Praia Santa Eulália, Praia da Oura and Alfagar II Aparthotel

I’m now back in gloomy, grey, England after a beautiful few days in Portugal.

The flight into Gatwick yesterday was slightly unnerving, as we landed in high winds. There were gasps, followed by a few expletives from passengers as we made our descent, but thankfully, our pilot got us back safe and sound (and without the drama this plane had trying to land at Heathrow yesterday – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-47177383/plane-struggles-to-land-in-strong-winds-at-heathrow-airport).

Thursday was my last full day in Portugal. I had intended on having a rest day, but I also wanted to get back out to see what else was around, close to where I was staying.

I had been staying at the beautiful Alfagar II Aparthotel, which has private access to Praia Santa Eulália. Although I had taken a walk down to the beach on the day I arrived, I really didn’t explore that much. So, I decided to pack up my rucksack and head down to the beach armed with my book and my beach towel ready to explore Praia Santa Eulália.

View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
Private access path down to Praia Santa Eulália.

Once I arrived at the beach, I noticed the tide was out, so I decided to keep walking and followed the beach around towards the next cove. The beaches around this part of The Algarve are stunning. They are rugged and wild, but magical and serene at the same time. The cliffs were something else, and their colours are just beautiful.

As I continued my walk around to the next beaches (Praia da Oura Leste and Praia da Oura), I turned back to look at the view. It was such a stunning spot. So it was there that I sat and read my book until lunchtime approached.

After a spot of lunch by beachside restaurant Vivaldo’s it was time to head back to the hotel to enjoy my last afternoon poolside.

The view from Vivaldo’s

As the evening set in, it was time to reflect back on a fantastic trip.

I booked the entire holiday (flights, hotel and transfers) through easyJet, and I couldn’t fault any of it.

The hotel was absolutely stunning and spotlessly clean, the staff were really friendly and helpful, the food at the Buganvilla Snack-Bar where I ate my evening meals was fantastic. The portions were huge, with a wide selection of starters, and main meals. The apple pie was to die for, and the chocolate mousse was simply divine! The evening entertainment was on the cheesy side, but I guess you expect that in resorts, and in actual fact, holidaying in February, I was probably lucky that evening entertainment was on the menu! The little supermarket in Alfagar Village was well stocked with everything you could wish for, including fresh bread, a butchers, and plenty of wine.

I didn’t use all the facilities on site (there is a car rental office on site – not sure I trust myself to drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road yet!), but those I did use were superb. The gym, the spa, the pools, as with the rest of the hotel were spotlessly clean and well looked after.

On my first day, I had a slight problem with my lights not switching on in the apartment, however, I called down to reception, and within 15 minutes the maintenance guy was at my door, ready to fix it for me. 2 minutes later, I had light and had no further problems throughout my stay.

Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel

I had also booked my transfers through easyJet. Finding the meeting point at Faro airport was really straightforward, and only took 30 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel. On the return journey, thankfully I was early, and already in reception, because the transfer was a good 10 minutes early picking me up. We got to the airport early which at least meant I had a bit more time to look around duty free!

And despite landing in windy conditions, both flights were excellent.

All in all, a fantastic holiday!

Where to next I wonder?

(All photos in this blog are my own)

Olhos de Água and Praia da Falesia

After my relaxing day on Tuesday, yesterday I was back into explorer mode.

This time I decided to head east of the resort, and headed to the beach at Olhos de Agua. Again, I chose to walk, as good old Google maps told me it was only a short walk away.

20 minutes later, I arrived at the beach. Olhos is small fishing town where the local fishermen still pull their boats onto the sand when they arrive back to the shoreline with their fresh catches. It’s a much quieter town than Albufeira, but lovely if you have a young family and aren’t looking for somewhere overly commercial.

As there wasn’t an awful lot to do or see there, I decided to head down onto the beach to see if I could walk round to the next Praia (beach), Praia da Falesia.

