The Best Maxi Dresses For Spring

Newer followers won't be as aware of my sunshine uniform. For about five days of every seven I live in maxi dresses with either flats, block heels or (if I can get away with it) trainers. I snapped these photos recently and rather than just fixate on the splendour of this Ganni dress (find it here if you fancy) I thought I'd do an edit of all the dresses that've been bookmarked so far in 2018. Lets go!

outfit links = dress (also in black here) / boots / sunglasses / bag / green ring

Before I launch into the round up I thought I'd tell you about my first experience buying with Moda Operandi. I'd seen the brand come up in other influencers' feeds but I'm always a bit shy to buy from a new website and also thought most of the stuff was super expensive and out of my price range. However, I've figured out what it's good for and how it's a bit different to other online premium-brand websites...


New Kicks From FitFlop

outfit links: shoes / trousers / bag / jacket / top (hair by Sassoon Salons)

Ok, so here's a collaboration that completely changed my view on a brand. FitFlop wasn't something I thought would be very "me." I had such a preconception in my mind (sparkly sandals, unflattering soles) that I'd completely overlooked ever buying them. When I was approached about working on this project I initially wasn't keen. Then I saw these trainers, and read up on their benefits...



Skiing With Oliver's Travels

Back in March I succumbed to Gus' requests and went skiing. It isn't a sport or a life choice I even considered until my twenties and I used to hold the opinion of, "Why on earth would you choose to go skiing over sitting on the beach with a cocktail?" Gus is huge fan and skiing was a big part of his upbringing so I have had to bite the bullet and book it.  I've skied a total of four times. I'm not a total beginner and I can get down the mountain, but I wouldn't give myself any points for style or etiquette. In fact I'd be running into the negative points style wise. 

I decided to invite a few friends as in the back of my head I thought "If I hate the skiing or if the weather is bad (hilarious given we ended up in the one resort in France with pretty much guaranteed good ski weather from November to April) we can all chill in the chalet and catch up." I'd spoken to friends who recommended Oliver's Travels before and got in touch to see what they'd suggest for a mixed ability, arguably late season, amenity needing group of people. They ever so kindly not only assisted hugely but offered us a chalet for three nights in return for this review. Have a read...


A Yoga and Self Care Retreat For Newbies

I am finally writing about my wonderful experience with Kaliyoga; four days in the Spanish countryside spent stretching, breathing, eating and "doing" self care. Apologies this has taken me so damn long to write, I went on the trip about a month ago now. I have never had so many questions about a press trip in my life, which has made this feel like quite a daunting task writing it up as I need to make sure I cover off so many questions! I'd never been on anything like this before, and felt very lucky to be able to experience it in this way - god my job is good sometimes!

I was invited through the Kaliyoga team's PR company back in 2017 and at the time thought "this'll be good as that time of year is quiet with work so I can justify the time away." However, in reality that week was a mad one, I very nearly pulled out at the eleventh hour because the office was manic. With hindsight there couldn't have been a better time to enforce some time away like this, so if you are someone always using the excuse of "I'm too busy" then please understand it is just an excuse - there should always be time for taking care of yourself.

outfit links: jumper / jeans / sunglasses

It's probably best if I start with exactly what Kaliyoga is, because I got a bunch of questions asking whether it was a bootcamp, rehab, retreat or diet farm (I don't know what a diet farm is, and the phrase made me chuckle when I was asked). In truth, it's probably a combination of all of those things. Kaliyoga helps it's visitors with physical, emotional, spiritual and dietary issues. My time there was focussed on yoga mainly but as you know from my Instagram it also incorporated a bunch of other aspects as the idea was we got a round up of the entire offering to be able to pass the info on to you. Ordinarily you go for a week, but we squeezed in a snapshot round up over four days. They do different weeks with different focusses, you can see all them here.

I was hugely sceptical of some of the things on our program. I enjoy yoga, but I'm not an "ommmm" person - my purpose for exercise is purely to lose weight and tone up; I'm not interested in the spiritual feel-good stuff at all. Sound bathing wasn't something I was that into and I felt like I wanted to sink into a bottle of wine and there was no alcohol, dairy or caffeine for the duration. I did feel a little bit like Karl Pilkington when I arrived; rolling my eyes in disbelief at the thought of sitting on a mat to try and "bring out the chakras" for an hour hasn't ever been in my life plan.

outfit links: top (always buy my gym tops from here) / leggings / trainers

The property is the brainchild of Jonathan and Rosie who first visited the area nearly 20 years ago (there are two; one in Italy and one in Spain - this review is of the Spanish retreat). Their programs and retreats have grown in a really beautiful way; they've steadily built up a brilliant team of experts and they really are like a little family. There are amazing nutrionalists, masseuses, spiritualists, yoga instructors - the works. Considering how remote the property is, it's testament to the owners that the team choose to work at Kaliyoga - and some indication of quite how much they believe in the concept. They have customers who have been coming to them since the beginning, but are now looking to grow to attract more of the typically "busy" city types who need a worthwhile break. Hence inviting us lot to come and test it out.

outfit links: top (new season and just out) / jeans / sunglasses

As you no doubt already know from Instagram, Kaliyoga is pretty beautiful. It's built into the Spanish hills like something out of a movie set and has plenty of Instagrammable spots with mosaic tiles and views a plenty. What I liked about it was that they'd clearly made an effort to make it a home from home; nothing felt too "done" and it was rustic in places without feeling worried a wall might fall down. The living spaces are gorgeous with a roaring fire and lovely pool area. The bedrooms were lovely, I slept in one of the huts outside and loved it. The yoga centre is stunning, overlooking the Spanish Hills and was really quite special at dusk when we were all doing our last class for the day.

