KATHLEEN NORTH

KATHLEEN NORTH has 56 articles published.

Why we crave certain foods

in Features

Pioneering research has shed new light on what drives people’s basic food preferences, indicating our choices may be smarter than previously thought and influenced by the specific nutrients, as opposed to just calories, we need.

Today, more than yesterday, more and more individuals attach great importance to the development of healthy habits in their daily life. Between practicing regular physical activity and adapting your diet to a healthier and more ecological style, it is important to develop your nutritional intelligence.

Understanding what conditions our diet, or put another way, having nutritional intelligence will make our choice when we have a meal, much more genuine.

Although eating is a free act and in theory we have the will to eat well, do we really eat what we want? The answer is not easy. There are numerous factors which have an influence on our diet. From our dietary knowledge to our personal circumstances, including family experience, advertising, fashion, financial status or our weight. That is why we consider normal what we’ve experienced at home when it may really be excessive or unbalanced. We may decide to choose some food, not because it is the most appropriate but due to enticing advertisements. Perhaps we have vitamin deficiency because we are on a strict diet when we don’t even have obesity problems and so on.

Could our day-to-day cravings reflect the vitamins and minerals we are lacking? For example, do you crave liver, spinach or pumpkin seeds when you need iron? 

Dr. Hana Patel is a Private GP and Mental Health Coach. Dr. Patel states that Public Health England (PHE) have devised the Eatwell guide, for people to refer to in a bid to stay at a healthy weight and includes advice regarding staying hydrated. The reason for this is that obesity and not eating a balanced diet, can us to become unwell and be more at risk for conditions such as heart disease and cancers. Following a healthy balanced diet, consisting of foods from each food group which lowers our risk of getting ill.  Our bodies tell us when we are hungry, and we should trust our body’s signals to direct our food choices- which are specific to each person, as they depend on factors such as our cooking availability, what foods we have access to, our background and culture, the amount of money we have and our emotions and mood. These are examples of how we make decisions about what we eat at every meal. There are examples of when our bodies crave certain foods, for example in pregnancy, our body often needs more nutrients to help the developing baby, typically food that contain Vitamin D, iron and calcium.’

Dr. Rachel Taylor is a neuropsychologist, podcast host and founder of  UNBroken.

Dr. Rachel believes ‘The body never tells us lies whereas the mind often does. Being able to connect with the body and understand its signals are fundamental in discovering and maintaining optimal wellbeing and health with our relationship with food being central to this. 

Rather than relying on external cues and gimmicks where we outsource our bodily autonomy it is really important to start to ask our body what it needs on a regular basis. The majority of people understand the growls of hunger, but often eat so quickly and mindlessly that they do not feel when they are full or possibly starting to overeat. 

Emotions are chemical messages and are so closely linked to how and what we eat that a good place to start when listening to what our bodies want is to start to become aware of the emotions that we feel before, during and after eating. Our bodies need to be energised and they need certain energy sources to work to the best of their ability and often what starts out as a wanted source of energy can become one that repulses us if we consume too much of it. The body is really good at keeping itself balanced, however the external environment is not good at supporting this by confusing people in what they need and what they want. We need to slow down and really start to listen to ourselves and not be persuaded by external factors to eat what our bodies do not need. There is an increasing amount of research that is showing that the microbiome in the gut is responsible for either inspiring craving or repulsion for certain foods which could lead to unique, novel approaches to therapeutics through the gut in the future. So the key points are that there is a need for people to start to ask the body what it needs, listen to it when it answers and start to be curious about their emotional world and food. In particular what it can tell them about how and what they are eating. The ability to be conscious about food consumption and they confidence to know what their body needs to be healthy can be a game changer in terms of wellbeing and quality of life. 

We all need to be more connected with ourselves and take control of how we function within our environment in order to prevent unwellness and sickness, so taking time to start to ask, why do I feel like this? What does my body need? and What information does my body have for me will be a really good start.’

Dr. Hana Patel:
www.topdoctors.co.uk/doctor/hana-patel

Dr. Rachel Taylor:

UNBroken

The Gibraltar Property Insight

in Features

No Excuses

We spend one third of our lives in bed, so creating a calming bedroom is necessary for relief at the end of the day. By creating a beautiful room, you can rest easy knowing that a third of your life is spent in luxury

1. Reign it in…  

Beautiful bedrooms are meant to be soothing, comfortable areas, and the best colours to achieve that are delicate colour schemes: neutral colours like whites and creams or a light colour palette like lavender and light blue. This doesn’t mean that your bedroom needs to be boring—if your favorite colours are bold colours, feel free to experiment with different ways to add interesting pops of colour. Try out some bold throw pillows; a busy duvet cover, comforter, or bedspread; or even an interesting paint colour or wallpaper on an accent wall or the ceiling.

2. Make sure you can move. 

One of the best ways to give your bedroom a restful and relaxing vibe is to focus on the ease of movement, or how well you can walk around the floor space without feeling cramped. Where possible, try to avoid a lot of extraneous bedroom furniture in your bedroom so that you’re not tripping over bookcases and coffee tables or squeezing past bedside tables to get to your bed. This is especially important in small spaces and small rooms, where the space is so limited that you need to make sure you can breathe. If you’re having an especially hard time, think about extra storage spaces you could implement, like drawers underneath your bed.

3. Choose the Right Size Furniture. 

When you’re ready to buy bedroom furniture, start out with a floor plan and a measured drawing of the space. Furniture should fit the room it lives in—this is particularly true for bedroom furniture. Don’t choose a heavy, large bed and dresser for a small bedroom. If the ceiling is high, a tall headboard will help to visibly bring it down to size. If your bedroom is large, choose furniture that suits a larger space, too. Add a chair and ottoman or place a piece of furniture at the end of the bed to help fill extra square footage. Furniture and accessories that are too small will look lost in a large room.

4. Layers of light. 

Rather than relying on just your overhead light or a table lamp, it’s a good practice to layer the lighting in your bedroom, which means including several different light sources that you can toggle on and off for maximum functionality and cohesion. You don’t need a chandelier to layer your lighting—think about the different simple light sources you can take advantage of in your bedroom (like built-in natural light, overhead lights, floor lamps, bedside lamps, table lamps, reading lights, pendant lights, dimmers, and wall lights) and pick a few to include.

5. Distribute the soft touches. 

All bedrooms have one large soft item in them—the bed—which is often the focal point of the room. To help balance out the visual softness of the bed, try including that softness one or two other places, which will avoid making the rest of the room feel overly “hard” in comparison. Layered curtains, area rugs, or plush throw blankets are great ways to spread the soft look throughout the room.

6. Look Up! 

The ceiling is the largest clean surface in your bedroom, and most amateur home decorators forget all about it—so it’s a huge untapped resource in any room. If you want to give your bedroom a special touch, consider painting or wallpapering your ceiling with a delicate colour or pattern. If you’re tired of DIY tips and want an especially elegant bedroom look, you could even think about having a molded ceiling done.

