There’s just something about Turkey that keeps pulling me back, hence my fourth visit this year!
This time, Loanne and I had the privilege to stay at Cook’s Club, a chilled-out and contemporary hotel which is part of the new collection of Thomas Cooks hotels. It is nestled in the heart of vibrant Alanya which is the perfect base for night-time escapades and cocktails galore. Built with the modern traveller in mind, the design, food, drink and lively atmosphere is ideal for a getaway with either friends or a with a partner.
Upon arriving at the hotel, the reception area had a stylish yet simplistic design, with brightly coloured authentic Turkish pillows and beautiful wicker chairs on display, creating an exquisite look with a comfortable feel.
The hotel is situated on the cusp of Kleopatra Beach so ideal for a morning dip in the sea! The setting is beautiful and there are designated sun beds allocated to the hotel so make sure you wake up early doors to grab one as the beach understandably gets super busy during the day.
Loanne and I shared a double room with a small balcony that overlooked both the pool and the beach. The room was equipped with a mini kitchen and small lounge area so it felt more like a studio apartment. Our room was situated above the beach bar so for those who love music most evenings, its home from home but for those of you who may be light sleepers, be sure to pack your ear plugs!
A big bonus for those of you who are restless travellers - there are numerous activities to get involved in from boat trips, water sports and relaxing spa treatments.
Loanne and I got involved in a cooking class where we worked our magic at making a tasty Mediterranean sea bass dish with vegetables. We also had a superb massage in the spa which was wonderfully relaxing.
Every afternoon we had lunch at the Cantina, the central dining hub that resembled a modern uni canteen where you could choose from a selection of fresh salads/ fish or burgers, whatever tickles ya fancy! My favourite was a delicious fresh Greek salad with homemade lemonade! For dinner we would sit in the outside bar. The waiters were so friendly and considerate that they would move our table onto the sand so that we could enjoy the most beautiful dinner setting. Try to beat that physical sensation of bare toes in the sand whilst watching the sun set over the beach, sipping on rose and eating fresh fish and salad.
This place is undoubtedly for music and party lovers. On Saturday evening we took to the decks to play some chilled house tunes whilst the sun was going down and having met the resident DJ who was playing some absolute tunes, we were then treated to escorting him to another beach club where he was playing too.
I have to confess I would never usually consider doing a package holiday but the simple and seamless process, from the minute we stepped off the plane to the moment we boarded again has convinced me that if you're looking to sit back, relax and have all the activities you want on your doorstep plus a Thomas Cook Rep helping you with any itinerary and organising your transport, there's a great deal to be said for the Cook's Club. You'll get a modest, laid back setting with party vibes and it will fit most budgets too.
Try the delicious cocktails and watch the sun set at the bar
Try the Hammam
Party with the resident DJ
Do the Boat trip (sadly we didn’t get to do this but from what we saw it looked FUN!)
Bring ear plugs if you are a light sleeper
Get up early to get a sun bed on the beach, the beach gets very busy
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the word ‘Ibiza’ ?
Let me guess? Party? Music? DJs?
Well, if it’s not, you certainly haven’t experienced Ibiza the way I normally have, or you’ve just been lucky enough to experience the natural beauty of the country without having to exhaust yourself partying pretty much the whole time (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing!)
This trip, however, I experienced the latter at the beautiful “Es Cucons”, a small, boutique hotel hidden in the remote valley of almonds in the magical Santa Agnes in Western Ibiza. It is a little slice of heaven which I discovered through I-escapes (the travel experts that have handpicked the world’s most beautiful hidden gems and boutique hotels) and trust me when I say, this really was hidden gem! This is the second time we’ve worked with them, so I knew to trust their opinions on finding the best accommodation to suit our needs. The setting, staff, food, rooms, ambience was truly exceptional.
Even though Es Cucons seems far from the madding crowd, don’t be put off. It is actually only half an hour away from the airport and fifteen minutes from San Antonio, for those that still want a party. Even more importantly, it is only a ten minute drive to Cala Salada beach (perhaps one of the most picturesque beaches I have been to in Ibiza) Clay coloured cliffs with hidden trails wind down to the most beautiful clear transparent waters and white sands of Cala Saladeta (the small neibouring beach). Tip :Make sure to go for an evening dip and catch the sun as it sets. The sky and surrounding landscape transforms into a beautiful orangey pink colour.
