KATHLEEN NORTH

KATHLEEN NORTH has 49 articles published.

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We are surrounded by information, advice and images designed to
motivate us to improve our health.

In fact, we can barely turn a page or click on a website without a flurry of health tips to promote better eating and exercise regimes.

We can feel trapped and exhausted from  our relationship with food so it is vital to heal our relationship with food, learn to trust and accept our bodies. As a result we can spend time on the things that truly matter the most.

However, if maintaining a healthy weight has proved problematic for you or resisting certain foods to keep our cholesterol in check, what can inspire and motivate us to examine our lifestyle choices?

Sometimes, we simply gauge our weight by the fit of our clothes. On other occasions, we know our bodies are not feeling or reacting as they usually do so that alerts us. 

However, there are moments in our lives that are pivotal in our taking stock of our health and how we live.

You have experienced ill health that is unexpected and may lead to a more serious medical condition.

For those who have experienced loved ones with health issues. They may have genetic implications for you,

Increased weight issues that might place you in the obese category.

A BMI reading that is higher than desirable 

A routine health check reveals unwelcome readings such as being pre-diabetic, high cholesterol or blood sugar, increased blood pressure.

Too much of the pursuit of health is a pointless goal. The idea of better health for the sake of better health. Instead better health should be for the sake of being able to do more, to have better relationships, to pursue your passion, to be able to run around after your children, to be able make a difference.

Health is not the end goal but rather it is the catalyst. It makes it easier for you to do the important things in life. But it’s not a prerequisite. You can have people in the worst state of health that do amazing things in this world, just as you can be completely healthy but are contributing nothing beyond living in your head.

Health motivators come in various guises and can be inspired by a variety of people. You may meet an old friend who is looking particularly fabulous and tells you she has adopted an exercise regime. Perhaps a family member has lowered their problematically high blood pressure by a significant lifestyle change. Whoever or whatever inspires you, the most important fact is you are motivated to make vital changes. 

A soulful treat may lead us to make new choices. It may lead to uncomfortable moments, which can be part of change. Who knows.

Needless to say, you do not need to go through a major health scare to deserve a treat and to make change happen, now.

You can start a new piece of your future now. The time will be right, when you feel ready.

Re-evaluating our health can alter our emotional lives too and can be hugely beneficial. It can help shape an inner attitude to ourselves, life and illness that is a source of inner peace.

Running not enjoyable for you? Try cycling or a boxing class to get in your daily workout. And find your inner motivation. Really dig deep to figure out what’s pushing you to live a healthier lifestyle—find your personal, emotional reward. Tap into that motivation and remind yourself on a regular basis why you want to make wellness a more important part of your life.

Jo Wheatley is the Co-author of Deciding to Coach. Jo believes ‘Our health and wellbeing is comprised of both mental and physical health. We need to keep both under review in order to stay healthy. However, in the busyness of day to day life we can often neglect one or both. 

There are many things that can wake us up and remind us to pay attention and nurture our physical and mental health. These can include experiencing burnout at work, experiencing a loss such as a miscarriage or death of another family member, sometimes it is comparing ourselves to others or even a previous version of ourselves. 

For me the greatest reminder was when I had a cancer scare. It is such a leveller and a reminder to start with health. Of course there is also the New Year as people open a new year of opportunity and make decisions about how they want to progress and live the next year. Being accountable to others or making a contribution to something close to your heart is also a great motivator. In workplaces sometimes you’ll find teams working together to achieve a monthly step count, or individuals may be motivated to raise money for charity and commit to a triathalon or other fitness challenge.

As a coach when I work with clients on their wheel of life we consider their satisfaction with eight key areas in their life and often health is listed as a key area. We consider the satisfaction in the area of health in the context of others such as wealth, family, career etc Over time they notice the interdependence of these areas of their life.

When we feel healthy we can often take it for granted until we are reminded through ill health that this is a critical area for us to invest in. What would you score your mental health and your physical health today? How close to what you want it to be is it? What would one point higher be like? What can you do to achieve that today?’

Jo Wheatley, co-author of ‘Deciding to Coach’ Amazon Best Seller in 15 categories and co-host of The Coaching Crowd  podcast.
www.igcompany.co.uk :: www.jowheatley.com.

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Scotland’s UNESCO Trail

Scotland offers a treasure trove of experiences, history and – above all – fun. It’s a fantastic place to visit, especially with easyJet flying into Edinburgh from Gibraltar.

One thing that isn’t perhaps known is the number and variety of UNESCO places that VisitScotland has grouped into an explorers trail, in a world first.

Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere

The landscape of Wester Ross is among the most spellbinding in the world. Here in the north west Highlands of Scotland, discover a place of astounding natural beauty and eco-diversity, where communities live in harmony with the land and sea, preserving a unique time-honoured way of life, passed down through the generations.

Amid this natural playground formed by some of the oldest geology in the world, explore an idyllic coastline fringed with pristine beaches, gleaming lochs, centuries-old pinewoods, deep glens, and lofty mountains among the highest in the UK. Each of these habitats provide for an incredible array of rare wildlife and plant species, that are of international significance.

Wester Ross Biosphere is more than just a place to enjoy some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery; it’s a destination where you can truly slow down and appreciate the delicate and vital connection all humans share with their environment. A place where unique beauty, culture and history come together quite unlike anywhere else.

Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere

This biosphere is known for its spellbinding natural beauty. Covering 5,268 square kilometres of south-west Scotland, the area centres on the hills and moors of the Merrick, which were originally formed by glaciers. Explore the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and discover untouched coastlines and deep woodlands and forests, all providing habitats for a rich diversity of plants and wildlife.

All of this beauty has produced a fair share of creative talent throughout the years, from Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns, to sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, who created the region’s iconic Striding Arches in celebration of Galloway’s ancient uplands.

Glasgow, City of Music UNESCO Creative City

It doesn’t take long to realise that music is the beating heart of this city. Get ready for a warm welcome from half a million residents who have access to over 100 music events every week. You’ll soon discover that music can do much more than simply put a smile on your face.

Glasgow is a vibrant city with a legendary music scene across a variety of venues, that stretches across the whole spectrum from contemporary to classical, and Celtic to country. It’s famed for the enthusiasm and energy of its audiences, which is no surprise when you hear it’s regularly voted one of the friendliest cities in the world.

Edinburgh, City of Literature UNESCO Creative City

Storytelling and the written word have been the life force of Edinburgh’s art and culture for centuries. Its contributions to the world of literature are so rich and well-recognised that in 2004, Edinburgh became the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

Literature is an important part of the city’s past and present, and it features prominently in almost every corner of city life. This is the only city in the world to erect a 60 metre-tall monument in honour of one of Scotland’s greatest writers, Sir Walter Scott.

Scott is by no means the only literary superstar to be associated with Edinburgh. Writers as diverse as Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, JM Barrie, Muriel Spark, and Harry Potter author JK Rowling, have all been inspired by and enriched the creative fabric of the city.

Boasting the world’s largest literature festival, home to a myriad of bookshops, not to mention the highest concentration of public libraries in Scotland – Edinburgh is a city which celebrates the power of the written word quite unlike any other.

Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark

The islands you see today of Shetland have been on an incredible geological journey. This land has literally travelled from near the South Pole, across the equator, to its current spot at the crossroads of the North Atlantic and the North Sea. The geology of the islands influences every part of life – they provide a home for unique biodiversity and they influence human settlements, their activities, and their industries.

Due to the lack of trees and the abundance of stone, Shetland has some of the best-preserved archaeology in Europe. Explore the Shetland Geopark and you’ll discover not just the story of the islands, but the story of how the world has formed and changed over millions of years.

Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site

Who could ever imagine building a monument and learning it would still exist some 5,000 years later? Thousands of years ago, the prehistoric people of Orkney began building such monuments out of stone. It’s testament to their skills that those domestic and ritualistic monuments still survive today, and we can now use them to get incredible insights into the society and spiritual beliefs of those people.

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney brings together four key sites near Stromness on the Orkney Mainland:

Skara Brae – a domestic settlement where you can still see the surviving stone walls, passageways and stone furnishings including beds and ‘dressers’

Maeshowe – this chambered tomb is an extraordinary example of Neolithic architecture. It’s designed so that the light of the setting sun at the winter solstice focuses on the narrow passageway, illuminating the chamber inside

The Stones of Stenness – the circle and henge* is a very early example of this type of monument. The surviving stones are enormous, standing up to 6 m tall

The Ring of Brodgar – a great stone circle, about 130 m across. It’s surrounded by a rock-cut ditch and sits in a spectacular setting, a natural amphitheatre of lochs and hills

New Lanark World Heritage Site

New Lanark was a site ahead of its time. Founded by David Dale, it is most famous for Robert Owen’s social reforms, such as shorter working days, an end to child labour under the age of 10, and free medical care for workers in the mill.

The cotton mill was in operation for two centuries from 1785 to 1968 and at one time was thought to be the largest industrial facility in the world. It became a world-renowned blueprint for what could be the ideal working and living environment for workers and their families.

Visit the award-winning restored 18th century mill village to see this progressive story brought to life in a series of buildings, exhibitions and attractions.

This is only a selection of the UNESCO Trail. See the full list at
visitscotland.com/see-do/unesco-trail/designations/list/


Travelling Alone

Travelling alone can feel incredibly exciting and somewhat daunting in equal measure. Embarking on a new travel experience requires careful planning but more importantly a huge desire for a unique, independent travel experience.

Karen Dwyer is a Health & Wellbeing Coach. She states ‘I believe traveling alone is a must do, at least once in your life. 

Life is so busy these days and there are lots of people to look after, whether it’s work, family, children and friends. 

I believe it is important to truly discover what you love, without attachment to pleasing others. That may sound a little selfish but I think we need to follow the flight’s safety instructions to the letter and put on our oxygen mask first before anyone else’s. 

Travelling with people you know can be an amazing way to bond, but it also comes with some drawbacks. You can’t always plan your schedule the way you really want to because you have other people’s schedules to consider, and splitting the work of planning so many logistics across a group can be time-consuming. If there’s division among the group, that can lead to tension. And if somebody gets sick or has an emergency in their family, it can throw a wrench into a trip that was planned months in advance.

If you’re considering traveling solo, there are some pros and cons that are worth knowing about. Obviously, it’s going to be different for everyone—some people love the freedom of being able to do everything on their own terms, while others find that kind of independence overwhelming. But if you’re thinking about making the leap from group travel to solo travel, here are some things that might help inform your decision.

If you’ve never travelled alone, you might not know where to start. But don’t let that stop you! To help you get your feet wet, here are some pros and cons of solo travel:

Pros:

  • You can do anything, anywhere, at any time—there’s no one to tell you what to do or when to do it!
  • You are free to meet new people or not, as you choose. It’s your choice. 
  • There’s no one around to annoy you. That’s pretty nice.

Cons:

  • You have to pay all the bills yourself. 
  • It can be intimidating sometimes—but it gets easier with time.
  • My advice, don’t let fear stop you. You must be a brave soul.

While there’s something to be said for traveling with friends and family, there’s also nothing quite like hitting the road by yourself. You might get lonely sometimes—and you will, trust me—but you’ll also find yourself solving problems on your own, making discoveries all on your own, and making the most out of everything without having to consider anyone else.

Here are some pro tips:

  • Make sure your phone works in the country you’re going to (most international phones have global capabilities these days).
  • Travel insurance is an absolute MUST if you’re going alone; you don’t want to get stuck somewhere without money or anyone else to help you.
  • Don’t forget your first aid kit. It’s worth it to have one even if you don’t think you’ll use it.

Michelle Ensuque is a psychotherapist and coach. Michelle says, ‘If like me you find yourself having to travel solo rather than someone hop, skipping and jumping into the wilderness with sheer abandon, then lean into what I am about to tell you; it might just change your plans:

• Read the small print. Yes, I know it sounds obvious, but I once found myself being groped by my ‘friendly’ designated driver, who I couldn’t complain about because he was the one driving me to around Tanzania. I also found myself sat alone at tables eating dinner when (as an over excited person in a new place) I wanted to share my thoughts with others rather than sit alone. Making assumptions rather than reading thoroughly might end up in a situation you hadn’t bargained for.

• Taking a book or magazine to the restaurant means you can avoid sitting in a restaurant looking like the resident stalker.  

• Consider going on a holiday with other single people so you can share the adventures. If you enjoy being surounded by others, explore the options out there.

• Use it as an opportunity not just to travel but to experience different things.  Whether your appetite is whetted by adrenaline-based pursuits or how to get into the handstand scorpion pose at a yoga retreat, if you are curious about new cultures and seeking some self-reflection time, take the opportunity to see what might be available. Don’t, however, try to do something because you think you ought to before time runs out. Sky diving and bungee jumping might have been on your bucket list but really take time to understand if this is because you want to, or you think you ‘should’.

• If the thought of speaking in a foreign language sends you running for the hills, visit somewhere where they speak your language or take time to learn some words or phrases of the country you are visiting, including ‘no’ and
‘no thank you’, and don’t forget that Google translate is a godsend.

