Laser eye surgery: a whole new world.

Laser eye surgery review  LASEK OPTIMAX

I’m writing this from a rooftop pool in Patong, Phuket, watching the sun set over the island. I can see for miles. The beach. A small pier protruding out over the ocean. The roofs of small traditional Thai houses poking out through the trees which surround us. Cranes moving around building more tourist spots. And the mouth-watering burger station at the other end of the pool. I can see. Just over a month ago, these views would be a blur to me, an out of focus view through what seemed like constant drunken eyes. But after my Laser Eye Surgery in November, these views are now a reality. I can see.

I didn’t wear glasses in University, and over the four years of studying I slowly started to notice a change in my eyesight. Suddenly when I was driving home to visit my parents for the weekend, the road signs became less clear. I visited Las Vegas with work, and we ate at the restaurant of the Stratosphere, a 360 view over the strip which goes for miles. I couldn’t see the first hotel in front of us. When I was in Bora Bora the girls were pointing out the dolphins and puffer fish in the sea, but I couldn’t spot them. I look back and think of all the things I’ve missed out on seeing, or had to live through my camera lens to get a HD look at what was right in front of me. Going to the supermarket and forgetting my glasses was one of the worst examples for me, the bustle around, with the products being so small, the lights being so bright. It would be so disorientating and I’d leave with a headache, and usually without everything I went in there to get.

When I first considered getting Laser Eye Surgery I wondered whether my eyes were bad enough to put myself through the risk of something going wrong, but the odds of this happening are really small and I decided to bite the bullet. I visited one opticians for a free consultation, and felt pressured instantly into agreeing on the day that I would go through with the surgery. I went to the appointment alone and so wanted to discuss the surgery with my parents as it’s quite a big deal and no small feet to go through. I was asked “what discount would make you book it today?” And after that they went to speak to the area manager who was supposedly only in that day, meaning I would have to book it that day to receive the discount offered of £100. I again thanked them but said I’d think about it and let them know, they then called me on and off for weeks and it just left me feeling uneasy that this was a commission based money making scheme, rather than life-changing surgery which isn’t too be taken lightly.

I then found Optimax. Straight away Optimax made me feel a lot more at ease than the other opticians. I visited the branch in Bristol as they don’t offer laser eye surgery in Cardiff, and they informed me I was only suitable for the LASEK treatment due to my eyes being dry, which could affect the healing process and be prone to infection if I went for LASIK (more about this later!) The other opticians said I would be fine with LASIK. I again said I’d go away and think about it and they were a lot less pushy than the previous opticians and gave me space to decide and information to read over. They also offered me a discount in exchange for sharing my story which we agreed on.

You have to attend a consultation which is free, then once you decide you want to go through with the surgery you meet the surgeon who double checks you are suitable for the treatment. Then on surgery day, you visit the surgeon again who checks you’re still suitable and you’re happy with the decision to move forward with treatment. I had to rearrange my surgery day due to work commitments, and Optimax were super helpful and patient with me, and available over email when I wasn’t able to call. When surgery day did come, I attended on my own and the staff and surgeon were really helpful in putting me at ease. My surgeon was Dr Mughal and he was great at informing you of each step and making you feel relaxed, considering you’re about to get your eyes lasered! The treatment itself doesn’t take more than a minute per eye, but there’s around ten minutes of preparation ready for the laser. You have your eyes numbed so you can’t feel a thing during treatment, although as your eyes are being held open it is a little uncomfortable- the worst bit for me was flushing them out with water afterwards! When treatment is over you’re then sent away (preferably with a friend or family member who picks you up as your vision is pretty blurry from all the drops!) and booked in to come for a check up in a few days time.

As I had the LASEK, a treatment which doesn’t involve creating a flap which the LASIK does, my healing time was longer and the pain and discomfort was a lot more intense than what those who have had LASIK have told me their experience was like. I have dry eyes and so wasn’t found suitable for the LASIK as the risks of infection and dry eyes are higher with this treatment. You’re sent away with numbing drops for your eyes and eye drops to use for weeks after the treatment, along with some eye protectors to wear at night to stop you touching your eye- these are really uncomfortable and feel like what guys wear in their pants in cricket to protect their man parts are stuck to your eyes! And although they warn you that the pain the next day or so can be excruciating, I don’t think I was truly ready for how much it’d hurt. It felt like my eyeballs were falling out from the inside and I could do nothing about it. For 48 hours I sat in a dark room and binged podcasts until I fell asleep out of boredom. It was a pretty bleak 48-72 hours, but once you’re through that, it’s all up hill from here. Just make sure you dose up on painkillers!

