Not my usual format, but wanted to share with you a recent feature I did for MAXIM Magazine. I was asked to do a three page spread on California, ahhh no worries! It was an absolute pleasure and a brilliant little adventure. Please enjoy, I hope it inspires.
Swimming with whales has always been a dream of mine, and the experience didn’t disappoint, in fact it had such an affect on me, I draw on it all the time. I will never forget my extraordinary encounter with the majestic giants of the sea.
Walking through the stunning foyer at Alila Villas Soori the first thing you notice is the black sand beach which stretches out like a rich velvet blanket before the resort. Silvery fragments scattered in the soft black sand shimmer in the sunshine and at sunset it seems to behold jewels. You’d swear this volcanic sand has magic powers, and according to the spa it does. The resort has bought the power of the magic sand to the spa and invite you to try! I for one was not leaving until I tried the healing powers of the volcanic sand!
The Balinese people have used the healing power of volcanic sand from Mount Agung (Bali’s largest live volcano) for medicinal and spiritual purposes from its ancient beginnings. When Mt Agung last erupted in 1965 it spit rock and lava from its east-central jungle location all the way to the sea. Over the years, it has been transformed into a fine, nutrient-rich exfoliate. The volcanic sand comes from a spiritually “hot” place where lush, water-spinach fields overflow bubbling spring water into the ocean. Volcanic sand combined with black coconut husk ash is added to actively exfoliate while drawing out impurities resulting in new, fresh, younger looking skin.
Draw out impurities, younger looking skin?! Sign me up!
I was lead to a beautiful seductively lit room in the resorts Spa, once I changed into a fluffy white robe my feet were massaged and cleaned before laying out on a comfortable bed where I first received a back and shoulder massage then I was smothered in the volcanic exfoliant which combined volcanic sand, bamboo ash, rice powder, cinnamon powder, reviving oil (lemon, rosemary and petitgrain) and chamomile.
The mixture went on cool and wet all over my body then the therapist went back over the magic exfoliant and massaged it into my skin. I was on a sandy spiritual high and my tingling, clean skin could contest it was doing the trick!
Finally the black magic was washed off with a viscy shower and my newly refreshed skin almost squeaked as I left the spa. I truly felt at one with my surroundings as I floated back to my villa along the black beach on which it sat. I felt energised, and clean with an earthly purity which encompassed the unique landscape of Tabanan. It was such a nice way to leave the area, I felt I was taking a little of it home with me.
I have been a fitness fanatic most of my life. Born into an extremely active and athletic family, playing more sports than I can even remember as a kid and becoming a Fitness Instructor at 18 its fair to say Fitness has been my life. I love the way keeping fit makes me feel, it brightens my mood and my days.
With my busy lifestyle which is largely comprised of travel these days it’s not always possible to get to a gym or find a swimming pool so walking has become my exercise of choice. You can pretty much do it anywhere anytime and its the best way to explore and tone at the same time!
People are always asking me how I keep fit and don’t believe that mostly walking keeps me in shape. I’m talking Power Walking here though no dawdle in the park or around the corner to my fave cafe. Also I have a secret weapon or “personal trainer” my Border Collie Abbey who needs at least 8km’s a day. She is definitely my favorite walking companion and we get out there rain hail or shine! Just this morning we did 7 undulating kilometers, discovered a new dog friendly park, met some lovely locals and had a juice in the sun over looking the ocean. Bliss!
I have always believed that exercise should be something that you love to do. If you love the water swim, if you’re a keen weight lifter get to the gym and pump some iron, if you like to get physical with pumping beats and feel the energy of others in a room hit the studio! Of course you can mix it up so it doesn’t get monotonous. I love walking and look forward to it every day. I choose different routes daily and when I remember brace my abdominal muscles and squeeze my gluteus to get a deeper workout. I enjoy waking to music or chatting with friends I can talk into coming with me.
My walking sessions are quite extreme..sometimes I will stride it out for 2 hours, however just 30-40 minutes a day can do you the word of good. Obviously exercise within your capabilities and try to extend the distance and level of intensity gradually, I promise you will see great results. Walking will melt your thighs and perk up your bum, manage stress, lower blood pressure and improve your mood. It’s also has a significant risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes…brilliant!
Walking is simply one of the easiest and safest activities for burning calories and tuning up the cardiovascular system.
Already looking forward to tomorrow, I’m thinking Bondi to Clovelly!
The best thing to do in Rome is to get lost because around every corner in the intricate historical city is another amazing site and one flick of the guide book and you will find it has a plethora of history.
The sights, the smells, the people, the buzz, whenever I’m in Rome I’m floating and not because I have vino with every meal (well maybe that has a little to do with it) it’s a magical city.
