Italy | Milan

If you are a lover of Paris you need to visit Milan. Two cities currently fighting for my top spot.

Given that Napoleon built a highway connecting the two, it comes as no surprise that they bear a few similarities.

Both cities have monumental Arch’s and iconic streets and, Milan is like pretty like Paris but on a much grander scale.

I am a sucker for history and this city is just dripping in it. From walking down roads built by Napoleon to passing through old city walls. There is a piece of history standing boldly and beautifully around round every corner.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Horse

Beyond the Parisian similarities there are many unique characteristics to Milan including a castle which was used as the city’s protection before providing a home to the Lords of Milan; A palace that housed Napoleon on his stays; a 7ft sculpture of a horse by the Leonardo Da Vinci and, Stefano Boeri’s Vertical Forest, to name a few.

The Vertical Forest was actually one of my favourite sights. So unlike anything you have seen before, a great touch to dress up a skyscraper and the autumnal colours add an extra hint of elegance.

Unfortunately,  I didn’t get the chance to take my own photograph so I have borrowed this one.

 If history and sightseeing isn’t your thing, Milan still has plenty to offer.

Being regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world, Milan provides a stunning collection of luxury designer shops combined with some popular high street shops.

The shopping experience here is beyond our wildest dreams.

Not that we would expect anything to the contrary from the fashion capital of the world!

Having said that, I am a girl who loves to shop but shopping was the last thing on my mind.

Especially when we reached the Cathedral. A landmark which Milan is famous for and after seeing it with my own eyes, I can totally understand why.

Milan Cathedral

 

It quite literally takes your breath away.

Considering we told our tour guide that we weren’t too bothered about seeing the Cathedral (oops) and stumbled upon it by accident, I’m really glad we did!

There are just no pictures that could do this beautiful building any justice whatsoever, let alone capture the atmosphere.

I got a quick video snippet of the Cathedral surrounded by hundreds of people with musicians playing in the square – I will post it on my Instagram (@contourallure) so you can get and slight feel for the place.

One thing you should be aware of is the sheer volume of people here, even in comparison to London. It is extremely busy. So when lunch time rolls around, queues  for food are the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen! I mean they were so long it would probably be quicker to go home and cook a meal yourself! The food is delicious though so I can totally understand all the commotion that seemed to be going on in pretty much every eatery.

I love that the pizza slices are bigger than my head!

 

I truly enjoyed this city and I can’t wait to return. It definitely ranks highly on my list of places to recommend.

Well of course it does. Offering huge amounts of culture, shopping, food, history, unique little quirks and not to mention being totally picturesque – why wouldn’t you want to visit?

One of the many quirky little features lining the streets.
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Italy | Lake Como

​After many years of saying I’m going to go to Italy this year, my feet have finally touched down on Italian soil. 
We were picked up by private transfer and chauffeured to the Grand Hotel Britannia Excelsior on Lake Como.

If I asked you to think of an Italian cliché what would you come up with? Well, mine would be the phrase Mama Mia so you can imagine the humour on my face when our driver kept shouting out Mama Mia at the traffic. oh we have definitely arrived in Italy!

Our first glimpse of Lake Como.

Even in the absence of the sun, the beauty of this place shines through. The attitude that comes with the low lying clouds is mysterious and endearing.
This was our very first view of the much coveted destination of Lake Como. A place which hosts celebrities such as George Clooney, Richard Branson and, my idol and her husband – Posh and Becks! (Oh the fan-girling that would ensue should I bump into the Victoria Beckham!)

The Beckham’s house is that pretty impressive white one at the water front.

Down the very narrow and winding roads is the town of Como.
It was recommended to us that we visit the Como markets. 

I have to say that they were quite disappointing.  It may have had something to do with the heavy rain but in all honesty, I won’t be recommending them. There was the odd cute stall but nothing to really shout home about.
We strayed down the cobbled roads to head to the main square. There was so much beauty around, so much detail gone into each architecture, each sculpture and, each window display that we never actually made it to the town square.

