Monday, 14 January 2019

Five reasons to visit Edinburgh.

One of my favourite cities in the world is Edinburgh. It was the first official "city break" I went on, and it really fuelled a love for travelling and visiting new places. It's such a magical place. I fell in love with the city instantly and it will always hold a special place in my heart, as I first visited two years ago when I was jobless after a crazy few months interning in London, and I found out I had an interview that would kickstart my career whilst there. 
Since then, I've visited four times with work and each time I've had the opportunity to stroll through the streets and to take in the architecture and beautiful city views. I love how it's nestled among the mountains, as well as being right by the sea, and every time I go I make a mental note to plan a road trip around Scotland immediately. I feel like it's one of the most beautiful countries I've ever been to. 

This weekend I went to Edinburgh once more with work, for a whirlwind 24 hour trip where we auditioned some potential contestants for the programme I work for (leading BBC daytime antiques programme, if you were wondering... any guesses?!). I was actually really thankful for the 4am start, as it meant we had the morning to do some exploring before our work began in the afternoon and went well into the evening, and it made me realise once more why I bloody love the Scottish capital. 

If you're planning a getaway for some time this year, then I urge you to read my reasons to visit below, and if you're still just thinking about it, then my Edinburgh city break guide will definitely convince you... 

1. The breathtaking views

Whether you're walking around Princes Street and looking up, or hiking up Calton Hill or the dormant volcano that is Arthur's Seat and looking down, the views are incredible. Edinburgh has some of the most beautiful open city spaces in the world and I would definitely take the time when you visit to climb some of the hills and peaks in and around the centre. They are totally worth it and they're not too tough a climb either. You get a panoramic view of the city and beyond; it's really beautiful.

The architecture is also worth writing home about. From Edinburgh's iconic castle, which stands proudly on a rock in the medieval "Old Town", to the glorious Georgian buildings in the city's "New Town", everywhere you look is a little snapshot of historic beauty. It's the perfect place for budding photographers and Instagrammers, and be sure to have your camera battery completely charged as you'll be snapping on every street corner. 

2. The history

Speaking of historic beauty, the city has been inhabited for thousands of years, so there's no shortage of stories, tales and exciting things to see. The castle and National Museum of Scotland are obvious to-visit spots for any history buffs, while Grassmarket, Greyfriar's Bobby and the dungeon tours highlight Edinburgh's darker past... 

I'd also recommend doing the open top city bus tour if you get a chance. I know sometimes people think these are pretty lame, but it meant we got to visit a lot more on the outskirts of the city, such as old fishing port Leith, and also Holyrood Park and the Scottish Parliament. It's a hop-on, hop-off service, and there are a variety of tour options and prices available, so a great way to scoot around the city in no time at all. 

3. There's so much to see and do

Shopping? Check. Hiking? Check. Museums and history? Check. Music? Check. Food and drink? Check. Edinburgh has it all. Whether you're someone who wants to enjoy the outdoors within a stone's throw of the city, or if you want to spend your time visiting the foodie hotspots, Edinburgh is the place for you.

One thing I am determined to do is to visit during August for the yearly Festival Fringe, which is the world's largest open access arts festival, and equally if you're a bookworm then you should definitely check out Scott Monument, which is the largest monument built for a writer, ever! (You can also climb to the top of this Monument by paying £8 and following the spiral staircase to the top - not for those who don't like heights or small spaces though.) I'd also love to go to watch the rugby at Murrayfield Stadium, followed by a drink on the Royal Mile, obvs.  

4. The friendly people

Maybe it's because the Scots are our Celtic cousins, but everyone I've encountered in Edinburgh is so friendly. They're always happy to help, to point you in the right direction and to give you recommendations. Despite the centre being quite small, it's also very multicultural so you'll get to meet lots of people from all sorts of places on your travels too. 

5. The magic

I couldn't list the reasons to visit Edinburgh without mentioning a certain boy wizard now, could I? Just walking around the alleyways and closes that wind off the Royal Mile you can see just why the city inspired JK Rowling's Harry Potter. In fact, the city has huge links to witchcraft and wizardry, so even if you're not a massive fan of the Hogwarts series, there is definitely something to learn. 

Have you visited Edinburgh before?
Lots of love. xoxo

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Why I'm determined to say "yes" and worry less.