There are however a few things you should and shouldn’t do when visiting. Here are some of my DO’S and DON’TS when exploring the ancient city.
Don’t go on a tour in Rome, it’s better to use a map and walk around getting lost. Three blocks in any direction and you will find another famous Roman ruin, fountain, church or something fascinating.
Do check out the Pantheon and have dinner in the square, Piazza della Rotonda. There’s nothing like pasta and vino on a balmy Roman evening with the two thousand year old Pantheon as your back-drop. For a cheaper option check out the restaurants in the alleys adjacent to the structure. You must go inside the Pantheon, it can get very busy if you hit the crowds, try and time your visit. Mind your valuables as pickpockets do work the area.
Do visit the Spanish Steps, with its irregular butterfly design, the beautiful “Scalina Spagna” are just one of these must see places when in Rome and a great example of Roman Baroque Style. It’s a great place to just sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and views of the Eternal City. The stairs connect the lower Piazza di Spagna with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti, with its beautiful twin tower church dominating the skyline. Stroll the narrow streets, glance in the boutiques and enjoy a gelato.
Do check out the Colosseum and let your imagination run wild. Spend some time walking around and lose yourself in history. Between 50,00 to 80,000 spectators would flock to the amphitheater to for gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas.
Don’t pose with a “fake” gladiator unless you are prepared to pay him something outrageous like 10 Euros for the picture.
Do check out the Vatican. Although it can be a hassle lining up with the hoards it really is worth the visit. It’s not necessary to do an expensive Vat tour, it you want to know who sculpted/painted what, pick up a book in the Vatican bookstore (printed in multiple languages) that describes the art in St.Peter’s basilica and elsewhere.
Do not, take a photo in the Vatican, the Vatican police are very serious about enforcing the “no photo” rule, so make sure you don’t get in trouble.
Do dress appropriately. Pack a scarf to cover your shoulders and try to cover your legs for the Sistine chapel.
Do grab a business card of the hotel you are staying at on your way out, just incase you lose your way home. Rome is an intricate city and easy to get lost in. It also has the local language on it so you can ask the locals which direction or even the taxi driver if you’re too tired to walk home.
Enjoy your Roman holiday!
Happy Travels. Laura XX
When I’m on holidays or reporting from a beautiful travel destination half the fun is dressing in accordance to my surroundings.
On my recent trip to the Alila Villas Soori in Bali I went for gorgeous, loose, light and bright pieces from the Camilla collection. I love to slip on a silk, beaded dress at any time of the day, they feel as light as a feather in the warm Balinese sun and float on your body rather than cling in the sometimes hot/humid weather. Throwing a silk dress over a one piece Camilla swimsuit is also perfect as they compliment one another and both pieces together serve as a great transitional ensemble for the pool to lunch, dinner or to the bar!
The Blue Python high shorts and split back top from Watson & Watson is a perfect little vacation piece which suits any activity and is also smart enough to wear out. It’s a flattering two piece which can also be worn as separates, allowing your wardrobe to go further.
I loved the NOOKIE black Playa neoprene bandeau top and bottoms for soaking up the sun and lounging around the pool. The top also works really well under a dress, with or without straps, again making an easy transition from the pool to the bar, lets face it a black bikini top which doubles as a bra is a must for any girls holiday wardrobe.
Happy Travels. Laura XX
I’ve been to Bali numerous times now and every time is a unique experience. To date, this one is my favourite and certainly the most luxurious.
Another fan of Alila Villas Soori is none other than The Bieb’s, that’s right Justin Bieber has visited for the last three years with his Mother. It’s no wonder as Tabanan, where the resort is located is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak and Kuta. You could be anywhere in the world at this secluded resort located along the southwest coast of Bali. Soori embraces all the stunning nature that surrounds it. The lush green fertile land which is home to an abundance of rice terraces and the beautiful black-volcanic sand beaches which shimmers at sunset and feels as soft as icing sugar under your feet.
The minute you enter the resort an ease washes over as the friendly staff guide you to your villa, not before welcoming you with a refreshing ginger welcome drink and a cool lemongrass infused towel.
Driving to Alila Villas Soori was an experience in itself. We cruised through beautiful frangipani lined streets where villages and temples form the landscape in their splendid original form, no Hard Rock Cafe’s here!
Alila Villas Soori is also located just 20 minutes from Tanah Lot Temple, one of Bali’s most sacred temples. Soori’s surroundings are as special as the resort itself. Opening the door to our villa was like walking into a dream…the ocean crashed in front of our uninterrupted view and the pool surrounding our room created the illusion we were floating on water. No stone has been left un-turned in the stylish, luxurious and contemporary villas. I’m not one for relaxing usually but this place has a magical vibe which would send even the most hyperactive person into the zen zone.
