Luxury in Provence

If you didn’t know already, I’ve just got married. Yay! Our venue was Portugal, so, not afraid of an adventure we decided to drive there from the UK. It’s a long way and we took 3 weeks in total to get there, get married and then drive back. We thought it would be a bit cheeky to have a honeymoon on our return home so we are saving that for next year. Instead we decided to incorporate a minimoon into our drive back.

A minimoon to me screams luxury, a short break away to relax after the wedding, somewhere romantic and of course it has to have delicious food options. After a lot of research we decided on Provence in the south of France. Beaumes-de-Venise to be specific.

beaumes-de-venise-map

To reach this petite town on the edge of the Rhone Valley from Portugal took 2 days of driving. We left our wedding venue at lunchtime on a Saturday (in tears I might add as I was so sad to leave). We drove 460 miles, it took 7 hours give or take with a couple of driver stops to reach an over night stop in Spain. The next day we headed north along the coast to Andorra where we stopped for another night, this was another 7 hour drive but not as far, 400 miles, but it took a while because of the slower, twisty mountain roads. After a night in Andorra la Vella we then took the final leg of the drive to our minimoon destination. This took about 6 hours and was just shy of 300 miles. The journey was so diverse, vast plains, mountain villages, green forests and fields of sunflowers, we took so many photos and gawked in amazement at the sites we experienced. I really feel it is the best way to travel. You see so much at your own pace.

We had surfed the web for weeks trying to find the best, most romantic place to stay within our budget. We decided upon Les Remparts as it looked like a Boutique guest house but with the old world charm we were hoping for in that region of France. We also made sure we booked the best room.

As soon as we arrived we knew we had made the right choice. We were greeted by the French house keeper, a lovely lady who spoke no English. Our school French came back to us extremely quickly and with the added help of Google Translate we managed to communicate quite well. Phew!

Les Remparts is built within the old fortified walls of the village, this 16th century guest house screams French luxury on an extremely affordable scale. Our room was on the 4th floor, 38 steps up to the top is a lot when you are used to living in a bungalow like we are! The door to our room was OLD, it was wooden with the biggest key you have ever seen, we opened it to the most lovely smell as scented candles had been lit prior to our arrival. It was such a lovely touch, one I have never experienced before. It was very welcoming.

walls
The walls that you can access from your room. Photo borrowed from the guesthouse website.

Our room consisted of a huge bed with modern and comfy bedding that was fitting with the decor in the room. The ceiling was pitched and still had the original beams. We had numerous windows with shutters that gave us uninterrupted views through the old walls out over the Provence landscape. We had a wall and two archways that seperated the sleeping area and the ablution area where we had the most gorgeous free standing bath, his and hers sinks and entry to the most amazing rain shower I have ever used. In a building so old, on the 4th floor I was amazed that the water pressure was as strong as it was. To the opposite side of the shower was the toilet, in a small room with yes, you guessed it, another very old wooden door. We also had a clothes hanging area behind the shower, between the two sinks. The floor throughout the room was stone, as were the walls.

room
Our room – photo borrowed from the guesthouse website
bath
Another picture of our room from the door way. Photo borrowed from the guesthouse website
shower
Our amazing rain shower

The guesthouse itself has 5 rooms in total, all with great WiFi. Breakfast is served by the housekeeper who greeted us, every morning. We were able to choose the time of breakfast. I’m not sure if that was because we were the only guests – yep, we had the entire guest house to ourselves for 5 days! 9am was the time that worked best for us now we were relaxing for a few days. Each morning we were served with fresh bread, croissants and pastries as well as freshly squeezed orange juice, mueseli and eggs however we wanted them. I had hard boiled. There were also preserves, cheese, ham and fruit too. Although we never did utilise it, I am pretty sure we could have used the kitchen to prepare our own lunches or dinners. There was an American style fridge freezer which we used though.

kitchen
The kitchen – photo borrowed from the guesthouse website

picture-window

The guesthouse has a communal lounge area where there is a lot of information on local activities, trips and tours. The lounge has large glass doors that open out into a courtyard that has a large seating area, a small pool enclosed within the walls and a hot tub too. To find the hot tub you need to find the spiral staircase to the side of the pool which takes you up to a hidden balcony where you’ll find a small couch and hot tub. You would usually have to book time slots for the hot tub but since we were the only guests we could use it when we wanted.

lounge
The lounge, photo borrowed from the guesthouse website
pool
The courtyard and pool – photo borrowed from the guesthouse website
hot-tub
The hot tub area – photo borrowed from the guesthouse website

 

Luckily for us, parking wasn’t an issue during our stay. The guest house has it’s own garage on the opposite side of the street. We parked there, without a problem every night but if the guesthouse was full there would have been a problem as it can only fit 2 cars. I can understand why many French people drive small cars, their villages are tough to get parked in!

