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

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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. 

 

 

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Cashew butter turmeric chai yumminess

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Cashew butter turmeric chai yumminess

We all have our go-to-remedies and one of my favourites is turmeric! This immune-boosting remedy is one of the world’s most powerful natural healers. Its active ingredient - curcumin, has been known for centuries to have extremely potent medicinal properties.

This Turmeric Chai Tea is an easy and nourishing morning beverage. The tea gently wakes you up, turmeric coats your body in protective cloak and the ritual of drinking a slowly and purposefully made drink is a perfect morning elixir bringing mindfulness to the day.

Allowing yourself to slowly drink the tea while setting your intent for the day feels amazing. Maybe you can even squeez in a little bit of yoga? 

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Cashew Butter Turmeric Chai

  • 1 cup of hot water (let it cool a little bit before you put it into your nutribullet) 
  • 1 tea bag of your favourite chai tea
  • 1 tbsp cashew butter
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Sometimes I add a couple of black peppercorns but not always
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • I don’t like it sweet but if you find it too blunt then I suggest 1/2 tsp of agave syrup or a banana

Place your chai tea in a mug with hot water and let it brew for 3-5 minutes. Add all ingredients to nutribullet and blend max 2 minutes. It will quickly turn smooth and frothy.

Enjoy with a smile. 

**Version with non-dairy milk

Heat your favourite non-dairy milk (mine is almond) in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to steam. Remove from the heat, add in the teabags and cover with a lid. Let steep for 5 minutes.

Remove the tea bags and place the milk into your nutribullet with the other ingredients. Mix for 1min and voila!

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Your habits aren't your destiny

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Your habits aren't your destiny

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
— Albert Einstein

Most of us will admit to having a habit or two. You may even admit to having more than that. How often have you heard someone referring to you as a 'creature of habit'? Like it or not, as humans we ARE ALL creatures of habit. However, whether those habits are good or bad for us—and whether those habits are completely unconscious or purposely planned is largely within our control. Learning what habits are and how they are created is an important step in creating a happy and meaningful life. ⠀

According to a Charles Duhigg - 'habits aren't destiny, even once they are rooted in our minds. We can choose our habits, once we know how'. 

All habits can be ignored, changed or replaced. But the only way to do it is to really understand the habit loop. Duhigg talks about three-step loop:

  1. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.
  2. Then there is the routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional.
  3. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time, this loop: cue, routine, reward, cue, routine, reward... - becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.

When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. Therefore, unless you find new routines — the pattern will unfold automatically.

Habits are not the bad guy!! We think they are, but a good, nurturing and loving habit can be extremely beneficial. They fulfil a very important role in our lives. However, if follow the usual automatic processes of our lives without taking the time and energy to analyze between those that serve us, and those that work against us—we are slaves to our habits. ⠀

So set new habitual routines that help us to create the kind of life we say we want to live. Habits then, become our friend and lead to living happier and more meaningful life.

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Handstand pictures by Siobhan Diamond Photography

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Barcelona Urban Adventure

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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.

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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!

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Let’s celebrate us!

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Let’s celebrate us!

Today is the International Women’s Day.  It has been set up to celebrate and promote hallmarks and achievements of women worldwide: social, economic, cultural or political. To me it also celebrates female energy and its qualities: feminine strength, beauty, power, wisdom and intuition! 

Politically and economically most of westernised world was built on masculine energy. And in this male dominate world it’s easy to forget yourself, and turn off those magical female qualities to try to fit in with the current standards or the speed of life. 

If you are feeling a little disconnected, frazzled maybe even numb, use this day to turn things on again! To lit more fire and embrace being the wonderful woman you are 🔥 

Celebrate your femininity by doing something for YOU that makes YOU feel like the badass, amazing, sexy and confident self. It could be anything, from applying the most scandalous red lipstick, to putting on those long forgotten skinny jeans and booking yourslef into a gig. 

In Hindu tradition we have Shakti, concept or personification of divine feminine power. It's responsible for creation but also is the agent of all change. Deep down we all embody a Goddess. We have the strength, passion and creativity. Life starts with us and we are constant changing and evolving. 

Whenever you feel like you need a wee boost of energy, just invoke your favourite Goddess! Tap into her qualities to sparkle up your own fire!

My latest favourite is Durga, the warrior Goddess, who is strong enough to combat evil and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and good in the world. She is the fierce form of the protective mother goddess, willing to unleash her anger against wrong, violence for liberation and destruction to empower creation. You can’t mess with Durga! She is an absolute and ultimate badass! 

Following embracing your Goddess fire, remember to do something that nourishes you EVERY DAY.  Something that fills your energy levels up.  Your ‘me time’ is the time when you can be honest with yourself about your challenges, hopes and hurts. It’s not time to judge, it’s the time to acknowledge and nurture. Keep it real, this is all part of being alive. 

There is no better feeling that being a woman! To tap into your own majestic energy. So go ahead just tune in, you will love what you hear. 

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Photographs by another strong and fierce woman: Siobhan Diamond Photography

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Most yummy retreat!

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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...

