Its nearly a year now and we are still on lockdown in some form or other in all parts of the world. Apart from the very unsettling and worrying instability of health, jobs etc, lockdown also comes with boredom, isolation, and, in many places around the world, no access to gyms currently. So without any kind of structure, at the moment, how can we stay/keep fit and sane during this frustrating period?
Iv never really been a gym fanatic just because I like the outdoors and I travel a fair bit so I have always tried to keep my workout routine as flexible for my lifestyle as possible. I’m mainly a jogger, I love the outdoors and fresh air and wherever I am in the world…running allows for me to still keep up with my workout routine.
But there’s only so much running one can do and we do need to add other things to our routine to get better benefits and better balance.
I find that these are such a great addition to my workout. You can pretty much work out every muscle using these. These have definitely replaced my dumbbell workouts as I find that I am able to adjust the angle of the pull which works out different muscles than the dumbbell would. They are also much more cost effective than other equipment and/or a gym contract and very importantly , for me, they are so compact and easy to store and carry with you wherever you go.
I have not always been into yoga and if I’m totally honest, initially I did feel like it was more of a trend and a trendy thing to do haha. But once I got into it, I really did start to enjoy it and see the benefits, not only from a fitness perspective but a mental one as well. Again, like with the resistance bands, a yoga mat is all you need which makes it so easy to do wherever you go.
This one is probably the toughest for me and at first, not at all relaxing :-D. The point of meditation is to clear your mind and be still in the moment. This is just not that easy though. My mind wanders, im a daydreamer, an over thinker, always have been, so when I close my eyes in an attempt to meditate, I start thinking about anything and everything. The key I have found, is to keep at it. To focus on each breath, or the flame of a candle. And eventually it gets easier and leaves you feeling more focussed, calmer and in control. In these difficult, painfully uncertain times, this is a much needed addition to many of our lives. The great thing about meditation is that you don’t need any equipment or memberships etc, all you need is some time and a quiet space.
This is such a simple “ritual” that I have added to my days but it has given me, much needed, respite in what has been, and continues to be, an extremely stressful and difficult time. I LOVE TEA! So having tea during my day is nothing new but where I would rush through my cups of tea while doing a million different things, I now treat my tea time as a “ritual”. This is now a time for me, and I try to just enjoy the tea (and maybe a cookie:)), with no work or any of the pressures of life on my mind for these few minutes. I so look forward to it everyday and it really does make me feel calmer and re-energised afterwards.
5> Lets Go Outside
Nothing beats fresh air and the peace that comes with being outside in nature. If you are able to go for a hike or walk along the beach etc, wonderful! For me, those are some of the most peaceful moments in life. But if not, just walking outside or in a park or even along the riverside, can make all the difference, both physically as well as mentally. So put on your walking shoes, get outside and think about nothing else but all the things, big or small, that you have to be grateful for:)
Those are some of my best and most effective ways staying fit and sane during this awful, stressful time.
Now that we have established and understood the new IG algorithm more and what it favours, we can get a bit more into improving your page ranking and getting noticed.
Find your niche
Instagram puts each account/page into a”box” if you will. This is your niche. Why is this important to know? Well simply put, the more accurate and precise your content to your niche, the easier and quicker it is for people to find you. More importantly those who will be able to search and find your page will be your target audience who are into and interact with the same niche as you.
Now it may sound pretty simple, just pick a niche and post about that right? Well, it sounds simple enough in theory but its quite easy to get carried away on IG and post about anything and everything. In order to get your page recognised by IG, as a particular, clear niche, and to get IG to categorise it as such, we need to make conscious effort to post content only (or largely) related to a specific topic ie. fashion, food, makeup, travel etc and to follow and engage with other pages in that niche as well. This way IG’s algorithm will be able to clearly define your niche. Once you have been clearly categorised, other pages (users) in the same niche and these looking for services etc in your niche (your target audience), will be able find you quickly and much more easily thus increasing your potential for much higher follow rate and engagement than you have now. If you look at a screen grab of my insta page you will see its mainly fashion and lifestyle inspired. So that’s the niche I would be categorised as/in.
How do you tell if you you have got your niche right?
The explore section/page can tell you a lot about how the IG algorithm sees your page. In a similar way as facebook and google track the habits and interests of its users, so too does the IG algorithm. It tracks what you post, the other IG accounts that you loo at, search for, follow and like and forms an “opinion” about what you would like to see and the niche you’re interested in. So to check what the overall “opinion” and niche IG has put you into, go check your explore page. The things that you are most interested in should come up and if you have been using these categorisation “rules” we have been chatting about, you explore page should have similar content as your actual account page. So for example when I check my explore page , it looks like this below. As mentioned earlier, my page is focused on fashion and lifestyle and that’s what I get when I look at the explore page. Iv attached screen grab below as an example.
