4th December 2020 I booked a 10 day dive trip to the Socorro islands in Mexico in the hope that Boris Johnson would keep his promise of restrictions being lifted during Christmas. As I could not fly via America, I booked a flight for the 26th December via Paris- Mexico City- Cabo San Lucas. On the 17th December a new (Kent) variant appeared, whereby most European countries shut their borders to enter from the UK including France. It was a week of HELL. I put all my cards on this trip…I’ve become accustomed to solo travel ever since I did my first trip to Thailand in 2011. I love travelling on my own because it’s the ultimate freedom and forces me to meet new people. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t have to worry about compromising. Needless to say how much I missed this during the year of Covid-19 when independence and freedom were the last on the list of opportunities.

As the situation was getting worse and worse by the day I got more and more angry, frustrated and desperate for my trip..I saw flights being cancelled, borders being shut but in my mind I hadn’t given up. My flight to France at 6am on Boxing Day was still ON! I did all the requirements, negative Covid test, packed my bag, bought a new underwater strobe, ordered spare batteries, my mind was set on this trip and for some miraculous reasons I found myself on that plane early morning on Boxing Day. I felt as if I had won the lottery! Empty airport, closed shops, hardly any people, fast check in and security, I stood there in that huge empty space and in that moment it was all that mattered.

The plane from Paris to Mexico City was full..

The whole trip to Cabo San Lucas was a whopping 30hours but I didn’t feel tired. As I was in the taxi from the airport in Cabo to my hotel I stopped the driver on the main strip, I listened to the live music from the car, watched the people having fun in the bars….and from that point I left Covid, the restrictions, the demoralised feeling, the fear, all the ‘walking on eggshells with people’ and the cold winter behind. I crashed in my hotel, next morning I went to the gym, had breakfast, checked out and headed straight to my Liveaboard, Solmar V.

It was warm! I had a bit of fear what the group would be like based on my last Madagascar experience with the French group but the fear was gone after I checked into the boat and met my roomie, Katy. Lovely girl, passionate about diving, super laid back, I knew I was going to have a blast. Maybe I didn’t think of the extent of blast I would be having! Once everyone was on board we left and it took us 24h to arrive from Cabo to San Benedicto island.

The famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas
The first group of dolphins en route to the Archipelago Revillagigedo

During the first 24 hours we could drink alcohol from the afternoon as we were not diving, so Bernard our wonderful bartender was bringing the Margaritas and within the first 6 hours the Tequila group formed..

Mark and Todd, the American brothers, Manuela and Filipe from Brazil, Katy from California, Klaudia from Poland living in Mexico, and our divemaster Rodrigo from Mexico. What a group this was!

The first (check out) dive wasn’t very successful for me as I had a 5mm brand new wetsuit and I didn’t have enough weights..my team saw a Manta, so they didn’t wait for me! I adjusted my weights and went down after trying to follow the bubbles, but couldn’t see them so I came up after 10 mins. But at least I was set for the next day with the right weight!

29th December

Fantastic schools of Hammerhead sharks, really action packed dives, Mantas on each dive. I was in my happy place!

30th December

I saw my first ever whale shark!!! The most emotional part of the trip! So so so so so so so happy!!! And for the record, I DID NOT RIDE THE WHALE-SHARK despite the rumours of my Tequila Team…..

Every afternoon after the last dive we sat on the sundeck or the front of the boat, sipping Margarita, watching the sunset, talking about our common passion travelling, diving, talking about life, bonding and making lifetime friendships…

31st December- The last day of 2020

I got up at 5am and did a pre-dive workout in the morning, we did 3 dives on this day, all wonderful again. Whilst we were on our last dive, the crew decorated the boat, the party scene was ready! We dressed up for our ultimate New Year’s Eve party and the rest is history.. Some illustrations below.

I will summarise this from now, every day was a magic, every day we celebrated life and our luck to be there together, every day we were grateful for this opportunity. The Tequila Group is still going strong from different parts of the World via WhatsApp.

10 days without internet was just what I needed. All we did was eat, sleep, dive, party. I did a fair bit of learning on this boat, Luke started introducing me to the fine details of underwater photography, I met this wonderful individual Taj who is travelling the World, and through his amazing videos and photos he is not only doing the best motivational speeches but also promoting his religious beliefs. Check out his YouTube channel Revelation of Hope Ministries.

Upon arrival to Cabo, when we started to have signal our bubble slowly faded. We had our last night, people were checking emails…and I became so sad. I wanted this to last forever! As I opened my phone on the 4th January..we all know what I saw: ‘England is going into a three months Lockdown’ It wasn’t a totally unexpected piece of news so I decided to postpone my return date…and the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland continued…

Katy and Komathi stayed for an extra night so we booked a hotel in Jose del Cabo, went for sushi and cocktails and then mezcal tasting. Rodrigo, our DM joined us..it was a fabulous night.

Next day they left and I joined Manuela and Filipe and their friends from a previous Galapagos Liveaboard Casey and Philip in Cabo Pulmo National Park to do some more dives together. I think on the whole trip these couple of dives were the coldest..17 degree water. Stunning dives though, I was hoping to see some bull sharks but they were not around sadly. I changed my UK SIM to a Mexican SIM as I knew I would stay for longer.

After one night in Cabo Pulmo we all went to La Paz, and reunited with Klaudia.