7. Go for a nook. 

Your bedroom should feel like a special
sanctum where you can relax. If you have the space and are looking for a little something more to make your bedroom feel like home, think about ways that you can make a private nook for yourself. A window seat, a loft, or even just a comfy chair and footstool all make for great places to tuck yourself up for some private time.

8. Follow your personal style. 

When coming up with bedroom ideas, don’t get so caught up in decorating tips that you end up with a bedroom that doesn’t feel right to you. Your bedroom should feel comfortable and tailored to your needs, so make sure along the way that you’re asking yourself what appeals to you. If you love something specific—be it greenery or upholstered headboards—be sure to make room for it in your design ideas.

9. Go Tech-Free

Try to keep your mobile phone, computer, television, exercise machine, or other tech out of the bedroom in
order to ceate a cherished place to relax and renew. Trust us: You’ll love having a room dedicated to reading, sleeping, and romance.

10. Invest in Linens

Outfitting your bedroom with beautiful and luxurious fabrics is a great way to up the comfort factor of your space. As a rule of thumb, don’t buy sheets that are less than 100 percent cotton or linen with high thread counts of 350 or more. For sheets that feel like they came from a 5-star hotel, send them to the dry cleaner for professional washing and ironing, which doesn’t cost much, but creates a crisp smoothness worthy of the Ritz. 


Bringing Holiday colour into your Home

We bring back so many wonderful memories from our holidays. Whether it is scent, colour, the architecture we have  experienced or the heady combination of all of these elements.

When we return home we often want to replicate those feelings, shades and atmosphere that our travels have offered us.

Whether you have travelled overseas or to a caravan park an hour a way, you can find inspiration everywhere. Hunt for treasures in shops that remind you of your time away and look carefully at the window displays, the colour combinations and the materials. Be inspired by the natural landscapes whether it’s the colours of the tranquil beaches or the textures within the mountains.

Scent plays a huge role in transporting you back to that blissful destination. Find a candle that captures the essence of that favourite location. Burn some essential oils or fill your home with fresh flowers that have a fragrance that reminds you of where you were.

To evoke a holiday spirit in your home, comfort is the key. You want to create a room where you can relax and unwind. Remember the textures, materials and the colour palette that was used in your holiday accommodation.

Joshua Hammonds, Marketing Manager at Hammonds Furniture, offers advice on incorporating a seaside holiday feel into your home.

Sometimes we go abroad and find an interior style that just speaks to us and that we really connect with.

Our research has found that over a fifth of people (21%) find a coastal aesthetic to be the most calming interior design style.

When it comes to designing our own living rooms, it is important that we create a space that makes us feel calm and meets our needs and bringing inspiration from the places we love can help achieve that.

Although you can’t bring the pristine beaches and sunny weather back home with you, you can bring some of the interior styles back, and use these to inspire designs in your home.

If you want to emulate the laid-back feel and beachy tones and textures you’ll find in a home or hotel abroad, then there are a few things to keep in mind.

Firstly, linens and textiles in neutral and blue tones are the way to go. You should also look at keeping the colour palette of your room light and fresh, with some pops of blue to bring in that coastal aesthetic.

Adding rattan style furniture, blinds and accessories is also a must, along with lots of tropical-looking, leafy plants. Incorporating furniture décor in other natural materials can add extra interest and texture, and help bring the outside in. Accessories that use driftwood and shells are an excellent choice, but choosing simple, rustic wooden furniture could be a more subtle option.

Keeping the interior focused around natural colours and finishes can make your room feel as though you’re on an island yourself, helping you create an inviting and calming space to relax in.’

Ruth Lavender, design expert at Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery, comments ‘Taking inspiration from a holiday destination for your home’s interior can help to continue a feeling of wanderlust and evoke fond memories from globe-trotting adventures.

To capture that holiday feeling in the kitchen, I’d recommend opting for a calming cabinet colour such as Cambridge driftwood blue or Nordica blue. These cool blue hues have been developed to embody the colour of sea water, transforming any space into a tranquil setting that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. They blend seamlessly with whites and creams to create a light, airy combination, creating a relaxing seaside aesthetic.

If you want to create that pared-back feeling that is popular in beach-house kitchens, aim for clutter-free surfaces to make the space feel more open. Utilise clever storage solutions, such as corner drawers and tower storage units, to keep kitchen surfaces tidy – creating a truly relaxing atmosphere.

Aim to allow as much natural light into the room as possible, as this will help open the space further, making it an extension of the outside. Bifold doors and skylights are perfect for drenching a kitchen in natural light, providing an open feeling that is so often experienced in holiday destinations.

If you’re looking to take inspiration from a tropical holiday further afield, consider replicating luscious botanicals by incorporating forest green cabinets and natural materials. For a more subtle update, incorporate biophilic design through the introduction of houseplants such as palms, cacti, and succulents.

Incorporating an island planter full of fresh herbs is the perfect way to bring more greenery into the kitchen. Design hacks like this should ideally be considered early in the stages of planning your kitchen, when you can really think about how best to customise your layout to get the most out of it.’

Whatever has left a memorable impact on you, there are a variety of ways to capture the essence of what it special for you. Even bringing back a small element of your travels can invigorate your home.


New Property or Change Decor

Moving home can be many things:  thrilling, life changing and possibly necessary when jobs and schools are involved.

However, it is also hugely stressful, expensive and frequently filled with apprehension, wondering if we have made the right decision.  This is why staying and improving our present homes can provide a practical answer.

Howard Birch is director of bathroom specialist Aston Matthews. Howard thinks ‘With so many people working from home and with open plan living, it is increasingly hard for individuals to find a quiet spot where they can relax and unwind.  Rather than moving house to find extra space look at the bathroom and see if this can provide the sanctuary you need.

The bathroom provides a quiet zone where we can treat ourselves to some alone time – reading a book in the bath has become, for many, an important time-out from the pace of everyday life.

If you don’t have space for a bath in your bathroom consider positioning a freestanding tub in the bedroom. Many boutique hotels now do this and the plumbing is fairly straightforward. You will, however need to consider ventilation and the floor surface – tiles or floor boards under the bath are preferable to carpet. 

Alternatively, create a spacious bathroom in the attic. A traditional cast iron bath looks lovely under the eaves and will certainly provide a relaxing sanctuary as well as adding value to your property.’

Lucy Pascall, Director, Pushka Home 

believes ‘homeowners looking for an easy way to enhance an existing kitchen or for renters looking at ways to put a stamp on their new home, by simply switching out their existing handles for a new design, transforming the space without the need for a complete renovation; saving both time and money. For those who can, re-painting the cabinetry will also help to make the space feel brand new. Alongside the addition of new handles, homeowners will have cabinetry that will look completely refreshed and styled for a brand new look, complete with additional accessories and finishing touches for a beautifully pulled together aesthetic. 

When designing a bedroom scheme,

it’s important to also consider the finer details. Consider updating your existing pieces of furniture before forking out on brand new furniture items. For example, by changing your wardrobe door handles or switching out the drawer knob on your bedside table, you can personalise your furniture and make the space feel truly your own. The piece will  also be completely unique to you, meaning you will have a stunning piece of furniture that will wow guests as well as be an interesting talking point for when people come to visit.’