Research your niche tribe
Im a big believer in surrounding yourself with being as good and “better” than you are in certain things. When you find your niche, find those people in your niche with similar and better engagement and reach than you, and check out their pages and their content. You will find similar trends with a few of them like the types of content that’s doing well within that niche, the hashtags they are using that’s working, the location and times of day they are posting that’s getting great engagement etc. Try incorporating these into your posting style and content until you see engagement go up. you will then know what works for you and your audience.
Try these 2 things on your page and don’t forget to engage with other users. This is social media after all so lets be social and help each other grow:)
Dont forget to hit “follow” on here to stay updated with new posts etc and comment on what you are struggling with on IG or what you have found helped you.
So im sure most of you have noticed IG’s newest feature, “Reels”. If you are not yet familiar with it, let me start with a quick overview of what you can expect when using this feature.
Reels allow you to create 15 second videos and share them with other IG users. It shows up on a dedicated “reel” feed on the explore page.
As I explained in my previous post understanding how the IG algorithm works, IG rewards users who attract other users to the platform and those who encourage users to spend as much time on the platform as possible. So currently as its trying to push its newest Reels feature, instagram is “rewarding” those accounts that are using reels, by featuring them to more users hence increasing users exposure. This is a great way to grow your account following and engagement (rate). So trying to use the feature and create /share content that resonates with your followers /niche is a great way to gain momentum on IG.
Reels offer really great options to create and edit your videos, incl. music, special effects, text etc. The objective is to entertain people and these tools are fantastic to create just that – entertaining content for your existing and new followers. Reels are shared to the explore page but you can also share it on your feed and as a story.
So how exactly do you create and share them? Personally I found it quite daunting at first but once you try it, and actually see the content you are able to create, it can be really fun.
To create a reel, tap on the plus (+) button at the top right of the screen in the IG app.
Tap on “reel” and you will open up the reels screen where you can record your video or you can choose to upload an existing video from your phone.
once you have recorded or selected your video, you can now do the fun bits:) Add effects. The various options for effects you can add to your reel is on the left of the screen. You can select to add music/audio, choose the speed and add effects (filters). ps. If recording a video, you also have the self timer option where the effects are located, which is brilliant for those of us recording our own videos.
While recording a video, you can stop the recording at any time and start another mini clip. When you’re done recording you can use the align button, (its the last button under the effects buttons, just below the timer button). The align button allows you to line up your various clips that you recorded, to form 1 reel. Im sure many of you have seen the now famous “changing clothes” videos that many creators on IG are posting. This align option is great to create that type of content where you are in one outfit and with a snap of the finger or a quick jump on the spot, you are in your full glam. You can create makeup tutorial style videos, add friends, hair tutorials etc, the options are limitless. And that’s what makes Reels so exciting. It gives you the option of creating your own creative content with endless possibilities of how to do that.
Once your video editing is done, you are ready to share your reel with the world. To post, push “>” button at bottom right of the screen. This will allow you to then add a caption and your hashtags (make sure to follow the blog for upcoming post on importance of hashtags, how to choose them and all that good stuff:)) Before posting you can also choose if you would also like your reel being shared on your feed and/or to your stories. As you will see in the example (pic) below, instagram automatically selects for your reel to be shared on your feed as well but you can choose to turn that off simply by clicking “also share to feed” button. Once you have done that, simply hit “share” at the bottom centre of screen.
Yay, congrats your first reels has now been posted. Most important thing to remember is to try and be consistent (I know I say this all the time, but it is key), create engaging content and HAVE FUN. People can sense and are drawn to people who enjoy what they do and are passionate about it so find you passion, you niche and have a blast!
I love the City of London, home of London Bridge, Big Ben, The London Eye, the famous Picadilly Circus, the shopping mecca Harrods and amazing restaurants (which is what I’m focussing on today for this post). I know there’s that old stereotype of English food being bland but let me tell you that is absolutely WRONG. If you do your research or walk around the city, there are some real gems to be found. The problem is most people don’t have the time to do that and you won’t find these places in articles on the net so most people visiting will never know to look for them. Thats where I come in:)
Im an experienced bargain finder and an even more experienced eater:-D, so I got all your food needs covered. So lets get eating shall we?
