Viewing entries in
Travel

Archie Big Bike Ride

Comment

Archie Big Bike Ride

On the first day of our Archie Big Bike Ride we went from the Children’s Hospital in Dundee to the branch in Inverness. 137miles, 9413ft, two Munro’s and just under 9h of cycling over the Cairngorms. At the end of this ride, there was no part of my body that wasn’t broken.

On day two we had the illusion it’s going to be easier however the wind was blowing the other way, the climbs were unforgiving and long and eventually we had done 123miles, over 6100ft in just under 9h, going from Inverness to the Children’s Hospital in Aberdeen.

Everyone is asking me how I feel today. Surprisingly I really feel fine, not much different to a good gym session, apart from the incredible huger for burning around 6-8k calories each day. I woke up at 5.30am today thinking that I could do it again. I suppose if your body is used to working out every day for years and in the last five months I have been putting a minimum 16h every week into solid training, so it doesn’t even know what it means not to be sore.

You must take a while to process experiences such as this one (although I’ve got the Etape Caledonia in 3 weeks so need to hurry up with the process work). It was pretty intense...really intense at times. We had snow, rain and hail for the first 70miles and that included climbing Glen Shee (our first major climb). It really did hurt, but then at the end of every climb was that thrill of an incredible achievement and the epic descent (after which you had to start climbing again…).

It’s astonishing what the human body and mind can do. Interestingly my head was really clear! I didn’t break once, knew why I was there, what I want and that I can do it. Literally didn’t have a single thought in my head after we passed Blairgowrie (primarily as the big ascent kicked in and all my vital functions were put into pedalling).

Another interesting experience was that it really was all about cycling. When you do a supported ride like this one, your whole being is about pedalling, and everything around you like sleep times, food, bike service, snacks, water supply, literally everything is arranged for you, all I had to do is cycling. It felt rather weird but incredibly good especially when in normal life you have three companies and a big outreach project to manage.

The money we’ve raised is for the Archie Foundation which now has three branches in Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen. It was a delight to visit all three of them, chat with the staff and some of the kids. We know the Dundee branch very well as we worked in different capacities with them, however I knew nothing about the other two. I am really proud we’ve collectively raised over £18k ! Those hospital wings do so much goodness and support so many families (a few that we know personally). If you somehow missed the link for donations just click here. It’s not too late and every penny really does count!

Finally! I wouldn’t have done it without the boys. I must be the luckiest girl in the world to cycle with 11 incredible men! There wasn’t a moment when I didn’t feel grateful for every single one of them, doing what they did, knowing that they are waiting for me on the other side of yet another climb. Never met a more fun and loving group that could push me though the Cairngorms, crack a joke and give the best hug ever. Each of them different, each caring and supportive and in as much pain as I was but still smiling and pedalling along. We were a group of different abilities, experiences and personalities but we were all equal and together for better (descent) or worse (yet another massive climb).

Big thanks go to the incredible Mark Beaumont who must have legs made of carbon fibre. Thank you Mark, you are a living example of how much humans can achieve if they put their mind to it. But you do it in a quiet and very humble way which is rare and even more admirable. In the culture that places so much value on social media appearance and self-aggrandisement, a small display of quiet virtue is pretty incredible, especially if followed by over 260 miles of continuous cycling, supporting your tribe and occasionally pushing a small person up the hill.

I must mention Mark Sinclair from the Bike Station in Perth. This man made us safe and cared for. We couldn’t have done it without the bikes and Mark always made sure they are on point. While smiling and sneaking jelly babies into your back pocket for those murderous climbs. Mark, Debbie and I had a little chat about yoga and cycling retreats so keep your eyes peeled. 

Finally, thank you to the whole Archive family. My goodness, you guys work so much to help those who need help the most. 

Comment

'It was a start of a journey for me...' - interview with Hannah

Comment

'It was a start of a journey for me...' - interview with Hannah

On a snowy, stormy and extremely cold Friday afternoon we all arrived to Elie to discover that the house suffered a heating problem. Which meant NO HEATING on the coldest, most windy and awful day in Scottish history! We are talking horizontal rain with snow and all. We had a choice: stay and make the most of it or go. After a few organisational changes, purchasing an extensive amount of portable heathers (thank you B&Q Leven), Phil bringing more heaters from the studio and a delicious dinner at Ship Inn in Elie, we settled in for the night. 

Five incredible women remained with us through that experience and we have had one of the most transformative and exceptional retreats. The heating was restored the next day, but not until Debbie made soup from scratch in the oven (another blog just on that coming soon).

Today we cough up with Hannah who came to the retreat and this is what she thought of it.

What was your favourite thing about the retreat and why? 

I don’t know if could choose my favourite part as each and every minute was my favourite part for different reasons. Probably cosying up by the fire and doing the relaxing yoga before bed and having the best nights sleep I’d had in months. I also loved how amazing everyone was. We were all very different but all got on so well. We all felt so looked after and nurtured by both Daria and Debbie.

IMG_8230.JPG

What did you think about the accommodation?

The accommodation was gorgeous. Homely and cosy but modern and luxurious. It was the most lovely place to relax and I was surprised at how at home we all felt. The beds were so comfy too and it was so nice to have a relaxing bath.

Was yoga THIS scary?

None of it was scary. There were parts which were out of my comfort zone but in a positive way. I felt I was able to be encouraged in a positive way which made me feel I had achieved. It was so satisfying and empowering!

How did you feel?

I’ve never felt so relaxed. It brought lots of emotions to the surface and made me realise the issues within my life and what I wanted to change. It gave me a positive outlook and a way to make positive changes. I felt connected with everybody there and it didn’t matter about age, lifestyle or our individual reasons for going on the retreat in the first place.

What did you think of the food? How yummy was it?

The food was AMAZING! There was plenty of it and each dish was so tasty and filling. It was so nice to have such fresh, nourishing but yummy food which catered to everyone’s needs.

What did you learn? Was it an inspirational experience ?

I learnt a lot about myself, about my life, my job, my friendships, my family, my exercise routine, my eating and what I wanted to change as well as small changes to make to achieve this. It was VERY inspirational and the start of a journey for me. My friends, family and colleagues all noticed the difference in me after the retreat. This also made me LOVE yoga even though I was a beginner and didn’t think I had time for it before.

Retreats are not just holidays... they transform lives.

Comment

Notes from the wonderland: Ben Vrackie adventures with the Kilted Yogi

Comment

Notes from the wonderland: Ben Vrackie adventures with the Kilted Yogi

This week’s adventure was a fine walk up my favourite Ben Vrackie, the ‘speckled mountain`. The translation comes from a time when white quartz rocks were scattered across its slopes, which isn’t the case anymore but still reminds one of the most badass views I have ever seen.

It probably is one of the well known and much loved hills, not too high, not to tough and forms a scenic addition to the vibrant resort town of Pitlochry in Scottish Highlands.

It’s a Corbett as it’s just over 2,500ft high and measures 2,760ft. We literally had all four season in a space of 5-10minutes and at some point were almost swept off by wind, horizontal snow, rain and hailstorm. However, as you know in Scotland you just need to wait 5min and the weather changes! Waiting was worth it as when the sky cleared we could see all the way up Beinn a Ghlo range to the north and the sweep of Strathtay and Strathtummel to the west, including my other favourite Schiehallion. Below we could see the elegant Pitlochry with its stunning Atholl Palace Hotel, and further Glen Tilt and Blair Atholl.

