I’m having a travel idea…

I am having a severe case of wanderlust at the moment!

I am really looking forward to my big trip to Japan later this year, but I want to be planning more trips and exploring more places as life is short and I want to see travel the world!

(while having a great job and a lovely home base to come back to each time – plus enough money to be able to afford to travel!)

So I’ve had an idea…

12 weekend trips in 12 months!

There are so many places I want to visit I think this could be a great way to  shake things up in my life. There are weekends I sit down and think I could have done so much, but get caught up in the day to day cycle of life. This idea is extreme for me, but I like the idea of being busy and always having a trip to plan and look forward to. At the moment it’s an idea. I’m not 100% sure, but then think why do I need to be 100% sure, I can just go with it and see how it goes!

I have already listed where I think I want to go:

  1. Paris
  2. Athens
  3. Amsterdam
  4. Madrid
  5. Florence
  6. Budapest
  7. Vienna
  8. Saltzburg
  9. Copenhagen
  10. Stockholm
  11. Berlin
  12. Oslo

There are so many more places, but many of these have been near the top of list for a while so it makes sense to focus on those and add a few different ones in too.

This feel exciting!

I want to start planning already. I’ll need to look at flights, accommodation, sights to see, food and drink to try and find out about the history of each place. I’ll also need to see when is best to visit each place and if there are any events I should look to feature or look to avoid.

I plan on doing most trips on my own, but would be totally on board if any of my friends want to join me. I am going to be selfish though and make sure I am doing what I want to do, but I’m open to having company.

The main thing I need consider is my finances as I would like to have a bit more savings behind as an emergency fund before I start extreme trip planning. But then I think to my self LIFE IS SHORT, so why not enjoy it and live everyday like I want to (while being within my means).

I’m in the in between stage. It’s an idea that is both exciting and terrifying. I’ve got a bit more thinking to do I think…

Hitting diet bottom

I hit diet rock bottom a while ago. It came on gradually. Each new attempt to diet started with one last supper, which got bigger each time. The cycle of diet and binge escalated to a point I was not happy with at all. I found myself slipping into a new depressive low and hated every minute of it. I found  excuse after excuse – busy at work, not feeling well, not training for anything – basically anything where I could blame my own willpower.

However I have since realised it was not my willpower that wasn’t working, but rather the diets themselves. Each diet was harming my body, biology and self-worth. So I needed to find something different and though a number of blogs found Intuitive Eating.

This book has been an eye opener so far and I’m not all the way through. I have found something that resonates with me on a deep level. Everything the diet industry is telling us is designed to impact our self-worth and self-esteem. We keep being told that failing a diet is our fault, not the diets. Even my doctor has told me this. I no longer believe it. I believe that the diets I have tried have all been about deprivation and that does not suit me. Now I am not suggesting I am going about to eat everything and gain as much weight as possible, but rather I need a lifestyle diet where my relationship with food is not based on what is considered good or bad. I don’t want this any more and I refuse to adhere to the societal norm that is:

“Good behaviour, in our society, means starting a new diet, or having good intentions to diet”

This has led to a no-win situation in my life where I no longer feel in control or trust myself around food and this is no way to live:

“Every diet violation, every eating situation that feels out of control lays the foundation for the diet mentality”

So I am breaking up with diets…

I am going on a journey with this book and I’m not going to say it’s easy. It’s bloody hard to change from an ingrained sense of self and rules that come from family and society. But I am going to keep working on this. I am taking the shift off losing weight and focusing on how my body and mind connect. Already I feel less stressed about food and am becoming more self-aware that I ever thought would be possible.

First up I’ve been Ditching the Diet Mentality“dieting has been a way to cope with life” – I’ve been doing this through widening my reading to be aware of the damage diets cause to the body and mind. This has been fascinating and scary, but worthwhile. I’ve also been starting the journey of self-awareness by tuning into my thinking habits and behaviours traits that support the diet mentality. This has been interesting to observe, but not easy to change as these have been ingrained into my way of life over years they have become automatic. I’ve also gotten rid of all the diet tools in my home. I’ve cleared out my twitter, instagram and blog feeds of weight loss inspiration and instead focused on positive people who share things that really matter or that are fun and inspire me to enjoy life.

Secondly I’ve been trying to Honour My Hunger. This has simply been about listening to my body, thoughts and feelings when I’m around food. I’ve been trying to eat when I feel hungry, rather than give into the to the rules I’ve made around timing of meals or snacks. I am asking myself two simple questions – “am I hungry? and what do I fancy to eat?” – these have been easy (ish) to implement and are really about checking in myself and noticing the times when I want to eat when I am not hungry, but I am still working on why that is. One step at a time.

