Spring flowers in Bournemouth

I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and for you. And I think to myself…what a wonderful spring in Bournemouth! Thanks to daily walks around the gardens and parks in Bournemouth, I have realised how many beautiful flowers there are locally. So, if you’re a bit tired of negative news, here are some stunning photos of blooms I took throughout March, April and May. I’m sure you’ll be delighted by their beauty and start singing like Louis Armstrong…

*Two things I need to emphasise here before you start reading this blog post is that: firstly, I’m not a botanist, just an admirer of pretty spring blooms! I organised them in the post according to their colour. Special thanks to Mike A. who helped me to name some of the flowers I didn’t know 😉 Secondly, it’s important for me to say that I took these photos on my daily walks and always made sure to follow government advice about social distancing.

1.White flowers

Cherry blossoms, Arum Lilies, Japanese snowballs, Rhododendrons

The very first blooming trees I started noticing in mid-March were the cherry blossoms. Delicate white and pink flowers were emerging from private gardens and could be found growing in the middle of some roads, making driving more pleasant.

White cherry blossoms. UK wild flowers
Delicate white cherry blossoms.
Arum Lilies. Wild flowers in Bournemouth
Arum Lilies in the Japanese sector of the Upper Gardens.
Japanese Snowballs - Viburnum
Japanese snowballs – Viburnum. They look light and fluffy but I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of their smell.
Rhododendrons
Rhododendrons are a symbol of caution, temptation and danger, probably because of their toxicity…

2. Light purple and blue flowers

Rosemary, rhododendrons, bluebells, cotoneaster

Bushes of Rosemary. Wild flowers UK.
Bushes of rosemary were attracting a lot of bees and I managed to capture the moment when one of them was pollinating the purple flowers. I just can’t emphasise how intense the smell coming from those bushes was: a combination of freshness and a herbal scent.
Purple rhododendrons
Rhododendrons bloom in different colours. One of them is blueish/purplish. Two bumblebees were lured by the flowers’ sweetness.

Tiny bluebells covering the Gardens’ fields, kissed by the sunlight, is one of the most beautiful views of the spring. Bluebells are a symbol of humility and gratitude. They are protected by law and you should not pick them for commercial purposes.

Bluebells. Wild flowers UK
Bluebells growing in the Bournemouth Central Gardens.
Cotoneaster
Blue cotoneaster is a tree I discovered this year. I might have seen it before, but this year I paid more attention to these tiny blue beauties.

3. Pink flowers

Magnolias, rhododendrons, cherry blossoms, primroses

Another tree with blooms which started appearing in mid-March are Magnolias. They are a symbol of dignity, pure beauty and nobility, and when you look at them, you kind of understand why.

Pink Magnolias
Pink magnolias.
pink rhododendrons
The focus of the camera is on the pink rhododendrons, not me! Well, you can’t be in the spotlight when surrounded by spring flowers!
pink rhododendrons
A chameleon trying to hide among rhododendrons. The attempt was unsuccessful.
pink cherry blossoms
Just speechless at the branches of these pink cherry blossoms.
Cherry blossoms’ lives are very short though, and after two weeks they start losing petals. But even after falling, petals cover the pavements with a beautiful pink or white carpet.
primrose
The intense pink of primroses almost hurts my eyes. This is their genuine colour – no filter was used for this photo!

4. Dark purple and red flowers

Lilacs, rhododendrons, daisies, red roses

As I have mentioned before, I was trying to achieve colour-organised photos of flowers or some kind of gradient sequencing in my blog post. Here comes the intense colour of dark purple and red blooms.

