Gorge de L’Areuse – Fairytale Walk in Neuchâtel

❖ Length – 11km one-way with return by train

❖ Three hours needed at least plus ten minutes for train return

❖ Toilets at start and end and middle in hotel restaurant

❖ Restaurant in the middle – Champ Du Moulins. Picnic spots throughout and fire places by the river.

❖ Family friendly for older children or young children if they are carried in a proper carrier. Not stroller friendly.

The Areuse Gorge has to be one of the most beautiful riverside walks I have done to date. It’s not as daring or thrilling as some of the gorges we have explored since moving here, but it definitely is one of the most beautiful and tranquil. I particularly like it as no matter how warm it is, the gorge always has a little breeze flowing through it and is mainly shaded, making it a great place for family outings away from the sun. 

The most photographed parts of the walk has to be the famous ‘Saut De Brot’ bridge, which honestly looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. It reminded me of Rivendell and fairy tales. The hike is relatively long, around 11km one-way, but you can return to the start by train and the time passes quickly with all the surroundings to distract you. Plus, it is well signposted, just follow the yellow walking signs dotted about the path. 

At the half way point, at Champ Du Moulin, there’s a little restaurant serving classic Swiss fare, should you prefer a sit down meal to a picnic. If the latter is more appealing, there are plenty of places to stop from traditional benches to little coves by the river where you will see many people making little fire pits and having a lunchtime barbecue en route. 

I highly recommend parking and starting the hike at Noiraigues railway station and ending at Boudry. This way you see the whole route and also get to take the train back easily to where you have parked. Alternatively, we have also started before at Champ Du Moulin, parked there and then walked to Boudry before turning round and heading back to the car. This is a harder route as you have to walk uphill on the return and trust me, there are a lot of steps! Especially when you have a little one strapped to the front of your chest. You will also miss the Saut De Brot bridge by doing this route, but I personally think that the gorges and riverside are the most scenic after Champ Du Moulin anyway. 

There’s little man-made Weirs along the route, to please people who love a little waterfall, and some beautifully designed bridges and crossings. I would recommend arriving early if you want a peaceful wander. We started the walk at 10am and it was relatively deserted on a Sunday. By the time we headed back to the car at 1pm there were plenty of people and lots of waiting to pass on the steps. 

It is an easy hike, which will take you around three hours if you don’t stop. It is family and young children friendly, however at times there are a lot of steps or narrow passes so you want to keep them close and have those not too steady on their feet in a carrier at times. It isn’t stroller friendly. 

There are bathrooms at the stations and the restaurant hotel midway. Parking at the stations was free when we did the walk. If you take the train from Bole back to Noiraigues, it’s direct, takes ten minutes and just means a short walk for you from the end of the trail to the station. If you go from Boudry, you need to make one change. The tickets are around six francs one way per adult. 

Our top tips for the walk:

  1. If the weather has been bad recently, perhaps give it a miss as it can be muddy and slippy.
  2. The route has some steep ladders which when going down can be tricky for little ones.
  3. If you mainly want to see the Saut De Brot bridge, then park at Champ Du Moulins and walk 2km to the bridge, and then return back to your car.
  4. To return without the train will take you around six hours and be a 22km walk
  5. Parking is free, but spaces can be quickly taken up during the day so try to get there early. Also helps with the weather situation!
  6. The easiest route is from Noiraigue down to Boudry, if you do it the other way around the whole hike is uphill.

Download the friendly PDF guide for more details on this hike

Gorges Du Dailley – Incredible Hike With Waterfall Views in Valais

❖ Length – 5km if taking the Gorge route return

❖ Two hours needed at least

❖ Toilets at start and end at either the car park or the restaurants

❖ Two restaurants, one at the start and one at the end. Picnic spots in the pine forests after the Gorges.

❖ Family friendly for older children or young children if they are carried in a proper carrier. Although it may be hard to do the walk with the added weight of a young one with all the stairs. Not stroller friendly.

We are big fans of a gorge walk, and I have to say that the Gorges Du Dailley are some of the most spectacular we have hiked through so far. The views take your breath away in places, and the ascent and climb can do the same too thanks to the various different stairs, footbridges and ladders you need to pass to complete the route. 

The construction of these incredible passes will amaze you as you head down deeper following the flow of water and into the forest lined pathway which provides refreshing shelter on a hot summers day. 

Arriving there from Switzerland or France can be quite the drive. The roads at the last 10km are very narrow mountain passes with single track roads through the cliffs. It is a very scenic route but for those unsure on the windy mountain roads, perhaps not the best to take. 

There are several ways to walk this hike, however we primarily were there to see the gorges and therefore wanted to maximise our time there. With this in mind, we parked near the Auberge Du Vallon de Van, and then began our walk through the tree lined pathway following the signs for the ‘Gorges Du Dailley’ and past the welcome sign. 

We navigated through the trees until it opened out to the entrance of the gorge and the first ladder descent began. Then it was around thirty minutes of slowly descending the different contraptions and pathways, taking in the various views of the mountains surrounding us and waterfalls behind us as we hiked. After a short climb down, we again reached forest ground where we walked for a short duration to turn and see the incredible ‘Cascade du Dailley’ from the base. We continued walking until we hit the wooden shelter and then decided to turn around and tackle the gorges and steps but this time from the ground up. We wanted to make the most of the views of the cascade and also push ourselves with the climb up the 600 plus steps to the top! If you fancier an easier route, you can instead walk another fifteen minutes through the pine shaded forest and reach the main road, where you turn right to follow the route back to your car.

Overall, it was around a 5km walk in total but it was exerting thanks to the stairs you had to climb back up. Therefore bear this in mind when visiting with young children that may need to be carried if you do the Gorges both directions. It is definitely not stroller friendly. 

At the end, we rewarded ourselves with a delicious meal at the Auberge Du Vallon de Van. The menu changes with the seasons, and they have great local wines to sample to refresh you at the end of your walk. The service is great, and there’s an outside terrace if the weather is good. 