(All photos in this post are my own )

If you are lucky enough to get down to the Praias on the Algrave’s south coast when the tide is out, it is really easy to walk from many of the beaches to the next without too many problems, albeit over a few small rocks. However, once the tide comes back in, these parts are pretty much impossible to reach by foot.

Luckily, the tide was out when I arrived in Olhos de Água, leaving a clear path right i round to Praia da Falesia.

As soon as I walked around the corner of the cove onto Praia de Falesia, the view took my breath away. Seeing the vivid orange colours of the cliffs and the distinguishable layers of rock, made my inner geographer do a little back flip of joy!

I must’ve walked down almost the entire stretch of the praia with a massive grin on my face. Every new section of cliff face I came to had something different to offer.

As I continued to walk along the beach, I realised how light and carefree I felt. I felt more relaxed and content than I have done in a long time.

As I walked along, I did a lot of thinking. I started to make a lot of sense out of things on that walk, putting some things into perspective, letting other things go, and thinking about some of the changes I need to make in order to create more happiness and feelings of being carefree, on a more regular basis.

I will share some of my thoughts with you over the coming days, but for now, it’s time to pack and wave goodbye to Portugal as I have a flight back to London to catch tomorrow.

Albufeira

Yesterday was my first full day in Portugal. I am staying around 4km outside of old town Albufeira but I was keen to go and see what the town had to offer.

Whilst there were the options of getting a bus from the hotel at 10am, or a local taxi, I decided to walk instead.

I often find that we are so busy focusing on where we want to end up, that we fail to notice what’s on our doorstep, or in the surrounding area (something that can be said in all areas of life, and not just during travel!). Walking gives us a real opportunity to see what’s around.

Having never been abroad in February before, it was hard to know what to expect weather wise, and equally hard knowing what to pack. Whilst the days can be warm in the February sun, the nights can still be quite cold.

The weather was looking great yesterday, so I headed out in a thin jumper, T-shirt and jeans.

The walk into Albufeira isn’t the prettiest, and whilst the road takes you close to the coastline, you can’t see the sea until you reach Albufeira itself.

However, it gave me the opportunity to see where the Albufeira ‘strip’ is (I don’t think it matters where in Europe you are, if you’ve seen one party area, you’ve seen them all!), and to be grateful that I wasn’t spending my week there. Don’t get me wrong, I love a night out, and maybe I’m being very stereotypical here, but they just seem to be tackier versions of the clubs we have back home, with the main aim being to get so drunk you are sick, and to end up in a bed that isn’t your own. Spending all that money doing what you could be doing back home, seems a bit daft to me, or perhaps it’s just me getting old!

It took me around 50 minutes to walk into town, and when I arrived, I wasn’t disappointed.

Albufeira Old Town – all photos in this blog post are my own
Albufeira Old Town
Albufeira Old Town

By this point the weather was really warming up. Off came the jumper, along with thoughts of, why didn’t I pack any lighter trousers!?!

I’ve barely seen a cloud in the sky so far, and when you’re in the sun, even at this time of year, it’s hot enough to make this gingernut start to change colour (of course I mean red rather than a nice glowing golden brown!).

Once I arrived, I decided to take a walk straight up into the old town. It wasn’t quite lunchtime, so I had some time to explore before I needed to start looking for a pit stop. As I walked into the old town, there were signs that read Miradouro, which means viewpoint in English. I began to follow these signs to see where they lead.

Once I reached the Miradouro, there were spectacular views that looked over the bay.

From the Miradouro, I could’ve taken the lift down to the beach. However, I decided to keep walking as I had spotted the signs for the marina ahead.

I was quite conscious as I walked towards the marina that there were fewer tourists along this route. So I made the decision to walk to the next Miradouro and then head back into the old town to find somewhere to grab some lunch.

On my way back, instead of walking through the old town, I headed down to the beach.

The beaches here really are stunning. Everywhere I have been so far has been spotlessly clean. The sands are golden and pebble free, barely a sign of any rubbish or even seaweed lying strewn across the sands.

I wished I had worn my sandals instead of my trusted Nike trainers, so off they came, allowing my feet to breath and to enjoy the feeling of the sand between my toes.