Purple lilacs
If somebody really forced me to choose my favourite spring flowers, I would probably say lilacs, mainly because of their smell. Lilacs are a symbol of renewal and confidence.
Some lilacs in a vase have been a beautiful backdrop for my photos. a) A rhubarb crumble, b) My favourite breakfast: chocolate and banana oats. c) An essential oil diffuser, which helps me to relax at night.
red rhododendrons
Another rhododendron – this time in a beautiful red colour. Don’t be misled by their beauty…did you know that eating a large amount of rhododendrons can be toxic for humans?
red daisy
I’ve always thought of daisies as white flowers, so seeing some red ones was a surprise. This photo was taken in the Lower Gardens.
Red roses
Red roses – I see them bloom, for me and for you…

5. Yellow and orange flowers

Gorse, marigolds, tulips and euphorbia

Gorse shrubs are bushes of yellow flowers with a beautiful coconut butter smell. You can find plenty of them on Hengistbury Head. Their sunshiny colour is beautifully intensified in the sunlight.

yellow gorse. Wild flowers UK
Gorse is a symbol of love and fertility in the Celtic tradition.
Yellow gorse
I couldn’t get enough of this smell.
marigolds
A photo of marigolds taken by the sea – don’t they look beautiful in the sunshine?
Tulips and euphorbia
Multicolour tulips and euphorbia. Photo taken in the Lower Gardens.

I could have uploaded hundreds of flower photos I took in the last couple of months, but scrolling through this blog post would take ages! I’m so grateful for this beautiful spring even though it’s happening in some really worrying circumstances. I think the ban on travelling to remote places made me start noticing and appreciating what’s around me much more. Spring 2020 will become an unforgettable one because of two contrasting reasons. The world pandemic and the anxiety connected with it, but also so much more appreciation for the local parks, gardens and spring flowers. Which one is your favourite?

Bournemouth Central Gardens
Bournemouth Central Gardens.

Cronuts from Mark Bennett Patisserie in Poole.

Apparently cronuts were a ‘thing’ quite a long time ago; the whole craze about them started in 2013 in New York. I didn’t know anything about them until last Friday, though. When I accidentally read an article about this combination of a croissant and a doughnut filled with flavored cream, my urge to eat one became unstoppable. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait a long time and uncle Google directed me to a local patisserie in Poole – Mark Bennett – where you can order delicious cronuts online. Let me tell you why you should do it!

What is the cronut story?

Cronuts
Would you resist eating one?

I wouldn’t normally write a blog post about a donut, but the story behind the cronut is quite fascinating and I think you should know it too! Little did the cronut’s creator Dominique Ansel know that his original bake would make people queue at his patisserie in New York from 5am! Ansel’s bakery is opened from 8 a.m. and regardless of the weather, people wait patiently for hours to get a famous cronut. Turning up to the bakery at 8.30 requesting a cronut will result in an apologetic smile from Ansel’s staff. Dominique prepares only a limited amount of them according to his noble philosophy of ‘quality over quantity.’ Due to a huge success of the cronut, it was trademarked and its recipe remained unknown for a long time…

Cronut Recipe

The cronut’s recipe was finally revealed in 2014 by Dominique himself and it turned out, not surprisingly, that it takes three whole days to prepare the croissant-doughnut hybrid! There are some simplified recipes available on the internet (here for example), and with so much time on our hands in quarantine, you could try to make one, but…it’s probably better to use this time reading books or something and instead support a local business in these difficult times!

A local patisserie in Poole, owned by award-winning baker Mark Bennett, offers artisan bakes, sandwiches and the famous cronuts delivered to your house, all done in keeping with social distancing rules. Please, make sure you call them (the phone numbers here) the day before you want to eat your cronuts, because they sell out quickly and are not available to hand! I had to wait 24 hours and it felt like eternity 😉

What does a cronut taste like?

What does a cronut look like?

Coming back to the main topic of my article, the cronut from Mark Bennett’s bakery was crispy outside, fluffy and flaky inside and the nutty hazelnut cream that was in-between the layers tasted just heavenly. It indeed was like a hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut, but more towards the doughnut. I’m obviously not the right person to say if it tastes like the original New York cronut because I haven’t eaten one, but even so, I can reassure you Mark Bennett’s will become your favourite guilty pleasure.

