Thursday, 1 September 2016

Visit Finland


Every now and then an email will land in my inbox that will make me think that it must have been sent to me by mistake... so when an email from Visit Finland popped up, inviting me on week away, exploring their beautiful country, along with 4 other travel bloggers, this was definitely one of those moments! 


For those of you that know me, you will know when I'm not working in London, or training in the gym, normally you'll find me hiking across Wales with my partner Jon, or on a surf trip somewhere, chasing waves! Anything active and outside, you'll more than likely find me there. Finland has been one of the Nordic countries I have always dreamt of visiting, made up of 70% woodland, 20% water and 10% everything else, it couldn't be any futher away from our life here in London, and closer to the lifestyle we left and long for back in Wales.

Only a 3 hour flight from London to Finlands capital Helsinki, it made me wonder why I haven't made this trip sooner! I worked out that I could fly to a place as incredible as Finland in less time than it would take us to drive back to our weekend surf spots back in Wales! And with flights only costing around £84 (amazing I know) What we pay on patrol, is no different to what we'd pay to fly to another country! It's easy to forget when you live in England, how close we are to so many incredible countries, and this trip definitely made me realise how I really need to start making the most of it! I don't think anything I write will really do justice for just how incredible our trip to Finland was, it was honestly one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever been lucky enough to visit, and I can't wait to return again soon.

We arrived in Helsinki after a short flight, and headed to our hotel Klaus K to drop off our bags, before an afternoon exploring the city, and a quick lunch stop at Hotel Lilla Roberts Resturant - Krog Roba. The first thing I noticed about Helsinki was how calm it was, so different to any other city I have visited before. It automatically made me feel at home, and with Finland having over 180,000 (yep, one hundred and eight thousand) lakes, and almost as many islands, we never had to walk to far to be at the waters edge.

For our first evening in Finland we headed to one of Helsinki's most popular restaurants Bronda, and boy let me tell you, this had to be one (if not the best) restaurants I have ever visited. It was literally incredible! We all sat down for an evening to try out their incredible tasting menu, which consisted of 8 courses, showing us the large variety of everything their menu had to offer. It was safe to say we didn't want the evening to end! I've done a full post on Bronda which you can read here. (the food was just too incredible not to share with you!) If you are ever in Helsinki, the tasting menu at Bronda is an absolute must!

The next day we drove across Finland and started our journey over to Kimito, for a 10k cycle across the Island. Jon has tried so many times to get me to go on bike rides with him back in England, but it's never been something that has really appealed to me, but cycling in Finland, now this was a completely different story! Not only was the weather amazing, the landscape and nature that surrounded us was just incredible. We even had a family of deer join us half way through our ride! I've never really thought about hiring bikes when I've been travelling before, but now I couldn't recommend it enough! We then headed to the Western Garden for Lunch, a rustic, beautiful home style kitchen, completely sufficient, living off their land, and all the herbs and vegetables growing in it. 

We then spent the rest of the afternoon in the Kasnas Peninsula, where we headed to the Archipelago National Park, to visit the Örö Fortress Island, an island that has been closed to the public as a military fortress since the Russian era. It was incredible to be able to visit a place that would have perviously been off limits to us. We then jumped into our boat taxi, as we set off for an evening at the Bengtskär lighthouse, learning about it's incredible history and meet the people that now call the lighthouse their home. In the summer time in Finland, they get to enjoy the incredible 'midnight sun' where it stays light until around 1am! Meaning we had so much more time to explore and really enjoy everything Finland had to offer us, without having to fit everything into a 8 hour daylight window. 

After an evening at the lighthouse we heading over to Hogsåra Island, where we spent the night at Villa Cecilia. We arrived around mid-night, but with the sun still shining, it was hard to think we should be sleeping. The next morning we headed to the incredible Farmors Cafe for one of the best breakfast spreads I've ever seen. One thing you will quickly learn about Finland is how incredibly self sufficient they are, living off their land, and only using things that are local to them, rather than importing it. The cafe was filled with all hand made and local fresh foods, giving us a real taste of their what their everyday diet looks like, and I think it was safe to say, we could of all happily eaten there for the rest of our lives! After breakfast we hired out some kayaks and stand up paddle boards, to explore the nearby shorelines. I've never been in sea so calm before, so it made it easy for all levels of our group to get out in the water, and feel confident exploring.


