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 ☀️

Active Relaxation

After reading an article the other day on active relaxation, it got me thinking.

I’m not always very good at slowing down and relaxing, even at weekends. I tend to think that days sitting around not doing much are wasted days. In a world where there is so much to explore, why would I want to spend a day or two a week, not doing anything?

Although I have to admit, this afternoon has been one of those rare times I haven’t moved far from the sofa…and I haven’t felt guilty or frustrated by this in the slightest. It’s been another incredibly busy week. I crawled my way to the weekend. It’s as if my body and mind have turned and looked at each other and said, do you know what, this weekend she needs to re-charge and rest. It’s a rare thing, but for a change I’m not ignoring what my body and mind are telling me.

So despite not being very good at relaxing, I do seem to be pretty good at active relaxation. Sometimes we need to move around to feel better. Sometimes we need to get outside for a walk or some exercise to feel good, taking in some fresh air, taking in our surroundings, and watching the seasons change.

Other times, we may chose to cook to make ourselves feel better. Since I have been adjusting to living alone, I am throwing myself into cooking new and exciting dishes. Nothing overly complicated, especially during the week, as I simply don’t have the time or the energy. Even cooking simple, quick recipes for the first time helps the mind to switch off from the day to day and to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s why I love to bake too. I lose myself in the recipe (and have to admit, that whilst I like to cook new things, even the oldest dishes in my repertoire, I still need to follow a recipe to get it right 🙈), allowing me to free my mind.

Writing is also another great way to practice active relaxation. Transferring my thoughts from my mind into my blog for example, helps to clear my mind, and really helps me to process the information in a more constructive way. It makes me question my thoughts and helps me to process them, freeing up my mind, and making my mind a much more happier and relaxed place.

So, as much as I find it difficult to sit and do nothing, active relaxation appears to be something I practice a lot, without even realising it.

Are you good at relaxing? Have you tried active relaxation to help free your mind?

Homemade Harissa Paste
Harissa Chicken
Enjoying the great outdoors
Writing helps to clear my mind

5 things i’ve done that make me feel proud of myself

If you’ve read my recent post, Turning 35, you will know that I recently celebrated my Birthday. And if you follow my Instagram account (@Themindfulgingernut) you will know that my lovely mum and dad brought me a book called ‘Self-Care for the Real World‘, by the fantastic Nadia Narain & Katia Narain Phillips.

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One of the early challenges in the book is to write down five things you’ve done that make you feel proud of yourself. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the day to day that we forget to remind ourselves of our achievements. Other times, the Imposter Syndrome kicks in, and we simply can’t find our achievements for the grey cloud that surrounds us.

I wanted to share with you, the 5 things that make me feel proud of myself. It would be lovely to hear what your 5 things would be too, so please feel free to share your’s below.

5 things i’ve done that make me feel proud of myself

I have a degree in Geography and Third World Development

I also studied American Studies during my first year at the University of Northampton (or the University College of Northampton/UCN as it was known back then). I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since I graduated. Where has that time gone? It was never my intention to go to University. I loved school, and sixth form, but the thought of going away to uni and carrying on studying hadn’t really appealed. But as I got closer and closer to my final months in sixth form, I started to think that maybe I should go. After all, if I didn’t, what else was I going to do? I didn’t have a clue what job I wanted, so it only seemed right that I joined my friends, and started to look at university’s. I had a slight interest in charity work, and looked at courses that may help me to go and do charity work in far flung continents. It was then that I came across the subject that became my minor, Third World Development. Once I had decided to do this, it was all about finding a major to compliment this. Funnily enough, my ideal course was sitting in my home town of Northampton. So off I went in 2002, insanely shy, quiet me, signed up to do Geography and Third World Development at UCN. Unlike many local students, I managed to get into halls of residence so I could get the most out of my university experience. I met some lovely people, both students and tutors alike. I also got to travel to some incredible places, carrying out field trips in Majorca, Amsterdam, Valencia and South West America. I like to think I studied hard, but partied hard too. Shy little me was no more. I came out of university much more confident and outgoing than I had been when I walked in on that first day in 2002. I am proud that I achieved my degree, proud that I made the most of my time there, and proud of the new found confidence it gave me. I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone to university.