What does a cronut taste like?
These cronuts disappeared from the table within seconds…

The cronut’s story, its uniqueness and flavour made me want to taste it as soon as I found out about it. I hope you’ll be encouraged to order one and indulge in this little, simple pleasure of sweetness and crunchiness.

If you’re interested in finding out more details about cronuts, you can watch an interesting interview with their creator Dominique Ansel here.

Healthy sweet porridge recipe and useful tips

I used to think of porridge as a gluey, tasteless and boring type of breakfast that you eat to be healthy, but don’t really enjoy the process of eating. How mistaken I was! You can make your porridge healthy, nutritious, tasty and beautiful-looking by adding some plant milk and other toppings. If you’re looking for some recipes to take your porridge to the next level – read the blog post below! I promise this article is very informative and educational and you won’t look at porridge in the same way ever again!

porridge recipe
Porridge for breakfast doesn’t have to be boring…

What milk is best for porridge?

In my opinion any type of milk is better than water in porridge as it simply gives it a creamier texture. Most of us know that plant milk is much better for your health than cow’s milk, however there are some drawbacks to it as well. I’ve tried many different types of plant milk in my porridge, but also read about its impact on the environment and here are my thoughts on it:

Coconut milk goes well with different kinds of berries, especially strawberries and raspberries; cashew and almond milk are nutty and creamy milks which go well with bananas and different kinds of nuts. However (!) please be aware that the above plant milks are unfortunately bad environmental choices. Producing coconut milk on a global scale leads to the exploitation of the poorer communities in which it grows; almond milk production exploits bees (which pollinate almond trees); cashew nuts have to be peeled from their skin which contains acids and many workers who peel them experience hand burns. You can read about the plant milk industries here and here.

What milk is best for porridge?
Cow’s milk or plant milk? Which one do you prefer?

Hazelnut milk is my ultimate hero. It’s creamy, nutty, naturally sweet and most of all good for the environment, because its trees are pollinated by the wind, not bees. You can use soy milk if you want to add protein to your porridge, just make sure you choose an organic one. Oat milk is not my favourite kind of plant milk as it’s kind of watery and not as creamy as hazelnut milk, but it’s the most sustainable option out of all plant milks.

I don’t think it’s wrong to drink almond or coconut milk from time to time, but if you care about the environment try to choose hazelnut or oat milk more often to create a bigger demand for it.

What to put in your porridge

If you’re planning to eat porridge more often, I definitely advise buying the following ingredients which you can store in the cupboard/freezer and experiment with while creating your porridge recipes. They may seem expensive if you buy them all at once, but I promise they will last a long time!

Fresh fruit: bananas add a lot of texture and good carbs to your porridge and are great for carmelising as well; strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pears, peaches (if in season), anything really!

Frozen fruit: a great way to always have some fruit for porridge is to have some frozen ones. I always have some frozen raspberries or forest fruit in the freezer and add them directly to hot milk, which gives the milk a nice colour. Frozen fruit defrosts in hot milk quickly, so there is no need to make it ahead.

Spices: use cinnamon to add sweetness; tumeric or kurkuma – super healthy spices to boost your immune system – create a beautiful golden colour in your porridge; maca powder (a yellowish root spice) doesn’t taste great in itself, but when added to milk is tasteless, and it’s full of iron to give you energy.

What spice to put in porridge
Cocoa powder, tumeric, cinnamon – spice up your porridge with these amazing colours and flavours.

Nuts: pistachios, walnuts, almond flakes, coconut flakes, hazelnuts…whatever you like! You can caramelise nuts with some sugar/honey on the pan which will add lots of sweet crunch to your porridge.

Nuts
Do I need to explain the health benefits of nuts?

Nut butter: this will add protein to your porridge. My favourite nut butter is cashew (which unfortunately goes against the environmental issue it causes).

Dark chocolate – if you add a slice of it to hot porridge it will melt delightfully.

Other sprinkles: flax seeds (a source of Vitamin D), hemp (a source of protein).

Porridge toppings
You can easily order flax seeds, hemp or maca powder online at Holland and Barret. Yes, I know they are expensive, but they will last a long time and health is a good investment.

