28/06/2016

6 tips to prevent heatstroke this summer

Sunstroke is no funstroke.

That sounded better in my head but I'll roll with it...

I got to know this first hand when I suffered from my first case of heatstroke recently.

It was Lloyd and my day off so we decided to go and find a beach that we had visited last year with my parents in Selmun.

This beach is completely secluded. It's about a half hour walk from civilisation with no shops nearby so we knew that we should stock up on some food and drink before we arrived. All well and good, we packed a picnic and caught a bus up to Selmun.

Except for the wind sweeping sand into our faces every few minutes everything was great! We virtually had the beach to ourselves for the majority of the time and bar from the massive amounts of seaweed, we managed to have a nice little swim and snorkel a little further out.

A couple of hours later Lloyd suggested that we make a move and I reluctantly said yes. I'm so glad he made that suggestion as my situation could have been a lot worse.

On packing up, it was only then that I noticed that we were low on water.

"I was so sure that we had brought another bottle, otherwise I would have taken more care about how quickly I was drinking" I said.

As we began our journey back, I noticed myself taking shallower breaths and feeling very thirsty. My muscles ached with every step but I didn't want to stop because I knew it would be difficult to get myself started again. I was going noticeably slower than Lloyd and I wasn't talking (never a good sign!) I wasn't sweating; it was like my body was retaining as much liquid as possible to get me back to the bus stop. Apart from the effort of putting one step in front of the other, I didn't really feel much else except that I knew I could be in trouble if I didn't get some water soon.

Finally, Lloyd found a vending machine ahead in a park and bought me a bottle of water. I drank it in one go and it was like all of a sudden my sweat glands started to work. My whole body started to come alive again and I could feel the horrible chaffing between my legs that I hadn't felt for the whole walk back. It was after drinking water that I started to get stomach cramps and dizziness.

At the bus stop it was too hot to sit but I couldn't stand without any assistance so I just leaned myself against the side of the stop while we waited. It felt like it took forever to get home but as soon as we did, I went straight into the cold shower with a bottle of Gatorade. I had a huge headache so I basically slept for the rest of the day.

The sun is no joke guys, I couldn't even bear to go outside the next day; we needed some time apart.

I thought what with Summer well under way that I would post a few tips to protect you and your loved ones!

1. Make sure that you bring plenty of water! If you're other half is packing the bag then be sure to double check ;)

2. Wear a hat. I only had a wide brimmed sun hat and in the last minute I had decided to leave it as home since it was very windy!

3. Sunblock is your friend. I'd recommend factor 30 and above, especially if you have pasty english skin like me. I use Korres Sunscreen face & body emulsion yogurt. Apart from a dodgy spray bottle the cream is really good and doesn't leave you feeling greasy after application. Korres are also against animal testing which was my main goal when looking for a sunscreen - high five Korres!

4. Wear light clothing. Cotton is always a good choice.

5. Keep yourself hydrated by sipping water as often as possible.

6. After my experience I really don't recommend alcohol. I'm quite sure it's one of the reasons that I felt as bad as I did, and I hadn't drank very much.

So there you have it. Six tips to keep you safe in the summer sun!


 Summer



13/06/2016

Le Meridien Hotel - St Juliens Malta: An overnight stay

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A couple of weeks ago the mister sent me a message exclaiming that he'd won a competition at work.

The prize was a choice of either an all expenses paid meal, a day of adventure or a night at a luxury hotel.

What did I prefer?

Well, I'm all for yummy food or a day of adventure but I know that these are things we wouldn't think twice of doing by ourselves. A hotel stay in Malta on the other hand is not necessarily something we would normally go for unless it was in Gozo or Comino...so with that in mind we opted for the hotel of course! Value you for money and breakfast included? Yes please :)

Le Meridien St. Juliens Hotel & Spa is located in the heart of the panoramic Balluta Bay and is directly on the bus route to St Julians or if you're going in the other direction - to Sliema.

