Go Wildly & Slow: June Winner

Go Wildly & Slow: June Winner

I had the loveliest time looking through the Go Wildly & Slow feed all through June and seeing all the lovely posts people have been sharing (take a scroll through yourself). There have been so many days out in the sun and trips to the seaside. So many seaside trips! I've been watching mostly from my flat in South East London both delighted and a little jealous.

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Slow Sunday at The Barbican Conservatory

Did you know that hidden on the third floor of The Barbican there is the most magical conservatory?

I've seen photos from this magical place over the years but I never really knew where it was in the maze-like structure that is The Barbican. At some point I actually just thought it was a myth. When I finally figured it out, I also found out it was only open to the public on Sundays and Bank Holidays. 

My usual Sunday routine includes doing housework and spending most of the day at church so I've never really taken the time to go to the conservatory, so very foolish of me. But, one of my besties is soon leaving the country to go study in Australia and we had been talking about visiting for months. So, two weeks back, we finally took a Sunday off and spent a bittersweet afternoon at the conservatory catching up and taking the time to be together for one of the last times before she leaps into her new adventure on the other side of the world.

Turns out the Barbican conservatory is the perfect setting for an afternoon of strolling around, chatting and making memories with your dearest.

With more that 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, the conservatory is a visual delight. There is an inspirational collection of cacti and succulents, beautiful bamboo 20 feet tall and, plants and trees I've never seen before.

We spent time sitting amongst the trees marvelling at the strange contrast between the wonderful plants and the harsh brutalist architecture they are set in. It's a contrast that shouldn't work in theory but in practice is perfect.

I have a soft spot for brutalist architecture and The Barbican is one of my favourite iconic London buildings. I also spent a fair bit of my childhood there at music concerts with my parents, it holds a special place in my heart. Little did I know it housed this beautiful conservatory, the second largest in London.

Do you know where the largest one is? (Note to self: google that when I'm done here)

This has quickly become my new favourite spot in London and I will not stop talking abut it with everyone I meet.

Which has made it clear to me that I wasn't the only one who didn't know about it. So many people I've spoken to had no idea it existed. 

If you've never been I suggest you make plans to check it out one Sunday soon. 

(Before you do, check the website because sometimes they have funny closing times)

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Let me know if you make a trip and tag your Instagram posts #gowildlyandslow so I can see all your photos! 

Happy adventuring!

N x

Go Wildly & Slow: June Giveaway

go wildly and slow giveaway
refined bohemia giveaway
refined bohemia giveaway

I started the #GoWildlyAndSlow tag a few months ago as a way to document my adventures, travels and walks in the outdoors. I've loved having this theme to help give me a focus for my photography and make space for documenting the time I spend outdoors. It started as a small personal project that came from a desire to explore the idea of slower, thoughtful adventures.

Then much to my excitement the # got picked up by Sara Tasker and she featured it in her monthly hashtag newsletter. It has since become a really beautiful and inspiring pocket of the Instagram community. It's so wonderful to see people pick up the idea of capturing their slow adventures. Its so lovely to see that other people got joy from capturing and exploring the slower side of wild adventures.

If you spend time looking through Instagram # feeds you'll see that most outdoor photography on Instagram is all about the extreme and magnificent. It's always beautiful but also pretty unachievable in your everyday life. I felt like there wasn't much space for the slower paced, smaller more achievable outdoor adventures. The everyday walks in the park, the slow wanders in the forest. I wanted to capture those moments and I feel like #gowildlyandslow has become a place for people to showcase their slow wilderness adventures. Now I spend time scrolling through the #gowildlyandslow feed looking at the beautiful things people have encountered along their walks and in their everyday and I love it. All the beautiful moments people share with their little ones, amazing scenery from all over the world, and of course so many flowers. It's such a joy to see people exploring and adventuring in a very mindful, simple, everyday way. 

(Details on how to get involved at the end of the post)
go wildly and slow giveaway

As the tag has been growing I've been thinking it would be lovely to create a way to celebrate this little corner of community that has emerged. So, I thought it would be really lovely to collaborate with people making products and brands that fit together with the story behind Go Wildly & Slow. 

A few weeks ago over on Instagram, I announced the first of what will hopefully be a fairly regular giveaway project. Together with Jessi from Refined Bohemia I am giving away a beautiful Afternoon Light necklace to my favourite Go Wildly & Slow photographer from June.

