Barcelona beach break?

I never thought of Barcelona having beaches before. Yes I knew of a beach resort outside the city called Sitges but in the two times I have visited the city of Barcelona I never realised they also had beautiful sandy beaches.

Why we were there

My hubby was invited to attend a conference in the city for work and so I decided that baby and me would tag along for a few days to get some much needed vitamin D.

His conference was on the outskirts of the city centre in a residential area close to the port and opposite the museum of natural history. It was also virtually on the beach.

Weather

The weather in early December was 18 or 19 degrees which if you’re Mediterranean is Baltic but for a British person that’s summer! As most Spaniards thought it was cold the beaches, and yes there are more than one, were virtually empty on what we’d class in England as a gloriously sunny day.  They also have beaches that are well kitted out with showers, toilets & play equipment so great for families.

The plus point of Barcelona over a more traditional beach place in Spain such as the Costa del Sol or one of the islands is the fact it’s Barcelona! So you have lovely beaches but in the evening you have all the delights of a big cosmopolitan city and if you’re bored of the beach you can look around the sights of the city.

Culture in Barcelona

Having been to Barcelona a few times before I’d been around the city to the usual tourist places like Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter and the Park Guell – Gaudi’s fantastical Park. Even though I’d seen the Basilica de la Sagrada Família from the outside I’d never been in. The queues were always hours long. The beauty of visiting in December is there were no queues for any of the big tourist attractions- brilliant!

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Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

I think it’s fair to say the cathedral blew us away once we got into it. I can only describe it as Star Wars like as it was so other worldly but the stand out thing for me were the stain glass windows that had Picasso style artwork in their design. A unique blend of colours and shades that perfectly made use of the light coming into the building. I would love to spend a full day in the cathedral watching how the windows react to the different light in the day. So beautiful I highly recommend a visit and to think at the moment it isn’t even finished.

Barcelona Cathedral

After visiting this extremely famous Goudi place of worship we then went and visited another more ancient place.  The original Barcelona Cathedral, or Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, to give it its official name. Located in the Gothic quarter it was again a place I hadn’t visited before because the queues were far too long. This one was built in the 13thand 14thcenturies.  We lit 10 candles here to remember Violet, Arthur, my Nan, friend Alethea and other friends who are going through a bad time. Amazing architecture and a huge achievement when you think it was built without modern day technology. The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia will probably take as long to be built (currently scheduled for completion in 2026) and the builders now have every bit of technology.

Aurora loved both buildings and gazed amazed at the beautiful ceilings and windows.  It was so peaceful and although I’m not religious I love the calming atmosphere in these buildings as though they have absorbed the love they have witnessed over the years.

Jet2 great with babies!

I also need to mention how amazing Jet2 are when travelling with babies. The cabin crew were brilliant helping us with bags onto the plane and then taking baby for cuddles while we got our luggage into the overhead lockers.  They were 100% better than when I’ve flown with EasyJet and Ryanair. Who I’ve listed in order of horrendousness with Ryanair being the worst offender.

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Aurora enjoying her first flight experience

In short I’d highly endorse a winter sun break to Barcelona so get looking at those Jet2 flight deals now.

Happy flying

Love Sarah x

Luck, God or just random shit?

I don’t know if I believe in luck.  I stopped believing in God as a teenager when I saw the suffering in the world and learnt more about science and history.  I then liked to believe in everything being made from energy and read a lot of books like “The Secret” that talked about putting positive energy out there to get the same back.  Similar to Karma in what comes around goes around.

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I still have a fondness for churches.  Here’s Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

The energy, karma and positivity mantra was the way I always lived my life.  Some people believe in God but I have liked to believe in the ancient energy of mother earth, not in a chanting naked around Stonehenge way, but the idea that we’re all made of energy always seemed more scientific and therefore believable.

Violet came along and we were told at her 20-week scan about her heart defect and that it was bad luck.  She was an undiagnosed breach baby and I had her naturally afterwards we were again told “oh you had very bad luck there”.  Then Violet got her heart fixed by surgeons at Alder Hey hospital and all the time we channeled positive energy.  Other family members and friends prayed for her in a multitude of different faiths.

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The Priory in Cartmel a stunningly beautiful place

Her surgery was a permanent fix.  People told us how lucky she and we were that she survived but we thanked science and the talented people at Alder Hey.  We continued to think in a positive way and raised funds from our belated wedding reception for Ronald McDonald House to thank them for their support of us in providing accommodation when Violet was in hospital.

Then when Violet got sick again being admitted into Manchester Children’s Hospital we continued to channel positivity and friends/family prayed again for her.  After just over a week she seemed to turn a corner, we rejoiced and thanked everyone, mother earth, God, everyone’s prayers were answered…but then she suddenly died.  When we got her post mortem results, and then over 18 months later an inquest verdict, to be told she was just very unlucky and she died from something so extremely rare that no one could believe it.

We then got pregnant again with Arthur our rainbow and were told at his 20-week scan that he had irreparable brain damage and once again told that we were just very unlucky again.

Now if I was to believe in karma both of these things should have been lucky instead. I’m the person that buys food for random homeless people and sometimes helps them even further, for example I bought a homeless guy a sleeping bag in winter when he was sat sobbing because someone beat up and robbed him.  Over the years I have raised thousands for charity.  I’ve also only ever had rescue animals and do the middle class thing of sponsoring a child in Africa, so whilst I don’t do this as a quid pro quo or usually tell people whenever I do something kind, I should have a lot of good karma saved up right there. So I think the loss of my two children shows this karma thing is pure nonsense as for luck well….

