Friday, 26 October 2018

HOTEL SANTA CATERINA | LUXURY IN AMALFI




If you’ve read my An Italian Road Trip To Remember blog post you would have noticed that I mentioned the last hotel we stayed in in the Amalfi Coast as a key place to visit. I decided to give this particular hotel it’s own blog post as it was the most incredible hotel I have ever stayed at.

Hotel Santa Caterina really stood out for me on this trip, as I believe it was the perfect end to our holiday. It was luxurious, relaxing and beautiful. After busy few days in Naples, and driving down from Salerno, spending a few nights in Amalfi was just what we needed.


Hotel

The hotel itself is on the coast just past Amalfi, which means the majority of it is built along the edge of the mountain resulting in breath taking views of the sea, sunset and the rest of Amalfi. Although the hotel is set on the main road (access to positano, amalfi and ravello) the rest of the hotel is extremely quiet in comparison.



Our room was on the first floor. That said, we still had one of the most beautiful views. The majority of the hotel is built up with the beach bar and beach itself the lowest part of the grounds (sea level). Although the rooms are white, each room has so much character; from the beautiful tiled floors to the Mediterranean style bathrooms you can tell you are in an authentic Italian hotel.


For me, my favourite part of our room was the balcony. Waking up and walking to the balcony to see the views of Amalfi was just out of this world. I think the position of this hotel serves great as it’s a 10-minute shuttle bus away from the main Amalfi so you have the best of both worlds. You can easily get to and from, yet you’re far away to feel completely private.


Service

As a family run hotel the staff are incredible. From the cleaners to the concierge, each member of staff greets and wishes you a pleasant day. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in many 5* hotels all around the world, but none compare to Hotel Santa Caterina. One of the most thoughtful hotels with meticulous attention to details shines above anything else.

Having decided to drive around in Italy we rented a car and had the valet park the car over night for us. The next day when we decided to make our way to Positano we were greeted by the same guy who remembered us, our car, and brought it to the front in a matter of seconds. He also put a bottle of cold water for each of us in the cup holders which just sums up Hotel Santa Caterina for me. They go above and beyond making you feel welcome, accommodated and comfortable.

The staff pre-empt your next move and are constantly working hard to make your stay be hassle free. As the hotel is quite small it allows staff to become personable with guests and offer their services at a high rate.

Food

We initially were going to spend one evening in the hotel and make our way to Positano for dinner on the last night but decided to stay both nights as we were impressed by the food and service.

The hotel has two restaurants and a beach bar that also serves food. Breakfast and dinner are served in the main terrace restaurant where you are greeted by friendly staff. We were extremely lucky that each meal we went to have we managed to have a beautiful view overlooking the sea.

If you’ve ever seen Charlie and the chocolate factory then you’ll appreciate the fact that this hotel has a glass elevator that takes you from the main part of the hotel to the lower grounds where you’ll find the second restaurant, pool and beach area. It’s a sight not to be missed as you can see exactly where you’ll be heading whilst still admiring the views.


Pool/Beach
The pool is relatively small but for the size of the hotel itself, it doesn’t need to be bigger. The pool is salt water which is great for those days it’s a little too choppy to actually get into the sea.

The beach doesn’t have a shore, so if you’re not a strong swimmer stick to the pool. The beach is easy to access with steps but as it was too windy while we were there the staff had blocked it off and asked us not to swim as it’s a little dangerous.


Although the hotels along the coast are relatively small, Hotel Santa Caterina never felt too cramped or too busy. There are so many different areas in the hotel to go and explore that you don't feel like it's too small.

A huge thank you for Hotel Santa Caterina for hosting us. We had such a wonderful time here and I am looking forward to returning back to Santa Caterina one day.

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Thursday, 18 October 2018

AN ITALIAN ROAD TRIP TO REMEMBER


Positano Amalfi Coast


Italy. Oh Italy, you became my favourite place back in 2008 when I first visited you and ten years you welcomed me gracefully for my favourite trip ever.

2008 I fell in love with Italy. The food, the culture and the people had me mesmerised. I went with my dance group and we toured Cortona, Florence and Pisa. Over the years I visited other areas and fell more and more in Love with the country.

Over the last few years there was one trip that I couldn't stop thinking about taking. I wanted to do a road trip from Naples through Pompei and down to the Amalfi coast. The only problem was I had to convince someone to come on this trip with me. Luckily, my boyfriend was up for it so we started planning it back in June.


NAPLES

Our first stop would be Naples. We would spend two nights here before heading to our next stop. I wanted to visit the Naples as I knew it was famous for one thing I particularly loved. Pizza. Naples being the birthplace of my favourite food, I knew I had to stop off there and visit the best Pizzaria in town. L'Antica Pizzaria da Michelle, which was also featured in the 2006 book and movie Eat Pray Love (2010).


