The Meadow Cafe

A rustic interlude, bridging you from the coast to the city (however small this ‘city’ may be.) Located in the heart of St David’s, West Wales, The Meadow Coastal Cafe is one of the quirkiest, most homely cafe’s I’ve ever stumbled across. Here you can expect the freshest of Welsh flavours, from breakfast through to dinner, while still being able to hear the subtle sound of waves crashing on the beach.

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Breakfast is a my favourite part of any day, so when I’m sitting on the aromatic benches of pine outside this rustic cafe, waiting for my avocado and chilli on crispy honey toast, it’s even more exciting. After a beautiful first bite of toast, I sip my very berry smoothie, a blended concoction of blueberry, raspberry, banana and agave syrup. The presentation is just as exciting as the flavours.

 

A splendid execution of utter deliciousness…

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For lunch the choices are equally as enticing.

There’s sweet potato pakoras, feta and beetroot salad, homemade soup of the day, chilli con carne the welsh way, ham hock broth or the infamous ‘Grazed on the Meadow’ burger.

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The meadow is definitely a place to visit if you’re ever in St David’s. A cosy, rustic hub that offers feel good, hearty yet healthy food as well as evening entertainment, exciting events and lots of friendly faces.

 


W E S T W A L E S

St  David’s

Soaring hundreds of feet above the gentle stretch of the ocean, we climbed and we climbed. Well, first we strolled along dust paths, muttering the odd “Morning” to fellow dog walkers and passers by. Then we trekked further through scenery unspoiled by busy roads or tall buildings until eventually we embarked on something a little greater. A mountain that stood so proudly as if it was in charged it’s job was to oversee verything; the waves crashing against the rocks in the distance, the clouds that floated overhead and the many animals grazing on the patchwork blankets below.

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The salty sea breeze hadn’t traveled as high as we had. Instead, as we drew nearer to the summit, we were greeted with a much less fragrant, thinner air through which beams of sun shone. Our cheeks were warm, our faces fresh and our legs moved eagerly until we reached the very peak of Carn Llidi.


The hours that led up to our mountain climb consisted of strolling barefoot along Whitesands beach, sipping on blueberry smoothies in The Meadow cafe, tasting the much talked about Salted Carmel ice cream at Gianni’s gelato parlour, lighting a candle in St Non’s chapel, exploring Ramsey Head and, of course, visiting the awe-inspiring St David’s Cathedral.

(Blog post on The Meadow Cafe here)

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It’s getting to be a bit of a theme when I visit new cities in that I always end up coming across or, better still, entering a massive church of some sort.

Though it may not quite be as infamous as The Duomo, Notre Dame or La Sagrada Familia, St David’s Cathedral is enchanting nevertheless.

The main thing that struck me about this remarkable building is it’s sunken appearance. Set in a dip in the Pembrokeshire landscape this place of worship is the area’s most famous, and quite possibly it’s lowest, landmark. The way in which the cathedral has sunk into the city’s landscape is said to be due to it’s insufficiant original foundations (-and yes I did say city. However petite and un-city-like St David’s may seem, the cathedral itself permits the area this title.

Albeit an rather un-traditional (apparently Norman) design, this place of worship still entices and enthrals thousands of visitors every year with its scale, delicate design and it’s uncanny positioning deep, below sea level.

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The mere 24-hours we spent in this verdurous countryside were filled with only stimulating, rejuvenating and delicious things. St David’s is definitely one of those “get away from it all” places, which I’m sure we all crave from time to time. I hope you enjoyed reading all about my trip to West Wales – for more like this don’t forget to follow the blog and subscribe to the YouTube channel – @annavitality

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B A R C E L O N A

Planning a city break isn’t always easy. It’s not as simple as packing your bikinis, your beach towel, the sun cream and heading off for a week of relaxing on the beach. No. Going away for a shorter period of time, believe it or not, can actually be trickier. Not only to pack for but to organise… especially when you’re venturing to a city filled with fascinating culture and places of interest…. a city like Barcelona.

My goal today is to help make your planning a little easier…. that’s if you’re going to Barcelona some time soon. I might not be providing a specific itinerary but I am going to list five must-see places you just can’t miss in this amazing city as well a great place to stay and more.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.