• Take the essentials in terms of your medication. Be aware of the rules for each contry regarding prescription drugs. 

Finally – take the leap of faith.  You won’t know if you like it unless you try it and if you have no expectations, you might just be surprised and revel in those stories later.’

Karen Dwyer – www.karendwyer.com
Michelle Ensuque – www.meliusse.com


Intergenerational Travel

The relationship we have with our travel choices are complex, personal and sometimes highly emotive. We can love a person dearly but understand they might not be an ideal travelling companion for you. Equally, you may shy away from crowded cities and locations yet find yourself drawn to a country that is famous for its energy, colour and non-stop noise.  

Who we travel with is a an extremely important part of the whole travel experience.  What we desire from travelling can vary enormously and crucially, this can depend on our travelling companions and what they can bring to your journey.  Sharing new adventures with individuals from a different age group can be enriching and enlightening. We can all bring something unique to such experiences so it is up to us to create diverse travel opportunities.  It is understandable yet predictable that we choose people from our own age and friendship pool, yet the life knowledge, maturity and perspective older people can bring is invaluable.  Equally, a travel experience can be energised by including younger people in the group. Different ages mix up the conversation and bring an unexpected but welcome edge to travel.

A family holiday provides the perfect opportunity to strengthen (or indeed rebuild) relationships between loved ones.  Research shows only 1 in 4 children talk to their parents about “something that matters” more than once a week.  A family holiday gives you the time and relaxed setting to chat about things other than day-to-day chores, homework or what’s for dinner.  

Lily Rodgers, 46, from Somerset, discovered the joys of inter generational travel after her marriage ended. ‘Travelling with a diverse group felt quite daunting’, explains Anna, ‘I had previously always been with family, friends or my husband, really a safety net of those closest to me. I wanted to shake up the way I visited new places. The time was right for me to explore a totally new experience. Travelling with individuals who are a different age, cultural background and refreshingly, have varying views on the world. Interestingly, not having my usual support circle around me encouraged me into situations and conversations I would have navigated around or outright avoided before. Travelling without your go-to safety net really challenges you and sometimes I have felt a bit nervous but talking and engaging with people feels easier now and I am sure the more I travel this way, the more comfortable I will feel.’

Although technology means we are more in touch than ever before, nothing beats physical time together.  Spending close time with family members gives you the chance to develop a much closer understanding of each other through body language, subtle nuances, gestures and facial expressions that just aren’t possible via text or Whatsapp!

All in all, spending time together as a family on holiday simply provides you all with the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, giving them the reassurance they are loved and creating fabulous memories for you all.

Faith Scanlon, 20, from Surrey confirms that she has ‘travelled with an inter generational group twice this year and I am heading to Milan tonight also.

What I found amazing about travelling with an inter generational group is the difference in interests. It really opens your eyes to how older people see the world and what they’re travelling for, and it’s often different to the reasons I travel for. It’s also great to make memories with a variety of people, especially the older generation, as I can always tell how grateful they are, particularly when I take on the technical responsibilities of booking flights, hotels, transfers, as well as organising digital check-ins and covid passports – this is usually a struggle for older generations.

A tough difference would definitely be the physical speed of the trip, particularly with older generations. As a woman in my 20’s, I find I just want to go, go, go and cram in as much as I can before having to go back, but you really have to take into consideration travel time, the amount of walking, the climate etc. I imagine this wouldn’t differ too much from travelling with children, either.

I have definitely gained some unique memories from travelling in an inter generational group. I’m not a clubbing type when I’m travelling so it’s refreshing to travel with people of the same mindset in that respect. It’s also nice as we tend to stick to nicer hotels over budget hotels, as they tend to be more comfortable and accessible for older people, so it’s great to experience settings that I usually wouldn’t choose to stay in myself for financial reasons.’

If you’re only travelling with people your own age, things can get super-competitive, which in turn can become tiresome. Who’s got the most passport stamps? Who made it to last year’s hottest destination first? Who can trot out 20 phrases in the local lingo as they’ve been to the country before? Mix up the age ranges, though, and you’ll likely find that this rivalry barely gets a look in – perhaps because more mature travellers are happier to soak in the sights, and savour the food and drink. This mindful, in-the-moment approach is a great way to experience a place – and, to live life once you get back home.

Every time you travel can be memorable: whether it is a UK location or a journey to the other side of the world. The one consistent is that we want to immerse ourselves in all aspects of the trip.

Travelling within an intergenerational group will provide an incredibly rewarding opportunity to experience the world not only through your eyes but the perspective of others who have lived and travelled a totally different life from you.

Faith Scanlon, Travel blogger website is wish-you-were-here.uk and is a travel blog (launching imminently) 


Travelling the new normal

Now that Covid-19 restrictions are easing, many Gibraltar residents will be thinking about travelling abroad for a well-deserved holiday break. As part of its awareness program, the Office of Fair Trading has issued some handy tips and advice to help consumers in an effort to minimise disappointments with holidays in what’s been termed the “new normal.”

Deciding where to go

There are a number of things you should consider before deciding where to go. When deciding where to travel to we recommend you do the following:

  1. Use the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office website to find out about the country you are visiting or travelling through. This website gives you very useful and important information, including:

a) updates on COVID-19 situation there

b) entry requirements and travel restrictions, including visas

c) other safety and security issues

d) travel advice, help and support

2.Check the latest information on COVID-19 risks and other health issues for the country on the TravelHealthPro website.

3. Think about the level of risk that you might be subjecting yourself and your family to. Whereas Gibraltar has had a very effective vaccination campaign (one of the best in the world) to protect its residents against COVID-19, this is not necessarily the same in the country you may be considering travelling to. Also note that health systems in other countries may be over stretched. If you or your family require medical assistance this may be difficult to get.

4. Many destinations that are popular because of the events they host and their atmosphere (e.g. festivals, nightlife, celebrations, entertainment venues) may not be able to offer you the same experience if they are operating under COVID-19 restrictions. Is now the right time to visit them? This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.

These things may significantly affect your travelling arrangements, so before booking your holiday make sure you have looked at these things carefully.

Booking your trip

Once you have decided on your destination, consider the following COVID-19 and Brexit issues before booking:

1. COVID-19 considerations:


a) Tests & Vaccinations – Check if you need to be vaccinated or require a negative test result to enter your destination or to join tours and events. Check HM Government of Gibraltar’s latest press releases and technical notices for more information on vaccinations. Pre-book tests in advance to ensure you can get it before travelling and it is valid on the day you need it. Make sure the document you will receive is acceptable. You may need to complete specific forms at your destination. Consumers should be aware that getting tested and obtaining necessary documentation shall incur extra travel costs, locally and abroad.

For further information on vaccine and travel certificates visit healthygibraltar.org where you will find a dedicated Covid-19 section

b) COVID-19 Isolation on arrival – Check if you will be required to isolate when you arrive to your destination. Factor it in to your travel arrangements and also factor in the cost of any further tests at the end or during the isolation period. Entry requirements for destination countries can be found on the UK Government website.

c) Check COVID-19 travel restrictions – Once again check restrictions both at the place you are intending to visit and places you a travelling through. These may change often and you should check prior to booking. Additionally it is important that you check and follow the latest local official coronavirus restrictions and updates.

d) Cancellation policies & refunds – COVID-19 restrictions can change overnight. Check the terms and conditions when making your bookings as if they are cancelled you may not be entitled to your money back. If you can, book with a provider that provides redress to you if you are affected by new restrictions. This is becoming common in the industry.

e) Returning back to Gibraltar- Check the COVID-19 Travel Information page of the Visit Gibraltar Website for the latest information on requirements for entry into Gibraltar.

Brexit considerations

a) Passports – Gibraltar is no longer part of the EU, therefore travelling with your ID card alone is not possible. Check passport requirements for the country you are visiting and travelling through. Many countries require you have at least 6 months left on a passport by the time you leave the country.

b) Visas – If you are applying for a Visa to enter a particular country look for the country’s official visa portal. This is normally simple to do. Be wary of private entities that charge you significant fees to assist you with visa applications.

c) Driving abroad – Make sure you have all the documents you need to drive in the country you are visiting. There is a probability that you will require an International Driving licence. You can apply for one from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Department.

d) Travel & Medical Insurance – Gibraltarians no longer enjoy free health cover when travelling in the EU (E-111). Gibraltar has an agreement with Spain which extends emergency medical cover until 30th April 2022. Please check with the Gibraltar Health Authority for arrangements after this date. For any other countries (except UK) you will have to pay for medical care if this is needed. We recommend you purchase travel & medical insurance for your needs. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions of your insurance policy to understand what is covered in an emergency.

e) Pets –You should get the necessary vaccines, certificate and/or passport to take your pet abroad. Contact the Animal Welfare Centre for further information: +350 20043352.

Other General Travel Tips

We have compiled a list of guidelines and tips based on the common and recent travel related complaints received by the OFT for you to consider:

  1. Mobile Phones charges – Check your mobile phone network provider for information on any data roaming charges in order to avoid high roaming fees. It may be worth getting a sim card at your destination.

2. Research – Knowledge is key to a good holiday:

a) Do not book the first thing you see! Shop around for the best deal. Do some independent research on the place you are travelling to and determine what you want to see and experience. You can then ensure that travel offers provide you what you want.


b) Before responding to travel offers get recommendations from family and friends on travel agencies, vacation rentals, hotels and travel package providers that offer a good service.

c) There are many websites that will provide you with good reviews from other travellers. Note however that some online website reviews can be easily manipulated or may be fake.

3. Additional Costs – Look for additional costs that may not be immediately obvious. Resort fees (also known as destination, facility and amenity fees) can increase your daily costs.

4. Taxes – Many offers are advertised as tax free. Taxes may need to be paid at your destination. Ask about taxes and note that these may be significant.

5. Avoid scams – Holiday scams are very common:

a) If a deal is too good to be true research the travel service providers with the words “scam,” “review,” or “complaint” online.

b) If you are booking through a third party website (e.g. Booking.com or Air BnB) always make payments through these websites. Never pay a host directly.

c) While on holiday, say “no thanks” to anyone who tries to rush you without giving you time to consider an offer or to ask around. Always agree a price for a service in advance.

6. Cancellations – ask about cancellation and refund policies before you pay. If possible, obtain a copy of these. If any aspect of your holiday has been cancelled as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, please refer to our specific guidance on the OFT website.

7. Booking confirmations – Make sure you can check what you booked upon your arrival. You may want to check the rate and amenities you booked, particularly if these were booked through a third party website. This is also essential if the host says your reservation is ‘lost’ or ‘cancelled’.

8. Payment – Using your credit card to pay for the booking and your travel spending may give you extra protection than paying by cash or debit card. Check your credit card provider’s terms and conditions for details.

9. Travel Insurance – Purchase travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday. Check the insurance agency is licensed and make sure the insurance cover is fit for your particular purpose. Before travelling, familiarise yourself of the process to follow in a medical emergency with your travel insurance provider.


Travelling with Kids

Travelling with children can be an exciting, inspirational experience. Viewing the world through a child’s eyes is wondrous, however, keeping our children stress free and engaged whilst travelling can be a challenge. 

Dr Amanda Gummer, psychologist, states that ‘The normal routine goes out of the window when you’re on holiday, so children need to know what is expected of them. Be sure to explain these to your children before you go and then repeat these when you arrive. They still need to be well-behaved and rules will keep them safe in an unknown environment.

It also helps to go prepared. Bring a small tub of snacks with you to make sure tummies are kept reasonably full, even when you’re running a bit late for mealtimes. DoodleBags are great for anything squishy like yoghurt or smoothies. Your child can eat straight out of the pouch for a healthy, convenient snack time, no spoon required.

Pack an activity bag to use as well. To use while travelling and once you’ve reached your destination. Opt for compact toys without lots of little pieces, so you won’t risk losing anything while out and about. Have a good variety including some quiet and some noisy toys, some solo and group games, and so on. For example, the set of six coaster games by The Dark Imp only needs paper and a pen to play, and comes in a handy travel tin. Clip-on toys like the Sensory FX ASMR 2 Pod Carry Case are easy to keep on hand too. If you’re taking a tablet, make sure the apps and games are available offline, in case you are away from WiFi. 

In case you get caught without any toys, keep some games in mind that you can play with no equipment needed. For instance, 21 questions, I Spy, or Bingo. 

While it’s nice to have fun and relax on your trip, it’s also a good educational experience. Why not help your children learn at least a few words of the natives language before they go, so they can try using it while there and perhaps understand the locals as they say hello and goodbye. The free Moka Mera Lingua app by Moilo is an excellent introduction to another language for children under eight, with seven different languages including French and Spanish. 

Before you go on your trip, plan some places to visit and research them. For example, watch some online videos to learn more about the history of a local building. Once there, see what facts your child can remember. If there’s a tour guide, this is a great way to show off their knowledge and feel like a bright spark. Encourage your children to soak up the culture and lead by example. For example, try some new food together – you never know what they might enjoy. 

Take a pair of binoculars or a disposable camera to encourage your children to explore the environment around them. Not only is this a good way to keep them entertained, it helps immerse your children in the experience and you’ll get some snaps showing the holiday from their point of view.’