IMG_0818.JPG

We started from a small car park at Moulin, close to the path taking us up. It can get quickly full at weekends and busy times of the year so be sure to arrive early. The whole walk takes normally between 3-4h but obviously we were longer as we were recording our vlog, and chasing Cooper who stole my bra! 

The path is very well maintained by Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust. I always like to check who maintains the paths and what group of rangers is assigned to the area we are in. I think their work is often unnoticed and unappreciated. So, next time when you decide to leave your trash behind, just stop for a deep breath and think about all those people carrying about our beautiful landscapes! Also, as a side note - do you know how long it takes a banana skin to decompose? Google it! While you are waiting for those bananas to break down, you would have enough time to apply and receive a passport! Impressive, right? The skin can be potentially toxic to some animals that aren’t accustomed to those tropical fruits so take it back with you.

Back to hillwalking tho, once you start your hike up, just trust the path! It’s very well-constructed and offers a delightful walk across the heather moorland. If you are early enough you may spot red deer as well as shy mountain hare and lots of wild mice (Cooper’s favourite to chase!). 

IMG_0821.JPG

If you are going up, make sure your are dressed for the weather! ( note that kilt is optional lol) Scottish hills may be tiny in comparison to the Alpes but should never be underestimated, people die here every year (a bit of light and positive comment always helps, eh?). You can see from the video how quickly the weather changed from a really sunny and warm day to storm and vice versa. On your way to Pitlochry you will pass Perth and a splendid and well equipped outdoor adventure store - Tiso. This is definitely a good stop if you haven’t got everything you need.

You always need a map, compass and it’s really good to take with you a copy of the iternary from Walk Highland’s webpage, it’s very informative and gives you all the info you need.

In the video I mention simple energy balls that Debbie and I make at our wellbeing retreats. I will post the recipe shortly. 

IMG_0817.JPG

Finally, I have been thinking about doing those super liberating, shameless taps aff pictures forever now. I will explain you my reason in another blog. HOVEWER, the little I knew that it’s never going to be so easy with a sighthound present on the scene! Just watch it yourself !

make sure you subscribe to Finlay’s channel as this is where all the future blogs are going to be and you don’t want to miss more opportunities to laugh. 

Comment

Incredible yoga retreat in Poland - interview with Ashley

Comment

Incredible yoga retreat in Poland - interview with Ashley

What was most memorable?

I’m not sure I could pick just one memorable moment, the whole retreat was fantastic, from moment of arrival to departure, everything was perfect. If I had to pick some highlights, then it would probably be the food and being away with some amazing people! 

How did you like the idea of an active holiday?

Using yoga as a way to energise and prepare you for the day and restorative yoga to wind down and relax.

The yoga was amazing, but it always is when Daria is teaching! Starting your day with yoga is fantastic, I always feel so much more energised and ready to take on the day. The afternoon yoga was fun and always a bit of a challenge and ending your day with restorative yoga was just bliss! 

What did you think of the food? Did you inspire you to try new yummy recipes? Did you learn something new about Polish cuisine? 

The food was probably the highlight of the whole trip, delicious 3 course meals, 3 times a day. I even ate mushrooms, which I usually hate but I couldn’t not try them when they were so fresh and beautifully presented!

We also had our own barista to make us coffee, absolute heaven! 

How did you like Kwaśne Jabłko?

The accommodation was wonderful, definitely a 10/10 from me. From the kitchen/dining area to the beautiful bedrooms, everything was just perfect! 

What did you think about the area?

Kwaśne Jabłko is very remote and is surrounded by beautiful Polish countryside. Didn’t see too much of the surrounding area but we went on a few walks which were lovely. You get a true sense of being secluded from the rest of humanity in a perfect little bubble of relaxed bliss, honestly the ideal retreat if you want to just get away to re-energise recharge. 

What was the weather like? 

The weather was fantastic, the sun shone from sunrise to sunset. Suncream was definitely needed! 

If you were to describe the retreat with one word, what would it be? 

Incredible

Want to join us in ur next summer adventure in Poland? we are there again in May 2019. Just click here to learn more. 

 

 

Comment

Ben Cleuch - pretty damn good idea for a adventurous hike.

Comment

Ben Cleuch - pretty damn good idea for a adventurous hike.

Not a Munro, not even a Corbett but pretty damn good hill to walk. Ben Cleuch may not appeal to many as it's not on the 'list' of fancy pants mountains to climb but to me it was one of the most satisfactory hikes I have done for a while (I'm even eating my celebratory dark chocolate as I type this).

It is the highest point in the Ochil Hills - 721 metres (2,365 ft) high and can be approached from many directions. Today was such a wonderfully clear day, the views were excellent! Particularly those to the north looking towards the Southern Highlands. Ben Lomond and my second favourite - Ben Vorlich were especially prominent. Looking to the south gave excellent views over the Forth Valley region, the Forth bridges (the new Ferry Crossing!) and Edinburgh to the east, Glasgow to the west: almost a coast to coast view but not quite. I swear I could see Dundee at some point. 

I have used WalkHighlands for inspiration - if you want to follow my route just click here. They describe it really well, much better than if I attempted to write all of this down. 

Just be warmed - when they say 'steep' they really do mean freakishly STEEP! I was lucky Cooper the whippet was wearing his new Ruffwear harness as otherwise he would break his back. With the harness I was able to lift him and help him on some of the steeper parts. Otherwise he is a born mountain junkie and did very well for a wee whippet. 

 

 

Comment

Barcelona Urban Adventure

Comment

Barcelona Urban Adventure

We are just back from the amazing Barcelona, a beautiful and such vibrant city. While we were there Barcelona had a few major events: the Carnival, the Santa Eulàlia Festival and the first snow in decades! Apart of the snow that caught us by surprise the festival and the carnival just added more colour to our trip.

IMG_6077.JPG

Santa Eulàlia is the patron saint of Barcelona City and lived here in the Roman period. At the beginning of the 4th century the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered the persecution of the Christians in his empire. This led to the 13 year old Eulàlia being arrested, tortured and finally crucified. This is the famous festival when the Castellers build human pillars.

Whereas the Carnival, is simply the time of joy, exuberance and joie de vivre, before Ash Wednesday when the 46-day Lent to Easter begins. We often didn't know what is celebrate at what time but certainly enjoyed the parades! 

When traveling to a city as exciting as Barcelona you must have a tour by a tour guide who can tell you stories no-one else knows. We were really lucky and got a very well incomes, funny and very entertaining guide who was able to talk not only about the history but also the past and current political situation in Catalonia.

The food of Spain is packed with flavour and character! I don't think I have ever eaten better guacamole.....

Finally, the views and the fun we had was never to be forgotten!

Comment

Most yummy retreat!

Comment

Most yummy retreat!

Debbie if our amazing food magician. She can flick her fingers and create most delicious, full of flavour and colours dishes. Let's see what she thinks about a yoga retreat...

What was your favourite thing and why?

