Well here I am, home from just short of three weeks away in Sri Lanka and what a country, I am not sure I can really do it justice, I am really struggling to find the right words to even start explaining all about it!
We arrived and stepped off the plane in Colombo and the humidity really hit us, I have never visited a humid country before so I had no idea what to really expect. I can certainly say that we needed the first 48 hours to acclimatise and adjust to a completely different climate and culture.
Our driver met us in arrivals and thank goodness! We knew that hire cars are not recommended (and virtually impossible to find) and the easiest way to get about is to hire a driver with a vehicle for the duration of your stay. For backpackers and budget travelling, trains and buses are popular and an excellent way to cover distances fairly quickly but for us it was definitely an air conditioned mini-van that worked. Having a local with us to guide us, advise us and generally help out was an absolute essential.
Leaving the airport and seeing the reality of the busy, crowded roads was quite an eye opener. There are motorbikes, tuk tuks, buses, cars and people everywhere! It really is like the YouTube videos you see!. And everyone sounds their horn continuously! But no one gets cross or upset, there is no road rage.
I was immediately struck by the fact that Sri Lanka is a much less privileged country to what we are used to. I suppose I did know that, but seeing it is a another thing. Having never been outside Europe or the States, arriving in my first Asian country I could definitely see the huge contrast. Our first task was to find an ATM as the Sri Lankan Rupee is a closed currency and as well as our Revolut card we wanted to get some cash out, it was a bit of a challenge and when we stopped at the ATM we were immediately approached by beggars.
But rather than this new environment upsetting me, I felt at ease, welcome and in awe, I couldn't possibly close my eyes during our long hours travelling in the mini-van as there is just so much to see. Travelling is as much part of the holiday as the sightseeing.
I simply loved watching people go about their day to day lives. I loved passing through the towns and seeing the shops, the fruit and vegetables beautifully displayed, the men in their sarongs and the bright outfits. I was mesmerised by the scenery and green countryside. I stopped to admire the rice fields. I loved the chaos of the shops, all selling the same thing, so many of them, and such a diverse and eclectic mix. Buildings and houses were unfinished and often just blockwork. There was washing hanging all over the place, at the roadside, on chairs, on roofs, in trees! People travel piled into a tuk tuk - meant for three passengers, they can easily squeeze a family or six or seven in! And mum, dad and a child on a motorbike with no crash helmet is a common sight.
But everyone seemed so happy and friendly. So kind and helpful. Tourism is still growing and becoming established in Sri Lanka (a long civil war and the tsunami had a long term effect) and away from the big towns it is quite common to be the only western person wandering about. We did get looked at!
There is no doubt that the experience has made me question some aspects of my own lifestyle. They have so little, we have so much! Too much. For a long time now I have been thinking about what I called Information Overload - I wrote a blog post in January about it and it has continued to rattle around my head. And Sri Lanka confirmed that I do need to readdress the balance a bit in my life.
I think this was really bought home to me when I struck up a friendship with a beach seller called Anne. For the first week or so I avoided the beach sellers and kept saying 'no thank you' until one day something made me stop resisting and I ended up buying some dresses but I also got chatting to Anne about her life. It may have been that I had recently seen the story of the Old Man Selling Eggs on Facebook, have you ever read it? We had been chatting at dinner about bargaining the prices down. And it helped me see the beach sellers in a different way. To be able to have a small business selling dresses or jewellery gives them self-respect and a way to earn a small income to support their family. Not for the luxuries in life like we have but to be able to buy basics like food.. By the time I had finished chatting and looking at her dresses we had quite a crowd come to see too so she did good business that day! She was quite emotional when she thanked me.
Another day I was sat on the sun lounger feeling a bit down as my daughter was struggling to cope with the culture and was not feeling comfortable yet with the volunteering she was doing (more on that in a separate post). Anne came over to me and asked if I was okay, she was so kind, I explained I was worrying about Emily and she reassured me. I told her about the school and that it was next to a Catholic church, Anne is Catholic and so am I and she showed me her small prayer book and the rosary beads she keeps in her pocket. We had something in common, her life is so different to mine, but we still found common ground, we are not so different after all.
A few days later, she called me over and gave me a gift, a bag of fresh red bananas. It was not the value but the gesture, the kindness in the giving. My husband is maybe slightly more cynical, yes she was ultimately selling her goods to me but I had kind of decided it didn't matter. It was the bigger message, she made me think about my own life and how we can help others and be kinder and more considerate.
Anne was incredibly grateful that I had bought from her, she was a bit teary and when we left I gave her a few items that we would take for granted, small shampoo's and shower gels that were unused and that Anne would never be able to afford to buy.
And so for me Anne represented the Sri Lankan people that we met. Yes there are more affluent Sri Lankan's but mostly it is a lower income, developing country but everyone was just so happy.