Gemma Perry is an Independent Travel Consultant, specialising in Family Travel. Gemma confirms that ‘having 2 young children of my own, and having travelled every year with them, aboard and in the UK, I am very well versed on giving advice so here are some of my thoughts:

• Keeping your children calm whilst travelling is a fine balancing act. Not only is it such a long day of waiting around, carrying bags,  juggling multiple stops of check in and dropping off your bags, immigration, getting food etc. Then finally when you step onto that plane, they are not only tired but so overexcited, and depending on how long your flight is, this can be exhausting, and overwhelming, especially if they’ve not flown before.

• If you remain calm, they are calm. 

• Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, and also around the airport.

• In the airport – Plan in rest breaks, to sit down, refuel. Talk about what you have done, and what’s going to happen next, the more you involve your children, they can become engaged and excited, by what’s to come.

• Take plenty of activities to do, quizzes, mini games, drawing, sticker books, iPads/ consoles, kindles, most importantly snacks 

Having grown up with exposure to travel, and working in travel, I’ve always encouraged family and friends alike to adopt a similar approach. This is what I feel are some of the benefits:

• Any travel experience is an opportunity to learn 

• Experiencing different Countries

• Experiencing different Cultures

• Experiencing different Religions and local holidays, i.e. Ramadan, Hearing the call to prayer.

• Experiencing different Food and local delicacies (Just the other day, I was talking about shark fin soup, and how this is illegally sourced and made. My daughter was saddened by this, and wanted to know how she could better the sharks environment and stop this activity.)

• Hearing different languages, encourages with wanting to learn new languages, but also helping speech by trying to speak to locals.

• Building their confidence by experiencing a new place.

• One of my biggest things when travelling, is spending that quality family time. The memories you will make, and how you will talk about them for years to come, and this is HAPPY time.’  A holiday destination is less important than the fun, learning and experiences a family enjoys whilst travelling and when arriving. These moments will be treasured by all the family for years to come. 

Gemma Perry gemma@theholidayfixer.com www.theholidayfixer.com/gemma

Dr. Amanda Gummer
Author, psychologist and founder of The Good Play Guide. 
www.goodplayguide.com


Electronic Travel Accessories

If you are planning a holiday overseas, or even a staycation closer to home, there are some useful electronic travel accessories that you may want to consider packing in your suitcase that will make your trip easier, safer and more comfortable. 

Travel Kettle

My latest and most favourite purchase is a travel kettle. If, like me, you can’t start your day without a cup of tea or coffee before heading off sightseeing, a travel kettle is essential. Not every hotel has a kettle in the room, and there are some countries in mainland Europe where they are definitely not the norm. Travel kettles are either collapsible or small stainless steel models that usually hold enough water for up to two cups. Another option is to take a small immersion heater that boils water in a cup or mug… and on that note, don’t forget to take those with you as well as a teaspoon and the coffee, tea or sugar of your choice. 

Hair Dryer

If you need to blow dry on the go, a compact travel hair dryer is something that those of us with frizzy hair swear by! Hotels often provide these in the room, or have wall mounted dryers in the bathroom, but as they don’t have advanced hair care technologies they don’t always leave you with the best results and can burn your hair. Look for a hair dryer that folds up with a retractable cord for stress-free packing.  

Hair Straighteners 

If sleek locks are your beauty goal, hair straighteners should be part of your essential toolkit. Most of the big brands have a compact version but you can also buy cordless models for styling your hair on the go. 

Multi-Port USB Travel Chargers

How many times have you wanted to charge your phones, laptops, tablets or e-reader all at the same time, or maybe you are travelling as a family with lots of different devices? A multi-port USB travel charger is ideal and could be one of the best travel accessories that you buy to ensure there are no family disagreements!

Travel Iron

Maybe not an item that is high on your list of priorities if you are going on a relaxing beach holiday, but there may be occasions when a travel iron will come in handy to make sure you look your best. Choose a mini iron that is portable and lightweight with both a steam or variable temperature control and one that has dual-voltage functionality. 

Precautions

Electrical items such as hairdryers, straighteners, travel irons and electric shavers can usually be carried in your hand or hold luggage, but it is best to check with your airline before you travel if you’re not sure about what you can take as hand luggage. Not every country uses the same electrical plug so it’s wise invest in a universal adapter. Adapters make your plugs fit into foreign electrical outlets, but converters adjust the voltage so you may need to take a voltage convertor as well.


10 of Europe’s best train journeys

Gliding through the Alps or coasting along the French countryside, there’s no better way to move throughout Europe than its incredible and comprehensive train system.

We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most scenic routes, best enjoyed from a window seat. Whether you’re are navigating the depths of a fjord or spotting the romantic castles alongside the Rhine River, turn off your screen, relax and enjoy the view of these top scenic train routes in Europe.

1. Glacier Express, Switzerland

One hundred and eighty miles over the course of 8 hours: Pretty slow for an “express” train, right? The Glacier Express travels at a leisurely pace to allow its passengers the chance to appreciate every facet of the incredible landscape. The journey connects two of Switzerland’s resort towns, Zermatt and St. Moritz, and offers views of the Matterhorn, the Solis and Landwasser viaducts and spiral tunnels, Oberalp Pass and the Rhine Gorge. All of these sights are taken in from panoramic cars, which feature windows on the top and sides, so none of the views pass by unnoticed.

2.  West Highland Line, Scotland

Take in a side of Scotland that can only be seen by train aboard the West Highland Line. Wanderlust Magazine voted this Scottish railway as the best rail journey, and it is no wonder with its views of lochs and moors, the Arrochar Alps, the Erskine Bridge, Dumbarton Castle and the viaduct made famous by Harry Potter: the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This train ride is completed in approximately 5 1/2 hours and takes passengers from Glasgow to Fort William, then on to Mallaig.

3.  Belgrade to Bar, Serbia & Montenegro

Often referred to as ‘the Balkan Express’, the 11-hour (on a good day) jaunt from Belgrade to Bar is a celebration of civil engineering and natural majesty. A whopping 435 bridges are traversed as the train trundles from the Serbian capital to Montenegro’s largest port, working as something of a time machine through the twentieth century in these parts. That means socialist architecture in Užice, modern ski resorts in Kolašin and the rapidly developing tourism of Montenegro’s southern coast. The last stretch is particularly stunning.

4.  Myrdal to Flåm, Norway

Another frequent face on lists of the world’s best train journeys, the line between Myrdal and Flåm in Norway bridges the divide between impossibly cute and absolutely monolithic. That’s Norway in a nutshell, right? The small things are all quaint and idyllic, while the big ones bluster in through stunning cliffs, jagged mountains and awe-inspiring scenery. The Flåm Railway climbs a whopping 867 metres into the sky and back, with a short shop at the Kjosfossen waterfall as the cherry on top. 

5.  Barcelona to Montserrat, Spain

There are plenty of ways to travel from Barcelona to the base of Montserrat mountain, but we’re putting our eggs firmly in the basket marked ‘train’. Actually, that would be ‘tren’ in Catalan, but you get the idea. There is a wide range of tickets available for the journey, and though you can’t really go wrong with any of them, we recommend the ToT Montserrat as the way to go. This ticket covers your train from Barcelona and then either the cable car or rack railway up the mountain itself, as well as entry into the Montserrat Museum. 

6.  La Rhune, France

What an absolute stunner of a ride. From the foot of the Pyrenees to the top via an early 1900s cog railway, the quaintest of quaint trains scaling a mighty height. It can be a little jarring, but the cobwebs are soon blown away by the stunning vistas and the majesty that awaits at the summit. The train only runs from April to September, round-trip tickets cost €20 (an absolute bargain), and it begins its journey in the town of Sare, some 10km or so from Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

7.  Málaga to El Chorro, Spain

While you can’t exactly get a train across the thriling and terrifying Caminito del Rey walkway, you can still experience a great journey on the way. The train from Malaga to El Chorro is a stunner, a fast route that takes less than 45 minutes and will set you back no more than €4.85. That gives you just under 45 minutes to enjoy the stunning scenery and dredge up the courage to traverse the famous walkway. 

8. Bernina Express

The sheer majesty of the Swiss Alps is on full display aboard the Bernina Express. This train follows the highest railway in the Alps from Chur, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy. The 4-hour journey takes travelers through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges and viaducts, as well as through a number of twists, turns, ascensions, and descensions. In all, there are 25 stops on this route, and each brings its own dose of history, culture and fantastic scenery. One stretch of the track, from Thusis to Valposchiavo and then Tirano even boasts UNESCO World Heritage status for its iconic vistas and historic significance. Both classes of service on the train feature large panoramic windows reaching all the way up to the ceiling, so even the highest peaks of the alps are within view.

9. Levanto to La Spezia, Italy

The journey along the Italian riviera from Levanto to La Spezia may only take 35 minutes, but it includes the most sublime stretch of the Ligurian coast – the popular Cinque Terre (Five Lands). The pastel-coloured villages have been nestled in the cliffs for a thousand years or so, and along with their olive groves and vineyards make up an exquisite scene. For the full experience, take the regional train rather than the express: this stops at all five Cinque Terre villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – allowing passengers to hop off, hike between villages, and hop back on a train again.

10. Rome to Palermo, Italy

It’s not every rail journey that involves a bonus sea voyage. Board the direct service from Rome to the Sicilian capital, though, and you’ll find your train shunted onto a ferry to be carried across the Strait of Messina. The trip takes a little under 12 hours in total, passing down the Tyrrhenian Sea coastline. Highlights en route include Mount Vesuvius, the Bay of Naples and the countryside of Calabria, Italy’s toe. After a short passage across the waves, the train offers views of the north coast of Sicily as it heads westward to Palermo.


5 Destinations in Spain to visit on a bank holiday

If the Easter and May Day bank holidays haven’t been enough for you, then don’t fret because we have another 3 coming up in June thanks to the Queen. If you’ve already been abroad and are looking for something a bit cheaper, then why not spend it in our neighbouring country? Here are 5 of my favourite Spanish destinations, and recommendations on how to spend your time there. 

Seville

My previous memories of Seville, or Sevilla, were visiting the Isla Magica theme park as a child. If you’re travelling with younger family members then this will a great way to keep them entertained. One of the most notable things to do in Seville is visit the royal palace of Real Alcazar, which Game of Thrones fans might also recognise as Dorne. The gardens are beautiful and you will often see peacocks roaming around too. Another place to check out is the Parque de Maria Luisa, it’s a great park and you can rent bicycles and cycling carts for up to 4 people here. You will also find the Plaza De España here, where you’ll find murals dedicated to all of the Spanish provinces, as well as small rowing boats for rental. 

If you’d like a lunch spot with lots of different options, I recommend the Mercado de Triana which has stalls selling everything from paella to oysters to croquettes. We also stopped at El Papelon which specialises in meats and cheeses, and Taberna del Torneo which we took the last table at when we arrived, so it is definitely a popular choice! 

Toledo

Toledo is a beautiful and underrated city, probably because it’s a 6 hour drive from Gibraltar. It is one of Spain’s best preserved old towns and is also a UNESCO-listed mediaeval city. The first thing to do on your visit is see El Alcazar fortress which overlooks the city, which means it offers some stunning views. Other picturesque sites include the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, the Puente de San Martin and the Puente De Alcantara. 

La Mona Bar is a great spot for tapas and cocktails at affordable prices. Another favourite was Taberni Buenavista that has a great selection of both tapas and burgers. 

Malaga

Malaga is such a vibrant city, and there’s no shortage of things to do and see. Malaga is home to the big outdoor shopping centre of Plaza Mayor, where you can find your normal high street stores such as Zara and Bershka, and then another section where you will find more branded stores like Tommy Hilfiger and Nike. After you’ve had your retail therapy, you can head to the Hammam in the centre. Here you can enjoy the hot and cold arab baths, sip mint tea, and have a massage or a full body scrub. 

A restaurant I thoroughly enjoyed in Malaga was La Casa del Perro, which is a small family owned restaurant that changes its menu daily. You could really tell all the food was fresh and the tapas all had a unique twist to them. We also stopped by Restaurante Mosaico in the afternoon for some tea and middle eastern pastries which were delicious. If you are after something greasier, then you can also find the Five Guys burger joint in Plaza Mayor. 

Madrid

A common question that people ask is whether Madrid or Barcelona is better as a holiday destination. I still haven’t made my mind up as I’ve had good experiences in both, but for the sake of making this list a bit more varied I decided to pick one. My favourite thing to do in Madrid is eat, but there are also plenty of activities and things to see in a long weekend. I recommend doing a free walking tour with Sandemans to learn some interesting facts and history about Madrid. Including where ‘tapas’ got its name from – an anecdote I tell people quite often! Next you can head to the Parque de Retiro where you can also row around the water. There are also plenty of free museums you can visit at certain times in Madrid including el Prado, Museo del Romanticismo, and the Reina Sofia.  

When in Madrid, having churros at Chocolateria San Gines is a must. They’ve been around since 1894 and the queues can sometimes be long, so be prepared to wait a bit. If you’re after some fusion tapas, then I recommend heading to Juana La Loca or Musa Malasaña.