As I got closer to the main hub of restaurants along the seafront, I decided to head off to find somewhere for lunch.

One of the many perks of holidaying in February means that it’s easy to get into restaurants at any time of day! I managed to get a table in the sunshine, in the first restaurant I stumbled upon. After an offer from the waiter to join me for lunch (I turned him down of course, but it was very flattering to get the offer), I settled down to look through the menu choices and to read my book.

Before coming to Portugal, I had read that they are big on their fish, especially sardines. I had never eaten fresh sardines before, but decided to give them a go. I hadn’t expected them to arrive with their heads on, and I had no idea which parts to eat, and what not to eat! But after a quick google, I tucked into them, loving every bite. Afterwards, I washed them down with one of my favourite cocktails, an icy cold Caipirinha.

After lunch, it was time to walk off those sardines with the walk back to my hotel, in time to spend a couple of hours by the pool and finishing the day off nicely in the indoor sun heated pool ☀️

New Year, New Goals

It’s that time of year again when we take time to look back at the last 12 months and to look forward to the next.

I reflected on much of the last 12 months in a blog I wrote earlier this month called Turning 35, so now it’s time to focus on the next 12 months.

I’m  not one for making new years resolutions. Resolutions always sound like they should involve giving things up. I don’t feel the need to give anything up, so instead, what you will find below, are the 5 things I would either like to achieve, take a break from, or improve on in 2019:

  1. I will be cutting down on my social media time in 2019. Facebook, Twitter, 2 x Instagram accounts, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Pinterest, LinkedIn. Why is it as human beings we have the inability to just click into one app and be done with it? Why does clicking into an app lead to us scrolling through the latest updates, and then moving onto the next app, and the next, and the next. Before we know it, at least an hour of our precious day is gone. Whilst there are some apps I couldn’t live without (Whatsapp for one, and my Mindful Gingernut Instagram profile which links in nicely with my blog), do I really need to use mindless apps such as Facebook? And I guess I question why I need 2 Instagram accounts? And Linkedin too. I struggle to ‘get’ Linkedin. Spending my limited free time browsing through posts from work colleagues old and new, is no longer appealing. I do know of people who have been headhunted through the app, but these are few and far between. This week alone, I have spent over 7 hrs on Facebook and Instagram, which is just ridiculous. I could’ve achieved so much more with those 7 wasted hours! So from the 1st January, I will be deactivating my Facebook account, taking a break from my personal instagram account for the first 6 months of the year, and will more than likely be taking a break from Linkedin. This should free up some time to focus on other things, such as reading more books, and joining some classes in order to meet new people and to make new friends. After 6 months, I will reflect back on whether I have missed either app, and if so, look at ways I can continue to use them but in a more mindful way.