I'm sure it will be super hard to find a winner but I'll definitely enjoy going through all the photos and getting a peek into people's slow adventures 

go wildly and slow giveaway
go wildly and slow giveaway

Refined Bohemia

Based in Germany, Jessi hand makes a delightful range of jewellery for Refined Bohemia. Her pieces are all inspired by her love of the outdoors and the world around her. Past collections have been inspired by the seaside, the journey of the lone wanderer or the places we call home. She takes her lead from nature and the wilderness to make beautiful delicate pieces of jewellery.

It is such a joy to scroll through her website. It is also so very perfect for Go Wildly & Slow. 

Each piece comes thoughtfully packaged with hand stamped tags and postcards of Jessi's own photography. Each item, made with love, feels like a gift to receive and makes wearing it even more special. 

Personally, I don't wear loads of jewellery so I appreciate how simple and understated a lot of her work is. I've been wearing my Afternoon Light necklace pretty much nonstop since I got it and I'm now seriously considering getting some for my wedding jewellery as she has a great bridal range too.

Collaborating with Jessi for the first #gowildlandslow giveaway felt like a lovely match and I'm so exciting to share her work with you and send the lovely Afternoon Light necklace to my favourite post from June.

refined bohemia giveaway

Giveaway Details

If you'd like to get involved in the giveaway you still have 2 weeks. All you need to do is tag your slow outdoor adventure posts on Instagram with #gowildlyandslow and make sure you're following me and @refinedbohemia.

If you need some inspiration check out the Go Wildly & Slow page here or on Instagram

I'm really looking forward to seeing all your posts, Good luck! 

Our Engagement at Cascade d'Ars

I remember chatting with my sister back in November 2015, probably sitting at my mum's kitchen table. Nik and I were about to go off travelling for 3 months in Colombia and Peru. We had been together for just over a year back then and were embarking on our first big trip together. Half joking, my sister said something about who she would be really angry if Nikolai proposed at the top of some mountain in the middle of nowhere where we would have no reception to be able to call her and let her know. I laughed it off and didn't really think about it again.

So, it's fitting that at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere in France Nik got down on one knee and popped the question. It's almost like the passing remark my sister made 18 months ago foreshadowed this life changing moment. 

I feel like mountains are such a central symbol in our relationship. 

When Nik went to India and Nepal he hiked the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas. I was at home frantically trying to finish my degree and write my dissertation. We were miles apart in both physical and mental circumstance. I was sitting in my house not seeing or speaking to anyone for days on end surrounded by my books, buried in my thoughts. Whilst Nik was hiking (at times alone) through crazy beautiful mountains. Most days Nik would check in from wherever he was laying his head for the night and send photos or show me the view of the most magnificent mountains, but also tell me about his homesickness, feeling alone, and how his body was tired and sore from pushing it too hard.

We were both facing challenging and overwhelming emotional and physical hurdles. Being so far away and at times so alone in our own struggle was really bloody hard.  But in the end, the distance also made our relationship stronger, it helped us build trust and have empathy for each other.

Then, last year, whilst we were hiking in the Andes together Nikolai gently and lovingly encouraged me through the hardest, most physically and emotionally challenging thing I've ever done.

I’ll never forget the first day of the hike, we set off onto the trail full of expectation and anticipation. I had never done anything like this before so I was thankful to be in good company with Nik and three friends, two of whom were pretty much professional adventurers. But, the first day brought with it a pretty quick reality check, I knew I wasn’t going to find it easy but I had no idea how hard the altitude would hit me, and then, of course, I slipped on some rocks, injured my toe and my boots started rubbing. After hours of hiking, we made it to camp and it started chucking it down. We hurriedly set up camp only to find our hired tent had numerous broken zips making it little more than a draughty plastic bag for 3 of us to sleep in. Not the best way to start.

That first night we were all exhausted, in pain and hungry but the thing I remember most is how Nikolai went out in the pouring rain to fetch water from the river and get the pot on to boil while all I could do is curl up in the tent trying to warm up. I'm pretty sure the meal he made us that night was most amazing pasta and veg sauce with garlic bread ever cooked on one dodgy camping stove! 

On the second day, about ten meters from where we had packed down camp, I stopped and broke down crying. I just couldn't fathom 5 more days of hiking like the day before meanwhile, Nik was hurrying off like the mountains were his natural habitat unaffected by the high altitude (we all decided his spirit animal is a mountain goat as a result). For most of the five days, I whinged and whined and felt frustrated that the altitude was killing me whilst not bothering Nik at all. 

I have never felt more broken than I did on that hike and I felt like the worst version of myself. I’m sure Nikolai was deeply frustrated at times, but I hardly saw it, instead whilst I felt weak and afraid, Nik told me I was strong and brave. He could have walked ahead and left me behind but instead, he took my backpack and slowed right down to my pace gently nudging me along, cracking jokes with me, stopping when I needed to rest and hugging me when all I could do was cry because I was struggling to catch my breath in the thin mountain air. 