Milk-oat ratio in porridge

The milk-oat ratio in your porridge will depend on the texture you like. I would say a bit less than 3/4 of a cup of oats to 1 full cup of milk is fine for me. Add a bit more milk if you find it too dry. I heat up the milk first in a pot and then based on what I have in the fridge add spices and ingredients to it. I am sure that if you add a pinch of cinnamon, some honey and your favourite fruit to your porridge, you’ll never go wrong, so let yourself be free and experiment. Here is one of my favourite recipes and some photos of other porridge bowls I’ve made for inspiration.

Nutty banana oat bowl recipe

Sweet porridge recipe
I just feel like diving into this bowl of ‘nuttiness’, don’t you?

Heat up 1 cup of hazelnut milk with a teaspoon of cocoa powder (optional), half a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of runny honey (manuka honey is the healthiest option, but unfortunately not the cheapest). Once it’s warm, add your 3/4 of a cup of oats and stir occasionally.

In the meantime, cut a banana either in small pieces (shown in the the picture above) or cut it in half if you want to carmelise it. To carmelise the banana, heat up a pan and spread a bit of butter on it. Fry the banana for 1 minute on each side. I normally cut some pistachios and almonds into small pieces and carmelise them with a sprinkle of brown sugar in the same pan in which I carmelised the banana.

Pour your oat mixture into the bowl and add the caramelised banana, one spoon of cashew butter and sprinkle with nuts. You can add one sliced strawberry for some colour and a ‘wow’ effect, plus a piece of dark chocolate 😉

Sweet porridge recipe
A version with a caramelised banana and a sliced strawberry for colour.

I know it looks like a lot of work, but you once you get experienced in preparing your more advanced version of porridge, it’ll be a matter of 10 minutes maximum. You obviously can just throw the ingredients in the porridge without placing them evenly – the taste will remain the same, it just won’t be Instagrammable! I hope I managed to convince you that porridge does not have to be a boring breakfast, but an easy and quick way to an exciting start of the day!

Sweet porridge recipes
As you can see, there is no right or wrong when experimenting with porridge toppings. Enjoy!

How do you ease your mind while self-isolating? Life in quarantine.

If somebody had told me one month ago I would be writing a blog post with this title, I would probably have advised this person to go to a psychiatric hospital. Yet, however surreal it sounds, we’ve all been told to quarantine to prevent the spread of the killer disease COVID-19. We’re staying in our four walls, watching distressing news, feeling anxious about our health, and uncertain about the future. That’s why it’s important to ease our minds by doing simple and enjoyable activities and making use of the one walk or exercise a day as advised by the government. In this blog post, I’ll describe the quarantine routines that bring me a feeling of normality and happiness, and I hope someone will benefit from it.

Spring flowers in Bournemouth
A photo of roses and their petals taken while walking around my neighbourhood.

First of all, join support groups in your area on social media

Think about how you can help others and ask for it when in need. I wanted to register as an NHS volunteer, but their website says they’ve had enough applications (750,000!) and are not recruiting new volunteers. I still keep checking, though. Instead, you can join the Covid-19 Community Support Facebook group in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. It will make you feel part of the wider community, where you can ask for recommendations and help, and assist others.

Prepare delicious breakfasts

Waking up with the thought of eating a heavenly breakfast while drinking your favourite coffee is one of those little things that will make you look forward to mornings. It will prevent you from sleeping too long and you’ll be more likely to stick to your morning routine. I’ve almost never skipped breakfast and consider it the most important meal to fuel me with energy for the rest of the day. Now, with some more time on my hands in the mornings, I try to make our breakfast look like a work of art – apart from being nutritious, it should look good. Believe me, beautifully presented food will make you and your family smile and you don’t need a special occasion to do that.

Porridge bowl with coconut milk
Porridge bowl. I’ve recently been obsessed with making oats using different kinds of plant milk and ingredients. Head to my Instagram account to see the recipe for the porridge above.