  • WHERE TO STAY

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We couldn’t have stayed at a more ideal spot than Barcelona’s ‘U232’ hotel for our city break. Located in an area called Eixample, we were made to feel quite at home during our short stay. While still in a fairly busy area, it was a lot quieter compared to the main city centre. Stepping onto the balcony each morning I could gaze down at the Barcelona bustle; the meandering mopeds, tantalising taxis, and smartly dressed men and women -brief case in one hand, a coffee in the other and an iPhone balancing between shoulder and ear. The street below not only gave a sneak peak into the life of a local but it hosted cute little Catalonian cafes, rustic restaurants and then, at one end was the Hop-On Hop-Off bus stop and at the other was the AeroBus station.

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As for the the hotel itself , well, it was perfect for myself and mum -which is probably a rare thing to find. It had the just the right balance of contemporary design and modern touches with its chic entrance and classy roof top terrace, and yet it’s cinnamon and amber colour scheme combined with its bare wooden beams gave it the cosy accents it needed. It was the place we could call home for three nights, where we could crash out after long days of exploring this wonderful city.

  • WHERE
    Hotel U232 is located within the business zone of Plaza Francesc Macià, nestled between Avenida Diagonal and Paseo de Gracia, just steps away from the Hospital Clinic and Camp Nou.
  • PRICE TAG
    Approx £360 for a three night stay for a double room with breakfast.
    (Depends of course on who you book with and what time of year you’ll be going.)

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  • NEXT UP:  Top five things to do and see...

1. SAGRADA FAMILIA

If you’re visiting Barcelona, this is a must. So, it’s full name is actually the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família which translates as ‘The Church of the Holy Family’. Designed by architect AntoniGaudí (1852–1926), the building still has a long way to go until it’s finished.

History:  Construction of Sagrada Família started in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar but a year later Gaudí took over as chief architect and with this he transformed the project from having a traditional, Roman Catholic design to a combination of Gothic and Art Nouveau. When Gaudí died in 1926, not even a quarter of the project was complete! Work on the cathedral was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent/very little progress in the 1950’s. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, a form of cathedral, meaning ‘seat of a bishop’.

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Isn’t it mad to think that this building is so incredible and yet… it’s no where near completion? Some of the project’s greatest challenges are still yet to happen, including the construction of ten more spires, each of them symbolising a biblical figure. In fact, it’s anticipated that the building will be finished in 2026, a century since Gaudí’s death.

  • HOW TO GET THERE
    Tube: Line 2 and Line 5
    Bus: 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 and B24
  • TICKETS
    For buying tickets when you’re there, head to the ticket office at Carrer de Sardenya (or for group tickets it’s Carrer de la Marina). We bought ours here and did so a week before going to ensure we had a good time slot. Ours were £15 for skip the line entry…looking back we should’ve gone for the one that came with an audio guide which is £23 as it would’ve been really good to have some more information about the building when we were actually inside it.
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2. MONJUIC

Montjuic is actually the name of the hill, a pretty prominent one, that overlooks basically the whole of Barcelona and its harbour. The castle that sits upon this hill, Monjuic Castle, had a big part to play in the defense of the city, being on top of the city’s biggest natural elevation. Today, the area and the castle act merely as a touristic magnet.

Its foundations were built in 1640 during the period of Principality of Catalonia and it’s played a major (often negative) role in the development of Catalonian independence. During the Spanish civil war a dictator named General Francο used the castle to imprison and execute people…. how lovely. The views from the castle at the top of Montjuic however make up for it’s troubling history and it’s really worth a visit.

  • HOW TO GET THERE
    First you take the funicular, the upward train that pulls you up to Montjuic mountain. Once you’re off the train, right next to the funicular Station is the Cable Car. This takes you directly to the castle. Another option is to take the no.150 bus which also stops at the castle.
  • PRICE TAG
    The funicular ride takes less than 5 minutes from Parallel Station and if you already have a Metro ticket it’ll be included in that. The cable car is the £11.49 if you buy it from home, whereas on the day it works out a little more. That’s for both ways- up and down. If you want to go inside the castle itself which we didn’t, its €5 entrance fee (free on Sundays after 3pm) and is also free for the first Sunday of each month.

