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

Things to do in Bournemouth in Autumn.

Autumn can be quite depressing – it’s the season when many people experience lowered moods. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of sunny days (whenever they appear), and go out and enjoy a stroll while watching colourful leaves fall. Going to a local farm to pick some seasonal fruits and vegetables, or mushroom picking in the forest should absolutely be on your autumnal ‘to do’ list too! In today’s blog post, I will describe some activities you can do in Bournemouth and the surrounding area that can make autumnal melancholy and gloominess a bit more bearable.

Upper Gardens, Autumn 2019
It might be cold, rainy and gloomy, but the autumn has so much to offer…

Go to the New Forest

I don’t need to introduce the New Forest to locals, but if you are a tourist or a student in Bournemouth, visiting this National Park is a must. Wild ponies, deer, pigs, and spectacular purple heathland are some of the wonders awaiting you in the New Forest. If you want to know more about one of the New Forest’s fascinating villages, Burley, I wrote about it here last autumn. The legend of the witch who used to live there will get you into the Halloween mood.

New Forest Ponies
Wild ponies in the New Forest are friendly, but don’t approach them from the rear – I witnessed one kicking a lady!
New Forest ponies
Deer in the New Forest
Seeing one deer is something special, but seeing hordes of them is an unforgettable experience.
Heather in the New Forest
Heather in the New Forest.

Another thing you can do in the New Forest is mushroom picking, but only if you are able to distinguish the edible from the poisonous! I’m not an expert, but I can definitely spot the kings of mushrooms – ceps – which are very precious ingredients for restaurant owners. If you want to learn how to collect edible mushrooms, check out the foraging course the New Forest commission organises here. Mushroom picking in the New Forest is allowed, but not for commercial purposes. It means families who go foraging can pick up to 1.5 kg.

Once you learn how to collect edible mushrooms, try making risotto. The one we made with the New Forest ceps tasted heavenly and made me grateful for the amazing fruits that autumn bears – wild mushrooms.

Ceps, New Forest
The kings of mushrooms – ceps! We were lucky to find some of them to make home-made mushroom risotto.

Go for a walk to the Gardens and take some ‘perspective’ photos with leaves

I live close to the Upper Gardens, which are in the town centre. I go there for autumn, spring and even winter strolls and I’ve written about its history and plants here and here. You can make your autumn walks unique by taking perspective photos with leaves. Using leaves is an original and creative way of capturing an autumnal atmosphere on your phone or camera. Simply grab a leaf or two and play with your imagination. I went for leaf wings and a skirt, as you will see in the photos below!

You can become an autumnal angel for a moment. This photo was taken with my Sony camera. It focused on my body and blurred the leaves creating a mysterious effect.

In order to take a perspective photo with a leaf, ask your photographer to hold a leaf in front of the camera while you move further away from them. It’s not easy to take a perfect shot, but it’s feasible if you cooperate and move according to the photographer’s instructions.

You need to find the right size of leaves in order to create the perfect illusion. Not every leaf will be good for taking a perspective photo

These are two examples of when perspective photos do not look as they should!

Go to a local farm to pick some seasonal vegetables.

There’s something satisfying about cooking dishes made from produce you picked yourself. I think it might be an inheritance from our ancestors who had to harvest according to the season to provide food for the family. It’s fun, educational and you can support local farmers. There are so many of them; we went to Sopley Farm, but you can Google other local farms in the area.

Dan's Tanners farm in Bournemouth, pumpkin
A pumpkin for Halloween anyone?

Whether you’re an autumn lover or you tend to experience some melancholy during this rainy and windy period, I hope I’ve encouraged you to take part in some of the activities that are featured in this blog post to cheer you up. Will you try them?

He just pretends to be an angel…little devil.

Most Instagrammable places in Bournemouth, part 2: Beach huts

When you visit London for the first time, taking a photo with Big Ben or the London Eye is a must. When you come to Bournemouth, you probably want to capture something which exemplifies its seasidey nature and will later on remind you of the time you spent by the sea. Well, what can be more seasidey than some colourful beach huts? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not comparing beach huts with Big Ben! I’m just saying that they are a symbol of Bournemouth and at the same time very Instagrammable!

The beach huts between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier

The most colourful beach huts are between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier. Some Instagram influencers adjust their outfits to the background of their photos and I can assure you that Bournemouth’s beach huts are painted in so many different shades that even the most colour-obsessed influencer will be satisfied.

The beach huts between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier

An interesting fact is that Bournemouth’s first beach hut, which was built in 1909, still exists, and you can find it near the Bournemouth Seafront Office. It’s easy to find, because it’s marked with a Blue Plaque.

The beach huts between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier

What can you use the beach huts for?