I feel it was so nice to hang out a few days more with half of the Tequila Team! Baja California has definitely been one of the highlights of the whole trip! As I started working online I could not do the trip with them to snorkel with the whale sharks but it was ok as we had a fantastic interaction underwater with one on the Liveaboard..my first one ❤

However we did a tour together to Santu Espiritu to dive with the sea lions! Very cold day, very cold water but it was worth it!

The next day we separated 😦 But I officially got the title of Founder of the Tequila Group ❤ I still have my little badge:)

I took an overnight ferry to Mazatlan on the mainland and took the bus to Puerto Vallarta to see my bestie Bea who moved from Hungary to Mexico in October 2020! She was kind enough to let me stay with her for a couple of weeks. She lived at Marina Vallarta, a really nice part of PV. I was OK not to cram these 2 weeks with things to do. I just wanted to hang out, have nice meals, chill on the beach, talk about life. But we are both travellers, so it’s inevitable that something just randomly happens…so as we are walking in the Zona Romantica one night, we got stopped by a sales man selling us an opportunity to visit a 5 star hotel, have free breakfast, listen to a presentation and get a half price whale watching tour…..where is the catch..? Of course we said YES! We agreed that he would pick us up the day after at the address we gave him (trust is a big thing in these countries both ways and somehow it works!) and we got a voucher of a tour, date of our choice. So..let’s talk about time-share. It was a brand new concept for me. In Mexico it’s huge! Americans love buying time shares. This part of Mexico is like the extension of California..so what you do, is go to a fancy hotel, listen to a presentation individually not as part of a group, go through some complex financial formulas showing how much of a good deal you are getting by purchasing time share in this hotel compared to the amount of money you are currently paying to do your annual holiday and voila, the champagne pops and the cheerleading starts! In that 2 hours that we were there a few bottles popped…needless to say I can get carried away with these kind of things especially having visualised my next fitness retreat there so I nearly bought a time share too! Grateful to Bea and my risk averse husband for talking me out of it…

She introduced me to all her friends who were mainly Hungarians, it was like being in Hungary! Dinners, drinks together, shared traditional home cooked Hungarian meals and felt yet again extremely lucky to have been able to share all this together.

If anyone is looking for investment opportunities or buy a holiday home in Mexico, don’t look any further! Katya is the person! What an amazing girl! here is her website: http://katyahomm.com

During my stay with Bea I made a rough plan on how i was going to spend this time, I worked out a rough itinerary in Mexico and I was going to finish my trip with a huge dream! A Galapagos Dive Liveaboard. The prices of these liveaboards were heavily discounted and I went with the approach that I might as well do it if I was that part of the World. What I did not expect was that the UK was going to introduce hotel quarantine.. 2 weeks after me booking the Galapagos trip, the whole of South America (including Ecuador) went onto the UK’s red list which meant that upon arrival I would have needed to quarantine in a hotel for a total of £1700 so I worked out that flying back to Mexico (or to the US in case Mexico went onto the red list in the meantime) was cheaper than coming home straight from Ecuador and stay in a hotel 20 minutes away from my house! See travelling (especially during COVID) is a bit like playing chess. You never know what the next move is! The unpredictability is that I’m hooked to beyond the necessity to experience different life situations and cultural differences.

After Puerto Vallarta I travelled to Oaxaca. It’s a city I missed out on in 2014 and it was very high on the list! It was kind of an adventure to get there because not only the time of my flight changed from Puerto Vallarta but also the day and the city of stop between the two so instead of flying on Monday via Mexico City I flew on Sunday via Monterrey. I didn’t plan to visit Monterrey, I tend not to visit cities on my travels but I have to say Mexico City is amazing but I already covered it back in 2014. The good thing about Monterrey was that again it proved to be a good thing trusting people. My first instinct is always trust humans. I arrived late – must have been after 10pm and I booked a hotel for the night but didn’t really look up how to get there. There was this guy at one of the bus stops at the airport and I thought he was waiting for a bus that goes to the centre of Monterrey. But it was just drop off bus to the short and long term parking so he told me to come with him and that he would drop me off at my hotel. We chatted, he just came from a weekend in Cancun. He dropped me off and asked if I was hungry. Of course I was so I thought I’d return the kind favour of dropping me off by treating him for dinner. In my dreams…super gentleman, he said ladies never pay in this country when they are with a man. Ha-ha! so we went for a takeaway dinner (it was lockdown so couldn’t sit in anywhere, we sat outside and ate, then he kindly showed me the city, dropped me off my hotel and we said bye. It was nice to spend the evening in a city you don’t know with someone who does! Next day I had my corporate class on Zoom and as my flight was in the afternoon I got to see the fifth largest square in the World called The MacroPlaza. 400,000m2! Super impressive!

After the short sightseeing I flew to Oaxaca – my Airbnb was phenomenal!

Lovely Travellers, we made truffles together on the first night!

Oaxaca is a lovely colonial town with highly creative artistic, culinary and craft scenes. Top class museums, fascinating markets, easygoing vibes.

Oaxaca is always the home of the BEST mezcal that Mexico has to offer. It’s an agave based sipping spirit- tequila is a type of mezcal. You can get reposado (rested) or añejo (aged) which are smoother, you can get bottles with a worm inside or caterpillar that feeds on the agave. It’s usually served with mix salt and chilly and orange as opposed to salt and lime.

The city is surrounded by fascinating archaeological sites, the most famous one is Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec capital. It means White Mountain. Pics below.

As part of the tour we visited little villages along the handicraft route.

Upon arrival I got dropped off at a market as I wanted to stock up with mezcal. I love markets! the colours, all the character and the weirdest combination of things from live animals to fresh cheese, flowers, Mexican fight masks and the list could go on….