We then headed to Storfinnhova forest village for my first Finnish sauna experience, as we tried their granite-smoke-sauna, built deep underground. It was incredible seeing how they had adapted the natural forest creek, and turned it into a natural eco sauna. After our 2 hour sauna experience, we ending the evening with dinner in the Storfinnhova Knights Hall, followed by an night sleeping in the beautiful tree top houses, deep in the forest. This had to be one of my favourite places I have ever been lucky enough to fall asleep, feeling completely cut off from the real world, with nothing but the sound of the forest creek, and wildlife as our background music.

Waking up the next morning above the trees was pretty surreal, but realising it was our last day in Finland, made it ever harder for us to want to leave! But thanks to the mid-tnight sun, it meant we had one last jam packed day ahead, before we flew home the next morning. We said goodbye to our beautiful tree top houses and set off to the Mathildedal ironworks village, looking at some of the villages history and explore it's alpaca farm and mill. We then headed to Kyläkonttori café, for a quick coffee break, and to taste some of the incredible sweet treats by Ada Bakes (No trip to Finland is complete without trying one of her creations!)

Afterwards we headed to Teijo National Park and Nature Centre. This was my first experience visiting a National Park, and boy was it incredible! Endless, untouched woodland, full of wild blueberries growing everywhere you look. Our park guide took use to an opening in the forest and explained how not enough people take time to slow down and really take in what's around us. We then all laid down in silence for 9 minutes, just listening to the beautiful nature that was surrounding us. Afterwards we hired out some row boards to explore the nearby Islands, before heading to Mathildedal Brewery and Bakery, to sample some locally brewed beer and bread. 

We spent our last evening in Kirjakkala, for an evening of wild swimming in the nearby lake, then warming up in the sauna, and repeating until the sun went down. It was crazy how much we managed to fit in and see, in just 5 days! But I still can't help but think we had only seen just a  small percentage of the incredible things that Finland has to offer. Having over 180,000 lakes and just as many Islands, it makes me excited to see where my next trip to Finland will take me! A special thank you to Visit Finland for having me, and the incredible girls I got to spend the week exploring with. For all info on planning your own adventure to Finland, head here.

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Saturday, 21 May 2016

Adidas. Here To Create

I teamed up with Adidas to take part in their new #HereToCreate campaign. Showcasing what inspires, drives, and pushes us to get up everyday and do what we do! Be it in the gym, on the streets are at home. Adidas want to know what you are here to create?!  For me exercise is my favourite part of everyday, from dragging myself out of bed for that early morning spin class, or ending the day with a sunset run, with nothing but the sound of my feet hitting the pavement...I know I'm creating a stronger, more balanced me. What are you here to create?! I've teamed up with Adidas to give 3 of you the chance to get kitted out head to toe in new training gear! All you need to do upload a photo or video to Instagram using #HereToCreate making sure to tag in @adidasuk and @_lovaine_ and show us how you create! Good luck and let me know if you've entered in the comments below! Photos taken during our #HereToCreate rooftop workout session, overlooking the city in London. Photographer: Jon James. MUA: www.sophiecoxmakeup.com
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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Strippd


On Tuesday I was invited down to Core Gyms in London, for an exclusive press event and morning workout to celebrate the launch of the new protein brand Strippd! I don't know about you, but trying to find a vegan protein that is not only good quality but actually tastes nice is pretty tough...I mean theres nothing worse than when your holding your nose trying to force down your after workout protein smoothie, as the taste is just awful! (we've all been there haha) so I was pretty excited to meet the brand and hear more about their product range...and of course put it to the taste test!

We started the morning with a sculpt workout session, followed by the breakfast spread of dreams! I'm talking the biggest pic'n'mix of healthy breakfast toppings you've ever seen, along with 3 different blends of protein smoothie bowl bases to choose from. I went for the green smoothie base, which was blended bananas, avocado and the Strippd vegan, vanilla protein powder, topped with baked coconut, cacao granola, raspberries and chia seeds. Literally the breakfast dream! There was also a mountain of pre-made protein balls...which were so damn good that we ate them before we had the chance to photograph them haha! So I think it's safe to say the protein definitely passed the taste test!