There are more than 250 beach huts available for hire, and you can read FAQs about hiring one of them here. People rent beach huts because it’s an easy and convenient way to spend a whole day at the beach with the possibility of cooking (gas stoves are provided) or hiding inside to avoid the wind or scorching sun. While passing by the beach huts, you’ll often see a group of friends, or families having barbecues, or people just lying on sunbeds next to their huts.

the beach huts on the way to Poole
One of the beach huts on the way to Poole
Mudeford beach huts
Mudeford beach huts

If you have a little bit more time, you can have a walk , a bike ride or take a bus to see the beach huts in Mudeford. They are much bigger so you can actually sleep there, which means you can rent them for a whole weekend. If you happen to want to purchase one of these colourful beauties, you’ll need around £250,000!

Approaching the beach huts from Hengisbury Head
Looking across the water at Mudeford beach huts
Looking across the water at Mudeford beach huts

If you think no-one sane will want to buy a beach hut which does not have a shower, toilet facilities, running water or electricity for £250,000, you’re mistaken! As a potential buyer, you would be on a waiting list of 30 people. You can read an article about it here.

One of the Mudeford beach huts
One of the Mudeford beach huts
Mudeford beach huts
The rainbow of colours

Even if I were a millionaire, I would hesitate to buy a beach hut in Mudeford. But while I was looking at the sea from a beach hut’s decking, admiring the pristine beach and the Isle of Wight in the background, I understood that the peacefulness and tranquility of this place may be priceless to some people…or at least tempt them to pay £250,000 just to wake up with this view.

The view from one of the beach huts in Mudeford
The view from one of the beach huts in Mudeford. Would you pay £250,000 to look at it on warm summer nights?

Would you agree with me that beach huts are a symbol of Bournemouth?

Mudeford beach huts

Most Instagrammable Places in Bournemouth, part 1: Upper Gardens

I have decided to prepare a series of blog posts presenting different places in Bournemouth where you can take some artistic, colourful, original and memorable photos, whether you’re a tourist, international student or local. In other words, the most Instagrammable places in Bournemouth! This first one contains some shots from the Upper Gardens. Walking from the Square in the town centre until the end of the Upper Garden takes about 30 minutes (check the map here).

If you haven’t heard the word ‘Instagrammable’, then you should know it’s used to describe places, food, and things which seem attractive enough to be captured on camera and shared on social media. The Upper Gardens is definitely one of those places, especially with the abundance of flowers.

The best season to photograph flowers in the Upper Gardens is spring or early summer when the flowers start to bloom and their colours are most intense. The photos in this post were taken in mid-August and some of the petals are a bit washed out, but still beautiful!

Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, the red bridge in the Asian sector
One of the red bridges in the Asian sector of the gardens.

The Gardens used to be private and belonged to one family(!) – the Durrants – until they were leased to Bournemouth Council and are now open to the public. They are divided into three themes: European, Asian and North American, all based on the species planted in different sectors. The Asian part is very interesting due to its adorable red bridges, which are a great backdrop for photos. In my opinion, even a wedding photo session would look great there!

Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, the red bridge in the Asian sector

Other Instagrammable photos can be taken among bamboo sticks, and you can find plenty of them in the Upper Gardens…if you hide among them, you can pretend you’re on holiday in a tropical jungle…

Bamboo trees in the Upper Gardens, Bournemouth.
Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum from Sierra Nevada.

The massive trees from America in the American sector are really impressive and will make you feel tiny…the photos below present the Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum (I’ve always disliked those long Latin names!) from Sierra Nevada, and it’s the biggest species of tree in the world. It can reach a height of 300ft (92m)!

Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum from Sierra Nevada.
Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum from Sierra Nevada.
Look at how tiny I look standing next to the trunk of this tree…

The gardens are about 3 kilometers long, but who would mind walking 3 kilometers of pure beauty…? Our walk ended on the Coy Pond (which is already in Poole) where you can see some red fish.

Coy pond, Poole
Coy pond can be found at the end of Upper Gardens

Have you ever walked through the Upper Gardens and taken any photos with its beautiful flora? I think the Gardens are simply underrated because the main tourist focus is the beach. But give it a try, you’ll enjoy them at any time of the year!

Upper Gardens, Bournemouth.
Have I encouraged you to go there?

Amelie musical at the Pavilion

This French classic, a moving and inspiring story of an introverted girl named Amelie Poulain who derives joy from being kind to other people, can now be seen at the Pavilion. Astonishing acting, dynamic dance and sensational singing is everything you’ll experience while watching the show. Thanks to the invitation of BH Live and the Bournemouth Bloggers, I was able to see the performance on Monday evening.