I completed the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge

In June 2006 me and my dad travelled up to Yorkshire to attempt the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge. Dad, who worked for the Motor Neurone Disease Association at the time, often came home telling us about new challenges that the Charity were arranging. I can’t remember whether it was my idea or Dad’s to take up this challenge, but who ever’s it was, we knuckled down with a training plan, making sure we covered hills as well as distance. I have particular memories of us training in Derbyshire one weekend, climbing Mam Tor in the snow and ice and being up to at least our knees in snow drifts as we edged towards the top. In order to practice the distance we would need to cover for the Challenge, we also walked around Rutland Water, all 26 miles of it. 5 miles from the end,  just as the rain started to hammer down on us, I felt something pop in my calf. I managed to walk through the pain, and thankfully it was nothing more than a badly pulled muscle. But it was all good practice for the Challenge ahead. The Three Peaks Challenge consists of Pen-y-Ghent (694 metres), Whernside (736 metres) and Ingleborough (723 metres), and a distance of 24.5 miles (although I would debate this as my pedometre definitely clocked up more miles that day!). We woke up at the crack of dawn, met with our fellow walkers and started out on our challenge. The aim of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is to complete the peaks within 12 hours. It wasn’t an easy challenge. But thankfully with my dad by my side we coached each other on and ended up completing the challenge with 20 minutes to spare. I’m proud of myself and my dad for completing this challenge. Getting out and walking in the countryside truly is the best way to appreciate the landscape that surrounds us. I don’t think either of us could’ve achieved the challenge without the other being there. We knew we were physically ready for it due to the prep we had done beforehand, but how do you mentally prepare yourself for a challenge like this? You can’t. But we got through it together.

I moved to London

If I think back to where I was 10 years ago, I would’ve laughed my socks off at the thought of living and working in London. I was a complete and utter country bumpkin, who would come down to London once or twice a year to visit friends for the day, but would always be grateful to go home again to the fresh country air, and couldn’t really understand how or why people would want to live in the city. I’m now even more grateful of going back home to the fresh, country air every now and again, but moving to London 3 years ago, was possibly one of the best decisions I have ever made. And it was all on a bit of a whim. I didn’t know if it would work out. I had always been quite shy and wasn’t particularly adventurous, but I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. And here I am, over 3 years later. There have been times I could’ve thrown the towel in. Not because of the city, but mostly because of the stresses that have come with the job I am in. However, even in my darkest days, I knew that if I was to look for a new job, that too would be in London, the place I now call home. I am proud that I have stuck it out, proud that I have started to explore places off the tourist trails, proud to call London my home.

I’ve been on holiday on my own

Just over 2 years ago, upon realising that most of my friends were married and/or had children or both, as well as being single at the time, I had a dilemma on my hands. I was in desperate need of a holiday after a year living in London. I desperately needed some sun, and some R&R. I had two choices. To take another week off and stay in the UK visiting friends and family. Or get on a plane and take my first holiday on my own. And that’s just what I did. I was keen to go somewhere that wasn’t too exotic, where people would speak relatively good English (just in case I got in any bother), and to visit with a tour operator that would ensure I was in a reasonable hotel, with transfers thrown in. So off I flew in September 2016 to Puerto de le Cruz in Tenerife. I was nervous flying on my own as I wasn’t an experienced flyer. I only had a handful of flights to my name. I was also nervous about the transfers. How would I know what coach to get on? The flight and the transfers however were both fine. The only real shocks I got, were the lack of English speaking people both working and staying at the hotel (it appears that North Tenerife is where all the native’s go as opposed to the Brit’s), and the transfers coming home, which despite being on my booking form, were not coming to pick me up on the day of my departure! However, the rest of the holiday was fantastic. I met some lovely ladies on an excursion to Mount Teide, who were also travelling alone, and spent a lot of time walking around the town of Puerto de le Cruz, as well as relaxing by the pool, and working my way through a good number of chick lit. I could’ve so easily taken the easy option, and stayed home in the UK. But I am proud of myself for taking a leap of faith and getting on board that plane. I haven’t been on holiday alone since, but I know that will soon change, as I can feel that familiar pull telling me to just bloody do it! Where to next I wonder?

I created The Mindful Musings of a Gingernut

Earlier this year, I decided to start writing a blog. For me, my blog is my way of dealing with a whole load of crap that has festered in my mind for far too long. I am massively open and honest in my musings, which I know comes with it’s risks, but it is sometimes the only way I can voice my thoughts. I still keep a lot internalised, but I find writing incredibly therapeutic and calming. I have not created this blog to find fame and fortune. I have created this as a way of coming to terms with some of the things that have happened in my life. I also find great joy in writing. I had never thought about blogging before. But when it was suggested to me, I started to look into it immediately. It took me less than a month from thought to creation. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful blogging has been so far. And the great community that comes with it. I have met (in the online sense) some wonderful people who continue to inspire me on a daily basis. But in addition, people I have known for years are taking an interest, many of whom have taken me completely by surprise by reading my blogs, and letting me know how much they enjoy them. I’m proud that on another whim, I created my site, proud of having such wonderful online and offline friends who take the time to learn more about me, proud that I am helping others by writing about my experiences, and god damn relieved that this muddled mind of mine is finally freeing up some space to find time to reflect and to be proud of all that I have achieved so far.

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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.