The third aspect I’ve been introducing is all about Making Peace with Food “the forbidden object is elevated to an overvalued level of specialness” – This is an area that is very important for me as I have so many rules around specific food and so much guilt and shame associated with meals and people who make food very negative. The main aspect of this is to give yourself permission to eat and that is exactly what I am trying to do. I’ve bought chocolate and snacks that I used to think of as bad and keep as much as possible in the fridge so that I do not run out. I’ve challenged food I think of as bad and added them into my meals to see if I really like them. I’ve found I don’t need as much of things as I know I can have more of them if I want. This is something that I never thought would happen. I still over eat on chocolate, but it’s definitely emotional eating.

“When you know the food will be there and allowed, day after day, it doesn’t become so important to have. Food loses its power.”

“This is not about knowledge of food, but rather rebuilding experiences with eating”

I feel these three principles are really important building blocks to create the relationship with food that I want. It takes time and I am going to allow myself all the time I need to work through these aspects of the book. Building trust takes times and care. I am not only rebuilding my relationship with food but also my relationship with myself.

I’ve just moving onto the fourth area which is all about Challenging the Food Police. This is all about continuing to build self-awareness. It suggest an intuitive eating journal. I struggle with this concept as it feels too close to tracking that diets ask for. However this is very similar to what I am trying to do with therapy so I am going to focus on emotions and noticing them and combine this with my therapy work using an emotion wheel and emotion wave that I plan to use to help understand and articulate what I feel.

Taking the pressure off needing to lose weight has been hard, but pivotal to this approach. So ingrained are these habits that I always automatically jump to needing to lose weight so go on a diet every day for some random reason – clothes, food, fitness, chairs, lifts, – pretty much anything can make me jump to this. However I am stopped reacting and just begun noticing. I haven’t quite gotten to the no judgement part, but I am working on it. This feels the right approach for me and combined with therapy it is the journey I need to go on. There are still a few more principles in the book I need to work through and I will keep re-reading the ones I am working on above as I need them to become normal for me in my new world.

It feels good right now!

Posing Dog

Wandering around The Burren

This last week I was lucky enough to go on a work trip to The Burren in County Clare, Ireland. It was a wonderful trip full of beauty and learning. I’m not going into any details  about my work, but do want to share some of the wonderful photos of the landscape I was able to explore. I also want to share a bit of the history of the place and recommend it as a place to visit.

Meadow
Meadow

The Burren means ‘great rock’ or ‘rocky place’ in Irish and it definitely suited the name. It is a beautiful historic landscape much changed by human habitation, especially through farming. It is a cultural landscape full of archaeological features, some of which are still used today.

Handmade Stone Wall
Handmade Stone Wall

The area is around 250 km squared and is enclosed within the circle made by the villages of Ballyvaughan (visited), Kinvara, Tubber, Corofin (visited), Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna. There many fantastic finds within the villages such as the The Perfumery and The Larder Deli.

Working in the Field
Working in the Field

It is an area of Ireland I was unaware of until it became a subject of fascination at work. Once we arrived we stayed in Ennis and were pleasantly surprised by the amount of tourists, especially from America. It was a honeypot of activity in the evenings with every bar full and musical entertainment a plenty. We foudn Knox’s and The Old Ground Hotel.

Posing Dog
Posing Dog

I was lucky to spend two full days talking and exploring with local people who look after their land with great care and understanding. This hasn’t always been the case, but in the last 15 years there has been a drive to rediscover how the land is kept in it’s best condition and going back to farming practices that support that and make sense economically for the local farms.

Making Friends
Making Friends

There is a lovely sense of place here and this is supported by the pride of the people I was able to meet. They have an identity here and love the land and the history in the places they live. There is a desire to keep this sense of identity for the future and in recent times many gates have been upgraded to the The Burren Gate, which is made locally.

Burren Gate
Burren Gate

I was able to take some time to practice my photography skills and focus on landscapes and flowers. I’m really happy with how lots of them came out even though I had to take quite a few reference shots for work purposes.

White Irish Orchid
White Irish Orchid

I learnt a lot from my work colleagues on this trip. It was mainly about habitats and flora and fauna found in The Burren compared to home. However my memory is rubbish and so the only ones I can remember are the Irish Orchids. Please shout if you know any of the other flowers I found!

Purple Flower
Purple Flower

Many flowers I took because I found them colourful and stood out against the green and stone backdrops.

Colourful Irish Orchid
Colourful Irish Orchid

If I hadn’t known differently I would have thought many of the fields I was walking through were not farmed in any way, but I would have been wrong. All the fields we went through were used for pasture and some were hay meadows. The quality of the fields are gold star. There was so much variety and colour everywhere we looked it was astounding.