Because of the type of treatment I had, my eyes take a little longer to heal and so 5 weeks on from the treatment my eyes still haven’t reached their full potential, but hopefully by the new year they’ll be in 20/20 shape. Every day I wake up and my vision is that little bit better, I’ve almost forgot what living through my old vision was like.

If you’re thinking of getting laser eye surgery, I would definitely recommend it as it really has changed my life. Most people are suitable for the LASIK which has a one day recovery time and less pain attached, so unless you’re a little unlucky like me your experience with discomfort shouldn’t be so bad! I can’t thank Optimax enough for changing my life and helping me see sunsets clearly again.

The Ho Ho Hostess Cheat Sheet: Be the perfect host.

Hosting your friends and family at Christmas may seem like a good idea, but two hours deep into basting a dead animal and pouring away your beloved wine stash, and you’re starting to miss being the un-responsible guest who hides with a box of quality streets in the corner. But it’s too late to back out of your hosting duties now, and you’re no quitter. After two whole years of Christmas dinners under my hosting belt, I’ve put together some top tips to help make your hostessing run smoother than your gravy.

1. Ask your guests bring a bottle. Your fridge might look like you’re starting your own nightclub, but you can never have enough booze in the house when it comes to hostessing. Nothing irks guests more or says *parties over!* than empty bottles of secco’. Keep the drinks flowing and they’ll most likely forget any mishaps when it comes to burning the potatoes. Plus, if there’s some left over you can always send your guests home with their bottle, tricking them into feeling like they’re going home with a gift… a gift they brought nonetheless, but they won’t remember that after all the bubbles.

2. Make sure there’s plenty of food. This might sound like an obvious one, but having enough food left over for seconds adds some excitement to the day, plus you don’t want your guests feeling unsatisfied. Nothing spreads Christmas cheer more than discovering the left-over Yorkshire puddings to soak up all the alcohol.

3. It’s the little things that count. Every time I’d host, I’d always go out of my way to add a personal touch to the day. From themed menu’s and drinks, to hand making personalised Pom-Pom tree decorations, your guests will always appreciate the little things which show you care. If you’re not very crafty, Etsy is great for personalised tree decorations and at reasonable prices.

4. Make sure there’s entertainment. Because what’s an episode of Come Dine With Me without seeing four strangers in a hot tub and a pub singer blasting out Frank Sinatra in someone’s living room. Beer pong is an easy drinking game to involve everyone, and certainly one which gets the party going. Board games always go down well, but you might want to by pass a lengthy game of Monopoloy for a quick fire round of Articulate. Playing cards are also another great game to have handy, and I guarantee each of your guests will have their own style of ‘Ring of Fire’ to spice things up a bit.

5. Keep the conversation light-hearted. The drinks are flowing, feelings aren’t heightened and everyone’s enjoying themselves. But with groups of people always comes conflict, so as the hostess you’re going to want to try keep that to a minimum. You’re the ring-master, so you get to decide what mood the night heads in. If things start getting a little heated (ban the ‘B’ word from the table!) then try change the conversation with some good old nostalgia. Reminding Jack and Jill how they snogged at the last work party is sure to divert convo from the no-go zone.

6. You’re there to host, but remember to have fun! If you’re stressing about the crunch of your parsnips and how set your cheesecake is, your guests are going to pick up on your bad vibes. If you’re happy, they’re happy. So fuck the parsnips, pour yourself a glass of wine and let them burn. They actually taste quite nice pretty toasted anyway.

Catch the rest of the #12BlogsOfChristmas on the homepage!

No more secrets: RIP The Victoria’s Secret Show

This time last year sixty unnecessarily attractive women were flouncing around a catwalk in New York in their pants, with thousands of adoring and slightly jealous fans glaring at their eight abs and thighs which refused to wobble. Fast forward twelve months, and on the anniversary of the infamous Victoria’s Secret Annual Fashion show, the secret is no more as for only the second time in twenty-four years, the brand has cancelled its flagship catwalk parade. Pass the pigs and blankets, the Christmas diet is off.