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3. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

I’ve always loved a good hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Not only is it a fun way to see and learn about a city you’ve never been to before but it’s also a great means of transport and getting around at your own pace. We chose the Turistic Bus tour which covered not two but three routes, each with stops at the best sites in Barcelona.

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We organised our days around the routes so we knew where we could hop on and hop off where it suited our plans. It came with a map which was pretty handy and also voice guide with about twenty different language options so I think, no matter where you’re travelling from, you’re good to go!  (Unless you’re a true Welshy -unlike me- as this Celtic lingo didn’t quite make the cut…)  The voice guide was as so interesting as it talked us through the history of the city and shared some really cool facts about the different sites and the people behind them.

  • DURATION | TICKETS
    1 day – £27 per person, 2 days, £36 | For tickets click here

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4. Tapas and Flamenco Evening

Enter the authentic, cobbled, picturesque Spanish village of Poble Espanyol and experience El Tablao de Carmen; an evening of tasting tapas, sipping sangria, and watching flamenco at its best. A combination of green olives, Iberian ham, cured cheese with rosemary, shellfish salad and a variety of rustic bread made for the tapas while a portion of succulent Spanish beef in a rich, red wine sauce with the creamiest mashed potato ever was served for the main. A magical, music-filled evening to remember.

  • WHERE | TICKETS
    Avenida Francesc Ferrer i Guardia, 13 | Poble Espanyol de Montjuïc. 
    For the full package (show, tapas, dinner and drinks) £55
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5. La Ramblas

Filled to the brim with quirky art stalls, lively musicians, street performers and treats for on the go, this bustling promenade is buzzing day and night. Cutting through the heart of the city centre Las Ramblas is just over a kilometre long, starting at Port Vell and ending at Plaça de Catalunya. Veering off the main street are many winding side streets where you’ll stumble across even more hideaway pizzerias, coffee houses, boutiques, markets, and picturesque historical buildings. La Boqueria is a food market along Las Ramblas that I fell in love with. To see what it’s like inside click here to watch my Barcelona Vlog.

Las Ramblas, along with Sagrada Familia, is another famous landmark that people identify with the city.

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And, there we have it; five of the best places to visit, things to do and where to stay when exploring this Catalonian City.

For places to eat, itinerary help, city break outfits ideas and even packing tips then stay tuned as these snippets will be in a new blog coming very soon! 


Anna Vitality x


K E F A L O N I A

When we think of ‘Greece’ many of us would envision postcard snapshots of Santorini or Mykonos, of pale villas with blue domes, of cobbled steps and white walls, romantically perched across hills. For me though, at the mentioning of ‘Greek Paradise’, I think back to the Grecian sun-kissed island of Kefalonia.

 

 

Why I found it so breathtaking…

Kefalonia surely has an appealing backdrop, featuring rugged rolling hillsides, the richest green and blue scenery, and some of the most blissful beaches in Greece. However, despite being the setting for the famous novel and film ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’, it remains unspoilt by mass tourism …which is probably why I liked it so much.

Located in the crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea, Kefalonia is not only a glorious place to go on holiday but is bustling with wildlife and is the home to hundreds of species of wild flowers. It’s well-known that since most of the land was destroyed in 1953 during a montrous earthquake the island has seemingly rejuvenated itself over and over again and, thanks to Mother Nature, it is now more vibrant and luscious than ever.

 

 

One of the fishing villages that survived the quake is the picturesque town of Fiskardo. The delicately coloured buildings and the flickering turquoise waters make up this serene, subdued setting… (It truly was an instagrammers wonderland!)

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Mid holiday, James and I took a trip to see the islands most talked about destination. Lake Melissani.

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Surrounded by dense forestry, featuring glistening greeny-blue waters and scarily pointy stalactites, this impressive cave will literally take your breath away. Discovered in

1951 and opened to the public in 1963, the magical subterranean world of Lake Melissani has become one of the islands most visited places, and I completely get why!

When seen in the middle of a bright sunny day -like we did- the rays of sun shining down make the water so clear that it almost looks as though it has disappeared. Only then is it truly magical as you can then see everything that lives within it.