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Your yoga retreat experience - interview with Lisa

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Your yoga retreat experience - interview with Lisa

We are just back from the Barcelona retreat and can't wait to show you our pictures.  Lisa who attended the retreat is sharing today her experience ❤ 

What was your favourite thing about the retreat and why?

For me, it was the connections and friendships made with the other ladies on the retreat.  I loved that we had yoga in common among our very different lives.  We shared something about ourselves every evening over dinner as well as during our yoga practice.  There was a really sense of connection which grew over the days we spent together. 

How did you like the idea of 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 teaching was excellent, very well prepared and thought out. The energising yoga in the morning woke us all up quickly and pleasantly, and I felt proud of myself for achieving challenging poses whilst the restorative yoga in the evening took away aches and pains from any walking and activities during the day.  The evening yoga also encouraged a lot of contemplation and rest, and therefore felt luxurious and special.  

What did you think about the city tour? Was it a good idea? Did you see & learned about the city more than if you did yourself? 

The city tour was interesting thanks to the expertise of the tour guide, who seemed to be passionate about history and about educating people.  It definitely helped me learn more about the city in a historical way, and added a new layer of interest.  I would not have had that perspective without the tour, and it's made me have a new appreciation for Barcelona and Spain as a whole.  

What did you think about Aire de Barcelona (Ancient Baths)

The Ancient Baths were incredible!  I would never dream of doing something like that normally. it was absolute indulgence. It felt like a different world and the experiences offered were great fun - the hot and cold baths and the freezing cold plunge pool to help enliven the body, then the rapid jacuzzi for sore muscles and the best of all - the sea salt pool to encourage floating and complete rest. It was Heaven. And I loved that the staff were so intuitive to our needs.  They provided everything, but their attention was unobtrusive.  

How did you feel about you finished your Aire de Barcelona experience

I thought that having it on the first day just a few hours after we arrived was the perfect way to set us up for the rest of the retreat. My energy levels switched immediately to calmness and I felt prepared.  It changed my mindset from frantic business into me-time.    

What did you think of the food? Did you inspire you to try new yummy recipes? 

The food definitely took me out of my comfort zone but in a fantastic way.  I have tried more different foods over the weekend than I have in years.  I normally hate cooking but it's inspired me to try many new things. My stomach feels better too and I've learnt more lots about my digestion and am now seeing food as medicine. I still can't believe we had vegan tacos made from banana skins! It was yummy. I now love coconut and soya milk, and have realised there are lots of veggie alternatives of foods I normally enjoy.  It was wonderful having the Las Ramblas market so close by too.  (Boqueria?) 

What did you learn? Was it an inspirational experience? 

The most important thing I learned is that the world will not end if I take time for myself.  I learned that art is very important to me, as I had time to visit the Picasso Museum and La  Sagrada Familia. Although I'm used to journalling and self-help, I felt very cared for and guided by Daria, who genuinely wants us to be the best we can be.  She is inspirational.  I drew strength from the belief she had in us.  It was a very nurturing weekend which pushed us to love ourselves more and try new things.  Thanks Daria ❤ 

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The Lower Falls - Glen Nevis

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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 ....

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Barcelona you have never seen

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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!

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Dare to be great!

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Dare to be great!

We are creatures of habits! We do things the same old way because it’s comfortable and feels safe. But the risk in staying inside our comfort zones is that it creates psychological and even physical barriers that can lead to limitations, really freakishly REAL limitations. 

Because we haven’t done anything unusual, scary, strong or new in a long time, we begin to think we can’t. We start telling ourselves that we can't, that it's impossible. Eventually we don't even feel worthy trying. 

We forget that there are 52 weeks in a year! That’s plenty of opportunity to schedule new ways to grow and test ourselves, to try something big or start small but get our bums out of this limiting comfort zone and vicious circle of 'I can't'. 

If you say ‘I can't, the bare truth is that you probably won’t ! If you say ‘I can’t, YET’ - you WILL. Today we all did something that is hard, scares us, is awkward, new, impossible, works in a different way. And we all succeeded as we showed up to an amazing class with Darren Guru Tait! 

.Thanks so much Darren! You are a true Handstand Guru. 

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Why yoga retreats are so god damn amazing

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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!

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Adventures in Scotland - interview with Anna Mach

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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…


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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.

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Best Christmas markets you must visit

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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.

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Wrocław, Poland 

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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.

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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. 

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Würzburg, Germany

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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.

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 Edinburgh, Scotland 

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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.

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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.

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Living wild and free - a dolphin tale

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Living wild and free - a dolphin tale

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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. 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Vancouver - the unceded city

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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.

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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.

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Best vegetarian and vegan bistros in Prague

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Best vegetarian and vegan bistros in Prague

Prague is a great place for yummy vegan restaurants ( which I didn’t know prior to going there). I had a wee list of all the places I wanted to visit but sadly managed only a handful (as there are so many!). Some places offer only vegan or vegetarian options but some aren't as strict and if you ask for meaty options they will accommodate your request. Here are some of my favourites that I personally tried and recommend. Let’s stat with my absolute favourite:

Bistro 8

Located in a new hipster neighbourhood next to a really cool park Letna. Our hotel was just around a corner so I went there a few times and loved the place, my 3 course lunch (light and delicious) and fruit ice tea (all home made and yummy). 