My friend Robyn and I arrived to Es Cucons around midnight and were greeted by one of the lovely owners of the hotel, Maria, who, despite the after hours, offered us food from the kitchen (even though it had just closed) to which we were greeted by a delicious platter of fresh hams, cheeses, bread, olives and tapenade. We were immediately in food heaven and so grateful at the immediate hospitality we received. Not the kind of treatment you would get in a normal hotel, that’s for sure! This set the precedence for the following few days, the food and service was outstanding. Lots of fresh salad options and sharing platters for lunch and beautifully fresh cooked fish and vegetables for dinner (tip - go for the John Dory and roasted vegetables for an evening meal. Delicious.) Breakfast is a buffet option offering a range of meats, cheeses, fruit platters, pastries, fresh OJ and smoked sausages, plus cooked options to order such as eggs, waffles you name it…we went for the pancakes every morning with fresh fruit, nutella, honey and chia seeds. Winner!
With fifteen shabby chic bedrooms, each one has its own distinct style and personality. We were in room 1, right at the back with its own private balcony, pond and a beautiful view of the valley beyond. The white washed walls and interior of the room is humble and cosey with a beautiful ensuite and a big bath tub… which we made use pretty much every day.
The weather was beautiful whilst we were there so a couple of the days were simply spent relaxing by the pool, a book in one hand and iced coffee in the other. The atmosphere was so tranquil, which I absolutely loved and at times it felt like we were the only ones there. Although we had ambitious plans to rent a car and explore Ibiza for the following few days, we were so wowed by the beauty and zen of the place, we decided to stay put and immerse ourselves in what the hotel itself had to offer.
We decided to get involved in the morning yoga sessions, which they have every few weeks, free of charge. This started at 11am and was a beautiful and relaxing way to start the day. We also took out their bicycles and went for a lovely morning cycle round the valley, which i would highly recommend doing. We also explored another scenic route by jogging one morning which was definitely worth it and there are lots of hiking trails that you can do too! If your looking to relax, you can also book in massages which we did after our activities. Absolute bliss.
The thing I loved about this place was the family feel to the running of it. The staff are so hospitable and welcoming, making you feel like like you’re part of the family. They were keen to lend a helping hand whenever we wanted, giving recommendations, helping out with luggage and even helping out with a first aid kit when I managed to fall off my bicycle and cut all my arms and legs! (Typical)
The setting and decor of the place is absolutely stunning. Very boho chic. The website itself does not do the place justice, so I really hope some of my images do, but you just can’t quite explain the serenity and sense of calm you feel, as you sip on an ice cold cocktail and soak up the sun, overlooking the long stretch of almond valleys beyond whilst listening to the birds tweeting and fully immersing yourself in to what I would now call, the best part of Ibiza.
As seasoned travellers or if I'm honest, probably weekly travellers, I’d like to feel we have a reasonable idea of what would constitute as 'a place worth ticking off your bucket list'.
Obviously this decision will always come down to personal taste and generally, I’m more of a sucker for a beautiful setting as opposed to the quality and aesthetics of a hotel. As adventurers, being in the great outdoors, exploring the location and being inundated with optional activities is key, and this is precisely what Hillside resort offers you. With most of their guests being returning customers, that is an accolade in itself.
So when, a couple of weeks ago, I was invited on a press trip to Hillside, I was simply stunned by how beautiful and serene the resort was predominantly for its private and secluded coves and beaches. Hillside is located on the the gorgeous coastline of Turkey in Fethiye, a port city on Turkey's southwestern Turquoise Coast and is nestled among pine-covered hills with its own beautiful private cove which is home to three pebbly beaches. This little slice of paradise caters for everyone from families with kids to adventure seekers, couples or even individuals who just want a digital detox.
With a variety of activities to get involved in from water sports, excursions, child friendly activities, spa treatments, adult-only beaches and mouth-watering food this really is for everyone. Below I’ve briefly outlined some tips and must do’s if you head there!
TIPS: Go just before peak season (May or beginning June). We went in May and it was the perfect time, not too busy with endless space on the beach and nothing less than a perfect temperature of around 24 degrees. Note that the beaches themselves are not huge so I can imagine them getting busy in peak times.
Have a massage in the Sanda nature day spa. It’s nestled up in the forest and surrounded by running waterfalls which is simply magical. I had a relaxing one hour body massage followed by an uplifting ginger tea and fresh fruit
Watch a film under the stars on the beach. At Hillside they run summer screenings and as this was my first time experiencing and outdoor cinema, I was SO excited about it. We snuggled up with blankets and popcorn and watched an old black and white film whilst looking at the stars. The perfect evening that certainly lived up to the hype.