Throughout our stay our room was cleaned every day, we only saw the housekeeper at breakfast and we could come and go whenever we pleased as we had a front door key. I would thoroughly recommend Les Remparts to anyone looking for a quiet, romantic break away. It is perfectly situated to explore the wineries, there are so many to choose from, it is also a great base for walkers and cyclists too. I would say it is more suited to adults, and ones that are able to walk up stairs too as there are no ground floor rooms which could be an issue if you have mobility problems. I wouldn’t suggest it as a destination for children, that’s not to say they aren’t welcome, it is just my opinion that it is better suited to adults.

My memories of a romantic minimoon will stay with me forever, I saw the most amazing sunset from our room. We had a tiny window that had a thick wooden frame. There was no curtain or shutter so it looked like a painting in a frame on the wall. The view through this window was breathtaking.

sunset
Sunset Beaumes de Venise style

 

view
The picture window

We stayed between 19th and 23rd September 2016. Our room and breakfast for 2 adults cost a total of 1040 euros.

Have you stayed here before? Are you considering staying here? Feel free to ask any questions, or, if you know of any boutique hotels which you can recommend to me in France I would love to hear about them.

 

 

Advertisements

Hypermobility and the rest of the world!

Anyone see this pic doing the rounds over the last few weeks?

Cross Legged Woman on Tube
Photo borrowed from the Daily Mail

This really got people talking. Can you sit like this? Have you tried? Chances are you can’t but we’ve all had a bit of fun having a go. What got me interested in covering this un newsworthy story were the comments I saw on the Facebook post of the same story shared by Metro. In the article we were all told that according to Postural Alignment Specialist Ameet Bhakta this lady has Hypermobility but we are not to worry. If we can cross our legs like this then all is fine, there is just a small minority who have Hypermobility.

What the article failed to mention is that alarmingly a high number of people suffer from Hypermobility Syndrome. I got chatting to quite a few ladies who all seem to suffer in pain and discomfort every day. The illness affects us all in many different ways but what we can all agree on is the relentless pain at times, the fatigue, the weakness and the overall discomfort. Every day I feel like I come across as a hypochondriac – I’m not one at all, it’s the hypermobility syndrome working its way around my body on a day to day basis. Yesterday for example my tummy was bad, it’s common for hypermobility and IBS to go hand in hand. Today it’s my head and bruxism where I grind my teeth so much that I can feel them moving. Tomorrow I may well be fine or I well have a debilitating headache. Your guess is as good as mine.

So many people fail to understand what hypermobility means and how it affects each individual person. My family don’t, well that’s actually a bit harsh, when they remember they do but sometimes I think they’re fed up with whatever they might hear me wince about when I am with them. My fiance totally gets it but there isn’t anything he can do and usually I can function so I just have to carry on. My friends on the other hand, no matter how many times I explain it to them just don’t understand or even remember I don’t think. Invisible illnesses do that, if you haven’t got something visibly wrong with you, if your leg isn’t in a cast or you’re not frothing at the mouth it gets forgotten. That’s fine, but please understand that I can’t shop til I drop anymore, I have to go slow and steady with regular stops. I can’t get drunk anymore unless you want the syncope (fainting) and hangover symptoms to start halfway through my third drink. I can’t wear high heels anymore – my feet just hurt too much to even entertain it. There are so many little things that make it a constant reminder even if you are having a good day.

So, this little blurb that I didn’t plan, is just to say that if you suffer from hypermobility and you want a friend then follow this blog – you can comment anytime. If you don’t suffer but are interested in learning more please ask away. I am still learning, every time my health throws something at me it’s normally a new experience. We can all learn and educate and put up with it together.

Stay up to date and follow my blog with bloglovin….. http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/16749419/?claim=dqvvqdhs768

 

Shoes – 2 out of 3 DONE!

Good morning! I am happy this morning as I have 2 out of my 3 pairs of wedding shoes sorted for my big day! Does wanting 3 pairs of shoes for one occasion make me a diva? A girl can never have too many pairs of shoes surely?