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An unexpected surprise!
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I used to frequent (or not so frequent) the gym at Le Meridien so I had a little idea of the hotel itself but had never been a guest. This time instead of using the back entrance we were using the main reception which is located at the back of the hotel - in other words not the entrance looking out to the sea.

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The reception area
The reception area was large and inviting and check-in was fast and friendly! A good start and you can't ask much more than that. 

The room was light and spacious to our great approval! We were also happy to see some complimentary coffees would be waiting for us in Kudeta Bar just downstairs near the reception area.

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I was so happy to see a tea & coffee set! Kudos :)

To make the experience even sweeter we were treated to a beautiful view. It may have been cloudy but it certainly gave me the perfect photo opportunity!

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The view from our balcony - I've had worse views :)

After having our complimentary coffees we headed for the gym and spa. The pool was just as inviting as I remembered and I couldn't wait to try it out after working up a sweat in the well equipped gym.

I didn't take any photos of the gym unfortunately but you can find some on their site here

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I just love those pillars!

The spa area is just what you would want for a relaxing day; ambient lighting, quiet and thanks to all of the spa treatments it smells amazing.

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Feeling relaxed :)


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Not quite wine glasses, but they'll do ;) Things got a little blurry.

Feeling a little groggy, we woke up and headed down for breakfast - our favourite meal of the day (when we're staying at hotels that is!).

The breakfast was beyond my expectations actually; there was so much choice! The staff were so polite and helpful, even coming to our table to serve tea and coffee. 

We were quite amused by the couple behind us who were obviously preparing for a day out by collecting juice in a Fanta bottle and making salami rolls...classing up the joint ;)

Since check out was at twelve we decided to take advantage of our last couple of hours by heading up to the roof for a swim and some sun! The area was pretty decent though if I'm honest it could have done with a lick of paint and maybe some more plants just to give the area some colour and life. 


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All in all we were happy with our stay. It was clean, comfortable and ticked all of the right boxes for a nice time. I'm personally more of a lover for boutique hotels and quirky design which wasn't really Le Meridien but that's ok. It does what it does well and we can't ask more than that.

Have you stayed at Le Meridien St. Julians? Leave your thoughts in the comment box!

Happy Summer xo 

10/06/2016

Poland Archives - Haunting me – Auschwitz & Birkenau

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I wrote this on the evening after visiting Auschwitz & Birkenau and I felt that it needed to be shared. I was feeling a little ‘creeped out’ by the whole experience so excuse the mournful tone.
I’m having trouble sleeping tonight. Every time I close my eyes all I see are visions of Auschwitz & Birkenau scorched into the back of my eyelids. Today we visited two of the death camps that I’ve heard so much about. It felt so wrong that the sun was shining on this place, yet despite it being a bright and sunny day full of curious tourists I still felt an eery stillness walking around.
Before arriving there, I kind of felt it was a little wrong to visit a place which was the resting place of millions of Jews. Did people really get a kick out of this? I wondered. Now I’ve been there however, I can’t emphasise just how important it was to go and see the camp with my own eyes.
We need to remember. We need to be educated. We need to pay our respects for those who perished and the few who risked their lives for the sake of others.
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Inside one of the buildings at Auschwitz, there was a wall of photos of some of the men and women registered into the death camp. Some, though only having just arrived showed signs that they had been beaten; some wore a blank expression and some (and the ones that really got to me) were faces of men and women wearing genuine smiles with what seemed like no inclination of what was soon to happen to them.