Our top tips for the walk:

  1. If it is hot, the hike can be both difficult due to the number of steps to climb up (600+) and that it’s often in direct sun. Wear suncream and go early or later in the day.
  2. The route has some steep ladders which when going down can be tricky for little ones.
  3. Good shoes are a necessity.
  4. The drive to the walk can be a little precarious at times, so take it slowly if you are not too familiar with single track mountain roads.
  5. Parking is free, but spaces can be quickly taken up during the day so try to get there early. Also helps with the weather situation!
  6. Those looking for an easier walk should take the Gorges down from the Auberge Du Vallon restaurant and back up via the road, rather than the other way around.

Download the friendly PDF guide for more details on this hike

Bisse Du Torrent Neuf Hike – Easy and Scenic Trail in Valais

❖ Length – 6km one way, 12km return

❖ Three hours needed at least

❖ Toilets at start and end

❖ Two restaurants, one at the start and one at the end. Picnic spot at the end.

❖ Family friendly if you keep a close eye on young children, but not pram friendly

The Bisse Du Torrent Neuf is an easy but rewarding hike across a 6km path (12km return as it’s one way) that begins through the shaded and gentle forest, opening up to a narrow path at dizzying heights with incredible views across Valais. 

It’s accessible and doable with children, we had our two month old baby in our ErgoBaby carrier and we managed just fine, although be warned, it’s not stroller friendly and you will need to keep an eye and probably a hand on young children in many parts as some of the sheer cliff edges don’t have barriers. That being said, we saw many families with children as young as three enjoying the hike when we were there.

You begin the hike at the parking lot, if you park at the second one as we did, you have a twenty minute walk through the forest to the Chapel St Marguerite and a small local restaurant where the official path begins. It can be a little tricky to initially get from the parking lot to the forest path and then the Bisse trail, so you can either do as we did, and follow people up ahead, or look for the yellow path signs to Chapelle St Marguerite. 

When you begin the trail, you are met with incredible views along the way and it continues with narrow pathways and four different suspension bridges which are not for those afraid of heights. It will take you around two hours to complete it all from the forest to the end if you are stopping for photos and a break on one of the benches. 

Along the way, there are great signposts and plaques educating you on the history of the Bisse as well as some impressive photos showing how it was built and how people used to access it.

At the end of the trail there is another restaurant, ‘Brac Chalet’ and toilets, where you can stop for refreshments before taking the same path back to return to the car park. 

Our top tips for the walk:

  1. It’s best done in good weather, especially considering the steepness of the narrow pathways
  2. It can be hard to initially find the start of the trail in the forest, so make sure you familiarise yourself with the maps at the car parks before setting off.
  3. Good shoes are a necessity.
  4. It can get very busy, we arrived around 8:30am which was ideal as by the time we were on our way back, we had to wait to cross a lot of the bridges as you can only pass one direction at a time. Avoid the lunchtime rush where possible. 
  5. If you want to enjoy a picnic (or feed the baby as we did) there’s a little private hut just before the second bridge, or picnic benches along the way and at the end. You can also put up a picnic mat in the field at Brac when you reach the end of the trail.
  6. Again, it’s not a hike for you if you don’t like heights!

Download the friendly PDF guide for more details on this hike

Are We Going To Hear The Pitter Patter Of Tiny Feet Any Time Soon? Pregnancy, Endometriosis and Our Journey.

After being married for six years, and together for almost a decade before we announced we were extending our family, we had slowly started to hear less of the common question ‘when are you thinking of making it a family of three?’ 

Honestly, I don’t massively begrudge anyone who asked it of us. For many people, it was a natural question and something they obviously expected from us based on their own choices and experiences. That being said, there is a lot to learn and be mindful of when asking something that can be deemed as incredibly personal or sensitive. Personally, I don’t ever ask. I respect that there is a usually reason for not adding children into the mix, and leave it up to the couple to share this should they ever wish to.

So, what about that family of three? 

The reason I am sharing this post now is because this month marks Endometriosis awareness month. It’s been a good few years’ since I last wrote on this particular topic as I often feel the conflict between sharing something quite personal, and the importance of being honest to help others, but I think that with my current circumstances it only feels right to share something quite close to my heart.

Following a long journey, laparoscopies (surgery) and endless scans and tests that I won’t go into detail with here, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis in 2014. 

Surgery number two – 2016

Since then, I have faced a series of hospitalisations, burst cysts, bloating and IBS and trials of different pain management solutions to try and get a handle on the condition day to day. 

But what actually is it?

Endometriosis is a condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body.  Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape, and instead leaves behind these tissue linings which can cause cysts, inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.

It is a chronic and debilitating condition and can lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems amongst many other things. 

It is also notoriously difficult to diagnose, and many women, myself included, go years with painful symptoms and no support or answer to why they are suffering. 

So, “what about that family of three?” we often got asked. 

Well, based on the above, we were suddenly very aware a year after getting married that if we ever wanted to expand our family, there was a big chance it wouldn’t be straightforward and could result in disappointment and years’ of frustration ahead. 

This, paired with our goal of seeing a lot of the world and building up our careers led us to the mutual decision that for the foreseeable future, we wouldn’t even worry or focus our energies on the big ‘what if’s’ about starting a family. We made a big pre-baby list of everything we wanted to do first and put our heart and souls into having the best five years as a married couple that we possibly could and to ignore the could we / couldn’t we question.

However as we reached our thirties, we knew it was time to dig out this obstacle we had pretty much buried, and face the realities it could bring head on. Especially as for my husband, children were a big dream. We knew we were ready for a family; we just now needed to find out what it would take or if it could really happen for us.

We started the journey knowing it could take a lot of time or not even be successful. A lot of medical advice recommends couples trying to start a family try don’t approach it ‘scientifically’, and you hear that regular phrase which is ‘as soon as we stopped trying it happened!’ just like in the What to Expect When You’re Expecting Film.