Oaxaca is also famous for it cocoa. The most popular form of consuming is as hot chocolate!

Sadly due to the COVID restrictions I couldn’t explore Oaxaca to its full potential, realistically there is so much to see in the mountains from the little pueblo magicos (magic villages) through the different ruins and ideally you do this by hiring a car.

As there were so may restrictions I decided to take a night bus down to the Oaxaca coast to Puerto Escondido. I almost forgot the joy of travelling on a night bus but I very quickly remembered the ice cold journeys, uncomfortable seats, people falling on you. I always thought that getting on a night bus tipsy is always better than sober as you fall asleep quicker but I definitely disagree with this after the 4-5 night bus journeys that I did from Oaxaca through Chiapas to Yucatan.

But it’s usually worth the struggle…arrived at Paradise quite literally…

I stayed in a wonderful hotel La Hacienda de Las Suites, which became my second home. I met so many wonderful people there, Patricia and Hansen from Buffalo NY, Gina and Roy from NYC. Luiss who worked there was a dream!

Next day I was already on a whale watching tour, swimming with dolphins, visiting the most beautiful virgin beaches..

Next day Gina and Roy’s friends arrived to celebrate his birthday and we had a beach party with lots of Coco Loco:)

It was time to move on. Next stop: San Cristobal de las Casas in the highlands of Chiapas. It was a bit of a shock to the system arriving from 31 degrees to 11! Another colourful colonial city with its cobbled streets and charm. I walked around on the day I arrived and the next day did a tour to the Cañon del Sumidero and a pueblo magico nearby Chiapa de Corzo.

The day after visiting the canyon I checked out of the hotel and took a tour to Palenque. We stopped by Agua Azul and Mizol-Ha waterfalls. Both beautiful!

And we finally arrived at Palenque. Set in the middle of the ‘jungle’ the temples are the best examples of Maya architecture in Mexico dated back to 100BC.

I got dropped off at the bus station where the guard kindly offered me to look after my stuff whilst touring the magic town of Palenque. I had about 4 hours until the night bus.

I arrived at Merida early in the morning next day. Checked into my hotel, and my lovely friend Ana Karen whom I met for the first time in 2014 (see my blog post from back then) and then a couple of other times after was coming that night to spend a long weekend together after years of not having seen each other! I was very much looking forward to seeing her because somehow we always connected through life/job/lack of father figure in our lives etc. I was out and about exploring the town, markets during the day, she arrived late. Some impressive art was displayed for everyone to see free of charge… lot of political messages behind some…

I also realised that Mexico and Hungary have a lot of similarities and yet they are the complete opposite when it comes to mindset. The ultimate pessimist meets the ultimate optimist…somehow this exchange does work though!

I was super tired after the series of night buses and parties that I didn’t quite recover from so we had a bottle of wine together with Karen at the hotel balcony and then I crashed. 

The next day we decided to hop on another bus in the morning and visit a coastal town called Celestun which is famous for its flamingos! Such a fun day!

The day after was our last day together. 😦 We did some errands and shopping in Merida..had an emotional lunch together followed by a very quirky dinner recommended by my friend Gina at the Saloon Gallos! If you are in Merida, go there! And to add a breakfast place to this: El barrio! These 2 places were just magnificent! Food, service, atmosphere. I had a really fun weekend with Karen! I stayed one more day in Merida after she left, mainly teaching, gymming (those occasional opportunities when I could get my hands on the weights!!)

Next stop: Tulum!

I have been in touch with Luke from the Liveaboard throughout the whole time, and I booked a Photo workshop with him, along with a few photo specific dives in the cenotes. The Yucatan Peninsula is known to have the world’s largest number of underwater sinkholes (cenotes). Formed when limestone is gradually eroded over hundreds of years, cenotes are excellent places to dive, and as turns out to improve your underwater photography skills!

I would highly recommend Luke to anyone, if you are up for having a FUN, interactive and in-depth photo course and cenote diving experience, check out Luke’s website! http://www.lukecoleyphotography.com

Aaron and Michael were a lot of fun to dive with too, Michael used to live in Ickenham, around the corner from me!

And some of my best photos from these few days:

Once the photo course finished, I had a few more days to spend in Tulum before flying to Ecuador to the Galapagos islands.

Tulum was a very different place in 2014. Very remote, backpacker vibes..now, all prices set in US$, booking system, minimum consumption etc. It has gone through an extraordinary change! But I still love Tulum! The beaches..the atmosphere. Ibiza of the Caribbean!

Another dream came true visiting the Tulum Jungle Gym!

I got my PCR test done and the next day I took a bus to Cancun where my flight departed to Quito via Mexico City.

Next stop: Returning to the Galapagos islands after 9 years!! I was beyond excited! I became a certified diver a month after I visited Galapagos in 2012 and nobody could believe that I was there and didn’t dive! So it was time to make up for the lost time!

I arrived at Quito very late in the evening, booked a hotel close to the airport as my flight to the islands the next morning was super early!

Getting to the Galapagos is not as straight forward. You need a so called ‘salvoconducto’ (permit) to enter the islands. This needs to come from the hotel you are staying at, or in my case the dive company provided it. You need to specify exactly how long are you staying on the islands. You have a very strict list of prohibited items (mainly food) that you cannot bring onto the islands. They are very particular about their eco system for a reason!

When I saw the islands from above, I knew I was home!