The hike was tough, but it wasn't all bad. When the mountains broke through the thick rain clouds we found ourselves walking through scenes that could easily be found on the front of National Geographic. We sat eating our dinner awestricken by the glaciers surrounding us. We worked really hard to see and experience things that most people only dream of.

When we had finished the hike, I had been pushed right to the edge of my physical and mental capacity. I had been well and truly in 'the stretch', that place where you learn the most about yourself. At the end (after having to push our bus out of a small landslide) we were sat on the last leg of the journey back to Huaraz and I distinctly remember feeling so exhausted, dirty and gross but deeply proud and so grateful for this amazing man who swallowed his frustration and with great empathy showed me what love looks like on my absolute worst days. 

All this to say, we have a history with mountains.

For us, mountains hold stories, strength, struggles and dreams. Mountains have separated us and brought us closer than we’ve ever been. We have been pushed and tested and made stronger. 

So, it really is no surprise that on this trip to the Pyrenees we wanted to fit in some hiking. 

After rising early in the morning and catching a beautiful sunrise from the balcony of our Airbnb, we drove to pick Jason up from the airport and drove a few hours south to Aulus Les Bains where the trailhead to Cascade d’Ars lies.

We started off on the picturesque trail, as we walked higher into the mountains the path underfoot gradually turned to melting snow. Being my mother’s daughter I became anxious (and grumpy) because the sight of melting snow could only mean AVALANCHE. As we hiked the path grew steeper and narrower, whilst I got grumpier, and I’m sure Nikolai got more nervous.

At the top, we were met by spectacular views of the waterfall and snowcapped mountains whilst we were surrounded by crisp white snow with the tops of coniferous trees sticking out.

I'm standing there snapping some photos, thinking these will be great for Instagram (I know, I'm that person) whilst Jason, Simeon and Laura casually made themselves scarce. Then, Nikolai, rummaging in his bag, got down one knee and I’m there blissfully unaware. He produced from his bag a beautiful ring and asked me to marry him. I was so surprised, I thought he was joking at first, and then it sunk in and was overjoyed and overwhelmed. It was emotional. I cried, of course. 

I don’t think I can fully express how it felt. I’ve tried writing it down but I’m not skilled enough a writer to put it into words that make sense of it all. 

It was both magical and really awkward because we're both really awkward. So, we're there making really ridiculously excited giddy faces at each other, and the ring won't fit me because my hand is all swollen from being at a higher altitude and we keep falling over in the snow and Jason and Simeon are trying to take photos to capture the moment. It was very classic us! 

The story doesn’t end quite there though. After our little engagement photo shoot, (thanks Jason and Simeon), we walked back to the car all giddy and excited, had a little snow ball fight along the way. The five of us got in the car and got ready for our drive back to the house and we thought 'hey let's take the scenic route home'. About half way along this long, dark, winding mountain road we took a corner and drove straight into the aftermath of a small avalanche. And there we were, newly engaged and stranded on the snow covering the road. It was now pitch dark and the wind was picking up promising a full-on storm would hit any moment and we’re stranded on this dark mountain road! 

We all went from giddy excitement to super-efficient, we-need-to-get-the-hell-out-of-here mode very quickly! We started pushing the car to no avail. Then, we dug snow from under the car with our bare hands and we prayed no trees would come tumbling down on top of us. Eventually, we gathered nearby fallen branches and dug them into the snow creating enough traction for the car to get out. 

After what felt like a long time, Simeon managed to reverse the car out without sliding off the edge of the mountain road and we were free of the snow and driving back home. Of course, five minutes from the house we see a sign saying the scenic road was closed due to snowfall.

Still, we got home with stories to tell and we lived to tell our engagement story!

If you made it to the end of this post thank you for reading! I wrote a more informative less gratuitous post about the holiday we took a few weeks ago. Check it out if you want links to the Airbnb and other things we did on our trip. 

N x

*photos in this post are a mix of mine and Nikolai's and our engagement photos were taken by our lovely friends Jason and Simeon. 

An Affordable AirBnB holiday with Mountain Views

First off, I'm sorry!! It's been more that 2 months since my last post. The reasons for that are many which I won't go into now but the plan is to be around posting more frequently from now on (best laid plans and all that!).