After the show last year, the brand faced criticism from body positive activists and trans-rights groups after the creative director of VS, Ed Razek, stated that there is no room in the show for plus-size or transgender models due to it being ‘a fantasy’ and using the excuse that they tried in 2000 to use plus-size models and ‘No-one had an interest’. I mean, if you’re going to go off the results of something you tried eight years ago, you’re not going to manage to flourish in the fast pace society we currently live in, to put it bluntly VS- get with the times. These off-the cuff comments from the guy in charge of VS’s lucrative image confirmed what many had been sharing their concern about for years- that Victoria Secret was out of touch with the real world. But then again, isn’t that the point?

Victoria’s Secret has always been a fantasy; An unquestionable concept of perfection with the Angels gargantuas levels of beauty setting standards no every-day Joanne-Bloggs could ever reach. I remember growing up and idolising these women in their underwear, desperate for an inch of their beauty and a foot of their success. There were always questions around the body image the models were portraying to young girls, but I would flippantly put it down to jealously, an ‘I can’t do that so she shouldn’t be able to do it either’ attitude so many women seem to carry. But as the years go by and society shifts towards representation and visibility of all beauty ideals, I’ve began to question the jealous attitude I was so convinced surrounded the Angels, and have started to wonder if we’re all just a bit sick of being told we’re not good enough.

Beautiful women are everywhere. They’re in the street, they’re in the magazines, they’re on the tele and they’re down the local Co-Op. But there was no display on earth of such goddess-like females than The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. It became more about the models, the figures and their looks than the clothes teeny bits of fabric that adorned them. Social media would be scattered with tweets from ‘normal’ women sharing their misery at eating their dinner that night, shamed by the pangs for chocolate that protruded out their stomach. Confessional: I am one of these women, guilty of always tweeting about how shit the VS show made me feel. I mean if you’re a girl, you’re basically expected to share how inferior these women make you as if it’s a right of passage into Bridget Jones’ Diary. Across the land women would tune in to watch these glamazon’s stomp down the runway, their body shimmer glistening off their perfectly pert 32c boobs. Outfit after outfit that no-one is paying attention too, model after model that everyone can’t take their eyes off from. The Angels make no secret of the intense training and dieting they have to embark on to walk in the shows, yet every female viewer sitting on the sofa will still mutter ‘How do they look like that?!’ , As if we haven’t seen a daily update on the gram’ of the models squatting in the rain. They’re committed, I’ll sure as hell give them that.

To walk in The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is a dream for many, and a reality for a very elite few. I truly acknowledge all the dedication and hard work those girls put themselves through to be in the indescribable shape that they are in when they step out on that runway. They’re athletes, they’re supermodels, they’re bloody super women. But insisting the brand, and specifically the show must stay a fantasy, just might be what kills them off. We’re experiencing a shift in society where women all over are awakening to their sexuality and choosing to own their bodies and all their flaws, and we want brands which invite us to celebrate that. Is there a space for The Victoria’s Secret Angels in this new wave of feminism society? I hope so. We should all be able to engage in body positivity and female ownership of ourselves as sexual beings, but a little variation of what those bodies look like wouldn’t go a miss either.

#12BlogsOfChristmas

What not to say on the day: How to avoid that family argument.

Ah Christmas. A time for giving, a time for getting, a time for swearing and throwing pigs and blankets at your little brother who laughed at your new Christmas jumper. Having to spend time with work colleagues you’ve spent the year trying to avoid in the lift, and family members who you’ve muted on Facebook is enough to make anyone scream ‘YOU’RE NOT MY MUM’ (An Eastenders Christmas classic). But whilst telling your Uncle who sympathises with Prince Andrew to fuck off might seem like a good idea, somethings at the dinner table are better left unsaid- at least until you’re out of the roast potato firing zone. Who am I kidding, no one wastes roast potatoes. Here’s my top tips on What not to say this Christmas to avoid that family argument.

Who did you vote for in the general election? Just don’t. This is never going to end well. What exists in your mind as a polite exchange of knowledgeable opinions and concerns for the country will only end with a ‘DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE A SECRET RACIST’ and a ‘What, You hate Jews do you?”. Political conversations belong on Twitter, where you can argue with a total stranger about things neither of you understand. It’s so much easier to block a username than your Gran.