Best Wings and Ribs in London
This is one of my favourite places to eat in London. Its the place you want to go to when you want good no fuss food, casual setting with the friendliest staff/service (and great cappuccinos too). The Charlotte is my favourite pub in all of London. I love the people that work there, they are so friendly and accommodating (happy vibes all day long) and they have the best wings and ribs that iv had in probably…well ever really! Happy hour is a must and when you’re there make sure to try the truffle fries. You can thank me later:)
A spot of tea for you and me
I don’t know about you but I LOVE a good afternoon tea. Nothings quite as comforting as a hot pot of tea (hot milk is a must for me), and some freshly baked goodies. Scones are one of my ultimate tea time indulgences but its really difficult to find a really good scone (that doesn’t feel and taste like it came out the oven last week). The Ivy has ended the search for me as they have the most delicious afternoon tea options starting at just GBP 8. The scones were my favourite scones ever, served with clotted cream and strawberry preserve for extra indulgence.
Lets meet for Breakfast darling
Am I the only one who loves a good breakfast meet? Morning tea/coffee to start the day, a hearty breakfast, ideally with eggs (scrambled for me), bacon, baked beans – the works, and of course great company. Bills is my favourite go to places for breakfast in London. I personally love the smashed avocado on toast (with a hint of chilli), but honestly anything you order, from their traditional breakfast to oats or pancakes, you wont be disappointed.
So when you’re in London , one of the greatest cities to visit, in the world, you’ve gotta do at least one slightly fancier dinner right? The Unions Street cafe by Gordon Ramsay is a great little place with fantastic food, wonderful friendly service and it surprisingly won’t break the bank. Dessert was also really good, the tiramisu was amazing so I would recommend that for sure.
Lets Save the Best for Last
Im the biggest dessert lover so I obviously had to include it in this post. So where would you find the best desserts in London??- Our house of course :-D. But discounting that option, my favourite dessert spot has to be Bills. Their salted caramel and chocolate tart is beyond delicious. So for the second best spot in London to indulge your sweet tooth, make sure to visit Bills. 🙂
And that’s your guide to the best food in London. There are so many great options to eat at in this city. Be sure to follow the blog and leave your comments below of what your best options are. Id love to hear your recommendations and experiences and try them out too if I can.
Instagram is fun, with beautiful, fun pictures/video. Users get to share their daily lives, business ideas and promote their products and brand in a creative, effective way that can reach millions of people at a click of a button. Sounds simple and a no brainer right? Not Quite most would say. As much fun as IG is, we also need to remember that its a business and like many businesses, IG is always looking for ways to improve and get its users to spend more time on the platform. It also needs to constantly keep up with its competitors, its most recent being Tik-Tok.
To understand the way IG works, I liken it to a parent or teacher. It likes all of its users but plays favourites and offers rewards. When IG launches a new feature for eg. (its latest being reels), it wants as many people using it as possible and the more you use it and “promote it”, the more the algorithm will favour your page and content and feature that to more users. So what do I mean by “promote” new features? It simply means that the way you use the feature attracts more people to using the feature and IG as a whole. This would be using call to actions in your posts, make sure to engage with people and encourage more engagements on IG. The algorithm in turn sees this and you (your content ), pulling more users to IG and will in turn show your content to more people, helping you grow your account/following. That is really the key to building your account and following with real, higher engagement levels as well.
Iv added an example below of a screenshot of one of my posts. Here I was nearing the end of the work day, along with other people in the world (many of my followers in other parts of the world may have already finished work at that time), and I did a simple story trying to touch base with everyone asking how everything is going. I love engaging with people and hearing how everyones doing, what’s been happening etc, so its a great way to engage while still being authentic and true to who you are because that truly is the biggest secret, be yourself. Nobody can do You, Like You hunny! X
Reels, which as I mentioned is IG’s newest feature. Its the short-form video sharing and editing feature, that allows you to create 15-second videos that can be created and personalised with editing tools and various effects including the option to add music and a host of other things. The easiest way to get your IG going and growing is to always try and use IG’s latest feature introductions, as this will prompt the algorithm to “reward you” and promote your account and content to more people. But what happens if you don’t like a new feature? Reels for eg. are all about creating video content and I am not a video person. So I would either need to get comfortable with making videos or I someone like me needs to put in extra effort with the rest of my content which needs to include all types of IG “promotion” like mentioned ie. calls to action, engagement with other pages, post regularly and consistently, post content that I know my audience will engage with (remember the content you create is for your audience, so it should be what they want to see, and see more of so that you get and keep them engaged). So if you love any new feature that IG rolls out, great! Use it as much as you can and leverage it to get more eyes on your page. If not, well even if you do, as a general golden rule to growing your account, use these rules to gain favour with the IG algorithm to grow on IG.