Pink Flower
Pink Flower

It was also a peaceful landscape. There are many roads through the landscape and even less tracks across the farms. Many things are kept very traditional with limited use of machinery across all aspects of the farms. This leaves these beautiful meadows to flourish and benefit from the winterage type farming practices found in the area.

In the long grasses
In the long grasses

The limestone pavement The Burren is located on is a specific landscape. being located on the edge of the Atlantic creates a very specific area and climate that supports it. It’s very mild all year, which means is also very wet all year. It is a mountain climate, without any mountains. We had pretty much all seasons in the two days we were there.

Blue flowers
Blue flowers

I definitely want to go back and explore further than I was able to this time. There is a beautiful coastal road we only got to glimpse as we headed back to the airport. I did not realise how much there was to explore until we arrived. Also the people were so friendly I would like to spend more time sat talking and listening to their stories and music. I totally underestimated this trip and would like to rectify that by visiting again in the future.

Wandering around Snowdonia

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The Location!

A couple of weeks ago I got to go on a trip with work to Snowdonia. A beautiful and extraordinary place in North Wales. I stayed in Betws-y-coed in the Conwy Valley and thought of as the gateway to Snowdonia. I’ve visited here a number of times and fall more in love with the place each and every visit. It’s small, vibrant and peaceful. The locals are friendly and all the visitors I’ve met have been the same.

I stayed a lovely B&B just outside the village called Aberconwy B&B, which was within walking distance of the main area across the stunning Sappers Suspension Bridge built in 1930.

I took the time to practice my photography while I was away as I had time to myself during the evenings. I loved the bridge and the graveyard of St Michael’s Church just beyond and have been using my editing skills to improve the photos. The bridge and the graveyard are my favourite.

As it was out of the main tourist season it was very quiet in the evenings. The pubs and restaurants were busy, but everywhere else was peaceful and calm. The train station was a great photo opportunity as o one else was around.

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The Walking!

My work visit meant I got to go walking in a different area to anywhere I’ve walked before. It was just north of Betws-y-coed, and on land I wouldn’t have been sure was open to access, but I learnt that most areas are and as long as you respect the land it’s okay to explore beyond the paths.

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We stuck to the lower slopes of the area as we were looking at habitats across the land. It was fascinating to learn about this as its central to my work, but I am not a land or farming expert.

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There are some beautiful structures hidden away that suddenly pop in to view as you are walking a long. Farm houses, upland ponds, bridges, across streams, stone walls, views across to Snowdonia, all beautiful and part of the landscape.

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Also lots of sheep who watched us as we passed, but did not come near to say hello. We didn’t see another soul while out walking all day. We stuck to a Nation Trust path in places and wandered off the beaten track on others, but didn’t see anyone else in the area. It made a nice change to walking up Snowdon as that can be super busy that you never get away from people. I loved the peace and details you could pick up by being a  small group in a big landscape. It gave a different perspective on the area and I felt small, but in a good way. A way that tells me the world is an amazing place that will continue on without us if needs be. We impact it in so many ways and when you see nature fighting back or doing things despite our interference it is truly inspiring.

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The Food!

You cannot talk about Wales without talking about the food. It was amazing as always. Much of it locally sourced and even getting a picnic for lunch from the local bakery was a wonderful experience. The B&B served an amazing breakfast and recommended the bakery for my lunch needs.

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I ate at the local pub one night and then found a fairly newly opened pizza place that has a proper wood fired stone oven. Good quality food is becoming so important to me nowadays. I was able to sit and not rush and really enjoy the moment of being away from home and free from normal responsibilities for a couple of days.

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I totally recommend visiting North Wales and I hope to visit many more times to explore different areas. You have to visit Snowdon, but also make sure you get away from the main tourist honeypot areas to explore hidden places that are beautiful in different ways.

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#KeepTheSecrets

I’ve just had the most magical weekend and I can’t let it go, which is why I think it’s taken a few days back at home and work for me to sit down and want to write this post as it feels like it’s done then. I know it’s not really, I’m being over-dramatic, but that’s how it feels.

An upfront note – there will be no spoilers in this post. I will talk about how I felt, but no plot or character details will be shared #KeepTheSecrets

In reality this all started in October last year when the tickets went on sale for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and I managed to get in the queue with only around 1000 people in front of my. Compared to friends who got in the queue not long after and it was up in the 6000 range and even more I did really well. It only took about 25 minutes of waiting in the end and I got tickets for myself and my friend Ingrid to see one of the first Saturday double bill previews. I was so happy and so excited to have something new added to the stories I’ve been reading since I was 16! I’m not 31 so it’s been pretty much half my life! It felt exactly the same as a new book coming out – the unknown and the excitement and the trepidation around what could happen. It’s Harry Potter, anyone could die!

