My top TV show recommendations

As it’s pouring with rain today, and sadly the glorious summer seems to have ended, I thought I’d share my top tv show recommendations because y’know, what else you gonna do on a rainy day other than snuggle up infront of the tv?!

Ok I confess, maybe I do spend too much time watching tv but when the programming is this good can you blame me?

Dark

It’s not often I get fanatical about a programme but Dark was SO GOOD. It’s a Netflix Original sci-fi thriller and I have been recommending it to everyone. It’s a German language series but we just watched the dubbed version as we find subtitles too distracting (and the only German I know is how to order a small chocolate milkshake! ha!). The story begins in the year 2019 and starts with a young boy who goes missing. It then centres around four families and their connections to each other in the fictional German town of Winden. The show is a little reminiscent of Stranger Things (which I also love) but takes on a much different twist several episodes in. I can’t say much more without major plot spoilers but if there is one show to watch on Netflix right now it is Dark.

Dark Tourist

Sticking with the dark theme, we happened across a series called Dark Tourist. It is presented by David Farrier, a journalist from New Zealand, who explores the phenomenon of dark tourism. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it is basically defined as tourism to a place of death and tragedy. Farrier travels the world and satisfies the morbid curiosity in all of us. One of the most notable things he does is take a bus tour to the area of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan – where eventually the radiation levels read so high on the geiger counters that the tour is then halted. He also meets drug lord Pablo Escobar’s number 1 hitman in Colombia and takes part in an Indonesian funeral ritual involving digging up a corpse, among many other things. Some of the viewing is not for the faint-hearted but it is an intriguing watch.

Lee Daniels’ Star

I’m currently in the middle of watching season 2 of this drama about a girl band trying to make it big in Atlanta, USA. This show tackles almost every issue under the sun from violence, drug abuse, transgender identity and toxic relationships, all of which are intertwined with the highs and lows of trying to make it in the music industry. It features some relatively fresh faces to acting who hold their own alongside some big names such as Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt. Oh and the soundtrack is pretty fab too!

RuPaul’s Drag Race

I am very late to the party but I can’t get enough of RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a competition hosted by iconic drag queen RuPaul, to find America’s next drag superstar and has had 10 seasons already. The programme is the perfect mix of funny, sassy, creative and touching, I feel more sparkly just by watching it. I’ve only managed to watch the 3 most recent seasons as that’s all Netflix have got now, so if anyone knows where I can watch the older series please let me know! If I can find it on an android tv box or something I will be very happy.

Image via unsplash

What are you watching on tv at the moment? Leave me your recommendations below.

This was a collaborative post with Latest Deals.

How to be Happy – Book Review

How to be Happy by Eva Woods

How to be Happy - Book Review

If there was one book that I have read in the past year that I believe should be made into a movie, then this is it! So much so that I recommended this book to my mum, who then recommended this book to my aunt and now I am recommending it to you.

How to be happy by Eva Woods tells the story of Annie. Annie is not in a good place – she doesn’t like her job, her mother is in hospital and after a run of awful life events she generally feels quite down trodden and, well, sad. And then along comes Polly – a riot of colour and bursting with fun, laughter and joy. Polly is everything Annie is not.

Annie is in no mood to make friends but Polly is persistent and forces herself into Annie’s life with the aim of helping Annie find happiness in just one hundred days. Polly shows Annie that life is too short to be miserable and slowly but surely, Annie starts to believe her. What Annie doesn’t realise is that Polly needs her, just as much as she needs Polly.

Without revealing any major plot spoilers, this book is a bittersweet tale of friendship, life and love. It’s called ‘How to be Happy’ yet it is also very poignant and reminds us to live our best lives. As Polly would say, “Life isn’t about avoiding the storm; it’s about learning to dance in the rain”.

Alphabet Dating - R is for Relaxation

Alphabet Dating – R is for Relaxation

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

We’ve been taking liberties with the alphabet again but I’m pleased to say we finally got around to our ‘R’ date. R is for Relaxation – something we both deserved after the not-so-great start to the year. We booked a lovely overnight stay spa break at Eastwell Manor near Ashford in Kent for our 5th wedding anniversary.

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

Eastwell Manor is a charming country house set in the Garden of England and was built between 1540 and 1550. In its impressive history of over 450 years it has had many owners, including Royalty! These days it is best known as a hotel offering spa breaks, afternoon teas and weddings.

We checked in to the Robert Curtoys room in the early afternoon – easily the largest hotel room I have ever stayed in! Complete with kingsize bed, chaise longue and Champneys flip flops, robes and toiletries. We headed straight down to the Champneys spa where we enjoyed the facilities and also had a facial each which we had pre-booked. The spa itself features a heated indoor pool surrounded by relaxation beds. There’s also a hydrotherapy pool, steam room, sauna and, my favourite, a jacuzzi.