Ibiza

This will be the first year since the covid pandemic that events will properly be going ahead in the island of Ibiza, so if you’ve been wanting to go now is the time! Ibiza is on the pricier side, but if you head there in June you’re likely to save on hotel costs. Flights from Malaga are usually under £100 too. Partying aside, the island has a lot to explore too. The old town is beautiful to wander around, and you can also beach hop pretty easily. Benirrás, Ses Salines and Talamanca are some of the nicest ones. 

If you are travelling on a budget, there are some cheap eats you can find around Ibiza. The thai restaurant Pha Thu Thai offers a menu for 12 euros that includes a starter, main, dessert and a drink – bargain! The San Antonio restaurant Can Gust is another that offers a meal deal of two dishes and a drink for just 10 euros. 


A day in Porto

Porto, or Oporto as it is also known, is the second largest city and the jewel in the crown of Portugal. With a rich heritage and culture, Porto’s Historic Centre, the Luis I Bridge and the Monastery of Serra do Pilar were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1996.

The last time we visited Porto was over forty years ago, and our visit is but a distant memory, but there is no doubt that one of Europe’s oldest cities hasn’t lost the beauty and splendour that we can still recall. Situated in the the north of the country, in the north-western part of the Iberian Peninsula on the estuary of the river Douro, Porto was originally named Cidade Invicta, meaning  ‘the undefeated city’. Bear in mind that the historic centre is very hilly and compact and that the best way to explore it is by walking, so flat shoes are a must!

Having researched the top things to do in Porto, our first stop was to Livraria Lello, a bookshop in Rua das Carmelitas. Not any old bookshop though! Renowned as the second oldest bookstore in the world, the reason why it attracts more than one thousand visitors a day is because it is said to be where J.K. Rowling – who lived in Porto in the nineties, drew inspiration for the Harry Potter books and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There is no doubt that the iconic red winding staircase, the carved gothic wooden panelling, its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and the beautiful stained-glass skylight warrants a visit, but there is a €6 entry fee per person (€5 if you pre-book online) and the queues to get in can be extremely long.  Unfortunately, unlike the hordes of excited children and tourists vying to get a selfie on the staircase, in our view it was not worth the wait and to top it all I found this Tweet from J.K. Rowling herself:

“For instance, I never visited this bookshop in Oporto. Never even knew of its existence! It’s beautiful and I wish I *had* visited it, but it has nothing to do with Hogwarts!”

We walked to Rua de Santa Catarina to see the Capela das Almas, or Chapel of the Souls, famous for its beautiful exterior wall of azulejos, the glazed blue & white ceramic tiles painted with scenes from the lives of saints as well as the death of St. Francis. Azulejos can be found everywhere in Portugal and another ‘must see’ is the stunning departure hall of Porto’s famous São Bento Station where a beautiful tableau of 20,000 azulejos depicts scenes from Portuguese history.

As part of any cultural trip, we are always on the hunt for a new food experience or destination and the Majestic Café lives up to its name as not only the most beautiful café in Porto but as one of the ‘Top 10 of the most beautiful cafes in the world’, and with its lavish Art Nouveau architecture, impressive marble façade, mirror lined walls, sculptures and leather seating it certainly evokes the splendour of the ‘Belle Époque’. The staff are attentive and the seafood soup was good but this is a place you probably want to make a one-time-only experience as the bill was expensive and a coffee alone will set you back €4.00.

Porto is, of course, famous for its Port wine and the Douro Valley is one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world, famed for its terraced vineyards. The region has a hot, dry, micro-climate and rocky soil which are the ideal growing conditions for the grapes.

There are many different wine cellars to choose from, but we went to Taylor’s, one of the oldest of the Port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia situated across the River Douro in Porto’s waterfront district. Their visitor’s centre is one of the largest and they offer a comprehensive and useful self-guided audio tour that takes you through cellars full to the rafters with huge barrels, including at the far end a gigantic oak vat containing 100,000L of late bottled vintage. We finished the tour with a range of tasting options in their tasting room or you can sit on the terrace amongst the peacocks and chickens! Taylor’s was founded in 1692, and it still remains one of the few family-run wineries in the country. We learnt that the port wine used to be shipped from the vineyards down the dangerous and turbulent Douro River on special boats called ‘barcos rabelos’ (it now comes overland), and something we hadn’t realised was that foot stomping is still used to crush the grapes. 

Taylor’s is set amongst WOW – World of Wine – a mega complex consisting of museums, restaurants & bars and because our brains were full of facts, and a little befuddled by the port tasting, we didn’t visit the Wine Experience which ‘aims to demystify wine for all’ but there are also exhibitions on chocolate, fashion and textiles.

Both banks of the river are extremely scenic, and as we sat with a glass of wine in the main square at WOW we enjoyed a stunning view of the colourfully painted houses that rose steeply from the historic old town waterfront in the Ribeira neighbourhood opposite. 

If you’re lucky enough to have another day or two in which to discover more of the magic of Porto and the surrounding region, there is plenty to see. Don’t forget to try the delicious pastéis de nata, the traditional Portuguese custard tart found throughout Portugal. One is never enough!


The Art of Tapas

One of the most pleasurable experiences in Spain is eating, and tapas is always on of the best ways to sample the local cuisine.  

Tapas are a common delicacy at spanish bars and restaurants. You’ll find an endless variety of tapas when you visit. Traditionally, you used to be given a tapa free with every drink you ordered, though this is now only prevalent in a few regions.

Nonetheless, to ‘tapear’ is a tradition that remains alive. So, head to a bar, grab a glass of delicious Spanish wine, and enjoy tapas as you relax in the sun.

Each region in Spain is known for different tapas, defined by thefood that is grown or produced locally. However, today, most bars in Spain will serve tapas from across the country, though, of course, they are fiercely loyal about their own regional food.

In many bars, you may be offered a free snack of Jamon Iberico (Iberian ham), which is cured for 12 months and longer and has an incredibly rich taste and smooth texture. Manchego cheese is another popular offering.

But tapas are far more than ham and cheese. Here are 10 of the most popular tapas dishes that you will find in Spain.

Tortilla

Tortilla is a traditional Spanish omelette filled with potatoes. Other ingredients may include onions and chorizo. It’s a thick wedge of deliciousness, easy as finger food, and tasty served warm or cold.

Chorizo al Vino

Sliced chorizo, mixed with a little garlic and paprika, and cooked in Spanish red wine. This dish is a smoky, savoury delight.

Gambas al Ajillo

This is a spicy prawn dish. Served in a sizzling sauce prepared with chilli pepper, black pepper, and garlic. Enjoy with a little ‘pan’ (bread) to soak up the tasty sauce after you have devoured the prawns.

Pimientos de Padron Tapas

Spain may be a meat lover’s paradise, but there is plenty for vegetarians, too. Such as the very traditional Pimientos de Padron!

This is a traditional dish of the Galicia region. The green peppers are fried in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt. A simple dish, and one of the most popular across the whole of Spain.

Patatas Bravas

In the world of tapas, patatas bravas are the equivalent to French fries.

Cubed potatoes are fried in olive oil until they are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and then accompanied by a spicy tomato-based sauce (though you may also be offered a creamy garlic sauce instead).

Boquerones en Vinagre

Another fish dish, boquerones en vinegre is marinated anchovies, with a little garlic to boost the taste sensation. Fantastic with olives.

Pimientos Piquillos Relleno de Bacalao

Another dish made with peppers. This time small, red piquillos, which are filled with minced cod. The peppers are roasted and the cod and vegetable filling remains tender. This is a hot dish, often served with a sauce of the region. Once more, a little pan is a must to soak up the sauce.

Croquetas

Perhaps the most versatile of all Tapas, a croqueta can be filled with any ingredient – meats, cheeses, fish, and vegetables.

You’ll love the crispy fried shell and the creamy filling.

Magras

This is a tapa from the Murcian region, though you’ll find it served in many bars and restaurants across Spain.

Essentially, this is a stew-type dish. It’s made with lean pork and crushed tomatoes. Eaten either hot or cold, it should always be accompanied by a piece of pan.

Ensalada Rusa

Russian salad? As a tapa? Absolutely! This salad of egg, potato, carrots, and mayonnaise may also include prawns and pineapple (ask before ordering). It’s a fantastic side tapa to include with an order of all the above tapas!


7 of the best Tapas Towns 

León, Castilla y León

In Leon’s atmospheric old town, bars serve a hefty free tapa with each drink. Most spots tend to favour simple dishes and substantial portions – think platefuls of local cheese and chorizo, fried potatoes doused in homemade alioli, slivers of umami-rich Ibérico ham. The best bars are crowded into the boisterous Barrio Húmedo district and around the Plaza Mayor. 

Bilbao, País Vasco

Tapas are elevated to an art form in Bilbao. All along Calle Ledesma, counters are piled high with ‘pintxos’ – slices of bread topped with anything from caramelised foie to tempura crab. Some bars prefer you to point out the pintxos you want, while others just hand you a plate and let you help yourself. Take your lead from locals if you’re not sure. 

San Sebastián, País Vasco

San Sebastián is perhaps Spain’s most glamorous city – impossibly scenic, home to an International Film Festival and now, to a plethora of Michelin-starred restaurants. In the tapas bars of the old quarter, traditional anchovy, olive and chilli skewers vie with molecular creations like bonfire-roasted cod and velvety sheep’s cheese risotto. Locals pair their pintxos with Txakoli, a light white wine that’s made nearby. 

Logroño, La Rioja

The capital of the Rioja winemaking region is a magnet for bar-hopping foodies. In Logroño’s medieval centre, Calle Laurel packs over 30 tapas bars into a two-block stretch. Each one has a signature dish, from spicy patatas bravas in Bar Jubera to El Soriano’s grilled mushrooms with juicy prawns. The food isn’t free, but a tapa and glass of Rioja should come in at around €3. 

Granada, Andalucía

Granada is fiercely proud of its reputation for fantastic free tapas. Each round of drinks here comes complete with snacks – and you’ll never get the same tapa twice. Try Bodegas Espadafor for roast ham, or head to Los Diamantes for mouthwatering seafood, eaten elbow-to-elbow with a mostly local crowd. 

Jaén, Andalucía

Jaén is the world’s biggest producer of olive oil, so it’s no surprise that extra-virgin is the star ingredient of its tapas. It elevates simple sandwiches and imparts bold grassy flavour to regional favourites like pipirrana salad and gazpacho. Most bars have an extensive menu, but you may not need it – you’ll get a free tapa with every drink. 

Almería, Andalucía

Generosity reaches new heights in Almería. Not only does each drink ordered here come with a free tapa, but most bars let you choose which one you want from the menu. In this coastal city, fresh seafood is always a safe bet – look out for chargrilled octopus or crisp fried ‘pescaíto frito’.

Keep calm during conversation

in Features

We can often find ourselves involved in a difficult conversation with a boss, colleague or family member. It can be incredibly easy to become agitated or angry and lose our cool.

When a difficult conversation progresses in a direction we don’t want to go, we are often not open to what is being said. If it feels like we are being attacked, our natural reaction is to want to counterattack. However, that is definitely not productive and can result in making the situation escalate.

Even when we have opposing viewpoints to somebody, we can usually find some common ground. This can help us avoid arguing. Finding a connection during difficult conversations allows us to remember that at our core, we usually want the same things. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Are you considering the other person’s point of view? What’s really driving them? Frequently, there are many emotions based on personal experiences. If you can discuss what emotions or experiences are driving somebody’s political views, you can possibly find a connection with them – even some common ground. By sharing your own experiences, it will create a connection between you.

Speaking about these experiences during challenging conversations can help you both develop a caring stance and avoid arguing. 

Alison Stockton is a Trauma-Informed Functional Medicine Practitioner and Eating Psychology Coach.

Alison believes ‘We all have conversations that can get heated. Either in person, on the phone or via zoom these days. 

There will be times when we walk away and wonder why it got so tense. Why did I get so triggered, why couldn’t I keep my calm and why were they so angry We have all experienced such conversations in some way or another.

What can we do in the future? Often our reactions are out of fear, frustration or a trauma response. We can become highly agitated by another person’s tonality and volume. It may create dysregulation in our own body. (sympathetic nervous system).

These are suggestions to practise:

Be intentional without being disrespectful, if someone is trying to outrank you (eg  work situation) continue with your intentions with grace.

When someone is raising their volume and their tone is becoming less than appealing – press pause in your own mind – listen – breath – slow breaths in through the nose out through the mouth (not breaths of dragon fire, just calm relaxed breaths) practice simple breathwork daily to support your nervous system.

Keep eye contact, stay in focus, a roll of the eyes, a huff and a disconnected attitude when heated can make things escalate.

Say to them, I hear you, I hear what you are saying. A response of compassion can soothe. If the other person is going offline, they won’t be able to calm down easily if you mirror their reactions. Respond rather than react. Reactions can be knee-jerk, aggressive and insulting.

Ask for a pause – a physical one this time – explain that right now, you need some space and some air. You understand that the conversation isn’t over. However, if you both take a few minutes away, to breathe, to regulate then you will both be able to respond more calmly.