Coming in second place after Lake Melissani is the post-earthquake town of Sami. When our coach dropped us off into the the center it was like visiting a small market town of the past. Sami is a very historical setting featuring Roman baths, original cobbled pathways, monasteries and Venetian bridges. From the harbour we took a boat trip out to Ithika which only took our breath away further.

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Lastly, I’ll tell you a little about the hotel, a hotel I’ve long lusted after.

The modern, majestic walls made up a place called Tesoro Blu, meaning ‘treasure of the sea’, an immaculate, contemporary place I could call home for ten days and ten nights. A place that exuded care-free bliss.

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Tesoro Blu hotel and Spa made our trip to this greek Island all the more special. It’s fresh, bright, palatial spaces greeted you as you walked through them. It’s staff made you feel like family and it’s food and drinks were sublime.

 

Built into the hillside and overlooking the ocean, this hotel was the perfect place to laugh, dance, sip, taste, swim, run, and relax with the one I love and simply enjoy the things in life that really matter to me.

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My experience in this amazing place has revealed a snippet of secluded, luscious perfection, that I hope I will encounter again one day.


 

Anna Vitality x


P A R I S

“Let’s go to Paris” he said. “We could go for your birthday, see Kenrick Lamar, tick another city off our list?”  he said.

Oh how clueless I was to what ‘Paris’ really entailed.


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It was freezing. Bloody bitter. But we didn’t care. We’d just arrived at our air bnb, had a quick freshen up and headed straight back out. We strolled around the corner (literally, the corner of the building) and there it was. One of the worlds most iconic structures.

La Tour Eiffel.

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We gazed up and took in it’s grandeur. Languages from all over the world, along with a bitterly cold wind, fluttered around us, welcoming us to the city while hundreds of unfamiliar faces glanced upwards, almost in unison, at this contrastingly familiar structure.

Less than half an hour goes by and I find myself posing for a photo, my man at my side, supposedly being told in French by a young student to “say cheese’ or something to that effect. James and I grinned, giggling slightly, as we posed in front of the group of teens, with the infamous landmark as our backdrop. “Just one more?” James said, as the Parisian indicated she was satisfied with her photography skills. So, back to our spot we shuffled to pose for one last snap.

Then …something magical happened.

At approximately five to three on the 24th February, just a few days before my birthday, just an hour after arriving in the most romantic city in the world, there he was…

My favourite person in the world. In front of the Eiffel Tower. Down on one knee.

Asking me to marry him.

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Of course I said yes!

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As you can imagine, I was rather comfortably sat on cloud 9 for quite some time and I wasn’t prepared to come down. It felt so unbelievably spontaneous and yet, unbeknown to me, dozens of our friends and family members were sat at home in Cardiff waiting eagerly for the “she said YES” WhatsApp to come through!

I cried, laughed and gleamed with happiness for a good 48 hours. Nothing else could top that feeling.

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Day 2.

Le Louvre was the first on my list of things to do (admittedly, slightly less nerve racking  compared to the first thing on James’ list!) We saw three rooms in the museum, viewed and examined countless, fascinating fragments from the past and were in absolute awe of everything.  It wasn’t until we were on our Hop-on Hop-off bus tour the next day that we were informed (via the pre-recorded guide over enthusiastic voice coming through our earphones) that to view every antique, artefact and monument in La Louvre it would take approximately two YEARS.

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During our trip, we saw the usual sights of Paris; l’Arc de Triomphe, La Cathédrale Notre Dame, and obviously, La Tour Eiffel. Here are some of my favourite snaps from our trip:

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M I L A N

After a two hour flight we reached Malpensa, a large but not hectic airport just half an hour from the city centre. It had been a busy morning and, albeit tired, we were excited for the weekend ahead. Another half an hour goes by (of which entailed various attempts at asking fellow commuters where ‘el trainio’ was) before we made our way to Cadorna station, where our mini holiday would begin. In just five stops our time to disembark was upon us and, for a few brief moments, I tried to embrace everything around me and log it somewhere in the depths of my mind. It was hot, but not uncomfortably so, and the tangy scent of an orange being peeled in the seat behind me floated lazily through the carriage. As the breaks screeched we looked eagerly outside to get a hint of the city we were about to explore. Yet peering in on us was nothing more than a red brick wall with many tangled branches creeping over its top, almost as though they were reaching out at us. For those few moments we just stood there, gazing at ruby bricks and the sunlight that squeezed through the gaps in those arm-like branches. Neither of us could wait to see what lay ahead of this wall. Neither of us could wait to get off and see Milan.