Golden Rules to grow your IG:
Post to IG often and consistently
Create quality content
Create and post content for your audience, not yourself.
Create content that encourages engagement ie. include calls to action, respond to other posts/comments, ask questions to promote conversation.
Check the most popular times in your country that your audience is most active, and post at those times.
Try to use IG’s newest feature introductions.
And that is, in a nutshell, your quick guide to kickstarting your IG and boosting your page to increase your engagement and following.
Remember to click “follow” so that you keep updated with all my posts and tips.
So you open up your instagram account and the app asks for your username, seems like a no brainer right? You have a name, one you’ve used all your life, so why not use that? Well that’s where the complexities of social media and algorithms etc come in. The name you choose for your instagram account needs to be an easy one to remember and find in searches etc. Think of the instagram search like google search, you need to rank well to get noticed. Now, for most starting out on instagram, nobody knows your name or brand (except for family and friends and in case of businesses, your existing client base). In order to grow though, we need people that don’t know us already to find us and follow us. This is where your name choice is so important. Its the first step to getting noticed on IG. So im going to give you a few golden rules to follow when choosing (or changing ) your username.
Although finding a great instagram name is difficult these days as most of them are taken by many of the 1 billion active users already on IG, it is not impossible. You just need to use a bit of creativity when deciding on yours. The name you choose should stand out, be memorable and reflect your brand/page immediately. Try using key words that reflect what it is that you do and what your followers can expect to see on your page. One example of that is Charlotte Tilbury makeup. Their brand name already perfectly describes what they do “makeup”, so keeping it simple is a great way to build your brand on social media.
Another example of a really creative name that will stick in your mind, is “Narsissist” . Their IG name is a clever play on their brand name “Nars (cosmetics)”. You can immediately tell its a beauty brand with a name their followers are sure to remember.
Keep it simple
When deciding on your IG name, make sure to try and keep it simple and easy not only to remember, but spell (search for), as well. Make sure spelling is accurate and words are not too tricky and difficult to spell and remember. The easier people can remember and spell the word/name, the easier it will be for them to find you.
Brand name or your personal name?
I think that if your feed is primarily to share your daily life with your followers, friends and family, then your own name can work however I recommend adding a word or two to help describe what your page is about so that your audience can find you more easily. One example is the page “makeupbyfrancesca”. It has the users name “Francesca” but by adding “makeup by” in addition, it does both, give her name (ie. personal brand), recognition while also immediately reflecting the purpose of the page and what you can expect to see on there.
Another approach, if you are focussed on a particular style/topic, and might want to turn your passion into your pay check in the future, is to choose a name that solely reflects that passion. A great example is the UK fashion blogger Antonette, her IG name is “wearwhatiwore”. This tells you as soon as you see the name, what her page is all about – fashion and clothes. (I also love how she phases her page with certain colours for certain periods. It looks so professional, clean and focussed).
On IG, there’s your Username and then there’s also your Display name. Your username or IG handle as its known, is your unique identifier while your display name doesn’t need to be unique and can be used to describe more about your pages offerings. I would strongly recommend capitalising on this and choosing great descriptive words in/as your display name to make it easier for people to find you in their search results. Instagram uses your display name when people search for usernames, hashtags or keywords so why not make the best of this option right?
what if its taken?
So what if your name is taken already on IG? (and chances are it might be with so many users). Don’t worry you have options to still get your name/brand out there effectively using your IG name. You can either use one of the descriptive name choices like with the “wearwhatiwore” example I used above which doesn’t use your actual name but rather describes what your do or you can add to your real name. For example with “Ctilburymakeup” or “makeupbyfrancesca”. You can also add an underscore to your name like “Nikki_makeup”, you still have your real name “Nikki” as part of your username but with the underscore and a keyword added of what your page is about, in this example “makeup”. Be creative and you will come up with the perfect IG star name for you and your brand:)
Consistency is key
Brand building and recognition is all about consistency. It is very important to try and have the same username across all your social media platforms. So when you are choosing a username for IG, check if that username is also available on your other social platforms that you use as well. This will create better awareness about your brand and make it easy for users on all platforms to search and find you/your brand.
