A Weekend In Devon

I’ve been very lucky in recent weeks to have enjoyed trips to Portugal and France, and my instagram is enjoying the beautiful content too. Now, while I love travelling around Europe, I had an equally amazing time a little closer to home on a little jaunt in Devon with Girls Explore.devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

Created by my friend Pippa, and her friend Hannah, Girls Explore is a community of like-minded women who simply enjoy spending time outdoors and want a lovely group of friends to explore with. When Pippa mentioned a weekend of surfing and hiking on the Devonshire coast, I couldn’t say no! What followed was one of the nicest, most enjoyable and relaxing weekends I’ve had in a long time.

Arriving on Friday afternoon, there was no set plan, apart from settling into the bunk house all 26 of us were staying in. St. George’s House is run by Christians but available for all to enjoy. As well as all the varied facilities on site, from volley ball, to table tennis and a full industrial kitchen, our stay with them included a surf lesson the following day.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

Once I claimed my bunk, it was time to explore the local area with a couple of the ladies, on what I thought would be a little walk, which turned out to be a 15km trail from Georgeham to Puttsborough, around the coast to Baggy Point, into Croyde Bay and back to Georgeham…in flip flops! I’m glad we didn’t turn back however, as Baggy Point nearing sunset is a must see.

 devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

The perils of having beautiful weather is that the surf is also minimal, so we woke up early the next day to catch what swell we could back at Croyde Bay, popular Brit surfer Andrew Cotton. We were split into two groups, beginners and improvers, and had a good hour and a half in the water. Despite the small waves, I caught a few and had a lot of fun.

Later on we hired paddleboards and had a little SUP session in the afternoon sun – absolute bliss.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

The day ended with a beach stretch session led by yours truly! Possibly the most relaxing class I’ve ever taught, listening to the ocean waves as we breathed into each stretch was so calming. It also highlighted how much time I spend in a studio as I couldn’t stop saying ‘reach up to the ceiling’ despite the blue skies above us!!

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

On Sunday, we hiked the coastal route from Morthoe towards Lee. We intended to hike for 4-5 hours, but as the temperatures were soaring to 27 degrees already by 9.30am we decided to cut it short after 3. We still have plenty of time for stunning views, and a dip in the ocean to cool off half way through.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

I headed back to London feeling so calm, happy and more than a little sun kissed. Seeing the beauty that the UK has to offer has resulted in me wanting to explore more of what Britain has to offer. I’m very aware that my first two hiking experiences – The Alps and the Devonshire Coast under glorious blue skies – are probably not quite true of all hikes…but I can’t wait to explore the outdoors a little more in the future!

Where shall I hike next?

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Finding Rejuvenation, Focus and Relaxation with Apex Hotels

Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, for days or weeks, hotels should feel like a little home away from home. It’s not always easy though, with unfamiliar surroundings affecting your sleep perhaps, or a lack of your normal amenities resulting in disruption to your everyday routine. Does anyone else find that hotel stays can sometimes feel a whole lot less relaxing than they’re intended to be?! The team at Apex Hotels have teamed up with Registered Dietitian and wellness coach, Celynn Morin, and have been working hard at changing this, ensuring all their visitors spend their time away from home feeling rejuvenated, focused and relaxed. I was lucky enough to experience their Warmer Welcome scheme last month, enjoying a much-needed night away from busy London.

The Hotel

A 15 minute walk from Bath station, a surprisingly speedy 90 minutes from London, you’ll find Apex Hotel City of Bath. Walking into the lobby, you’re greeted not only by friendly reception staff, but also a variety of places to sit and relax before exploring the historic city. Once checked in and settled into your room, you’ll find a plethora of things to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

Nearly every hotel room in the world provides basic tea and coffee making facilities, and a mini-bar of crisps and chocolate, but the first thing I noticed about Apex was the different options available; a Nespresso coffee machine, a variety of teas, and in addition to the usual kit-kat and nuts, healthy snacks such as popcorn and nutritious energy bars.

A quick peek into the bathroom, and I was amazed to find not only a huge bathtub, but a large wet room style shower too! A good range of Elemis products is available for use during your stay, as well as a fluffy robe and slippers should you need them. However, I can’t talk about the bathroom without mentioning the very cool Apex Rubber Duck you can take home!!apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

A hotel in Bath wouldn’t be complete without a little nod to Bath’s most famous historic artefact, and the underground spa at Apex didn’t disappoint. With a spacious pool, various massaging jets, as well as steam and sauna rooms, I could have easily spent my whole visit relaxing in the warm waters!

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

Rejuvenate, Focus and Relax

In every room, you’ll also find the main focus of Apex’s campaign to make hotels more wellness orientated. Designed and created with Celynn to go alongside Apex’s new podcast, inside each little booklet are tips and tricks to make your stay at Apex as beneficial to your wellbeing as possible. Here are some of my favourites from their ideas:

Rejuvenate – Keep On Moving – It’s easy to let your usual healthy ways slide a little when away from home, and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break from your fitness routine, it’s still helpful to keep active on your travels. If you’re travelling for business, the temptation to haul up in the hotel room and work until all hours of the night can be strong. Finding time to have a quick workout in the gym, or going for a walk to explore the city, will stimulate the blood flow, getting more oxygen to the brain, and actually increase your alertness, and you’ll be more productive!

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

Focus – Breathe – With so many distractions, staying focused in a busy hotel can be tricky. When everything a little overwhelming and the parasympathetic nervous system is overstimulated, taking a moment to simply breathe can settle things down, and help you find your focus again. Celynn recommends counting alongside some deep breaths. Inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3 and so forth, up to 10. If needed, repeat! I use this technique to help me quiet my mind if I’m anxious, and I find it works a treat.