I have so many amazing memories from my first yoga retreat I co-hosted last September in Elie. Relaxing with the guests in the lounge on arrival I knew instantly we were in for a great weekend. There were so many amazing things we enjoyed together full of fun and laughter. From having photographs taken on a sunny day in the beautiful grounds to having more photographs taken the next day doing crazy yoga poses with a group of amazing women holding me up in splits! Whilst preparing lunch throwing my apron off and a second later heading off to the beach for a walk with everyone, as we had collectively decided getting out in the fresh air was what we needed and lunch could happen 2 hours later! Sleeping on the top bunk for the first time in around 45 years because my roommate was scared of heights! Making connections and new friendships. Switching off from technology because the phone signal was rubbish!

What inspired your food?

I’ve always loved cooking ever since I was a teenager. Today my cooking is inspired by my desire to take care of my body in the best way I can; this includes regular yoga practice, exercise classes and cooking foods from scratch using the best possible ingredients. Removing refined sugar and all processed foods from my diet have made such a difference to how I feel as well as my energy levels. I love experimenting with new healthy and wholesome ingredients and cook with lots of grains, pulses, seeds and nuts. I still bake cakes and treats, but much healthier versions! I gain so much pleasure from cooking and sharing what I have cooked with others, as well as showing how they can cook in this way too. My cooking is inspired by Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella), Kimberly Parsons (The Yoga Kitchen) and Bear Grylls (Fuel for Life). A selection of my cookery books are always on hand for people to browse and chat with me about the recipes they may want to try.

Why do you love yoga retreats?

Yoga retreats are so special, offering an opportunity to truly relax and recharge your batteries. Everything is taken care of allowing you to switch off from the usual responsibilities and stresses and indulge in some well deserved me time. Spending the weekend with a small group of like minded people who engage, support and inspire one another can feel very uplifting and leave you feeling refreshed. There’s something unique, perhaps powerful even about the yoga and the yoga space when your mind and body are so relaxed. I often reflect on the yoga retreats I’ve attended and when I take myself back to the yoga and the yoga space I instantly feel comforted and relaxed.

Hosting a yoga retreat is special too...an honour and privilege to be able to nourish and care for those attending through my delicious food prepared with love.

Why Treescape was so unique and special?

Treescape really is a true home from home where you can instantly feel comfortable and relaxed. The house is spacious, but still small enough to feel cosy and offers a feeling of togetherness for the group. Everything you could ever need is right there with some special little luxuries too that make if feel even more indulgent, such as an area on the landing to chill and read a book! The kitchen met all my expectations and more, making it a fabulous space to busy myself preparing food. The grounds and garden area are so peaceful just to sit in and relax, enjoy some outdoor yoga or have a little wander to stretch your legs.

What did you think about the area?

The East Neuk of Fife offer fabulous walks along the Fife Costal Path and Elie itself boasts a gorgeous beach worth exploring whatever the weather. Walking around Elie gives a sense of being away from it all without having to travel too far from home. There are several little gift shops and coffee shops too, if like me you need real barista coffee to help you function at your best! The Ardross Farm shop is worth a visit as well as nearby Bowhouse whee they often have food festivals.

Temped? Visit our calendar and join us...

Comment

The Lower Falls - Glen Nevis

Comment

The Lower Falls - Glen Nevis

The River Nevis and the glen near Fort William realy is one of the best kept secrets! We started with Steall Falls but as Phill was fighting a cold we abandoned our plans and I went for a wee walk with Cooper the Whippet.   

There's a small car park half way up to Steal Falls which you can easily find on the map or, if you are up for a longer walk, leave your car in the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre, cross the wee steal bridge and just walk up the river. 

This walk is good whether it's a wet day or a beautiful clear sunny day, definitely worth your visit!  Scenic and safer for dogs stroll offers a chance to wander along riverside path with fine views of the dramatic Nevis Range. We were very lucky as the melting snow gave us the opportunity to see the magnitude of the water coming down the Ben Nevis slopes. Just look at the pictures ....

Comment

Barcelona you have never seen

Comment

Barcelona you have never seen

Why Barcelona?

Because this wee city is a true marvel on the Mediterranean Sea.

It is quirky, cosmopolitan, cool and with great character!

Barcelona has got it all: the unearthing gothic streets and the charm of the modernist city. You simply need to come to discover what makes Barcelona one of Spain’s most livable and energetic cities and one of the most interesting cities in the whole Europe.

When I put together my Urban Yoga Adventure, many clients came back to me asking why of all the places available I have decided to go there.

In fact, apart of Scotland, Barcelona is my favourite place of all times. I love those colourful little stone streets, the beaches, the sun, the hidden roof top terraces. The flight is so quick and the airport so close to the city, it's the perfect spot for a long weekend. And if you have as good accommodation as we have for the retreat, it's close anywhere and you don't have to worry about being tired in the city. You just won't!

But seriously, why Barcelona?

After I go though the first set of 'why' questions, I normally get: 'I have been there already, what's the point of going to Barcelona again.’ 

Let’s face it, in a city as popular as Barcelona, it can be tricky finding a new hang out that not everyone has already heard about. Fortunately, there are a lot of places which aren’t on all the guide-books…yet! Read on to discover some of the coolest hidden gems in Barcelona, or just come and spend 4 days with us betwern 9-12 February 2018.

Did you know that there is a hidden bar inside already hidden bar?

Yes! And it’s called El Paradiso. This stylish speakeasy is hidden away behind the cover of a trendy Pastrami Bar in the heart of El Born. Simply give a knowing look to the person behind the counter and they’ll let you in through to the back when the time is right.

Pastrami Bar is pretty much what it sounds like. It isn't much, but it's excellent and be assured that you are getting the only and the best artisan pastrami in town. However, If you open the wooden fridge door, which takes up half a wall and gives itself away a bit thanks to its hinges, you'll be transported into El Paradiso – a speakeasy that's not just any cocktail bar. This is an elegant cave lined with wooden slats where Giacomo Gianotti was awarded best cocktail mixologist in Spain in 2014. But don't worry, their aim is to serve great signature cocktails at affordable prices.

There is more tho… just head to the loo. It’s a bit of a fiddle to find it but there is another hidden door behind the mirror! Behind it you can find the inner, inner sanctum: the Carrollian lair. Are you excited?

It’s teeny — just a single, soundproofed room — but as inviting and artfully furnished as the rest of El Paradiso, with tall stools, a gleaming copper finish and a hipster barman. This is coolest spot within the coolest spot in town.

Have I got your attention now? Good, there is more too come. Stay tunned!

Comment

Why yoga retreats are so god damn amazing

Comment

Why yoga retreats are so god damn amazing

Does this ring a bell: 'I’ve been exhausted lately’, 'I’ve been just hanging in there riding the avalanche of my to-do list, running from one place to another and feeling constantly behind in a state of near overwhelm’? 

Then you say ‘no, I can not take time off’ and finally... ‘I will be fine’. 

You probably will be fine as each of you is strong and limitless in your actions. However, sometimes you just need a little help and encouragement to move past the annoying little slumps and simply recharge.

What if I told you that you actually CAN take time off. That your job is still going to be there when you come back. That your parents can take the kids for the weekend. That you have just spent £££ on sales, even more on make up, coffees and you purchased items not experiences or real rest.

So, in a moment of deep realisation you go ahead and book yourself into a yoga retreat...

Holy healthiness, peace and serenity here you come! Doesn’t this feel amazing?