Well there you have it, my little golden nuggets for choosing the perfect IG name to get you and your brand on the path to stardom.
Let me know your IG handles and how you chose them 😀
The social media marketing wave is here, and its here to stay! For a long while many people, brands and companies were convinced that this new way of “promoting and advertising” themselves was just a hype and just like many fads over the years, social media too would fizzle but we were wrong. Social media has become the best tool to use to get millions of people, wherever they may be in the world, to read about your brand, see your products and engage with you and in turn, you with your customers. It is a tool that provides almost immediate insights into what’s working, how its working and what you can change or do better or more of in order to get the desired results.
So understanding the power of social media marketing is easy, trying to navigate through the algorithms and various “must haves” in order to be truly successful at it, is a bit more challenging. Thats why we are here!
I have been on social media and in marketing for many years now, so needless to say iv picked up a few things along the way:). Little nuggets of gold that I want to share with you to help you get to where you need to be. Ill be especially focused on instagram so if that’s something you need some help with, subscribe on here and follow us on instagram to stay updated
There are little things that you can change on your instagram from the profile name you choose to your hashtags, that will help to increase noticeability and engagement. And my job is to help you understand how to work with these so that you can get on the road to insta stardom 🙂
Hard lockdown in South Africa is over and the country has opened its borders from October 01 2020. My next post was meant to be on London but with the opening up of SA borders and the hard hit tourism industry (as with most countries), I decided to tell you about one of my favourite cities in the world… Cape Town (aka the mother city)!
I had the privilege of living in this beautiful city for about 5 years and I LOVED it. Of all the places that I have lived in SA, Cape Town tops my list. While there are countless things to do and places to see in this part of the world, I’m going to narrow down my “absolutes” for you.
As most of us are aware, SA does have its challenges as far as safety and crime is concerned, so to be aware and careful wherever you go in the world, is something we should all do. Having said that, many people who have never been to SA, do sometimes have the misconception that its all crime, and danger lurks at every corner etc, this has not been my experience at all. Cape Town is arguably the safest city in the country. Its also, in my opinion, the most beautiful. Its also the food and style, not to mention wine capital of the country. Speaking of food, lets explore where to get some great food in the Mother city…
This is one of, if not, my most favourite restaurant in Cape Town. Mike took me to the one in Franschhoek for my birthday a few years ago. Everything from starters to dessert is unforgettable. A main course averages around GBP 10 and is worth every penny.
This is one of the best restaurants in the country winning awards every year, and once you taste the food, you will see why! This is fine dining at its best, with a warm, friendly atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. The food is a gastronomic adventure of flavours, creativity and style. Needless to say the wine pairing is phenomenal and I loved every glass:) I would definitely recommend visiting La Petite either on a romantic night out or with family /friends who appreciate good food and wine as much as you do. Mike and I went with family and friends, also from the UK, and what a great night! In part because of the great food and also because of the amazing company. A night to remember:)
Cape Town is known for having some of the best, freshest seafood anywhere. Whatever part of the city you find yourself in, you will not be short of options for seafood. I have tried quite a few places and as hard as it was, iv narrowed down my favourite for you in terms of taste, price and location (easy to find and get to). Baia can be found in the iconic V&A Waterfront Shopping Centre. The waterfront is a must see in and of itself so I figure kill 2 birds with 1 stone right? Check out all the waterfronts attractions before sitting down to the best seafood dinner in town. I must especially recommend the Prawns and their Creme Brûlée for dessert.. to die for.
If you are looking for something a little hotter, spicier, I have just the spot for you. Now a little side note for all you curry lovers, CT is not known for great Indian curries. I have tried a few and its really quite a mission to find authentic “Durban style” curry in this city. I did though 😀 Theres a shopping centre in Big bay, blouberg. The Seaside Village shopping centre is a lovely little centre in the seaside town of Big bay, blouberg. This is where you will find a little takeaway “Indian Xpress”. Run by a young couple, who cook the food themselves everyday, this little place is a spicy secret spot few know about…until now:). Their menu consists of biryani, lamb and chicken curries, bunny chows (for more info on the bunny chow check out my post on Durban, KZN), samoosa, pickles and soft, freshly made roti. And I would recommend them all!