Robert Curtoys room at Eastwell Manor

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

Our package also included dinner plus breakfast and lunch the following day, so after we were all fresh and clean after our spa session, we got dressed up and made our way to the Manor Restaurant where we enjoyed a three course meal. For starters I had the rainbow carrot terrine while Nick had the cheese souffle. For mains we both opted for the Eastwell brisket burger which was yummy, if not a little salty. Lastly, dessert. Nick enjoyed the white chocolate and passion fruit ganache bomb sorbet while I had the pistachio, orange and cranberry which included the most delicious ice cream (orange and cranberry mix? I’m not sure) as well as spiced oranges and olive oil cake. It was sooo good!

Pool at Eastwell Manor

After a super comfortable and relaxing nights sleep in our humongous bed, we enjoyed a buffet breakfast followed by a stroll through the perfectly manicured grounds. It was lovely to soak up the atmosphere while pretending you are on a television set.

Big comfy bed!

gardens at eastwell

We then returned to the spa for body radiance treatments which involved putting on an embarrassingly tiny pair of knickers (for me anyway, my husband got off lightly). Luckily it was all very professional and organised so my embarrassment was very shortlived. The spa therapist exfoliated my skin and then left me to shower. Once I was dry and my modesty protected with towels, she then massaged my skin using some gorgeous scented Champneys moisturiser.

Fancy starters in the spa restaurant

We also stopped in the Spa Restaurant for a light lunch prior to our treatments. We could have had several fancy looking courses there too but we didn’t want to be too full before our body treatments so Nick had chicken to start followed by some sensible pasta while I opted for a starter of salmon and then skipped straight to dessert – ice cream… and imagine my delight when I realised one of the flavours was the same as what I had for dessert the night before. Oh yes. You can put the girl in a classy setting but you can’t stop her from ordering ice cream for lunch! Ha!

All in all it was a perfect and romantic stay and one I would definitely like to repeat.

Eastwell Manor - a lovely spa break in Kent

We’re so cool

For more Alphabet Dating Adventures check out my series.

Truly Wild Experiences Down Under

As someone with a keen interest in conservation and zoology, seeing the native wildlife of a place is something that usually features highly on my destination wishlist when I travel. This year hasn’t been easy for me on a personal level but it always lifts my spirits when I think of the amazing things I have seen and done already.

One of my most cherished memories is when I went backpacking Down Under with my husband. Australia and New Zealand are two of my best-loved countries – friendly locals, stunning scenery and most importantly, amazing wildlife. So I would like to share my favourite wildlife experience from each.

Adorable quokka - a native to Rottnest Island in Western Australia

Discovering quokkas on Rottnest Island, Australia

Rottnest Island is a beautiful island off the coast of Western Australia, home to an adorably smiley-looking marsupial known as the quokka. In fact, Rottnest Island was named after the quokka when a Dutch explorer arrived at the island and mistook the quokkas for rats, naming it ‘Rat’s Nest’.

Wild Experiences Down Under

Being almost completely wiped out on the mainland of Australia, Rottnest Island is one of only a few places where you can see quokkas in their natural habitat and due to the lack of predators on the island, coupled with an abundance of food, their numbers are thriving.

Beautiful Rottnest Island - catch the ferry from Fremantle and enjoy a day with the quokkas!

As the island has a strong focus on the environment and sustainability, the best way to explore is by bicycle. So when we arrived by boat we picked up some hired bikes from the dock and went on our merry way.

Rottnest Island is easily one of the most beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to visit, with its white sand beaches and turquoise seas it looks like something from a movie set. Of course, my favourite part was observing the quokkas and I managed to even get a #quokkaselfie too! All flora and fauna on the island is protected by law so visitors must remember not to touch or feed the animals as it could harm them.

The best way to get around Rottnest Island! Hire a bike and explore this beautiful part of Western Australia.

Quokka selfie on Rottnest Island, Australia

One of my favourite things about Australia happens to be its native creatures – I’m completely in awe of it – so to be able to see the happy little quokkas in the wild and not in a zoo was something unforgettable.

Spotting wild seals in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is a small town on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island and is famed for its marine life. Due to the weather cancelling any whale watching trips out to sea, we made a spontaneous decision to take a drive to Ohau Point where we could see some wild New Zealand fur seals.

Adorable seal pup at Ohau Point, New Zealand

After a short walk into the woodland, we were greeted by one of the most magical sights I have seen – numerous young seals swimming and frolicking at the bottom of a waterfall! I wasn’t sure what to expect on this spur of the moment adventure but it by far exceeded any expectations I could have had. The seals looked so happy and there were very few tourists at this spot making it feel all the more special. Of course, we kept our distance but a couple of the seals were playing on the path together just a mere metre away from where we stood!