We knew that for us, this probably wasn’t the best route. I won’t go into the details as honestly a lot is still quite personal, but we spent a long time preparing with expensive private medical visits, scans to check the current existence of lesions or cysts, and a big diet and lifestyle overhaul to name just a few. Honestly, it involved a lot of saving, patience and trust and we know we were fortunate in that others have it much worse than we ever did. 

It took quite a bit of time, and we had a few pretty awful bumps, tears and scares along the way, but eventually we were incredibly lucky in that it actually happened and I am now writing this at 35 weeks’ pregnant with our little girl. 

I wanted to share this post and my story as from the outside, it often looks quite easy or that people just manage to get pregnant without much effort. For many couples, that can be an amazing reality, but for others not so much. If you just looked at my Instagram you’d probably think the same of us and not be aware that even for the first twenty weeks of this pregnancy I had two cysts bigger than the baby still hanging around and needing to be monitored, and thanks to my surgery scars my belly button is a sight to behold right now.

Cysts bigger than the baby

Really, I wanted to just highlight that we never really know what has gone on to get someone to the place where they are with or without children, and that we should all be mindful of this when raising the questions such as ‘when are you thinking of making it a family of three?’ or comparing ourselves to others. 

For those with endometriosis or going through something similar, and who want to talk, always reach out to me. A strong network does wonders and you don’t need to go through this alone. 

My Second Trimester Must Haves and Key Learnings

Everyone has a different experience when it comes to pregnancy, with no two journeys ever being the same. During my second trimester, I gathered some pretty useful pieces of advice, or discovered a few things I wish I had known a little earlier. All the below was mainly discovered thanks to incredible tips I received from my mum-friends, pregnancy books and tried and tested personal experiences!

Overall, for me the weeks 13-27 were the best so far of my pregnancy. I had much more energy, could exercise easily again, and my only niggles were on-going rib pain and my sickness continued (albeit with a lot less frequency than in the first twelve weeks).

Here’s a collection of things I discovered that may or may not help you if you are in the middle of your second trimester, or want to prepare early for the months’ ahead.

Smart and comfortable maternity work-wear

It was around twenty weeks that I had to swap out my usual pre-baby wardrobe for some new maternity staples. That being said, I regularly wore my maternity work trousers and dresses from the moment I got even a bit of a bump (or pretended I did when I had just massively over indulged on Thai food) as they were so much more comfortable and less restrictive on a sore bloated belly than usual clothes.

You really don’t need much, but 1-2 pairs of work trousers and some stretchy specialist dresses will see you through the pregnancy and all trimesters without too much cost. For tops, I recommend buying floaty and loose for the workplace, and using a vest underneath to add length when they shorten due to the growing bump.

I found Bandia Maternity (purchased through ASOS) and Seraphine Maternity both had the best fit, and options that didn’t make me feel frumpy or bored of my wardrobe as my body changed.

Also, top tip: Mango shift dresses have lasted me right up until 35 weeks so far, and they are so comfy. I just took a size up from usual and they have seen me through.

A belly band

A lifesaver as your belly is expanding but you are not ready to give up your old jeans just yet. Pop a belly band over the waistband to hide the fact you can’t properly button up anymore and to protect your modesty. Also it just feels nice to have something covering the bump as it grows. This wonderful invention meant that outside of work I could wear my non-maternity jeans right up until my third trimester.

Bath with Epsom salts before bed

I don’t have a bath because I foolishly thought I wouldn’t miss one when moving to our new apartment. Note to past Lyndsay – it was a very bad move. So whenever I travel whilst pregnant I always request a hotel room with a tub because of the wonders a warm soak does for a growing body. Throw in some Epsom salts, light some candles and spend a good thirty minutes in the water to reduce swelling or pressure on your limbs.

A body pillow

My incredible brothers and sisters-in-laws got me this as a gift when I discovered I was expecting, and during the second trimester it really became invaluable. As your options for sleeping when you’re pregnant are pretty much limited to left side, or right side, you want to make sure that you are comfortable as possible. Trust me, your hips get sore after eight hours slumber on the same side.

A pregnancy pillow helps remove some of that pain, and they make for a great substitute partner to cuddle when they are working away or they have migrated to the spare room bed to escape the pillow pregnancy fortress you’ve created in the main bedroom.

Pregnancy exercise subscription

If you are feeling well enough and up to it, a mild exercise routine tailored to your stage of pregnancy can do wonders to help you feel a bit better on a daily basis. Don’t worry if you’re not, your body is growing a whole human and pretty preoccupied right now.

I loved pregnancy Yoga, and using Kayla Itsines – Sweat with Kayla pregnancy specific workouts for a big of an endorphin rush and to help with aches.

Comfy pyjamas and lounge-wear

You’re going to spend more and more time in pyjamas and loungewear because let’s face it, nothing is more appealing when in your second trimester than being cosy at home with a good book and comfort foods. Treat yourself to some new stretchy and comfy sets.

I got a couple that will be both worn now, in my hospital bag and great for nursing afterwards too so they have longevity. For this, button down shirts are key.

I got some lovely pieces from The White Company and H&M.

Rennies

Buy Rennie’s in BULK to help with heartburn. I lived off them after most meals.

Notebook or pregnancy journal

Although it doesn’t feel like it at the time, the weeks’ really fly by and you tend to forget some of the small details or funny stories that happen day by day as you discover new symptoms or put the hairbrush in the fridge (true story).

I would highly recommend getting a pregnancy specific journal so you can take half an hour a week to capture each stage. I already am looking back at it and laughing and I am still pregnant, so I know it’s going to be a great memento for years to go.

I got the ‘How To Grow A Baby’ Journal – which is a great accompaniment to the same named book from Clemmie Hooper. You can get it via Amazon and it has some great week by week question prompts to help you fully capture your journey.