 


 

El Duomo di Milano

There it stood. Walls so tall they seemed never-ending, a door so grand I wondered if I should bow before it, sculptures so lifelike I feared they would flinch if a pigeon were to accompany them. It’s not very often a building can make you so curious. But then again, it’s not very often you come across a building like this one.

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The angelic yet hostile faces carved into the buildings exterior stared down at us as we stood at its feet and, I have to say, it was pretty overwhelming. It was so detailed, so intricate, so majestic. As I lifted my head to defy their stares I felt a whole cocktail of emotions being stirred up inside of me. I was intrigued and in awe, but also something else. Something else that I still can’t put my finger on. Something else that, only these walls, made me feel.

We walked towards the entrance door that was so beautifully detailed, seemingly portraying mini snippets of the bible, where we were told by the armed guards that we simply could not enter the building. Apparently my collar bone and shoulders were too exposed to enter such a place of worship and unless-they were covered up and kept out of sight -much like the contents of this cathedral- then we were staying put. With no means of concealing my décolleté we had no option but to re-think our itinerary. At this moment, the whole structure appeared to have intensified, as though we’d been defeated, and the feeling of inferiority, alongside curiosity, grew and grew.

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We then found that my oh-so unacceptably exposed shoulders were not such as issue if we wanted to go up and explore the Duomo’s rooftop terrace. Climbing the steps to the peak of the cathedral, observing it’s spiked towers, tiny windows, and scary gargoyles, reminded me of the Disney film ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’…. you’ll understand why it was this childhood movie that I recalled when you see my photos below…

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As the cool breeze danced around in the Italian heat we admired the city beneath us. From here, I felt slightly more at ease with the intensity of the building of which I was on top of. I was no longer beneath it, looking up, but I stood still and tall, as though I were carved into its structure, and gazed down, with it, at the tiny moving dots on the ground bellow.

Inside el Duomo

The next day I was thought ahead and, although it was going to hit 32 degrees, I brought my jacket along with me in preparation of entering el Duomo. We collected our tickets, had a look around the museum del Duomo, which was really interesting, and then headed over to join the queue of shawls and cardigans.

From the inside, it looked even bigger than before and everything you’d expect in a cathedral was intensified x100. The stained glass was busier and more vibrant than any other stain glass I’d ever ever seen, the statues were too realistic for comfort, the columns were dauntingly tall and symmetrical, and the pews were- like an army of ants- perfectly aligned and never-ending….

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A Taste of Milan

During our short stay we discovered that the city’s most renowned dish, famous for it’s unusual taste, bright colour and the story behind it, was created completely by mistake. The Milanese favourite consists of Arborio risotto rice, cream, white wine and sometimes vegetables or seafood but traditionally it’s served on it’s own. I won’t bore you with the entire story but it went something along the lines of …. “Once upon a time a jealous man decided to sabotage the wedding of a woman he once loved by attempting to ruin their evening meal…. He thought that by adding heaps of saffron and other spices to the risotto dish bubbling away in the kitchen, that the wedding guests would be insulted and horrified and would leave in disgust. However, the food was served and yes, the jaws of the guests dropped open as the ghastly yellow mush was presented before them, but as a polite gesture one guest tried it… and then another… and another …and another…. until soon, every plate was scraped and licked clean. It was at that moment that ‘Rissotto alla Milano’ was born.

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So of course, when my Malaysian Milanese waiter suggested I try the famous saffron risotto (yep, that’s right, from Malaysian, in Milan) I had to try it. Mine was a slightly tweaked version and was served with zucchini and lime infused prawns. Delisioso!

