Murcia & Andalusia, Spain

In September 2015 I received the amazing news I had won the Licor43 competition in association with Mr & Mrs Smith hotels, for a 3 night stay for two in Spain!

I have always been fascinated in Spain culture since spending a short time there after university and had always wanted to revisit the areas I had never seen so winning this competition really was a dream come true!

I choose my mum as my guest and we flew to Alicante where we were picked up by our lovely taxi driver and taken to the region of Murcia where we were staying at the luxurious ‘Principe Felipe 5* Hotel, La Manga Club Resort.’  This hotel is set in a 560-hectare golf resort and is an upscale villa-style hotel. The complex is huge and  you can explore the sights by foot or bus depending on how near each amenity. Unfortunately, we weren’t staying long but we saw the immaculately manicured golf courses and explored the town where you can have very reasonable meals and drinks at the cafes, bars and restaurants.

la manga

We then went to the Licor43 distillery and had a private tour of the Experiencia 43 in Cartagena, accompanied by a very knowledgeable guide. The history of the Licor was fascinating and we came away really appreciating the process involved in crafting this liquid gold! A generous highlight of our tour was watching the cocktail making and getting a few drinks in ready for the long trip across the other side of Spain!

 

We then headed for the region of Andalusia, where we could view the majestic snow-capped Sierra Nevada along the way.  We then had a day long taxi drive to our final destination the authentic and beautifully rustic ‘Casa La Siesta hotel’ in the quiet village of Los Parralejos, Cadiz.  The hotel was a picture-perfect home surrounded by sun drenched hills, horses and lemons! The food was home cooked, healthy and local and the presentation and tastes were exquisite!

 

Casa La Siesta Hotel is situated a short drive from the hilltop town of Vejer de la Frontera, which we visited on a day trip and had a hearty local dish served by one of the locals in the courtyard of her own home! We sat watching the world go by against the white washed walls and I couldn’t have thought up a better Spanish setting and a perfect final destination to our mini magical mystery tour of Spain!

The Catalan Pyrenees

In September 2011, I took part in the programme “CAPS” (Conversation Assistant Programmes for Schools) run by Home to Home.  The programme mainly placed English Assistants from native English speaking countries in Barcelona or towns within Catalonia.

 

By a mixture of chance and a preference for a slower pace of life, I was assigned a sleepy village called Castellciutat near the town of La Seu d’Urgell , in the Catalan Pryrenees! There is an old castle, Castell de Ciutat (Castle of the City), which gives its name to the village I was placed in. My location was in the province of Lleida and situated near to the small country of Andorra (known for its ski resorts and as a tax-haven!).

 

This trip was the first time I had flown on my own and the thought of living abroad for the first time and whilst living with a host family and teaching at a school was incredibly nerve wracking but also very exciting!

 

I arrived in Barcelona at a hostel to meet with the other Conversation Assistants and had an introduction to the programme before we all met with our host families to begin our new adventure! Families varied in age group with some children being very young, I was placed in a family with two daughters, one aged 16 ( Ester) and the other daughter aged 14 ( Laura).

I was greeted by teachers at the school in a mini bus to begin our long journey to my host family (3 hours!) The journey made for a good opportunity to practice foreign language skills – I didn’t speak any Spanish and they didn’t speak English! We muddled along somehow even with misinterpretations and misunderstandings and it certainly made window watching a whole lot more interesting! I shall never forget the outside countryside emerging from city life as we passed the hustle and bustle of city life for the tranquillity and simplicity of nature.

I arrived at my new family having not slept very well the night before ( late night in the hostel) and having had a long tiring journey in broken English but it was still thrilling to turn up being faced with another new change of faces.

 

My family were welcoming, empathetic and just a good ol’ natural and simple Catalan family with traditional values and good manners.

 

More to come…..

 

Scotland

Fife
A few years ago I won a walking holiday in Scotland for two courtesy of Smooth Radio and Macs Adventure.  It was the first time I had ever won a holiday and I remember feeling overwhelmed with excitement, finally realizing that you can indeed win big!
The trip was the ‘Fife Coastal Path’ – Short Break. We stayed in really cute guesthouses and had door to door baggage transfer included. We arrived in Kirkcaldy and then travelled to Leven, Elie and then onto Crail.  We visited Buckhaven, Pittenweem and Ediburgh along the way and I believe we covered 31 miles of walking in total, which doesn’t seem a whole lot but by the last day we felt we had done a marathon! The scenery was absolutely spectacular and there is a lot to be said for watching the world go by.

scotland

A self- directed coastal break across the wilderness of Scotland
“Relying solely on our map reading skills we journeyed on foot. We crossed wide-stretched open fields where we were pelted with torrential rain with nowhere to hide, we lost our bearings from the unfamiliar territory with each direction looking the same.
We found ourselves clinging on the edge of a cliff face with gusts of wind swirling all around us, thunderstorms cracking loudly in the distance and rain engulfing our bodies. We clung onto our surrounds with our entire strength still aching with pain from the rugged terrain. Nobody can underestimate the power and complexity of nature and in that moment I had never felt more alive.”