Morning yoga on the silent beach. I couldn’t think of a more zen and peaceful place to do this surrounded by pine trees and the sound of birds and the crashing waves. The icing on the cake was a 5 minute shoulder massage by the massage therapists after the class.
The sunset beach tour. A group of us spent sunset on a beautiful boat sipping wine and cheese tasting whilst also getting involved in a sound healing and meditation session which proved to be the ultimate relaxation. A memorable evening spent at sea.
Dine at Pasha restaurant on the bay, it serves up incredible Mediterranean style cuisine and later the ambience spices up further with a DJ! Also do check out the main restaurant which serves up an unparalleled buffet experience… you may be aware of how much Loanne and I love our food and I was so spoiled for choice here... there were no less than 20 different desserts from Oreo cake to Souffle to Pannacotta, Creme Brûlée and various flavours of ice creams - you name it, it was there. The Nutella ice-cream was to die for though..
Swim, swim and swim. The beaches and private coves for me are what made this place so magical. The twinkling turquoise sea is absolutely beautiful, it’s cold but makes you feel so ALIVE if you spend long enough in it! I swam out to the pontoon every day and soaked up the sun rays. Pure, unadulterated bliss.
Personally, I will certainly be returning to Hillside again and maybe even next time for my own luxurious digital detox....
Sal is one of the most popular of the ten Cape Verdean islands, located just off the North West coast of Africa.
If you’re looking for a slice of authentic African landscape and culture, you will still very much find it here but with undeniable European influence prevalent amongst its architecture, language and religion. The mix of the two makes for a beautiful place to visit. You will be amazed by the amount of different languages you hear in Sal, yet English seems to be amongst the few. Portuguese and Creole are the native languages, where I admit I felt pretty in my element having grown up in Portugal!
Along with its beautiful stretches of sandy beaches and turquoise blue water, the barren African landscape, the sand pans, the incredibly delicious food, the warm weather year round and the vibrant and buzzing streets of Santa Maria, Sal should definitely be on your bucket list of places to visit.
I flew out for a week in mid January with my friend for a week of relaxation. The flight is just short of six hours, which actually seemed to go by extremely quickly. As I landed and left the airport, I was instantly surprised by the raw and undeveloped state of the island. Still so untouched by tourists, with long stretches of barren desert land and salt flats for miles. A country that has not yet properly been discovered nor built on or developed by the tourism industry. An island with heaps of potential and beauty, unfortunately crying out for development and tourism. I guarentee it will be a very different place in five to ten years with development plans for new hotels and casinos already under way.
Sal is famous for its wind. It is one of the worlds top destinations for wind and kite surfers and you will often see hundreds on the beaches and worldwide competitions taking place here. The wind was quite strong when I was there but in the summer months it gets less so and makes sunbathing that bit more pleasurable, not that it wasn’t, but a wind shelter is definitely recommended. The average temperature when I was there was around 25 degrees but in the summer months it warms up to the late 20s/30s.
The town of Santa Maria is an idyllic fishing village dotted with Crayola-coloured buildings, cobbled streets and palm trees on every street corner which has given way to it name as ‘The African Caribbean’. Walk along the strip in the evening and dance away to live bands, reggae bars and friendly locals dancing and drinking in the streets. There’s also a handful of amazing restaurants along here and the food is divine. Lots of local fresh produce and fish is one of their specialities. Try a small restaurant called ‘O Carangueijo’, translated as ‘The Crab’ in English. It’s rather humble exterior doesn’t do justice to its mouth-watering menu. Try the Black Squid Ink with Seafood. It will leave you literally salivating! *Drool *
With the local mantra being ‘No Stress’, there is a nice sense of calm and uninhibitedness on the island which I absolutely loved. It was so easy to feel at peace and relaxed. Chilling on the beach was my favourite pastime throughout the week ( no surprise there, I’m sure). Although, if you know me, I do also love a good party and good music and one place that is quite different due to its more luxurious and modern vibe is ‘Bikini Beach’. A beautiful beach club stretching fourty metres in to the ocean which boasts amazing views from its modern white terraces. Bikini beach is perfect for day parties watching the sunset over the Atlantic ocean whilst listening to local and international DJs spin their tunes.
Another reason I am keen to return is due to the amount activities and things there are to do on the island, which due to my persistence in ‘just chilling’ we didn’t get round to do! However, I hope by some of the images and video, you get a feel for the beauty and rawness of the island. You can go shark watching, quad biking, kite surfing, island boat tours, floating in a salt mine and many more, so if I were you I would plan a trip to the secret spot of Sal, Cape Verde, whilst it still remains as untouched, authentic and as beautiful as it is.