Classes

If you are wanting to take any specific classes throughout your pregnancy, now is a great time to do this. Hypnobirthing, pregnancy meditation and yoga, and breastfeeding classes are ones that I personally am getting a lot of benefit from. But it’s each to their own.

Microwavable heat pad

During my second trimester, and apparently a lot earlier than most people, I started to get burning and aching pain under my left rib on a daily basis, especially after I had sat for too long or had just eaten a big meal. Don’t get me started on the five hour flight to Northern Tromso I booked before this became a symptom and it then flared up. Basically, with baby and my short torso, there really wasn’t much room for much else so my ribs began to push out to make space.

Rib flare apparently is common, and for me a heat pad really helped ease some of the burn after a long day at the office.

Books!

Start getting recommendations, borrow good used copies from friends and max out your library card to prepare you for the days where you are perhaps feeling like you have a little less energy and need some entertainment.

I have started to stockpile now for my last few weeks before baby is here and I am on maternity leave / to have something to occupy me during breastfeeding sessions.

If you are not a big reader, then swap the above for magazines, podcast recommendations or a good Netflix to watch list.

Shape/support-wear

Hear me out, I am not recommending that you wear Spanx or similar when pregnant to protect your image or to produce a more flattering bump. As you grow, and your bump gets bigger, you definitely start to get a little more uncomfortable due to the extra weight your back and legs are now supporting.

I found that a good belly support belt, and specialist maternity support-wear did an incredible job of helping to ‘hold up’ the bump and keep me from feeling as much strain when I was on my feet for a lot of the day. This can range from high-waisted yoga leggings to specialist Lycra shorts. Do some research and see if anything works well for you.

Seven Secrets You Need To Know To Make You More Productive and Organised

As I have got a little older, I have become more self-aware of things I am good at, and things that I perhaps should leave to others (coordination sports, digesting lactose, long phone-calls for catching up, drawing and multi-tasking to name a few).

On the flip side, I am a good natural organiser and tend to thrive with tasks requiring self-discipline, productivity and planning. Recently, a few people have been asking for what it is I do each day to get stuff done, or get stuff done quickly. So I thought I would share a post on my top reflections and habits that I think contribute towards my productivity in case it’s useful for a wider audience.

With the above in mind, I also want to reflect that until recently I used to be pretty embarrassed of just how organised (read: borderline control freak) I was as a person. These days though, I welcome it with open arms. I think that because of these traits I find it easier to go after the things that make me really happy, and put a lot of energy and effort into events, trips and plans that leave a lasting impact and memories for years to come.

Top ways to keep organised and productive on a day to day basis:

One: Know your goals, and know your plan

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hype of being ‘busy’ or hyper productive. There are methods that get you to write down 5-7 habits a day to do every day. Others encourage you to break down big tasks into more manageable chunks to make them seem more attainable.

Personally, I think that the most important way to keep disciplined and productive is to have three things established. One, a very clear vision of where you want to be in life in the next 3-5 years. I am not talking specific here (although feel free to be detailed) but a good understanding of what life looks like for you in the coming years. If you don’t have a good goal, nothing’s going to motivate you.

Secondly, an understanding of your main priorities in life and what matters most to you.

Lastly, a personal acceptance of the fact that you really can’t do everything, but you can do a lot.

If you know you want to be a full time writer, living in a small house in the remote countryside in the next three-five years. You are aware that your priorities are your family, your health, your friends, travel and writing. Then you can easily take a moment to assess your day to day and even week by week plans to see what is contributing towards that and what is distracting.

If in a week you spend two hours a day watching Netflix, but the above is your plan, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out it won’t happen for you in the near future because it’s not where you are putting your energy.

Two: Do what makes you happy

This one isn’t really easy for all, but I am a firm believer that unless you are doing something that challenges you, makes you happy and feel fulfilled you’re never going to have the motivation to put 100% into it.

If you are feeling stuck in a rut, or like you’re limited because you are pursuing something you really don’t enjoy, make a change today. No one can be productive all the time for something that doesn’t make them happy.

Three: Do the hardest tasks of the day first, every single day.

Block out the first hour to get the rough stuff done. The stuff that makes you scared, a good dose of exercise, the email you’ve been putting off writing or the paperwork you have yet to reply to and file.

Often the things that are the hardest to do, or that we avoid are the ones that bring the biggest changes or impact on our day to day.

Honestly, if you can just change one thing this for me would be it. Before reading the news, before social media or joining a call, put aside an hour to just get stuff done.

Four: Know your own habits and routines

We all have our own habits and pitfalls when it comes to organisation and discipline. Personally, I know that after 6pm I am cognitively useless. If you check my blog and writing performance, I always have a dip in publishing mid-month.

Instead of being frustrated by these habits, I instead just work my projects and days around them. I write more at the start and end of each month, and during the middle I focus on other priorities such as getting outdoors, trips and down time.

It’s the same with household tasks like taxes, budgeting and planning for my husband’s business, I know if I don’t tackle them in the first week of the month I will lose motivation. So I make these a priority.

After 6pm I don’t do anything ‘mentally taxing’ and use this time to unwind.

Embrace your own ways of working and natural habits rather than consistently trying to overwrite and fight them. Make them work as part of your productivity.

Photo by Michaela on Pexels.com

Five: Time blocking

If you are always finding yourself too busy to do the things that matter, take some time to block out and organise your diary now to make room for the bigger priorities. Give yourself an hour every day to work on projects. Refuse meetings or calls on a Friday to use this time to turn your ideas into reality.

Give yourself an hour a day for self-development.

Six: Don’t hyper organise

An app can be incredibly helpful if you already know your goals and priorities. A notes site can be fantastic to collect articles to read later, if you actually are going to read them. A well-structured calendar will only be effective if you are actually going to stick to your agenda.

We seem to love technology and hyper-organisation when it comes to being disciplined and often think that certain apps, tools and tech will help us become productive. The reality is, these tools complement an already productive lifestyle.