Then you arrived to Barcelona and it’s warm and bright! Actual sunshine not just permanent gayness. Then you see our beautiful accommodation - specious, bright and full of natural warmth. Suddeny, everything feels so much lighter. Your body feels lighter.

You are greeted with a big bowl of yummy amazingness followed buy a restorative yoga making all the aches and pains go away! You go to bed with a happy belly and excited for the weekend ahead.

This is just the start. The next day you wake up naturally to a bright Spanish light, the smell of coffee and yoga! Yes morning yoga is not such a bad thing. It wakes you up slowly, and gets you moving in a way you have never thought is possible. Then you eat more yumminess and go exploring the city! And you know the day is going to be amazing as there is nothing better than more food, yoga, relaxation and a fun group of like-minded people. 

Finally, when you almost don’t remember any of the stress or tiredness that was present everyday for the past million years - you realise that the best is still to come - the Ancient Thermal Baths experience!

Oh my goodness, is it even possible to feel so relaxed? Yeah it really is! At the heart of Barcelona, there is a place where time does not exist. An old warehouse built at the end of the XVII century, turned into a temple to disconnect your mind and body from the surrounding reality. This is a space full of magic in which history and water provide you with a unique total relaxation experience.  A journey through sensations, by candlelight, smell of herbs and water, that consists of a tour at your own pace through the different baths at different temperatures.

C’mon! This could not get any better! So, get ready to start an unforgettable journey.

And this is why yoga retreats are so God damn amazing!

I, personally, always feel so filled-up, loved-up and restored afterwards. It doesn’t take that much to slowly shift back into feeling whole and good again but we rarely give ourselves the time and space to do it. 

Retreats are ALL about giving back to yourself. They’re all about honoring your needs and desires and creating the space where you can achieve that. 

Our retreat runs between 9-12 February and we have one more twin room and a single room left. Join us!

Comment

Adventures in Scotland - interview with Anna Mach

Comment

Adventures in Scotland - interview with Anna Mach

Today we were interviewing Anna who visited Scotland in December 2017. We were eager to see what she loved and disliked about our country. 

Where did you go?

I went to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Loch Lomond, Inverary, Oban, Kilchurch Caste, Castle Stalker, Glencoe and many other stunning locations.

Why did you choose to come back to Scotland?

17 years ago I got off a bus on Waverley Bridge in Edinburgh and immediately fell in love with everything that was around me. I have been coming back every year (or more) since then and never regretted a single journey. It does not matter whether it’s to visit my sister in Dundee or take a new friend to see the Highlands. Almost any location in Scotland is stunning and breathtakingly beautiful!

What was most memorable?

The lovely accent, the hospitality of the people (especially in Glasgow), the hairy coos, the black-faced sheep, the seagulls crying and the time when we got to feed a deer.

What part of your trip did you like the most?

Driving around the Highlands

What part you didn’t like?

The cold snap as I happened to fly directly into -7C. We also found it difficult to work out the heating system in the flat were I was staying. The food might have also been a bit better but I come from Poland and it’s difficult to beat ours ;)

Any travelling tips you can give us?

Just come to Scotland, you will not regret it!

When are you coming back? 

In May 2018 and then again and again and again…


ania.jpg

 

Anna Mach owns a translation company based in Warsaw, Poland. It is called: ‘Wordy World’ and specialises in legal translation. She is a professional world traveler and a lover of animals, yoga and all things Scottish.

While in Scotland Ania went on a Discovery Scotland one-day  tour to explore Highlands (mainly as she is afraid of driving on the left side :)

All images were taken by Anna.

Comment

Best Christmas markets you must visit

Comment

Best Christmas markets you must visit

Brussels, Belgium

If you want to turn your back on the grey skies and end-of-year blues, then come and enjoy an enchanted winter in Brussels! As the days get shorter, the city centre's countless illuminations twinkle delightfully through the darkness, warming up both hearts and hands. You can marvel at the magical Christmas market, the Winter Wonders giant Ferris wheel and many more. Let yourself be swept away by the magic of the giant Christmas tree and the sound and light show on the world's most beautiful square. Find that perfect Christmas present, spend the evenings snug and warm in the city's cosy cafés. There's everything you need to make your Christmas holidays in Brussels unforgettable.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Wrocław, Poland 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Wrocław hosts one of Poland's best and largest Christmas markets, stretching across two sides of Wrocław's market square, creating a festive atmosphere in the heart of the city. The fair features 'Bajkowy Lasek' (Fairy Tale Forest), where animated characters convey fairy tales to wide-eyed children, while their parents slip off to grab a glass of mulled wine and grilled ‘oscypek’ (sheep cheese from the Polish mountains). The vicinity of the Dwarf House features an illuminated sleigh with magic presents, Santa and many more. The Christmas Windmill in the Fairytale Wood, the Dwarf House itself and the Fireplace House in the northern frontage of the Market Square serve mulled wine, hot chocolate and other hot drinks and beverages. Yum! Finally, don't forget that there is also a mailbox by the Christmas tree where all letters and postcards will be sent all the way to Santa Claus.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Maastricht, Netherlands

All year round, Maastricht is a wonderful city with that lovely, warm atmosphere. However, around Christmas, the city takes on that extra spellbinding edge. Under the slogan of "Magical Maastricht", the city goes into full Christmas mode. During Magical Maastricht, the historic inner city lits up in spectacular fashion. You can see the chandeliers at Plein 1992 and Markt squares and follow the special light path across the river Meuse via Sint Servaasbrug bridge and the Hoge Brug. And be sure to stop to admire the light animation of the 200 mistletoes in the trees on Onze Lieve Vrouweplein square. The beautiful lighting ties all the squares and streets together and puts the convivial Christmas atmosphere at the centre of things. So go ahead, visit the Christmas market, go skating on the ice rink on Vrijthof square and see the sea of lights from the top of the Ferris wheel. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Würzburg, Germany

FullSizeRender.jpg

Würzburg Christmas Market: is located in the heart of Würzburg's Old Town one of Germany’s most picturesque and enchanting Christmas Markets. It may be small but attracts thousands of visitors every year. The Christmas market tradition dates back to the early 19th century. The historic market square with its Gothic Chapel of St Mary and its abundance of Baroque architecture provide a scenic backdrop for over 100 wooden stalls. Go ahead and choose from handmade holiday decorations ranging from artful glass, straw, pewter and pottery to wooden toys.

FullSizeRender.jpg

 Edinburgh, Scotland 

FullSizeRender.jpg

And finally, our very own Edinburgh! If you missed any of the European destinations there's plenty going on in Scotland's capital to celebrate. Just go and tumble into a magical winter wonderland in the centre of our fairytale city. Edinburgh's market brings Christmas and Hogmanay together in a magical explosion of twinkling lights, enchanting sounds, mouth-watering flavours and lots of fun and laughter.

IMG_0761.JPG

In addition to the Princess Street Gardens fun, the west end of George Street is being transformed into a magical winter wonderland this year. The Ice Adventure is an immersive walk-through arctic installation, filled with spellbinding sculptures guaranteed to take your breath away.

You can take a tour of Scotland with life-like sculptures of Vikings, fairies and Kelpies, Highland cows, eagles and Dolly the Sheep, Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots and Greyfriars Bobby. Look carefully, and you may also catch a glimpse of the elusive Loch Ness Monster!