And breathe! It was another busy fashion week filled with shows/ presentations and cocktail parties galore! Here’s a round-up of all of our LFW outfits. We kept it casual as per with the classic white and black palette and threw in a few stripes, chequers and buttons for good measure!
If you can trust anyone to be escaping the winter months and spending another Christmas basking in the sun, you can guarantee it will be us…And us it was! We decided to jet off to Thailand for Christmas and New Years swapping the snow for the sun, the sofa for the beach and the indulgent roast dinner for delicious Thai currys. Nom, nom, nom!
Now, if you’re looking for recommendations of where to stay and where to go in Thailand, I’m not sure this blog post will be highly appropriate for you. We didn’t venture too far out of Phuket (aside Krabi) as we have a house out there, in a southerly point called Rawai, that my dad built 6 years ago. However, I will highlight some of the other places we visited and stayed at. (Worth mentioning if you are heading out there any time soon!)
Instead, this blog post, I hope, is well suited for you sun loving babies( like us) that will jump at any opportunity to escape the winter months and are in need of a bit of wardrobe inspiration when hitting hotter, even humid, climates at this time of year. Below all of our images we’ve listed where everything is from with links to where you can buy them.
So for those of you that have been to Thailand at Christmas you’ll know, you’re usually guaranteed hot weather, it can also be quite humid and a few downpours here and there, they aren’t known to last long at all though. With this in mind, it can be more than common to OVER PACK, which from experience, is a big mistake. In fact I think the whole fifteen days, I wore my flip flops and sandals thirteen out of those whole days along with bikinis and throw overs. Those being my main staples.
If you’re heading to Thailand for a two week holiday over Christmas I would limit your suitcase to the following items (bare in mind, some of the outfits we are wearing in these photos, were purely to get good content in some of the outfits- They weren’t necessarily essential items if you’re trying to pack light! Ie the two piece outfits) : Flip flops, sandals, 3-5 bikinis/ beach wraps / throw-overs / sunnies/ sun hat / denim shorts / a couple of T’s / a Jacket or blazer / a couple of shirts / skirts and that is probably all you need!
Mangosteen Resort & Spa - After a very fun and hectic new years eve, we checked ourselves in for a few days of pampering and relaxation at the Mangosteen resort and spa. Just ten minutes from our house in Rawai.
We each had a little wooden villa in the middle of the jungle with sea views, each one was so adorable. In those few days, we indulged in a very healthy vegan menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Treated ourselves to full body Thai massages, body wraps, Spa sessions and really took the time to unwind.
It is a definite must if you’re in Phuket and looking for a few days to chill out!
After a few days in Phuket we went to visit my brother, sister in law and Neice who had rented a beautiful villa in Krabi. This is it here, for those looking for a nice villa stay whilst there.
Krabi is a lot less busy, polluted and generally a lot more green and almost jungle-like than where we were in Phuket. We stayed for a week spending Christmas there too, which was very un-christmassy, to say the least, but also amazing. Sipping on a beer and floating in the pool on Christmas day and hiring Thai chefs who came over and cooked us a delicious Thai feast for dinner! If you’re in Krabi, be sure to rent one of the boats at the beach for a day and have a tour of the neighbouring islands. They are beautiful, Coral Island, in particular, as you approach it, looks like a scene from Jurassic park, with its backdrop of sheer cliffs and huge hanging palm trees.
I’ve always loved skiing from a young age. There’s just nothing quite like the adrenaline you get from bombing it down the most breathtaking mountain range, blue skies in sight and inhaling the freshest of air on your decline…Bliss.
Now for the avid skiers, I’m sure you will be well aware of La Folie Douce and its infamous apres-ski parties on the slopes, so when we heard they were opening the first ever Folie Douce Hotel, I jumped at the chance to go out and experience it.
Located in a prime spot in the centre of Chamonix Mont Blanc, the hotel has ski-in , ski-out access to the Brevet Ski Resort, so it’s perfect for mixing apres and skiing.
Our trip was organised by Ski Solutions, one of the UK’s leading luxury ski tour operators. From organising our stay, to our restaurants and ski passes, they really did an amazing job. I invited my two friends to join me on my trip, as Jordan was busy doing her 10 day silent retreat in Thailand.
As we approached the hotel, nestled between the snowy mountains, smoke transpiring out the top, it oozed a sense of grandeur reminiscent of that of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Walking in, the interior was equally as stunning, each room with its own distinct personality and the carpets full of character and intricacy. The one closest to the entrance was a beautiful beige, detailed map of the world.