Now, the schedule. To my surprise the weekly schedules are a pleasant mix of activities and "nothing." For anyone worried there wouldn't be sunbathing time rest assured there is plenty of that. There is a morning class, breakfast, free time, then lunch, then either an activity (that might walking through the hills like we did, or a talk about nutrition, or a massage) then an evening/dusk class, then dinner. One thing I did really like is the guys at Kaliyoga recognise that most people who come to them are exhausted, so they don't inflict the sunrise yoga on them. The first yoga class starts at either 8 or 9am. If there is something in particular you want to "tackle" then you can let the team know in advance and they can make sure they have the right team in to help you manage it - I'd really advise the sound bathing as an additional class for reasons I'll go into in a moment.

outfit links: top (new season and just out) / jeans / sunglasses

Before I do, let me tell you about the yoga. To say I was hesitant is an understatement. I walked in and there were Buddhas and scents going off and I just thought "argh, here we go." In the car on the way there I said to the other girls that if I was made to hum I was walking out. What then happened, hugely to the credit of instructor who must have read my mind, was a brilliant class mixed with movement and "proper" exercise. She did make me "ommmm" but for the first time ever in my life I actually wanted to. I didn't feel silly and as I did it I feel my shoulders go down and I wasn't at all embarrassed. I left the first class a bit cross with my former self for being so ridiculously narrow minded; it was really fun and restorative. We had two of these kind of classes a day, and some meditation which I struggled with a bit more than the yoga but by the end of the week found myself able to properly switch off and grasp the basics, which I'd never managed to before.

an example of the yoga classes and my gang for the week

Right, so, sound bathing. Firstly as I'm sure lots of you are wondering, what the hell is it? This isn't the official explanation but instead my interpretation of what goes on: There is a concept that a person's energy is determined by their chakras; the seven spiritual powers in the human body. Bear with me. It is thought that by recognising how and where these powers "stick" to the human body you can rebalance them with sound. So, you lie or sit comfortably in a studio and the therapist "reads the room" (you kind of have to be there to understand this but when I say Kim - the therapist - got stuff out of us, I really do mean it, there were tears of sheer release as we all explained our stresses and woes) and then proceeds to play sounds from bowls (think large, empty drums). I cant explain it, it doesn't make any rational sense to me - but - I could literally feel stress being pulled out of me. 

outfit links: jumper / jeans / sunglasses / shoes (old so now 50% in sale)

At the end of the class we all felt strangely bonded, relaxed and lots of us cried. Not because we were sad, but because we just had this release of stress some of us didn't know we had. It was absolutely bizarre and I don't think any of us saw it coming. Now, I've done this before and can tell you it's not always as powerful as this; last time I did it during a press event I just couldn't get into it and was bored senseless. So the guys at Kaliyoga really do know what they're doing, and I can't recommend Kim enough - she's magical.

outfit links: dress / very similar

Another question I got asked lots about was the food. You lot know I love my grub; I'm a "meat and two veg" kind of girl and I don't stray far from it. I was astounded as to how much I enjoyed the raw food, I didn't miss my usual habits at all. Speaking plainly the food is very much based for a detox so you do, erm, go to the bathroom a bit more than usual. Becky who runs the kitchen and her amazing team really do know their stuff (they're the ones who gave us the talks on kimchi and raw chocolate making) and produced incredible meals every night. In fact they're so good at it they've made a cook book (which they gave us as a parting gift) that contains amazingly simple, tasty food. I was worried I wouldn't be able to recreate stuff, but I can with it. Here is a link to it. As a side, if you did want to come to lose weight Kaliyoga do a couple of specialised weeks a year. They get booked up very quickly but check out their site here for details.

some of the food, and our kimchi and raw chocolate lessons

I really hope this review brings across quite how great I think this place is, I really want to go back and try their other Italy property. I would never, ever have considered using my holiday time for a retreat, I want to sit on the beach with some wine and tan myself stupid. Having now done this I totally take that back and can confidently say I'll be returning. I felt so refreshed and revitalised, friends commented on how much more relaxed and level headed I seemed - and the week I came back was a very challenging one work wise and I suspect I'd have fallen apart if I hadn't had those restorative few days...

You can find all details about Kaliyoga, pricing, retreats and recipes here. I'd like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who made this trip possible; The Kaliyoga team, Octane PR and all the other girls on the trip - it really was a special - and necessary - few days!
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