The way you get from Baltra airport to Santa Cruz is to take a bus to the ferry station, hop onto a ferry and ride to Santa Cruz where you can either continue by bus to Puerto Ayora or by a taxi. I had a taxi waiting for me. I stayed one night at the lovely Hotel Coloma, went to Playa Aleman and Las Grietas on the same day as I arrived, had dinner and the next day my taxi picked me up from the hotel and took me to Calipso, the most luxurious Liveabord I have ever been to!

Calipso operated with half capacity which made this whole experience so much better! Full crew, half of the guests, undivided attention! Wolf island was my favourite day…every single dive on that day (4 of them) was just an hour of adrenaline with schools of hammerheads, dolphins, sea lions and many other amazing sea creatures! The group was great as well! I felt much more confident than on any other liveaboards before..I guess the one in Mexico was the closest but not quite like here as I pretty much have been diving 3 months in a row by the time I got to Galapagos!

The rooms were amazing, food was fantastic, and having known the language I got treated like a queen by the crew! It was almost like a private trip. The schedule of the 9 days were pretty much like, dive, eat, dive eat, dive, eat, party, sleep:) I am still in touch with most of the crew, the captain delivered the sad news to me that after me standing at the front of the boat admiring the beauty of Darwin’s Arch, it is now only history….It collapsed a month ago. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen it in its full beauty. It’s interesting that I also got to see Lonesome George in his last days in 2012 and a couple of months after he died. I wonder why I have such a strong connection with Galapagos.

The last day was a land day. We visited collectively a tortoise ranch and then went to Tortuga bay.

It’s funny to compare 2 pictures 9 years apart!

Me and Adrian went back to the boat to have the last party with the crew, the others left to the land to maximise their time on the islands and getting to know this heaven in earth also above the sea! What a fun last night..I could really imagine living there..on the boat..owning nothing, but owning everything by watching the sun rising and setting every day. I really don’t need much to be happy..it only seems the opposite when I am in London. I truly believe that I have two personalities, one is living by or on the sea..the other one is the city girl..In order to keep the balance, I need to experience both equally.

After we left the boat, me and Adrian spent a couple of more days together, visited another beach in Santa Cruz and Isabela island…and we got a tattoo together! My first ever! Im so so happy that I took home a memory from the Galapagos!

It was nearly time to go home!

As Ecuador and the whole South America was/is on UK’s red list, I had to find a way to avoid hotel quarantine..So I took a risk and went back to Mexico for the last 10 days hoping it wouldn’t go onto the red list. I chose to go back to Puerto Escondido, because Gina and Patricia were there and also because it was probably the most remote and least Americanised part of Mexico.

Next day I was on a fishing tour with my friend Shon Cruz. We caught nothing but my love for boats is endless!

I decided to visit nearby coastal towns, Mazunte, Zipolite so I took a bus and found myself in paradise. Mazunte is even more of a hidden gem than Puerto Escondido. I had the best room…it was so so simple. But that was all I needed! The smell of the ocean and standing on my balcony literally above the ocean!

I met Yosimar in Mazunte who owned a bar by my hotel. We became friends and he took me a few places which are more local rather than touristy. Introduced me to his friends..it was a magical day! Grateful for this experience!

These kids are so happy. They have everything. The sea, the sun..they don’t need the internet whilst the busy parents are not home, they don’t need a nanny, multi-generation living together, talking, eating together, living a pure life.

After Mazunte I went to Zipolite. Ana Karen decided to spend the last few days with me and she came directly to the Hotel I booked. It was called ‘Nude’. Zipolite is famous for its laid back, gay friendly, nudist vibes. It’s a magical place! Bigger than Mazunte but lots going on, and one night we went to a beach party. It was THE BEST! Seeing people dancing, being in crowds, under the stars with electronic music..it was like Covid never happened! We slept on the beach and it was safe and wonderful. I can still hear the waves if I close my eyes.

After Zipolite Gina, Diablo and another friend Marianne came to pick us up in the car and we went to San Agustino- famous for its snorkelling. We spent a day there enjoying fresh ceviche, seafood and of course Coco Loco. They all snorkelled but I still didn’t want to go into the water because of my tattoo. San Agustino is relatively close to Huatulco, which is more known than Escondido, Mazunte or the other coastal towns because they is where cruise ships stopped pre-covid.

When I first arrived at London, I got a job relatively quickly at an Italian company where I met Chiara. It was a strange company and being one of the only non-italian made it difficult at times to fully ‘blend in’, but I liked Chiara, and have been following her on Facebook. She moved to Mexico not long after we worked together, opened an Italian gelateria, found the love of her life and they had a beautiful girl. They opened a cooking school near Huatulco, so I decided to write her and ask if she wanted to meet up. I’m so happy I did! As it’s quite far from Puerto Escondido and most of my stuff I left there knowing that I would be flying out from there we spent 2 nights there. One in the little town where she lived (La Bocana), which was a paradise! And another in Huatulco city. Ana Karen had to work so me, Chiara and Isabella went to the beach! They live so happily in that tranquil place of the World. She doesn’t really miss the city, she created a simple but wonderful life for herself and her family. She is a true inspiration!

After Huatulco we took a super early bus back to Puerto Escondido so that Karen can start working at 9am (2h bus ride) and it was the final stretch of my trip. I reckon in these 10 days life gave me the best of the best having met Chiara, Ana Karen again, and one last surprise, my fitness buddy arrived from Brasil, Eliane!!! She came to Mexico as well to avoid hotel quarantine upon arrival to the UK from Brazil.