Not another bath bomb. You get the hint, you must stink. Bath bombs, Shower Gel and some weird Body mist no-one knows they purpose of, your bathroom kitchen is going to look like Boots spewed up in it. But of course, you love your present. Another Lynx Africa ser is just what you wanted. You‘ll be thankful for it come September when you find it round the back of the sink.

The meats a bit tough. Your designated cook has been slaving away in the kitchen since 7am, spritzing the Turkey with oil like it’s one of the lads of Geordie Shore prepping for a day at the beach. They’ve shoved their hands up the arse of a bird, also like the lads off Geordie Sh…. never mind. Their hair stinks of goosefat and the tiredness in their eyes circle their pupils like a festive red bauble. They’ve spent months debating whether to follow Gordon Ramsay’s or Jamie Oliver’s recipe, only to forget to season the dried up bird altogether. She’s drier than ghandi’s flip flop and she’s tougher than a Tory cutting NHS funding, but by god almighty the last thing you do is tell the cook what you really think. You must mutter how delicious it is whilst helping it down with a gulp of prosecco in-between each bite. If you’re feeling brave, sneak some under the table for the dog. If he’ll have it.

I don’t even like Christmas. Allow me to let you in to a little Christmas secret, no-one cares. Sure the festive spirit isn’t for everyone but you’ve made it this far, so just shove on your paper hat and give the fortune teller fish a go. And if all that fails, pour yourself another tipple and let the alcohol fade out the noise of people actually having fun.

I don’t want to listen to the Queen’s Speech. The Queen hasn’t sat quietly through rumours of her death started by a guy with a penis as his profile pictures and her years of speculation about her husbands infidelity for you to find your Aunt Karen’s story about her bunion operation more interesting than Her Majesty’s speech. It’s just what we Brits do. Like putting the teabag in first or saying Ant before Dec, the Queen’s speech is a quintessential tradition for all households to raise a glass too. And if you’re not a royalist, it’s just another excuse to drink. Hoorah.

Board Games are for kids. Do the kids have to have all the god damn fun on Christmas Day? They’ve already got Santa, let us have Articulate I beg you. From a good old fashioned game of monopoly which no-one enjoys playing, to a game of ‘HEADS UP’ on your little sisters phone (Okay so it’s technically not a board game but it’s the 21st Century guys, save them trees), spending quality time with people you don’t like, playing games you can’t stand is what Christmas is all about. So crack out the Scrabble board, It’s what Jesus would have wanted.

Check out the other blogs in the #12DaysOfChristmas series!

Can you survive a digital detox? | New Years Resolutions

When I was approached by a production company earlier this year about undertaking a Digital Detox experiment for a radio documentary, I smugly accepted. ‘How hard could it be?’

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My phone has been my companion for many years now. My legal guardian who looks after my friendships, keeps me updated with the outside world, entertains me and puts me to sleep at night. The world of Twitter and Instagram acting as my alarm each morning and tucking me in at night. News outlets would be my breakfast date, one thumb firmly stuck to the screen scrolling through the papped pictures of Z-listers and articles on a man in Sheffield who grew a potato which resembled Boris Johnson, the other hand shovelling in the cereals of which I’m not acknowledging the taste. I best get ready for the day. I jump in the shower, my right arm stretched out from under the waterfalls thumping away on the touch keyboard of my phone. Now is the the perfect time to check my emails. The conditioner sits fully soaked in my hair as I click through the link of the ASOS newsletter and end up eight pages deep on their sale section, again. *Ah I just remembered!* The Disney themed PJ’s I spot in the sale remind me of my friend who’s just got back from Disneyland. I open up Facebook and search for their profile, I must brush up on how their trip went before whatsapping them to ask how their trip went. I look down and catch a glimpse of my thighs, is that cellulite glistening amongst the suds of my shower gel? I should probably go to the gym at some point. I open up the gym’s app and scroll down through the classes. I might go to yoga tomorrow night, but I’m sure I’ve got something planned. My thumb hovers over the calendar app and scrolls through the dates- AHA! That’s it, I’m already booked. Dinner with a friend at the new Sri Lankan restaurant in town, the perfect opportunity to get some new Instagram content. Yoga and cellulite will have to wait. Maybe I’ll do some stretches at home. I step out the shower and dry myself with one hand, my eyes fixated to the screen in my palm. Google: Quick Yoga poses you can do at home. I scroll through the articles with little intent, I’m laying down on the bed, my ten fingers wrapped around the device. Ouch. A shooting pain runs through the front of my head. What it could be? I wonder if Google can answer me. Google: Sharp pain on side of head, causes. Brain Cancer. Brain tumour. Blood clot on the brain. I nervously laugh, what does Google know anyway. My phone rings, it’s mum, up pops the front camera. ‘What are you upto?’ Oh nothing much really.’ We FaceTime for half an hour my mum, the dog and me. ‘I’ve got to go, I’ve got things to do’ I close down the screen and open up ‘Notes’. I’ll jot down a to-do list to help motivate me. ‘Head to the gym. Buy some food. Need toilet roll and milk. Check invoices have been paid. Book eyebrows appointment’. I think I deserve a break. It’s lunch time now, what should I make? Google: Healthy lunch recipes for one. Chickpeas, Lentils, Eggs and Salad. As if, my eyes roll as I reach for the tin of beans and sausages. Two minutes on the microwave, what do I do in this wait? I open up Twitter to have a debate. “@_JessicaDavies Are beans a breakfast food or a side dish for dinner?” I scroll through the trending. Impeach him. Man City. #MondayMotivation. PING. Thank god, the timeline had stopped refreshing. My second date of the day, and this one was hot. Beans and sausages and an Instagram bot’. I scroll through the feed as I finish my lunch, then open up WordPress ‘It’s time for some work’ I think. I type and I type, the words flowing out then my thumb reaches down and clicks out of the app. It’s reaching for Insta’, it needs to see more. A mind of its own, it’s becoming a chore. I look at the clock, it’s 1.30pm. I’ll be awake for another twelve hours, I’m sure.