  2.  In 2019 I want to find some more London friends. Ok, so I have been saying this for the last 3 years, but in 2019, I really need to get off my backside and do something about it. I love my friends dearly, but not many of them live close enough to pop in for a drink on a Friday night, or to grab dinner after work mid-week. I love spending time on my own, but likewise, I love to be sociable too. Just before Christmas this year, I went to a wreath making workshop. Whilst I didn’t exchange numbers with any of the ladies at the workshop, it did give me hope that I hadn’t lost the ability to talk to new people. So in 2019, I’m going to put myself out there. I’m going to enrol on some courses, learn some new skills, and hopefully, make some new friends.
  3. In 2019, I want to eat healthier and to exercise more. Whilst I wouldn’t say I have an awful diet, I have spent the last couple of years eating oily curries, bigger portions, and lots of naan bread. Now I will be cooking for one more often, I will have greater control over my diet. I want to eat a wider variety of foods, giving my plate more colour, trying out new dishes, and filling them with more vegetables. What i don’t plan to do is to give up my favourite foods however ‘bad’ they may be. What I am going to do though, is make sure I eat them in moderation. When it comes to exercise, I love walking, but struggle to fit this into the working week, especially during the dark evenings. I know once the nights get lighter I will get out and about more in the evenings, but I can’t put my fitness and health on hold until then. I live in between two of South West London’s biggest parks. There is absolutely no excuse for me not to take a run around either of the parks during my lunch break on the day I work from home and again at weekends. I do like to work out from home, and lift my weights and do some strength exercises at least 3 times a week, but I definitely need to do something that gets my heart racing. I would love to join the gym again, however, the nature of my day job stops me from doing anything on a regular basis at the moment, and for me, if I am going to join the gym, I need to be able to commit to a regular routine. So, for 2019, I aim to continue to work on my strength exercises from home, and to work up to jogging around one of the local parks 3 x per week. Although this will be one of the harder challenges I set myself, with a little bit of determination and motivation, with any luck, I will be jogging around those parks in no time.
  4. In 2019, I want to travel more. I have always longed to travel, but i’ve either never had the money or the courage to do it. Money is still tight especially as I face renting on my own for the first time. But what I do have is lot’s more courage. Ever since I took my first holiday alone in 2016, I have longed to take another trip. So yesterday, rather than wait for the new year to begin, I booked my first holiday of 2019, which will see me heading to the Algarve in February. Whilst it won’t be at it’s warmest in February, I’m looking forward to exploring somewhere new, taking my laptop and some books, and just spending a few days relaxing, reading, eating freshly caught fish, and writing more blogs. I hope this will be the first of a few breaks in 2019.
  5. Last but my no means least, I want to spend 2019 focusing on my wellbeing and self-care. It’s only in the last 6 months of 2018, that I have become more aware of the need to look after myself mentally as well as physically. There have been so many times over the last 3 years, where I have been so consumed by work, that I forgot to check in with myself to see how I am. Work has often left me with little free time to do the things I enjoy. It has left me exhausted and mentally drained. This has to change in 2019. In the last 6 months, I have learnt so much about myself as I begin to take greater control over my life and my mind. Yet there is still so much more to explore. I want to spend 2019 reading into and practicing different wellbeing, mindfulness and self-care techniques in order to find out what works best for me.

