Sunday, 20 August 2017

Ten places you must visit in West Wales.

Whenever bloggers tweet asking about where they can escape to in the UK, my response is always West Wales. I live just a stones throw away and am always road tripping down West. With a beautifully rugged coastline, tiny towns and villages filled with pretty little shops, and miles of open wide countryside to explore, it provides the perfect getaway - especially when the sun is shining! 

I tweeted last week saying that I was thinking of sharing some of my favourite, most picturesque places to visit in West Wales and had an unbelievable response. Low and behold, here are the top ten places (in no particular order) that you absolutely must visit if you're in my neck of the woods. 

1. Tenby 

Undoubtedly my favourite place in the world, Tenby is a beautiful seaside town with a bustling harbour, stunning beaches and amazing places to eat and drink, best known for this iconic view of colourful town houses overlooking the sea. I have so many amazing memories of visiting here. It was one of the first places I drove to when I passed my test, I've been here countless times with my boyfriend and family, and it's also where we meet our cousins and family from Canada whenever they're in Wales. There is so much do, whether its relaxing on the beach, nosing around in the shops, or stuffing your face with delicious local produce. You can also take a boat trip across the waves to neighbouring Caldey Island, one of Britain's holy islands, and the sunsets are pretty spectacular. 

2. St David's

My primary school was a church school and every year we would do what can only be described as a pilgrimage to the cathedral at St David's. Buses, filled with crazy school children, would meander along the coast to the teeny tiny city, where we'd congregate in the beautiful cathedral for a special service before eating our packed lunches at the grave yard afterwards. Admittedly, it sounds pretty freaking morbid, but it's a beautiful place and one that I still love visiting to this day. 

3. St Bride's Haven

This is my mum's most favourite place and we visit every August around her birthday so that she can reminisce and remember all of the wonderful times she had here with her grandparents when growing up. As a young girl my mum, her sisters, and my great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, would pack up the car and head to this tiny seaside haven for their holidays. It's a beautifully secluded patch of coastline, with a tiny beach and vast clifftops to explore. There really is nowhere more stunning when the sun is shining.

4. New Quay

West is most definitely best. The Welsh New Quay situated along Cardigan Bay is the ideal place for dolphin spotting. I remember sitting in a café with my grandparents once, and seeing a pod of bottlenose dolphins leaping through the waves. There's always so much going on in New Quay, whether it's a jazz festival, sailing competition or carnival, and there are loads of pretty little spots to sit and watch the world go by.

5. Skrinkle Haven

This is a tiny unspoiled bit of coastline, situated just along the clifftop from Tenby, and boy is it beautiful! Dan and I visited here for the first time last year after being totally impressed by some photographs we saw on Instagram. It's even more breathtaking in real life; we felt like we were on an exotic island lightyears away from civilisation. The cliff on the far Eastern side of the haven is cut in two and is known as Church Doors Cove, making it the perfect place for caving, snorkelling or swimming. In the evening this is also a perfect place to stargaze after watching the sun set over the waves, as there is very little light pollution.  

6. Aberaeron

There's a lot of Aberaeron that I'm yet to explore, but it boasts some fantastic restaurants overlooking a stunning harbour that winds its way through this colourful town to the beach. Dan works down there a lot, so he knows the area better than me, but we usually just sit and watch people crab fishing by the harbour (with an ice cream in hand, obvs).

7. Saundersfoot & Wiseman's Bridge

My perfect Sunday afternoon involves driving to the little beach at Wiseman's Bridge on the Eastern coast of Pembrokeshire with Dan and my dogs in tow. We stroll along the shoreline, through the old railway tunnels and end up in Saundersfoot, before grabbing an ice cream and sitting by the harbour watching the world go by. Saundersfoot has an array of little shops, cafés and pubs to enjoy, as well as a beautiful spa with an outdoor pool overlooking the beach.

8. Blue Lagoon, Abereiddy

This place is seriously incredible. I only discovered it last year while writing up my Masters thesis, and it is really amazing; an absolute must-visit if you're ever in Wales. This little hamlet boasts a stunning breached quarry, the Blue Lagoon, where the water is the most beautiful turquoise and where adrenaline junkies come to catapult themselves off the cliffs into the pool below. Check out Celtic Quest Coasteering if you fancy a try yourself!

9. St Govan's Head, Stackpole

The staggering clifftops of St. Govan's will always have a very special place in my heart. When I was young my nan, grandad and I would come here on a Sunday for a delicious roast at St. Govan's Inn - a traditional pub in neighbouring village Bosherston - before heading to the clifftops for a stroll above sea level, and a climb down to the adorable stone chapel that is carved into the cliffs. Yes, that's right, there's a tiny chapel wedged into the foot of the cliffs, which can be reached by scrambling down a set of rickety stone steps. The perfect place for keen photographers.