Take photos of blooming trees and flowers and have some fresh flowers at home in a vase

Whenever you go out for a walk to your local parks or gardens, take some photos or videos of the spring which is currently emerging everywhere. Daffodils, magnolias, tulips, and cherry blossoms are around your corner. That way you’ll at least be able to look at photos of nature when you need it. I’ve also been making sure that we always have some fresh flowers at home. You can obviously buy flowers in the supermarket, but cutting them freshly from the wilderness is just slightly more magical.

Magnolia
Magnolia looks stunning in spring.
daffodils
Cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms look amazing in a vase but unfortunately only for two days. They lose their petals very quickly.

Explore your neighbourhood, local gardens and parks

We’re advised to avoid using cars to drive to the areas we loved visiting before the coronavirus outbreak. Unfortunately, in my case it means I need to forget about my favourite New Forest and the Jurassic Coast for the foreseeable future, and can only remind myself of these stunning sights by visiting my old blog posts (here and here). There is a positive to this restriction though! It means we’re creating less fumes, making the air clean, and we’re encouraged to explore the local area, which I personally never did before. After a short stroll around my neighborhood, I realised I live in a beautiful area with interestingly designed houses. Do you know your neighbourhood well?

Queens Park in Bournemouth
Our local park – Queen’s Park

At the moment we live close to Queen’s Park, which is very spacious and you can easily keep the required two-metre distance from others. Remember that going for a walk is also enjoyable at night and it’s less likely you’ll meet other people. As horrible as it sounds, we should be avoiding walking next to people who are not from our household…

As always, I encourage everyone to walk through the Central and Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, where I used to live (blog posts about the Gardens here and here), but I probably should not go right now as it’s too far.

Other obvious pastimes

Exercise and yoga – exercise will keep you fit and give you a dopamine boost, and yoga will calm your stressed mind! Instagram accounts that will motivate you include @kayla_itsines, a fitness guru from Australia who uploads short free videos to work on your abs, upper and lower body, which you can do without any equipment. You can also download her app, which is free for one month. There’s also @selfit1 – a local personal trainer (my trainer before the quarantine), who gives some free training on Zoom. Another local beauty is @jenniferkesik – a very positive, Bournemouth-based yoga teacher who gives free online lessons on Zoom!

Exercising at home
I try to exercise every other day (I’m not always motivated though!). Here I am doing a plank for one minute which is always a struggle! It’s perfect for strengthening your body core. He’s got his heavy bar bells; I have my light dumbbell. I also drink a berry smoothie with protein powder after exercising – cheers!

Watch Netflix (hello Captain Obvious!) – I recommend two crime series, called The Stranger and Safe, which are based on Harlan Coben’s books.

Learn something new! To learn a new language, download Duolingo, and for other courses check udemy.com, Google Digital Garage or HubSpot Academy. I am studying Content Marketing at the moment with HubSpot Academy, which is helping me to develop my blogging skills.

Learning is always more enjoyable with some mouthwatering dessert and coffee.

CALL/VIDEO CALL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS to let them know you are okay and to ask about their health – I’ve capitalised this sentence because it’s one of the most important things these days, especially if you are far away from your loved ones.

The most important thing while being self isolated or quarantined is to change our negative thoughts into the positive ones. You’re not ‘trapped’ in your house, but ‘safe and protected’. It’s a war against an invisible enemy, but not a real war and no bombs bombard your roof. God bless the Internet and being able to connect with the world, friends and family. When there was the Spanish Flu pandemic in the 1920s, people did not have this privilege. So focus on the little enjoyable activities and try to look at the bright side of all the aspects of how our lives look now.

What are your ways of coping with the current situation? Stay safe x

Pure Wellness in Bournemouth – Review of the Wellness Score Report

A little while ago, I went to the Pure Wellness centre to get ‘Wellness Score’ and report which is an assessment and analysis of your body composition, neuro-spinal health, functional fitness and nutrition, and many many other parameters regarding how your body functions. I really valued the whole experience and I would encourage everyone to do it and find out the details of your health!