066

Cyprus -Wedding

Cyprus: an Island in the eastern Mediterranean is separated into a Greek south and Turkish north, with the capital Nicosia also divided.
Currency: Euro
Population: 1.141 million, World Bank (2013)
Official languages: Turkish, Greek
In October 2015 my cousin got married in Lofou, Limassol District, Cyprus.
Cyprus Wedding 01
We flew out to Cyprus where my family and I stayed in Pissouri at Hylatio Village. This sweet complex was set in beautiful gardens with a swimming pool, pool bar and just a few minutes’ walk from Pissouri beach and the small town, where I had my nails painted ready for the wedding.

 

The wedding was held in the village of Lofou, set up in the hills near the Troodos Mountains and is incredibly quaint with such a continental charm; you truly felt you had stepped into a scene from Mamma Mai.
The wedding was magical and so elegant, the decor was stunning, the dresses and suits were gorgeous and the cuisine was exquisite!  It was truly a dreamy place to tie the knot.

Thailand

Aqua

At the end of December 2014, I won the most amazing competition: A holiday for two to Thailand!

I won this ‘Thailand explorer’ trip through The Telegraph and the holiday was with the luxury travel company Kuoni! It was such a fabulous Christmas present and certainly something special to look forward to!

I decided to arrange for the trip to be taken in October 2015 where my guest and I enjoyed a 10 night tour of Thailand staying in Bangkok (2 nights), Ayuthaya (1 night), Sukhothai (2 nights),Chiang Rai (1 night) and Chiang Mai (3nights). The tour was utterly amazing and I am forever grateful to The Telegraph and Kuoni for making such a dream happen for us!

Thailand
‘Thailand Explorer’

We were incredibly lucky to be with only one other couple and our hotel rooms were often upgraded (not that we needed it). We experienced a comprehensive tour witnessing the beautiful changes in landscape, diverse cuisine and soaking up the culture as we travelled south to north.  We met local people and discovered the beautiful wildlife, nature and renowned landmarks along the way. I think we saw enough Buddhist temples to last us a lifetime!


Our highlights included having dinner overlooking the Chao Phraya River; taking boat rides along the canals of the Thonburi, enjoying a long-tail boat along the Mae Ping River and a traditional rice barge on the Sakraekrang River.  We also enjoyed visiting the hill tribe villages of Akha and Yao in Northern Thailand. Other highlights included having custom made suites and dresses from ‘Thai Silk Village’, Chiangmai and watching the work of the staff at the Elephant Nature Park and being able to wash and feed the elephants! It is also well worth visiting the Coffee Research Project and the Hmong Village of Chang Khienon where we came across very friendly puppies!

All our hotels were fantastic but we particularly recommend: Sukhothai Heritage Resort, The Legend Chiang Rai Boutique River Resort & Spa and Khum Phaya Resort & Spa, Centara Boutique Collection.

We had a face and body massages at Khum Phaya Resort & Spa for 2 hours and it was utterly amazing! The skills of the staff were incredible and the value for money was unbelievable! We truly have fond memories of our trip ‘Thailand Explorer’ and highly recommend this trip and Kuoni. Thank-you so much to The Telegraph and Kuoni for a life time of fond memories and stories!

Acne, Warts and All!

I promised myself I would write about this issue which has blighted my life ever since I was 12! Girls these days are under tremendous pressure to fit this picture perfect image of  looking immaculate and flawless all the time. It’s glamourised  on the tv, in the magazines and on social media.

We are groomed by society from a young age to look nothing short of perfect, on nights out we are guided towards notions we should look ‘sexy’ and ‘hot’ otherwise we shouldn’t even bother turning up.

I remember my first year of university,  throughout every week ( not just freshers) leaflets and poster advertisements would be pushed under our doors with images of overally styled girls posing erotically.

This kind of marketing is deployed to manipulate us into thinking that these bars and clubs will make for ‘trendy and fun nights’ as  only women who are sexually assured and sexy looking (as opposed to elegant or refined) create this.

The images magnified lashings of makeup, airbrush skin, pouting lips and surgically enhanced bodies and planted the idea that in order to look good or to be worthy of others attention this was the ‘appearance’ and ‘behavior’ my peers and I should be mimicking.

Isn’t it more important to appreciate the reality, that as human beings we all come differently, our experiences of life aren’t the same nor are our characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities neither can our bodies. We aren’t all 6ft, petite, stick thin, or curvy ‘in all the right places’, buxom or with big booties.. we don’t all have straight hair, curly hair, blonde, brunette, have freckles or moles, we don’t all have clear skin  just as we can’t all be equal at maths, playing hockey, or natural speakers and so forth.

We need to say to ourselves it’s ok to have a body that looks more like a fragile ballerina rather than a buxom glamour model or one that looks more suited to a game of rugby than a career on the catwalk. Nature makes us unique and it isn’t right for us to be constantly bombarded in one direction.

Naturally, university is a time for self development and discovery as for the majority of us make the transition from school or college to the wider world of uni life. There is already enough pressure on young people trying to make their way through and adapt to these changes rather than have to endure being sold false ideas of how they need to look or behave in order to be seen as ‘appealing’.

Self worth or acceptance does not come from how sexy looking we can make ourselves or  how provocative or promiscuous we are willing to behave, it comes from being comfortable in who we are.

During my own university experience, i had to contend with severe acne and a course of treatment on the drug roaccantane.

more to come….