As for God…I know lots of people who have lost children and are comforted by their faith. I on the other hand can’t believe in anyone or anything that can cause that kind of pain for anyone.  The pain my child suffered in hospital in the weeks before she died, and that of other children suffering in hospital too, means if there is a God then he is a cruel unkind one, so why worship him/her?   I actually in a way admire those child loss survivors who do still believe, as they’re certainly stronger in their faith than I am.

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We still light candles for our babies when we travel just in case – here’s the inside of St Ann’s Church in Manchester the epicentre of the city

I still try to think positively, as it helps me to cope day to day but I do it more because I think that Violet wouldn’t want me to be upset or negative and me being miserable and negative isn’t going to bring Violet and Arthur back. I also now have the adorable Aurora to care for so need to be the best version of me for her sake.

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An autumnal walk in the park with colds and coughs hoping the fresh air does us good

I believe kindness, compassion and good manners aren’t exclusive to those who are religious and my experiences over the last few years have shown me that often these qualities can be missing just as easily from a religious person as they can be present in an atheist.  I like to treat people with kindness and respect regardless of who they are. Blame my mother for this one as she clearly raised us well.

So to summarize I’m not sure what I believe anymore and maybe as one of my extremely clever friends said, “perhaps life is just a lot of random shit that just happens and if you survive then you either learn to deal with it or you don’t end of”. Not quite as eloquent as Forrest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolates” but I can really identify with my friends version.  If religion is how you learn to deal with life’s challenges then good on you, it’s certainly better than turning to addiction or not coping at all.  Each to their own and I think child loss survivors need to push on anyway they can.

How do you cope with things or spur yourself to carry on beyond what you used to believe was your limit?

Design Inspiration – Modern Morocco


This is the first of hopefully many design inspiration blog posts I plan to write, as for those that don’t know me I adore architecture and interior design. I take a lot of photos of it especially when we travel.

We are also about to begin a home extension and remodel so I’m collecting lots of lovely design ideas to give me inspiration about what we’d like for our new home.

When we visited Morocco last month I took about a thousand photos of architecture and interior design, both modern contemporary and ancient traditional, so this is my first post where I look at modern eclectic Moroccan design.

I was honoured to be given a guided tour of one of the newest and chicest boutique hotels in Morocco; the fabulous Salut Maroc in Essaouira.

Each of the 11 bedrooms are individual and have been personally designed by the owner, who also designed all the fabrics especially for the hotel, having them handmade in Morocco. Anyway I will let the photos speak for themselves…

Don’t be scared of patterns & colours even if you think they may clash.  Love the overall effects here.

Why not embrace a feature wall and create a beautiful mural as artwork?

Bathroom inspiration why stick to cream and white – cheer things up go for vibrant blues, yellows and embrace patterned tiles!

Even lounge, dining and entrance spaces can be cheerfully designed fusing modern and classical design touches with colour and pattern.  Don’t think I’ve ever seen the Mona Lisa in such an eclectic setting!

Garden or patio inspiration

I’m someone who is guilty of sticking to neutral colours or black and white when it comes to interiors but I think a pop of colour from a nice rug, cushions or even a burst of wallpaper on one wall could help to lift the dreariest of UK winter days!

To get this type of look from the UK high street check out

Next and their Brighton or Studio by Next range 

John Lewis fusion range for furniture & cushions

For tiles check out Tile Giant’s Moroccan Bizarre range  or Geometric range

There are lots of others out there on the high street and smaller homewares stores that are embracing the Moroccan influence for this coming summer season.  Feel free to share any finds or your own photos with me.

My next design inspiration post will look at traditional Moroccan design.

Love, Sarah xx

 

Making new memories

It can be very difficult when you’re grieving the loss of your child to remember those that are living and that you still need to invest time in your relationships with others especially with your husband or partner.

Special anniversaries

One crucial thing we did as a couple was to ensure we planned and booked time in our diaries in advance to mark important anniversaries and occasions.  Making a dinner reservation, booking a hotel for the night or even flights for a weekend away ensured we couldn’t decide to give it a miss when the date came around.  Occasionally one of us would say we weren’t in the mood and the other would encourage and persuade.  I once even went out to dinner in a lovely restaurant with hardly any make up on and hair was scraped back (as I wasn’t in the mood to try to look nice as it felt too superficial). The fact we did it made the next date we had slightly easier.  The more we forced ourselves the better we actually started to feel about going out and the less guilty we felt about “enjoying ourselves when we had lost our most precious daughter”.

Here’s a photo of me with hubby, minus make up, after being encouraged out last year.  I cheered up when all the lighting was Violet and I was served a Violet cocktail almost as though she planned it!

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Travel

Anyway we still keep this up over a year on and sometimes it can still be difficult for us but we make sure we take time out.  A few weeks ago we celebrated the anniversary of our very first date so my hubby treated us to a night away in Cartmel in the Lake District with dinner, bed and breakfast in L’Enclume.

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Cartmel Priory

I will talk more about the amazing food we enjoyed in my next post but I wanted to share that even though we are fortunate to travel and dine in some amazing places our lost children are never far from our minds.

Before we headed home I visited the amazingly historic Priory at Cartmel that has an 800 year old history and lit candles for Violet and Arthur.  I also took some photos of the amazing building.  You can see them all here http://violet-skies.com/portfolio/cartmel-lake-district/

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Inside Cartmel Priory