Last year I learned the power of saying "no". I felt like at the end of 2017 I'd got myself into a bit of a sticky situation. I was hanging out with people I didn't necessarily like, who didn't bring any positivity into my life, and I realised that I was becoming someone who I didn't really want to be. I made the decision to wave goodbye to those social situations, surrounded myself with good people and slowly felt like I found myself again.
It was quite liberating actually, as though a part of my being was hovering above certain situations and I could see myself making decisions for myself instead of for everybody else, and I can honestly say I've come out of 2018 feeling stronger, more empowered and happier than I have been for an extremely long time. It's refreshing and now I know where my priorities lie, and what I want to do, it's time to start saying "yes". 

Yes to spontaneous plans and road trips with friends, that see me winding up in a new place I've never visited before. Yes to crazy challenges, like flying to New Zealand to spend three weeks galavanting around the islands with someone who is as spontaneous as can be. Yes to new opportunities, that see me pushed right out of my comfort zone. I want to do new things, see new places, meet new people and basically, I want to worry less about three things:

1. What people will think: I always feel like I owe people loyalty, when sometimes the only person you need to be loyal to is yourself.

2. The monotony of work and routine: I hate to say it but I feel like I'm a slave to the grind sometimes, and not having a plan really throws me, so I want to try and go with the flow a little more. 

3. Spending a little money: That's not to say I'm going to splurge and splash the cash, I'll always be a Sensible Sonia, but I do need to remember that I work hard and deserve to enjoy too. 
One of my goals for 2019 is to be more spontaneous, a little more carefree. I'll never shake off the anxious feelings I get when I don't know the plan, and I'll never be someone who can live without routine; but I'm going to try my bloody hardest to go with my heart, and to embrace opportunities rather than overthinking the logistics surrounding them. 

I want to say yes to travel. I've said it time and time again on this blog, but I really want to see, to learn, and to embrace new cultures. To enjoy hotter climates, to hike in beautiful mountains, to get my nerd on at museums in various capital cities. I also want to say yes to more time spent with friends, instead of trying to get by on my own all the time. A problem shared is a problem halved, and I'm lucky to have such wonderful people around me. I want to go to more events, whether that's to outdoor theatre shows or street food markets. I want to say yes to being creative, to taking time to work on my blog and getting out there and taking photographs more. 
I feel like I'm finally finding my feet. I know who I am, what I want to do and where I want to be. Now it's all about taking the opportunities to get there. 

Lots of love. xoxo

Thursday, 3 January 2019

2019: New year, new goals.

Happy New Year, bitches! I can't believe it is now 2019 which means it's been SEVEN WHOLE YEARS since I left school, four years since I left university and entered the "real" world, and it's the year in which I turn 25 and am officially in the X Factor's "overs" category *sobs*. I feel like I am now an adult, which is truly terrifying.

I always like to enter the New Year with a focus. Call me a cliché, but creating small and (hopefully) achievable goals at the start of the year really helps me to keep focused, and with a certain someone adventuring over on the other side of the world for the majority of 2019, I definitely need something to keep time ticking away. 
I usually enter the year with a solid plan of action; I know what I want to do and when I want to do it, but 2018 was such a massive year of change that I really don't know what to expect over these next twelve months and that scares me. It actually took me a while to sit down and write this post, which is quite strange considering I am a girl who always has a plan, but now I'm totally ready to kick ass and to take 2019 by the horns!

GOAL 1: Train hard and focus on my nutrition

This is my goal every year and I really upped my regime last year after falling off the bandwagon a little in 2017. I trained hard for the Cardiff Half, which I'm planning on running again this year, and I even got myself a PT as part of a blog collab, which taught me so much about lifting weights and gave me lots of confidence in the gym. I finally felt comfortable in my body again and want to continue to look after myself well in 2019.

My goal this year is to keep running regularly. I absolutely loved running last year. It was my time and I really enjoyed the sense of clarity it gave. I would bloody love to beat my Half Marathon PB. Sub 2 hours would be amazing but that would mean knocking 15 whole minutes off which I'm not sure is feasible; but it's something to work on nevertheless! I'd love to book myself onto some more 10km runs too. I find they are a great way to focus and to give you something to train for. And could this be the year that I finally pluck up the courage to join a running club? I think I'd quite like the social aspect, and it would spur me on a little too.

I also want to get back into a bit of a healthy eating regime again - I mean, doesn't everyone after Christmas? I felt like last year I had a really healthy relationship with food. I ate well for the majority of the time but didn't mind treating myself now and again, and I feel much better because of it.

GOAL 2: Be more spontaneous and get some travels booked in

It's no secret that I'm a homebody. I love routine, I like knowing what I'm doing and when, and I just love being in control of situations. But this year I really want to push myself to be more spontaneous, and I want to do that through travel.