These goals shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve with a little bit of thought, motivation and determination, yet at the same time, if I get these right, they are things that could really change my life. So much of the last 3 years have been focused on work and other people. It’s time to shift the balance a little, so I can focus a little bit more on me and what I need in order to be a happier more balanced person.

What are your goals and aims for 2019?

Turning 35

This weekend, I turned 35.

Birthday’s normally create moments of reflection for me. What have I accomplished in the last year, what do I hope to accomplish in the next?

So far this year, I have been too lost in other things to actually pay much attention to these thoughts.

Sitting here mulling this over as I type now, it would be quite easy to think that I haven’t achieved much this year. The focus has been on others and not me. But actually, as I start to reflect, it’s been a pretty epic year for me too. Move all the drama to one side, and you will see that I have been quietly beavering away in the background.

So what have I achieved in the year leading up to my 35th Birthday?

  1. I finished my ILM Qualification in Leadership & Management…and passed. It was hard going back to studying and working on assignments after such a long time. I had attempted a qualification in Horticulture before my move to London, but this was exams based, and exams had never been my strong point. Give me a written assignment or coursework though, something I can get my teeth into and write to my hearts content, normally leaves me in a pretty good place. And so it did.
  2.  I started to visit lots of new places. To name but a few, I have discovered Chelsea Physic Gardens, Tooting Broadway Market, Kensington Palace Gardens, and Holland Park. I spent a day chilling and drinking wine with friends in Regents Park. I enjoyed a day exploring Abingdon and Oxford with my friend Alastair, I discovered Venn Street Market, which is just a stones throw from my flat, and thanks to my mum, I discovered the Vintage Retreat and Millers Yard Cafe at Boughton Mill Equestrian Centre in my home town of Northamptonshire. 
  3. I went to the cinema on my own for the first time. For someone who likes her own company, going to the cinema on my own had become a bit of a barrier. However, I was desperate to see Black Panther and had no-one else to go with. So it was a perfect opportunity to push myself to just do it. And I did. And I loved it. I had a whole bag of Malteser’s to myself, no obligations to share, and was able to sit back and relax and just enjoy the film. 
  4. I have found more time to read. I cried my way through Freya North’s ‘Turning Point‘ and Maria Realf’s ‘The One‘, but also spent some time reading about ‘Hygge’, the Danish way of living.
  5. I took a spontaneous trip to Southend on Sea. I had been to Southend before, but mum and dad had decided to spend the weekend there, and with nothing else planned that weekend, I jumped in the car spontaneously and went to join them.
  6. I travelled to the Greek Island of Crete for the first time, with my younger brother Sam. We had never holidayed together just the two of us before, but we were both in desperate need of a break and some time away from our everyday lives. I fell in love with Elounda, the village we were staying in, and long to go back one day, armed with my laptop, and to write to my hearts content. 
  7. I spent some quality time with my Dad. My parents have been happily married now for 35 years (they didn’t get to enjoy married life very much before yours truly came along!). Whilst they come down to visit me in London a couple of times a year together, my Mum will always pop down in between those visits so we can enjoy some Mum and daughter time together. However, I don’t know if its a man thing, but Dad had never really talked about coming down on his own before. Mum hinted one day that Dad would love to come down more, so back at the beginning of summer I invited Dad to come down for the day. Me and my Dad have two main things in common. We love football. And we love walking. Having done a couple of charity walks with my Dad years ago, I decided it would be fun to do a walk in London. Whilst I had walked the Thames Path in central London a number of times, I had never really covered the path which starts further out to the West. So we hopped on the train to Richmond, and walked from Richmond to Wandsworth along the Thames Path, stopping for a lovely pub lunch and a couple of drinks on the way.
  8. I went Glamping for the first time. Whilst I spent 6 years of my life camping with my ex, I had never been Glamping. My camping days are very much behind me, but the idea of Glamping had appealed. So off we went one Friday afternoon to the South Downs where we stayed in the most delightful Glamping site. It was a blazing hot weekend, but thankfully, our chosen site was amongst the woodland, which was a nice bit of respite from the sun. A nice little addition, was the outdoor hot tub  which despite the heatwave, we obviously had to try out. So one evening, we donned our swimwear and relaxed in the hot tub whilst the sunset behind the trees. Bliss. It was the first time either of us had stayed in the South Downs National Park. Another place I would happily move to in order to sit and write all day. It’s such a beautiful part of the country, only an hour from London in one direction, and an hour from the coast in the other. 
  9. I have enjoyed lot’s of new experiences, which have included visiting Chelsea Flower Show with my lovely friend Kim, getting tickets to Club Wembley for the England v Nigeria game, and watching the lovely Craig David & Rita Ora perform at Northampton’s County Cricket Ground earlier in the summer.
  10. I lead a process at work which we were being externally assessed on…and we passed.
  11. I had some professional coaching for the first time. And loved it. This has helped me to realise that some of my ‘dark cloud’ moments are thanks to Imposter Syndrome. Recognising that I suffer with this, and then looking at ways to overcome it, has taken a huge amount of weight off my shoulders and has helped me to start to understand some of the muddled chaos in my mind. It was also this that made me consider blogging for the first time. It also made me…