The rooms, of which there are 250 in the whole hotel, each have a stunning view of the mountain ranges outside and are so cosy. We had a deluxe room, perfect for the 3 of us and one of the evenings, instead of getting involved in the Apres ski, our room was just too tempting, so we all just snuggled up and watched a film, watching the snow fall on to the mountains outside. Cosier than that? Impossible.
Now, if you’re not a big skier, nor a big drinker (party-goer) then do not fret! These guys also have wellness, fitness and relaxation down to a T. The feel good club sports and spa hosts an 18-metre heated outdoor swimming pool, saunas and a steam room, relaxation room and a sun terrace overlooking the majestic mountains of Chamonix. They also have eight massage cabins and offer a whole range of different treatments and massages. Unfortunately we didn’t get to experience this, we were too busy skiing….and partying but a massage would have gone down an absolute treat.
One of my favourite parts of the hotel was the food. (No surprise there) The hotel has three different restaurants. Le Petit Cuisine, Le Mayen, La Fruitiere . The first night we had dinner at La Petit Cuisine, which is also where we had breakfast each morning. It’s a gourmet self-service restaurant relying on quality, local produce, plus a great atmosphere. In the mornings there’s just the most amazing spread of freshly made croissants, pastries, pancakes, waffles, fresh fruits, condiments, jams, cheese, hams, eggs, savoury delights… You name it, they have it. The best way to fuel up before a long day on the slopes!
On our second evening, we really went all out with traditional comfort Alpine food. Yes, we’re talking cheese fondue, raclette, potatoes, hams, breads, pickles and all the sides. Le Mayen, is the restaurant to hit the spot, perfect for a post-ski workout. Mouth-wateringly delicious and guaranteed to have you rolling out of there feeling satisfyingly cheesed-out.
So the infamous Apres- ski takes place between 4pm and 10pm. The main area is in the lower part of the hotel, where you will be greeted by singers, big-screen projections, breath taking light shows, dancers, DJs blaring out the tunes and quite possibly an array of keen skiers dancing on the tables, necking the booze and getting down to the dirty Dj beats. It sure is an amazing experience.
Our last night had to be one of the best. We went down to Apres around 8pm after our cheese-induced comas and ended up getting very involved in the dancing, the partying, the booze and ended our night in a traditional bar in town full of avid ski-goers ready to party their socks off. A night to remember no doubt!
The skiing itself was equally as fun. The ski lift is right outside the hotel making it super easy to access the slopes. The mountain range, The Alps, are breathtaking and the first day was probably one of the most beautiful conditions I have ever skiied in. Bright blue skies, above the clouds and the beaming sunshine on our faces.
I am so impressed that the hotel had opened a matter of days before we arrived, as everything went so smoothly. Ski solutions really did pull out all the stops to make sure our stay and ski experience was a fantastic and memorable one. If you’re looking to go Skiing, Chamonix is the perfect place to go and no better place to experience the whole shebang that at the Folie Douce!
Okay guys this is a long one but PLEASE bear with me….
Over the past couple of years I’ve dabbled in meditation (15 minutes here and there) and have always been pleasantly surprised at how it calmed my busy and racing mind. Towards the end of last year when I stripped away any form of distraction such as social media/ drinking/ relationships I realised that I wasn’t truly fulfilled and I was masking how I felt through all these forms of escapism.
It probably seems hard to believe right? Especially when it looks like I’m leading the best life through Instagram, going on holiday every month, eating at the best places and wearing the nicest clothes? In all honestly I believed I was until I stripped it all back…(it’s important for me to be as transparent as possible that what you see on Instagram doesn’t always correlate to how you feel on the inside…I think we all know that.)
On top of all of this I had suffered from tiny bouts of anxiety here and there that seemed to be getting worse over the past 6 months, I’d also developed a health issue, derived from stress, my body was clearly telling me that something needed to change so that is when I decided to take time for myself and give myself the best medicine possible; a Vipassana silent retreat.
For those that don’t know Vipassana meditation (the oldest buddhist meditation practise) is another method that develops self-understanding through mindful training. Vipassana means “to see things how they truly are” By acknowledging the body and mind in the present moment it develops and strengthens momentary concentration.
So after a family holiday in Phuket, I flew off to Chaing Mai to a monastery called ‘Watrampoeng’ that my brother and friend had tried and tested and highly recommended.
On the plane over I started to feel slightly apprehensive, ‘could I do 10 days without talking? Would I get lonely? What will I do without my phone? What have I signed myself up for? Lots of my friends thought I was a little crazy for doing it but I had an overriding feeling of excitement and determination.