So that makes my list of SOME of my must visit restaurants in CT. There are so many options and so much to say on each one but iv got to watch the word count here haha. Feel free to also leave your comments below on your experiences and recommendations if you are/have been to the mother city. Now that we are fed and full lets go exploring:)
Cape Town has some of the most gorgeous wine estates in the world. And needless to say the wine is some of the best vino you will find anywhere. My favourite wine estates are in Franschhoek. This entire area is so beautiful, peaceful, whatever your worries, this place will take them away or at least make you forget about them for just enough time so that your mind and body can recharge and rest. I would recommend doing the tram wine tours so that 1) you don’t have to drive or have a designated driver between wineries and 2) you get to explore all the wineries you want with the tour guides having done all the research for you. The tram tour will take you to each winery, drop you off and pick you up in about an hour or so. You can choose to skip a winery and catch the next tram if you would like to spend more time at a particular estate. Mike and my favourite winery is the La Motte Wine Estate. It is incredibly beautiful, the scenery is stunning and the food at their signature restaurant is sensational with the friendliest staff. If you can only do one wine farm, la Motte is it.
Constantia is another lovely area with a few must visit wineries. Groot Constantia Estate is my choice when I am in that part of wine country. It is a well known and much loved winery within SA and internationally with many of their fantastic bottles being exported around the world. Their wines are spectacular with their port being my all time favourite (make sure to buy a few bottles to take back home with you to your part of the world).
Now that we have enjoyed the best of food and wine, lets go for a little walk…
Table Mountain is arguably the most iconic landmark of South Africa and the most photographed attraction. It has also been named one of the natural wonders of the world. I must admit, initially when I got to CT, I was like “its a mountain, what’s the big deal?” But after experiencing the view from up there and having climbed up Lions Head (the mountain between table mountain and signal hill), I quickly became an unofficial self appointed spokesperson with everyone I met:-p If you’re a regular hiker, the climb up Table Mountain will be amazing for you but for most of us, Lions Head is just the right amount of “challenge”. The view from the top of both mountains are jaw dropping, Table Mountain taking the win of course. I must remind you to try the breakfast at the restaurant that’s right on top of Table Mountain. Its been a while since iv been, so I can’t vouch for it being as good as I remember, to be honest, but the experience alone is worth it.
Lets Take a Drive
The Garden Route provides a gorgeous 300 km coastline between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay..one of South Africa’s most popular holiday destinations. Travelers love this drive for many reasons, a few being the ancient forests, rivers and lakes, pristine beaches, mountains and fynbos. Take a road trip stopping at quaint little towns, taking in all that this popular route has to offer. It will be one you will remember forever.
Chapmans Peak drive road is on the Atlantic Coast on the south-western tip of South Africa. It is said to be one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world, and I can attest to that! The views on this road are simply breathtaking and rival any world class destination. Top Gear show did a show /drive on this road and raved about it. Considering they have driven on every road imaginable, that is quite a compliment. There is a small fee payable to take this drive but well worth it. It will be the best drive you’ll ever take!
Alright Hunnies, these are my must see places when visiting the Mother City. Let me know your favourites and your experiences too. I hope you love and enjoy Cape Town as much as I have.
As I type this post I am so relaxed, and im actually going to start this off by summarising this entire vacation and experience in Turkey with these few words “BEST VACATION EVER!”
So we decided on this trip quite last minute, actually Mike surprised me with it. With the entire pandemic which has taken its toll on everybody, we were both quite exhausted and could definitely use a break. Mike booked everything and we packed and left for Antalya, Turkey in just 2 days (I did tell you guys im a master packer, read my previous post on India for my packing tips https://soltravelblogcom.wordpress.com/2020/03/05/welcome-to-sol-travels/).
I had no idea where we were going, what it would look like etc, only that I would need a few gorgeous bikinis:). Its a 4 hour flight from London until landing in sun kissed Turkey. The airport was relatively easy to navigate through and as its still quiet on the travel front, it was not busy and getting our luggage was a breeze (waiting on luggage can be a right pain). Our taxi was waiting outside, friendly driver met us with a warm welcome and couple bottles of cold water (which was needed in that heat). The drive to the hotel is short, just about 30 minutes or less. And finally we arrive at our amazing hotel https://www.barutlara.com
I loved the hotel from the moment we walked in. A huge, over-the-top flower arrangement greets you at the entrance. Check in was relatively straightforward, a bit more paperwork currently because of covid. The Lara Barut Collection Hotel is an all inclusive hotel (with fantastic deals on at the moment), so this means that the price paid is an all in price incl. all meals at all 9 restaurants, all drinks, mini bar etc. its all included in the price paid once off. The hotel has 9 restaurants, a few beach bars, great night entertainment, a beach that feels like you’re lying on your own private island, a jogging trail, water aerobics, entertainment areas for kids &&&. The rooms are luxurious and comfy with everything provided that you could possibly need for your trip including slippers and lush bath robes not to mention the chocolate on your pillow every night.
