Monday, 13 May 2019

LEARNING TO LIKE SWIMMING

It took me three years to visit the Victorian swimming pool that was one minute walk from my flat. I never thought of myself as a swimmer, so I didn't think swimming was for me. I didn't do it competitively at school, and since the lessons we were forced to take, the only swimming I did was splashing about in the sea on holiday. I thought people who went to swimming pools were scary-serious-speed swimmers, and there wasn't really a place for someone like me.

Photograph - Soo Burnell (from her amazing Poolside series of Edinburgh swimming pools)
But the pool called to me. It was January and I was feeling sluggish, I wanted to do something. And it turns out, I hate running with an intensity greater than my fear of trying something new. So I bought myself an actual swimsuit (thank you bravissimo for making nice things built for my body shape), and headed to the pool.

The moment I stepped in the water, I froze. What if I literally couldn't swim a length? I could swim in the ocean, but that's more fun-bobbing-about, rather than trying to cross a pool and back. I figured it was do or drown, and I managed to frogkick myself along. It is a bit like riding a bike, I knew my technique wasn't great (and oh my god, my body hurt the next day), but I could do it! Yeah, there was some scary swimmers there, but they just ignored me. Everyone ignored each other. Exactly my type of activity.

Fast-forward five months later (!), and it turns out I really, really like swimming. I've been going roughly twice a week since the start of the year, and I can't imagine life without it. I didn't start swimming with a goal to lose weight (I think there's better sports if that is your focus), but I just wanted to feel better. And I do. I feel less sluggish. I'm sleeping better. And I can really feel the difference when I'm swimming. I'm still terrified of the fast lane, but I'm faster! And while I could probably do with a swimming lesson or two, it feels like my body finally is starting to understand what it's doing.

More importantly, is the mental calm it has brought me. When I looked back on 2018, one of my big stand-outs was realising how I'd carried a snug layer of stress with me for most of the year. This time round I wanted to be kinder to my mind, and swimming has been a marvel. When I swim I don't think about anything. Not work, not life, not even swimming. I can do lengths without realising it. I just don't think, I just do. I've not had anything in my life like it before, it is so calming, and has already been a wonderful cure-all to stressy days.

I'm about to hit the busiest point in my year (Film Festival is just around the corner, and our launch is only two weeks away - oh gaaaad), so here's the real test for me and swimming. Will I still go when I'm tired? Will it keep me sane when I am dreaming about pop ups (and other nonsense work-stress dreams)? We shall see. Wish me luck!

Monday, 6 May 2019

HOLIDAY WISHLIST: 10 DREAMY (& AFFORDABLE) AIRBNBS

I'm just back from a week camping in the Scottish Highlands, and already my mind has turned to what holiday I can plan next - I am a fan of having something to look forward to!

I think my plan this year is to try and get two weeks away somewhere sunny and interesting in the Autumn - the last few years have been great for weekends away and short breaks, but it's been ages since I've had a proper 'big' holiday, and I am ready to soak up some sunshine and culture.

Saying that, my budget is not very big-holiday friendly, so enter Airbnb (not a sponsored post, although I wish!). I've been using Airbnb for years and I love it. It's such a great way to discover a city, feel like you are (almost!) a local, and stay somewhere with personality, that can be tailored to your budget.

As I've been spending a lot of time searching through their listings, I thought I'd share 10 places that caught my eye (that are also surprisingly affordable!). If you've stayed at any super dreamy airbnbs, please share them in the comments - I am still searching for that perfect holiday spot!

1. Budapest, Hungary

Just look at this gorgeous design-led apartment. I've never been to Budapest, but everyone raves about it, and places like this make it even more tempting. It's close to all the main attractions, and a bargain at £45/night. 

2. Ostuni, Italy

I've always fancied staying in an Italian Trullo, and look how beautiful this is! It's a 300 year old building (recently refurbished to be environmentally friendly), set in grounds with olive, almond, fig, cherry, apple, pear and mulberry trees (which you can help yourself to). There's beaches and little towns nearby, and hammocks to hang out in, and it looks so nice! It's roughly £80/night.

3. Barcelona, Spain

I've stayed in this apartment, so I can vouch it is as dreamy as it looks! It's just around the corner from a metro station and a market, so it's a really great spot to explore Barcelona from. Plus it's got great balconies to people-watch from, with prices around £100/night (prices have gone up since I stayed there, but it was very nice!).

4. Palermo, Italy

Look at those plants! This palazzo is nestled in Palermo's old city, in a magnificent and aristocratic apartment with a private courtyard. It's perfect if you want to stay somewhere packed with colour and character - imagine drinking wine sitting on that terrace after a day of exploring the old streets? It's roughly £70/night.

5. Lacanau, France


Airbnb is great if you are looking for something different, and this tiny house is just that! Based in the pine forest and lake of Lacanau, it boasts to be the perfect place for a romantic stay in the middle of nature. It's close to the coast, and there's loads of great French villages you can explore from this base. It's £62/night.

6. Koufonisia, Greece

Greece can be pretty pricey, but this studio is a bit more affordable at roughly £119/night. It's on a little beach on a beaut Greek island, and looks like a great spot for a chilled holiday.

7. Madeira, Portugal

I hadn't really considered Madeira as a holiday destination, until I saw how affordable it is! This pink cottage caught my eye - it looks perfect if you want an idyllic getaway, where you can swim in the pool, pick fresh fruit off the trees, and explore the island. It's £55/night.

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is super cool, so it stands to reason that most of the places you can stay are stylish and super cool too. This apartment caught my eye - it's stylish, in a great spot, and has a beaut outdoor terrace you can enjoy. It's around £91/night.

9. Prince Edward, Canada

How cute is this Wes Anderson themed house?! Every room in this 100+ year old house is themed after or inspired by a different Wes Anderson film - you can sleep in Margot's bedroom, hang out in the Life Aquatic themed living room, and eat in the Darjeeling Limited Tea Room. It's roughly £87/night and I would like to stay here please!

10. Brac, Croatia

This stone Croatian cottage is nestled high on a hill top, giving you beautiful views of islands, mainland Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. I stayed here last year for a week - we've been obsessively travelling to Croatia for the last four (!!) years, because it's so wonderful - and it was a beautiful place to stay. It's only £54/night, which makes the view even sweeter.
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