Kelly Friel is the Digital Product Manager at Zoro, home renovation experts. Kelly feels it is important to ‘try making your home more spacious instead of moving house, such as with an extension or knocking a wall through to create a more open plan area. If you are going to invest in creating more space in your home, make sure to plan the renovations fully and understand any planning permissions that you might need to acquire, as well as creating a timetable of when your changes will be done by. This can make the large task more manageable.

Small renovations can make a big difference to your home. These can be cosmetic updates such as repainting walls, doors, and ceilings, as well as finishing touches like wooden staircases and skirting boards. If you’ve been in your house for a while, the finer details may have become a little lacklustre and sprucing them up can really refresh the property.

Repainting is an opportunity to change up the colour scheme of your home, introducing new colours and shades to really brighten things up. Try new themes and features like accent walls to make your place feel like new. Then, you can turn your attention to any painting or brickwork on the outside of the property — investing in how your home looks from the outside can affect how you feel about the inside too.

Installing insulation in the walls can be a big long-term money saver. All of these changes can increase your property value when you come to sell, as well as improving your comfort and enjoyment of your house while you’re living in it.’

Increasing storage can provide a welcome boost and added versatility to any home. Packmate storage believe ‘As people spend more time at home, space has never been so important. When storage is limited, your next step should be finding easy, budget-friendly ways of making the most of the space in each room, helping you save valuable money and time!  

When on a mission to maximise your storage space, start by clearing away the things that are better kept out of sight and mind. For example, any last season clothes, soft furnishing, shoes and bags would fit perfectly into Packmate Storage Bags! It’s as easy as folding and packing them into your storage bag, vacuuming out the air and storing either under the bed, on top of the wardrobe or in a drawer until you need them again.  

Packmate Storage Bags make it easy to keep on top of your spring cleaning. They can be used to help get your home ready for every season, providing a safe and organised way of storing your belongings. These vacuum bags are easy to access as and when you need and reduce to around 50% of their original size. Providing useful extra storage for any room in the house, you’ll have more space to accommodate your family and friends during the summer and, dare we say it, plenty more room for your festive decorations.’

Aston Matthews:

www.astonmatthews.co.uk

Pushka Home

www.pushkahome.com/

Zoro home renovations:

www.zoro.co.uk

Packmate Storage: 

www.buypackmate.co.uk

Favourite Travel Companion

in Features

The importance we place on our travel destination cannot be underestimated.  However, what is equally crucial – if not more so – is who we share these experiences with. Soaking up glorious sun rays or viewing the Northern lights are memorable and enjoyable in their own right but without a wonderful travel companion, the pleasure is significantly diminished.

With travelling increasingly opening up to us, a fascinating aspect of holidays is who we travel with. Be it a partner, family member or friend, the chemistry, balance of personalities and ability to compromise over travel issues is incredibly important.

The right travel buddy can really impact the experience you have and even influence your opinion of the destination itself. There are stories of best friends travelling abroad together but to come home and never speak again or relationships really pushed to their limit. 

Here are some qualities to look for in the perfect travel companion:

Sense of humour 

When trains are delayed 15 hours or you have contracted conjuntivitus and a foreign Doctor has prescribed an eye patch – you need someone who will laugh it off with you. Travelling in a foreign country rarely goes to plan and besides, misshaps make for great stories. 

Interesting

Would you really want to sit on an overnight bus or spend the majority of each day with a dull person? Travelling with someone else means you will be in close confines for long periods of time. You need someone who you’re comfortable chatting to about anything. In saying that, you also need to be comfortable just sitting in silence.

While it’s natural to have conflicting opinions about things or places to see, it can work out for the best and force you to do interesting things you wouldn’t typically do.

Independent

If you and your travel companion do have different interests or priorities, you need to be independent enough to spend time apart. Maybe you want to go snorkelling in Dahab but your buddy wants to lie by the beach – who says you have to be together the whole time? A benefit of a group tour is that you can part ways with your mate and still be with other like-minded travellers on your tour so you’re never alone.

Low-maintenance 

On an adventure holiday, you have to expect to get sand all over you or wet hair from watersports and even a little sweaty if you’re doing an acitve activity. Evidently, a perfect travel companion needs to be up for anything and not a high-maintenance individual. Sleeping on a felucca in Egypt means there are no loos on board and glamping in the Sahara may not have internet or wi-fi facilities – it is the luxuries in life you need to be happy to life without for a short period.

In addition, a low-maintenance mate should be willing to try any food. The local cuisine is such a big part of any culture and while it’s reasonable if their stomach turns at the sight/smell of some out-of-the-ordinary local delicacies, it’s a great way to experience the culture and may even be considered rude to decline an offer.

Organised 

You don’t want to be a Mum on a trip – cleaning up after your mate; covering their expenses; or waking them up for an early bus ride. A good travel companion should be organised enough to remember their passports, not lose their belongings and be able to get to the airport on time, to name a few. It’s also a plus if they are not navigationally challenge and can read a map.

It can be difficult to find a friend or partner with compatible travel styles and personality traits but once you find them, you won’t want to let them go.

Vita Frederick, 23, loved holidays with her parents as a child. As with most teenagers, she then sought travel experiences with her friends. ‘It was great fun sharing experiences with my friends’, explains Vita, ‘but there was also a moment where I developed an appreciation for my earlier travel experiences. The important part for me is to enjoy both kinds of travel. Yes, the fun my friends and I have is, to be honest, age relevant but I can also share a different kind of enjoyment with my parents. As with most families, we have a shorthand and often known exactly what the other is thinking. Luckily, we also share a very similar sense of humour which is invaluable. My first trip abroad with friends was when I was 16. It felt terrific – very grown up and a little daunting which made it even more exciting. Since that holiday, I have naturally matured. I know planning is vital as are having contingencies if things don’t work out. Safety, money and simple common sense whilst away cannot be underestimated.

Now, when I go away with my parents, I am just as likely and capable of suggesting places, researching areas of interest and offering ideas of what we can do together. Time away with parents and those close to you can be as fulfilling and fun as with anyone else in your life.’

Whether our travels take us near or to more exotic locations, there are important elements to consider. Where we visit, time of the year and what we desire from visiting new places. Our expectations can vary enormously but one resounding truth is that it is who we travel with that can make a huge difference to the whole experience.  Our enjoyment is intrinsically linked to the person or people we choose to share these magical moments with.

Travelling to Festivals

in Features

Attending Festivals for many people is pure unadulterated joy. Whether it is amazing live theatre in Edinburgh, enjoying the delicious beer at Oktoberfest in Germany or observing the delicate beauty of cherry blossom
in Japan.

Every festival provides us with sights, sounds and smells to excite us, create thought provoking feelings or simply enchant us with inspirational visions.