Relax – Time for Tea – I find that having a quiet moment with a cuppa tea is one of the best ways to relax, and with a wide selection of teas on offer at Apex, you never know, you might find a new favourite! If it’s sleep you’re after, then chamomile or red bush is going to be your best option. It’s thought that even the ritual of preparing a warm drink helps to wind down after a busy day, preparing the mind and body for rest, so you can wake up rejuvenated!apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

The City of Bath

I’ve lived in the UK my whole life, and this was my first visit to Bath. It’s such a beautiful city and I’ll be sure to return one day. A gentle stroll from the hotel, and you’ll easily find yourself amongst the stunning buildings steeped in history. My favourite was the Royal Crescent and surrounding streets, not only because my favourite childhood musical, Oliver!, was filmed there, but because the sweeping architecture is wonderful.

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @cakevsscales)

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcome

If you only see one thing while in Bath, I’d recommend the Roman Spa of course! For a reasonable £16.50 per adult, you can discover the history of the natural spa as you walk through the museum (audio tours are free), and walk around the ancient baths themselves. If you’re keen to mix the modern with the historic, then just around the corner is the Thermae Bath Spa, a luxury spa facility with both rooftop and underground baths. That’s on my list for next time!

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcomeapex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

So, a big thank you to Apex Hotels for treating me to a couple of days away from London. Not only did myself and the other bloggers have the most relaxing evening, but we also benefited from a morning wellness workshop courtesy of Celynn herself. I returned to London feeling like a new woman, ready to take on the rest of the week. If you’re keen to find a little more wellness in your life, whether you’re travelling or not, check out Apex’s new podcast series, with lots of helpful hints from Celynn.

I received a complimentary 1 night stay at Apex City of Bath in exchange for this post. All views my own. Photo credit belongs to me unless otherwise stated.

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3 Beaches in Portugal That Aren’t The Algarve

Whenever I tell people I’m visiting Portugal, their first thought is usually The Algarve, Portugal’s Mediterranean coast, popular with sun seeking tourists, nightlife and hotel resorts close to the action. Or they think Lisbon; the vibrant capital full of colourful culture, shops, and plenty to see and do. While both those places are beautiful and special in their own rights, I want to share with you my favourite places on Portugal’s Silver Coast, where the land is shaped by the wild Atlantic Ocean.
My love affair with Portugal is a fairly recent one, as my father retired there just over two years ago. Since then I’ve visited many times, in summer, winter and spring. He lives in a small village 15 minutes inland from the beach town of Nazaré, but whenever I visit, regardless of the weather, I make sure I spend a bit of time at each of these beaches below, simply watching the world go by and finding my calm happy place.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beachSo, if you’re looking for a quieter place to spend you precious holiday moments, where the pace is slower, the views are phenomenal, and the whole place has less of a ‘Brits Abroad’ kinda feeling, then here are my recommendations.

Nazaré

Arguably the surfing capital of Europe, if not the world, I’m not joking when I say that 100ft waves have been witnessed and surfed on the infamous Praia Do Norte in Nazaré. Caused by an underwater ridge and high cliffs, whether you’re a surfer or not, these waters will simply blow you away. If you don’t believe me, check out this video and see for yourself!

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beachVisit in January and February for the epic waves and Big Surf competitions. The weather can be unpredictable, so pack layers, but you can also catch Nazaré Carnival, and one of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the area.

Head over in the summer for temperatures that soar above 30 degrees, a refreshing sea breeze and plenty of little shops and bars to explore on Nazaré’s beach front promenade. My favourite is the Farol Gin Bar, named after the infamous Farol de Nazaré (Nazaré Lighthouse) where the best waves can be viewed.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

Looking South to Praia do Nazaré and Nazaré Town

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

Looking North to Praia do Norte (on a calm, no surf day)

Sao Martinho do Porto

Head South along the coastal road, through cute villages and aromatic pine forests, and you’ll end up at Sao Martinho do Porto, a small coastal town with a lot of charm. Beautiful, white sand stretches around the bay here, and while it can get busy with locals in the summer, the water is calmer than at Nazaré and perfect for a paddle.

The beach front is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants and there are always activities in summer to occupy children of any age. If you’re an intrepid traveller, on one end of the bay is a large caravan and camping site where all you need to do is cross the road and you’re on the beach, ready for a picturesque sunset.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

The Southern End of the Bay

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Sao Martinho from above.

Foz do Arelho

Finally, a little further South, after stopping at what I think are the most amazing viewpoints in Portugal, you’ll arrive at Foz Do Arelho, and more specifically, Obidos Lagoon. This is my absolute favourite beach in the region, and I will happily sit there in summer or winter.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

Taking in the view en route to Foz.

With just one restaurant on the beach, Cais da Praia, serving anything from snacks to steaks, in the summer I’d recommend taking your own picnic, pitching up an umbrella and settling in for the day. If it’s not too busy, give Cais da Praia a visit too, as the staff are always friendly and the food is great.

In the wilder winter days, you’ll find kite surfers at one end of the lagoon, and I’ve been told, there are also flamingoes in the area. Being a lagoon that, at low tide, you could potentially walk to the other side of, the waters are calm (most of the time) and shallow.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

Obidos Lagoon

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

As Dusk

I’d recommend hiring a car to explore Portugal’s Silver Coast. All of the places I mentioned can easily be reached in an hour or less from Lisbon airport. There are so many more beaches and seaside towns to explore in the area whether you’re looking for a surfer’s paradise, a relaxing soak in the sun, or something a little more local and touristic.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

Sunset at Foz

So next time you’re looking for a mini break away and want something a little different, maybe have a look at some of these spots. Who knows, maybe we’ll be there at the same time!

This post is in no way sponsored by anyone! I just wanted to share my Portugal hotspots with you all. All photos my own.

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