Breakfast is an elaborate spread catering for whatever your craving on any particular morning could be. They have everything from eggs, beans to pancakes and waffles to healthier options like granola and yoghurt and my favourites – cake and cookies. Breakfast takes place at the Main Restaurant in the Hotel. Service of food is buffet style with the friendly staff always there with whatever drinks you would like. We always sat outside on the terrace overlooking the pool. The weather EVERY day that we were there was brilliant so dining outside day or night is heaven.
I started this post off by saying that we were in desperate need of some R&R and that’s exactly what we got. This resort is just perfect for the type of relaxed, laid back “hakuna matata” type break that we were looking for. There are, of course, taxis available at any time to take you out exploring other parts of the area but we did not do one bit of that. Our entire vacation was spent laying by the pool, laying on the beach, lounging around the pool bars, eating and drinking – LOTS of drinking. And La Barut is such a stunning place for this type of laid back vacation. Of course, as I mentioned, there are lots of activities for those wanting a bit more going on but Iv gotta say, having some time off doing nothing but laying around in a bikini with the love of my life, eating and drinking our days away, was amazing. (ps. for more info on any of my bikinis, i’ll be adding my favourites of the trip and where you can get them from on the travel shop).
There are 9 beautiful restaurants in the resort from the main restaurant (buffet) to seafood, sushi, fine dining, authentic turkish and the list goes on. The one piece of advice I would give though is to book a reservation for dinner, in advance (2 days or more), or you will not get any space at any of these and will only be able to have dinner at the main (buffet) restaurant, which is still beautiful but part of the experience is tasting the various cuisines so I would stress calling down to customer relations on arrival and book for the remainder of your stay. They do have an app to book through but it doesn’t always work as well so i would rather do it through customer relations.
We spent a glorious week, on what felt like a paradise island or heaven as I like to call it 🙂 I was genuinely so sad to leave. Our flight was really early, about 8:20am so we left the hotel about 6am. The airport, iv gotta say was a bit of a chaotic, stressful experience as there are now new forms to fill before traveling back from Turkey so please make sure that you guys go to the website and fill out this form before you need to leave Turkey so that its done and ready. Once you complete the form on the website, you will receive a reference number and this is what they need to see at the airport in Turkey, prior to departure. We had a reminder on the plane on landing in Turkey but forgot to complete it so was a bit of a rush completing it before check in when we were leaving. The form is a bit lengthy, especially if you’re doing it in a bit of a hurry so please try to get that done and out the way before you plan to leave Turkey. https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/public-health-passenger-locator-form
The airport itself was not crazy busy but there are quite a few check points etc so make sure to get there early enough to have enough time to go through all the security clearances etc and get a good coffee before boarding:)
All in all I can’t say enough wonderful things about La Barut hotel, the people of Turkey and my vacation. If you’re thinking of getting away and spending a little time in the sun, iv gotta say that I cant think of better memories than that time when I was Tanned & Tipsy in Turkey.
Dear South South Africa, where do I begin? How do I describe, adequately, in just one post all the things that I want the world to know about you. Your strength, resilience and untold beauty..
I was born and raised in South Africa (Durban, Kwazulu Natal to be precise). I then moved and lived in Johannesburg (the city of Gold) before moving to magical Cape Town as well for a while. South Africa has many provinces and I have had the privilege of living in all 3 of the major ones.
Each place that I have lived in has had its own unique charms and quirks that made them all keep a piece of my heart. Theres far too much to cover in one post so I have decided to divide my posts about SA into 3 parts ie. Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban.
Lets start with Durban. No matter how old I get or how far away I’m living on the other side of the world, Durban will always have a piece of me. All of my best childhood memories (and not so good ones) , my family and history, are all tied to this beautiful city. First off let me tell you about the food. If you try nothing else when visiting there, you must try the Durban curries and specifically a “bunny chow”. This authentically Durban dish is hollowed out bread filled with a curry and then topped with the bread that you scooped out. On the face of it, it may sound a bit strange but it is a must try. (Mike thought the idea sounded a bit weird but really enjoyed it when he tried one). The fruit in Durban is insane and some of the best you will ever find anywhere in the world. Mangoes, lychee, strawberries, apples, bananas, kiwi and the list goes on. They are so sweet and full of flavour that even I don’t mind having them as dessert (I hate fruit for dessert).