Plus, with these tools we tend to want to add 7-8 habits a day rather than one or two that will actually get done, because otherwise the list looks bare.

Get apps if you need them to further habits you already have, or interests you already stick to. Don’t expect them to be the cure.

Seven: Outsource

This one took me a long time to firstly realise was a thing, and then secondly do properly. You don’t need to do everything yourself, and to go back to my first tip, in order to be productive you need to realise that you really can’t do everything, but you can do a lot.

Outsource whatever it is that distracts from your priorities or what you enjoy where you can. Obviously some aspects require financial freedom to do it, such as having a cleaner or someone or taking a load of laundry to be dry cleaned once a week.

Others however, not so much. Sites like Fiverr make getting all sorts of tasks done quickly and easily for less. They have everything from virtual assistants to data entry and video editing.

Same goes for things like present shopping, do you know many big online stores now offer free personal shopping services or AI powered Chat Bots to get you the perfect gift in next to no time. Or food shopping, have a service deliver a weekly pre-prepared favourites list to you and then add in things you fancy as you think about them.

Lastly, the biggest thing I think that has helped me be more productive is living a lot more minimally. I have less stuff to clean, no real clutter to sort through, I don’t spend hours worrying about outfits as my wardrobe is pretty capsule and I don’t spend hours working out how to get the new car I covet or striving after the next big material success. When you let go of the distractions, the must-haves and the noise, it becomes really easy to just get stuff done.

What are your top tips for being productive?

M Insider: The Monthly Roundup – January Edition

M Insider is a collection of things that at this moment, I think are truly brilliant. It might be a new destination, an ingredient I can’t believe I haven’t cooked with before, or a travel app that has just gone and made life abroad so much easier.

Here’s the second instalment of the M Insider Monthly Roundup, looking back on December 2019.

Morzine – French Ski Town

Often, I tend to dodge the more ‘touristic’ hot spots when it comes to the winter season. By doing this, you share the slopes less, you avoid overpriced passes and you don’t need to worry about expensive accommodation as many smaller resorts tend to be closer to home or reasonably priced.

However that being said, sometimes the cheesy and tourist filled winter villages are the best because they are exactly what you need at the time. We went to Morzine in France for the weekend, and honestly, the buzzing Apres Ski atmosphere, cosy little overpriced cafes and shops selling everything you don’t need, coupled with a stay in an extravagant spa hotels in the mountains really hit the spot.

Asparagus and Lemon Risotto

I am that obsessed with this recipe I have made it three times in the last fortnight. Granted, I have swapped out the asparagus for green beans and Mangetout to give it a bit of variation but honestly, it’s such a winner and so easy to make.

I just love strong, citrusy flavours. So if like me you want a quick but delicious mid-week dinner, look no further than this fantastic risotto recipe.

Embracing Organisation

I used to be a little embarrassed or ashamed of how truly, anally organised I was as a person. I love a planner, preparation is definitely key, and making an itinerary is a true treat.

However I decided that one of my ‘resolutions’ for 2020 was to embrace this quirk, and no longer apologise for wanting to have stuff scheduled or prepared in advance.

Since this year is a big one for us, I have already put in some time to properly plan events such as my husband’s 30th, our two big vacations and our Christmas accommodation (because we’re going away in a big group) and honestly it feels great. If you have a trait you’re forever apologising for because you think others judge you for it, stop. Make 2020 your year of embracing your quirks and making them work for you

Off-Season Travel

Travelling often requires perfect timing if you are going to make the most of your trip. If you want to see the Cherry Blossoms in Japan, you need to head there during a specific two weeks of Spring. If you want guaranteed sun, you need to choose your destination or your departure data wisely based on the location.

With all that in mind, whilst seeing destinations at their sunniest, snowiest or during certain festivals definitely has a lot of benefits, there’s a lot to be said about seeing places when they are classed as ‘off-season’ too. We have started to try and do this a little more, because I think that honestly, you see a completely different side and energy to many destinations when you visit out of their main window.

Venice was magical in December. It was snowy, it was empty and there was something incredible about enjoying a glass of red wine, next to a fire, in this enchanting and artsy city.

Again, the same can be said for Switzerland in the summer rather than its usual winter draw. Vast hiking routes open up, prices are a lot lower, and the wine cellars open. It has so much to offer for a destination people see primarily as a skiing paradise.  

Sex Education Season Two – Netflix

If you’ve not seen season one, well obviously start there. If you have somehow missed that season two is now available as you’ve been living under a rock or weirdly putting off watching it for some reason, end your excuses and start tonight.

It’s just as great as the pilot season, and I could waste away hours envying over Gillian Anderson’s wardrobe and style in the series. No wonder pantsuits are seeing a massive rise in the fashion world right now.

Seedlip Gin (Alcohol Free)

I first had a taste of Seedlip when I was celebrating New Year with friends back home, and looking for something to create delicious mocktails out of during the evening celebrations.

I got a Seedlip pre-mixed gin and tonic can, and honestly, it tastes fantastic and will be something post-pregnancy I keep on drinking to keep a good balance.

The Economist Subscription Packages

There’s so much free content available now online, but sometimes it really is worth paying for that extra long-form analysis, the discoveries into topics you never knew you wanted to learn more about, and the joy of reading something offline whilst tucked up in bed at the end of a long day.

The Economist do a really good subscription deal, especially if it’s your first time trying it. You can get the first twelve weeks for just £12 and it also includes a free gift.

It’s something I treat myself to every year, and look forward to each edition arriving.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

What a book. I honestly wish I could perfectly write enough to get you to read it without spoiling it, but I am wary that by doing so I will give important details away that I want you to discover when you lose yourself in this well-written and engrossing novel.

It’s not the typical genre I go for, but it is done so well it easily is one of the best reads I have picked up in the last six months.

If you want a new book, and feel like you can trust in my recommendation, order or borrow a copy today.