We said by with Gina, she has been a huge part of this trip for me and was sad to see her go. Same level of craziness and hunger for life!

We watched the last sunset and had a last party together with Eliane, her new friends and Ana Karen..which was an emotional rollercoaster! I felt sad, happy, grateful! My love for the sea and that lifestyle has become so strong..the positivity around me, the thrill of meeting new people, new inspirations. After a trip like this I always feel that my life shifted.

Settling back to the UK wasn’t easy. I lost a few clients during this experience but it was a ‘natural selection’. Grateful to those people who recognised how important this trip was for me and stuck with me.

I’m looking forward to sharing my next blog post..hopefully very soon! Thank you for reading and living this trip with me through my photos.

It’s been my dream for over 4 years to link my passion for fitness together with my other big passion, travelling. I have been to different fitness retreats in the past, all very different to one another. I took the best of all of them and created my own retreat at the end of last year/ beginning of this year. I chose an amazing villa in the less travelled province of South of Italy, Calabria called Villa Mediterraneo.

Why Calabria? I worked for 3 months in a resort there 15 years ago and although the memories I left with were not great, I believe we all need experiences like that in our lives to teach us about the world..so we see how other people live/work/run businesses. I was only 22 and I went to a Travel Fair in Hungary where I approached an Italian stand and asked if they had any openings in any type of work (bar/restaurant) for the summer. So after finishing uni, my friend and I took a flight to Rome, then a train down to Briatico and the adventure began. Beyond 14h working days and some drama and backstabbing I don’t remember much, the one thing I remember though was the colour of the water, the beauty of this province where mountains meet the sea, where Sicily and Stromboli are around the corner, and most importantly where the food is to die for…

Fast forward 15 years, I started marketing this Retreat with the excitement of spending a week sharing knowledge, common passion for fitness with likeminded people, and then COVID happened with Italy being the worst hit country so I got very disappointed and until the last minute I did not think that it would actually happen. But it did! And I’m so happy with how it all went.

The villa we stayed in, was absolutely stunning. Some pictures of both the interior and exterior below…

We had a timetable that we followed but were also flexible as there were only 4 of us that were able to make it.

Me and Emilie arrived on the 15th and headed to Tropea as soon as we picked up the car to make sure the tours that we planned for Friday were confirmed. Tropea is a stunning city, Calabria’s jewel.

After having spent a few hours here we had to leave to reach our accommodation in Fuscaldo, situated near the villa called Il Cerro Agroturismo. The drive from Tropea to this place was a little more than 2h. When we got close to it, it was already dark..and for obvious reasons (lack of Google map accuracy, no sign posts, pitch black and mountain roads) we got lost. Luckily Francesco the owner found us and got us to the place. Next day when it was light we understood that this place would have been a challenge to find even in daylight! But it was amazing to spend the first 2 nights here.

Next day we visited the villa which blew our minds completely (so much nicer than on the photos when I booked it), then had lunch in town, met our Head Chef, Giovanni who took us round the town to show us the beach (Lungomare) shops and all the essential places. He was so welcoming and nice to us. My Italian was essential as nobody spoke any English. In the evening I went out with Carmelo for dinner, he was the one who found Giovanni for me. He took me to a wonderful place called Borgo Rosso di Sera where Massimo spoilt us with an amazing 7 course dinner.

Day 1.

On the morning of the 17th we checked into the Villa and went to pick up the guests from the airport. They were all tired as it was an early flight but the warm Italian air, the smell of the sea and the excitement of the week ahead made them want to explore already on the first day. Giovanni cooked the first lunch then we went for a walk, had a Yin Yoga class and Daniele prepared for us dinner which was an absolutely beautiful and super tasty octopus starter and fish main.

Day 2.

The next day we had our first big fitness day starting with Power Yoga, then we set some goals for the week and had breakfast. Had a little rest (or the brave ones ventured into the pool) and did a strength class with bands at 11am followed by lunch.

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZSQG6v2K/

After lunch we went for a stroll on the beach..

After the walk we had an Italian Lottery conditioning class and a gentle yoga session.

Dinner was prepared by Giovanni, shrimps and poached egg with spinach starter.

Day 3.

Yoga to start with, wonderful healthy breakfast and a sprints and core class. In the afternoon we had free time, so visited a nearby town called Diamante, famous for its murals.

Dinner with Giuseppe this time, super engaging and detailed!

Day 4.

5k run at the beach to start with!

Followed by delicious breakfast, then free time for the girls and a strength class before lunch. We used TRX, bands, chair, wall, curb.

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZSQGHB5k/

Lunch was salmon and salad in a buffet format prepared by Giovanni.

After the siesta we did a Boxing class and a yoga class late afternoon followed by dinner prepared by Simone and a fun table football game boys vs girls!

Day 5. Hiking in Sila National Park!

Started with an early breakfast, drove 1h 40 mins to reach this lovely national park in the mountains and did a 6h hike following the path of Botte Donato.

After a full on day having burnt 3600 calories we decided that we earnt an authentic Calabrian pizza, so upon arrival we scrubbed up and went to Giovanni’s restaurant. ODDIO! The best best pizza EVER!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/9%20American%20Food/150853915726280/

Day 6.

Full excitement! The day when we had the National Television in our villa in the evening…No idea how this happened, the chefs wanted to share with the nation how to link food and fitness together to create a good balance. But before that we had work to do!