10. Barafundle Bay

Last, but certainly not least, is this absolute gem in the Pembrokeshire coastline. Barafundle has been voted one of the top 10 beaches in the whole world, beating the likes of Bondi and Copacabana, and I can totally see why. With golden sands and crystal blue waters, it's no wonder it's often compared to a Caribbean holiday hotspot.

Have you visited West Wales? 
Where's your favourite "staycation"?
Lots of love. xoxo

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Reasons to study journalism (undergrad and post-grad) at Cardiff University.

A Level results day is fast approaching, and I still can't quite believe it's been five years since I logged onto UCAS - hands trembling, heart in my mouth - to discover I'd been accepted to study journalism at Cardiff University. It had been a dream of mine for so long and it was something I had worked incredibly hard for, so discovering that my dream would soon become reality was the most amazing feeling. 

I loved my time studying at Cardiff. Admittedly, as with all experiences, there were highs and lows (read about them here), but opting to study journalism at Cardiff was undoubtedly one of the best decisions of my life. I came out with a First Class Honours degree at undergraduate level, and went on to study a Masters degree in Magazine Journalism, for which I graduated with a Distinction last month.
If you're interested in a career in journalism, here are just some of the reasons why you should consider studying at Cardiff (I know I'm biased, but it's srsly fab). 

1. Teaching excellence

Without a doubt, every lecturer I came into contact with while studying at Cardiff was nothing but passionate about, committed to and knowledgable regarding their chosen subject. Always happy to help, with heaps of experience, and links to industry leaders, they were really approachable and gave fantastic advice. They genuinely care about the students and their experiences, and really push you to achieve the very best.

2. Fantastic opportunities to build experience

Based at the heart of Wales' busiest city - and soon to be next door to BBC Wales when the new Central Square development opens - there are so many opportunities to gain some valuable work experience in the field, whether it's here in Wales or across the bridge in Bristol, London and beyond. There are loads of television placements to be had, as well as many publishing and PR/marketing opportunities. While some of these brands may be smaller than your typical City companies, they can often provide far more of a rounded experience, allowing you to write, give ideas of your own and generally gain more. 

The university itself also has an amazing array of student media opportunities, including a uni television channel, blogs, magazine and newspaper. These are run for and by students and many of my course mates got really involved with them. It's a great way to enhance your skills and to keep your finger on the pulse too. 

3. Opportunities to specialise in your chosen field 

I started university unsure of where exactly I wanted to go in terms of my career. In the end I worked in newspaper, television and magazines before opting to study a Masters degree in Magazine Journalism, and I now work in television! The skill sets you acquire are vast, which is essential in the ever-changing media industry, but you can specialise if you so choose. The modules I could choose from ranged from advertising, politics and television, to magazines, social media and law, and there really is something for everyone. Since I studied at Cardiff I understand that the undergraduate programme has changed, but rest assured the opportunities for specialism are still as prevalent as ever. 

4. A chance to channel your creativity

Admittedly, the undergraduate degree I studied had a mainly academic focus, which meant essays and  textbooks over story writing and film making. Essay types varied depending on the modules you chose, but towards the end of my degree I had the chance to pitch ideas for new television programmes and magazine brands, as well as free reign over what to study in depth for my dissertation (I chose blogging, obv). 

My postgraduate degree, however, was almost completely practically-focused. Aside from studying politics and law (I agree, it's rather dull, but absolutely essential), my days were spent pitching ideas, writing, designing, photographing, filming and brainstorming. It was absolutely incredible and, while very demanding, it really fuelled my creativity and allowed me to think outside of the box per se, always with the audience as the main focus. 

5. Cardiff is so much fun!

For a small-town girl like me, Cardiff was the perfectly sized city to experience university in. It's small enough to easily navigate around, but every corner offers something new and exciting. The nightlife is incredible (and I'm still enjoying that now that I'm a "young professional (lol) living in the city), with a range of bars, clubs and live music venues to choose from. Come springtime or, as it's known in Cardiff, Six Nations season, the city is alive with fans from across the country who are out in full force to support the team in red. 

There's also a really thriving live music scene, gorgeous independent shops and tasty restaurants, and it's in the perfect location for sea and mountain lovers alike, with the Wales Coastal Path and the Brecon Beacons within easy driving distance. I love living and working in Cardiff. It's friendly, fun and affordable, and I've made some fantastic friends and memories in the time I've been here!

Lots of love. xoxo

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Writing from my sick bed | A vow to look after myself more...