I've had a lot of great pizza in my life, in Milan, Rome and even my first night in Naples, but the pizza at L'Antica is out of this world. Named the best pizza in the world, there is always a queue to get in. Luckily, all our first attempts to go here failed as it's closed on a Sunday, Monday we were far too tired so I bargained with my boyfriend and said let's skip breakfast on Tuesday and head straight there as they open at 11 for an early lunch and then we'll make our way to our next hotel in Salerno.

Arriving just before 12pm we grabbed a ticket and was told the wait would be 20-30 minutes. By the time we left, people were being told that the wait would be over and hour and forty minutes. I highly recommend coming early for lunch if you're not prepared to wait that long.

The pizza here was one of my favourite things in Naples. We both went for a classic margarita as they only serve two types of pizza; margarita or marinara. I don't want this whole post to be about pizza, but honestly, if you're ever in the area I highly recommend visiting here.


HISTORICAL LANDMARKS

There’s so much history in Italy. Wherever you visit you will always find beautiful architecture and historical landmarks. Near Naples is Vesuvius, an active volcano that destroyed nearby towns back in 79AD. I really wanted to visit Pompei and Herculaneum. Growing up and learning about ancient Italy was something that I loved. I’ve always loved history and in year 7&8 I learnt Latin. I know extremely random, and totally not me, and although I wasn’t very good at the subject, I thoroughly enjoyed it and always dreamed of visiting Pompei. And fourteen years later I made that dream a reality.


Our first stop was mount Vesuvius. We wanted to hike to the top and see the crater. When climbing it was quite a cloudy day and we didn’t manage to see too much as it wasn’t very clear. However on our way down the clouds started to clear and we managed to get a better view. We really enjoyed this climb as it wasn’t too difficult and the paths are clearly marked.


After Vesuvius, we took a short ride over to Pompei to explore the ruins. If I’m honest, Pompei was a wonderful experience, but, it’s a little overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time.

It’s incredible to see how much of it is still in tact as the ashes created a layer of protection, but that said. There is so much of it. We kept walking and walking and it all started to merge and look the same. After heading back to the hotel we sat down and ended up watching a few good documentaries about the town, which gave us a lot more information than actually being there. We didn’t have enough time to visit Herculaneum but I’ve heard it’s a lot smaller and would probably be better to visit over Pompei.


SALERNO

Being that the first few days were touristic and extremely busy, I thought it would be best to stop off in the mountains for the next few days to relax. We booked a small boutique hotel up in the mountains a 15 minutes drive from the city of Salerno.

Salerno is a lot smaller than Naples, but I still recommend coming to visit here on your drive down to Amalfi. It’s another beautiful coastal city that’s vibrant, full of delicious food and beautiful views.


Here we found a wonderful gelateria called Punto Freddo. We loved it here so much that we went three times in less than 24 hours. Definitely try the lemon and the pineapple gelato. Prices are extremely cheap too, it worked out to be around 1 euro a scoop. In London, ice cream that good would cost 2/3 pounds a scoop.


AMALFI

Our final stop, the Amalfi coast. I’ve been dreaming of visiting here for the last four years as I haven’t stopped seeing it on Instagram. Amalfi is possibly the most romantic place I’ve been to so far and I’m so happy I got to go here with my boyfriend. I can’t imagine have come here with anyone else.



We stayed in the beautiful Hotel Santa Caterina (full review to follow) which meant we were only an hour drive away from visiting Positano; another dream destination of mine. Upon arrival to Amalfi we decided to spend the day at the hotel because it was absolutely incredible and driving from Salerno was around an hour and half so we wanted to stretch our legs out a little.


The next day we drove down to Positano to visit the beaches and walk around the town. We found a parking garage as close as we could however if you can find roadside parking do, as the car parks are quite expensive.





Positano is absolutely breath taking. We took in the views in total silence, as it was incredible.  If you want to see authentic Italy, look up and take in the views. The buildings and architecture is insane. It’s something you have to see for yourself to understand just how beautiful it really is.


The only thing about Positano was that prices were unnecessarily expensive. The car parks, the toilets and the clothing shops, everything was a tourist trap. Dresses that would normally be between 20-50 euros were over 200 euros. So be prepared that this will be your most expensive stop on the trip in comparison to the other towns.


DRIVING IN ITALY

When I initially suggested hiring a car everyone told me not to. My boyfriend himself was a little hesitant, as he had heard from friends who have driven in Italy before that they ‘drive like crazy’ out there. And the reality is, they do, you have to be extremely alert while driving. Personally I chose not to drive out there and just be in charge of navigation.