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One of the gas chambers.
Of about eight hundred jews who tried to escape, only about one hundred and fifty managed. It didn’t matter how long it took to search for an escaped prisoner, the Nazis would carry on searching even if it took a whole year.
We learnt about the medical experiments performed on the jews for various purposes and how a lot of the prisoners would end up physically handicapped and thus  would meet their end much faster because they could no longer work and were therefore deemed useless to the Nazis.
We learnt about Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who died as a prisoner in Auschwitz. When a prisoner escaped, the prisoners in the camp would be punished. This was to discourage other prisoners from having even the notion of thinking about escaping (and also because they were just merciless bastards). On this occasion there were ten jews selected to be eliminated in the starvation bunker including Franciszek Gajowniczec who began sobbing for his wife and children. Maximilian stepped forward and asked to take this mans place. Oddly enough, the officer agreed and the priest was thrown down the stairs into the starvation bunker and left to starve. Whilst the other prisoners were gnawed at by their thirst and hunger (often drinking their own urine and licking the cold walls) the priest would pray.
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After two weeks only four of the ten were still alive.  The Nazis grew impatient as they needed the cells for more victims so an executioner was sent to inject a lethal dose of carbolic acid into each of the men. Maximilian was the last to die and whilst fully conscious, he lifted his arm to receive the shot. A true saint.
Franciszek Gajowniczek survived to tell the story and died in 1995 at the age of 95.
After putting pen to paper, I finally managed to get some sleep. I won’t ever forget my visit nor will I forget the fluttering wings of the butterfly that danced past a gas chamber that day.

08/06/2016

Poland Archives: Krakow and what we covered in a week

Ah Krakow.

It's been a few years since I visited this city but I can still remember it quite vividly despite my terrible memory. It’s a place that has something for everyone’s tastes whether it’s history you enjoy, vibrant cities or wonderful food.
Here’s what we covered in a week:


We took a walk around the city by foot. We went in July so the weather was fortunately perfect for a bit of walking.
There’s also free walking tour from Market Square every day which has been highly recommended. Just look out for someone holding a sign post!

We soaked in the atmosphere at Rynek Glowny (Market Square), the largest medieval square in Europe. I could have spent all day just walking around, sipping on cappuccino’s and watching the world go by.

Rynek Glowny

You can take a horse-drawn carriage for a ride around the city. I was extremely impressed by the care that the owners obviously take of their horses. Maltese karozzin drivers should take note.

Krakow

We succumbed to the touristy part of ourselves and took a buggy ride around the city (it was my mums idea). It’s not the cheapest but it’s pretty fun and you’ll probably get to see more than if you were walking by foot especially if you’re there for a really short stay.

We got to sneak a peek inside St Mary’s Church (Koscial Mariacki) for free but I would recommend paying the small 6 PLN fee for a ticket since that’s the only way you’ll be allowed to take photos. Honestly, I don’t say this about many religious buildings but this was really something. 
We sat with our coffees at a cafe close by to the church tower and listened out for the bugle call. It’s every hour so you’re bound to hear it at some point but we wanted to play ‘Spot the bugler’ too. He’s a bit tough to see if you’re short-sighted (and don’t happen to be wearing your glasses). I’ve read quite a few different stories about the bugler call but the one that my parents told me is that a bugler was sounding the alarm and was cut short when a Tatar archer shot him in the throat, thus his alarm was cut short. Now, whenever the bugle is played it stops abruptly to commemorate that moment forever. I hope I got that right, if I didn’t then I’m sure I’ll be corrected at some point.


Krakow

Eat Polish food. Namely potato pancakes and pierogi! The food is delicious and they cater really well to vegetarians too which initially surprised me. For pierogi try the popular Babci Maliny, so cheap and the place is really quirky. Click here for their website…oh yeah and be prepared for the musical introduction.

Krakow

Visit the local Farmer’s Market. The fresh fruit and veg are a sight for sore eyes…and taste great too.



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Farmers market Farmers market Farmers market Tomatoes Farmers market Farmers market - Blueberries Farmers market Farmers market

Take a stroll along the Vistula River before heading Wawel Castle to meet the fire-breathing dragon! Ooh.

dragon - wawel castle

Meet some dwarves in the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  It’s the home of some pretty fantastic sculptures and an underground Cathedral (all made of salt). It’s quite enchanting and I kind of felt like I’d stepped into a Tolkien book. You’ll have to go down a lot of steps to get there, I didn’t count but our guide said there were about 400+. You’ll also have to go with a guide so I would suggest pre-booking the tour and saving yourself the big queue at the actual entrance to the mine. I didn’t take many pictures and I had left my camera…bring yours! You’ll also have to pay about 20 PLN for a photography permit although you could probably get away with not buying one if you’re discreet…I really shouldn’t be saying this sort of stuff should I? Oh yeah, and lick the salt, just because.