Other than the delicious, yellow, mushy stuff that the Milanese are seemingly very proud of, the city is also celebrated for its Pizzas (of course) as well as its coffee, pastries and ice creams… or should I say ‘gelatos’

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It’s exactly what you’d expect from the world’s oldest shopping mall. The extravagant  architecture, beautiful art work and carvings, and the palatial ceilings was the home to some of the worlds most notable high fashion brands such as Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and, not to forget, some of the most expensive restaurants in the country

 

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Ferrari Store 

Here is where Anna Vitality had to take a back seat. Literally. No more “how rustic and picturesque is this cobbled street?” and  “Oh, I know, let’s go to the Da Vinci museum”. No. This was the place where James was in his element and no matter what I could have said or done, he was staying…. for as long as he pleased.

F1 race car debris hung on the walls, £18,000 model cars were encased in glass containers, Ferrari branded helmet bags, brief cases, jackets, were price-tag-lessly displayed on shelves and the 2 Million Euro racing simulator just sat there on the lower floor, waiting to be used, to be ragged around  Monza and Silverstone. Yep…. We were there a while.

 

 
San Siro

I’m not into football. I’m not really into any sport. I love to keep fit, I love to swim and ski and I love watching athletics but, as for team sports, I’m just not that into it.

Yet, visiting San Siro was one of my favourite parts of our trip. For a football stadium, it really was something else. I could picture the crowds. I could almost hear them. I could envision the colours of the different t-shirts and could hear the roars that would come from them. That would come from these very seats. It was old and dated, but grand nevertheless.

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And there you have it. That was a small summary of my trip to one of my most favourite of City’s to date. In a separate blog I will share with you guys my ‘City Break Lookbook’ and also the full vlog of our weekend away will be up on the Anna Vitality YouTube channel very soon. as well as on James’ channel: ‘CF10 official’

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Z A K Y N T H O S

Santorini and Mykonos, seemingly, are the places to go in Greece right now, right? They are the postcard ideologies of blue and white clifftops, hanging baskets and magical cobbled pathways leading to even more magical scenery. And, although I’d love to go to both of these places, I’ve just got back from their sister land and it was just as beautiful but it’s name, frustratingly, carries an unfortunate stigma. A stigma that pushes vibes of craziness, partying and “sun, sex and suspicious parents” into the naïve minds of many.

Zante is that place. The place where 18-year old’s go straight out of college to host their ‘lads on tour 2K16’ trip. The place cram packed with budget hotels, lively bars and clubs, cheap alcohol and scorching heat? Sure. But… what about the place of pure bliss, peacefulness, crystal clear waters and a frequent, calming, sea breeze that, when it rustles in your hair, reminds you how very close you are to the ocean? Definitely.

Zakynthos is the town within which I slept seven nights and awoke seven mornings. It consisted of picturesque gravelly paths, blossoms and anemones in quite possibly every shade of red and pink, heaps of feta cheese, the sun-kissed, tired, yet gentle faces of nearby locals, and fish like you’ve never tasted before, caught in the Mediterranean ocean and served within the very same day.

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I had the most fabulous time in a fabulous place with my close friends and can’t wait to share with you some of my favourite snaps from our trip:

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Belvedere Luxury Suites and Apartments

 

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Strawberry Daiquiri for him, Pineapple juice for her.

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Whitebait and swordfish served to us at the local fish Restaurant ‘Porto Roma’ in Zakynthos bay

Outfit:

Playsuit: Missguided £25

Jewellery: Swarovski

Clutch/Purse: Primark £12

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Crochet Swimwear – Brazilian Bikini Shop

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B U L G A R I A

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Having two sisters living in Amsterdam was cool. Having one sister still in Amsterdam and the other now with a ski slope on her doorstep is even cooler.

That ski slope is Vitosha, a dainty magical mountain on the outskirts of Sofia. It takes fifteen minutes to get there… Fifteen minutes of creeping under mysterious silver trees towards the clouds, fifteen minutes of glitter-like flakes falling sleepily through the air, settling gently on our windscreen, fifteen minutes of taking in some of the most Disneyesque surroundings as we made our way to the slopes.

Arriving at the top, to a place called Maslovitsa, was the first excitement. Introducing the piste to the boyfriend was the next. Now, I’ve skied for years. I could ski before I could ride a bike.  James on the other hand, until last week, had never before seen a snowy mountain in real life, let alone be at the top of one, let alone be about to ski on one. img_4122

Being the avid skier that I am, I obviously wanted to be ‘Instructor Anna’ for the day. But my dreams were crushed when sensibility arrived in the form of my big sister Tamarra. “Sis, you do realise that’s not a good idea, don’t you? It’s like teaching your partner to drive- never works… ooh I know- How about I teach him?!?”