Ohau waterfall - a beautiful place to see seal pups swimming

The seal pups are born in November and December and start making their way to the waterfall in April, where they are then able to develop their swimming and social skills together. They stay in the stream for several days at a time before returning to the coast to feed from their mothers. Once weaned, they then remain on the coast where they can hunt for food at sea.

See New Zealand fur seals - free things to do in Kaikoura

Seal swimming in Ohau stream, Kaikoura

We waited and watched the playful pups for a little while longer but even on the walk back to the car we were able spot a few of them swimming in the shallow waters alongside us. Amazing! Sometimes the best adventures are unplanned.

Note: My visit to Ohau Point happened prior to the devastating 2016 earthquake and although parts of this area are still destroyed, visitors are still able to see seal colonies elsewhere in Kaikoura. Hopefully they will return to the waterfall very soon.

As far as future wildlife adventures go, a safari in Kenya would be at the top spot on my travel bucket list and as a proud recipient of a charity rhino adoption, I would love nothing more than to see them in the wild.

Win a safari adventure in Kenya!

Win an African safari with Audley Travel by sharing your best wildlife photograph or video on your social media channels. To enter write #AudleySafari and @AudleyTravel on your Instagram or Twitter post or share directly on the Audley Travel Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/audleytravel/. To find out more or enter via the website, visit www.audleytravel.com/social.  Entries must be posted between 20th August – 23rd September.

This post is my entry into the Trips 100 & Audley Travel blogger challenge.

My mental health issues

With it being Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought it timely to write about what has been going on with me lately, in particular with regards to my mental health.

One week into the new year – my feet were itching and I was craving some sunshine and adventure, so we booked ourselves an amazing holiday to Malaysia in April, where we would celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. I was excited, I hadn’t felt this excited in a long time.

As January continued, a sense of unease came creeping in. Having dealt with (mainly social) anxiety for a long time I told myself that I always feel shit in January and February and that it would pass once March came along. I got myself some herbal remedies, went back to yoga class and brushed off that gnawing feeling as a seasonal thing.

Late February, one Sunday I had gone upstairs to lie down and read a book. My husband came up to check on me as I had just disappeared without saying anything… and that’s when it first flooded out. I was scared, anxious, crying. Something bad was going to happen. In the pit of my stomach I knew that something bad was going to happen. I didn’t want to go on holiday. I didn’t want to go to work. But I also didn’t want to cancel my holiday or quit my job. Something did not feel right. I am not an overly emotional person and I rarely cry in front of other people, including my husband.

Two days later I managed to get an appointment at a walk-in centre to see a doctor who referred me to online therapy. I began therapy but around five weeks after my first breakdown, it hit me again. That escalating dreaded, miserable, hopeless, nauseating feeling. I wasn’t eating properly. I wasn’t sleeping properly. And I had had a headache and jaw pain for about two weeks straight.

Cue another doctors visit. She asked me questions and sent me for a blood test, stating that I was showing severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. She also prescribed me anti-depressants and a sedative and told me to come back to see her the following week. As I was crossing the road from the surgery to get to the pharmacy my mind considered what would happen if I just stopped and let the oncoming traffic hit me. I didn’t want to die, quite the opposite, but if I got knocked down then I could rest up and not feel like I had to try to prove how bad I was feeling.

That weekend was my birthday and easter – two of my favourite things and yet I was in no mood to celebrate. I felt like a robot. Like I was physically present but void of any emotion, or any good feeling at least. Everything was going on around me but I wasn’t really there. Smiling was an effort. I don’t know how it looked from the outside but I ended up going AWOL from work because every day I woke up with a racing heart and a big black cloud over my head.

I returned to see the GP as requested and the reception I got was less than friendly. My blood tests were fine and it seemed as though she had more or less forgotten that she had asked me to return, she almost seemed angry that I was bothering her. My mum came with me so I know I wasn’t imagining the doctor’s unfriendly attitude. If I didn’t have white coat syndrome before then I’m pretty sure I have it now. I was in a much worse state than before.

What then followed was me being signed off work for two weeks and then cancelling our holiday. A holiday I had had on my bucket list for many years. Travel had felt like the only cool thing I had to show for my life and here I was not even being able to do that. I felt like shit. On top of the dread of the future that I was carrying, plus the fear of the ‘bad thing’, I was now laden with guilt for cancelling our wedding anniversary holiday, guilt about taking this adventure away from my husband and the sense I had let myself down.

In hindsight I should have seen this coming and believe me, I spent plenty of time punishing myself about it. In all honesty I haven’t been truly happy for a long time for various reasons but thankfully I got help before it got any worse. I would urge anyone who is feeling low to talk to someone about it, you may be surprised just how many people have been in the same boat as you and I’m forever thankful to my friends and family who have supported me over the last few months. I am also grateful that mental illness is spoken about more and with campaigns such as mental health awareness week it allows for more people to seek the help that they require.

For more information about mental health awareness, try mentalhealth.org