Once I arrived at the temple, we were layed down with THE RULES:
No talking, no phone, no books, no reading, no writing, no electronic devices, no wearing makeup, hair always to be tied up, no walking and drinking and a few others….(Wow!)
I was given 2 sets of linen clothing to wear for the next 10 days, an alarm clock (which the nun took off me after day 2, so I had no concept of time apart from the sound of the gong to signal lunch time) a stop watch and a key to my room. My room was basic, bear and uninviting, what had I got myself in for, I thought, but as the days went on, I realised I didn’t need anything else…
The whole 10 days were very much Do-It-Yourself. There were around 15 of us on the course, we were shown how to do the walking and sitting meditation which we would do ourselves over the next 10 days, we were given a certain number of hours of meditation to complete each day before reporting back to the teacher every afternoon to discuss our progress. (I was doing 13 hours a day by the end!)
THE DAILY SCHEDULE
4.30am - The GONG goes off, morning chanting and meditation (voluntary)
(Continue meditating in place of choice)
6.30am - GONG goes off for Breakfast (After 2 days I skipped breakfast, I wasn’t hungry and it only disrupted my practise)
(Continue meditating in place of choice)
10.30am - GONG goes off for Lunch, last meal of the day - The food was bloody delicious and caters so well for vegetarians, lots of vegetables, wild rice, tofu and satan
Continue your practise for the rest of the day until bedtime (usually around 10pm) with reporting at 4pm.
It was mentally exhausting but what I experienced over the next 10 days was profound. I acquired an inner calm I had never felt in my life, a real inner peace devoid of negative thoughts and mind chatter. During those 10 days, I felt so alive and healthy, I remember waking up every morning at 4.30am to the sound of the gong, not even tired, looking in the mirror and for the first time looking vibrant with no bags under my eyes! Winner winner, chicken dinner!
So when I say a “silent retreat” I spoke briefly with the teachers, crumbled at points and exchanged a few words with my fellow yogis BUT it didn’t disrupt my practise as such, as long as I was still being “mindful” and not letting my mind wander, a few words here and there didn’t hurt anyone!
To be honest I did find the “no” talking quite challenging, being a naturally chatty person I found it weird and pretty awkward not being able to talk at meal times…this feeling quickly dissolved.
Bear in mind that every body’s journey is personal and so my experiences could be completely different to other peoples. Weirdly I didn’t miss having my phone at all, in fact I hardly remember even thinking about it, nor did I feel lonely or sad, on the contrary, I felt at home, safe and exactly where I should be. My unassuming/ bear bedroom became my sanctuary…
A FEW STAND OUT MOMENTS
Day 6 - Every day was different but (after doing around 65 hours of meditating) my senses were heightening so much that I felt like what could only be described as being on a trippy MDMA experience. Haha! My mind was playing tricks on me. I could see things moving from the corner of my eyes and I remember doing the practise in the dark and looking at a leaf that I could have sworn turned into a mouse! Ha. After asking my teacher if that was normal, he laughed and looked at me in a slightly funny manner… clearly not then. Just my mind playing tricks on me. None of the other yogis shared that experience either.
Day 7 - I had what I considered a breakthrough, Whilst I was doing the sitting meditation, focusing on my breathing, my heart started to race for 10 minutes and no word of lie, a huge release of tension and anxiety that felt like it had been built up over the years suddenly dissolved, left my body. The feeling that followed….Euphoria. I acquired an inner calm, a state of tranquility I had never felt before, It was like I was breathing for the first time (honestly guys it has to be experienced to be understood.) I’d describe it as a quieting of the mind, detached from the constant mental chatter and inner critic that we live with on daily basis. I feel like I finally had that lightbulb moment that said “Hoorah, This is what life is all about!’
Day 8 - This was my happiest day. I felt so at peace and calm. I sat against one of the temple pillars finishing my practise, the morning sun hitting my face and I remember watching a little black cat enjoying the sun and thinking to myself that I could sit here blissfully all day with not a worry or a care just utter presence and calm.
Day 9- I felt very relaxed but weirdly had a pang of anxiety during lunch which made me feel a little deflated, especially as I was in such a state of calm. After 9 days why was I still feeling anxiety? When I relayed the information back to my teacher he responded ‘impermanence,’ as you are taught in Vipassana nothing stays the same and everything is subject to change. It took me 3 hours of meditating to get back to the level of calm I had prior.
Would I do a Vipassana silent retreat again? HELL YES. I was even tempted to stay and do the full 26 days because once you’ve started to train the mind, you realise that you’re only just scratching the surface at 10 days.