Strippd comes in 3 different vegan flavours, chocolate, vanilla and berry, and is a pea and hemp based protein, sweetened with Xylitol. Xylitol is a popular little sweetener in health products, being classed as one of the more 'natural' based options,  drived from plants. This little guy is not only 40% lower in fat/calories than normal sugar/sweetner options, it's also has a really low gylcemic index, meaning it won't spike your blood sugar or insulin levels, which is amazing! As theres nothing worse than feeling like your crashing after your session.

Another thing I loved about Strippd was the price! One 490g tube costs just £20! I'm used to shelling out 3 times that for a decent protein powder so I was excited that not only did it taste good, I'd finally found a protein powder more in my budget. They also offer a cool weekly/monthly subscription option too, which is great for someone like me that always run's out of things at the most inconvenient time! There is always the big debate on wether we need extra protein in our diets, but for me living on a mainly plant based diet, I can 100% feel the difference if I haven't had my protein shake after a workout, with the next morning feeling like I've been hit by a bus! Everyone's body is different, but I'd always recommend having a look at your diet, and how much protein your consuming. Your daily recommended intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound, with the average sedentary women recommended 46 grams per day.

I'm excited to have been introduce to Stippd! Let me know if you guys manage to get your hands on some and what you think of it, and if you can recommend any other tasty vegan protein brands, leave them in the comments below! x
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Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Sky Gardens


On Wednesday I was invited to a sunrise yoga session, over looking the city with Shake Itfor the launch of their new yoga mats, at the beautiful Sky Garden's in London. As I stepped out of the elevator on the 36th floor, with the beautiful sunrise, city sky line in front of me, I couldn't believe that this was where I was lucky enough be starting my day. I arrived at a hidden tropical paradise, with yoga mats scattered in between the beautiful, green jungle of Sky Gardens. It was hard to believe that a place so beautiful and calm existed above such a busy city life, just 37 floors below.

Our spots weren't hard to miss, with each yoga mat being hand lasers with our own personalised initial's engraved into each of them.  E.L sat delicately in the corner of my beautiful black yoga mat, placed next to one of the editors of Women's Health. I still find it crazy all the opportunities that my blog has led me too, sometimes it's easy to feel a little out of my depth, I mean I just write a blog, yet I find myself sitting next to the editor of one of the worlds biggest health and fitness magazines! It's defiantly something I don't think I'll ever get used to, and I'll never forget just how lucky I am.

The event was filled with 30 of the UK's leading health and fitness press and influencers, as we got ready to test drive Shake It's new yoga mats during an hour sunrise yoga session, led by the beautiful Wood and Lux. For me I have always loved yoga, but I defiantly find it hard to find enough time to fit it into my everyday life, but during that hour, for the first time ever I felt the practice do something for me that I've never felt before. I felt calm,  like all my worries and the noise in my head had vanished. I felt self awareness, self love. Throughout our session we were told "to be kind to ourselves, to only tell ourself kind messages, to show ourselves love and take care of ourselves and only move as fast as our bodies allows us to" Having a healthy relationship with yourself can be hard, it can take a long time to let go and treat yourself how you should be treated, and allow yourself to feel self love and self acceptance, and for me it was as if for the first time I had permission to show myself everything I had be missing. Finishing the session I left with the clearest head and fullest heart I have had for as long as I can remember, and I can't wait to see see where my new Shake It yoga mat takes me.
So what's so special about the new Shake It Yoga Mats?! Every mat has been designed with additional cushioning and support, with a thin polyurethane top layer for an ultra grippy surface without weight, and a natural rubber core for support. Every mat is also Biodegradable! (amazing I know) and also has antibacterial treatment to reduce fungi and bacteria build up! It was defiantly one of the most comfiest and stylish yoga mats I've used, and I was even more excited that I got to leave with my own!

I've teamed up with Shake It, to give you the chance to WIN one of their new yoga mats and shaker! Want to win? just let me know in the comments below what yoga means to you and you could win! Contest closes on March 28th! Good luck x
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My Bucket List

I recently treated myself to the 'My Bucket List' journal, after strolling past Urban Outfitters on my lunch break for the past 2 weeks, I'd always end up drawn to the exact same spot, with this book staring back at me. I've always been a firm believer in setting myself goals and challenges, and if you know me I'm always working on something,  with little time to stop and come up for air before moving onto the next thing, so I thought this journal would be the perfect way to track my goals and ambitions and actually be able to look back and clearly see what I've achieved.