When emotions are high – intelligence lowers, this is emotional intelligence but if someone reacts aggressively and raises volume they may be reacting from a traumatized space, so time to quiet the physical and emotional body is crucial.

Everything you can do, do safely. If someone refuses to allow you space or to leave and continues to shout, you can try to again say safely, I know that this is important to you, but whilst you are shouting and stressed I feel I can not be fully attentive to your questions.

Empathise with the other but don’t give pity or unwarranted sympathy. If it is not genuine, this will make things more heated. If you don’t understand the conversation, saying that you are trying to understand is far less triggering than saying I understand and the person feels patronised. 

Speak your truth, you have permission to speak freely, again ensure it is a safe space to do so.

Nervous system regulation is very important, especially in emotional intelligence, that’s why breathwork practice and meditation daily will help in future situations such as these

Your posture matters too, if you begin to slump, fold arms, become disinterested this can raise tension from others, so in a heated situation, be authentically engaged to moderate tension

Get clarity on why they are becoming so upset. Ask ‘why are you upset with me?’ Then you will be able to respond. If it’s made clear it is not you then you can share empathetically about why are they giving this situation/ conversation so much time and energy.

Always remember to prioritise safety first. If you are safe to speak freely, with compassion and enquiry then do so. If you feel unsafe, triggered, agitated and struggling to regulate, find the safest way to remove yourself from the situation.

When you leave a heated situation it is really important to regulate and ground yourself, this will support you in avoiding any emotional self-sabotage “oh I need a drink” “ or oh I need chocolate.”

When you walk away it’s important to let it go, just like a zebra running free after a hunt from a tiger – they shake it off, breathe and carry on whilst regulating their parasympathetic nervous system.’

Alison Stockton website:

www.vibrantbalancedhealth.com

@the_enrichedwoman IG

Siblings

in Health & Beauty

There is evidence to suggest that healthy sibling relationships promote
empathy, prosocial behaviour and academic achievement. While healthy sibling relationships can be an incredible source of support, unhealthy and toxic sibling relationships may be equally devastating and destabilising.

Sibling relationships are important. While friendships come and go, you’re stuck with your siblings. This relationship is often the longest relationship in our lives. You can rarely get away with being fake or phony when with siblings. You grow up in the same environment, share the same parents, and share common memories and similar experiences. You are who you are because of this shared history, which makes the relationship unique and invaluable.

The presence of siblings in the home affects a child’s development, and it does not have to do with birth order. Having a sibling, for example, affects a child’s social skills, and a child with a sister or brother can often be more agreeable and sympathetic. Some research indicates that having a sibling in adulthood helps alleviate depression and anxiety. People are altogether happier when they have positive sibling relationships.

Before children are a year old, they exhibit a sophisticated social understanding. They are sensitive to differences in their parents’ affection, warmth, pride, attention, and discipline. They are attuned to the emotional exchanges going on around them. They are quick to pick up differential treatment by parents. They are attuned to whether the treatment they or their siblings get is fair or unfair.

Rivalry may start as early as age 3. At this age, children have a sophisticated grasp of how to use social rules. They can evaluate themselves in relation to their siblings and possess the developmental skills necessary to adapt to frustrating circumstances and relationships in the family. They may even have the drive to adapt and get along with a sibling whose goals and interests may be different from their own.

Many theories have been proposed about the influence of siblings, and stereotypes are aplenty. The firstborn child is supposedly more conscientious and successful; the middle child is presumably excluded and embittered; the youngest is expected to be more social and persuasive. However, these characteristics don’t seem to hold up in research. Various studies have found that birth order has no bearing on a person’s predisposition.

Carolyn Hobdey is a Life coach and Relationships expert. Carolyn believes that ‘for many of us, there are few people that know or spend more time with us than our siblings. We share experiences in childhood – whether good or bad – that create a unique bond that others we build relationships with throughout our lives can never fully appreciate.

These experiences, especially those in our early years, form who we are at a deep level, so frequently, when our siblings go through them with us, they ‘get’ who we are at our very foundations – particularly where those events are parental and occur in the home environment.

Obviously, this can be both a blessing and a curse! On the plus side, there is no need to explain why we respond a certain way to things or even to explain what we’re thinking at times. On the downside, they will probably have stories on you that you’d rather they remained silent about – your parents, friends, colleagues and prospective partners!

Siblings that may have clashed in childhood as differences in age shone a light on conflicting stages of development and attitude, sometimes find their way back to a closer relationship in adulthood. The equilibrium in maturity, as well as the grounding provided by more extensive life experiences – marriage, child-rearing, divorce and, sometimes, including the loss of parents/parental figures – can help siblings to find a common basis upon which to communicate and connect. It is frequently the challenging process of having children ourselves and assuming our own place as the referee, role-model and responsible adult in their lives, that softens our judgement of our own childhood and those key players within it.

That shared history and experiential arc are the very things that allow a sibling to comment, challenge and provide an opinion that we acknowledge as being based on a deep understanding of our life’s journey – however uncomfortable that may be at times. Often, we know that they know us, and have to accept the insight that permits them to express it like no-one else.

For those who grow up as only children, there may be a missing aspect of their lives. Having not experienced the sibling relationship, they can struggle to understand it within other families – especially that of their most intimate relationship or closest friend. It may get mistaken for interference, a threat or as if there are additional people in the relationship because they do not understand the uniqueness of the sibling bond. It can take time to appreciate and accept this ‘significant other(s)’, and the place they occupy.

Not all sibling relationships are created equal, of course. Some never find a commonality or, if it was there in childhood, it may disintegrate as life takes each on their separate path. Choices, circumstances or long-held childhood resentments – let’s be honest, many siblings harbour a question about whether or whom was their parents’ favourite – can carry over into adulthood and never get resolved, or at least fester until something more significant brings a perspective that overshadows the importance of the original gripe.’

The power of sibling relationships can be life-changing in a positive way, and a little bit of maintenance can go a long way in ensuring that these relationships stay healthy throughout our lives.

www.carolynhobdey.com

Carolyn’s latest book is Redefining SELFISH (out now) and her next, out in May, is De-Tw*t Your Life.

Positive Tweaks

in Features

To improve the quality of life, you do not need to do a significant overhaul

.You can make some tweaks. Take a few steps. Your days can be more meaningful with some habit changes.

The significant part of improving your life is that it can start today.

Self-improvement doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It is possible to make some slight changes to how you are living your life.

The key is consistency, determination, a willingness to change, and a desire to try new things.

If you want to make a quick impact on your life, there are some simple yet powerful things you can do today to turn your life around.

The point of making changes is to live a more prosperous and happier life. 

Anna Meylakh is an Executive Coach of Coaching Buro. These are Anna’s suggestions on how to feel great:

1. Start your day with a positive thought. Getting into the habit of thinking a positive thought the moment you open your eyes in the morning will immediately put you in a good mood. Embrace this new day. There is always something to be grateful for or excited about.

2. Make your bed first thing in the morning. This simple routine doesn’t require much effort or time, but it will make you feel like you have already achieved something and set you in a productive mode for the day.

3. Do a 5 min breathing meditation. You don’t need any apps or external guidance. The traditional Buddhist meditation is simply sitting with your spine straight and eyes closed and focusing on your breath in and out. Set a timer. Meditation is scientifically proven to calm our minds, improve memory and boost mood.

4. Say your affirmations. Say 6 things to yourself that you need to hear the most, always in present tense. For example, ‘I am healthy, I am strong, I am smart, I am loved, I am prosperous, etc.’ You can say these affirmations silently or out loud. Some like to do it in front of the mirror to make it feel even more reassuring.

Michelle Ensuque is the Director of Meliusse Coaching.  She states

‘Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.’ I grew up with that phrase and it is so true. I seemed to have a great capacity to dig deep when there was a crisis but the little things that stacked on top of each other could really get to me.  Here is what I have learned to do over the years:

Set reminders. My brain used to be able to retain any bit of information needed, even telephone numbers at the drop of a hat.  Now, I’m lucky if I can remember my own number, never mind anyone else’s.  But what if it’s remembering special events like someone’s birthday, a school event or a bill you have to pay or an auto renewal you need to cancel?  The fast-paced life in which we live, juggling work, family and domestics, means it’s easy to forget these things. Instead of berating yourself for forgetting, set a reminder on your phone with alerts to help you remember them. 

Prompt yourself in setting a goal.  Create a screensaver on your phone or other device to help you achieve something. Seeing it every time you use your device, and bringing your goal to conscious awareness means you are much more likely to achieve it.

Start and end the day with a positive thought. As human beings we are always trying to protect ourselves and are thus looking for the negative in any situation, but it can drag us down if there is no positive balance. If we can start and end our day with a positive thought, and take time consider what we have achieved, the mind starts to look for more and more positive things, which results in us dwelling on the negative less.

Decide the priorities. Sometimes it can feel like everything needs to be done, but does it?  What if we stepped back and asked ourselves, ‘OK, I don’t have time to do all of these tasks, so which ones really need to be done?’ It might actually feel like there is some space left in the day to do something else far more fulfilling with instead.

Treat yourself like you would your best friend. Imagine you have a problem and you keep churning this problem round and round inside your head, not getting anywhere. If your best friend was experiencing the same issue, what questions would you ask them to help find a solution? Now ask yourself those same questions.  Known as Solomon’s Paradox (the ability to give someone else advice rather than ourselves) you will often be amazed at the response your brain gives you in its role as wise counsel. 

Become curious and experiment. How many of us are really curious about our world? When we were children, we did it automatically, as a way to learn, but as adults, we seem to be less curious and more introspective. We tend to live our lives (personal and professional) to a set of expectations, often imposed by ourselves, based on our experiences and what we hear, see and feel around us. What if we decided to ask ourselves, ‘I wonder what might happen if I did this or that?’ If we stopped to be curious about other people’s lives, what might we learn that would enrich our own? It can be the simplest thing, but the reward might be far greater than you imagine. 

Anna Meylakh, Executive Coach of Coaching Buro 

https://www.coachingburo.com

Michelle Ensuque: Director of Meliusse Coaching

https://www.meliusse.com/

Overwhelmed by Social Media

in Features

Staying up to date with local and national news is important, especially during such challenging times as dealing with Covid and now, the frightening situation in Ukraine.

However, experts say over-consumption of the news can take a toll on our physical, emotional, and mental health. It is essential we learn how best to navigate the 24 hour news cycle whilst protecting our mental and physical wellbeing.

Our social media absorption begins, all too often, from the moment we wake up, until our head hits the pillow at night. Given the circumstances, however, we’re prepared to let the matter of screen time slide on this occasion. After all, the sheer gravitas of what is unfolding, is within all of our remit to try and understand and get a handle on, as much as is humanly possible.

There is certainly one thing we can do, to help strike a balance between the need for insight and understanding, and self-sabotage by scrolling.

That one positive action we can make, according to experts, is to avoid  our phones for the first hour after waking. Even if that is the only step back from social media we take all day. Immersing our just-woken-up brain in the deep end of news, emails and notifications, can have far-reaching implications for our concentration. It can also impact our productivity for the rest of the day.

The reason for this is that when you first wake up, the brain switches from delta waves, to theta, to alpha and then beta waves, but by immediately looking at our phones, the theta and alpha stages are bypassed, and we’re neurologically straight into being wide awake and alert.

Jo Wheatley is a Master Accredited Emotions Coach.  Jo states ‘We are not immune to the stresses of others, even if they are geographically a distance away. As human beings we are all connected; in a sense what one feels, we all feel. We empathise with others. If someone in your visual field is anxious and highly expressive — either verbally or non-verbally — there’s a high likelihood you’ll experience those emotions as well, which may negatively impacting you. In such a highly connected world, we need to find ways to regulate our emotions and maintain stability for our emotional wellbeing and ability to function.  We are programmed to look for threats in your environment. With over exposure through 24 hour news cycles let’s consider what you can do to help your own wellbeing.

Here are some practical suggestions:

1.
Accept it is happening. Denial takes more energy. Talk to others about your feelings. Find people in your life who you can do this safely with. 

2.
Note the positive signs of your feelings. You are compassionate and have values. This is a good thing.

3.
Connect with nature through watching the tide roll in and out as it has for centuries or watching the grass move in the breeze. Take in deep breaths and connect in the here and now moment. Enjoy the grounding effect. Bare feet on grass or sand can be really helpful to help ground you. This sense of the strength of the repetition in nature and what nature has witnessed and endured for years can give reassurance that a healthy equilibrium will once again be found.

4.
Be kind to yourself by recognising the positive impact of even the smallest actions. Know that you are enough. You do not need to be perfect. You are not responsible for what is happening in the world.

5.
Identify an activity that brings you release for the emotional pressure you may feel. This may be a crafting activity that absorbs your attention, reading, gardening. This may be your safe, balancing space.

6.
Be aware of your triggers and limit your exposure to them. For example situations that have a negative impact on you e.g. limit watching the news, take news apps off your phone. Create boundaries so you are not constantly bombarded with negativity.