I haven’t really eaten out all that often when visiting Durban as its usually visiting with family so there is always ample amounts of food 😉 but some of my favourite restaurants that I have been to and really enjoyed the evening at, both food and service have been 1) Bel Punto
Mike and I went here after a football match that we watched at the sibaya casino and entertainment centre. (Man Utd & Liverpool if you’re wondering::). The bread was so good and the food was just as easy to tuck into. We had the pasta and King prawns which were just amazing. Dessert was a cheesecake that we shared (we couldn’t manage 1 each with all the food we’d eaten by then). The service was warm and friendly, really comfortable easy going setting with quality food at good prices. The restaurant is on the beach in Umdloti so there are great views.
This restaurant has stunning views of the Indian Ocean and serves up a bistro style menu to its customers. I loved its casual, alfresco style and sitting outside on the terrace, overlooking the ocean, cocktail in hand, was blissful. (you will need to share your views with the seagulls, who are slightly in the way sometimes but its not a big deal. We are on their territory after all;)). The menu has something for everyone from fish and chips to English breakfasts, each one as delicious so make sure to treat yourself while on your Durban vacation.
Ushaka Marine World is a 16 hectare theme park consisting of, amongst other attractions, the beach, sea world, the aquarium, wet n wild park etc. There are many options to choose from when it comes to food including Cargo Hold Restaurant which is a restaurant aboard a cargo ship. Once seated your are surrounded by the sea creatures in their tanks which gives you the feeling of being under the sea yourself. A must for me when I visit, is Moyo restaurants Pier Bar . Pier Bar is a beach bar at the end of the newly revamped pier. Apart from the delicious cocktails and fun jam jars, the bar has incredible views as you are surrounded by the ocean while sipping the afternoon away. The average cocktail is around GBP 3-3.50 / $4-5 (and they’re really good cocktails too:))
The Bunny Chow, as iv mentioned, is a Durban favourite for both locals and visitors alike. There are a huge number of places that you can find this Durban classic dish at but there are 2 in particular (that I have tried and know of) that are especially fantastic. Orientals restaurant at the Workshop Shopping centre serves up freshly made bunny chows that are as tasty as you are going to find in Durban. Its not the fanciest place you will ever eat in but most places that serve bunny chows, (the really good ones anyway), rarely are. Here, as in most of the authentic bunny chow takeaways and restaurants, its not about frills and fancies, but the focus is on that good flavour filled Durban food that most of us love. Right, enough with all these words, lets get to the best bunny chow spot (in my opinion). Goundens at 520 Umbilo Rd & Deodar Ave, Glenwood, Durban does arguably Durbans best bunny chow, according to the locals. The mutton bunny in particular seems to be their most popular so I’m saying please try them out😀 Either of these “bunny” spots should give you a fantastic Durban bunny chow experience.
Now on to one of the most magical places in KZN. The Drakensberg Mountains. How I truly love this place. I have so many wonderful memories of my family and I (I mean ALL of us , cousins, aunts, uncles etc) driving from my aunts house (they lived about an hour away) to Drakensberg. We spent many many hours at a time here. Its such a peaceful magical place filled with walking and hiking trails, ponds and lakes, picnic spots and breathtaking scenery. Its the type of holiday or weekend getaway that will stay with you forever. Its equally stunning in winter as it is in summer – in different ways. In winter there’s snuggling up by the fireplace, smores and making snow angels while the summer lets you braai (South African for “barbecue” and picnic in the mountains, hike and take romantic walks and dinner under the stars. I can’t think of anything better quite honestly.
Yes, South Africa has many problems. Thats not a secret by any means. And it certainly has gained a reputation for the land of crime and corruption, poverty, to name a few. And this is partly true, it does have all these issues, but that’s just a fraction of what people hear about and see. South Africa has another side, one that’s not reported about because its not sensational enough I would assume. The side of her that’s generous and houses a nation of some of the most resilient people you will ever meet. A nation that has overcome insurmountable odds to overcome oppression and great divides to emerge as the rainbow nation it is today. SA rivals any other vacation destination in the world with scenery and beauty you will never forget. This is a nation of some of the friendliest people in the world, with hardships, trials and sorrow but what shines is their hope and tenacity. Yes, South Africa is a country deeply flawed but even within those flaws, despite them, she has a magic…one that I hope everyone can be lucky enough to experience at least once. SA is beauty, she is strength, she is a survivor, and even though im not there..she will always be mine! #MySouthAfrica