Many of us with Hypermobility often suffer with problems with our feet. I do, and it is very painful. Specifically I suffer with Plantar Fasciitis. This means that heels are pretty much out of the question and have been for a few years now. I have a huge draw under the spare bed full of heels that I can’t bare to say goodbye to. I live in trainers, sneakers, flip flops and can sometimes get away with a slight cuban style heel. I can’t stand still without shoes on EVER, especially on a hard floor. So if I am preparing food in the kitchen I have to wear something on my feet. Usually my trusty black Birkenstocks as they have a foot bed which moulds to the shape of my foot. I am always on the look out for fashionable sandals or flip flops with a foot bed style sole that are fashionable but I don’t often find them. If you think you suffer with this condition you may find it hurts more when you go to bed, or sit down to rest. It really is painful and I have so much sympathy for you. The thing that really improved my feet issues were insoles. They are amazing and have transformed my life! The lovely people at Shuropody supplied me with these…..

Insoles

They slip discreetly in my shoes and really improve the way my feet sit in my shoes and the impact my feet have on the floor. I cannot recommend them enough. My nearest store is Watford but you can order them online. I’d suggest making the journey to your local store so you can get your feet examined. They’ll recommend the best for your ailment – they have so many options. They suggest you change them every year at a cost of approximately £35 which is far cheaper then getting Orthotics made especially. They are absolutely worth a try.

Anyway, I’ve digressed….back to the wedding. As I can’t wear heels anymore I was struggling to decide what to wear on my big day. My mum really wanted to see me in heels so I compromised. I have a gorgeous pair of heels for the ceremony. Honestly, I haven’t spent much on them as I don’t expect to wear them for long. If I could I would but I refuse to be in pain on my wedding day so I will wear them for as long as feels comfortable. They were £35 from ASOS and I fell in love with them as soon I saw them. So many wedding shoes look frumpy or impossibly high for me to walk in. I still wanted something fashionable and these are perfectly matched to my dress.

The heel is a decent height for me to not stagger down the aisle and I have the security of them actually being attached to my foot with the strap and zip fastening on the back. I am usually a girl that wears leather shoes, you pay more and you get more comfort – especially with my feet but these are great for an hour or so.

So pair two….I need a pair of shoes suitable for photos at the beach, that are still pretty and girly but gave me the comfort my poorly feet crave. Yesterday I embarked on a shopping trip to Cambridge with my mum. I wasn’t on a mission to find shoes but I was browsing around when I came across the perfect pair in Dune. How did this happen? Things are never this easy for me usually! They are white which is what I thought I might struggle to find as a lot of shoes seem to be tan or black these days. They are pretty and what’s more, they sparkle!! What do you think? In my opinion perfect for £60.

Dune Sandals

So now, I just need pair number 3! I need something comfy, secure and cushiony (yes, not a real word I know) and lovely for my delicate feet which will be dancing and mingling all afternoon and evening. Much to my mums horror I am going for Converse! I want to add some bling with a few sparkles here and there and replace the laces with some pretty shear ribbon. I can then wear my insoles and not be hobbling around the next day. I plan to wear them with some pretty socks like we used to wear when we were kids – remember these?

Socks

Not my usual style but I think they’ll be pretty and more to the point comfortable. I’d love to hear about your wedding shoe style. Are you planning on multiple pairs like me?

 

Fast forward 12 months….

Yep, it’s now May 2016 and we are full steam ahead with the wedding planning!

The past year has been great and we’ve made steady developments with the planning. My dress has been made which is absolutely amazing! I expected the task of finding my dress to be an absolute nightmare. I’m not girly, I’m overweight and I am rubbish when it comes to buying new clothes these days. Would you believe I tried on 4 dresses in 1 shop and fell in love with the first one! I nearly had a bout of non medical related syncope – to put that in non medical terms I basically nearly fainted in shock (makes a change)! Not only did I choose my dress I also felt flipping amazing trying them all on. I mentioned I was over weight but I keep forgetting I have lost 37lbs! Thanks to Slimming World I have a figure again. Yes I still have weight I want to lose but even I can say I looked amazing in the dresses. The lovely ladies at Estilo Moda in Milton Keynes made the whole experience a breeze. Thank you ladies.

(Would insert picture here but hey, what if Simon looks, bad luck, you’ll all have to wait!)

So, that’s the dress sorted, my next and last fitting is the end of July.

Our invitations went out super early. I don’t know about you but I wanted to give our guests enough time to think about coming as it’s a big commitment for them. They need to take time off work, pay for travel etc. The longer they had to plan the longer they had to save up and also take advantage of great prices by booking as far in advance as possible. We had so many amazing comments about our invitations including ‘it is the best wedding invitation I’ve ever received!’ I made sure I fed back all comments to the lovely Kirsty who made them for us. Now I won’t lie, the idea wasn’t totally mine, Pinterest helped a lot with ideas. We wanted a travel theme so we ended up going with the design used on my blog (see below for a little reminder). The heart on Portugal was actually a tiny red heart gem which was stuck on the Algarve area of the map.