I woke up every morning to the smoothie of the day followed by the most beautiful yoga class right next to the ocean. Starting with a meditation followed by a series of yoga moves, I was floating after each class. Breakfast, my favorite meal of the day changed daily and never failed to impress. The small portions meant I could try a few dishes, all unique in flavor and varied from healthy to well…pancakes, caramelized banana and bacon, I tried them all, everything is calorie free on holiday! After breakfast the hours seemed to gently drift on by, either spent by the pool, in my seaside villa or in the world class spa getting a local massage as only the Balinese can.
Each night the sunset would spill it’s orange and gold brilliance over the resort. Basking in the golden glow my boyfriend and I walked the black glistening beach until the sun finally sunk into the ocean. Wine by the fire pits followed over-looking the Indian Ocean, needless to say the ambiance was out of control. We had dinner nightly at Omak, the outdoors restaurant next to the illuminated crashing waves. I was beyond relaxed and ready to do it all over again the next day. How does one return to reality?
Stay tuned for more Alila Bali adventures and pics, coming soon!
Happy Travels, Laura xx
Ever arrived at your hotel and the room has a particularly interesting aroma? I know I have!
Frequent travellers would be wise to invest in a scented candle with a lid, so you do not get wax through your bag.
They are easy to travel with and not only give off a lovely smell but also add a bit of ambiance to any hotel room.
Available at most candle shops and department stores.
My favourite is lavender scented, I find them the most relaxing.
You can also put a couple of drops of lavender oil on your pillow which also promotes a good nights rest.
Here’s to a Sensational Scented trip!
Happy Travels, Laura XX
As of today passengers will be able to keep their electronic devices powered on during all phases of flight, that’s right gate to gate after the Civil Aviation Safety Authority gave it the A-OK.
Before you get too excited about surfing the internet, social media and sending messages etc at 30,000ft tablets, phones and e-readers can be used but kept in “flight mode”
The move will allow Virgin Australia customers using the airline’s in flight entertainment system, which streams via Wi-Fi, to watch a film or television show during the flight.
Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell said the company was pleased to be introducing the initiative without delay.
“Today’s announcement means that our customers will be able to use their personal devices throughout their entire journey with us, maximizing their work or leisure time,” he said.
Virgin Australia will allow customers to do so from the first flight on Tuesday. Similar privileges are already in place in the United States, Europe and New Zealand.
Qantas Domestic chief executive Lyell Strambi said the new changes, to take effect on his airline’s flights from Tuesday afternoon, would be positive for customers.
“Whether customers choose to listen to music, read their e-books or review work documents, the introduction of gate-to-gate electronic access on Qantas flights is an exciting development to an already exceptional inflight entertainment service,” he said.
So don’t worry travellers, there won’t be any disturbing phone calls in the air when you’re trying to in get some precious “you-time”. Just remember to pack your favorite noise-cancelling headphones to watch movies and listen to music.
Recently I was asked to write a blog on the My Top 5 LA Beaches for the Qantas Travel Insider website.
I gladly threw myself into this task and had a ball researching some of the best stretches of sand and surf LA has to offer…
Los Angeles beach culture is alive and buzzing under the summer sun right now. Take in the sights of vibrant Venice beach where the unique characters often steal the attention from the sun, sand and surf, or chill out at the relaxed El Matador beach. Here are five of my favourites:
One of the most famous LA beaches. You’ve heard songs about it and more than likely visited if you’ve been to LA. Hire a pushbike and cruise along the track to Venice. Santa Monica Pier has rides, games and food. Stick around for an incredible sunset.
Like Santa Monica, Venice has appeared in many movies and attracts an eclectic crowd: artists, street performers, gym junkies. One of the best ways to see it is to walk, ride, skate or roller-blade the 3.2km ocean path. Grab a corn dog and a lemonade, relax on a beach chair and soak up the sun.
A renowned surfing beach with a beautiful clean stretch of sand, trendy with some great beachside restaurants and shops. Volleyball courts go on forever; there’s always a game to watch or take part in. Joggers and walkers make the most of the beachside pedestrian track. Join in! The perfect beach for fun and fitness.
El Matador Beach
Unlike the others, El Matador has minimum facilities. A rocky track leads down to this Malibu beach where you can escape the rat-race, enjoy a picnic and swim in the clear water. Hidden coves, rocky shores and big waves make this a very romantic spot – don’t forget the Champagne!
A favourite spot to hang out with friends, Paradise Cove in Malibu has a great restaurant and outdoor lounging area. It has its own private beach which is completely protected and oh-so pretty. Bring the family for the day; there’s something for everyone.