Confessions of a staycation lover

When it comes to the weekends, I am often counting down from Wednesday (hump day) to buzzy Fridays, filled with excitement about the fact that I am going to spend my Saturdays and Sundays staycationing in London.

London is an amazing city with so much to see and do and as much as I may feel like I deserve some down time in the weekends, I also know that it is a crime to stay indoors when there is so much happening across the city.

If you wanted to, you could live in London like a tourist – cramming your Saturdays and Sundays with market visits (Portobello, Borough, Broadway!), festivals, pop up events, museums and galleries, and more.

That is what I often did when I moved to London four years ago and I absolutely loved taking in everything the city had to offer. In fact I lived in a perpetually dreamy state for six months straight after I arrived, enamoured with the vibrancy of the city, which is always alive and brimming with possibility.

Now that I have been in London for several years and it has truly become my home I feel more comfortable with taking a more relaxed approach to my weekends.

These days most of my staycationing revolves around walking and food. This is a wonderful combination as you can indulge in delicious brunches and dinners and then erase much of the guilt by burning calories directly afterwards. You can’t go wrong!

London has every type of cuisine imaginable and countless restaurants, cafes, diners, market stalls, and more. Before I make eating plans with friends I often consult Google about the best spots in the hopes of unearthing undiscovered gems.

By the same token, as a creature of habit I also like to go back to my favourite places. There is something to be said about knowing what you are going to get and having faith in the quality of food they deliver.

When it comes to walks, I have taken to walking to my many of my destinations instead of taking public transport. London has an amazing underground train service and it has served me well over the years, but it is a real treat to walk above ground across town and take in so many of London’s most famous landmarks.

For instance, a walk from home in west London all the way to London Bridge to get pasta at a wonderful spot called Padella takes me past the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Southbank. I can assure you, walking past such iconic sights never gets old, no matter how many times you have done it!

So as the weekend approaches I am working out my plans, figuring out where to eat and where to walk to, and I know that by Monday I will feel as though I have had a relaxing and fun-filled staycation.

Confessions of a travelling city dweller

Today I am leaving on a jet plane and heading to Alicante, Spain. As I attempt to not overpack and get into holiday mode I thought it would be a good chance to ruminate on why I am so excited about this holiday.

It is not often that I really dig deep and look into the reasons behind why I travel, but upon reading some of Alain de Botton’s The Art Of Travel, I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it some thought before I jet off.

“At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves – that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us.”

– Alain de Botton – The Art Of Travel

My day to day life is filled with habits and routines, the daily grind of work and often the exact same scenery as I journey to and from work and pass through the exact same locales again and again.

Many of us live this life and it can seem like we are living out the Bill Murray movie ‘Groundhog Day’. We are in perpetual motion but not always fully conscious of what we are doing because we are performing rote actions and routines.

For me, holidays in exotic locales give me an escape from what can seem like the neverending hamster wheel we call life. I am released from the ordinary and confronted with an environment that is entirely different and new and this awakens something within me that can at times be forgotten.

Travelling provides the opportunity to take stock of life as you wander the streets of a foreign city, taking in the different architecture, sounds, smells, food and climate.

If you live in London climate is often key. So many days in London are spent with a perpetual blanket of grey cloud hovering above you (as well as smog which we only notice when we blow our noses).

This is why we embrace the sunny days in London so wholeheartedly and bring our shorts and dresses out prematurely. It is also why I have booked this trip to Spain, which is famed for its high percentage of sunny days.

Sometimes you have those busy holidays which you return from almost in need of another break, but this break is a relaxing one, devoid of any real plans apart from eating, going on long walks across the city, hopefully getting enough sunshine to bathe in and eating some delicious local cuisine.

Ultimately I am in need of time to relax, to shed the stresses that can accompany my everyday working life and to reflect on what is really important to me. Perhaps this reflective state will also lead me to more creative ideas for my blog and other pursuits.

I am aware that I am also very privileged to be in the position to be able to afford to travel and to experience other corners of the world. I need to embrace this opportunity and have gratitude for the fact that I am able to hop on a plane at all.

I am about to close my bags and head off now a little more aware of why I am travelling and what I want to get out of it. I enjoy having this awareness. Perhaps I’ll have a different set of reasons next time. In the meantime, bon voyage!

Confessions of a chocoholic health freak

I have always been a relatively healthy person, largely due to my upbringing. My parents were of the organic produce purchasing variety and were always very conscious of the food we had in the house.

Unfortunately, this relative famine of treats meant that as soon as a tub of ice-cream or packet of chocolate biscuits were in the house they were devoured in about thirty seconds flat. Which I believe is a lesson to parents – allow treats, but in moderation.

Like there are dog people and cat people, when it comes to food there are sweet people and savoury people and I have always been more inclined towards sweets. Whether this is due to the deprivation of sweets throughout my childhood, I am not sure. What I do know is that given half an opportunity I will devour chocolate and cake like there is no tomorrow.

Some of you will know about my cold turkey from chocolate. It is going really well so far – two and a half months going strong. Once the cravings have been overcome the amazing thing is you start to lose the insatiable appetite you once had for sweets.

So you can walk past the chocolate aisle or the bakery at the supermarket and not feel pangs for sugary goodness. It is a fantastic stage to get to, but you need to work through the hard times to get to it.

It may be difficult to believe it after hearing about how much of a sugar fiend I am but generally speaking I try to eat healthily.

You see, I am a creature of habit and that has worked wonders in terms of my healthy eating regime. I eat a homemade salad everyday at work (saves money and calories) and I try to incorporate healthy snacks like nuts and yoghurt into my diet. Dinner tends to be vegetables and brown rice with salmon.

Many people have told me that they would struggle with eating this way and I must admit that I have felt a little uninspired from time to time with eating so healthily and with such little variety. On the other hand, I feel so much better for it and I feel that my health and wellbeing will thank me for it later.

The other reason I eat healthily is so that I can get some leeway on the weekends. Some people call these cheat days, I don’t call them anything in particular, though I consider weekends to be free reign and I will often eat cakes or burgers or pizzas or pastas whilst still trying to fit some salads and veges somewhere in the mix.

I always think that one must have something to live for and food brings so much joy to my life that I still want to be able to eat delicious food – some of which may not always be healthy.

The thing I have learnt is that if you eat healthily most of the time it is perfectly acceptable to have those days where you eat a burger or cake or fish and chips. If you don’t treat yourself you can end up deprived and ready to snap, which may mean devouring an entire packet of crisps or a block of chocolate, and nobody wants to be doing that.

So the core lesson is treat yourself, but not everyday. Eat treats in moderation, but when you do eat them savour them and try not to overdo it. A lesson I have had to learn the hard way.