Over the last two years I've realised that I absolutely love visiting new places, and my trip to Canada last year really fuelled that. I love exploring, being outdoors, trying new things, learning about different cultures, and mostly taking photos and making memories. I just need to pluck up the confidence to go away and visit new places, instead of worrying about taking time off work and spending money. I work really bloody hard and save really well, so now that I am settled in a good job and have my flat, I want to enjoy myself more and tick some places off my 20 places I want to visit before I turn 30 list.

I feel I've already started to embrace this goal, as on New Year's Day I booked a city break to Prague for my 25th birthday at the end of the month, and I'm also hoping to visit New Zealand in May (both not on my 20 before 30 list, but it's two new countries ticked off!). The trip to the Southern Hemisphere would be a huge deal for me (I've never even been on a plane by myself before, and I've only ever been long haul to Canada), but it would be such an amazing experience and I'd get to spend it with a pretty good egg too, so I know it would be incredible. I'd also like to visit more places around the UK too, such as Yorkshire, Liverpool and Snowdonia. Solo travel is something I'd like to do eventually, but I'm not quite sure I have the confidence for it just yet. 

GOAL 3: Progress in my career

My career is always my main focus, and while I'm planning lots of exciting things to do with my time next year, I want to ensure I progress within the industry and will continue to work really hard. I've been working in my current role for a year now, so feel I've found my feet and would ideally like to get another "credit" (ie. work on another programme) at some point this year.

GOAL 4: Change up my blog and grow my Instagram

I wrote a lot last year about how I felt my blogging "niche" had moved away from beauty and fashion to lifestyle, and I want to continue to work on that side of things this year on my little space on the web. It will be my 6th (what!!) year of blogging, and I feel like travel, lifestyle, and outdoorsy sort of posts are the way forward for me, with a few snaps of what I'm wearing along the way. They seem to be the most popular content for me, and it's also the sort of thing I enjoy creating the most. I am thinking of changing up my blog name, as I don't really cover beauty anymore, and I'd love to know what you'd like to see more of content-wise also, so leave your thoughts below.

I feel like 2018 was a really positive year in many ways, and it taught me so much about myself as a person and about what I want to do and how I want to live my life. I cut out toxic people and situations, I worked hard on myself, I said "no" to things I didn't want to do, and I finally feel settled. 2019 is all about saying "yes" to new projects and experiences. I'm rather excited to see where things go, and while I don't have much of a solid plan, maybe this more spontaneous approach to life is the way forward.

What are your goals for 2019?
Lots of love. xoxo

Sunday, 30 December 2018

2018: A year in review.

And just like that Christmas is over and it's time to look ahead to the next year; cheers to the festive period, and I hope you all had a wonderful break! But before looking ahead to 2019, I always like to reflect on the last 12 months, what I learned, what I did, what I saw, what I achieved. It's all a big learning curve and it's always interesting to look back on years later to see how far you've come and how your life has panned out.

It feels so strange to be sat down writing this post. Usually I feel like the years fly by, but so much has changed since this time last year, that it feels like years have passed and I'm a completely different person. I always love reading these sorts of posts, and I really enjoy writing them too. So get comfy, grab a cup of tea, and let's get stuck in... 

JANUARY

January started as every year does. It was peaceful and calm, and after a busy 2017 I really enjoyed the quiet. I focused on my health and fitness, started running and signed up to the Cardiff Half Marathon, giving myself a good ten months to get to a level where I could complete it comfortably. I actually really loved the quiet weekends in, going for long walks and just easing into 2018, before my 24th birthday approched at the end of the month.

January was also the first month that I started my job as a TV production researcher, and I set up my first shoot in my hometown, which was really nervewracking but sooo fun. The sense of relief when it was completed was insane, and it also meant I got to introduce my colleagues and presenters to the place called home that I love so much.

Turning the big 24 was definitely a highlight. I'm quite lucky that, despite having a January birthday, it's late enough so that people are ready to actually do things again after the festive period. I spent the day getting pampered at a spa with my mum, before some belated celebrations with friends in February. It was actually a pretty nice month; it was chilled, relaxed and with lots of fun things in between providing a perfect balance.


FEBRUARY

Then along came February and my birthday trip to Paris. After some deliberation we decided the French capital would be our destination of choice, and I absolutely fell in love with the city and all it had to offer. Paris is so beautiful. It's a city I had always wanted to visit and I would encourage anyone who hasn't been to book a getaway there if they get the chance.

We mostly spent our time strolling along with no real idea of where we were going, and stumbling across the landmarks on the way. We climbed the Eiffel Tower, visited the Louvre, Notre-Dame and Arc De Triomphe, and ate our way through the city, taking photographs all along the way. It was a really lovely weekend, despite freezing temperatures and a delayed flight home due to snow, and it really made me want to explore and travel more, which I have vowed to do in 2019. I think I underestimated just how easy it is to book a quick European getaway!