Once you've explored the ice sculpture extravaganza, warm up with a dram at the ice bar.

Please note: markets are open from 10am - 10pm. Markets open at 1pm on 18 November, close at 8pm on 24 December, are closed 25 December, open 12pm 26 December and 1 January.

IMG_0756.JPG

Comment

Living wild and free - a dolphin tale

Comment

Living wild and free - a dolphin tale

IMG_0734.JPG

In my WHOLE underwater life this particular moment is and will be the most amazing and memorable! A few days ago an entire herd of free and absolutely wild dolphins 🐬 casually swam right next to us. Being the usual curious selves, they came to say hello, kept a vigilant watch as there were babies with them and then they peacefully left! This is why nature is most amazing when you do not force it or try to captivate what should be free! ⠀

Egypt has some of the most abundant marine sightings, not only beautiful coral and fish but dolphins, even whales and orcas. You can see why this is a true kingdom for divers. 

IMG_0736.JPG

Most of us want to swim with dolphins but the question is do dolphins want to swim with us? Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and we need to respect that. Dolphins are highly sociable animals, they may approach people in the wild because they are naturally curious and may investigate unfamiliar objects in their habitat, but this can potentially be dangerous for both humans or the dolphins, so be mindful!It is illegal and very dangerous to harass, feed, chase and TOUCH any marine animals in the wild. Everywhere , not only here in Egypt. Close contact with humans may be really distressing and touching them may spread our germs that those mammals aren't used to fight off.

IMG_0737.JPG

I am passionate about responsible tourism (as you probably noticed if you read my previous blogs) and preserving this unique area was important for us. Dolphins are not only beautiful, they are an important part of a very complex and fragile ecosystem. They are an indicator species, being a barometer for the health of the waters they live in. Providing a safe and peaceful place for those amazing animals to live and raise their babies, have sufficient amount of natural food, clean water and air should be the main goal and responsibility for all of us, whether residents or visitors. That's why swimming past rubbish or worse, throwing it off your boat is absolutely unacceptable! Mind that next time you go off traveling.

Here is a great article about swimming with dolphins: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8572855.stm

IMG_0735.JPG

There are many different species of dolphin in the seas and oceans of the world but the most likely you will encounter in the Red Sea is the Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) which are most common, Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) and Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), which lives in steep slopes that drop below 300m.

Along with whales, dolphins are collectively known as cetaceans. They are highly intelligent and social creatures that share distinctive aspects of all mammals, such as breathing with lungs, nursing their babies and creating complex social relationships. Interestingly, they are not fish and should not be confused with the fish called dolphin (also called Dorado or mahi mahi). This fish inhabits warm temperate and tropical waters around the world. It is a beautiful, colorful and sadly edible. But it is NOT related to any of the dolphins species.

Did you know that dolphins never sleep? Unlike with humans, their breathing is conscious and voluntary, so should they go to sleep like we do or should they loose consciousnesss due to an accident, their respiration would stop and they would die. Apparently, they rest one hemisphere of their brain at a time.

IMG_0722.JPG

Another fact that I found interesting is that unlike other mammals, dolphins have adapted to long periods of apnea and can reach great depths without encountering problems of embolism. Can you imagine if we could do this? Dive with no decompression stops? I would certainly love this as still have tendency to descent too fast and suffer of a massive headache.  

Before we came to Egypt, I did a little research about dolphins living in captivity and learned even more while being here. Captive dolphins are kept hungry as this ensures that they perform. From what I have experienced working with other wild animals, it looks as this is the case with all wild animals in captivity.  Dolphins in the wild do not jump through hoops, eat dead fish, wave, kiss or drag people through the water as they hold onto their fins. Can you imagine how it must feel to do something over and over again against your will?

IMG_0725.JPG

Wild dolphins constantly travel, covering thousands of miles every year experiencing a wide diversity of natural habitat and the freedom to deep dive. Just imagine being confined to a small, unnatural pool, with somebody taking away all your freedom and then making you perform.

It also looks like most dolphins held in captivity were captured from the wild. I don't even have to ask you how would you feel kidnapped? Not to mention that many Dolphins die prematurely in captivity and there is a much higher rate of infant mortality. I don’t know about you, but the idea of baby dolphins dying for my so-called entertainment horrifies me. Orcas (which are part of the dolphin family) in captivity suffer from stress, become aggressive and often chew the bars at the side of their small tanks.  Over 90% of Seaworld’s Orcas have not survived past 25 years. In the wild, a female orca can live up to 80-90 years. Think about it.

IMG_0738.JPG

Dolphins are a common sight in all areas of the Red Sea, from Taba down to Sudan. Swimming with wild dolphins is very different to swimming with captive ones, the latter being confined ... Maybe because of this, it is even more rewarding to see them living free and happy. To me it was a highlight of my stay in Egypt, and one of the most amazing memories I have collected over the years. It literally made me cry of happiness seeing those babies swirling in the water past me, feeling free and happy to do what ever they want to do.

Comment

A little bit of sunshine - Egypt for people starved of sun

Comment

A little bit of sunshine - Egypt for people starved of sun

Every year, my husband and I wander off to a wee holiday not organised and planned by us but FOR us. This is the only time of the year when we don't take our laptops and our brains aren't 100% focused on work, research and the business.  This year we decided that Egypt will be a great destination. I won't even lie, the sun was the main factor! If you live in Scotland, this is the easiest and the shortest flight before you can dive in the sea comfortably without turning purple with cold.

Egypt has had a lot of bad press lately. With the plane crash two years ago, the terrorist attacks and the Lybian conflict right around the corner it really dropped it's 'cool' status (and the currency). The country was really hit by the declined tourism and people here felt it considerably. As it was a holiday, we decided to relax in Hurghada and forget about the stress of being in the exciting Cairo.

The reason why we went to Hurghada and not the popular Sharm El Sheikh is because we couldn't get there without difficulties. Sharm, which has been a belowed winter sun destination for the British for years, remains in crisis in the aftermath of the crash of a St Petersburg-bound flight shortly after take off in 2015. Since then, Sharm el Sheikh has been all but off limits.

Interestingly, while much of Egypt is currently deemed unsafe for visitors, the FO does not currently warn against travelling to the popular tourist areas. However, there are no direct flights or tours. So, in theory, you can enjoy a holiday at the resort, if only you could reach it. Which is sad for the Egyptian people living here as lack of business means lack of food on their table. Durning our travels here we met multiple Egyptians born outside those resort cities, who were affected by the attacks and now all of them are here in Hurghada trying to make living.

This is why violence is so short sighted. It kills innocent souls and dooms generations.

Comment

Vancouver - the unceded city

Comment

Vancouver - the unceded city

Travel is a fantastic way to broaden our horizons, expose ourselves to new cultures and really ‘see’ the world. Each trip teaches me something new and it really is an amazing reality check.

One of the really interesting facts that I have learned this week is the difference between unneeded and ceded territory. 

Unceded Territory

  • No treaty signed
  • Permission required from the First Nation Government involved.
  • No pipeline, no mining, no fishing, no farming, etc...without First Nations Permission.