A quaint yet luxurious looking chocolate shop called Diamanti played a big role in keeping us from the town centre. The temptation was just too strong to resist.

Now let me tell you, if I could capture any smell and share it with you, this would be the one. The aromas of freshly made chocolate and coffee mixing in the air was just something else. 

There are many things Italians are famous for and coffee is right up at the top of the list. On the barrista’s recommendation a round of macchiato con cioccolato was ordered.

The drink was very similar to a mocha except that the chocolate at the bottom was real, rich, thick chocolate and the coffee was so strong that if it wasn’t served in the tiny cups it came in, it would have been dangerous.

If ever you have the pleasure of visiting this town, Diamanti is a must for a coffee stop.  I Daren’t try the chocolates for fear of being unable to stop but I have no doubt that they taste as delicious as they look.

There was definitely plenty more that this town had to offer but time flies when you’re having fun. As the sun set over this beautiful city it was time for us to leave.

Our attendance was requested for a black tie gala at Lake Como this evening so back we headed to change into our gowns and bow ties ready to dance the night away.

And we did indeed dance the night away…

  

Personal Trainer | What is a Push/Pull day?

In a previous blog post, you may remember that I had called in the big guns to help level up training. 

Incase you needed a refresher of the big guns – Chris Gee from Urban Instinct Personal Training

A few weeks ago as we walked into the gym I casually asked”What are we working on today?”. The response of a push pull day definitely caught me a little off guard and I did feel a tad stupid having to ask what body part that was. If you aren’t sure yourself what a push pull day is let me save you some embarrassment. 
First of all, it isn’t a muscle (*phew* passing anatomy for sport wasn’t a fluke) it’s a method of training. 

I’ve only ever known to focus on specific muscles in training as opposed to motions.  

This method, as I was informed by Chris, was an effective way of training our bodies in a way that is consistent with how we use them in every day life and focuses on groups of muscles used to action certain motions. 

Imagine pulling open a door and all the different muscles that are engaged in order to complete that action – there are multiple muscles working in conjunction with each other. 

Beware the side effect of extreme facial expressions.

As the exercises tend to involve more compound movements you will  find that you are able to lift heavier weights but the idea is to alternate the heavy focus. Meaning one session would consist of heavy back (pull) exercises coupled with lighter chest (push) exercises and vice versa on the second day. 

Bent over row – pull exercise

For the movements associated with the heavy focus you want to migrate towards sets of 5 for 5 reps or something similar. 

Whereas the opposing, lighter movements should take on the more standard 3 sets of 8-12 reps. 
I am loving the incorporation of a push/pull day into my split, one of the main reasons being that the session is made up of only 6 exercises i.e. 3 back (pull) exercises and 3 chest (push) exercises. The reduction in exercises means that I don’t fatigue as quick and I can finish each movement strong. 

What would usually be done over a period of 3-4 days has been condensed into 2 days.

Honestly, the results that have surfaced following the short period of inclusion of this form of training are quite exciting. 

The most notable being the definite progression in strength. There have been more PB’s hit over the past few weeks than in any other period of my training! 

Chest has never been a workout I have enjoyed and an area that has always remained particularly weak for me; struggling to lift the bar on its own weak. That isnt the case any more though, I have added weight to the bar and I can now execute bench press with strength, good technique  and confidence. 

Evidence of some physical gains aswell as strength gains. Tiny waist come at me!

If you are looking to increase your strength and build muscle then it may be beneficial for you to consider incorporating a push/pull day into your regime. The beauty lies in that this is actually really easy to do. 
There are hundreds of exercise variations to consider including, which makes keeping workouts fresh and exciting that much easier given that only 3 per action are required! 

Dont worry though, I would have struggled finding a starting point if left to my own devices so I’ve got you covered with  some potential options to get you going:

Push 

  • Incline bench press
  • Cable flys
  • Dumbell press
  • Wide grip/close grip bench press

Pull

  • Bent over rows
  • Lat pull downs
  • Seated rows 
  • Pull ups 

    Turning 25 | The Best Way To Celebrate 

     The lead up to my 25th birthday all I envisioned was a Bridget Jones worthy pity party – I had even booked the day off of work to spare my colleagues from my overly dramatic woes of turning 25.

