and collect you and your canoe from wherever you end up, if you want them to. Isn’t that fab? You could row down to Hay, have some lunch and then get delivered back to Glasbury by road rather than having to go against the tide to get back.

We had nothing as energetic in mind. In fact we wanted to do nothing apart from sit on the riverside deck and relax. Here’s the view of the back decked area, from the other side of the river. Nice, eh?

View of River Cafe Glasbury

Ironically we stayed in the same room this time around as when we were last there 5 years ago. The rooms are all simply decorated with white walls and simple furnishings; nothing fussy or chintzy.

Outside River Cafe Glasbury

It was lovely to open the windows and hear the birds tweeting while we unpacked our bits and pieces. A comfortable bed, delicious pillows and the softest duvet made for a great night’s sleep, and the bright airy bathroom with it’s walk in powerful shower was a great way to start the morning.

And so we spent Saturday afternoon sitting outside and reading with a couple of drinks, which was non too shabby with these peaceful river views.

Then showered and changed for dinner (I had chicken terrine to start, confit duck for main, and cherry cheesecake for dessert; all real tummy pleasers!) We were in bed ridiculously early for a Saturday night, no doubt exhausted from all that doing nothing in the fresh air! And Sunday started with a fabulous freshly cooked breakfast with tea and toast and never ending freshly pressed cloudy apple juice.

There’s plenty to do in the surrounding area, with the Elan Valley and Brecon Beacons National Park both being a short drive away. We quite fancied doing the Waterfall Walk but hadn’t come prepared (TripAdvisor reviews recommend waterproofs and sturdy shoes to walk behind the waterfall at Syn ) so that’s one for another time.

It was a lovely relaxing change of scenery, and I would highly recommend the River Café – either to stay or to eat – if you’re ever in the area (do book a table in advance though, as the restaurant gets very busy).

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Hotel review: Kyriad Gare Perrache, Lyon

When choosing a hotel stay for a city break, I like to get the right balance between location, quality and price. The Kyriad Gare Perrache ticked all of those boxes.

Located just a couple of minutes walk from Perrache station, the transport links were second to none. With Metro and tram stops, and an overland railway there was nowhere that wasn’t easily reachable. Also it was just a short walk to Place Bellecour for the city tour bus and walkable to the old town across the river bridge. Location box ticked.

All the reviews I read on TripAdvisor commented on the friendliness of service, the modern styling and the cleanliness. I emailed the reception with a couple of questions before we arrived, which they answered quickly and helpfully. Check in was quick and seamless, in a really cool and funky brightly decorated reception.

Kyriad Gare Perrache reception

The rooms were well laid out, with The. Most. Comfortable beds and pillows, plenty of plug sockets, well lit mirrors (and a full length one too, amazing how many hotels forget that) and a great shower (one of the first measures of any hotel stay).

Kyriad Gare Perrache hotel bedroom

The rooms were serviced daily with clean towels, renewed coffee, tea and biscuits and everything was immaculately clean. Points lost for the tiny size of the lift (the three of us and our luggage wouldn’t fit, we had to make two journeys) but that’s not the end of the world.

The hotel had a great bar which played contemporary and traditional jazz and again was decorated in a very modern style. Drinks were VERY expensive, but that’s hotel bars for you! We didn’t eat in the restaurant but the food looked really good. Check out the funky piano!

Kyriad Gare Perrache hotel bar

Quality – box ticked.

Finally, the price. I mooched around to get the best deal, settling on Hotels.com and taking advantage of cashback via Quidco. The hotel website price was around 100 euros per night, but I booked it for about £50 per night. I found it cheaper to book a 2 night and 1night separate stay than all 3 nights together (I then just emailed the hotel to ask if I could stay in the same room for the duration of the two stays, which wasn’t a problem). You can read my top tips for booking a bargain trip here.

Price – box ticked!

Booking a hotel is always a risky process, even if you’re only on a short break and will just be using it as a base, because staples like a good shower and comfortable bed are important. But I was thrilled with this hotel and would definitely recommend it.

Only after I booked it did I realise that Kyriad is obviously a chain in France, as I stayed at one in Nice last year.

What are your criteria for booking a hotel?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

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