Ceded Territory

  • Treaty signed
  • Permission Required from BOTH First Nations and Second Nations Government (according to individual treaties signed)
  • No pipeline, no mining, no fishing, no farming, etc... without BOTH First Nations and Second Nations Permission (according to individual treaties signed.)

I think that the way colonisation was carried out, regardless whether there was a treaty or no, was barbaric, and acknowledging this builds a new relationships between Aboriginals and Vancouverites, especially since the memory of the colonisation still lives in the collective memory of the defendants. The Aboriginal community suffered a great loss and trauma and even centuries later they still are affected by some of the practices carried out.

JOHV102353743_hd.jpg

A few years ago Vancouver city council has unanimously voted to acknowledge that the city is on unceded Aboriginal territory. The modern city of Vancouver was founded on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and these territories were never ceded through treaty, war or surrender. There is now a routine ritual before most public events on the West Coast of Canada, during which organizers thank indigenous tribal groups for allowing attendees to meet on their “unceded traditional territory. An aboriginal elder often offers a prayer and mini-lecture as part of this gratitude ceremony, which now occurs before conferences sponsored by governments, public schools, mainline Protestant churches and institutes of higher learning.

Comment

Cool things about Prague

Comment

Cool things about Prague

Prague is a gorgeous city. It is so well preserved and renovated after the wars, with a rich history, expansive parks, Vegas-style nightlife, and even a hint of romance. It really does remind me a little bit of Paris or Venice with the mesmerising river and cute little pubs. I used to come to Prague often when I was much younger but haven’t been here for over 12 years and a lot has changed. There are way more tourists, prices are higher, the food is more international, everybody can speak English, and more foreigners live in the city. But the city’s core - cobblestone streets, quaint medieval houses, incredible charm that make Prague — is still there.

We spend 3 days here and it was good amount of time to explore the city. Our friends were Czech, which made it easier and wonderful but you can do all of this alone too as the city is really safe and easy to discover and explore.

Don’t be afraid to stay a little bit outside the main city centre as the trams and metro are really easy to use and Uber is affordable although apparently illegal in Czech Republic. I wouldn’t use it in rush hour as you will get stuck like everybody else and you will quickly realise that it was much better to just walk (talking from experience, we were once late over 30 minutes). 

Yoga

As a yogi who loves to try classes in different languages I dragged my tired legs to one of the classes available at Dům jógy Anděl which was lovely. Great little studio with lots of classes, even Aerial Yoga and really friendly staff. Loved the tea they make for everyone. Who doesn’t like a nice cup of tea??? 

You can also do Yoga during summer for free! There are free yoga lessons at Letna park, the meet-up is at Sparta tram stop, every Thursday at 7 PM, then there’s 50 CZK (2 euros) Yoga on Tuesday, same place & time. It’s a beginner’s yoga in Czech but it’s not so hard to follow others. They speak really fast though, I normally can understand Czech if they speak slowly as Polish is similar but even I was struggling:) it was great fun though!

Ice-creams

Summers in Prague can be excruciatingly hot. Especially in the past few years, as Czechia (they are now using the new abbreviated name for the Czech Republic, although all Czechs I have met absolutely hate it) has been getting more tropical weather from the South. As temperatures reach 30C, the cobblestoned streets heat up, and air-conditioning is hard to find in the Unesco-protected historical centre. So be careful and eat Ice-creams(which are delish…)

Random info that I have discovered: Trdelnik 

This is pretty random piece of information, but somebody must write about it. Trdelnik aka chimney, the donut-like pastry baked on metal rolls is literally everywhere! You can buy it in every shop and cafe or stall in the city centre. It may also be the most Instagrammed thing from Prague. All those stands with the “traditional Bohemian” pastry weren’t here some years ago when I used to come here with my family. Apparently trdelnik is the essence of a tourist trap in Prague. (And it's NOT a donut, people!). It is a great piece of street food tho: the caramelised sugar and cinnamon smells amazing and very tempting and the rotating movement practically spins money out of your wallet. It’s not as great as you think and from what I have heard it’s not even an old recipe! 

Beer! (now that’s a better topic)

Naplavka is the Prague’s best and newest hipster hangout. I don’t remember if it was there when I was younger but even if it was my parents wouldn’t probably take me with them. 

Prague has an endless amount of beer gardens and parks. While there are often long, never-solved debates as to which of Prague’s famous beer gardens is the best place to beat the heat or enjoy a nice autumn day, Naplavka, has emerged as something just a bit different and my absolute favourite.

Naplavka is a stretch of pavement next to the banks of the Vltava, under the Jiráskův bridge. In the colder months it doesn’t even exist as the boats hide away, but it is in the summer when its warm this place truly comes alive. Bordered by boats and modest riverfront restaurants, during summer evenings Naplavka transforms from a boring stretch of riverbank into one of the liveliest and nicest social pace in Prague. You can sample a variety of local beers and listen to different kind of live music. If you are feeling a bit peckish, Naplavka will not disappoint. The culinary choices are dizzying and you can either grab a meal from a nearby food truck or even a passing grill boat, or cash out on a restaurant (on a boat of course). We opted for burgers and my vegetarian burger was mouth-watering!

Beer cosmetics

This probably should be in the ‘random information’ section but Czechs love their beer so much that they even have beer cosmetics which will moisturize your skin and soften your hair. Beer cosmetics by Manufaktura with high content of beer, vitamins B and glycerine is suitable for everyday use.

What to see in Prague is coming soon...

Comment

Must see in Warsaw

1 Comment

Must see in Warsaw

Walk around the old Town Market Square and definitely go to see the Royal Castle

The Old Town market square dates back to the 13th century where it used to be the centre of Warsaw’s public life, hosting political speeches and executions. The buildings around it were wooden at the time, but what we can see nowadays dates back the 15th century, although it was almost completely destroyed during the two World Wars and rebuild afterwards. Today the market square offers a wide range of good restaurants and cocktail bars as well as street art and souvenirs. Once on the market square, you can also visit the Literature Museum and the Historical Museum of Warsaw. Warsaw’s Royal Castle, was reconstructed in the 1980s after World War II bombing. It used to serve as the residence of the royalty between the 16th and 18th centuries, and since the last century it has been functioning as a gallery.

One you are there you MUST try pierogi (Polish dumplings) and the Polish beer. Just be careful, the beer is strong :)

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Located on the former site of the Warsaw Ghetto in the Muranów district, the museum celebrates the history and heritage of the Jewish community in Poland. Designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki, the modern glass, copper and concrete building houses a 43,000 sq ft permanent exhibition space with multimedia displays including reconstructed parts of historical Jewish synagogues, an interactive 3D model of Kracow and its Jewish neighbourhood of Kazimierz and a Holocaust gallery. There is also a kosher restaurant and café on-site.

Warsaw Rising Museum

The museum commemorates the 1944 Warsaw Uprising (in which over 150,000 civilians were killed). A multi-level interactive exhibition features everything from photographs, recordings and videos revealing everyday life before, during and after the uprising, and a replica of the Liberator B-24J bomber used by the Allies for relief flights. There is also a recreation of basement sewer tunnels used by the resistance to move around the city. You can watch a 3D movie of Warsaw destroyed by the uprising, and visit an observation tower at the top of the building with panoramic views of the city. It's one of the most eye opening, horrifying and incredible experiences of your life.