Festivals have both social and economic angles. In the chaotic and stressful planet we inhabit, happiness is overshadowed by negativity and insecurity and so the need for something that could bring positivity has been felt time and again. Thus, festivals that give us the opportunity to forget all our worries and celebrate the positive side of life, even if it is for a few days, came into existence.

Festivals act like stress relievers and help us balance our emotions. More positivity naturally lowers negativity. It also provides an opportunity to reduce stress and brings estranged friends and relatives together in a positive and life affirming way.

EVENTS

Think of a festival like a giant themed party. It’s a place where thousands of like-minded travellers get together to celebrate the thing they love most, from electronic music to classical theatre, contemporary art and even films. The exhilarating, shared experience of a festival helps travellers connect to new people, new sights, and revelatory sounds, familiarising them with the place.

Festivals are one of the biggest reasons for visiting a destination during peak season. It’s inspirational when a town or city is in full bloom with a heady mix of locals, visiting performers, high-brow art and excitable tourists. 

Festivals are a one-stop destination for full immersion in a particular genre or field of interest. For days at a time, travellers can immerse themselves in a variety of activities, performances, demonstrations, and exhibits related to a topic they love.

A gathering of likeminded souls is a particularly unique emotional experience. Naturally, celebration is the ultimate goal but international festivals serve as educational functions as well. These events are curated by experts and carefully coordinated months in advance. An international festival can be a springboard for learning about regional cuisine (oysters in Ireland or white truffles in Italy) or discovering local music and theatre.

Whilst visiting a festival location, there is an opportunity to also visit prominent architectural landmarks or public parks and gardens. Whatever your particular interest is, undoubtedly it will be a memorable experience so plan your trip around a visit to a summer festival. 

Everyone wants to have a fun, unique experience while they are on holiday. One of the easiest ways to ensure that you will have an interesting trip is to plan around a local festival. Festivals offer a huge insight into the area’s culture and are a great way to try something unique and memorable.

There are many exciting reasons why you should plan a trip around a festival. If you are planning a holiday, consider these insights.

Festivals are Fun

One of the biggest reasons why people travel is to have fun and to enjoy experiences. A local festival can be the perfect reason to travel with friends. It does not matter if you are driving, using public transport or flying overseas –  you know you will discover something exciting to do at a festival.

Visit a New Location

If you are planning around an event, you may be surprised by where your journey takes you. Many festivals are in cities you might not usually consider traveling to. You will learn and appreciate a lot about the local culture and leave with a new understanding of the area. Festivals provide significant insight into the people, history and dynamics of a city. There are numerous festival locations closer to home that can be easily overlooked. They equally can offer an amazing, thought provoking experience.

Experience Something 
Unique

It is no secret that every city has something different to offer travellers. A trip to the La Tomatina festival in Spain is going to be nothing like the Burning Man gathering in the USA. 

It is not essential to travel far to get a unique experience. Before selecting a festival, think about the things you like to do for entertainment. Then, look for festivals that offer these elements with a unique angle. This will allow you to create a truly unforgettable experience that you will really appreciate.

Meet New People

Festivals are a great way to meet new people. You will no doubt meet tourists and locals alike during your stay. This helps you to learn and absorb more about different cultures in your own country or around the world and form lifelong friendships. Your new companions may even have some helpful suggestions on how to enjoy the festival or the location.

Explore Somewhere New

One of the greatest aspects of travelling to a festival is that it doesn’t limit you to the usual tourist traps. While major cities like London, New York and Sydney host major festivals, it is surprising what smaller cities have to offer in terms of an incredible experience. Local festivals may be smaller in size, but they can provide some amazing, unforgettable moments.

Anna Wilton, 38 from London has attended festivals since her teens. ‘I love going to festivals. The feel good energy they produce is unbelievable. Music festivals in particular generate a vibe that runs through everyone there but other gatherings can produce a calmer, collective environment.  There is a particular feeling you can only experience when a group of people who all love the same thing, are enjoying it together. That only makes a festival a unique experience. The memories I have made often keep me going when I feel a bit jaded so from a personal perspective, I have found visiting festivals a really positive part of my life.’

If you are starting to plan your next getaway, consider looking for a festival that appeals to you. There are a surprising number of unique locations and events for you to enjoy.

The Gibraltar Property Insight

in Features

Consumers Guidance regarding Hiring a Builder launched by the OFT.

The Office of Fair Trading has issued a consumer guidance note highlighting some of the important considerations one should keep in mind when hiring a builder to carry out small building works or refurbishments. 

This is part of their 2022 Consumer Awareness Programme aimed at assisting local consumers when dealing with businesses. This guidance document specifically focuses on dealings with builders (local or foreign) in relation to small works or refurbishments which are often negotiated and agreed informally without the formation of properly written contracts. 

It is often the case that issues arise in works of this nature. The Office of Fair Trading has reportedly received many complaints of unlicenced and unregistered non-Gibraltarian businesses providing a sub-standard level of service (often whilst undercutting local businesses). In such situations there is often very little that can be done to rectify the issue or recover any losses you may have suffered. Read the guidance note to find some tips on how to help prevent any potential issues when hiring a builder for your next home renovation!

For any concern relating to contracting builders or dispute in relation to your property, please do contact us on +350 20079000.

Jesse Monteverde, Associate at Hassans International Law Firm Limited, jesse.monteverde@hassans.gi 


Consumer Guidance Hiring a Builder

As part of its 2022 Consumer Awareness Programme, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is issuing guidance with practical information to assist local consumers when contracting with a builder for small building works or refurbishments. These works often run into the many thousands of pounds and can cause severe stress and financial loss for consumers.

The small building works and refurbishments sector locally is generally informal and this culture can give rise to issues during or after works are carried out. Without the formation of proper written contracts, it is hard to establish what was agreed with builders and this leads to discrepancies with expectations.

The OFT also receives complaints in relation to unlicensed and unregistered non-Gibraltarian workers carrying out sub-standard works locally. They can often undercut prices from well-established and trustworthy businesses, however when things go wrong there is often little that can be done to rectify the issues or recover consumers’ losses.

Common complaints received by the OFT relating to home improvement contracts, concerning, but not limited to, breach of contracts and bad workmanship have been used to compile this guidance. 