While driving in Italy is completely different to the UK, it is still doable. We rented a car from the airport and used Google maps to get us around. In the streets of Naples there are so many cars, every car and moped has the right of way so you have to be extremely vigilant while driving, not only watching the roads, but watching what every other car is doing too.

Heading up and down the mountains weren’t too bad to be honest. Although the roads are narrow, drivers become automatically more careful beacause of this. We were extremely lucky in the fact that we decided to head from Amalfi to Positano at times that weren’t too busy. Most tours and buses head out early in the morning so skip the morning rush and head out your hotel around 11am.  Also head back way before these buses are on their way back.

Renting a car gave us so much freedom, we were able to go and travel to the places that we wanted to without wasting time waiting for buses and taxis. For us it made the whole hotel hopping so much easier too. Just make sure you purchase the extra cover while booking the car and make sure that your hotels have their own private car parks for over night parking.


LUGGAGE

For my trip to Italy I opted to use my Samsonite Red Cosmolite in medium. I decided to go for a medium suitcase as I knew we would be travelling around quite a bit and didn't want to have to lug around a huge suitcase like I normally do. 

The cosmolite is super lightweight in comparison to other hard shell cases. This meant that I wouldn't struggle with luggage allowance like I normally do and was able to add more of the heavier items I usually end up leaving back home.

In terms of space, It looked a lot smaller to what I'm used to but I still managed to fit so many different outfits and extra bits in the suitcase, plus more because it was so light weight.

I feel like I have gone really in depth on this trip because it really was one that I spent a lot of time planning and researching. Having experienced it all first hand, I can tell you that it was an absolute dream and I’m already planning my next visit. This time I’ll fly in to Rome as my boyfriend has never been, stop off in Naples for THE BEST PIZZA in the world, then down to explore the rest of the coast such as Capri, Sorrento and Ravello.

Would you want to do this trip? Does driving in Italy sound fun to you?

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Friday, 12 October 2018

IS SOCIAL MEDIA RUINING MY MENTAL HEALTH?







With it being world mental health awareness day earlier this week it had me thinking about my own mental health. I don't want people thinking I'm jumping on the mental health bandwagon as they like to say. It's just something I felt compelled to share today.

In my late teens and early twenties I was confident, very strong minded and was never afraid of speaking my mind. But over the last year or so I have noticed a big change in myself. And I really think blogging and social media has a big part in it.

In the beginning, my blog gave me so much confidence. It was something I started as a hobby over five years ago and people around me never understood. I always felt like it was a constant battle. My blog against everyone else and their snide remarks. Slowly, my hard work had started to pay off. Brands started contacting me and I started getting free clothes and make up. Later, I'd start partnering with brands and making money, until I took the plunge and made blogging my full time job.

Fast forward three years later; my confidence is completely lacking in comparison. Over the last few years blogging has come along by leaps and bounds. More and more people are bloggers and with the introduction of Instagram people started to become influencers.

In the grand scheme of everything this is amazing. But for my mental health it's really been something I've struggled with over the last year. I feel more doubtful of myself than ever.

When I first started blogging I'd go to all these events alone and come back having made 3-5 new friends. I'd just talk to anyone and I started to have this huge group of friends that I could meet up with, take pictures and talk all things blogging with. And it was fantastic. I'd be on such a high after an event, I'd meet up with these new friends weekly and was always out of the house doing cool new things.

But the last year or so, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Do I still enjoy blogging? Yes. Do I still want to continue my career as a blogger? Definitely. But I need to share how I'm feeling in order to be able to move on and hopefully, by sharing this, others who feel the same way know that they too are not alone. It's not that I feel like this all the time. But these feelings seem to creep up on me more so now than ever.

I've noticed that slowly I've stopped going to events, I've stopped meeting up with friends and I no longer reach out to people like I used to.

My job means I spend a lot of my time in my room, alone, looking on social media. And I have spent many a times comparing myself to every single other blogger out there. I micro analyse everything, their engagement, their collabs, their opportunities, and it just brought out this side of me I've never seen before. And I don't like it.

I've always been happy for anyone doing great in this industry as I know how hard everyone works. So why am I suddenly feeling this way? Is it that social media has made me insecure, has it made me bitter and jealous, is social media ruining my mental health? I don't know, possibly.

And the crazy thing about all of this. The sensible me knows what's going on and that I only feel like this every now and then. I also know that there are people who look at me and think the same things about me and my career/life. But for some reason, I still can't stop myself from feeling this way. My rational self tries to reason, but my insecurities take over.