Royal Łazienki Park

Warsaw encompasses over 20,000 hectares of parks and other green areas. Some of them are uniquely historical, offering an insight into Poland’s monarchical past and its rich Baroque architecture, whilst others are dedicated to creating an opportunity to relax by hiking, bike riding, roller-skating or even skiing. If you want to get to know Warsaw away from the busy urban life and skyscrapers, visit the parks!

The Royal Lazienki Park is the biggest and most beautiful park in the city, and one that bears the most significance and is so diverse. It was designed in the 17th century in the Baroque style and is home to a number of palaces (such as the Palace on the water), an amphitheater, and several orangeries. If you are visiting Warsaw in the summer, you may want to stop by to participate in the free-entrance Chopin music concert cycle entitled ‘Chopin’s concerts’. Also, each Saturday morning the park hosts free yoga and meditation classes.

Palace of Culture and Science

No building in Warsaw produces such divided opinions as the Palace of Culture and Science. Given as a ‘gift’ to the Polish capital by Stalin, the Palace was intended to be a building ‘for the people,’ but was despised by many Poles as the most ostentatious symbol of Russian ruling. As the tallest building in Warsaw, it dominated the city’s skyline for decades, and nowadays provides a striking visual comparison between historical and modern Poland – sitting in between increasing numbers of sleek, silver skyscrapers. Containing theaters, conference rooms and Warsaw’s highest viewing platform, the Palace provides visitors with a unique chance to experience Stalin’s visualizations of the city.

If you are visiting the Palace then you must go to the top to see the city panorama.

Vistula River Bank

In recent years the river bank has become the heart of Warsaw’s summer nightlife, attracting crowds of tourists and locals. During the day it’s a perfect spot for cycling, skateboarding and simply relaxing on the grass by the water. The adjacent district of Powiśle on the left side of the river is also worth exploring, as it offers many great restaurants, bars and shops.

Multimedia Fountain Park

The park has been a popular sight for visitors and locals since its opening several years ago. The display comes to life throughout the summer months, providing a cooling, open space to sit during the daytime. Summer evenings are when the display comes into its prime, the fountains are lit up in an enticing display of colors and lights for an audience that comes from across the city to watch. To check times please visit their webpage. Sadly there is no English version but you can figure it out (or use google translate :) The best ones are on Friday and Saturday at 9.30pm. If you click on 'Lokalizacja' you will see where it's being held. 

1 Comment

summer yoga retreat - connect to your strength

Comment

summer yoga retreat - connect to your strength

Yoga retreats are truly magical and each offers unique experience. You can’t compare them to normal holidays or gateways. The first retreat I’ve ever attended was a decade ago when I thought I may as well go as the price was just the same as going for a long weekend and having to eat out every day and stay at impersonal, soulless hotels. I couldn’t have been more wrong about what a yoga retreat is about though. In my head I assumed it will be a wee bit creepy, way too much yoga (I was a complete beginner back then), I will never cope and people will make me sit in lotus and meditate for hours without food. I will feel alone, won’t know anyone and no-one will even speak to me as I can’t rock a wheel, handstand and the most mortifying: my heels don’t touch the ground in a down facing dog. Clearly, I was a little bit dramatic back then.
 
First of all, you don´t have to be a superstar yogi to go on a yoga retreat. The feeling that you´re not advanced enough, not flexible enough, not skinny enough to go on a yoga retreat is a common theme that often prevents people from signing up or even coming to a yoga class in the first place. It’s that type of negative and destructive self-talk we do every day that yoga or yoga retreats try to challenge. 
 
From the moment you step into your yoga retreat house you feel welcomed, you feel important like everyone has been waiting just for you. Even though there are 10 other participants, you know that you matter. Every day you wake up before the alarm as your mind can finally relax and slow down and waking up isn’t a major challenge. Yes, you do yoga, but this type of yoga is completely different to the one you experience at your yoga studio. You can do more, you are stronger, and you are more tuned to what feels right and what doesn’t. In fact anyone can harvest the benefits of practicing yoga everyday in the most perfect environment - you just can´t go wrong with that – nature, sunshine, delicious healthy food, being away from the stresses and strains of modern life. Of course it all seems to be easier! You finally don’t judge yourself for not being able to touch your toes. You are just happy where you’re at now.
 
The small group classes on retreats offer a personalised approach to yoga, where everyone´s individual needs can be taken into account, making it a truly holistic experience. When you lie in savasana (your final relaxation or sleep time as my students call it) you know you have done something absolutely amazing, you feel proud of all the incredible things you can do and adventurous about everything you are still to conquer. Sometimes you can feel your own heartbeat and that makes your entire nervous system shiver, it feels just amazing!
 
Through the day you eat delicious food, connect with other like-minded people who may be there for similar reasons. All of a sudden you realize that people are more connected than you think, they may carry similar baggage or experiences and the bond you create may sometimes last way beyond the retreat itself. Yoga retreats offer a unique opportunity to find that connection with yourself that everybody talks about these days. It all happens in a special way, and creeps up on you unexpected. Sometimes it's in that heart beating savansana moment or quite often after you are back at home when you realize you breathe more and you don’t get as anxious as before. You connect with other people while sharing mealtimes, adventures and creating a sense of community that may be missing in our busy city lives.  
 
Each retreat is carefully designed, from finding the most convenient location to food you are consuming. You can always expect being able to do things that nourish your mind and the body like long baths or quiet ‘me time’, or loud and cheery wine testing. These days you can travel anywhere in the world, sink into faraway lands? and swear you will never get as stresses out as before. Three months later, you can barely remember where you went. When you take a trip that involves working on you as a person, listening to your own body’s needs and routines rather than stuffing yourself with food you don’t really need, activities that don’t help you relax, abusing alcohol, you then realize what I mean when I say 'magical experience'. That’s when you see that things start to shift. You don’t come back and feel more tired than before your holiday. You come back with tools, techniques or routines that you are more likely to continue to apply at home. Those techniques preserve that shift and help you tap into that state of relaxation and strength during your life back at home. You suddenly remember every day of the yoga retreat you attended and you love it.
 
My summer yoga retreat in Poland is based at the heart of the Warmia, the most peaceful and stunning part of Poland. It reminds me a little bit of the Lake District in England but it is more sunny. We are staying at Kwaśne Jabłko (that translates as 'sour apple’:) which is a stunning farmhouse. Those who came to my Highland retreat know I really like the ‘rustic’ look where you feel at home from the moment you enter the house and you aren’t afraid to touch anything in fear of breaking it. It's got a very modern twist, which makes it feel bright and inspiring. The house is surrounded by apple trees, fields and a wee lake. You can rest under an apple tree in a hammock or set yourself for a wee adventure to discover the beauty of the local area. 
 
They even produce their own cider, which we are going to try on one of the evenings! Interestingly, in May 2015 their products were even very 'highly recommended' by the jury of the British Cider Championship.
 
It is the most perfect place to relax, let go of fear, remove blocks that you've been building through your life and connect to your strength. This connection will be the main theme of the retreat. So, don't wait.
 
You will get yoga every day (and yes, if you want to sleep in it’s fine to do so!). We will organize shared transport from and to Warsaw airport, which makes it so much easier. We will use essential oils to enhance your yoga practice, luxurious shared accommodation will also be offered. You will try fabulous, home cooked food. This includes homemade bread in the mornings! We have a Spa Day where we are going to soak our bodies and souls in warm outdoor baths. There are bikes there that you can use if you want to explore the local area. Finally, we are also going to indulge ourselves in an evening with their homemade cider.
 