The rest of the month was pretty plain sailing. I had my birthday night out with the girls, made heart-shaped pancakes on Pancake Day, enjoyed nights with friends, and looked forward to springtime. I find that the winter seriously drags in February, but it's always nice to see signs of spring as the nights get lighter. 

MARCH

But those signs of spring were short-lived, as in March the Beast from the East hit. Despite the chaos it caused, the snow was truly beautiful. Cardiff looked amazing covered in a white blanket, and it was nice to spend some time copied up inside. Although after day 2 I had cabin fever and by day 4 I was so desperate to get out and about that I would spend most of the day trudging through the snow banks just to get to town and the gym. 

I spent the rest of March gearing up for my first 10km race. I'd been training pretty hard in the gym, pounding on the treadmill at least once a week, trying to get my distance and stamina up. It's pretty amazing what your body can do when you push yourself to the limit, and on the day of the 10km race, I made it around in under an hour, and felt absolutely amazing afterwards. It was the first hurdle to overcome as part of my Half Marathon training, and the fact that I made it around gave me the boost of confidence I needed. 

APRIL

Then came April. I usually love April as the nights get lighter, it's bright and the fresh blooms and blossom trees make even the drearest of streets look pretty. The weather gets warmer, and we finally get over that horrendously long winter period. This April though, was definitely the toughest month of the year for me; it was an emotional rollercoaster and one that I'm really bloody glad I'm at the other end of now. 

The low was that I broke up with someone I'd been with for nearly 6 years and, depsite it being a decision that was a long time coming and definitely the right thing for me, it was still tough. The guilt of being the one to end things was the worst, but I surrounded myself with good friends, and good people, and I am now in a much happier place and know I've made the right choice.  

The high, however, was that after so much hard saving, I finally put an offer on a flat and it got accepted! I remember my mum and I had planned a day out to Bristol, and we were sat in a little cafe when I had the phone call to say my offer had been accepted. I had really enjoyed house hunting through March; I had viewed so many properties and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of searching for somewhere I could call home. This flat was definitely the one. I'd loved it from the instant I'd walked in, and having my offer accepted cemented the fact that things were on the up and I had so much to look forward to. 

MAY

May for me felt like freedom. It was the first time in my adult life that I was thinking completely of myself, and selfishly it felt bloody good. I spent the majority of it planning for the big move, working out and getting my running training underway. I went out with friends, saw family, and just focused on what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. It was kind of weird to get used to, but it proved to me that I can get by on my own and that was super reassuring. 

At the end of the month came one of my favourite weekends of the year, as I headed to Radio 1's Biggest Weekend in Swansea with all of my best friends. We'd waited so long for the weekend to arrive; and when it did it was absolutely amazing! The weather was great, the atmosphere was insane, and I'd absolutely love to relive it if I could.

JUNE

In June I jetted off for a week of sun, sea and sangria with my mum in Majorca. The Spanish isle is one of our favourites; it's got everything you need for a chilled week spent soaking up the rays and generally escaping every day life, and it's the fourth time I've visited. We stayed in C'an Picafort which provided the perfect balance of peace and quiet, with hustle and bustle, and the majority of the week was spent by the pool with a book in one hand and an ice cream/cocktail in the other. We also headed out on a boat trip, visited Palma and managed to squeeze in some sight seeing along the way. 

I'd actually expected to get the keys to my flat in June and with the stress of the house, combined with other goings on in my personal life, I was so glad to get away and escape for a little while. There was so much to-ing and fro-ing between myself, the solicitor and the estate agents that I felt like my head would explode, and a week-long escape in the Spanish sunshine suited me just fine.

The rest of the month was spent enjoying the amazing weather we had back in June. I went to an Ed Sheeran concert with my mum, auntie and uncle, and generally just enjoyed exploring Cardiff at summer time with good company, as previously I'd spent so many weekends heading back home to West Wales.

JULY

The beautiful weather continued into July, and I really fell in love with Cardiff Bay and all it has to offer. From food festivals, to summer shows, long sunset walks and my weekly 10km runs, I knew I had made the right choice to purchase a property down here.

It was also time to start packing up my old flat before the big move, which was supposed to be mid-July and ended up being postponed due to missing paperwork and a lack of communication from my solicitor. While the weather was gorgeous, I remember July being so stressful; I was engulfed with the worry of moving home and/or actually ending up with nowhere to live at the end of it. I ended up having to put all my contents into storage as the completion date didn't come through in time and I had to move out of my rented property, and it was all a bit of a nightmare if I'm honest.