LIFE AFTER THE RETREAT
It was quite a transition coming straight back into busy London life, I was getting headaches after spending just half an hour on my phone and it felt like everyone was operating at 700 miles per hour whilst I was going at a snails pace, I was getting tired, really tired…
So I’m meditating every morning now for an hour, there’s no way I’m letting this practise slip. I’m going to endeavour to do a silent retreat every year now, you can hold me to that!
Oh and my health issue, (which was a thyroid one) diminished. Most diseases and illnesses stem from stress so I knew calming my mind would be the best cure for it. And Voila it was!
Practising mindfulness meditation requires work, and as my teacher kept reminding me the mind is like a muscle, the more you train it the stronger it becomes. HOW crazy that we live in a society that is so focused on training the body yet we completely neglect the mind; the one thing that causes all of our suffering but equally the only thing that will set us free and provide us with true inner happiness.
I’m not saying 10 days will change your life, I’m certainly no monk and I still have that inner critic and negative thoughts, I’m a human, ‘a thinking being’ but what it has allowed me to do is quieten those thoughts by accessing the present moment, I can look at my thoughts objectively as not being my own, which for me was liberating! (Sounds easy to be present, right? I thought I was totally present until I did this course. Trust me, not until you train your mind can you fully appreciate what it’s like to be living in the now.)
I know how much this will benefit everyone reading this especially in our society that places so much emphasis on finding happiness on the outside world whether through a job, a relationship, a new outfit, a bit of botox, but that only buys temporary happiness until it’s over, you wrinkle, you loose that job, you dump your partner…
Have you ever been constantly drained, tired or depressed from all the mind chatter constantly dictating the way you feel and in turn changing the way you perceive the world. ‘ Ah I need to loose more weight’ ‘Ah I need to get that promotion’, ‘Ah I’m getting too many wrinkles.’ We lose the present moment by constantly having these thoughts, our ego thrives of negative thoughts so we get caught up and forget about the here and now, THE ONLY TIME WE WILL EVER HAVE!
This has honestly been one of the best tools I have received, if it can help me it can help you and if there is one thing I can encourage you guys who are reading this, it’s not just to buy the latest bikini I’m promoting or lust over the last holiday I’ve been on because, non of that matters if you aren’t truly at peace on the inside…(I know) because It’s temporary, it’s fleeting it’s short lived and it isn’t the happiness (I PROMISE) that you are consciously or unconsciously searching for. It’s to get up go book a Vipassana retreat (for those committed ones) or if you’re not ready yet start making meditation a part of your daily routine, sit with yourself and stop running away from your thoughts. It will be the greatest gift you give yourself and a step closer to finding an inner peace, an inner calm you didn’t even know existed.
“Change your thoughts and the world around you changes.”
Touch down in Ibiza and an overwhelming feeling comes flooding back to me…A feeling of excitement, anticipation and some what ‘belonging’ which I can never quite put my finger on…
Ahead of launching their iconic 1,000 room hotel in London next spring, The Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza, set on the south side of the island, invited a small group of us out to give us an exclusive taste of what to expect…..Excitement was an understatement!
As we drove to the hotel, our taxi driver tricked us into thinking the hotel was two hours away, so we prepared ourselves for a long and tiresome journey, but within no longer than 10/15 minutes he pulled up next to a huge ‘Hard Rock’ sign, on the doorstep of the infamous ‘Ushuaia’ club and muttered “ Only joking. We’re here!” I mean talk about convenience!
Which leads me to my first and foremost reason for going, staying and experiencing the amazing Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza, where we stayed for 3 nights…and boy oh boy did we have fun…
Now one thing this hotel is not lacking is music. Memorabilia, live acts, amazing sound systems, parties, DJs , underwater sound systems, welcome musical gifts! You name it, this hotel has music at its core…
International famous entertainers from all over the world find inspiration right here. We were given a memorabilia tour of the hotel, which was fascinating, so many famous acts have stayed or played here and costumes and outfits from Elton john to Lady Gaga to the beetles are all present in the hotel.
Even the rooms are ridden with musical aspects. You can change the lights over your bed to change the mood, an amazing sound system is available and upon arrival were electrical guitars and vinyl players in our rooms. I mean, I wish we knew how to play both, but pretty cool huh?
We were in our element.
Now think about all the reasons you would choose to go to Ibiza ( well all the reasons we would anyway…)
Beach bars, clubs, DJs, restaurants, events, sunsets, beaches, …well thankfully at the Hard Rock, this is all at your disposal.