Since my first yoga retreat, I have had a few ‘normal’ holidays, weather it was surfing, or volunteering or just travelling across a part of the world I have never seen. But to me nothing matches the experience that a yoga retreat can give you.

To book visit the retreat section of this website.

Comment

Lanzarote  - the volcanic beauty

Comment

Lanzarote - the volcanic beauty

Now that the fascination with Gran Canaria and Tenerife is slowly calming down, Lanzarote is turning into a rather upmarket destination. It is one of those lands that you either hate or love. It's tiny and it literally takes 45min to 1h to drive from the north to the south parts of the island, even less from east to west. Interestingly, it's also almost completely covered in volcanic rock - basalt. You can drive for miles seeing only black rock, wondering if it really was our beloved mother nature or someone just did that with a digger. The heart of the area affected by volcanic eruptions in the 1700’s is now the Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park and it is one of the most stunning and at the same time disturbing views I have ever seen. Looking at all the cooled lava makes your really respect the power of nature. The volcanic activity changed the face of the island completely, adding to its size and leaving whole areas of black rock known as 'badlands' where green vines sprout from black lava.

Oddly, despite it being full of volcanos, it actually is the least mountainous of all the Canary Islands. The relatively flat terrain of Lanzarote helps to make the island stand out and makes exploring particularly easy. Whereever you are you either see the volcanoes or silhouettes of three smallest islands around Lanzarote: Alegranza, Montana and Clara or the other Canarian beauty: Furtaventura. Occasionally it gets really mysterious and the landscape is blurred by the dust which literally stains everything: houses, cars, even cats. It comes from the Sahara desert and mostly brings a lot of really hot air that makes even me look for shade. 

With its beautiful beaches, year-round sunshine, parched earth and clean villages, this enchanting island attracts tourists and especially surfers from around the world. The north of the island is relatively windy so if you are thinking about a beach holiday I would probably suggest heading to the south or going to Gran Canaria. Surfing on other hand is fabulous. There are many parts of the north great for water sports, however the most famous one is called Famara Beach. Long strip of sandy beach and ever-present waves make it the surfer’s heaven. During the day it's full of surfing students however they normally opt for the smaller baby waves closer to the shore so if you are good at this you can go as wild as you want. It’s also very safe, just imagine how many life guards you have around you!

It’s definitely not a party island such as Gran Canaria, Majorca or Ibiza. You can see that the moment you step off the plane and figure out the average demography. Don't get me wrong, I bet you can party until you drop. Puerto del Carmen is definitely the naughty corner and Famara Beach is known for weed, but in general it's a very quiet place. All activity and nightlife mostly happens within the grounds of the big hotels. 

When I visited Gran Canaria a few years back I was overwhelmed by the amount of kitty cats populating the island and gathering in central locations in the evenings to supervise their dominium. It literally felt like we are the pets and they are the masters. Every evening we went out to find crowds of cats just looking at us. Some of them looked heathy, some didn’t but they still sat there observing. As the cats were mostly neglected, the hotel staff weren’t too keen to let the cats in or even feed them in fear they will keep coming back. We saw acts of cruelty and love and the whole view was just distressing. Lanzarote stroke me with it's love for animals. At our hotel staff had created a feeding space where the cats can have their meals, all of them were clean, warmed and some of them were neutered. They knew what they can and can’t do and all the non-cat lovers had to just suck it all up as the cats were part of the furniture (sometimes literally). We also discovered two non for profit organisations/simply amazing people: Freddy's Cat House and  and 9 Lives. Freddy is particularly incredible as he is just one man building little cat houses, feeding and taking care of cats around Playa de Blanca. They installed a bunch of cat feeding stations around the whole island, making sure that the animals are well fed and safe. Kept the cats healthy and controlled their reproduction. Cats seemed really happy, they were still running the island but the cruelty visible in Gran Canaria wasn’t present. 

If you want to rest and relax on your beach towel - go to the south. If you want to surf, do paddle boarding and other water sports - north is your place. If you want to be less active but have some social life go to Puerto del Carmen. Cycling is another fabulous activity perfect for warm and sunny winter days in Lanzarote. If you are really serious about active holidays or want to train towards a marathon, triathlon or other, Lanzarote offers you one of the best purpose built sport and active holiday resort in the world: Club La Santa. They have over 30 different sports and free group instruction. As for surfing, Lava Flow Surf has been the most effective school I have trained with. They helped me progress and move beyond my stuck point without putting pressure on achievements. They know when you are ready and they give you something new to work on.

Just as all Spanish food, Lanzarote’s cuisine is fantastic. They are very proud of their potatoes so maybe try them to know what they are talking about. You can literally go to the Canaries any time of year and have good weather. Sure, it gets windy and storms aren’t totally unknown, but most of the time it is sunny with an average temperature of 22C. Even when the islands are at their hottest, in July and August, the temperature is usually only in the mid-twenties. Whenever you go, it is nearly always warm enough to swim and sunbathe. With only 4.30h flight, short hotel transfer and year round sunshine, Lanzarote really is an amazing place to recharge your batteries without being overwhelmed, bored or exhausted from sightseeing. If by any chance you feel that you have had enough, from Playa Blanca take a ferry to Furtaventura and try surfing, paddle boarding or just be a tourist over there (it’s only 7 miles away). We are already plotting a surfing and yoga retreat in 2018 so stay tuned.

Comment

Comment

Must see in Barcelona

We went to Barcelona in November, which was warmer than the north of Scotland but sadly not a beach holiday. You definitely need a warm jumper and a waterproof coat as it does tend to rain there quite heavily but the city itself is beautiful and charming regardless the bikini tan. If you are going in the winter I would definitely stay in the city as you won't be able to sunbath and walking to the old town anytime you want to eat is annoying and takes time. The Gothic Quarter is definitely the place to be as it is very central and busy with things to do. (Remember that they don't have double glazing and thick walls, so it's very noisy at night whether you rent a flat or a hotel...this is an important tip if you are an insomniac).  

We got a wee apartment as you normally don't get a kettle in a hotel, and coming form the UK you should understand our need for a good cuppa! 

The top 3 things you just need do are:

1) Aire de Barcelona - Arabic baths in the heart of the city. An amazing, relaxing and truly rejuvenating place. Whether you are here in rainy November or ridiculously hot June, I would still recommend this place. We had such a stressful day, dealing with our business back at home, huffing and puffing at each other and getting soaked in the rain (twice). All that stress was gone in the first 10 minutes of floating in one of the warm water baths.

I would recommend going to the warm, hot, ice and the hot water again (in this order). At first it may feel impossible and unbearable. But give it 30-40 minutes and you will grow fond of it;)

2) Eat TAPAS and drink lots of SANGRIA. We loved all the small pubs, Ocaña or La guingueta (a water front pub, especially amazing for cocktails and fresh juices)

3) Yogalinda Hot yoga studio. Fabulous hot yoga studio close to the center. The owner had-picks her staff and those guys really know how to build a class and are very attentive to alignment and form. Definitely a good place to get some sweaty yoga! 

Comment