Ditching social media came at the perfect time for me. I was a slave to my screen, brainwashed by the apps. My mind trained never to switch off from the online World, my thumbs muscle memory trained to automatically hover directly over the Instagram spot. I was frustrated, I was tired and I was ready to make a change. The Digital Detox saw me have all my social media passwords changed and the app’s deleted. My online world vanished in a flash. I felt a sigh of relief but also a gasp. What do I do now? How do I bide my time? When I’m waiting in a que until it’s my place in line? When I’m waiting for a mate in a coffee shop or a pub? And where will I post all the pics’ of my grub? I met professionals, professors and influencers throughout the week who gave me some tips on how not to be weak. Do I ask for a selfie? I’ve got no page to update. By the time I’m back online it’ll be four days too late. I spent time getting to know the crew I worked with, chatting and sharing our thoughts and ideas on the car journeys instead of building up an invisible wall and having my nose permanently stuck to my screen in any awkward silences. I took onboard all of the tips the coach gave me, I bought an alarm clock so my phone wasn’t the first thing I see. I felt better, I felt energised, I felt like I’d turned a corner. But just three months on from my experiment and to the digital-free world I’m nothing but a mourner.

I’ve got a new phone, its exciting and new. I’m constantly checking and swiping and scrolling and uploading. I hate the habit I’ve got back into, the addict I’m slowly becoming.

In the New Year I’ve decided to make it my goal to stick to the limiting of my social media usage. I felt so much better when I felt I was utilising my time effectively, and enjoyed engaging with social media more when it was viewed as a reward. This time around I won’t be going into the Digital Detox blind, so hopefully I’ll be able to spot the slip ups more efficiently and correct them before the endless scrolling creeps back into my life again. Do you think you could complete a Digital Detox? What tips would you give to help prepare me for my break offline?

My Digital Detox Documentary is available to listen and download on BBC Sounds here

The soundtrack to your Christmas Party

One drunken Summer evening over a game of Rapidough, you offered up your gaff’ and your Chardonnay stained sofa to hold the Christmas party none of your mates actually want. Fast forward four months and you’re arranging the Kevin the Carrot shaped vol au’ vants on a tin-foil tray in anticipation for your eight guests arrival. Your living room is an all-expense spared venue, littered with cardboard cut-out photo-booth props and some shoddy tinsel you found in the back of the airing cupboard. The £2.99 bottles of Buck’s Fizz are warming up under the glare of some unnecessarily aggressive fairy lights as you FaceTime your mum for the third time just to make sure that 180• is ‘definitely the right temperature’ to cook Asda’s beige snack pack selection. Everything is in place to host the best Crimbo party since 2002 when Uncle Derek passed out in the four-dip selection after one to many Baileys, but alas something is missing. The soundtrack to your evening. The sweet music to your ears. A total cheese fest which will have your guests screaming “PASS ME ANOTHER MULLED WINE GOD DAMNIT”. It’s time to get this party started with the Ultimate Christmas Party Playlist. Forget the Wensleydale, it’s time serve up this cheeseboard of greatness.