I had a full on day with online PTs in the morning, meanwhile the girls started with Power Yoga, had breakfast and at 11am we did the Italian lottery class where Lisa could luckily join in. Sadly she wasn’t able to be with us but through the online streaming she could enjoy an hour in our lovely villa. Well…enjoy might be a big word. Those of you who know me, also know the card conditioning class!

Lunch was very light, minestrone soup, then we had a boxing class as the last class of the week at 3pm. The girls went to the beach after this and I prepared the villa for the evening. During this TV recording we had the chance to assist Chef Carmelo Fabbricatore in his preparation of the famous Calabrian Risotto with Liquorice. What a night! We had our sommelier matching wine to this fantastic meal, we had our waiters and of course the journalists representing the main channels of Italy. Here is a snippet of the night:

Here is a short video of my interview:

https://youtu.be/f-bzeHmxeOE

Day 7 Tropea

After an early breakfast we drove to Tropea. When we arrived we strolled through the romantic narrow streets of this wonderfully charming town, home to sandy beaches and red onions that are well-known in Italy. Cipolle di Tropea (“Tropea onions”) have become a synonym in Italy for all red onions.

In the afternoon we did a 3 hour cruise on the beautiful turquoise water with aperitif on board. What a wonderful day to close this week with!

We had a very late dinner, and we had to pack, and also had a little party to say thanks to the chefs for looking after us so much, plus we prepared a little surprise for Usha for her upcoming birthday!

It was time to leave paradise. Saturday morning after a smooth arrival, the departure was everything but smooth..but we only remember the good parts of this trip which was pretty much 90%! Im pretty sure that Tanu and Usha had an amazing time along with Emilie who did an amazing job teaching yoga and creating a calm and serene atmosphere.

If we are at the thank yous, I would like to say massive thanks to Giovanni De Luca for creating a Fitness Menu for us, organising all this local publicity around our event with a variety of incredible chefs and giving his heart and soul into cooking and managing this project, Carmelo Fabbricatore for putting me in touch with Giovanni, Giuliana Antonelli Founder of Wimpole Real Estate in London, without her encouragement and contacts this amazing week would have not happened.

Looking forward to being back to this beautiful place next year, dates will be out soon! Until then…

EAT well,

MOVE daily,

HYDRATE often,

SLEEP lots,

LOVE your body,

REPEAT for life!

Aliz x

After our mind-blowing trip in Madagascar, we flew to Ethiopia and spent a full day of sightseeing in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia will have a separate blog post once I visited more of the country. The next day we arrived at Cape Town, where live music welcomes people at the airport. Wifi everywhere, Uber, paying by card…we were back in civilisation.

It was much easier than Madagascar, and the variety of activities that Cape Town has to offer was endless…

We stayed in an Airbnb at Sea Point, really good location, Camps Bay (my favourite part of town) was a 10 min Uber ride, and we could walk on the promenade without any problems, even at night.

It was the penultimate day of the decade..we were looking forward so much to celebrating NYE in Cape Town that we wanted to look fabulous! So the first couple of days we spent near the V&A shopping centre by the Waterfront. Obviously not only shopping but discovering the area.

And here we were on the 31st December..makeup done, outfit chosen, aaaand…I broke my nearly 6 months non drinking but I felt good about it. It was time to have a glass or two. (ended up having a 4 consecutive day of drinking, which made me sick again so back to no alcohol, this time it’s much easier and i won’t be counting the days. I accepted that my body can’t handle alcohol anymore and that’s it.)

We celebrated the last day of 2019 in Cafe Caprice in Camps bay.

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The music was fantastic, but the crowd was a bit pretentious, so we waiting until midnight, then walked (without shoes – English style) to the next place where we encountered the real NYE! Dizzy’s bar is just off the main road, lively, awesome staff and crowd, great pizza. Got home around 4.30am 🙂

On the first day of 2020 we needed a bit of a rest, so we went to the closest beach and spent the day there sunbathing, eating lolly, chatting and being appreciative of how great of a trip we were having!

We also got used to eating almost every day poke bowls…sooo healthy and delicious!

And those amazing sunsets….that everyone admires..

The next day we walked from Sea Point to Bo Kaap. The BoKaap (“above the Cape” in Afrikaans) is an area of Cape Town- probably the most photographed one, formerly known as the Malay Quarter. … Bo-Kaap is known for its brightly coloured homes and cobble stoned streets. The area is traditionally a multicultural neighbourhood, and most of its population is Muslim. In the 1700s, political exiles, slaves and convicts were sent to the Cape by the Dutch from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Indonesian Archipelago. Although not technically correct, these individuals and their descendants became known as Cape Malays. Many of them eventually settled in the Bo Kaap. In the mid-twentieth century, the Apartheid government, under the Group Areas Act of 1950, declared the Bo Kaap a Muslims-only area and forced people of other religions and ethnicity to leave the area. This case was unique because, during this time, most working class (and non-white) people in South Africa were being moved away from the cities.

We also visited one of the must see museums, the Slave Lodge. There are aspects of history which we would prefer to forget, but that would be doing everyone a disservice. This museum portrays an aspect of South African history which deserves to be highlighted so that such things never happen again; it shows the effects it has had on individuals at the time (some of the stories are truly horrifying), but it also shows how there is so much resilience.

Cape Town is a dream for shoppers who like flamboyant home decorations including paintings, animal print carpets, ceramic dishes etc…Negotiation is a MUST.