Side note – it’s also now totally okay to have a crush on the actors playing Harry, Ron and Draco and a girl crush on Hermione! Amazing actors all round.

I then booked a hotel in Covent Garden, just up the road from The Palace Theatre in Soho. It was a perfect location as it only meant getting the tube to the hotel and then we could wander everywhere. The first thing we did of course was go to the theatre to see it all set up. I took lots of photos of the posters as it was all helping build up the excitement even more than I thought I could contain. Make sure you go and see it during the day before a performance as once we were there for the show it was so busy it was impossible to get the photos I took.

Everything about the set up felt right. It was very much linked to the books, rather the films and I liked that a lot. It was continuing the story for those characters and for the fans who have been there from the beginning, or almost the beginning in my case.

Setting it nineteen years later felt exactly right too. I think this is because I am now an adult and so it would make it easier to relate to them now as adults as well. We grew up together and now we were getting the chance to see who they had become.

I also love that this is in a different format. As a play there is something completely different about it, but at the same time there is something completely familiar. It made it even more excitng for me. It was like the film experience when you are in the cinema with everyone, but with the theatre atmosphere where it’s totally okay to react out loud.

The Palace Theatre is also an amazing building. I recommend walking the whole way round and see the brick structure and take in the architecture that you can then compare to what you see on the inside. It’s like a Tardis!

As we arrived on the Friday we had a day to kill and made the most of it by totally immersing ourselves in our Harry Potter geekness. We went to the House of Minalima, who did all the graphic design work for the films. It is amazing! It’s a combined gallery and shop over multiple floors.

It is a beautiful space, full of colour and fun. It’s mainly Harry Potter, but it also contains other work by the designers, which is just as amazing.

There are some of the original props used in the films as well. The amount of detail and care that went into all this and continues to go into for the new movie is staggering. The love and commitment to the work and the world took my breath away and I could have stayed in there all day.

I want them to come and decorate my house. The floors and stairs especially!

We then went to Cheeky Nails to get our nails turned into Hogwarts House colours ! I never get my nails done so this was exciting. It is attached to a bar as well so is perfect for a Friday night. They ladies there were so fantastic to us and fitted us in and did the details we wanted. I think we entertained them for the night too!

Of course then we had to make sure we got the most value from them by getting them in pretty much every single photo for the rest of the weekend.

We woke up Saturday and could not wait for 2pm. We went for a relaxing breakfast and then we wandered through some bookstores to keep ourselves calm, but get ready for what was coming. We got into the queue just before 1pm to give ourselves plenty of time to get merchandise, drinks and to find our seats. They check your bags on entry and even if the queue is long you’ll be fine as they are quick.

Then we were ready to see Part 1! I took some photos inside before and after the play, but that would give things away so they are just for me as memories. I can’t really say any more as I do not want to make JK Rowling angry by hinting at anything that happens.

All I will say is that I loved it!

We then went to a local sushi restuarant in between the parts. I woudl recommend booking to make sure you get somewhere close as it was super busy being a Saturday and also Pride. To save stress book someone and enjoy discussing (carefully) what happened in Part 1!

Then it was time to join the queue at 6:30pm for Part 2! Everyone was even more excited than before. We were also talking about our theories for what would happen and it was so much fun! Everyone was there as a fan and there was so much love and loyalty in the audience it was amazing. There was also some great discussions, not debates, but people being open for things to go where ever they might go.

Then is was over! It was exactly like finishing one of the books for the first time. Happiness that you now knew what happens and how the story and characters develop. At the same time sadness that it was over and you won’t get to experience it in the same way again. To sum up my reaction without any spoilers is basically me in this photo, taken in the ice cream place opposite right after the we came out of the theatre. It was magic in reality for me!

I am in awe of JK Rowling for creating this world and sharing in so many ways. I totally respect her call for everyone who has seen the play to #KeepTheSecrets to let others see as we had just done. I cannot wait for the script to come out as I will be able to read that while replaying the play in my head. I would say to anyone who has tickets to wait to watch the play first before reading the script as I can tell you it will not be the same and your patience will be worth it.

I treated myself to quite a bit of merchandise and love it all! I’m keeping hold of my tickets as memories too. It was an experience I will never forget and feel lucky to be one of the first people to have seen the play in full in one day. I don’t think I could have waited 24 hours for the second part to be absolutely honest!

I would also say to anyone who is a fan to keep trying to get tickets from the official website. I hope one day they will tour it or do a live showing broadcast to cinemas, but I also hope that will be a few years away to give as many people as possible the chance to see it as it is meant to be seen!

#KeepTheSecrets

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