This guidance will focus on:

  • Finding the Right Builder
  • Getting Quotes from Builders
  • Contracts and Payments
  • Check list before going ahead with the works

Finding the Right Builder

When looking for a builder, some background research will help you make the right choice. Note that good builders are often in demand and there is a lot of work for them in Gibraltar. It may therefore take some time before they can make themselves available to you. It may nevertheless be worth waiting rather than rushing into a contract with a business who may not have good credentials. You may therefore wish to take the following points into consideration:

• Ask friends and family for recommendations. Speak to those who have had similar works done and ask them about any problems they experienced;

• Ask to see the works carried out by a builder for other clients and scrutinise these to see if you would be happy with the same quality workmanship;

• Check the business is well established in Gibraltar. Ideally it should have a physical local address and has been trading in Gibraltar for some time. Be wary if the business just gives you a mobile number;

• Check that the business holds an up to date Business Licence that covers the area of work they will be conducting for you. This applies to any foreign businesses that will be carrying out works for you locally. (Ask them for a copy of their Business Licence or conduct a search at the OFT for £5.00). This will go some way to ensure you are contracting with a properly formed and accountable businesses in case things go wrong;

• Check the builders have appropriate qualifications or experience for the works to be carried out. They should be able to show you a portfolio of previous works they have conducted to ensure competency with the works they will be undertaking for you;

• If the builder will be conducting electrical works for you, check that they have the necessary certification from the Gibraltar Electricity Authority. An unqualified electrician is not only dangerous, but it may require you to engage with a qualified electrician in the future to get the works approved;

• Check the business has appropriate insurance for the works to be conducted. If a business is not properly established it may invalidate any insurance, including your own household insurance;

• A good builder should be able to give you options, solutions and advice on your proposed works.

Getting Quotes from Builders

As Gibraltar is a small community we often have a level of personal relationship with the businesses we engage with. As a consequence, we may at times compromise the fundamentals of forming a solid contract that offers appropriate protections to both parties. It is therefore important that your contract with the builder is based on an appropriate and accurate quote or estimate irrespective of the level of relationship you have with them. This will help reduce problems in the future.

The OFT has dealt with numerous disputes where WhatsApp has been the only means of written communication between the parties. As a result, it is hard to establish what exactly was agreed between them. We therefore recommend that you consider the following:

• Ask your chosen builder to give you a written quotation itemising all of the work which they are going to carry out. It is preferable to have a firm price rather than an estimate as it will give you certainty.

• Ensure that the full scope of works you require, including cost of materials, scaffolding, disposal of rubble, ‘making good’ etc. (no matter how small), are set out in writing otherwise these can be disputed as not included in the price in the future and may lead to further unexpected expenses. Query any expenses that you do not understand;

• Whatever the size or nature of the job, obtain more than 1 quote or estimate (preferably 3) from different businesses;

• An accurate quote or estimate can usually only be provided with a visit to your property, so be wary of any pricing provided without an organised visit first. Use the visit to know more about the people who’ll be spending days, weeks or even months in your property;

• Take time to carefully consider your options. A reputable business would never pressurise you into a contract;

• Be wary of requests to pay for the works in Euros. You will be susceptible to changes in exchange rate and such requests could indicate that the builder is not adequately established, licensed and/or registered in Gibraltar;

• You may need permission from the Department of Town Planning & Building Control for the works you want to carry out. Be clear as to who will deal with any permissions required. If you already have plans or drawings with town planning and/or building control approval, supply these to the builders so they can prepare the quotes accurately. For more information about the Department of Town Planning & Building Control’s requirements visit their website. (https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/town-planning)

• The cheapest estimate/quote may not necessarily be the best. If an estimate/quote from one builder is considerably cheaper than others provided, ask about the disparity in pricing. Think about whether there is a misunderstanding about the nature of the works to be carried out or if the quality of works is being compromised as a result of the low price;

• Make sure that estimates/quotes indicate the time for completion of works. This information should also be included in the contract. If completion by a certain date is of the essence, make sure this is included in the contract;

Contracts and Payments

When you appoint the services of a building contractor you are entering into a legally binding contract with them, even when there is no signed written contract. The OFT would nevertheless strongly recommend that any contracts are provided in writing (even if it’s by e-mail) so there is no room for ambiguity and as such mitigate any potential problems. Do however note that you will be legally bound by whatever is stipulated in the contract.

The OFT has noted that many communications between businesses and consumers are now conducted by WhatsApp and other social media platforms. It is therefore important that these messages are not deleted inadvertently and that the final agreement / contract is sent by email or other written form.

The OFT recommends that the following points are taken into consideration before entering into a contract with a builder:

  • It is automatically implied in all contracts that the business owes you, the client, a duty of care and that works done will be free from defects or hindrance for a reasonable period of time. This does not need to be in writing as it is a right afforded to you in law;
  • Any guarantees offered by the builder should be offered to you in writing as part of the contract;
  • Make sure the contract clearly sets out who is responsible for the management and c payment of any materials and any subcontractors that may be required;
  • Agree on the payment arrangements before the works start and make sure these are stipulated in the contract. It is common for a builder to ask you for interim payments as the job progresses. If this is the case, you may want to negotiate and introduce some form of retention of monies to safeguard your position in the event that works are not completed adequately. This could be a certain percentage of interim payments, that is paid upon completion if the works have been effected as per contract. The OFT recommends that you never pay the whole amount up front;
  • Insist on a receipt for every payment you make and/or avoid paying in cash;
  • Although it is expected within any contract that the job is to be completed within a reasonable amount of time, it is important that a completion date is agreed and stipulated in the contract. When time is of the essence, consider introducing penalties for every week that the works being carried out are delayed without reasonable cause.

Check list before going ahead with the works

  • Is the business well established locally and does the business hold an appropriate business licence? 
  • Can they be reached in case of a problem?
  • Have you checked their competency for the works they are to conduct? 
  • Do they have appropriate insurance? 
  • Do you have a written contract with them that includes a breakdown of works and costs, payment schedule and completion date? 
  • Do you need approval for the works from the Department of Town Planning & Building Control? 

Contact us 

We hope the above is of assistance. Please contact the OFT’s Consumer Protection Team if you: 

  • have any queries; 
  • have encountered any problems; and 
  • feel that we have omitted anything important from this guidance. 

Email: consumer.protection@gibraltar.gov.gi 

Tel: 20071700 

WhatsApp: 56002998 

Web: www.oft.gov.gi


Home Must Haves

Words by Kathleen North

The reasons we choose particular properties are varied, usually practical and frequently based on an emotional feeling about the property.

A privately positioned garden, central location or a garage are all essential requirements for some people.  

For others, the vibe a potential home emits is incredibly important. A house may be aesthetically appealing but if it does not feel welcoming or you cannot envisage living in that space – no amount of bedrooms or south facing garden will persuade you to live there.

Do our preferences and priorities change  over time? Almost certainly but at the moment of viewing a possible home, we have to be led by the life we are leading and those we are sharing it with at that particular time.

Honesty is also crucial when choosing a home. Your friends maybe avid gardeners but if you have little interest in gardening and no younger children to consider, perhaps it doesn’t need to be a  high on your must-have list.

A sizeable property with several rooms may seem the height of prosperity but if you are living alone or just two of you, are multiple rooms really necessary? More cleaning and maintenance involved as well as heating them during the colder months. At the moment, that is an increasing cost we can certainly do without.

Here are a few areas of consideration when choosing your new home:

Neighbourhood

The neighbourhoods that appeal to you will essentially be a matter of personal choice. However, a truly great neighborhood will have a few critical factors in common: accessibility, appearance, and amenities. Your neighborhood may also dictate the size of the lot on which your house is built.