Richard arrived on the 2nd January, whilst we did Bo Kaap, Slave Lodge and the markets, he had a nap and then joined us for a rooftop cocktail and dinner at Mojo Market, which I would highly recommend to everyone. It’s a bit like the TimeOut Market in Lisbon. Lots of food stalls, an indoor market with live music, seats and great vibe.

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3rd January…Table Mountain! I have always wanted to hike this Mountain instead of taking the cable car. If you really want to appreciate the views and have a great workout (can take between 3-6 hours) I would highly recommend to book a tour and do it on foot. I had all the routes written down in Lonely Planet, and when I booked the tour I didn’t know which route we were going to do..They asked for our fitness levels when booking and I confidently said that we were closer to the 10 on the 1-10 scale where 10 was described as WonderWoman 🙂 No harm in having a bit of a confidence…

Based on this, I received the route name from the company, which was India Venster, the only one described in Lonely Planet as ‘DIFFICULT’ and was recommended to experienced climbers…oops.

We were the four of us with 2 girls from Saudi Arabia. Our guide Kyle was fabulous..very encouraging…at times telling us a few white lies to keep that mindset focused but I kinda knew all these tricks from my job..

The views were breathtaking all along the way.. I also learnt the word ‘scramble’.

After the hike Judit went home and I went to Camps bay beach to make the most of the day. It was windy, buzzing, some sellers came along like this lady. I wanted to support them so I bought this top which I love ever since!

In the evening we managed to get a table in the super popular Mama Africa on Long street where we tried crocodile steak, springbok and other typical South African specialities. There was live music and fabulous atmosphere.

The next day we started with a neighbourhood walk recommended by Lonely Planet called the Foreshore Public Art Walk. It was about an hour, then we headed to District Six Museum, which was unfortunately still closed because of the Christmas holidays. So we found a nice arty cafe, and we headed to the Observatory Market, which is held every Saturday..If you want to buy original arty clothes, jewellery, home decor, eat amazing food, it’s the place to be. It can be pretty expensive though and negotiation is not widely accepted here.

And our lunch was something….that I have never seen before. It was called Bunga Bunga..and it was worth just watching the show on how the man prepared it!! Although it’s a salad…it was minimum 1500 calories!:)

We had a trip booked that afternoon to Robben island, at 5pm, but for some reason it was delayed so it turned into an evening trip, it was a bit rushed, but we got the history through ex convicts telling us their routine whilst they were imprisoned.

Robben Island is known for being the place Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 of his 27 years, but the Island was the home of prisoners from outside South Africa, notably Namibia. The island is the unique symbol of “the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice” with a rich 500 year old multi-layered history.

After the tour of the prison you get on a bus and do a tour of the island. We didn’t have a guide because of some organisation issues, therefore the bus driver told us the history.

Upon arrival back to Cape Town Richard was waiting for us for a lovely seafood meal on the WaterFront.

For the 5th January we booked a personalised private day tour with Kabura Travel to Cape of Good Hope visiting Hout Bay- Chapmans Peak Drive- Noordhoek beach- Cape Point- Boulders Beach- Simons Town- Muizenberg and back to Cape Town.

Sadly we picked the wrong day for this, it was hammering down rain, greyness, and just generally not the right day to do this trip. Our driver was good but we would have expected him to tell us based on the weather in Cape Town that this trip wasn’t going to be good in the most exposed part of the country. We started with a trip to the Seal Island, which was fantastic. But the smell…wow. I also didn’t agree with the behaviour of some of the aggressive south africans trying to make money from the tourists by feeding (and hitting) seals.. If you are waiting on the boat in Haut bay to go to the seal island don’t fall for their trap when they try to put on a show to attract tourists. Once you are in, and take photos, you will have to pay.

We also went to an Ostrich farm, where we could feed the ostrich and buy extremely overpriced Ostrich eggs. I have to say they were beautiful. We also learnt that ostriches are not the smartest animals. Their eyes weigh 60g and their brain only 30g. Therefore when they are in the wild, and they see a lion approaching they put their head in the bush and go by the view of ‘If i can’t see you, you can’t see me either’ whilst their rather large backside is hanging out of the bush.

Upon arrival to the Cape of Good Hope National Park, we were meant to do a 40 minute hike which didn’t happen in the end do to the really bad weather. It was windy and raining. Our mood was pretty low because this was meant to be so beautiful. You also tend to pay 4 times the price as a tourist than South Africans…

In the National park we saw ostriches with babies, baboons, bonteboks..

We then headed to see the penguins at Boulders Beach..

We also saw lots of Rock Dassies (or Rock hyrax as they called officially)…super cute little animals! They can also be found in the Middle East not only Africa and they live on rocks to escape their predators.

A little story about a statue of a famous dog- Just Nuisance- in Simon’s Town..

Just Nuisance, a Great Dane, is the only dog ever to have been officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. During World War Two between 1939 and 1944 he served with HMS Afrikander, a Royal Navy naval base in Simon’s Town, a pretty seaside town in South Africa.

In 1939, he was brought as a pup to Simon’s Town by his owner, Benjamin Chaney, who ran the United Service Institute which was a favourite hangout for sailors from the Royal Navy.

A very friendly dog, he soon became a familiar figure around the town, taken for walkies and treated to pies, biscuits and even beer by the sailors, to whom he became a kind of mascot. Naturally, the dog in turn became very fond of sailors – all sailors – and followed them everywhere, to the naval base, the dockyards and even on to the ships. Not a small dog – he was large even for a Great Dane – when he took to lounging about at the top of the gangplank, he blocked the way and that is how he got his name, ‘Nuisance’.

