The sun certainly shone down on us this weekend for our yoga retreat with Bodywork Pilates. Our home for two nights was the Loreto convent in Llandudno, a rambling building dating back to the 1920s, ideal for a group getaway.
We had a good selection of classes to choose from, including some Pilates sessions too.
My personal favourite is yin yang yoga which focuses on holding postures for a few minutes at a time (yin) and then moves to a more dynamic practice (yang).
In between classes there was time to get out into the fresh air and explore the town. If you have never been to Llandudno, it has a real Edwardian feel to it and is a beautifully kept Welsh seaside town. With all the Black Friday madness that was going on in the world, it was great to switch off with the papers and a cuppa before heading back to our cosy retreat.
The reason I do yoga is that it gives you a good mind/body workout and having a weekend to relax and get into the flow was perfect. It was a great opportunity to meet and chat with some amazing women, to listen to their stories, and to bond over a shared interest.
Helen, who owns Bodywork Pilates, is also an ambassador for Tropic skincare and I took the opportunity to try out some of their organic and wonderfully scented skincare products which I had taken with me for the weekend. I used the skin revive moisturiser during the day and the organic elixir facial oil at night. I always use an oil at bedtime but this is particularly important when I’ve been out bracing the elements! Both moisturiser and oil are soothing and gentle on the skin.
The smoothing cleanser is very like another of my favourites, Liz Earle, and provides a welcome blast of eucalyptus to your morning routine. The toner is again, very gentle and lightly scented.
My favourite product was the face smooth brightening polish which gently exfoliates without leaving you looking pink!
Overall, it has been a very relaxing weekend and I’m ready to face Christmas now!
We visited Sicily earlier this month as part of our Mediterranean cruise with Celebrity. The approach via the Messina Strait was gorgeous, even though it started at 7 a.m. and I was still in my PJs. Still, it gave us a great excuse to chill out with breakfast on the balcony.
We disembarked mid morning as we had no specific plans for the day, instead, choosing to wander the streets and discover hidden gems. One such gem was the Chiesa di Santa Maria Alemanna.
This is not the biggest church in Messina, nor the most famous, but for me, the Moorish style architecture made it a winner. It reminded me of the Mesquita in Cordoba which we visited in spring.
There were virtually no other tourists visiting, so obviously it was not on everyone’s radar. The main church, Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani is huge and dominates the main square. Very grand!
We stopped for an espresso in a back street café and enjoyed a leisurely half hour watching the world go by.
The architecture of the city is amazing – all pastel colours and shabby chic styling. Certainly not what we expected and much more beautiful too.
I’m a sucker for a bit of peeling paint!
Celebrity Reflection is a whopper, so I have decided not to do a tour of the ship as we’d be here all day. Instead, these were my favourite places to hangout.
The open deck – lots of space to sit and have a drink in the sunshine.
The solarium – a quiet place for a dip or Jacuzzi. It houses the Aqua Spa Café where you can grab something healthy to eat. It was beautifully lit at night so you could swim in the moonlight should you wish.
The Martini Bar – the counter top is frosted ice, so you can write your name, or indeed your favourite pop group on the bar while you drink your martini.
Café Al Bacio – the best place for cappuccino, posh teas, reading in the afternoon and people watching after dinner. The cakes were fab too!
Our cabin (6155) which had an extended balcony -perfect for watching the waves – we even spotted dolphins one day. It was classed as ‘obstructed’ but as you can see, our view was not impaired by the lifeboats below us.
The Atrium – a huge space where there was always something going on. The lifts were pretty impressive too.
Finally, the library – I was in here all the time browsing and picking up books to read. I hope you enjoyed this little snoop round!
If you’re looking for some Cotswold charm without the hoards of tourists, then look no further than Minster Lovell. It’s a pretty village, not far from Oxford, situated on the River Windrush.
We stayed two nights at the Old Swan & Minster Mill, which is actually two separate properties. The six hundred year old Old Swan village inn and the 18th century Minster Mill. Our room was in the mill and looked out over the lovely gardens.