In terms of accessibility, you should look for a neighbourhood near a city’s major transit routes, which has more than one entry point. Commuting to and from work is a big part of many people’s days, so a house with easy access to roads and public transportation will be more desirable than one tucked away and can only be accessed by one route. Shady trees, quality landscaping, and nearby parks or community spaces tend to be desirable.

You can also judge the neighbourhood’s popularity based on how long homes in that area stay on the market; if turnover is quick, you’re not the only one who thinks this is a desirable place to live.3

A great neighbourhood should also include essential amenities such as grocery stores, shops, and restaurants. Most people like to frequent places that are convenient. Research the local public schools even if you don’t have kids or plan to have them. A reputable public school district can boost an area’s home values and figure into the profit you can realize when you want to sell. Also, you’ll want to attract the greatest number of potential buyers. Many buyers target neighborhoods with strong public schools.

Garden or Outside space

The majority of us desire a garden or at least an outside space.  Naturally, a significant size garden is preferable but simply having any amount of outside area brings a feeling of wellbeing and calm.  We are not all gardeners and for some, maintaining a garden is extremely challenging.  However, a small patio with a chair and table can provide hours of outdoor tranquility, not to mention fresh air. It is that sense of moving from indoors to another area that creates a real physical and emotional boost.

Number of Bedrooms

Of course we choose a home that can provide enough bedrooms for the family and any possible additions that are planned. For those who frequently have family and friends to stay, a guest bedroom is a huge plus point. An extra bedroom can be utilised for guests, an office – maybe even a mini gym. Whatever your choice of use, it gives a home a sense of space when other uses and activities can be part of your life.

Windows in bathrooms are not a necessity but provide the ventilation and fresh air that even the best extractor fan cannot offer. After a steamy bath or hot shower, throwing open a window immediately freshens up the room whilst preventing condensation. 

Public Transport links

However beautiful, spacious and inviting your home is, without the ability to travel and visit other locations, an individual may feel isolated. A significant percentage of us drive or have access to a car but there are those who don’t drive and perhaps members of the family who may need to use public transport to attend school or have to travel by bus or train for various reasons. Living in a gorgeous home in a quaint village can be idyllic but being in a geographical position where you cannot get to anywhere else can soon make this particular dream feel a tad tarnished. A home needs to fulfil our living requirements both inside and outside the property.

Storage

The wonders of extra storage cannot be underestimated. Whether you have inbuilt units in your bedrooms or particularly generous cupboard space in the kitchen, having plentiful space is a must-have for many of us. If a property can offer a shed, loft or external storage space, it can considerably increase the desirability of a property. No matter how much decluttering we do, there will always be a necessity for storing everyday items as well as accumulated bits and bobs we cannot bear to get rid of. 

Choosing a new home is an exciting time in our lives but not without it’s challenges. Each of us have our practical, geographical and emotional must-haves when deciding.  It is a positive and logistical move to prioritise what is truly important to you and then you will experience the most satisfying and fulfilling aspects of your new home.


What home insurance covers and what to look for in your policy

Home insurance lets you protect your most valuable asset – your home – and what’s inside. Without it, there’s nothing to shield you and your family from serious financial losses in the event of a fire, flood, theft, or another destructive event.

But, to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing all your valued possessions are insured, you need to know what home insurance covers. When you understand the benefits and what to look for, you can ensure you have the right coverage.

Read on to learn about the benefits of different types of home insurance and what to look for in your coverage.

What Does Home Insurance Cover?

There are typically two main sections on a home insurance policy – buildings cover and home contents cover. Building insurance protects the structure of your property, including the floors, walls, and roof, while contents insurance covers your belongings that aren’t attached to the building, such as furniture, clothing, and art.

When buying home insurance, you can choose a building insurance policy, a content insurance policy, or a packaged policy that includes both.

The Benefits of Home Insurance

You don’t legally have to purchase home insurance, but good coverage comes with benefits you probably don’t want to go without.

Critically, you don’t have to worry about what you would do if something terrible happened. If a fire burns down your house or a burglar steals your valuable possessions, your home insurance will cover some of the costs of rebuilding or recouping your lost items.

Here’s a more detailed look at the benefits of home insurance:

  • You get financial protection for covered events – these usually include storms and flooding, fires, smoke, lightning, theft, falling trees and branches, frost damage to internal pipes, and water or oil leaking from pipes or HVAC systems.
  • You can qualify for a mortgage – you’ll need adequate building insurance before you can get a loan for a new home or investment property.
  • You don’t have to worry about accidents – if your policy includes accidental damage, then spills, breaks, and other reasonable accidents are covered, whether caused by you or a tenant.
  • If a disaster makes your home unlivable, you’ll have somewhere to stay – with alternative accommodation cover, you’ll have a place to stay until your home is repaired or rebuilt. This feature is usually included in building insurance, but not every policy includes it as standard.
  • Your items are safe even when travelling – home contents insurance will protect your belongings in the house if you’re away for less than 30 days. You can also opt for ‘all risks’ cover, which protects personal possessions you’d typically carry on your person – like your iPad, watch, glasses, or handbag.

What Type of Home Insurance Do I Need?

Different people will need different types of home insurance – to help you decide what’s best for you, here are examples of who might need a certain type of coverage.

  • A landlord might get a policy with building insurance to cover the structure only. If they have furniture and other items in the property, they might opt for a policy with building and home contents insurance.
  • A homeowner with a mortgage may have to purchase building insurance to satisfy their lender’s home insurance requirement. The homeowner will also want contents insurance for their clothing, jewellery, and other belongings in the house.
  • A renter doesn’t need building insurance – that’s the landlord’s responsibility. But they might decide to get home contents insurance to protect their belongings. The average home has contents worth over £35,000, so, even as a tenant, it’s a good idea to have coverage in case of a fire, flood, or theft.

What to Look for When Choosing Coverage

Every policy is different, so it’s important to make sure yours includes coverage for the things you want to protect.

A standard building insurance policy will cover the structure, as well as fittings and fixtures that are attached to the structure like showerheads, bathtubs, and lighting fixtures.

But there are other types of cover that may or may not be included. Look for these features in your coverage. If they’re not included but you need them, ask your home insurance company about adding them to your policy.

  • Cover for physical improvements
  • Cover for loss of rent
  • Cover for the structures outside of the home like a shed or pool

Home contents insurance covers personal belongings in your home, but you should find out if there is a limit on individual items to see if you need to purchase extra protection for your high-value possessions. For example, if there’s a £1,000 limit, your £10,000 painting isn’t covered.

How to Get the Best Home Insurance for You

Home insurance is an important investment because it can turn some of life’s most challenging events into manageable experiences.

But the reality is that everyone has unique needs when it comes to protecting their home and belongings. To ensure you’re getting the best policy for you, know what coverage you need and choose a policy that has the features you want.

At Masbro Insurance, we can tailor your coverage to your individual requirements. Learn more about our home insurance and request a quote today.


Welcome to the Jungalow

House plants are must-haves for the new generation of proud plant parents – fact! 

It’s a game of wordplay – jungle meets bungalow – ta-dah! 