Listen through Spotify:

1. Jingle Bell Rock- Bobby Helms.

You must do the Mean Girls’ talent show dance or you simply can’t sit next to us. I don’t care if there’s only three chairs.

2. Get the party started – Pink.

It speaks for itself. A classic. An all guns blazing anthem which will have Linda wishing she never organised childcare for the evening.

3. The Sweet Escape- Gwen Stefani.

This is exactly what your guests will be plotting right about now.

4. All I want for Christmas is you- My Chemical Romance remastered.

Just as your friends thought they had the evening sussed, you throw in a curveball with this reimagined and rather horrific take on Mariah’s classic.

5. Jolene – Dolly Parton.

Pass around the shots of Advocaat, it’s time to start singing.

6. One way or Another – Blondie.

One way or another you’re going to make this party a night to remember. Let’s hope it’s not by food poisoning the guests. Time to lay out the beige buffet.

7. Pony – Ginuwine.

All the women collectively stare at the one semi-attractive looking guy and hope he starts humping a pillow. No such luck yet. Guy sheepishly goes out for a fag.

8. Fairytale of New York- The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

It’s time to lift the spirits, until someone mentions Kirsty got killed by a boat propellor. Instant mood kill. Make sure your offensive work colleague doesn’t sing the F word. That’s so 1998.

9. Last Christmas- Cascada.

You take full advantage of the mood killer by throwing in this remix. “Who remembers Cascada?!” You shout, trying to stir some nostalgia in the 90’s kids. No-one answers.

10. Let me blow your mind – Eve and Gwen Stefani.

It’s time to break out the big guns. The voul au’ vants are set and the Lambrini is being passed around. Now is your time to shine.

11. Who’s that girl- Eve.

Right off the back of your big debut, the crowd is left wanting more. ‘Who’s that girl?’ They ask. ‘I don’t know, my girlfriend dragged me here’.

12. Good as Hell – Lizzo.

Incase anyone forgot, now’s the time to remind them. You just took a DNA test turns out Uncle Derek isn’t your real uncle after all.

13. Truth Hurts – Lizzo.

Seems fitting following the Uncle Derek confession. You down another shot of Advocaat and reach for the mic tv remote.

14. Super Bass- Nicki Minaj.

Fuck Uncle Derek, you were never that keen on him anyway. Family drama forgotten and the rapping begins.

15. Baby please come home- Mariah Carey.

Someone moaned that you’re not playing enough Christmas music. You hear a mumble coming from the kitchen ‘Baby can we please go home?’

16. Blue Christmas- Michael Bublé.

Shit, you’ve put everyone off going off-pisté with the rap. Time to bring out the golden ticket- Father Christmas himself (aka Michael Bublé)

17. American Boy- Estelle & Kanye West.

A classic of all seasons. An anthem to make everyone join in. Kanye’s part is missing but everyone knows it anyway. ‘Wait. Who the fuck thinks a 5ft 7 guy is just their type?”

18. Dance wiv me- Dizzee Rascal.

You’re practically begging them to get off their feet. Everyone avoids looking you in the eye.

19. Dog Days are Over- Florence and The Machine.

Thank god this thing is wrapping up, who’s idea was this anyway?

20. You’ve got the love – Florence and The Machine.

You push everyone out the door with a half-arsed hug and an enthusiastic ‘We must do this again next year!’. You’re definitely not doing this again next year.

Check out the rest of the #12BlogsOfChristmas !

Top Tips for the perfect Welsh Road Trip in 2020.

National Geographic have listed Wales in their top 20 places to visit in 2020, but of course I already knew that it should be top of your bucket list. I’ve been living in Wales for twenty years, growing up in mid-Wales before moving out of the seaside town of Aberystwyth to embrace the big city lights in Cardiff, where I’ve resided for the last seven years. In 2019, I decided to embark on a few Welsh Road Trips of my own, visiting places all over Wales on a low-budget adventure with my mates to discover more about the land I call home. I’ve put together my top tips and recommendations of where to go, where to stay and what to do when you embark on your own tour of Cymru next year. Beware, you may just need a raincoat.