The play starts with an insight into Amelie’s childhood and the upbringing she received from her overprotective mother, which somewhat explains her introverted character. The setting of the play changes from a metro station to a restaurant, where Amelie is employed as a waitress. The actors change sets by swiftly moving furniture, which introduces a lot of dynamism. Amelie also uses a flying chandelier at times to transport herself into her cosy room located above the station, which looks magical.

Amelie - UK musical. Picture by Pamela Raith Photography
The talented cast of Amelie – pic. by Pamela Raith Photography

I have to say that Audrey Brisson, a French-Canadian actress who stars in the lead role, is mesmerizing! Her beautiful voice, adorable French accent and quirky ways will make you fall in love with her immediately. My loudest applause, however, went to Danny Mac (a West End actor and finalist of Strictly Come Dancing) who plays Nino. I had goosebumps each time he sang, and the song When the Booth goes Bright became my favourite.

These two are a great couple!

Even though we watched the show on a Monday evening after a long day at work, we didn’t lose interest in the musical even for a second. All the actors who performed in the musical were fantastic! I can’t recommend it more! It will be playing at the Pavilion until the 17th of August, and you can buy tickets here .

*Ad press event- I was gifted the tickets for the musical Amelie, but the above review is my own genuine opinion.

‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie at the Pavilion

*Ad press event*

I’ve always loved musicals, plays and live performances, so when I was offered the opportunity to see and review Agatha Christie’s murder mystery entitled The Mousetrap, I decided to go for it. My excitement got even bigger when my colleague told me it was the longest-running West End show, with over 25,000 performances since 1952! The Mousetrap will be playing at the Pavilion between 5th and 10th August 2019. You can book tickets here.

bhlivetickets Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre

The plot of the play revolves around eight people trapped in a guesthouse because of the heavy snow. They suddenly discover that there is a murderer amongst them. The past traumatic experiences of each character are slowly revealed and the motives make you guess who committed the crime.

The Mouse trap by Agatha Christie is a murder mystery

I obviously won’t tell you who the killer is, not only because nobody likes spoilers, but also because the audience of the play was asked to keep it a secret for the rest of our lives! The play is worth seeing not only for the mysterious atmosphere and the feeling of suspense, but also because of the black humour used throughout the play by its talented actors.

So once again, if you want to see the longest running West End show and experience the nail-biting moment when the murderer is revealed, hurry up and book it here. The Mousetrap will be playing at the Pavilion only until Saturday 10th August!

The Pavillion Theatre in th Lower Gardens.
Located in the Lower Gardens, the Pavilion Theatre is a 1930s Art Deco building where you can watch performances, plays and concerts all year round.

Cider tasting event at The Stable

*AD – press event* After their pizza making event, a cosy pub in Bournemouth called The Stable invited the Bournemouth Bloggers again. This time it was for a cider tasting run by the biggest cider expert in the area – Ross Duncan. We had the chance to taste 10 different ciders which are nominated for the Cider of the Year award. The evening was fantastic and I found out a lot of interesting and fun facts about cider.

I have to admit, and please excuse my ignorance, before the event I was convinced that cider was an alcoholic drink made only from apples. While it’s true for the majority of ciders, there are other fruits like apricots, cherries, pears and rhubarb used to make cider and I strongly encourage you to try them as they are truly delicious.

Ross guided us through ten different flavours of cider, asking us about the sensations we could feel in different parts of our mouth. I realised after a while that I had to be careful – some ciders tasted like juice so it was easy to forget I was drinking alcohol! After tasting the third cider, I started to feel a bit tipsy! We were also offered some nibbles like crackers and cheese and had a short break for some mouth-watering pizzas and salads.

A slice anyone?

Some of the the ciders were more traditional-tasting, which I would describe as sharp and bitter, and probably they would appeal more to men than women. One of the ciders actually smelt of a farm…yes, you read correctly, it smelt like the countryside, and that is apparently a sign of a good cider!

My favourite ciders were the fruitier ones, and my ultimate winner was one with rhubarb juice called No.8 from Crafty Nectar (the name sounds like Chanel No. 5…well, almost! 😉 ). I would also recommend a sparkling cider from Kent called Nightingale, which has got a light colour and is similar in taste to prosecco. You can read the description of all 10 ciders nominated for the awards here, but you should obviously go to The Stable and taste them yourself! Other bloggers chose their winning ciders too and it was interesting to see how different our taste buds are!

I really enjoyed the event thanks to the outstanding expertise in ciders of Ross Duncan, a great atmosphere, and delicious food provided by The Stable’s chefs. If you are looking for an original present for someone, or an idea of how to spend an evening with friends in a social, but also educational way, go to the Stable for a cider tasting evening. You can choose different cider experiences which you can check out on their website here. Highly recommended!

Cheers!