So (because I knew she had a point) I meekly pushed my irritation aside and ‘Instructor Anna’ had to take a back seat. However, just two hours later, the only black man on Vitosha Mountain  neatly glided down the piste. There he was, cool and controlled, skiing.

So, after a few runs together with the Sis, Dad and James we decided it was time for lunch. Ok, so ‘lunch’ in Bulgaria isn’t quite ‘lunch’ as we know it. They like their stuffed vegetables, their cold yogurt-like soups, they love their pork and not to mention their oddly shaped meatballs (which are basically sausages but they call them meatballs I think just to confuse people.)

So, for lunch, we have some elongated meatballs at Aleko Hut, the only cafe in Maslovitsa. Inside, you can’t really tell if someone is being deliberately rude, if their cat just died or if they’re having the best day ever. Emotionless faces filled Aleko Hut, and probably most of Bulgaria. My sister informed me that “that’s just how they are here” and that “they really are lovely people” which I’m sure they are, they just clearly don’t know what smiling is.

It made me think then about how different cultures can be. At home, if you were to slam down a customer’s hot chocolate receipt on the counter in front of them, as if you were angrily swatting a fly, you’d probably get the sack. It terrified me. He backed away, yet held my gaze, with no expression on his face whatsoever. “Blagodarya” I mumble, trying to show him that yes I may be a tourist but I have learnt ‘Thankyou’ in your lingo so please don’t kill me, before heading back to my meatballs.

On a good note, for all of us to have ‘lunch’ (-that’s myself, Mum, Dad, Sis, James and my niece Hayden) along with five hot chocolates and a few rums it cost around 20 Levs, which is about eight quid. For that price I think I can put up with the ogre behind the bar.

The week that followed such a fun first day entailed; go karting, adopting a stray Husky for the night, watching ‘Split’ in a Cinema where you get complementary champagne and popcorn upon arrival and have the comfiest recliner arm-chair with a swivel table (all for half of what we pay in Cardiff), a trip to the local shooting range and feeling like I was on a scene from Taken, Virtual Reality Gaming, and last but not least, buying a puppy.Yes a puppy.

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Blu was her name. She was literally that doggy in the window and was the sweetest thing. She wasn’t your typical hyperactive bouncy ball of fluff. She was a calm and cuddly baby Husky who needed a new home.

Bad news struck when, after a trip to the doggy clinic, the vet told us she had Parvow (a fatal disease which explains why she was so unexcitable and sleepy). Cut a long story short, we had to leave Blu with the vet as she had to stay for a minimum of six weeks for her treatment, and we planned on going back to the shop to get our money back, which by the way was only £100- for a HUSKY! We started to think that maybe the shop knew she was ill and that’s why, amongst the pug, the scruffy terrier and the King Charles spaniel, she was the cheapest.

To our surprise, when we went back to the shop to explain what had happened, Blu’s sister had taken her spot in the window. Debatably, what we chose to do next was the right thing, and so, to save breaking my niece and nephews hearts, we went home with Blu’s sibling, whom we named Bowie. I couldn’t stop thinking about poor Blu. What if they don’t go ahead with the treatment now as they know she doesn’t have a home to go to? What if she doesn’t get better? What if she does get better but no one will want her as she’ll no longer be a puppy puppy? James and I seriously want to go back to Bulgaria purely to re-buy Blu and bring her back to Cardiff..

Anyway, the days went by and little Bowie was fitting in just well into her new home.

On our last but one day we drove to Borovets to show James an actual ski resort. I’ve been before but this time it was even better. The pistes weren’t too firm, nor too loose, there were tonnes of different runs to chose from, and there was more than one cafe that sold only Bulgarian meatballs.

What a trip. Who would’ve thought you could fit so much in to one ski trip. Albeit, this was a bit of a  rollercoaster of a holiday, another ski trip some time soon is definitely on the cards. You never know, I may just come home with a Husky.