RGB Wedding Image

This was the front cover mounted on Kraft card-stock (natural brown card). It then opened like a cheque book. We had numerous pages that all got slightly smaller. They had the name of the page written vertically down the left side so they could all be seen when the front page was open….

Invitation page:

Invitation

RSVP page (this was perforated so it could be torn out like a cheque):

RSVP

We then had a page about the destination so guests got an insight into their possible holiday destination!

Portugal Page

Then it was information about accommodation:

Accomodation Page

We had a gifts page:

Gifts Page

Our final page was information about the wedding website we have set up so our guests can log in and keep up to date with the progress of the planning (the password has been scrubbed out as it’s only available to our guests, sorry folks!):

Website Page

This beautiful invitation then got sent to everyone in a matching Kraft paper envelope. They all had matching address labels which got stuck on the far left hand edge so the address appears on the front and the undelivered area appears on the back:

lABEL

We sent out a total of 30 invitations. We knew that my Grandad wouldn’t be able to come but we wanted to send him one as a keepsake, we also did the same for Simon’s Grandma. We expected the majority to not be able to make it which we were fine with but unbelievably we had 20 confirmed as YES! So including us there will be 39 of us on our special day and we cannot wait!

 

Portugal Wedding Venue Found!!!

Yep, that’s right! We found it!!! After leaving the last venue meeting of our trip we took a long drive to Villamoura and found a lovely Italian restaurant to have dinner and discuss the last few days. It was unanimous, we were both in absolute agreement that Salsalito was the place we wanted to get married at. YAY!! A couple of cocktails and some yummy food was a fantastic way to celebrate.

SAM_4413.JPG

Although extremely excited, we were also so relieved that we had found somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, we viewed a fair few places, we could have viewed so many more but time wasn’t something we had a lot of on that trip. They were all lovely and all would make perfect venues but it’s like buying a house, you can’t make a snap decision and you want it to be 100% right for both. Everything changed once we arrived at Salsalito and although we always thought we wanted to get married on a beach we obviously didn’t! So my advice to you is add a wild card to your list. Something different to what you think you want. Whether it be a villa, a vineyard, a farm or wherever just add that to your list for an element of surprise. Every venue we viewed had a website, some were better than others but you don’t capture the real place until you see it with your own eyes.

So, after 2 action packed days, 1000km and an unhealthy covering of vasculitis we were ready to head home and tell our friends and family where we will be getting married. Things were really going to happen now and the one question remained…would the bridezilla I always told everyone I wouldn’t be show it’s face?!

 

Portugal Wedding Venue Trip Day 2

As we woke up on another day in the beautiful Algarve we began wondering if the day ahead was going to bring us face-to-face with ‘the one’. So far we had seen some very lovely locations but none took our breath away enough. We were expecting to know straight away when we saw it.

We originally had an appointment at The Sheraton Algarve but unfortunately had to cancel. It really is a beautiful place but, to be honest, it was too formal for what we were looking for and it would have been a stretch financially. We both agreed we would stay there on a return visit as it really is beautiful.

Our first appointment of the day took us (eventually, we got pretty lost on the way) to Julias situated on the beach with a beautiful view of the sea and coastline. It is in the Almancil area of the Algarve which is gorgeous. There are lots of stunning villas nearby and we heard that Ant and Dec often pop in for dinner and drinks as they own properties close by. Sadly for us we didn’t see them. Doh!

SAM_4397

We could really see ourselves getting married here. The situation was perfect and the venue was clean, friendly and stylish. We met with the owner who explained the day and the services they offer and we even managed to enjoy a drink and panini whilst we chatted. It was during this chat that we discovered it isn’t that easy to get married on the beach in Portugal. There are licenses you need to buy and there are rules about music etc. This gave us something to think about as we moved on to our next venue.

Next stop on our whirlwind tour was Duna Beach in Lagos. We didn’t stay here long as although it was a nice location we knew as soon as we arrived that it wasn’t for us. The bar and restaurant I hear are funky venues to spend an afternoon or evening but we didn’t feel it was the right place for us. You might love it and I’ve seen some fab pics of weddings online there.