Today should be my last day in work before a week of annual leave, for which I had planned parties, days out a plenty, and even a mini trip abroad before the autumn sets in. What today actually is, however, is my first day of solitary confinement as little old me has somehow contracted mumps

I'm sat on the sofa, snuggled in a blanket, with a head that looks like a jacket potato, despite having vaccinations and no idea how I got it. It's safe to say, I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself (though I guess one good thing is I've finally made time to put my feet up and blog... Silver linings and all that!). 
Once again I have pushed myself to oblivion and my body is having none of it. I've been doing this ever since I remember. I can't sit still. I hate being bored, I hate lazing around. A "duvet day" doesn't feature in my vocabulary. I'm always busy whether it's working, socialising, working out, going here, there and everywhere as I try to cram every little inch of my diary with events and things to do. And now I'm not able to see anyone or do anything on what should have been the last summer hurrah before work gets all crazy again. 

Perhaps this is somebody or something's way of forcing me to s l o o o o w down and reevaluate. 

It's time to stop burning the candle at both ends; late nights and early mornings have never done me any good. It's time to hang up my dancing shoes and stop overdoing it on the weekends. I need time to relax after such busy work weeks. And it's also time to realise its okay to say no. The world won't stop turning if I don't go on that night out, or don't meet that person for early morning brunch when I really need to rest. 

I need to go back to doing more of things I love. Evening strolls as the sun sets over the sea. Sunday mornings spent catching up on blogs over breakfast. Road trips around the countryside with my boyfriend and dogs in tow. I need to have more early nights, to continue working out and eating healthily, and I need to force myself to have a lie-in now and again. Similarly, it's not the end of the world if I don't make that 7am HIIT class. 

Life has a funny way of showing us when it's time to make a change. It just sucks that it's taken my face to swell up like a balloon to show me that. 

Lots of love. xoxo

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Holiday Diary | My week in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote.

I know I start literally every blog post with a statement about how much of a whirlwind life has been, and this one is no different. Since I last posted I've been crazy busy with work - road tripping up and down the country for different shoots - and have had so many other fun events going on in between. It's been seriously hectic, leaving my poor little brain feeling super tired and my body in major need of some TLC, so a week's holiday to the beautiful island of Lanzarote couldn't have come at a better time. 
I've visited the Canary Islands before, having holidayed as a teen in Tenerife and Gran Canaria with my family on several occasions. Admittedly, I spent more time nagging my dad for euros and scuttling off to the nearest internet café in order to chat to my friends on MSN for fear of missing out on some serious summer holiday shenanigans (remember the good old days where wifi didn't exist?). But having made such amazing memories there before, I was so excited to jet off for a week of relaxation with my lovely mum. It felt much needed after the crazy ball of stress my life had become over the past few weeks. 
We stayed at the beautiful Natura Palace Hotel, which was roughly a half hour walk along the promenade to the resort of Playa Blanca, and it was seriously beautiful. Tranquil, luxurious, and across the road from the crystal blue waves, it provided the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of every day life. 
Days usually started with a morning workout by the sea. I would never have dreamed of working out on holiday before I caught the gym bug a few years ago, but it's actually pretty refreshing to get up and kick some calorie butts before breakfast. We would run along the promenade, which followed the coastline from Playa Blanca town itself to a little lighthouse at the far end of the island; and the views made it pretty easy to drag ourselves out of bed. For miles all you can see is the blue of the waves colliding with the horizon, and the waves lapping against the rocky shores. I find the sea so calming anyway, so it was the ideal way to wipe away any sleepy cobwebs. 
Days were spent lounging by the pool with a book in hand, something I haven't done for so long; but mid-afternoon we'd usually go for a stroll to nearby Flamingo Beach. There were no pink flamingos strolling around (though there were a few pesky pigeons), but the beach was equally as beautiful. I particularly loved how colourful love locks lined the chains on the cliffs overlooking the bay. 
Each evening we would get dolled up in our finest holiday gear to head out for dinner. We were on a half-board basis, so usually ate at the hotel, though we couldn't resist heading out some evenings for some pizza (anyone else think that pizza on holiday tastes freaking amazing?!). After eating we'd walk along the coastline to the little town of Playa Blanca, witnessing some fabulous sunsets on the way, and would spend time sipping cocktails by the seafront, searching for little ice cream parlours and doing lots of shopping, of course.

My mum and I always enjoy doing a little exploring, and while most of the holiday was spent lounging by the pool and beach, we did take a day out to cruise around the island on a beautiful white catamaran. We caught the yacht from Puerto de Carmen and sailed across to the gorgeous beaches at Papagayo. These are six stretches of white sandy bays, a little different to the volcanic black rock that can be found along the coastline by Playa Blanca, which are overlooked by the towering volcanoes that make up the island. It really is something special. The place is also strangely untouched, with just dunes and lots of holiday makers lapping up the suns rays. We swam in the (f*cking freezing) water, spent time lazing around on deck, and making the most of the sunshine. There's nothing I love more than a Monday spent just like this.

All in all, Lanzarote was an absolute dream and I loved every second. It was so nice to relax and unwind, in the company of my lovely mother who made me belly laugh several times daily. If you're looking for a quiet place to just get away then I can't recommend this stunning island enough. I'll definitely be back!

Lots of love. xoxo

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