Pure Wellness in Bournemouth
Pure wellness assessment in progress…

If, after reading this blog post, you’d like to do the same, you can use the code Magda39 to get your Wellness Score, a record of findings and two adjustments by the chiropractor for just £39 instead of £180. It’s really worth doing! Here’s why.

Pure Wellness in Bournemouth
The knowledgeable Dr Rebecca from Pure Wellness in Bournemouth.
Pure Wellness in Bournemouth
Pure Wellness in Bournemouth
My posture was assessed with professional equipment.

After undergoing all these detailed assessments, I recently got all the results and they turned out to be a bit worrying, but definitely fixable. The results are very detailed and Dr Rebecca was explaining them for about 30 minutes!

Pure Wellness in Bournemouth
Understanding the results of all the assessments was possible with the professional knowledge of Dr Rebecca.

My biggest problem is lack of core strength and flexibility and not enough muscle mass percentage. I basically know now what my partner has been telling me for a long time – I need to gain more muscle. I’ve already started a diet which contains more protein, and I’m also ready for some more gym sessions. I need to gain 6kg (about a stone) in muscle, which is not the same as fat obviously!

Pure Wellness in Bournemouth

I also know from the scans where the tension in my back is, so Dr Rebecca knows where to make some adjustments.

Pure Wellness in Bournemouth
The bed where the chiropractor’s adjustments take place.

When it comes to my mental health, I’m in a ‘fight or flight’ mode and my stress level is high…so I definitely need to relax a bit more in my busy lifestyle. Who doesn’t in these hectic times? I recently started yoga sessions, so hopefully that will help!

Yoga sessions can help if you feel too stressed…

I am very happy that I had the opportunity to do the Wellness Score report, because I was convinced that I was super healthy, but this detailed report made me aware that there are issues in my body that should and can be fixed. Remember that taking care of your health is the biggest investment you can make.

So if you want to take care of your or your relatives’ health in a professional way, remember you can use my code Magda39 to get a discount on the Wellness Score and adjustments. I’ll describe the adjustments in my next blog post. The whole experience is totally worth it!

Pure Wellness in Bournemouth
Adjustments at Pure Wellness in Bournemouth

Would you be interested in doing a similar wellness report?

AD-REVIEW – I was gifted the experience at Pure Wellness, but words in this article are my own and according to my opinions.

Après ski. Food you should try after skiing in Châtel, France – Portes du Soleil.

In my previous blog post, which you can find here, I wrote about my first skiing experience in the charming village of Chatél, located in the French part of the skiing resort Portes du Soleil. Eating local food is part of a concept called aprés ski (‘after skiing’), and trying some traditional dishes like raclette or fondue in charming restaurants is simply a must. With the photos below I’ll prove why. Warning! The pictures are not suitable for vegans… prepare yourself for some cheese porn!

I feel like the picture above is so inappropriate that it shouldn’t be shown to those under-age 😉 Do you know the name of this dish? Keep reading to find out.

Believe me, your body will scream to eat or drink something warm and comforting after skiing for the whole day. The best thing is that you’re allowed to eat calorie-rich dishes without any feelings of guilt! Why? Because you know you’ve burnt calories while skiing on the slopes and need to refill your fuel for the next day. Let’s start with a description of Fondue Savoyarde aux Morilles, which is a pot of melted cheese into which you dip some accompanying ingredients.

Cheese Fondue with charcutrie, Chatél in France
Fondue Savoyarde aux Morilles.

The fondue is served with charcutrie (cold cuts of local meat) and some pieces of bread. Digging these ingredients into the melted cheese is almost like a sexual pleasure. Our fondue was made of three different kinds of cheese and mushrooms. If you want to make a similar fondue at home, you can find the recipe here. It tasted divine.

Cheese Fondue with charcutrie, Chatél in France

The next delectable dish you cannot miss after skiing is raclette – which was traditionally the name of a cheese, but is now also used to refer to a dish which originated in Savoie, a region of the Alps between the borders of France, Italy and Switzerland.