With the infamous Ushuaia next door, pumping beats and music throughout the day to get you in the mood, the hotel is set against the very famous El Chiringuito Beach. A ten minute drive and you’re at the famous Experimental beach bar, famous for its beautiful sunsets over the island. Another 12 minute drive and you can get lunch at El Chiringuito beach bar , which is such a great atmosphere and the food is divine. A few minutes from the hotel’s doorstep and you can dance all night at the famous HII Ibiza where we danced all night long to Eric Prydz for his closing set…. or if you’re feeling lazy, just roll out of bed and you’re pretty much in Ushuaia, where you’ll find most of the best music acts playing from dusk until dawn.
So the first night Jordan and I arrived we had dinner at the hotel’s beach club outside.
The beautifully white washed rustic decor oozes all elements of chic amidst a gentle evening sea breeze. The ideal spot for a chilled dinner. We ordered the sea bass and vegetables which to this day, Jordan describes as ‘the best sea bass’ she has ever had. Freshly caught and beautifully seasoned, a definite must-try if you go! One of the afternoons we had lunch here as well which was just as delicious, with a wide variety of mediterranean options. Ps - Go for the Octopus at lunch. It is Fish-licious.
On our last night we dined at the Tatel restaurant. With restaurants in Madrid and Miami , this place is a leader in traditional Spanish cuisine. I ordered an amazing dish of black rice which squid which was incredible, but for me, even more impressive than the food, was the 1920’s style ambience and interior of the restaurant, you feel like you’re stepping into a scene from the Great Gatsby surrounded by the glitz and glamour of the prohibition era. We spent the first half an hour in awe of the decor. A lot of inspiration when doing up my own home for sure…
Rooftop Bar -
Now, if you’re looking for delicious cocktails, a fantastic sunset view, chilled beats and a way to start off the night, then the Hard Rock rooftop bar is the one.
Jordan and I arrived just in time for sunset on our first evening, so decided to go up for a drink or two. You can see the whole south side of the island from the top and also watch all the planes flying in over the sunset, and on the other side is the moon, we were lucky to get a full moon when we were there. Views to die for…
PS - Get the Old Fashioned cocktail. I’m not usually a fan of whisky , but theirs is special!
So there you have it, if you love your music, you love to party and you love the magical island of Ibiza, The Hard Rock is the place to be. Fantastic food, bars, location, music and ambience. It’s all here baby!
Thank you so much for our stay Hard Rock! We can’t wait for the opening of the London property!
If you’re looking for a lovely, laid-back retreat abroad, look no further than the ‘Retreat to Crete’, a yoga and cookery retreat that nourishes the mind, body and belly!
Set amongst a rustic and beautiful backdrop of the majestic Cretan sea in a gorgeous, Greek-inspired villa, the retreat offers a lovely space to have some much needed down time whilst also mingling with some fabulous like-minded people.
What I loved about this retreat was the informality and relaxed nature of it. With the retreat in its infancy, hosts Betty and Caroline were so welcoming and open to anything we felt like doing (or not doing) it was a real home from home. With another 8 attendees on the retreat it felt like one big happy family where we all cooked together, feasted together, explored the local town, hiked through stunning landscapes, visited a beautiful monastery and all whilst appreciating the breath-taking surroundings.
We spent 4 days at Villa Delfini and every morning we would partake in either sunrise yoga or a lengthy swim in the pool followed by a lovely breakfast spread of Greek yoghurt, local honey, walnuts and fresh figs topped off with some stimulating local Greek coffee. Arguably the perfect way to start the day!
Over the 4 days we learnt to cook some mouth-watering Greek inspired dishes, courtesy of the extremely talented chef, Betty, who taught us how to make Gigantes Plaki (slow cooked butterbeans), BBQ’d Octopus in garlic and lemon, stuffed courgette flowers, Cretan dakkos and of course our fave, Tzatziki. Skills I am still yet to put into practise in the kitchen but definitely top of my recipe list once summer pokes its head around again. The day ended as well as it started with a lovely cooked meal (prepared by us) with some delicious local wine.
Exercise wise the break was quite relaxed. Whilst starting the day with either a swim in the pool or a yoga session with the inspirational Caroline, we also hiked and swam at the local beach which was a beautiful cove, rustic & quaint in nature and devoid of tourists. Added extras on the retreat were wine tasting and massages from the local masseuse, which was a great way to unwind and recuperate.
This really was the ideal retreat. If you are a foodie like us, love to unwind, meet new people in an intimate setting whilst also appreciating beautifully scenic views and sunsets, this is the place for you!