You don’t have to actually live in a bungalow to enjoy the benefits of this virtuous style – it works in ‘cozy’ apartments and palatial spaces alike! (Ironically) a popular style in ‘concrete jungles’ where it’s all about bringing some natural goodness in, create an ‘indoor jungle’ with an abundance – as in, you literally can’t have too many, of easy house plants in different sizes, shapes, and textures. And just so you know, it’s absolutely okay to talk to your plants, and even give them names – we’re all guilty as charged! 

But don’t stop there! Jungalow style has a bohemian spirit, so wanderlust away with travel-inspired brights and patterns woven through natural textures, wood grains, and baskets. Pop your leafy lovelies onto a colorful array of DIY plant stands for a carnival riot of personality in any space. 

So if you’ve been waiting for a sign to turn your home into a magic treehouse, this might just be it. Keep reading for all the details on the jungalow trend, and how you can re-create the look in your home.

‘Jungalow’ style defined

One of the reasons we love jungalow style is how exotic it seems, with designs that overflow in lush greenery and colorful bohemian textures. So it might come as a surprise that the trend was actually started in the U.S. by Los Angeles–based designer Justina Blakeney.

Ever since Blakeney first started her Jungalow blog over 10 years ago, there has been a steady stream of design accounts popping up on social media with their take on this whimsical trend.

How to make your home a jungalow dream

Before you rush out to buy every last plant from your local nursery, hear this: Jungalow isn’t just about the greenery; it’s also about the new bohemian aesthetic. 

Get the Look!

In Gibraltar we’re unquely placed to latch on to some of the elements of this white hot trend. Our proximity to Morroco and Spain   gies us access to stunning pots, rugs, and fabrics that will have the Instagram trendsetters green with envy. 

Use plants liberally

We don’t need to be experts in interior design to know that the Jungalow trend isn’t complete without plants – and lots of them, at that. But before you dash out to your neighbourhood nursery and bring home a haul of 20 plants only to have 3/4 of them die on you in the first three weeks, you’ll want to shop smart. 

The key to the jungalow aesthetic is to create an urban sanctuary – meaning you’ll want to have a variety of big leafy plants such as the Monstera Deliciousa or the Fiddle Leaf Figs to give you that lush rainforest feel. But to nail the aesthetic game, you’ll want to layer and stagger your indoor plants to give you a more natural feel of being surrounded by flora.

Parents of furbabies and little ones with itchy hands can opt for hanging plants such as English Ivy, Boston Fern, or Spider Plants. But besides giving you a cosy interior, plants such as Fuchsias or Gardenias can fit just nicely on the balcony and provide you with added privacy from outside views. 

Aside from their bountiful air purifying properties, you don’t necessarily need to build your green oasis with just real plants. Consider placing a few faux plants in the mix around your home to create a more cohesive look. Not to mention, you can add an element by dressing up your plants with colourful ceramic pots or rattan baskets.

Use rattan and woven furniture for the relaxed look

No longer are rattan, woven, and bamboo furniture confined to outdoor porches and gardens as these nifty pieces have hit the trend and are popping inside homes too. While the jungalow aesthetic is packed with eclectic elements, the beauty of rattan furniture is their warm and earthy tones which add a touch of calmness and cosiness to your home.

Those with tropical envy don’t have to limit themselves to Bali-esque chairs. You can instead pick up other rattan furnishings such as coffee tables and sideboard cabinets.

But if you want to start small then kick it off  with mirrors and woven baskets to store your knick-knacks.

The natural tones of rattan furnishings alone can do a number in making your home look flat so it’s important to pair it with colourful textiles and eclectic patterns to create a cohesive look. 

Add interest with colourful statement rugs and cushions

More is more when it comes to nailing the Jungalow trend and when it comes to soft furnishings, you’ll want to opt for vibrant hues and intricate patterns. Persian-style rugs, embroidered tapestries, kilim cushion covers, and even colourful pieces of furniture are surefire ways to nail the Bohemian side of the Jungalow aesthetic. 

A general rule of thumb is to compliment your earthy tones with pops of colour. Think of a bright yellow couch paired with a terracotta rug.

Opt for bold botanical wallpaper

Whether it’s an L-shaped dining nook or an entire section of your living room wall, an accent wall can work wonders to create a certain vibe and instantly transform your space. You can even get creative with wallpaper and choose to incorporate them in smaller spaces such as powder rooms or corridors to give your home some vibrancy.

Use intricate tiles for extra colour and texture

Jungalow isn’t just about styling. You don’t need to cover every inch of your home in botanical prints to achieve the look. Sometimes, it’s as easy as incorporating dimension, colour and texture in your tile choice.

If you’re at the starting line of your home reno journey, consider using browns, oranges, yellows and greens in your choice of tiles to draw that earthy feel in. You don’t have to stop at solid colours either. Pair your greens with patterned tiles for a splash of character.

Use trinkets, antiques and global accents for decor

On the surface, the Jungalow aesthetic can come across as chaotic but part of its appeal is the creative freedom to mix and match things that you love to achieve a quirky aesthetic that reflects your personality.

Start by styling – a.k.a. personalising – your home with knick-knacks, posters, and tapestries that you’ve sourced from your overseas holidays or cross boarder jaunts. And if you’re running out of ideas, you can turn to wicker items such as trinkets and paintings as well as statement ornate mirrors and throws to jazz up your space.

The Jungalow aesthetic is worth experimenting with whether you’re hoping to revamp your existing home or settle on a theme for your new abode. With these six tips in mind, you can easily transform your house into a bohemian oasis that will have others filled with house envy!

Volunteering Abroad

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Over recent years, an increasing amount of research into the mental-health benefits of volunteer work has emerged. 

Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, where mental wellness and mental health are being so widely discussed, acts of doing good for others seem more important than ever – and the effects are felt in multiple ways. 

It has been said that doing good for someone else interrupts tension-producing patterns in the brain and replaces them with a sense of purpose, positive emotion and higher confidence levels, and that people who volunteer feel a greater sense of satisfaction with their lives and consider their health generally better than those who do not.

You can build long lasting meaningful friendships:

A volunteer holiday is a fabulous way to meet people, especially if you’re traveling solo, as you will usually be a part of a larger group during activities on the projects. The uniqueness of the experiences can help you foster lasting and meaningful friendships with fellow volunteers from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds, and it’s an opportunity to learn about different cultures from all over the world. However, volunteer vacations are not just for the singletons – couples and families are welcome too (and most voluntourism organisations will offer options for group bookings.

Volunteering abroad together is a great way to strengthen relationships and spend quality time working together with those close to you.

You can enjoy an incredible experience for less money:

Volunteer vacations are often more inexpensive than your usual tourist package. Sharing accommodation with other volunteers (often fully catered) is much cheaper than spending your time in hotels in popular tourist areas and eating out at restaurants every night. However, bear in mind that accommodations can differ, so a volunteer needs to be realistic – you can’t always expect 5-star luxury when working in a rural location.