I think it's safe to say I find it very hard to slow down and sit still, my brain is always working on something, and I defiantly fall into the category of one of those people that find it hard to sleep as I feel like I should be doing something more beneficial with my time, so I often miss milestones in my life, as I never allow myself time to take a second and reflect on what is actually happening.

"We only have 960 months to live on this beautiful world - that's if we get to the ripe age of 80! Yes, for some reason many of us never take the steps to do the things we truly desire and are most passionate about or want to experience. We talk a lot about our dreams, but too ofter they're set aside for later. What are you waiting for? Why not start living the life we're imagining right now?

My Bucket List is designed to catch all your dreams, desires and ideas to make sure you live your life to the absolute fullest! Life is too short for regrets and you (only you) are the one in charge of what you decide to fill it with. As Socrates said: "Death isn't sad, the sad this is: most people don't live at all'.

So it's time to think about what you want to do with your one precious life. Take a moment to jot down all those dreams that have been lingering in the back of your mind: whether it's to show in a waterfall, visit the Pyramids, learn to play an instrument or simply try a new profession - no dream is too big, small or silly. It's been said that people who write down their aspirations and a clear idea of what they want to achieve have a much higher success rate in reaching their goals. So it's time to create your list of living - because if you set your mind to do it, you'll make it happen!".

I love everything that the My Bucket List journal stands for..."it's time to decide how you want to spend the rest of your life, it's time to insert your story!" It's crazy how much one book can help you see the world differently, see everything more clearer. I'm so excited to start working through the first few pages of my Bucket List! and I'd love to hear what's on yours? 
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Saturday, 20 February 2016

Grace Loves Lace


You may remember that back in the summer I got engaged, and I'm sure like every girl you secretly have an idea of what your dream wedding dress would be like, and for me that happened to be Grace Loves Lace. I came across their beautiful wedding dresses last year, and as soon as I got engaged I knew one of their dresses was what I wanted to wear on the day I became Mrs. Lovaine James. After researching I shortly realised my dream dress would be a little bit harder to become a reality than I originally thought. With Grace Loves Lace being based out in Australia and with no European stockist, I knew flying out for the dress of my dreams wasn't an option, and I also knew I wouldn't be able to order it online, without being able to try any on first, so my Grace Loves Laces dreams seemed to be out of reach. One morning on Instagram I saw 'London Truckshow this weekend' on my feed! Grace Loves Laces were flying over to the UK for the first time, and bringing their dresses over for UK brides to try on! But I wasn't the only British bride to be who had their heart set on wearing one of their beautiful dresses, as the Trunk Show was fully booked in minutes and I was placed onto a long waiting list.

On Saturday afternoon, with only 1 day left of the trunk show I received an email saying a 20 minute slot had become available, for a dress fitting on Sunday if I wanted it...and of course I jumped at the chance! I arrived into London with 2 of my Bridesmaids and parents, to find a queue of over 30 brides already waiting to get into the gallery for their fitting! I was led into a beautiful dressing room, with my 4 chosen dresses waiting for me on delicate gold hangers, and I knew as soon as I tried on the first dress it was the one! The dress I was going to wear when I married my best friend, and became his wife! I knew everything that had brought me to Grace Loves Lace that day was fate, and just like that I had found my dress, and not just any dress...after purchasing it we were giving it's story, and after reading it, it was honestly as if the dress was always meant to find it's way to me. "The dress for the real life mermaids, for the indefinable bride: the woman with style, who knows fashion but doesn't follow it. A bride who is a Siren from the sea".  I can't wait to share every moment of our special day with you! Above is one of the first look book's that made me fall in love with Grace Loves Lace.

"In a land adorned with the ghost of Australian legends and the vivid, inebriating landscape, we sought to show our proud Australian heritage. It was in the consuming and magical place we breathed life into a redefining collection of impeccable textiles and luxurious silhouettes. Over the four days shooting, we went only where horse would go and where man dares to adventure. Our team became family as we embraced the harsh and magnificent alpine Australian elements together, to manifest this visual repast. We invite you to become enamoured in the days where man and horse were one, where romance hangs inexorably in the air, and where the beauty of the wild dominates. We invite you to be captivated by Untamed Romance".
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