    Thankfully, as the day itself got closer and closer I found myself re-evaluating and ultimately altering my perception of 25 and prevented the much anticipated meltdown.

    The problem initially was that I expected so much from myself by the time I was this age. Many would argue that my goals were wholly unrealistic but that’s not the point. 

    A swift change of focus, to that which I had achieved and was proud of, was all it took to disperse the grey cloud which was so prominently hovering over the looming birthday.

    Obviously, the new focus and attitude was having quite the positive, desired effect so I ran with it. 

    On my birthday eve I decided that I would in fact celebrate and embrace the number 25. After all, it is a fairly dominant number this year; 25 on the 25th.

    By way of celebration, the day was to be spent carrying out 25 Random Acts of Kindness – what better way to kill a self loathing attitude than to go out and make people smile. They didn’t have to be particularly extravagant acts but nice ones nonetheless. 

    As it happened, the day flew by and as it drew to a close only 16 acts had been completed. The task itself was actually rather tough but very enjoyable and wanting to really embrace the spirit of  25, I made the executive decision to remove the deadline and continue with the celebration, after all I was only sitting 9 short. 

    Just two days later number 25 was completed! Whilst happy, it was also kind of a sad occasion. I had really been enjoying this celebration and didn’t want it to end. Why should it have to end? Each birthday is like a New Year’s Eve for myself where resolutions are made for the upcoming year and this year I will most definitely be continue carrying out random acts of kindness (along with getting good at maths, because I suck at maths!) 

    For now though, here are the initial 25 completed for my 25th birthday:

    1) Took my sister and niece out for breakfast;

    Isn’t she beautiful ❤️

    2) Gave some money to a busker that actually made me stop and say ‘wow he has a good voice’;

    3) Bought my brother in law a coffee on his lunch break;

    4) tipped the staff at the coffee shop;

    5) made an appointment to give blood (they are so busy so it’s a little way off but yay for all you beautiful people giving blood!);


    6) Held the door open for others;

    7) took a friend out for lunch (you can be kind to people you know, the idea isn’t limited to strangers);

    8) paid for the car behind on the toll road;

    9) Donated some tinned goods and toiletries to the local food bank;

    10) Switched my search engine to Ecosia to help plant some trees;

    The homepage of Ecosia.org
    11) let people across the road (little things like this can really perk up someone’s day without them even realising);

    12) called up someone I haven’t spoke to in a while just to check in;

    13) payed a stranger a compliment;

    14) picked up some litter along my dog walk;

    15) played the game on FreeRice.com – a United Nations food & education program. For every question answered correctly, rice is donated to feed the hungry.

    16) took a friend out for lunch (you can be kind to people you know, the idea isn’t limited to strangers);

    17) Donated some dog food;

    18) Book drop – those who know me know I am an avid reader. I get the majority of my reads from the library but I still had a few of my own so I donated them to a local book drop;

    19) wrote 2 cards to the More Love Letters initiative – such a lovely idea. I even went out to buy some cute little note cards for the occasion; 

    20) signed a petition -animal cruelty is something I want to help banish and each signature counts. It also means a lot to the people who set up the petitions;

    21) bought breakfast for a co-worker (our shop by work stopped selling the porridge we like so I went to a different shop to pick some up);

    22) sorted out all of my old clothes and donated the ones I no longer wanted;

    23) Let someone in front of me at the check out because they had less items than I did;

    24) bought sweet treats into the office for everybody;

    And last but by no means least, my favourite of all…

    25) left pennies for wishes 

    “Please help me celebrate my 25th birthday by making a wish. FREE WISHES!”

    I think I will make this a birthday tradition, maybe not so much trying to hit the number of my age but definitely to incorporate an element of giving back. It’s kind of addicting, give it a go I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.