Comparison is a dreadful thing. It keeps you up at night, making you think you're not good enough. Telling you you're not pretty enough, slim enough, popular enough. People don't enjoy your content, that's why you're not getting invited to X,Y,Z. You're just not good enough. It has you having breakdowns out of nowhere, and for me, it makes me pull away.

I always pull away from people I love and people who care about me, because I don't want to burden them with my problems. As I write this blog post, I find myself breaking down again. This time not because of my insecurities, but unburdening myself and pouring everything into this blog post is like a weight is being lifted over my shoulders.

I know my loved ones will all read this and worry about me, and that scares me. But I started this blog as a way to help all the girls out there who need it and this is just something else I have to share.

A month ago I was with a family friend who's 13 years old. She was telling me how she can't leave the house because she has so much anxiety about the way she looks, that she'll never be as pretty as the girls on Instagram and never live the life that bloggers live. And it really upset me. It made me reevaluate everything. If I have these feelings as a strong 26 year old woman. What chance does a 13 year old girl have?

Social media is such a wonderful thing, it's bought so many opportunities to myself and so many other people around the world. But it's all built on this pretence of perfection. And i've had enough of it.

I am mentally drained and tired of seeing so much fakeness online. It's hard to imagine the mental state of the next generation. I'm not surprised to see so many high profile people fed up, so many bloggers and youtubers talking about their issues. This industry is so brutal. Your brain is constantly working, I haven't had a day off in five years. It's been about two months now that I don't post on Instagram everyday, but even when I'm not posting, I'm still online, engaging, interacting, creating new content, and it's so tiring.

I don't want you all to leave here thinking that I'm fed up and blogging is all bad. It's not, there's so many great things, but we get to see all the great things everyday. So I thought today I'd share the other side of me you don't get to see. And finish with one of my favourite quotes.

"This too shall pass"

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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

TRYING LVL LASHES FOR THE FIRST TIME | PERMING MY LASHES





When it comes to my eyelashes, I've never really given it much thought. I mean, I'd put mascara on and when I remember I use an eyelash curler. But the reality was, they weren't a focal point of my makeup routine.

Around a year and a half ago I tried eyelash extensions and I absolutely hated it. The length, the feeling, the fact I couldn't wash my eyes properly, so a week later with a lot of coconut oil I ended up removing them.

The one thing I liked about the eyelash extensions were the fact that my eyes looked wider and more awake, so when I heard about LVL lashes I knew it was something I needed to look into.

LVL lashes stand for length, volume, lift. And that's exactly what the treatment does. I recently headed to Marshall Street Spa in near Carnaby Street for my first ever LVL treatment. A week later and I can't stop raving about it to everyone. 

The treatment itself takes around 40 minutes and the results are instant. Think of LVL as a perm for your eyelashes, for the next 24 hours you are not allowed to get they eyelashes wet (like a regular hair perm). But after that, you can go about your normal life.

When you get LVL done to your lashes they also tint the lashes themselves so they appear thicker and fuller. If you're someone who loves going for that no make up look, this is the perfect treatment for you. Your lashes look really long and curled while still appearing super natural.

I was told there were two different types of LVL styles I could choose from, natural or dramatic. I went for the dramatic, but in all honesty, I don't think my lashes look dramatic. It simply means the material they curled my lashes on was smaller, meaning the lift of the lash would be more dramatic. And I am so glad I went for this one. I have never received as many compliments about my lashes.

After 24hours I decided to put on mascara to see what my lashes look like with them on and I was so impressed. It was as if I had fake lashes on without the discomfort. Lashes looked long, wispy and curled. And even better, after I removed the mascara, my lashes still looked as good as when I had just had them done.

In the photos above I have shown the before and after images with and without mascara on. As you can see the results are phenomenal. This treatment is currently £35 for an introductory price at Marshall Street Spa


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Friday, 20 July 2018

Why You Need To Go On A Yoga Retreat In Austria | Holzhotel Forsthofalm







The last few months have been filled with so much. I found myself travelling back to back with one day in London here and one day abroad there. They say travelling is good for the mind body and soul which is is. But I've found myself so exhausted from constant travelling that when my latest travel opportunity came around I couldn't resist it.

Those who know me know that I'm not much of an exerciser. I don't go to the gym and I sure don't do yoga. So I was very skeptical about a yoga/exercise retreat in Austria.  That said, the moment I landed I knew this was exactly what I needed.

When it comes to exercise, I would much rather sit at home on the sofa with a large pizza so I thought I would really struggle when it came to the classes at the retreat. But instead I was surprised. I was surprised at firstly, how much I enjoyed it and secondly, how much motivation I had. Especially on the last day.