7.
Focus on the positive effects of stress. Stress can led to you deepening relationships, give you heightened awareness of life, stimulate, new perspectives, a greater appreciation for life or even connect you to a sense of meaning, and clarity on your priorities.  

8.
Exercise has many benefits including endorphins. Engage in exercise that you enjoy. This can lift your mood as well as having other health benefits.

9.
Start your day with a gratitude journal. Write three things you are grateful for in the world. Perhaps extend the gratitude to others, for example send an email to someone that you want to recognise.

10.
Create some positive affirmations. Perhaps put them on notes where you’ll see them regularly – screen saver, post it on your mirror. Affirmations could include: I am enough. I am safe. Things will get better. I am ok. 

Recognise that compassion fatigue is normal and a valuable reminder to be kind to ourselves so we can top up our own container in order to be able to continue to be able to support others.’

Points to help:

• Trying to strike a balance between being informed by news media and not becoming overwhelmed by it is difficult—especially during a global crisis.

• A constant stream of sensational or “disaster” reporting, whether you are exposed actively or passively, can elevate stress levels and trigger symptoms like anxiety and trouble sleeping.

• Effectively managing your media consumption can help you stay up to date while also reducing your stress.

Jo Wheatley, Master Accredited Emotions Coach www.jowheatley.com and coach trainer www.igcompany.co.uk.

Travel Insight

in Features

The Hon Vijay Daryanani MP, Minister for Business, Tourism and The Port, talks to Jo Ward about tourism and the prospects for travel to and from Gibraltar as we come out of restrictions put in place due to COVID-19.

Nearly exactly a year ago, Insight spoke to Minister Daryanani about the dearth of tourists wandering down Main Street, and the Minister commented that “it was heart-breaking to see an empty Main Street and that he was looking forward not only to the day when it becomes as busy as it used to be, but also that visitors can enjoy the wonderful products that Gibraltar has to offer as a tourism destination”. On the day of our meeting at the beginning of March, Main Street was thronged with people, testament to the fact that visitors are once again coming to Gibraltar. 

“We are seeing signs of recovery now,” Minister Daryanani says, continuing “and I think that the vaccine has shown people that that is the way ahead.”

“We have antivirals coming along so I think people are realising that the virus is not going to go away and we need to learn to live with it, and I know that this is a phrase you hear from all politicians,” the Minister smiles as he says this, “but it is a fact that we need to learn to live with COVID-19 because the choice is simple, either we lock up and stay at home or we get on with things.”

Stating that the economy has been decimated, Minister Daryanani says that we are fortunate that Gibraltar is a small place. “We know in general that the Government has spent close to £300 million making sure that we have saved jobs and businesses, and we have paid people’s wages which is unheard of in the private sector.” 

Now, he says, we need to get on and to start enjoying life once again. “People and businesses are frustrated and they want to make sure that their businesses prosper.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about an unprecedented halt to global travel, with restrictions and travel bans put in place all over the world, but the good news is that people are travelling once again. “The cruising sector is extremely important for Main Street and for our hospitality sector – they are the two that have suffered the most when it comes to travel,” Minister Daryanani states.

“Yesterday I welcomed cruise ship World Odyssey on its inaugural call to Gibraltar,” the Minister comments. “We have a situation now where we have 180 cruise calls this year, that is not far off from pre-pandemic levels, so we are doing quite well, but I want to market the Gibraltar Port as a premier cruising destination in the Mediterranean, so you will see over the next few months that I will really crank up my cruise marketing because it is something that I haven’t been able to do over the last couple of years.” 

The banning of non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on flights in and out of Gibraltar, however Gibraltar was very fortunate as at one point it was the only country in Europe that was on the UK’s travel ‘green list’.

“Thanks to our successful marketing campaign and the slogan ‘Gibraltar is your great British staycation in the Mediterranean’, it brought people to Gibraltar who perhaps in the past would not have come,” the Minster says. “Now they have been here, I think that they will come back again because they realise that Gibraltar is a very entertaining place, there is a lot to do, and it is a perfect place for young families.”

One exciting development for Gibraltar in 2021 was the introduction of Wizz Air and Eastern Airlines joining the flights that came in daily from the UK by British Airways and EasyJet. Unfortunately, both airlines withdrew flights, Wizz Air from Luton to Gibraltar and Eastern Airlines from Birmingham and Southampton to Gibraltar, last year. 

“In my view when you start something new you need to let it mature – it can’t start working within the first year – any new business does not make money in the first year and unfortunately these airlines have taken the decision that it hasn’t made money in the first year and that they want to pull out.”

“At the end of the day it is a question of demand, and if they are going to lose money they are not going to fly here,” the Minister says. “I convinced both airlines to come to Gibraltar, I worked extremely hard on doing that, and their circumstances allowed it at the time.” 

Minister Daryanani went on to say that he still has a very good relationship with both airlines. “I met them last week when I attended the CONNECT airline conference in Finland, and they still have interest in Gibraltar, so I will keep on working with them and there might be some possibilities in attracting them back next year.”

Talking about new routes and other airlines coming to Gibraltar, I remind the Minister that Ireland was mentioned as a possible new catchment area in the past. “Ireland is one that is on my hit list and in the same way that I attracted Edinburgh, because we didn’t have a link to Scotland and we have it now, I am hoping that we can do something with Ireland.”

Minister Daryanani says that insofar as other air routes are concerned, it depends a lot on the Treaty that Gibraltar is negotiating with the EU.  “If air transport is included in the Treaty then there might be a situation where the airport will open up to Schengen countries, so we will be able to have flights from Spain, France, Italy – all over Europe – and there is a lot of interest in this.” The Minister goes on to say that at CONNECT he was given the opportunity to speak about Gibraltar in a panel discussion. “Airlines were asking me about the Treaty and what it will do to Gibraltar, and in my view it will be a game changer in terms of travelling to and from the territory.”

The hospitality and hotel industry has obviously suffered during the past couple of years, but with the scheduled number of flights for this summer at nearly the same as pre-pandemic, Minister Daryanani agrees that it can only be a good thing for that business sector. “Absolutely, we are seeing recovery and I expect things to improve next year,” he comments. “However, insofar as flights are concerned at the moment, pre-pandemic we didn’t have Wizz and we didn’t have Eastern Airways, so if we put that to one side we already have that kind of level of flights as we did at pre-pandemic levels, so it is excellent for the hotels and I think that they will once again be busy this summer.”

The Minister agrees that it is also important to attract more hotels to Gibraltar. “We have got some new ones coming, but we also have a situation where when I go marketing to the UK, one of the things that I am asked is ‘you are coming here to market Gibraltar which is excellent, but when we look for space in Gibraltar, there isn’t any because the hotels are full’.”

“There is definitely a market for a couple more hotels in Gibraltar, but of different standards,” he states, going on to add that it is something that he is working on because it is crucial to the development of UK tourism. 

“If we are going to be able to be part of Schengen for mobility purposes and aviation is included within the Treaty, then we are going to be able to go out and market Gibraltar to Europe because we might have the possibility of having flights here, so we will need more hotel space – but we have to wait and see.”


Visit Scotland

Of all the cities in the world, Edinburgh is particularly blessed. Like Gibraltar, it evolved as a settlement around a large fortified rock in a coastal setting. Unlike Gib, however, it had the benefit of being able to spread itself out a little more which, to the traveller, only means there is much more to see.

With easyJet opening up a direct route to Scotland’s capital city, all of a sudden many more opportunities exist for weekend trips to one of the prettiest cities in the UK.

You’ll need to be prepared for all sorts of weather. So bring enough to witness whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

At the heart of Edinburgh is the Royal Mile, in the Old Town. At one end of this is Edinburgh Castle, and at the other the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Her Majesty’s official residence in Auld Reekie. The Royal Mile alone is worthy of a day or so’s exploration. With all the many closes (alleyways) running from it, each with their own story to tell. Beneath the City Chambers you’ll find Mary King’s Close – a peak into a bygone era that was merely built upon thus preserving life in the 17th Century.

At this portion of the Royal Mile, you’ll be stumbling into the area that resulted in the genesis of Harry Potter. JK Rowling used many of the buildings around here as inspiration for the books (George Heriot’s School, for example) and nearby Victoria Street, said to have prompted Diagon Alley.

Edinburgh was at the epicentre of the Enlightenment, and was coined the Athens Of The North in recognition of this. There has always been a darker side, with the tales of Deacon Brodie and Burke & Hare both frightening and inspiring generations. For an overarching look across the area, head to Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat. From here you will experience the best views in Edinburgh.

Close to the Royal Mile on the other side of Waverley Railway Station and Princes Street Gardens, is Princes Street itself. This is the main shopping area in the city with further boutiques and specialised retail on George Street which runs parallel. One flagship store is Harvey Nicols, which features a restaurant/bar with far reaching views across the city northwards towards Fife. This area is known locally as the New Town, with its distinct and planned Georgian grid pattern.

For sports fans, each of the three major stadia are relatively close to the centre. In the east, Hibernian’s Easter Road and in the west Tynecastle Park, home of Heart of Midlothian. Not far from Hearts’ ground is Murrayfield, where Scotland Rugby is headquartered.

As you travel further outside the middle, quirky areas like the Dean Village, Stockbridge and Morningside are all within easy reach. Taxis are keenly priced in Edinburgh, plus there is a relatively new tram system. The bus service in Edinburgh has always been exemplary, and special ticket prices are available for jumping on and off to explore.

In Leith, in keeping with Edinburgh’s maritime heritage, the Royal Yacht Britannia is permanently on display. This is right beside Ocean Terminal mall which also features a cinema. On The Shore in Leith, one or two excellent seafood restaurants ply their trade, including Fishers which is highly recommended. Adjacent to this is the original Malmaison, which was converted from a historical seaman’s mission to the chic hotel and bar we have today.

Of course, travelling to Edinburgh also opens up Scotland’s other city, Glasgow as a day trip possibility. It’s safe to say that Scotland’s biggest city is a bit grittier, but it also offers much in the way of shopping and two giant European football teams, Rangers and Celtic. Which one is The Best, we’ll leave up to you.


Fun Holiday Destinations for the Kids

Disneyworld 

Would you like to travel to a galaxy far, far away?

Disneyworld’s 50th anniversary event started on 1st October 2021 and is set to end in March 2023 – lasting a full eighteen months. You can celebrate in style by booking a trip to the newly opened Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser – a Star Wars themed luxury hotel near Disney’s Hollywood Studios, in the Epcot Resort Area of the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser offers a first of its kind immersive adventure unlike Disney has ever done before. During your voyage, you can choose how you interact with characters, crew, and other passengers.  Every Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser package includes a 2-night stay in a cabin or suite, meals (excluding alcoholic and specialty beverages) and the opportunity to live your Star Wars story through exclusive experiences, missions and activities. You also get lightsaber training and a trip to the planet Batuu, better known as the Galaxy’s Edge theme park.

If you want to brush shoulders with Star Wars characters, eat intergalactic food, and maybe even going on a secret mission, this is a trip that both adults and kids will love – although bear in mind that it is really expensive – but if you love Star Wars, this is definitely a trip to splash out on!

Amsterdam

This is a destination that may not automatically come to mind when you are thinking about where to go on holiday with the kids, but there so many things to do and discover in this family friendly city. 

Well known for some of the best cycling routes in the world, Amsterdam is a small city and easy to navigate with kids along well paved bike paths. Bicycles are easy to rent, but look out for the Dutch cargo bikes (or ‘bakfiets’) which are the most practical and the most environmentally friendly solution to get around. 

Amsterdam is bursting with outdoor spaces, parks and playgrounds that are perfect for letting off steam. There are several museums in Amsterdam but the kids will love Nemo, the Science Museum where a hands-on philosophy encourages interaction and the little ones will be captivated by the buttons, levers and pulleys, not to mention the bubbles that they can step in to and the clouds that make rain. At certain times of the year when the weather is good, the roof houses free attractions and water features.  

If that’s not enough to entice you, remember the tulip fields, windmills, canals, petting zoos and playgrounds, all good reasons why Amsterdam is one the best places to visit with kids. 


3 Day guide to Paris for first-time visitors

Paris is one of those cities you could probably visit several times and still find new places to explore. I definitely did not get through all the restaurant recommendations on my list! I had previously visited Paris as a child so my memories of it were vague, so it was nice to really see the sights properly and use my GCSE French. Whether you’re travelling with your family, friends or partner, here are my tips and recommendations for your visit to Paris.

Where to stay

Paris is made up of 20 ‘arrondissements’ or districts, and as expected the closer you stay to the major landmarks the more expensive your hotel is going to be. The good thing is that the Paris metro system is pretty easy to use and each ride only costs you  €1.90. We stayed in the Hotel 25Hours Terminus Nord, which meant that the Gare du Nord metro and train station was right on our doorstep. 

The hotel was beautiful and so quirky. It was very Parisian and full of colour and artwork. It also had unique touches like a typewriter to send love letters out in the lobby, and I probably ate my weight in French toast at the buffet breakfast. We were also able to use Netflix and YouTube on the television in the bedroom which was great for when we were getting ready.