Neal’s Yard Sleep Body Butter

This book is incredibly powerful, and really makes you think. With the rising power of technology, we have to make a decision about how we want it to shape our future. Do we allow technology to enrich the few and impoverish the many, or harness it and distribute its benefits? It’s a must-read and it’s pretty hard to put down once you begin.

Social Media Detoxing

Four days ago I embarked on a month long social media detox, and already I am feeling the benefits. So much so, I have asked my husband to post my blog article posts and promotions for me so that I can keep relishing in the offline, switched off bubble I am happily living in right now.

I hope I last the next twenty five days, and the good feeling that comes with being socially ‘detoxed’ continues. For me personally, I wouldn’t have said I was ‘addicted’ to it but I definitely would scroll absentmindedly when bored or waiting for something like a bus every day. It had become a habit, a go to crutch for boredom, and I wanted to break than reliance.

I definitely am missing out on some of the great updates many of my friends and family post on a regular basis, especially with living in a different country to many of them, but those I am super close to send me these via a message or call anyway so honestly it’s not been bad at all.

If you too are feeling the ‘social habit’ where you scroll without realising, you’re posting more than you are experiencing day to day, or you are sharing photos for reasons other than memory capturing and moment savouring, maybe you need a detox too.

The Secret Questions You Ask During Early Pregnancy, And What This Can Tell Us

It can be a tricky time when you first find out you are expecting, as quite often you have endless questions to ask but only a limited audience you feel comfortable confiding in for the first three months. Personally, I found it to be quite a lonely period and often didn’t really know whether the answers to the questions I was seeking online were the right ones.

For anyone who is trying to conceive, who has just discovered they’re expecting (congratulations!) or for those who are just interested, I decided to do a bit of digging and turn to the power of data to discover what new mums are really thinking during those first three months. It may not give you any advice but it could help you to know you’re not really alone in your thoughts during this time.

Caveat here – I am not a medical professional, and seriously if you have any of the below questions, your midwife or Doctor is a much better source of advice than the internet.

As the saying goes, if you really want to know more about someone or what they are thinking, you just need to access their search history. It’s true that these days, Google really does know more about you than perhaps even your closest friend.

So, let’s get down to business. If you have ever wondered what the top symptoms searched for during the first trimester are, I am about to enlighten you.

First and foremost, morning sickness and nausea searches take the top spot when it comes for symptom support. This isn’t surprising, considering how many women get this during the first twelve weeks and how many of us are desperate for a way to carry on as normal when we feel like pure hell, just so others don’t catch on.

Interestingly, the search for pregnancy related symptoms and ailments is highest during the winter months. Perhaps the sun and a daily dose of vitamin D makes it easier to us to power through the nasty side effects compared to battling them on an already cold and dark morning.

So what else is on the list?

In a rough order, we are keen to know about:

  1. Headaches
  2. Discharge
  3. Cramping
  4. Miscarriage signs
  5. Spotting
  6. Dizziness
  7. Bloating
  8. Tiredness,
  9. Mood swings
  10. Sore breasts
  11. Being thirsty
  12. Losing our appetite.
  13. Why our ribs hurt
  14. Being out of breath so early on

If any of these look familiar to you, it’s because they are super common searches throughout the first few months. Personally, there’s some I definitely expected to be higher on the list from my own experience but that being said, every pregnancy is unique.

Okay, so what else? Well, when we are seeking answers during this time, 95% of us search from our mobile devices. I think perhaps we are all in silent agreement that these queries tend to be more spontaneous and ‘on-the-fly’, as well as being something we probably don’t want to Google at work (where most desktop use now takes place).

Interesting, for the partners out their supporting their pregnant other halves, the top searches say a lot. In the US and UK, the top searched for questions following the phrase ‘my wife is pregnant…’ are ‘my wife is pregnant and I am scared’ ‘my wife is pregnant meme’ and ‘my wife is pregnant what do I do’.

Says quite a bit about the emotional rollercoaster both parties go through in their first few weeks of expecting doesn’t it.

Photo by Natalie on Pexels.com

Okay, so we have covered symptoms and initial reactions, but what advice are parents to be in the UK asking the internet for during these initial twelve weeks?

One of the top asks is yet again food based. This time, we want to know the best foods to be consuming during this time with ‘pregnancy diet, pregnancy diet menu and diet week by week’ being high volume questions we seek answers to. On top of this, we also want to know what foods we really should be avoiding.

Guess what the top UK blanks are for ‘can you eat…during pregnancy?’ Well, it seems that we are nervous about missing out on our seafood fix, with Prawns, Tuna, Sushi, Crab and Feta taking the top five spots.

What about other advice? Well, in a rough order these are some of the other high volume searches we make during the initial first three months:

  1. Cravings (with recent peaks in searches for funny stories, the meaning behind them and also if they are actually real) – perhaps the final one is from the partner who has been sent to the store for the third time past midnight for ice-cream in a week.
  2. Nausea remedies
  3. How to prevent stretch marks
  4. Symptoms to predict a boy vs. a girl
  5. Checklist and things you need to do during the first-trimester
  6. How much weight you need to gain during this time
  7. If you can still go running
  8. If you can still wear Spanx during this time

Oh and lastly, pregnancy related searches sky-rocket in January. I guess that for many people, the New Year signals a natural time to begin their journey of expanding their family.

What Your Travel Searches Reveal About You

January is the month every year, where travel searches peak across the United Kingdom, and it’s quite significant. They are nearly 300% more compared to any other month of the year. Perhaps it’s something about the cold start to the year that drives us to seek warmer adventures to look forward to, or it could be that we want to get organised and start the year planning our vacations for the coming twelve months. I know I definitely fit into the latter group, for me, January is an exciting month to map out the year ahead and fill it with things I know will make it the best yet.

But what are you searching for when it comes to travel? Below I have taken a sample of the biggest questions you’re seeking answers for when it comes to organising your vacations, as well as some surprising discoveries about your searches.