Another advantage of volunteering is that people you know may be willing to sponsor your trip, as it will be for a good cause. Using crowdfunding platforms, you could fundraise up to 100 percent of your travel costs and volunteering fees, while raising awareness of the projects and causes you are supporting in the process.

Therése Forssell is the Global Head of PR, communications & Events at Star Stable.

Therése previously taught in China and found the experience rewarding and inspiring. She explains ‘I received a scholarship from SIDA to study in China. There I met amazing people who took me to the old village Beichuan, that in 2008 had a horrible earthquake where many people died and many children lost their parents. The city was moved/ rebuilt in another area and the Beichuan village was kept as it was, so when I went there, I knew I had to help. I got involved with a few of the orphans in the new village. While I was there, I played with the kids, taught them English,  and supported in any way I could.

I have gained a lot from this experience. Never take life, family and friends for granted. I have learnt how much just a shoulder to cry on and good role models means to a small child. Back then I didn’t have kids of my own, so it has been a powerful journey to see how much impact my small actions had on these children’s lives.

The language barrier was the biggest challenge but it is amazing how easy it is to overcome this with kids; they always find ways to communicate.’

Tips for starting volunteering:

• First, ask yourself if there is something specific you want to gain from the experience.

• Meet people who are different from me

• Try something new

• Spend my spare time in other ways

• Experience a different way of life and new places

• Attempt the type of work I might want to do as a job

• Expand my interests and hobbies

• Use what I excel in to make a difference 

The best way to volunteer is to match your personality and interests. Having answers to these questions will help you narrow down your search.

You can assist individuals in empowering themselves:

Adding to the self-empowerment of people can make your time abroad more meaningful.

You can volunteer on a community development program that works towards the self-empowerment of local people. 

This may include contributing to public health awareness in communities, assisting people to learn English to up their employability, or you could run workshops with women to assist in the development of their professional skills and help increase their job prospects. 

Volunteering abroad with a responsible volunteer organisation like GVI allows you to travel with a purpose. It makes it possible for you to reduce your social and ecological footprint by taking part in activities that are both ethical and sustainable.

Before deciding on a program, ask yourself the following questions:

How will it benefit the local community?

Does the organisation respect the local culture?

What is the reason behind your volunteering trip?

What challenge will the end product assist in addressing?

Experiencing life goes beyond watching and wondering – it is about engaging, adventuring, and exploring. It is about all the people you meet and the memories you make along the way. From rewarding moments on project sites to weekends exploring with fellow volunteers, volunteering is an incredible way to experience life in its fullness. 

It is emotionally and physically satisfying to step out of our comfort zone and see what life has to offer whilst helping other individuals and communities.

Therése Forssell:

www.starstable.com

Travel Fashion

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Summer is nearly upon us which means it’s time to turn up the heat when it comes to your warm weather wardrobe. If you are the type who thinks a “beach wardrobe” only involves your favourite swimsuit and a basic cover-up, we’re here to tell you that it’s easy to take your beach style to the next level (although, incorporating a good swimsuit as part of your outfit is definitely important).

The idea is simple: Instead of packing every clothing item you own into one bag, strategically pick 10 to 12 quality items that can be mixed and matched to dress up or down. When building a capsule wardrobe for travel, select pieces that are interchangeable and can work in multiple settings. It is important to be mindful of the temperature and planned activities and select layering pieces that can be added or removed throughout the day.

It is practical to focus on versatile pieces that do not wrinkle, can keep you warm, withstand water and can be worn from day to night. Try keeping all of your items within one colour palette, to make styling easy.

It is practical to assemble a chic beach outfit that can easily take you from your towel to the town.  

Whether you love dresses, prefer all-black to colour or prefer to just throw a chic sarong over your bikini, there are so many ways to put together an easy outfit for the beach. Matchy-matchy looks are back in vogue and it is a style that is complimentary and adaptable.

Looking for the perfect swimwear for women can be a challenge. To find one that is both comfortable and flattering. There are so many different styles and cuts of swimsuits, so here is a handy guide to finding the right beachwear with holidays on the horizon. 

What to look for when choosing swimwear 

There are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing a swimwear, but comfort should always be the number one priority. It’s essential to try on swimwear beforehand to ensure a fit test for both lounging and swimming to avoid a wardrobe malfunction when diving in. The right costume would vary based on activities, as surfing or paddle boarding has more movement than sunbathing.

Wearing the right swimming attire is important. It can keep you safe and swimming for a longer period of time. It can also help maintain the quality of your pool. Because of this, proper swimming attire is considered to be a powerful investment.

Janaya Wilkins is the CEO and Designer at SLO ACTIVE. Janaya believes ‘The best way to travel is packing lightly and keep it minimal, creating a capsule wardrobe that allows you to swap out pieces for different settings to create a whole new look. Packing garments that can be styled in more ways than one, for example, a crop top or tankini that can be worn as swimwear, yoga wear or under a blazer for a more dressy look, can save space and time. 

SLO ACTIVE’s Retreat Collection was designed to be enjoyed in the ocean and on land. This includes jet-setting around the world, moving through airports, relaxing on a sun lounger, paddling into a wave or diving deep into the sea. The entire Retreat Collection is made from buttery-soft EVO – a luxurious Italian four-way stretch fabric made from castor beans, an innovative, totally renewable resource. It is The perfect fusion of luxury, sustainability, and durability.’

Travel Clothing 

Part of the fun of travelling is exploring everything a city has to offer. From treks and temples to restaurants and nightlife, your clothing has to work in a variety of settings.

It is sensible to be mindful to choose travel clothing that is stylish but not overly revealing. Take into account your travel destination and it’s religious and cultural expectations. A maxi dress can be worn practically anywhere but a low neckline can’t. A button up blouse is versatile but if it’s too sheer it might be too revealing. 

The importance of footwear whilst travelling cannot be underestimated.

Trevor Prior, podiatric surgeon and member of the Vionic Innovation Lab states ‘Wearing uncomfortable or ill-fitting shoes can have a negative effect on our personal wellbeing, body and health. When you are travelling, you are likely to be on your feet for a long period of time and it’s vitally important to have shoes which are not only comfortable, but they must fit well, provide support and are breathable too. That’s why the right shoes are potentially the most important items in your suitcase when you go away.  

My two pieces of advice are:

Don’t wait until you are on holiday to try your new shoes Break them in by wearing them for an hour or so at a time indoors. That way, by the time your holiday arrives, your shoes will have loosened a bit and your feet will thank you

Pick shoes with good support. Flip flops might be easy to get on and off, but closed shoes which hold the foot in place and have a thicker sole are going to be kinder on the feet.’

Packing for a trip is not easy especially if your goal is to pack light. Each item of travel clothing you pack needs to be relevant to ensure that you take the right items on your trip and avoid overpacking. The important point is to wear clothes that are comfortable, stylish and will work for you whilst travelling or at your destination.

SLO ACTIVE:  www.sloactive.com/

Vionic shoes:  www.vionicshoes.co.uk

Travel with us!

in Features

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.

Travel with us!

in Features

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

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