The room, although compact, was very comfortable with thoughtful touches such as a hot water bottle, magazines and beautiful glassware. There was a Nespresso machine, kettle and plenty of teas and coffees to choose from. The spa was just down the corridor and the aromatherapy scent drifting down to our room was gorgeous.
Beware if you decide to have a cuppa in the pub garden. A pot of tea for two is £8. Better off sticking to the cider if you want value for money.
Dinner on both nights was at the Old Swan, and the food I thought was exceptionally good. My dessert on night two was a chocolate and passion fruit delight and I could have licked the plate clean. There is a dining room or you can choose to eat in the bar. We did a bit of both for variety. The bar is doggy friendly which appeals to me – one waitress even brought a cheeky sausage out for someone’s little Manchester terrier.
Breakfast was self serve, which initially jarred with me as this is a five star hotel, but I have to say the quality was top notch and I was immediately converted.
The hotel has really interesting gardens for those who like a wander. An Archimedes Screw has been installed in the grounds which harnesses the power of the Windrush and provides energy for the hotel.
There is some lovely planting, including veg and herbs. You never know, you might even come across Parker, the pub cat, who is a real sweetie.
Although we’ve been visiting Alcudia in June for years, the weather is normally too hot to do much serious walking. However, this year, a cloudy day combined with some navigation difficulties (ie not checking the map before we set out for a walk) led us to the nature reserve at Muro. I’m so glad we came across it. Last time we visited, a few years back, we had hired cycles and spent more time trying not to get run over on the main road than we did appreciating the scenery, so this visit was a treat.
For nature lovers there is some seriously pretty plant life. I loved this sea holly (above)which looks much better in this habitat than the one in my cottage garden looks at home. I’ve added some pics of a few other plants, although don’t know what they are.
The boardwalk also offers some fantastic views across the Bay of Alcudia.
Well worth a visit if you get the chance. Can anyone identify the other plants?
It’s been almost five years since my SCAD and I wanted to let you guys know that things can, and do, significantly improve with the passage of time. If you had your SCAD in 2015 then you may not believe me, as the first year is the hardest. 2011 for me was a nightmare of A&E visits, hospital appointments, anxiety and a feeling that life as I knew it was over. Well, it was actually, but it turns out that it was no bad thing, as I’ve never been happier than I am right now.
The very best news in the last few months is that my wanderlust has returned. I really thought my globetrotting days were over, but just recently we’ve been looking at holidays in Costa Rica, and maybe even Australia and New Zealand is no longer out of the question. If you’d have told me this on my first post SCAD flight to Mallorca when I sat shaking in the departure lounge convinced that flying would stop my heart, then I would never have believed you. Well, since then, we’ve travelled extensively, but mostly in Europe.
So, the big trip for 2016 is a girls only trip to New York (shopping yay!!) with my best friend Linda. Following this, who knows where the new year will take me?
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016.
Twenty five years have gone by since we last followed the orange blossom trail from Valldemossa through to Palma via Deia, Puerto de Soller and Soller, traversing the UNESCO protected Sierra de Tramuntana by bus, tram and train. Such a lot has changed, especially since Soller is no longer isolated, now that a tunnel replaces the windy mountain roads that were the main way in or out. The biggest change is the sheer number of tourists in Valldesmosa and Soller. When we last visited they were quiet towns where you could wander the streets and pick up an ensaimada to eat in a shady square. Not so now, you can hardly move for chi chi boutiques and open air cafes spilling out onto the street.
The hotel we stayed at in 1988 – the Esplendido in Puerto de Soller – has been upgraded to a very chic hotel well out of our price range!
Some things are the same though – the old San Francisco tram ride through the orange and lemon groves from the port to the town of Soller is as pleasingly simple as ever. It runs right through people’s back gardens and what you might call allotments if they were in the UK. The orange juice is as fresh and tasty as before, as is the almond cake.
The railway journey into Palma, travelling on a train dating from 1919, is a quirky trip through olive groves, mountain tunnels and the odd little town.
The view down into Soller was breathtaking.
Not sure I’d make this trip again in the summer months, but out of season, I’d love to!