Homekitchen

They have 4 locations all over the city, some of them are bigger bistros and some are just cafes so make sure you double check before you go. It was one of my favourite places! They use great spacious design, good food and super friendly waiters. Definitely a must on your visit! It’s funny as they have a wee display of all the dishes available and the waiters just walk around (everything is very open and there is no actual ‘bar’ where you can order your food). The menu is small but its perfect as everything you need is there: good selection of fats, protein, long lasting carbs and a multitude of flavours. Definitely your taste buds will love it. 

Lehka Hlava 

Means: ‘Clear Head’. This place is located in old town area in a building that is over 500 years old. They serve great drinks, cakes and vegan dishes. The decor is really interesting and deftly not what I have expected. The remarkable interior design is the work of three friends and acclaimed artists: Žanda Gebauer made the tables with lights, the fireplace and the starry sky; Viktor Koreis designed the upholstered sofas, bar and the ceiling and grafics of the small salon; Ivan Vosecký designed the stencils that we used to decorate the walls throughout the restaurant. The magic mushroom lamps as well as the painting of the Aztec lizard is the work of Tomas Kuthan.

They say that Lehka Hlava is a place whose "genius loci" (spirit of the place) will clear your head, entice your appetite and delight your soul. All you need to do is: sit back, relax and allow your senses to be immersed in the delightful display of colours, tastes, smells and sounds. 

The sister restaurant Maitrea is located near the main square and also has wonderful dishes and more space.

Plevel at Krymska is lovely too as well as Radost FX by I.P. Pavlova.

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A letter from Debbie | Yoga Retreat for Foodies

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A letter from Debbie | Yoga Retreat for Foodies

I’m really looking forward to cooking for you during our Yoga Retreat for Foodies in a few of weeks. I’ve been planning the menus and feel really excited about preparing truly delicious nourishing food to share.

My love of cooking started almost 40 years ago when I learned cooking skills in home economic lessons at high school. My mum had never been keen on cooking, so my new interest and love of cooking meant I started to prepare our family meals on a regular basis. I would make buffets for parties and have made a few wedding and other celebration cakes over the years. Baking was always my great love with scones, cakes and chocolate brownies being my most popular bakes.

A number of years ago, during a difficult period in my life when I was very stressed I also became unwell with physical health issues. It was during my recovery from these health issues just over 2 years ago I attended my first yoga class. I very quickly developed a love for yoga and how it made me feel. I also decided to change my diet and began cooking in a more healthy way, focussing on the nutritional aspect of food. I gradually changed my diet, starting by cutting out refined sugar and processed foods, then began reducing meat and introducing more fish. I continued to make gradual changes as I learned more about food and nutrition. I didn’t count calories and never weighed myself and still don’t. It wasn’t about losing weight it was about how I felt. My confidence and self esteem were low and I didn’t like my body, to be honest I had never liked my body.

I really enjoyed cooking new dishes and experimenting with new recipes using more vegetables, grains, beans and pulses. I didn’t stop baking, but learned how to bake using dates, bananas and honey instead of refined sugars. It’s interesting how your taste buds change and now I wouldn’t be able to eat anything loaded with sugar, I just wouldn’t enjoy it. I still love chocolate, but eat good quality dark chocolate. As a result of my new lifestyle, which included lots of yoga and group fitness class at DP Wellbeing my body shape changed…this was a gradual process over a period time. I now wear clothes several sizes smaller than I did previously and I love my body, both how it feels on the inside and how it looks on the outside!

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The food I prepare at home is inspired mainly by Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) and Bear Grylls. I absolutely love Bear Grylls book ‘Fuel for Life’ and have learned so much from this book. 

I’m not strictly vegetarian, vegan or gluten free but I do cook this way most of the time. I use lots of herbs and spices in my cooking, it’s really amazing the flavours that develop with fresh herbs and spices. 

The food I will be cooking during for the retreat will be vegan based and a couple of the recipes will also come from a vegetarian cook book ‘The Yoga Kitchen’ by Kimberly Parsons. There is no definition of what a superfood is and there’s no official list of superfoods, but here are some of my superfoods I will be using over the weekend - hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, maca powder, honey, avocados, garlic, ginger, turmeric, berries, oats, nuts, broccoli, kale and spinach. I love Bear Gryll’s definition of superfoods “nutrient-dense food, very high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which have heath-boosting properties and provide exceptional health benefits” and you can be sure that’s exactly what you will enjoy during the retreat!

 

XoXo Debbie

 

You can read a little bit more about Debbie and her story here. This year we have two Yoga for Foodies Retreat in Elie - check both of them here

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Cool things about Prague

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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...

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We are officially open!

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We are officially open!

Last Thursday, 22 June (coincidentally a day after the International Yoga Day) we had our official launch and what a great evening it was! We had so many wonderful clients, family and friends visiting our headquarters in Broughty Ferry, enjoying the fizz and snacks and helping us to celebrate opening our new venture. We also managed to fundraise £300 towards our India Seva Project. 

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