Where to go:

Mid-Wales

Often overlooked when it comes to ‘Top Attractions’ and ‘Must see’ lists, Mid-Wales holds a nostalgic charm which you won’t find elsewhere. It’s Victorian towns are somewhat rundown, suffering from lack of funding plunged into the South. But the 1920’s style Piers which are now home to nightclubs and the tongue-tizzling smell of the chip fryers which fill the air will have you longing for your seaside holidays as a child.

Aberystwyth would be the top of my list, for it’s charm alone will intoxicate you, but the thirty-odd pubs all within a 0.5mile radius will also help you out. Thrust into the spotlight after it’s appearance in Netflix’s The Crown Season 3, this charming seaside town is the best place for a pub crawl #culture. Be sure to stop by Downies for an Admiral (a 4 shot of vodka and redbull – the cheap version– concotion which will set you back around £4.50), Rummers Bar for Live Music and The Academy for a game of pool and some people watching- this is the best place to line up the person you’re gonna wanna try and snog later on. There is two and a half nightclubs in the town, Pier Pressure which is for the young un’s and the Pier Brasserie which is a 25+ venue. When I say venue it’s basically a restaraunt of which they clear the tables to allow for a make shift dancefloor. My mum enjoys this spot, if that helps. Head here in the day for some decent food and to watch the famous starlings who live under the Pier. The star of the show is Why Knot Nightclub, which lives behind one suspect doorway. I hear it’s recently had a rennovation and you can now buy noodles from a food station inside the club. What more could you possibly ask for? (There’s a lot left to ask for tbh).

There is some gorgeous foodie spots in town, such as Baravin on the seafront which is probably as trendy as any Aber spot is going to get- they also do a great carbonara, more-ish handmade pizzas and gob-guzzling cocktails. The Ultra Comida is an olives, cheese and stuff shop with a few tables out back for some authentic tapas and wine. The owners run the much-loved Curado tapas restaraunt in the Capital City of Cardiff, so you know you’re in good hands. Y Hen Llew Du is a great spot for homemade pub grub at really decent prices, just beware of the Welsh Social Students who’ll plough in (pun intended) to the pub at night.

Aberystwyth on top of Constitution Hill, taking in the coastline of Aber seen on Netflix's The Crown Tywysog Cymru

When it comes to things to do, this might be where it runs short. The town has several coffee shops you could tour, a seafront pier that any tourist to Aber has to walk down at least once (kick the bar at the end or it didn’t happen), a Castle (just about standing), a one-screen cinema which will transport you back in time and a cliff railway dating back to 1826. TBF I’m selling this pretty well. To soak in the scenery, head to Ynyslas beach a few miles outside of the town for a sandy escape and a Mr Whippy from the Ice-Cream Van which is usually there come rain or shine. A few miles out of town in the other direction you’ll reach Nant-Yr-Arian visitors centre which is famed for its mountain bike trails, scenic walks and daily red-kite feeding sessions. They also have a cafe where you can grab some cake and coffee if ya’ know, the fourteen coffee shops in the town centre weren’t doing it for you. Check out my vlog of Aberystwyth here.

North Wales

Our best kept secret, North Wales is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth, if I do say so myself. The drive up from the South along the A470 is breath-takingly gorgeous, so much so you won’t give a toss that it’ll take your eight* hours to get anywhere. Full of myths, legends, lakes and Welsh Cakes there is no better place to soak in the fresh Welsh air than up in the Gogs’.

For the last couple years my family and I have been spending the half-term holidays up in Bedd Gelert, a small village in the Snowdonia National Park. It’s set in the valley and is a great place to base yourself if you’re tackling the mountains. An enchanting river runs through the dog friendly village, named after the Kings loyal dog Gelert #RIPBro. There’s a handful of cafés and a couple of pubs, including the Prince Llywelyn pub and hotel which does tasty homemade dishes and lets in your four-legged companions. A few doors down is Cafe Hebog, a rustic cafe serving up some mouth-watering dishes using local Welsh produce. Take a leisurely walk along the river or visit the Sygun Copper Mine nearby for a taste of Welsh history. If you’re setting up camp in Bedd Gelert, or anywhere in North Wales for that matter, mentally prepare yourself that you’ll have to drive to get anywhere or see anything.