Next stop: Muizenberg

Surf rules in Muizenberg, or “Muizies” as it’s affectionately known to locals. For many locals though, it’s more than just a Summer destination where shallow waters offer great family fun and learning to surf has become the number one activity on the jam-packed beachfront. If you move away from the beach you will discover some quirky characters in this distinctly bohemian seaside village.

So this tour, partially because of the weather and also because of the lack of enthusiasm of our driver was pretty average. The story about the dog for example came known to us after the trip having read about it and not from our private guide which i thought was pretty poor.

It was quite expensive so we felt we didn’t really get the value, so I emailed the company and told them about our experience, and asked if they could offer for the next day some sort of tour as a gesture of compensation. I had to push a little but in the end we got a free wine tour..where we only had to pay for our tasting in each estate and our purchases but not the transport. I thought this was nice of them to understand the importance of compensating a tourist because now I would highly recommend the company. (https://www.facebook.com/KaburaTravelAndTours/ )

In the evening after the tour we were meant to be having dinner with Richard at Bungalow, but as he got sick and decided to rest at home and also the wifi wasn’t working well we decided to find something else. It was a lovely place though and would go back and try. Perfect to watch the sunset with a glass of bubbly!

So we walked to my favourite area, Camps Bay- wasn’t too far, and had a whole plate of ribs…ended up being a great night with Judit!

And here we go, one of the best days of the SA trip.. Wine tasting in Stellenbosh and Franschhoek. 8am, the minibus arrived in front of our Airbnb, and the party began..A couple from Brazil, Barbara and Guilherme, they got engaged recently and were FUN! Then, my all time favourite English cricket fans Chris and Rick. We had a group of german people too but I think Brazil-England-Hungary was the real connection here!

We started in Stellenbosch, a quick 30 minute stroll in town then headed to  a fabulous wine estate, my personal favourite, De Morgenzon. What’s so special about this estate? Beyond being absolutely stunning in terms of garden, surroundings, elegant, sophisticated, classy…they play classical music to their grapes to grow better and sweeter! As if our tour guide knew that I am sooo fond of classical music and play the violin!! Here is a link to it and some photos..

The Music

After the lovely DeMorgenzon estate we went to Marianne Wine Estate for a Wine and Biltong pairing experience.

http://www.mariannewines.com/our-winery/tasting-room

It was very nice too, a bit less personal but we could enjoy some aesthetic views and authentic dried meat made from Springbok, Kudu and Beef. We also tried the wine that was served on Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday.

Last but not least we visited Richard Branson’s Wine Estate called Mont Rochelle, but before we had lunch in Franschhoek, did some active wear shopping whilst waiting for the pizza and tasted some of the best chocolates in the world!

In the evening we met Barbara and Guil for dinner, but we were way too drunk and tired to stay out for a long night so we had a big sleep and the next (and last) day in Cape Town we went to the beach with Judit, then visited District Six Museum and the last wonderful experience was Lesley’s amazing Christmas present to us, a luxurious afternoon tea in the extraordinary five-star hotel in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Silo Hotel.

After this wonderful experience we went to shop some ceramics that I fell in love with:

And we had our last dinner at Mojo Market. This was the last glass of alcohol I had before stop completely again..

Next day we said goodbye with Judit..which felt weird. We lived this experience together, laughed so so much together, learnt from each other and we will definitely travel together again! She is one of a kind!

This is when my holiday with Richard started, the cricket finished, England won, we hired a car and hit the Garden Route! It took a day for him to adjust to my ‘don’t worry about booking accommodation in advance’ philosophy but we got there!

First day we headed to Hermanus. On the way baboons were crossing the road, we stopped for photos as every 100m there was a breathtaking view to the ocean! We stopped for lunch at a great seafood restaurant in Kleinmond.

Hermanus is a fantastic whale watching town from June-December when in season. The town stretches over a long main road but the centre is easily navigable on foot. There is a superb cliff walk patch around the town, which we did in the afternoon and next morning (in the sun) to the other direction.

The road itself was stunning as well. We stopped at a Biltong factory on the way.

 

Next stop: Mossel bay. We arrived here at lunch time and went to the highly recommended and rated restaurant called Kaai 4. This low key restaurant has picnic tables on the sand overlooking the ocean. Most of the dishes -including stews, burgers, boerewors (farmer’s sausage) and some seafood- are cooked on massive fire pits.

After lunch we headed to Botlierskop Private Game Reserve for a 2 hour horse back safari which I enjoyed a lot!

We then headed to Wilderness and spent the night in a lovely B&B. Wilderness Beach was probably the nicest on the Garden Route..insane clouds and skies, like a painting..

The beach was only a short walk from our B&B, and in the morning light it looked even more wonderful than the night before!

Beaches like the ones in South Arica are my favourite because it’s just so ideal for running. One day I will live on the beach and run a fitness/dive hotel..this has been my dream for a long time, and i will continue working towards this..!

We then went to Wilderness National Park to do a hike (Kingfisher trail). Great place for outdoors lovers, offers canoeing, windsurfing, sailing and paddle boarding. We only did the hike with pontoon crossing which we loved.

After our adventure in the woods we drove to Plettenberg bay where we spent the next two nights. We got there around lunch time and we enjoyed a fantastic pizza at Enrico’s offering wonderful views over the ocean, great atmosphere…a bit like a mini Italy in Africa!

We booked a real splurge (on the day) at Periwinkle Lodge Guest House just beside Robber Beach. Stunning room and views. The best breakfast and infinity pool!