  12. …start to think more about mindfulness, wellbeing and my own mental health. I had always been aware of mental health. Many of my friends and family suffer from anxiety or from bouts of depression. My dearest B had battled with mental health as long as I had known her. But I had never stopped to consider my own. Mindfulness and Wellbeing had never really entered into my headspace. However, through the coaching experience, I suddenly realised it was something I needed to explore. I started to download apps (Calm and Headspace to name but two), and to read articles which explored these areas in more detail. It was also around this time that I realised I had a lot going on in my mind, and I needed to start shifting some of it to help me to declutter my mind, to help me to think clearer and to function more effectively…
  13. …so, I started my blog ‘The Mindful Musings of a Gingernut‘ and created my Instagram page ‘The Mindful Gingernut‘. And what I great experience this has been. I wrote my first blog at the back end of August and since then I have written 21 posts (this will be my 23rd!), my blog has been visited by 302 people and has had 710 views. Now, I have no idea in the grand scheme of things whether this is below/above average or not, however, what I do know is the stats don’t really matter. What really matters is that by blogging, my mind is freeing up some headspace. I have more time to reflect, to think about what works for me and what doesn’t, it’s helping others who are experiencing or have experienced similar things, it’s giving my loved ones an insight into what makes me tick, and one of the things I least expected from my blog, was the ability to make new friends through the site. There is a lovely network of bloggers out there, who are likeminded and seem to be travelling down a similar path to me. It’s lovely to bounce ideas off one another and to seek comfort and reassurance from one another. Creating my blog and starting to write again has by far been one of my greatest achievements of the year. But it hasn’t stopped there…
  14. I stopped drinking coffee. Throughout my coaching experience, it was flagged by a number of my colleagues that I had an inability to function effectively in meetings before 11am and around 3pm. This was quickly linked in with my coffee intake. I would need at least 2 cups of black coffee in the morning to feel like I was ready to function. After this time, I was fine, until around 3pm. I would have a further cup of coffee, but instead of helping me to function, it just made me really sluggish. I was able to function on my own at these times, but human interaction during these key points during the working day was useless. I would like to say that this pattern of behaviour encouraged me to stop drinking coffee. It didn’t. What finally made me give up, was a bout of Norovirus at the back end of August (funnily enough, also coinciding with the time I started to write my blog). I came down ill one Saturday night and was violently sick for the next 12 hours and continued to be ill for the next few days. After this, I just couldn’t stand the thought of coffee. The smell and the taste even now, still makes me feel slightly nauseous. I have never been a tea drinker, however, all of a sudden I felt the urge to try herbal teas. So now I drink a lot of mint tea and peppermint tea and feel so much better for it. I have found that I don’t have to wait for 11am before I can function. I am able to sit in 9am meetings and have a perfectly human conversation, come up with new ideas, and to think things through effectively. It has also prevented me from hitting my 3pm slump. I power on through the day from one hour to the next, without any noticeable difference in how I will react to a situation at any one time. 
  15. More recently, I have also rediscovered my love of baking. I don’t have a very big kitchen in my London flat. There’s no room for funky gadgets and little room for using a rolling pin. However, recently I have found myself starting to find ways around these issues. During the winter, when it’s too wet to tend to my plants on my little terrace, I find baking massively therapeutic. Sometimes you just have to think a little bit more creatively about how you can use the space you have, and by making sure you stay on top of things like the washing up throughout the magic you are creating, just so things don’t get too crazy in the kitchen. The month of December is always a great month to get your bake on back on! So far we have a Christmas cake waiting to be iced and decorated, and I made my first batch of mince pies at the weekend. I wonder what goodies will appear next… 
  16. After a pretty epic year, I didn’t stop there. On the day before my 35th Birthday, I decided to go and get my ears pierced. Being a glasses wearer, I’ve always joked that I already have too much metal on my face to suit earrings. Mum has tried to convince me for years that they would suit me, but I just didn’t have the urge to get them done. However, over the last few months, I kept looking at really nice fashion earrings, wishing I had pierced ears so I could wear them. As I strolled down to our local shops with Mum and Dad on Saturday, who were visiting for my Birthday weekend, I turned to Mum, and said ‘Shall I go and get my ears pierced?’. So that’s what we did! I now have lovely pierced ears with white gold earrings. I’m still a few weeks away from being able to wear ‘fashion’ earrings, but I love the ones they have put in for now. They make such a difference to my face and make any outfit look slightly more glam, just by having a little sparkle on my ears.

Despite it not being the easiest year, it’s certainly been full of lot’s of positive moments. 

Sitting down and writing this has made me realise just how much I have achieved and how much I continue to grow as a human being. 

I’m excited to see where the next year will take me.