Raclette

Raclette consists of cheese which is melted underneath a special electric grill and scraped down onto boiled potatoes, cured ham and pickled gherkins. The most exciting part of trying this dish in a restaurant is that you look at the boiling cheese turning brownish and crispy under the electric fire and scrape it yourself onto the potatoes and ham – it can only be described as an orgasmic experience! I recommend eating both Raclette and Fondue at Cafe/Restaurant called Zeph.

Crème brûlée – probably known to everyone as a rich, creamy vanilla dessert with a caramelized layer of sugar on top which appears after being burnt.

Crème brûlée

Our crème brûlée was on fire for a very long time, which was very pleasant to watch, as you can see in the video below.

Even though Crêpe bretonne did not originate in the area where I was staying, it’s a popular dish in many crêperies – places where you can eat a variety of savoury or sweet French crêpes. It’s made of wheat or buckwheat flour and plenty of butter for a rich, buttery flavour. Mine was simple: with cinnamon sugar and almond flakes.

Crêpe bretonne
Crêpe bretonne.

Don’t forget to fuel yourself with some heartwarming drinks while skiing on the slopes. We had some tea, hot chocolate or mulled wine with citruses after skiing.

Hot chocolate I drank in between skiing on Chatél’s slopes.
Siney beer and mulled wine

Shops with local produce are amazing places to visit. Beautiful displays of hundreds of types of cheeses, charcuterie, honey and colourful confiture will make you want to try them all. The photos below were taken in a local shop in the area called Morzine.

Cheese heaven!
Don’t forget to visit some bakeries to try sweet patisserie and freshly baked bread.

I know it looks as if consuming all the food shown in my blog post will make you put on weight. High calorie cheeses, cured ham, crème brûlée, hot chocolate, mulled wine and crêpes do not sound like a healthy selection of food! But isn’t being on holiday and skiing a lot a great excuse to indulge yourself in all this naughtiness? Of course it is! I actually lost weight during that holiday, even though I ate cheese almost everyday. So my only advice is ‘Keep calm, ski a lot and eat whatever you want!’ Which of these dishes would you like to try the most?

Where to go skiing? Portes du Solei, France & Switzerland. A guide for beginners and others!

The area called Portes du Soleil is literally translated as ‘The Doors of the Sun,’ and it’s the second-biggest skiing location in the world. It will stun you with breathtaking mountainous landscapes, plenty of ski slopes of different levels of difficulty, charming wooden chalets and fantastic regional food. In this blog post, I’ll describe my first skiing experience – a one-week stay in the beautiful village of Chatel, which is a part of Portes du Solei, and, next week, a post about the comforting food I tried after skiing.

Chatel, France, Portes du Soleil
Beautiful chalets in Chatel.
Chatel, France, Portes du Soleil

When choosing which part of Portes du Soleil you want to stay in, you should first consider your skiing experience. If you are a beginner, you should (or even must) look for an area with green slopes. It’s advisable to take lessons with a skiing instructor, but we didn’t. Instead, we watched a video explaining basic skiing skills and practiced for an hour on a little hill.

Piste de La Bellete, green slope, Chatel, France
Piste de La Bellete – an easy green slope where I practised my skiing skills on the first and second day.

Blue pistes are for more experienced skiers (don’t trust the maps saying they are easy as some of them are not!), red ones are inclined and challenging and the black ones are for…the suicidal. Just kidding, obviously, but you must have a lot of experience to approach red or black slopes, so take it slowly and sensibly.

Skiing in Portes du Soleil
I felt comfortable on Piste de la Bellete, but it was my comfort zone and I had to try other slopes as well in order to progress!
Piste du Loup - Portes du Soleil, red piste
Piste du Loup – The Wolf – is an example of a red piste. As a beginner skier I stayed away from the red slopes!

A very important thing to remember is not to be demotivated when seeing some 6-year-old kids overtaking you or skiing on the red and black slopes. They’re normally part of skiing schools and train every weekend from November to April. You also shouldn’t think, ‘Oh, if a child is going on this slope I can do it too!’ It’s misleading, because some of these children are real skiing masters!