In early July we headed to Holzhotel Forsthofalm in Austria which felt like a million miles away from the noise and overcrowding in London.

Landing early in the morning, we headed to the hotel 1050m up in the mountains where we were greeted by the lovely owners. A brother and sister who live and breathe everything to do with the hotel. They are so passionate about their hotel, their beliefs and making each of their visitors feel at home that they are always found doing one job or another around the hotel.


We started our day with a walking tour lunch of the hotel. This entailed viewing different rooms around the hotel and each room offerring a different dish; salad, soup, ravioli and salmon...followed by a three course sit down full on lunch. One thing you will notice with Forsthofalm is that they are very keen on food. The food is absolutely delicious and there is so much choice.


After lunch we checked into our rooms and got ready for our first session of yoga. As a yoga novice, I can't believe how comfortable and relaxed I automatically felt. A week of yoga sounded quite daunting, but heading to the exercise class room and looking out the window to the beautiful mountains just made it all feel 100% right. Each of the exercise classes and hikes are free of charge. So if you're feeling adventurous, you can book yourself into any of the classes and not worry about any additional fees.

Yoga was followed by a quick shower and another four course meal. The menus change everyday as they use fresh ingredients. You have the option of meat dishes or vegan dishes as they cater to everyone. If you do not fancy the set menu, you can choose from the a la carte for an additional fee.


The next morning I woke up early to do a few shoots around the hotel and also to sit on my balcony and just take in where I am. Nestled in the trees on a mountain with views of other mountains is just insane!

Breakfast was followed by a hike on the ski mountain. During the winter Forsthofalm is a ski destination. During the summer or warmer months, once the snow has all melted, that same mountain becomes a sport for hiking, and the local farmer brings his cows there to feed on the grass. Once we arrived midway, we stopped and done some outdoor yoga. I never knew there were lots of different yoga methods. But I now know there are loads of different exercises and each create a different mood.


Another class we attended that day was jumping fitness. Although it looks super fun it is extremely difficult! I only managed to make half of the class as my hay fever was killing me, but I was exhausted after. We then headed to the outdoor fire area for a bbq that we got to cook ourselves. There was a large fire pit which they cleaned and added oil in which we could then lay our food on and cook. This is available for all guests to do, you just need to book it in advance. After the bbq, we made vegan pancakes with vegan toppings which were absolutely delicious.


Another thing that the hotel offers is a wonderful spa. The spa consists of massages and treatments two saunas, an outdoor heated swimming pool and a chill out room that has the most incredible views. When selecting your massage there are a range of different things to choose from and each choice results into the type of massage you will then receive. Usually spas are quite dark and lights are turned off, however at Forsthofalm, there are large glass windows in the spa rooms overlooking the beautiful scenery which made for a wonderful change.


That evening we again sat down for a delicious four course meal followed by cocktail making at the bar. The hotel bar is very rustic and cosy, I would love to visit in the winter during the skii months to see the large fire place set alight and drinking and Irish hot chocolate.


Each morning we started our day with a relaxing yoga session to help us wake up and stretch our muscles in preparation for the day. We then headed to Leoganger Klettersteig for a hike up 2160m. I thought this would be my least favourite activity, however it turned out to be my favourite. Hiking up a mountain, in between the clouds, listening to the fresh streams and looking at the vast greeeny and glacier just makes you feel super overwhelmed. I never thought I'd be doing something like this and I am so grateful for such an amazing opportunity. We filled our water bottles with the fresh stream and water never tasted sweeter to me.


We arrived back to the hotel to an outdoor picnic set up for us. So many delicious sandwiches, cheeses and sweet treats you can imagine. This was followed by our last class, bootcamp. By this point, we were all shattered and a few of our group decided not to join in. I myself was planning on skipping, but my legs took me to the class before I ever realised where I was going. Does this mean I was actually enjoying physical activity? Who knows, but I left feeling so energised and ready to take on the world.

I then headed back to my room for a wonderful bubble bath to relax my muscles and get ready for our last dinner.

The hotel itself is mainly built of timber wood. Each room has the wood on show and just makes you feel super calm. I usually struggle to sleep, I usually go to bed very late and end up laying in bed struggling to fall asleep. But since visiting this hotel my sleeping pattern has improved a lot more and it doesn't take me that long to fall asleep anymore.

Overall, the hotel is perfect during the winter for skiing, but during the warmer climate it has so much more to offer. From exercise, to hiking, to the relaxing spa, there is something for everyone. As someone who's not very outdoorsy, I highly recommend visiting Forsthofalm, even if it's just to look at the views because it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

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