So, here's a LONG awaited post about our holiday in the Pyrenees way back at the beginning of March. If you've been following me on Instagram you would have seen that I went on holiday to the most beautiful little mountainside cabin nestled in the French Pyrenees. Many of you asked for more details and info about where we went and I promised to deliver. I didn't think it would take me so long to get down to editing the photos and getting a post together but finally, here it is!

The whole thing was a perfect short break from London. We went with two friends and we had a great time. We hiked together, cooked and ate lovely food and did a good amount of relaxing and lazing about in our jogging bottoms! 

There's probably too much (and too many photos) to fit it all in one post, so for now here's some info about the house we stayed in, the surrounding area, and roughly how much the whole thing cost us.

 The cabin from the garden

The cabin from the garden

The AirBnB

We booked really cheap Ryanair flights to Toulouse and then kind of forgot to book accommodation. A few days before we were set to depart we were still looking on Airbnb for a place to stay and found this little place that seemed pretty nice. The photos on their profile do it very little justice and at £47 a night for four I was nervous it might not be all that great.

However, when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised. The decor is simple and rustic, definitely a genuine mountain house but with all the necessary amenities for self-catering (including a coffee maker!) and plenty of bedding to stay warm on the chilly nights.

But, what really made it for us was how remote it was and how incredible the view was. The snowcapped mountains were just outside our bedroom windows, I'm convinced it's the most wonderful view to wake up to each morning.

 Sunrise from the upstairs Terrace

Sunrise from the upstairs Terrace

We never met the hosts but spoke with them on the phone one evening when the gas went out and they were really nice and helpful.

The house was very clean and had some lovely features. Each level had a terrace looking out onto the mountain range, perfect for watching the sunset or catching the sunrise lighting up the mountain peaks in the morning. 

It also had a wonderful stove that once the fire got going quickly heated up the whole house. And made for a great spot to sit and read, or play board games. We brought along Settlers of Catan and Rummikub from home to play in the evenings.

The house has two cats that come and go as they please who were very relaxed with the presence of strange people in their house. They were actually really sweet, even for me, and I'm no animal lover!

For the really (almost unbelievably) reasonable price we paid we had no complaints about the house. It had a bit of a funny sleeping arrangement with one bed in the main living space and sadly the bigger bathroom didn't work as the water pressure was too low to get hot water to it. So the bathroom was a little small and tight but nothing to really worry about. 

Normally when we travel we do pretty basic accommodation so this was actually a bit of a step up for us!

 Walking in Castillon-en-Couserans

Walking in Castillon-en-Couserans

The Surrounding Area

Like I said we flew to Toulouse but actually didn't want to stay in the city we knew we wanted to be in the mountains good and proper.

We'd never been to the Pyrenees before so we just google mapped locations and tried to find an AriBnB because we found such a great deal on AirBnB we picked Arrien-en-Bethmale. It's about a two and half hour drive from the airport and pretty straight forward getting there.

Here's a nifty trick, if you don't have data roaming you can download maps from google to your phone when connected to the wifi at the airport and still be able to map your route whilst you're driving.

On the way to the house, we stopped in Saint-Girons to pick up some food and supplies at the supermarket as we knew we'd be pretty tired once we got to the house and it was going to be getting dark.

For the four days we were there we spent a lot of our time cooking and eating great food together and drinking plenty of lovely (and cheap) French wine. The local town has a small Carrefour supermarket with everything you could need to cook and eat great food. The town is either a 15-minute drive away or an hour's slow stroll down the hill through some picturesque, sleepy french villages.

 Church along the walk to castillon-en-couserans

Church along the walk to castillon-en-couserans

Had we been there for longer we would have loved to visit a local weekend market. The French really know how to do a good farmers market. We would also have done a few more day trips and taken a drive along the Col de la Core up to Lac de Bethmale which was sadly closed due to snowfall.

The one trip we did do was to Cascade d'Ars but I'll write about that next week because it's a pretty big story!

Affordable Aribnb france
Arrien en bethmale

The cost 

If you're thinking you can't have a beautiful holiday on a tight budget you are wrong! I didn't take note of the exact amount that we spent but roughly speaking for each of us we spent -

Flights - £36 each

Airbnb for 4 people for 5 nights - £273 (£68 each)

Car hire - roughly £200 (including petrol)

Food and wine and everything else- £60

All in all, it cost us roughly £220 each for a 5 day holiday. 

France Airbnb

I'll write more about the trip we took to Cascade d'Ars later in the week. And I'll also post a bit of a life update because ALOT has happened.

Did you find this post interesting and helpful? 

I'm happy to be back here on the blog and you'll be seeing a lot more from me here very soon!

Let me know if you liked this post in the comments. I'll leave you with a few more photos.

N x