Portes du Soleil, France, Abondance
Looking at experts skiing down the slopes is really inspiring.
Dreamy views of the mountains and enormous pine trees.

If you’re a skiing expert, you can ski from one area of Portes du Solei to another by using gondolas (télécabines) and slopes encoded in different colours. If you look at the map below, its way of getting you from one place to another reminds me a bit the Underground map, and that’s the way you should read it.

Map of the Portes du Soleil
If you enlarge the map you’ll see a spiderweb of slopes of different colours connected to each other.
The mastermind of our skiing adventure. Ben is planning the skiing route with the map.
Despite having little experience, this guy turned out to be the Wolf of the slopes!

Ben went everywhere on his skis, but because I was scared to use the blue and red slopes to get from Chatel to Morzine, we had to take our car to get to the green slopes in Super-Morzine, which took 45 minutes.

We didn’t regret taking the car, as the views were spectacular.

Chatel is appropriate for beginners with its green slope La Bellete, however it’s not the best one to start with because it’s quite narrow and curvy. If I were to choose again, as a beginner, I would have gone to a town called Morzine for a full week. The slopes in Super-Morzine (check the map) are wide, and I think I gained a lot of confidence there which is the key to improving your skiing skills. The video below shows a beautiful part of Super-Morzine

The views from the gondola in Super-Morzine.
 Morzine- Avoriaz with beautiful views
A short break for some hot tea in Morzine-Avoriaz with beautiful views.

I felt so confident on Morzine’s slopes that I finally took to the blue pistes and eventually got to the Swiss part!

 the French-Swiss border. Pointes des Mossettes.
It was extremely windy on the French-Swiss border. Pointes des Mossettes.
Proclou piste
Always look where you’re going and make sure you choose the right colour of slopes!

It’s apparently a pattern when you start skiing that one day you feel that you can conquer any green or blue slopes and the day after you think you’re like a starter again. This theory proved right in my case. Remember you’ll also experience tiredness and muscle stiffness after a few days of skiing which doesn’t help to see the improvement. Prepare yourself for some bruises!

My face, full of doubt when I wasn’t sure if I could manage skiing down the blue slopes. Fortunately, that day was my day and I did it!
Remember to take some time to admire the breathtaking views and inhale the tranquility of the mountains.”Les Crosets” in 🇨🇭
The view of ‘Les Dents du Midi’ translated as the Teeth of the South, in Switzerland.

Skiing Equipment

If you don’t have your own equipment, skis, shoes and poles can be rented on the spot at special shops. The staff will help you to choose the appropriate ones for your weight and height. Our skis, shoes and poles were included in the price of a self catering apartment and tele-ski tickets. The tickets Ben bought for us allowed us to use all the slopes in Portes du Solei, but you can choose a smaller area which will be cheaper. Check the booking options here.

Portes du Soleil, Chatel
In front of the restaurant on one of the slopes where you can warm up by drinking mulled wine, tea or eat some comforting food.

Other gear can be bought in Decathlon in the skiing section. I would suggest the following: a helmet, gloves, skiing trousers, and special blouses that keep you warm. Don’t forget about suncream protection, as the sun can be very strong on the top of the mountains, and lip balm – your lips get super dry on the slopes!

Portes du Soleil, Super Morzine
Lying on the sunbeds with these views is dreamy!

I hope my blog post explained what’s important to consider when going skiing for the first time. Portes du Solei was a real ‘Door to the Sun’ for us with one week of full sunshine and soft snow on the pistes, and despite some bruises, feeling of doubts, and tears, I am really grateful for the experience. My next blog post will explain everything about so-called apres-ski – things you can do after skiing – but I will mainly focus on traditional dishes. Stay tuned for mouthwatering photos of Fondue, Raclette and others! 

The village of Abondance
Admiring the village of Abondance in the evening.
Beautifully lit chalets.
Have you ever been skiing? What was your first experience?