Where to eat

I was travelling with my vegan friend so we did have to opt for some vegan friendly restaurants, which wasn’t as difficult as we were expecting in France. I know the delicacies in France include escargot (snails) and Foie gras (duck or goose fat) but immersing myself in the local cuisine went as far as crepes and creme brulee. Hey Honey was a bit on the pricier side but the setting was lovely and the cocktails were shown on tarot cards. I opted for the duck breast with dauphinoise potatoes and I’m still daydreaming about how good they were. If you do want to try some classic french dishes, then Terminus Nord Restaurant has a selection of everything at decent prices. 

If you’re after some vegan cuisine, then Le Potager du Marais serves vegan alternatives of French dishes. I opted for french onion soup (which came complete with vegan cheese), and finished off with some creme brulee. The owner of the restaurant was lovely and took time to come and chat to us and talk about the dishes. If you fancy something different, then Jah Jah By Le Tricycle is a good shout. They only have 4 items on the menu which changes everyday but I thoroughly enjoyed my meal! It’s a Jamaican vegan restaurant and I got a big plate of food for 10 euros. 

If you have a sweet tooth, then definitely stop by Creperie Montorgueil and try their salted caramel and banana crepe. They also do a bunch of savoury options if that’s what you prefer. If you’d like to take home some macarons, then Maison Laduree is the most famous place to get them, or you can also eat in and try one of their indulgent cakes. Lastly for some eclairs, Le Eclair De Genie offers a wonderful selection. 

What to do

The best way to start your first day in Paris is doing a walking tour of all the sights, either on your own or on an organised tour. Sandeman’s offer a free walking tour that starts at 11am everyday starting from Place St Michel. If you’d rather do it on your own, save the points of interest in Google Maps. Make sure to include the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc De Triomphe, Pantheon and the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. Once you’re done seeing the sites, get a different perspective by taking a 1 hour cruise down the Seine river. The boats run every hour but the best time to go is at sunset. 

There are a ton of different museums to visit in Paris, but the most notable has to be the Louvre where the Mona Lisa is housed. It probably took us an hour to find her because we started on the opposite side of the museum, and boy did it feel like we were stuck in a maze! They say that  even if you spent 3 months in the Louvre, you still would not get through every exhibit. If you fancy doing something a bit more unique, then head to the Catacombs of Paris, an underground ossuaries which hold the remains of more than six million people. 

In terms of evening entertainment, something I definitely recommend doing for the experience is attending a Moulin Rouge show. They first opened their doors in 1889 and you really do get immersed in the experience when you are there. Tickets cost £70 and this also included a bottle of champagne between the two of us. 

If you have time, then head out of the city to visit the Palace of Versailles, it really is beautiful. Your other option is to, of course, visit Disneyland Paris which is a short 45 minute train from the city centre. Just make sure to check online which rides and shows are currently open as with Covid things are still slightly different. 

Whether you’re planning a long weekend or a full week in Paris, you’re never short of things to do! 


Travelling Light

Now that there is the opportunity to travel once again, here are a few tips to help you pack like a pro!

You’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo, the Japanese organising consultant, who revolutionised the way we declutter and tidy up. Folding your clothing the KonMari way can revolutionise the way you pack your suitcase and will ensure that you maximise the space. 

“Clothes should be folded and packed upright,” she recommends. “Fold suits and lay them flat on top. Pack bras on top, and don’t flatten them. Pack small things such as underwear in a travel pouch, and transfer lotions and toiletries into smaller bottles to reduce volume”

So is the KonMari method better than rolling your clothes or using packing cubes? Packing vertically takes up less space and allows you to see where everything is at a glance. However, you may want to try a method used by the army – the Ranger Roll technique – whereby you lay the item of clothing out flat, then fold the bottom two inches of the item inside out so it creates a type of pocket along one side of the clothing. From the opposite end, roll the item tightly until you get to the pocket you’ve created. Fold one side of the pocket over the roll, securing it tightly.

There are many different and creative ways to pack jewellery for travelling. You can, of course, buy jewellery organisers that keep your items safe and secure, but there are other options such as using a pill box to store your rings, small earrings or delicate pieces of jewellery.  Cling film is a good way to keep your necklaces separate. Place each necklace on a section of cling film, leaving a few centimetres of space between each, then carefully roll it up. Alternatively, if you have plastic straws lying around in a drawer, one good way to repurpose them is to loop one end of the necklace through a straw and then fasten to stop it from tangling up whilst travelling. 

Shoes can be awkward items to pack, but try packing heels in the central top half of your suitcase and fill the gaps between the heels with rolled-up small pieces of clothing. Stuff flat soled shoes and boots with socks and underwear and keep the soles to the sides of your suitcase. 


Travel Positives

The positive benefits of travel are numerous and varied. Whether a wonderful trip within the UK or a glamorous adventure to a far flung location. They can all provide life affirming experiences and valuable time to reflect.

Jo Wheatley is a global award winning emotions coach. Jo details below, the reasons why travel is good for us physically, emotionally and mentally:

• Travelling enables us to step outside of our comfort zone, into stretch which enables us to grow our comfort zone. The longer we stay in our comfort zone the smaller our comfort zone becomes.

• Travelling enables us to challenge our beliefs, by being exposed to new cultures and people. This is healthy. It can help us to replace limiting beliefs about ourselves with positive, empowering beliefs

• When we decide to travel it is often because it is aligned to one of our core values. This may be adventure for example, or independence, or freedom. When we take decision to live our lives aligned to our values we are most fulfilled. When our values are met we experience emotions such as joy and

• It can increase our creativity as we are stimulate with new experiences and can lead to us setting new goals for ourselves.

• It enables us to communicate in new ways, often requiring us to innovate in our communication and resourcefulness as we encounter situations we may not have planned for.

• Having photos of our experiences and treasured memories can be great for us to dip into and stimulate positive emotions when we are home, back in our everyday life and need to be inspired.

Alison Stockton is a Trauma informed – functional medicine practitioner Health coach. Alison states that ‘travel became popular only for the wealthy or the expeditionist a few centuries ago and then thanks to air travel it has become a huge industry.

Travel has bought a huge sense of achievement, fulfilment and excitement for so many, this is positive psychology. Because of the sense of “looking forward to something,” it highlights positive emotions, happiness and wellbeing. There is a “sense of connection”, we begin to research where we would like to go, what we would like to see whilst there, anticipating the feeling of relaxation. It is also an incentive to become healthier before the actual travel itself. The thoughts alone of that holiday can release feel-good hormones, lower stress hormones and release endorphins for the anticipated experience. 

  • Mental image of the destination
  • Motivation (perhaps to save or the trip, new shopping experience. etc)
  • Decision/ choice (Book/ Reservations)
  • Experience
  • Satisfaction

When we arrive at our location we can actually change our neurochemistry and move from a sympathetic nervous state (Stressed/fight/flight)  to a calm parasympathetic state in our body continues to release 

so that we actually feel healthier almost instantly. Not only that when we are in the sunshine we are exposed to Vitamin D which is an essential hormone, that many have been deficient in the last 2 years, which vastly supports immune health

The inspiration of seeing beautiful destinations, the architecture, the weather (esp when living in the uk) the visualisation of sitting by the pool, or dipping your toes into the sea with the warm sun on your body, you can transport yourself to a calm state of relaxation before you arrive.

We have heard so many times “Arh, I need a holiday” this is because (its hoped) that the moment you begin breath your journey to the destination, you already begin to unwind, relax, breath and untangle the “stressors” every day modern 21st Century living has brought to us.

Looking forward to travelling now in 2022 is seemingly giving us back freedom, something to look forward to, a time with our friends and family away from the “home” we may love but have felt bound to for 2 years. A holiday where we can do as we please with less conformity or routine. A time to sleep, to rest, to be well and calm down our busy minds, play cards and be present with loved ones, experience inspiring architecture, absorb. history, climb a mountain, the world, as they say, is our oyster, the world is yours to explore.

Travel can even mean taking a 2-3 hour train journey to London and allowing time for your mind to quieten and think of changes you desire to make in your life, it can bring such incredible positivity to be in a different environment.

When a human is away from their “every day” it enables us to step out of the groundhog replay and take a new perspective, like the matrix. We get to press pause, it doesn’t matter if, for 2 days or 2 weeks, we can see things differently and often, assess what in our life needs more or less focus and how we can then make the desired changes a reality.

Long gone have thee days where travel and change was just a far fetched dream, it is a reality to make dreams come true.

Travel expands our cognitional, emotional behaviour, social interactions and mental wellbeing. Many best friends, romantic partners and relocations, work opportunities have been encountered due to the wonders of travel.

So much inspiration and perspective are gained through travel and changing our environment.

The last 2 years travel bans that we have experienced restrictions, we have all. felt very saddened and restricted by, so if an opportunity arises for you to change your location, even for just a few short days, embrace it, enjoy it and feel your mental wellbeing is being fully supported.’

• Jo Wheatley, No 1 Podcast host and author. www.jowheatley.comwww.igcompany.co.ukwww.podfollow.com/the-coaching-crowd

• Alison Stockton (Expat and lover of travel)

• www.instagram.com/the_enrichedwoman

• www.vibrantbalancedhealth.com


Honeymoon Destinations

Wedding season is nearly upon us, with June traditionally being the most popular wedding month. Once you have announced your engagement and set the date for the nuptials, the next most important thing is to choose where you are going to honeymoon.

The word honeymoon from the Old English ‘hony moone’. Hony refers to the European custom of giving newlyweds enough mead, ‘an alcoholic liquor made by fermenting honey and water’, to last a ‘moone’ (month) which was thought to be the period following marriage where everything is sweet and rosy, also referencing the changing aspect of the moon, from full to waning, or the period when that initial euphoria starts to wane!

Planning where to go on your honeymoon can be stressful. Ideally, for most of us, we are looking for some rest, relaxation and quality time with our newly wedded partner. The most important thing is to plan the trip together and incorporate destinations that you both want to go to and to include activities that you both want to do. 

With many couples having to put their plans on hold for the past two years, it is likely that there will be an influx of bookings for the next few years, so now is the time to sit down and decide where to go. From exotic faraway places to more affordable and closer to home, from beach paradises to adventure or cultural trips, here are a few of our top tips. 

The Maldives

The tropical resort islands of the Maldives situated in the Indian Ocean are often featured in the top ten of the world’s most romantic destinations for a honeymoon. If peace and tranquillity, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters are for you, there are plenty of luxury private resorts to choose from. You’ve probably seen images of the iconic overwater villas and bungalows perched above tranquil lagoons that grace the pages of glossy magazines, so if that is what you are after then check out Komandoo, an adult only resort situated in the Lhaviyani Atoll, a 40-minute seaplane ride from the capital Malé. Other equally stunning resorts are situated at Milaidhoo, Kanuhura, Maagau Island and Muravandhoo Island and keep in mind that the best time to visit the Maldives is between November and March. 

Mexico

If a beach holiday isn’t for you and you are the couple that crave adrenaline and adventure, Mexico’s varied landscapes offer an abundance of options. Go whitewater kayaking or river rafting in Tlapacoyan in the state of Veracruz, situated in the eastern part of the country, from where you can experience the challenging Alseseca, Filobobos and Jalacingo rivers.

Alternatively, try the longest (3km), highest (300 meters) and fastest (120 km per hour) zipline in the world in the Copper Canyon Adventure Park (Parque de Aventuras) near Divisadero.

The Yucatan Peninsula is in the easternmost part of Mexico and separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea. Explore the ancient Mayan ruins and visit the archaeological sites of Chichen Itza, a World heritage site that was also named as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, Uxmal – the second-most visited archaeological park in Mexico – and Tulum. 

Italy

Somewhere closer to home is the ultimate honeymooners’ destination of Italy, with its picturesque landscapes, rich cultural history and art, delicious food and delightful wine. With its network of canals, Venice is renowned as the city of love and what could be more romantic than a serenaded gondola ride that will take you past ancient palazzi and magnificent cathedrals. Explore the Amalfi Coast by car and take in the beautiful scenery and the rugged coastlines. If you are coming from Naples or Rome, the coastal town of Sorrento is a good place to start your journey. If hiking is your thing, try one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the world, the Path of the Gods, which begins at Agerola and follows a route high above the coast. Make your way to Amalfi and then discover the sights of the idyllic fishing village of Positano. Hop on a ferry to enjoy the charms of Sorrento, tour historic Naples, walk among the ruins of ancient Pompeii, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and take in the natural beauty of the enchanting island of Capri. 

Finally, Rome has to be on the list for a romantic honeymoon experience. Soak up the stunning architecture of the Eternal City, walk along the winding alleys and cobbled streets and find a new surprise around every corner. Rome is home to some of the world’s most beautiful churches from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods and a trip to Rome would not be complete without a visit to the Vatican City where you can visit St. Peter’s Basilica, famous for Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel, wander round the Vatican’s gardens and go to the Vatican Museums which conserve the immense collection of art amassed by the popes from the seventeenth century onwards.