We were really starting to worry now…..was this going to be an unsuccessful trip? How many quick long weekend breaks would we need to take around the world before we found ‘the place’? Don’t get me wrong, we love to travel, we don’t need an excuse to discover somewhere new but when we’re limited to a certain number of days of annual leave and we want time off for the eventual wedding we had to work smart!

By now the day had become a scorcher and I was starting to feel the strains of the trip. Being hypermobile can be a real pain (yep literally) in extreme temperatures and I was starting to succumb. My neck, chest and face were all bright red and angry looking as were my legs. I had cream on, I was wearing a hat but the vasculitis I suffer from was rearing it’s ugly head. Luckily for me it doesn’t hurt. It can irritate if I catch or scratch it by mistake but more so it just looks AWFUL. I feel that everyone stares at me when I have it and that makes me feel more uncomfortable than I am already feeling. I have only had to deal with this for the past few years, since I was properly diagnosed with hypermobility. The picture below shows it at its worst on my legs. I have to take steroids when it appears which I hate as they really affect my sleep which is already pretty unreliable thanks to being hypermobile.

Vasculitis

Anyway, enough about that for now. Mid afternoon we arrived at our final destination – a beautiful fishing village in Western Algarve called Burgau. We were due to see our final venue but also meet with a caterer we had heard so much about afterwards. We had about 45 minutes to kill before we were due at the venue so we treated ourselves to a burger. I needed food, my energy levels were low and I was feeling pretty rubbish but food and a cold drink really helped.

We arrived at Salsalito just after 3pm. This was our wild card venue. All previous venues had been beach side and this was a 10 minute walk from the beach. It was a villa venue with no view of the sea, I literally came across it online a day or so before we left on our trip. Simon knew very little about it but he trusted my judgement! We were greeted by the owner, a lady called Sally who we immediately knew was a larger than life character. She welcomed us with open arms like we were old friends and led us through her home to the patio.

Now, you know I mentioned earlier that we still hadn’t the ‘take our breath away’ moment? Well let me tell you, we both experienced it together, at the same time as we were led out on to the patio. WOW!!!!! What a beautiful place. A hidden paradise we never expected. Beautiful, tranquil and so amazingly us it was untrue! We remained calm and collected for the meeting and tour and even met the caterer there.

Had we found THE place…..?

Portuguese Wedding Venues

Portuguese wedding venues differ in price and style all along the Algarve and there are so many hard to find venues which may just be your jewel in the crown.

Now, before we embarked on this fact finding mission we thought we knew which venue was going to be our favourite before we’d even seen it in the flesh. It just shows how important it is to see these venues for real as it turned out it wasn’t for us at all. If you’re considering somewhere in Portugal as a wedding venue then you absolutely must get over there and check them out, plus it’s a great excuse for a holiday too!

Right, day one, we’d been in Portugal less than 24 hours and we had a full day of appointments ahead. Our first was Club Nau on the coast in Ferragudo.

SAM_4384

We met with Rebecca and her partner who were absolutely lovely. They ran through everything with us from the ceremony on the beach, to how the venue would be laid out to the food and music options. It had a real laid back beach vibe. We could have beanbags and chill out areas on the sand and listen to the waves crashing. It was a great first appointment and we learnt so much. Unfortunately, although we loved the venue we couldn’t commit. To reach the venue you have to walk down some stone steps, my mother in law to be is disabled so this was sadly out of the question for her. We were so disappointed as everything else seemed perfect. Oh well, on to the next one!

Our second stop was Canico. What can I say. WOW! Never judge a book by its cover. You walk along a few pathways before entering a lift which takes you down and out into the restaurant area. This is a restaurant area like no other as it is set into the side of the cliffs. We arrived a few minutes early so we sat and enjoyed a drink whilst taking in the view out to sea.

Canico

We were drawn to this place as you can have your event set up on the beach. They light up the cliffs at night as you dance with your guests. We were shown around by the manager who was so helpful driving us around his vast property in his jeep. He showed us another area as an option which was around the pool looking out over the sea from the top of the cliffs. This was definitely something to think about so we left with lots of notes and added it to our list of possible options. Either way, we’d absolutely be back for dinner on our next visit to the area.

Next we moved on to NoSoloAgua in Portimao. We didn’t have an appointment but we planned on popping in to get a feel for the place. Unfortunately we just couldn’t find it! We drove around the town so many times and ended up giving up. Maybe on our next trip we will give in and get a SatNav! I have given them a mention though as they were very helpful on email which was great. It turns out that Portimao isn’t really the place for us, too commercialised but that could be what you are looking for.

We ended the day with a drive into the mountains to watch the sunset, we had a lot to talk about and another day of venues the next day.