Head to Schindler’s Factory to scrub up on your history (and learn tons more in the process). The exhibition tells the story of Krakow under Nazi occupation from 1939 – 1945. This museum is probably one of the best I have seen; It was informative, captivating and moving. You’ll need to allow yourself about three hours to explore and the couple of short films that they show are worth watching too.

Pay your respects by visiting Auschwitz – Birkenau, the death camp which was the last place that so many jews saw…and feel thankful to leave.
auschwitz birkenau

06/06/2016

Poland Archives - Krakow: Now I believe in magic

Krakow Poland

Poland was quite honestly never a country I had thought about visiting…at least any time soon. It was a place I associated only with its tragic history and as much as I enjoy reading and watching documentaries about the war, I didn’t want to put myself into direct contact with the remnants of it. Thankfully my parents had been once before and loved it so much that they invited me to join them for a second visit. They didn’t need to ask me twice!
We arrived in Krakow thirty minutes ahead of schedule after a cosy two-hour trip crammed between two strangers; one of whom was almost falling asleep on my shoulder and the other who spent the entire flight playing Sudoku and what I decided was ‘political Hangman’ on his iPad. Each to their own I guess! Once out of the airport we had already arranged a taxi pick up to take us to the apartment we had rented. It would have been simple enough to take the train but we decided to opt for convenience (laziness) on this occasion.
Our apartment could not have been located in a better place! Well, not unless you plonked it in the middle of the Market Square. It was just a 5 minute walk into the city centre so nothing was far away. The apartment itself was beautiful and truly a home away from home and I’d recommend it over staying in a hotel to anyone.
Information about the apartment can be found here.
Krakow is a beautiful city rich in character and magic. There’s a certain buzz that you get from walking around that I haven’t quite felt anywhere else; it’s kind of hard to describe but I guess it’s a feeling of belonging. The atmosphere gently lures you in with welcoming arms and Pierogi at the ready. Be ready to fall for its charm!

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03/06/2016

A few thoughts on my China travels - 5 years later

When I look back at the words and images that I put together at the age of 24 it feels like a lifetime has passed me by.

At work I recently was signed up to a presentation bootcamp (not of my own doing, might I add) and on our second day we were asked to stand up in front of our group and give a presentation on anything of our choosing.

I thought long and hard about what I was going to speak about and was almost about to give a speech on animal testing but decided it might be too much of a heavy subject. Instead, I decided I would talk about one of my passions: hiking.

I stood at the front of the room nervously, trying to remember everything I had learned about presenting prior to this moment and I started to talk about how my love for hiking began.

It all started with China. Well actually it all started with me wanting more from life.

I wanted a challenge. I wanted to get fit.

My 29 year old self laughs at how gruelling I thought 10km a day could be but then I remember that those 10km were not on a steady terrain but often on ground that was in a state of disrepair. I remember the laughs and bonds that I shared with my team over the course of that five days and how hard these amazing people worked for the causes that they were raising money for. I remember how tough the steps were and the feeling that they were never going to end. I remember being forever thankful for my trekking poles that took my weight and gave me support when I needed it. I remember the smog and the overcrowded train stations and the people who were spitting out their lungs on the carpet of the train...and anywhere else that they could. I remember being in awe of seeing the Terracotta Army in Xi'an and I still can't fathom what I saw but I have the photos to prove that it wasn't just a dream. I remember the Panda Research Centre in Chengdu and wondering if these beautiful animals would ever be able to be released and protected in the wild.

I remember coming back home and having a hard time finding the words to describe what an amazing adventure I'd had because you just had to be there to understand. There's also that feeling that people may not find your trip interesting so you just round it off by telling them that it was 'awesome'.