South Africa 

One of the best honeymoon destinations in Africa, South Africa offers a diverse cultural experience, savannahs, wildlife and beautiful landscapes. Take a safari trip and see the Big Five (African lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, and Cape buffalo) in their natural habitats. Stay in a lodge at the Kruger National Park, one of the most beautiful and fascinating places to visit, or camp out under the stars for an unforgettable experience. 

There’s no shortage of things to do in Cape Town, the famous resort city on South Africa’s southwest coast that sits beneath the 3,558-foot, flat-peaked Table Mountain. For some awe-inspiring views from the top, you can ride The Cableway, the rotating state-of-the-art cable car that takes visitors from the lower station to the summit in around 5 minutes, giving you a 360 degree aerial view of the city as you go.

How about a trip to a wine estate? Some of the best wines are grown and produced in Western Cape Winelands, home to favourite regions like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Stay overnight in a family owned boutique winery, or visit for the day and savour the delights of lunch or afternoon tea, all the while indulging in award-winning wines at some of the best wineries in the world. 

Low level sound

in Health & Beauty

low level annoyance is part of our everyday lives – or so it seems.  Have you noticed how everyone appears to be irate most of the time?

Here are a few examples of what really gets us riled up:

Household items in the street

Who hasn’t walked past a discarded mattress or a wobbly coffee table left on a pavement?  Unsightly? Yes. Unhygienic? Definitely but also just plain inconsiderate.

Self proclaimed experts

You know that friend or family member who informs you of what is healthy to eat, what exercise to partake in or the best destinations to travel to. Well informed and knowledgeable?  Well, it transpires that this ‘expertise’ is simply them googling it for 10 minutes – calling it research. In that case, we must all be experts on everything.

Virtue signalling 

So you want to upload a photo of you cleaning your local beach of plastic – a positive environmental task.  However, shaming others who don’t – or perhaps cannot – join in, dilutes your good work.

Excessive plastic packaging 

There seems to be a universal cry for goods not to use so much packaging but little changes. In the U.K. alone it is estimated that 5 million tonnes of plastic is used annually – half of which is on packaging.

Password amnesia

Back in days gone by, many of us would use the same, one password for everything. Technology is too sophisticated for us to do that now so on a daily basis, I, like many I know, need to hit the ‘forgotten password’ key. Writing passwords down is a possible answer, although not too helpful if you mislay the book you wrote them in.

Gill Hasson is an author and delivers teaching and training across all sectors. Gill suggests we simply ‘breathe. Yes, it’s advice you’ve heard so many times before. But it works. Here’s how and why:

When you’re irritated, annoyed, frustrated etc the amygdala in your brain – the part of your brain responsible for your emotions – is triggered. This sets off a fight or flight reaction in your body; your heart starts thumping and your breathing increases.  (You’ve probably noticed that your heart rate and  the rate of your breathing automatically speeds up whenever you’re annoyed, frustrated or angry.) The increase in heart rate and breathing  provides your body with the energy it needs to fight or flee from whatever is annoying you. 

Unfortunately, this reaction, triggered by the amygdala automatically shuts down the neo cortex – the thinking, rationalising reasoning part of your brain. So what ever has happened to annoy you – instead of allowing you to calmly think through what rational, reasonable action to take, your body and mind work overtime getting more and more uptight, preparing you to fight or flee.

Fortunately, this phenomenon also works the other way round: when you slow down your breathing, you send a message to the body that things are in fact, ok. If you are able to slow your breathing down to six breaths a minute, this tells your body and your brain that there is no real threat. The neo cortex in your brain then kicks in and you are able to think clearly and find a sensible solution to whatever it is that’s annoyed you. (In any one particular situation, what that solution might be, will be up to you and the particular circumstances at the time.)

Try it right now : breathe in for five  seconds,  and then let your breath out for five  seconds. At the end of a minute you’ll have only taken five breaths, yet you won’t feel short of air; rather you’ll be aware that you CAN control your breathing, bring your heart rate down, feel calm and able to think clearly. Through this type of controlled and deliberate breathing, you’re sending your body the message that all is ok. 

Take and Acceptance and Commitment approach

This calming down in order to think of a reasonable way forward is related to what is known in mindfulness practice as an acceptance and commitment approach. Whatever has happened to annoy you – the excess plastic packaging, the rubbish in the streets or the sides of main road, other people hogging the middle lane, being cut off the phone call after you’ve been holding on for 10 minutes – you have to accept it. Whatever it is, it’s already happened. Nothing can change that. 

Instead of railing against what’s happened, filling your mind with how unfair/ ridiculous/ stupid it is,  once you can accept this fact – you tell yourself that it’s already happened and that can’t be changed –  you then free your mind to find a helpful solution.

You accept what’s happened, then you commit to a sensible solution.’

Gill Hasson is author of more than 30 books on the subject of wellbeing for adults and for children including, most recently, Moments of Comfort: Embracing the Joy in Life’s Simple Pleasures, and also Positive Thinking Pocketbook (both published by Capstone)

Summer

in Features

Once we have waved goodbye to our colder months, we have the longer, brighter and hopefully warmer days ahead of us.

How can we ensure the Summer can psychologically, physically and mentally make us feel freer, more balanced and motivated?

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Another great thing about summer is that, in many cases, the world seems to slow down. Children are out of school, and families tend to take vacations during the summer because of the warmer weather.

With the ease of the summer months, take some time out for yourself. Take a calming walk by yourself, and use that time to meditate or reflect. (The exercise and vitamin D are an added bonus.) Go to the pool and enjoy the warmth of the sun and the cool, soothing water.

If you are not one for outdoor activities, find an indoor activity like doing a puzzle, playing music, or making art. Simply find an activity that makes you happy and relaxed. There are so many ways to take time for yourself, even if just for five minutes. Take advantage of the relaxed nature of summer, and find little ways that you can slow down and de-stress.

Make the most of fresh produce

Summertime brings sun and warmth (well, we can all hope!) and that of course stimulates growth. Because of this fruits and vegetables are in abundance at the moment.  What a great opportunity to incorporate these into your regular diet and try to boost your vitamin levels. 

Seek out farmers’ markets or greengrocers where you’ll be provided with the freshest produce.  If there aren’t any locally, then you can still source fresh ingredients in your local supermarket.  Try to buy produce that’s produced locally whilst it’s in season. 

Fruit and vegetables are a great option for a summer diet.  When the weather is warmer we tend to shy away from heavy meals so fresh produce is ideal.   From salads and smoothies to delicious soups there are a variety of options to make the most of everything that’s currently in season.  

Maintain a healthy sleep schedule

Just because school is out for summer and your kids can stay up late and sleep in does not mean they should. As parents, try to maintain a healthy and steady sleep schedule for ourselves and our kids, regardless of our work and school schedules, have become more lenient. It is recommended that we obtain 8-10 uninterrupted hours of sleep, as sleep hygiene is an essential component of our mental health.

Dr Tom MacLaren is a Consultant Psychiatrist states that ‘Waking up to bird song, sunshine and warmth of the summer months can be hugely uplifting, evoking the happiness, optimism and positivity which many of us struggle with in the depths of winter. Summer can bring lots of psychological, physical and mental benefits.

Nature connectedness can help improve our mental health with the fresh air, longer days and calmness of open spaces offering a retreat and distraction from our standard routines. Being closer to greenery, gardens and parks that will provide a boost to your energy and sense of wellness. The colourful, fragranced Summer blossoms can also be uplifting and make us appreciate the beauty of nature.

Finding the motivation to go out for a run in cold, dark and miserable conditions of winter can be very difficult, but the longer, brighter days of summer afford no excuses, meaning we are more likely to be physically active. Walking or cycling short distances, rather than driving, becomes a joy, not a chore and just by walking outdoors, the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even depression is reduced. Being outdoors is especially safe if you’re worrying about Covid, as these areas are naturally well ventilated, open and less crowded that the indoors.

Watching the sunrise and changing light during the day is a great way to re-set that body clock if you have missed sleep. Watching the sunset is also a very beautiful and therapeutic experience, helping us unwind, relieving stress and providing us with inspiration – many authors, painters and poets have used sunset as their muse.

Those longer and sunnier days will be toping up your vitamin D, a great boost to your immune system which also helps keep your bones healthy. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depression, so this sunshine vitamin is not only beneficial for our bones but also our mood and mental health.

The summer is a great time to get work done and be more productive. With the sun rising earlier, you will have more energy to meet friends, take time off, complete DIY projects and even travel. The longer day means you’ll have time to gradually wind down in the evening and even enjoy eating outdoors, socialising with friends and fitting more into the day.

All this activity provides a lot more cognitive stimulation than the winter months. Your mind and brain will be busier processing your increased activity levels and this boosts your memory and helps protect against conditions like dementia.

We also tend to be much more social in the summer months, which is crucial to our mental health. Friendships help reduce stress and anxiety, improve self-confidence and can also help reduce the risk of many health conditions including obesity, blood pressure and even dementia. 

The longer hours of sun have well known effects of improving chronic skin problems, like eczema and psoriasis, but make sure you take care in the sun. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and enough clothes to protect your skin, so you don’t get too much sun.’

Dr Tom MacLaren, Consultant Psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health www.recognitionhealth.com

Spring Cleaning

in Features

The essence of Spring cleaning for many of us is the sweeping away and decluttering of our homes, our environment – even our emotional lives.

Elizabeth McPherson is a Professional Declutterer and ADHD specialist who states ‘There is no doubt about it, physical clutter is an indicator of what is going on in our head.  In order to move forward you cannot look back, unless it’s to learn from past experiences.  Many live with clutter in their lives, either emotional or physical but the two are not mutually exclusive.  Clutter is often as a result of ‘put off decisions’ and an inability to move on from the past.  Many are trauma bonded to the past and it’s hard to let go.  

In truth clutter holds us back energetically and mentally. After all, if you can’t find something, it’s easier to replace it but what a waste of money this is.  A clutter free life, is a calmer life.  Free of clutter, you can think clearly, make better decisions and, wherever you find yourself in life, a calm environment can even help with sleep, an important ‘medicine’ for a healthy life.  Many of us seek perfection in our lives and that perfection is often sought by buying ’things’ rather than by buying memories.  Each ’thing’ purchased gives a moment of pleasure until another fix is required to fill that void.  Decluttering, letting go and bringing a bit of organisation into your life is a great way to shift ‘old’ energy and make way for ’new’ positive changes. Space in your life need not be filled with things, space gives you scope and flexibility both physically and emotionally.

EMOTIONAL CLUTTER

Emotionally many of us live 99% of the time in our ‘heads’ chattering away to ourselves about what we could have done better, what they did, she did.  It is so exhausting living like this. 

We fail to live in the moment and just ‘be’. For me personally, I started with the emotional declutter and that was all about forgiveness. I turned to Louise Hay’s book  “You can Heal your Life” which showed me how to forgive those who I believed had wronged me. I realised that a lack of forgiveness had held me back from where I wanted to be. 

SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

A great social life is one of the key pinnacles to a happy life.  Social engagement with others is important for good mental health.  However, so many of us fail to realise the importance of hanging out with the right crowd.  Of course, we come with our families but recognising who lights you up (a radiator) or who drags you down (a drain) is very important. Sometimes it is a case of decluttering a friend or two. There is no need to fall out, just simply see those who make you feel bad about yourself, a bit less.  It is quite common to attract those who are on the same energy level as you. In other words, if you are feeling bad about yourself, it is easy to attract those who feel the same. That might sound like a match made in heaven, but if you are intending to move forward and your friend is not, that is when the relationship is draining and can hold you back. Many people, women in particular, are eager to please but how many times have you found yourself hanging out with a crowd each week and kind of wishing you were somewhere else?  

LIVING ENVIRONMENT 

Quite possibly, right now, you may not be living where you would ideally like to be living. You might have downsized, or even upsized, but maybe your home still does not feel like home. 

So what can you do about it?   Here are my top tips to a decluttered, calm life:


Let in the sunlight – always make sure blinds and curtains are up and open every day 


Open the windows and let in fresh air first thing – even if it’s freezing, fresh air is vital

• Paint the walls a neutral colour that helps you feel calm

• Bring in colour to brighten up your home

• Light candles 

Less is definitely more. Only keep what you have room for. Do not resort to lock ups and storage facilities.  Let go of anything that no longer serves you and definitely do not keep things that make you sad.  If you do not have the room then accept that where you are living right now, does not have room for the things you would like to keep. Acceptance of where you are now is where you need to be.  If you are lucky enough to be upsizing, still do not be tempted to ‘hold onto’ things that you ‘might’ use in the future.  More often than not, those ’things’ get forgotten and never used.  

Put like with like and keep things neat and tidy, that way you know where everything is and won’t panic when you are running out the door trying to find those missing keys 

Throw away envelopes and flyers and anything that you do not need to keep straight away.  If something needs urgent action, keep it in a safe place and deal with it quickly.  

Be grateful for where you live and learn to love your home. It may not be where you want to be forever, but if you learn to love it for now and accept where you are in life, you are in a great place to bring in all the good stuff that is bound to come your way.’

Elizabeth McPherson‘s contact details:

beth@thelifestyleconcept.co.uk

www.thelifestyleconcept.co.uk

Helping you find Inner Harmony through Decluttering 

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