But finally on 31st July, I picked up the keys to my new home and officially became a home owner! It was one of my proudest days, and weirdly the sense of relief that I finally had the keys and that everything was okay overshadowed the excitement of moving in. I felt so bloody tired after picking them up, after days of stress and worry. But finally opening that front door, and standing on the balcony in the late evening sunsine and realising that this place was all mine was so worth it.

AUGUST

August was mostly spent making my flat a home. My mum was amazing, and helped organise deliveries and bits of work that needed doing, while I was away with work. I went from sleeping on a mattress on the floor to having a gorgeous, comfy bed, and from eating on a picnic table and chairs, to having a beautiful new dining set and sofa. Moving into the flat was so exciting. I loved making it my own, and many a Friday night was spent waltzing around IKEA. I can honestly say I wouldn't want to enter the Swedish homeware store for another good few months though...

In the midst of moving craziness I also headed to London for some much needed girl time with my friends. It was such a lovely weekend, and we crammed so much into it, from sightseeing to cocktail drining and eating all the carbs possible. I love London so much, but it also made me realise that I'm so happy and settled living in Cardiff. While I did try my hand at life in the Big Smoke, the smaller, friendlier city of Cardiff is definitely home for me.

SEPTEMBER

I had been so looking forward to September as it was finally time to head on a trip of a lifetime to Canada to visit my dad. It had been on the cards for a year or two, and it felt pretty surreal to be jetting over there after what seemed like months of waiting. I can safely say, those 10 days I spent in Canada were some of my absolute happiest. 

My dad lives and works in Calgary so I don't get to see him that often, and it was really lovely to get to see the city in which he spends most of his time. My auntie and uncle also live there so we got to visit family, I got to see two of my childhood friends who were working there too, and the love for travel I had ignited in Paris was truly fulfilled. I was in my element. 

The highlight for me had to be the roadtrip we took from Calgary, through Banff and Kootenay National Parks, for a little mountain getaway. It was incredible. The photos really don't do it justice, but staying in a chalet in the mountains, breathing in the fresh air, exploring all the beautiful waterfalls and lakes; words really can't describe how amazing it was. 

OCTOBER

Then came October, the month I had been gearing towards since the start of the year and the day of the Half Marathon. I had been training for months, really focusing on upping my distance, and even forgoing nights out and changing my lifestyle in order to put my training first. The gutting thing was, after a 10 mile training run just two weeks before the big day, I pulled tendons in my foot, and I was left barely being able to walk.

I felt so low and was truly gutted as I really thought I'd have to pull out. It was touch and go right up to the day of the race, but thankfully I made it around the 13 mile route in 2 hours and 15 minutes and I fulfilled my goal of running all the way. It was the most amazing feeling, with an electric atmosphere, and finally ticking off a goal I'd had for over two years. I loved it and I'm definitely planning to run again next year. (Needless to say my foot was in agony afterwards and I've only just plucked up the courage to run again!)

NOVEMBER

November, and indeed most of October, was crazy busy with work. In fact, it was a pretty tough month with lots going on at home too, and it was quite challenging personally. But it was a month of learning. I learned that there is more to life than stressing about work, that you should be kind to everyone because you never know what someone could be going through, and most importantly how lucky I am to have good friends, a fabulous family, and a certain someone who makes me pretty bloody happy too. 

DECEMBER

And then came December and the lead up to the festive period. I'm not really a huge Christmas lover. I find Christmas Day quite an awkward, weird sort of day to be honest, but I did enjoy getting into the festive spirit in Cardiff this year. I visited the Christmas markets, went to festive fairs, enjoyed several Christmas parties, and also went to watch "A Christmas Carol" the week before the big day, which was really lovely. 

I went away for the festive period this year, and as I write this I am sat in my chalet in the woods at Center Parcs Longleat Forest, and what a wonderfully relaxing time I've had. It's been lovely to escape the stresses of every day life and to spend time with my family, after what's been a pretty crazy, whirlwind of a year!

So all in all, 2018 can be described as just that: an absolute whirlwind. There have been amazing highs, and tough lows. I've worked hard, and I've enjoyed harder. I've said goodbyes and have welcomed others into my life with open arms, and I can honestly say that this year has been a year of discovering myself. It hasn't been the easiest, but I've come to the other side feeling fiercely independent, knowing my worth, realising that life is short and that I should enjoy every minute, and most importantly, feeling seriously grateful for the people that I am surrounded by. 

Lots of love. xoxo
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