Your Top Search – Best Holiday Destinations

We all want to make sure that we use our precious travel time wisely, so it comes as no surprise that the top travel searches are mainly about getting the destination right so that we go on a trip to remember for years to come.

Your Surprising SearchPhotos Matter Most

It perhaps comes as more of a surprise that we are now often using photo and social media based inspiration to influence where we visit next. Searches for ‘the best Instagrammable travel places’ and ‘Instagrammable destinations’ are rising rapidly, as well as people looking for the holidays that will give them the best photo opportunities in-between enjoying a gelato and exploring historic sites.

If you are looking for inspiration on where to visit in 2020, I have put together a post featuring my favourite all time destinations and many of them have free travel guides and itineraries for you to use.

To save you the click though, my top five are:

  1. Japan
  2. Iceland
  3. Norway
  4. Switzerland
  5. Italy

However if you want to see what the experts are recommending, the Lonely Planet annual ‘Best in Travel’ guide is well worth a read. You can access it here – https://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel

They list their top ten countries for 2020 as:

  1. Bhutan
  2. England
  3. North Macedonia
  4. Aruba
  5. eSwatini
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Netherlands
  8. Liberia
  9. Morocco
  10. Uruguay

And finally, if neither of those lists appeal, you can always do as others’ are clearly doing, and use Instagram as inspiration of where to head next, bonus points in doing it this way is that you’re guaranteed to get a beautiful photo to add to your feed as this is how you picked where to head to!

Next Top Search – Last Minute Flights

There’s clearly two types of travellers in the world. Those looking and preparing their plans in January (the majority) and those who love a great last minute deal and are looking for a quick getaway.

Over the last five years, the volume of people looking for last minute deals has dropped. Perhaps we no longer are looking for the standard sunny late deal and our travelling preferences have started to change. However, for those who still love the last minute planning, searches for late flight deals peak in mid-July. Perhaps you are regretting not booking a summer trip as your co-workers head off on their adventures, or you are really needing a break from the day to day by the mid-point of the year, so you quickly get looking for a way to escape reality for just a few days.

For most people, the driver for the later deals seems to definitely be cost, with the word ‘cheap’ being included in the majority of last minute flight searches we make.

If you are looking for a late deal, there are five simple things you can do to make your search more fruitful.

  1. You get bigger savings when you book a deal as a whole, rather than just flights. Flight themselves are vastly cheaper when booked early. So if you are keen to get a good late deal, book your travel as a package deal to score the best savings.
  2. Be flexible with your dates, and try to fly mid-week where possible for the best savings. A different of two days can often change the price by hundreds (I have genuinely seen this more often than not)
  3. Set up alerts and subscribe to websites known for promoting late deals. If you are part of their mailing list, you get first visibility of any sales, or good deals they offer.
  4. Booking 14 days before or less is known as the ‘magic window’ and it’s the time where companies really slash their prices to fill up their packages and hotels. Try and hold out if you can before booking.
  5. Be flexible. With last minute deals, you often may not find the package in your price point for the destination you’re seeking. Be open to where you are heading for the best possible savings.
Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

Searches are Changing – Travel Money

Ahead of a trip, we all like to make sure we have our currency for our new destination sorted. Interestingly, a lot of us only start looking into preparing it a week ahead of our planned vacation.

Of course, the top searches are primarily about rates and best exchange offers, but there’s been some interesting shifts over the last five years in travel money questions.

We used to look for the best rates with well-known high street brands. The Post Office is the top searched firm favourite, followed by Tesco, Asda then Sainsburys. Clearly, we like to combine getting our Euros with our weekly shop in the UK!

However these days, we are also looking for the best new alternatives to cash or prepaid cards for our trips. Revolut and Monzo cards searches are rising in popularity quickly, especially ahead of the summer months. This may be because many of us are seeking easy ways to pay abroad, with less hassle and better rates.

Alternatively, it could be that as Brits we now travel a lot more (on average, we see an increase of 8% more travel year on year) so a simpler solution for frequent travel and currency exchange is now needed by many.

Personally, I have a Revolut Card and I love it for many reasons.

  1. The ease of payment abroad, and fee free cash withdrawals
  2. The fact that you can monitor what you have spent your money on with great charts showing a breakdown (I clearly have a problem with eating meals out)
  3. It takes seconds to transfer to another Revolut card holder, making splitting costs abroad simple
  4. The exchange rates are always great, and you avoid the fees you would incur by paying on your usual cards abroad

If you want a better way to spend abroad (or even just track your finances better at home), get your Free Revolut card using my affiliate link here today.

Something We All Need – Travel Packing Tips

After you have sorted your destination, got yourself a great deal and looked for the best way to pay for your meals and experiences abroad, your next big question is usually seeking advice on what you need to pack for your upcoming adventure.

With the rise in short-breaks and only free hand luggage with budget airlines, many of you are now searching for the best way to get all the essentials on your vacation with you, without paying the essential luggage fees.

Here are the five best packing tips I use on a regular basis that you may benefit from too:

  1. Roll don’t fold! You can easily fit more in your suitcase if you roll your items vs. folding them (and as a bonus, they will crease less this way too).
  2. Packing cubes are the best packing travel invention. Sort your suitcase into handy sections which makes living out of a bag much easier, and reduces the stress of pulling out everything in your case numerous times during a trip to find that one item you need that’s currently evading you.
  3. Plan your outfits before packing, to avoid taking everything you might possibly need and quickly running out of space. Even better, use online capsule wardrobe guides for great inspiration on how to pair a few items to make many outfits.
  4. Pack in advance. There’s nothing like a last minute rush to guarantee you will forget something or end up taking way too much as you panic about what to add into the case just hours before you need to leave.
  5. Always have a spare outfit, toiletries and important documents in your hand baggage. You never know what might happen on a trip and it always pays to be prepared.         

Ten Simple Ways To Live With Less and Save Significantly More

When we set New Years’ Resolutions, we tend to focus on how to enrich our lives further. Setting new goals, living a healthier lifestyle or travelling and adventuring more. Sometimes, there’s just as much benefit and opportunity to be found in setting goals which actually mean living and doing with less.