Life takes over and the memories start to fade but you never forget how something made you feel.

I hope to carry that feeling for years to come.



01/06/2016

China Archives - A Brief Exploration: Part VII

A brief exploration
20.10.11
Today we had the opportunity to do a little site seeing around the main attractions in Beijing.
We went to see the Temple of Heaven which is a beautiful and enormous complex of religious buildings which are definitely worth going to see. There is so much going on such as large groups ballroom dancing; people playing some form of badminton where they kick a colourful feathery shuttlecock to each other; Tai Chi, groups of locals playing cards and dominoes as well as other games I didn’t recognise.
Beijing Beijing Beijing Teahouse in Beijing

A visit to Beijing wouldn’t be complete without visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (possibly my favourite area). Tiananmen Square was immense and crowded and not without its quirks; one of which was a Chinese mother holding her child over a bin to do her business (better than the floor though right?). My expression when I turned around to see that was probably priceless and no, on this occasion I did not take a picture.
I wish I would have had a few days to go exploring alone to see the ‘real’ China too though rather than being in the shadow of thousands of tourists. We did however have the opportunity to visit the Silk Market alone. Flagging down our own taxi was quite interesting! The traffic as you can probably imagine is absolutely manic here and you could easily get run down without anybody  noticing it happened. It was such a buzz though.
tiananmen square in Beijing tiananmen square in Beijing Beijing Forbidden City in Beijing Forbidden City in Beijing

Our next challenge was navigating the enormous train station to take a sleeper train to Xi’an. The station was crowded with thousands of passengers making their way to various destinations. A lot of people were dragging big bags of heavy crops. 

As we walked briskly to our carriage I looked up to the sky and noticed how heavily polluted this city was. The sky was pink and smoggy, I can understand why people cover their noses and mouths.
Train Station in Beijing Train Station in Beijing Travelling in China Travelling in China

The cabin rooms were extremely snug and consisted of two bunk beds on either side plus a small table by the window. I think I only stayed awake for a few hours in total as I wasn’t feeling too well – the whole journey was twelve hours long (8pm-8am) so having the opportunity to stretch out and have a nap was very welcome. 
I remember waking up in the middle of the night desperately needing the loo but because the train had stopped for a break I couldn’t go. The toilets don’t operate whilst the train is not in motion so that was a long hour to wait! It was interesting to see the habits of the Chinese – such as spitting on the ground (yes even on the carpets of the train, lovely). 
First impressions of Xi’an? Loved it! All the buildings had arched roof edges and the city had a nice feeling about it. After breakfast in a fancy hotel, we went to see the Terracotta Army. It was unbelievable! I’ve seen them on TV but nothing prepares you for the scale of the area in real life. In the first pit there were approximately 6000-8000 warriors as well as horses which were rebuilt. There were still a lot of terracotta bodies which were broken and could still be seen lying around half unearthed in the pit. It’s just mind-blowing to imagine how long it took to make each statue and all with unique faces!
Terracotta Army Terracotta Army Terracotta Army Terracotta Army

After having some lunch we went to visit a mosque and a traditional market place. It was brilliant! I could have spent hours going around every market stall each selling their own original goods and interesting foods. 

On our final leg of the journey we had the chance to go to Chengdu and visit the Panda breeding Centre. I even had my picture taken with a baby! This was the first time I had ever seen a Panda and I was amazed by how much smaller they were in real life! They’re really amazing to watch and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to see them. I really hope that they plan to eventually find a way to release these amazing creatures back into the wild where they belong.

Panda Research Centre in Chengdu Sleepy Panda Panda Red Panda British Airways

I definitely plan to cross paths with China again in the future. It was an incredible journey that I will remember for the rest of my life with some of the greatest people I have ever met and I recommend anyone planning a trek to book with CharityChallenge as they were brilliant!
If you have any questions that I haven’t answered in my blog, drop me a message and I'll be happy to fill you in on the details.
Panda Research Centre