Bedd Gelert Llyn Llywelyn Visit Wales Snowdonia National Park

The activities may be sparse, but let the nature around you become your day-out! Experience the elements of Snowdonia, the highest peak in Wales which is just a short drive away, or visit the quaint town Betws-y-Coed for some shopping and a slice of Bara Brith. When visiting North Wales, it’s rule of thumb you have to visit it’s most exciting adventure attraction- Zip World. Spread out across three different sites, Zip World is home to the world’s fastest zip line, the UK’s only mountain go-cart experience, the only Alpine Forest Coaster in the UK and an underground trampoline park, plus loads of other activties AND houses slate-cavern aged cheese – phew!

Where to stay:

Banish the idea that holidays in Wales mean staying in caravan parks (although there’s plenty of those around if you’re after one!), some of the UK’s best hotels sit proudly on our culture enriched soil. From the famous Celtic Manor Resort which greets your eye-line as you venture down the M4, to the 5-star St Davids Hotel & Spa in Cardiff Bay, the rugby star-spotting Vale Resort on the outskirts of Cardiff, and the recently named best hotel in Wales The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny, it’s safe to say we’re not short of luxurious spots. But head further afield to canolbarth Cymru and you’ll be treated to a slightly different staycation. Popping up across the lush landscape of the West are the perfect glamping pods and quirky homes for your big Welsh retreat.

Mid Wales:

Devils Bridge, Aberystwyth. A drop of luxury a short distance from the Hafod Estate in Devils Bridge, Brynllwyd Glamping Pod is the ideal escape to country living. I recently stayed over for my Mum’s birthday and we spent hours cooking pizza on the fire pit and lounging in the hot tub whose spot is perfectly aligned with a view of the sun setting over the rolling hills. There’s no tv here, but you do have your own private lake so I think that’s a fair exchange!

Brnyllwyd Glamping pod with hot tub in Devils Bridge, West Wales

The world-famous village Devils Bridge is a short walking distance away, where you can grab a bite to eat at the Hafod Hotel, ride the Rheidol Steam Railway and explore the mythical waterfalls below the bridge said to be built by the devil himself.

Rates start at £120 p/night. Sleeps up to 5 people. Book direct over on the website or via Air B&B where you can save £25 off your first Air B&B stay with this link https://www.airbnb.co.uk/c/jessicad7768?currency=GBP

Sennybridge, Brecon. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous with your accomodation, this converted vintage chicken house aka Cluckingham Palace is just the spot for you to unwind and become one with the chickens which roam around it. Based in Sennybridge, just a short drive away from the town of Brecon, this is the ideal spot to set up camp if you’re exploring the local trails of the Brecon Beacons or heading up Pen-y-Fan. Think of it as camping but with a roof, the exotic indian designed hut sleeps two people and has a log burner inside to keep you warm. Outside is the toilet and a shower head, and the small cooking area where two freshly laid eggs await you.

Converted Chicken Shed Glamping in Brecon Beacons

There may not be a hot tub, but there is a victorian hip bath for your use where you can bask in the glory of the sun and the sheep-filled fields that surround you. There’s a couple good pubs close by (around a ten minute drive) where you can fill up on fish-n-chips before snuggling down by candle light in the converted chicken shed. Check out my vlog of my stay.

Rate starts at £50 p/night. Sleeps 2. Book via Air B&B and save £25 off your first Air B&B stay with this link https://www.airbnb.co.uk/c/jessicad7768?currency=GBP

North Wales

Bustling B&B’s and quaint cottages are scattered across the Northern range, but my favourite spots include a hot tub and a hut. Do we see a trend occuring?

Bedd Gelert, Snowdonia.

A pricier alternative to the small wooden huts, the Forest Holidays luxurious log cabins are the ultimate spot to unwind. The Bedd Gelert site is still quite new, meaning everything is up to date and the hot-tubs blast out the bubbles for your relaxing big bath. Star-gaze from the tub with a glass of bubbly in hand, or cosy-down in front of the log fire and watch a movie from the film selection available.

Forest Holidays Bedd Gelert Snowdonia stay

There’s an on-site kitchen which can deliver pizzas and curries to your door, as well as on-hand staff who host activities for little ones. The Welsh Highland Railway stops at the camp so you can jump on and off to explore the surroundings, or wave to the passengers from your tub.

Prices vary. Sleeps from 2-10 people. Book direct at https://www.forestholidays.co.uk

Check out the other entries in the #12BlogsOfChristmas