A core and often overlooked benefit of living more minimally is the financial freedom it brings to your day to day life. Even better, you don’t need to adopt a ridged minimalist lifestyle to benefit from the ways you can cut down and save more.

Below are the top ten ways you can reduce your consumption, based on key but simple changes I have made that had significant impact over the last five years.

Online Food Shopping

By moving to an online delivery, which we scheduled once a week, it made us prepare and plan our meals ahead of the shop meaning that we only bought what we needed for the following seven days. It also hugely reduced the ‘impulse’ shopping for treats that we tended to do when actually in the supermarket, especially if we were there when hungry!

If you online shop, you can set a clear budget, see how much your order is totalling to as you go along and also benefit from a lot of coupons and discounts supermarkets for e-orders.

Detox Your Subscriptions

If you have Spotify, Amazon Prime, Audible and Netflix then you are already paying out a significant amount for streaming services every month. Add in a phone contract, TV package and beauty box deliveries and you are nearing the average number of subscription services for a UK person in 2019.

This is great if they are regularly used and add a big impact to your life, but if they don’t, the costs quickly add up.

Once a year, we sit down and unsubscribe from everything. We allow ourselves to re-subscribe when we want to use the service. It is a good exercise to ensure everything you have signed up for is properly appreciated. You never know, you might not even realise you miss one once it’s gone.

Delete Delivery Apps

Getting fast food delivered to your home is easy, and often a quick way to feed yourself after a stressful day at work. However, one or two deliveries a week quickly can add up over a year. Easy solution? Remove the apps, unsubscribe from the mailing list offers and follow step one in the list (a weekly online shop and meal-prep) to reduce the temptation.

Demote Your Car

If you are able to quite easily, consider changing your car to a model that is similar in miles, performance and years, but with a different cost ratio. It is a really quick and easy way to build up savings if you are able to be in this position and are happy to ‘downgrade’ your car.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

Borrow And Share

As a couple, one of the biggest spends in our non-essential outgoings is on books. We both love to read, and between us we get through at least 3-5 books and an audible subscription on a monthly basis.

One easy way to both live with less, and save more here is to lend, borrow and share books with fellow avid readers. We swap with friends often, keeping our shelves clean and our to-read list healthily stocked with new books. We also regularly visit the library, and buy second hand where we can.

Obviously there’s many times where we need to buy new, especially living abroad and away from our friends at home, but it’s something we are trying to avoid more and more.

Think about things you buy often for hobbies, and try and work out if there’s a way to both save and reduce clutter by sharing or swapping instead. Board games, books, recipes, baby clothes, there’s a lot of opportunities.  

Find Peace With Older ‘stuff’

If it isn’t broken, then follow the old saying and really think twice before replacing it. It’s no surprise we regularly feel the need to upgrade the everyday items in our lives. Companies invest millions of pounds a year working out how to best to market us their latest models, seasons and versions of their products, so it’s almost natural that we are taken in by this clever messaging.

However, having the latest version of a product on average improves someone’s happiness for a period of just two weeks. After this, any effects from owning this new item rapidly diminishes. Why? Because there’s likely something even newer being released in the near future, or we come across someone else who has something better.

Key items we tend to upgrade regularly without much need include our phones, laptops, headphones, cars, designer accessories and home furnishings.

Try and find peace with your existing ‘stuff’ for a defined period of time. You may come to realise that you live quite happily without the latest products, and everything you do currently own is perfect for it’s job.

This is something I have really had to practice myself recently, after seeing how great the camera is on my husbands’ new phone. However there’s nothing wrong at all with mine, so I keep telling myself to wait and see how I feel in two months before making a rash purchase.

Unsubscribe From Emails

This is a big one, and requires you to set aside some time to make it happen, but it’s really valuable. Unsubscribe from all emails and companies whose primary role is to sell you more stuff.

If you want to get a great offer, you can always sign up again in the future, but for now it stops those free next day delivery, or 50% off coupons arriving on a Monday morning, which removes the temptation of buying more things you really didn’t need.

50% off £30 is still spending £15 you didn’t need to spend rather than an incredible half-off saving. Do yourself a favour and delete all the subscriptions and start afresh.

Plan In Advance

So much can be saved and organised with a little preparation. It can apply from everything to travel plans for a year, to decorating a room and meal-planning and preparation.

Carve out some time to schedule your annual leave and vacations for a year, and set up alerts for the best price deals. Plan your meals for one to two weeks, and then only buy what you need from the store. If you need to decorate a room, plan everything ahead of it from colours to furniture and even storage. This way, you won’t end up buying excess decorative elements or two sets of cushions as your mind changes as the plan progresses.

The more prepared you are in life, the more time you have day to day to spend on the things that properly enrich your life instead of these regular required must-dos.

Photo by Henry & Co. on Pexels.com

No Buy Month

If you are really struggling with living with less, and feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of clutter, storage and stuff you have lying around, consider taking part in a no-buy month.

It will have a great impact in both reducing excess possessions, in addition to boosting your savings at the same time.

Set yourself some ground rules before starting. Examples include food, hygiene materials, medicines and transport as excluded, but anything else ‘non-essential’ is banned for 30 days.

It’s a great way to reset and really break the habit of consuming for the sake of consuming. Something we are all guilty of time to time.

One in, two out rule

Perhaps if you are finding the above idea a little extreme, you can instead replace it with the one in and two out rule. It’s as simple as, any time you buy anything you don’t ‘need’, you have to remove two other non-essentials in the same category to make room for it.

For example, if you pick up a pair of new shoes in the sale, two other older pairs that you rarely use need to go. If you get home and can’t really part with anything, ask yourself, did you really need the new item as well? Do the same for your kids toys, clothes and much more.

It might help you break any habits you currently have and stop the slow over-expansion of stuff in your home.