I want to tell you more about seeing the work done by Dogstar Foundation, the charity set up by my husband's sister-in-law and his brother and about the school they support and how Emily got on when she volunteered at the school. There is so much to share.
I will also be writing about our itinerary and giving some ideas, advice and tips if you ever fancy a trip to Sri Lanka. Plus I will share photos of what we did and what I wore! It wasn't easy getting outfit photos, it goes dark by 6 pm and most days I wasn't dressing up at all, so I had to let go of the style, relax and dress for heat, humidity, comfort and the culture.
For now though, I am continuing my summer break from blogging and social media and so my posts will be less frequent during the remainder of August while I catch up on the post holiday washing and ironing and spend some time with my daughter during her break from sixth form.
Well that's it, after all the planning and prepping of the last few weeks and months, we are off to Sri Lanka tonight..
We are visiting family who have set up a charity in Sri Lanka that cares for street dogs and educates on animal welfare - but it is so much more than that and I do recommend taking a look at their story on the website as it is inspirational to read how it all came about. following the 7/7 London bombings.
Our daughter has been given a wonderful opportunity and she will be volunteering with Dogstar Foundation, we will have some holiday time first to explore Sri Lanka then she will go off to do the volunteer work with Sam and Mark and we will spend a bit more time in Sri Lanka before flying home.
If you would like to make a small donation to Dogstar Foundation then please go to our fundraising page here. Any amount, big or small, is very much appreciated and we are looking forward to finding out more about how our donations get used. Our trip is entirely self-funded.
I will be posting regular updates and envy-inducing photos on my little grid on Instagram but otherwise I will be having some social media free time and enjoying the relaxing slow pace of life and stunning scenery in Sri Lanka.
I hope all my readers have wonderful holidays too - whether it is a staycation or if you are jetting off somewhere, relax and enjoy and I will be back later in August to tell you all about Sri Lanka.
Other posts to read:
Bikini's and packing for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Holiday 2018 | An overview of what we have planned
Travel Essentials | Our trip to Sri Lanka
Dogstar Foundation Sri Lanka
Nearly time to go! I am getting excited now. Seriously, we are going to see elephants in the wild, we are going to get up close and personal with baby elephants, we are going whale watching and seeing the most stunning scenery, we will be experiencing a whole new culture, it is completely different from anything I have ever done before. If you missed an overview of our itinerary and fundraising details for my daughter's volunteer work then you can take a look here.
I have been reading other blogs, asking for advice, researching our destination and thinking about the type of holiday this is (i.e. not sitting on a beach in a bikini all day) and now have a pretty good idea of my travel essentials and what I need in my suitcase.
First of all I need lots of cotton and linen and outfits that are lose and cool as the temperature will be very hot and very humid. I have lots of dresses but also trousers, shorts and linen tops - I found Uniqlo the best place for these. I will always have a scarf/sarong in my bag to cover my shoulders, sit on or protect me from the sun and I have two pretty ones from Sweet Bea online (take a look at my post about bikinis, beach cover-ups and accessories here). I will also need to be prepared for occasional rain and colder temperatures near the tea plantations and I will pack layers, leggings, and I think my compact ultra light down jacket (again from Uniqlo).
Scroll to bottom for link to a great Hush sale dress!
I've mentioned this before but I love my men's trilby from Marks & Spencer, this dress is last year from Accessorize and this bag is also Accessorize.
I think I will probably take the big camera, but maybe the smaller lens? The scenery in Sri Lanka is so stunning it seems a shame not to use the best equipment to capture it. But I will have my iPhone for the quick snaps. I will be reading my 'Rough Guide to Sri Lanka' a bit more on the plane and I have made sure I have plenty of travel plugs (for Sri Lanka and Universal) as well as a travel charger for my iPhone and of course my trusty headphones! And I don;t know about you but my specs and sunglasses get filthy! Carrying around a bottle isn't ideal so I have lots of these spectacle wipes to take with me.
I will however need to fit in sun lounger time and will need some good books, my sarong to protect me a bit from the sun and a quick cover-up, and of course we are taking a lot of sun cream!
I will be taking this fantastic dry skin cream from Gem's Cream, this is a great all-purpose completely natural balm that I can use on lips, feet and hands (anywhere really) and is particularly good for an eczema flare-up. Of course I will need dry shampoo, the humidity and early morning starts will mean I won't have much time to fuss about my hair, so I suspect it will be tied up a lot, I have just had a keratin blow dry done to help with this! No glamour this trip! And I decided on the CC cream from Clinique instead of foundation, I always feel I need a little something but on holiday I don;t wear full make-up, and this one gives me a good SPF too.
This Sterimar nasal spray was recommended to my husband a few months back and has proven to be very helpful and we have recommended it to others, great for sinus infections and hayfever, it will form part of our medicine kit. We have Jungle Formula DEET spray and Bite & Sting Relief as we will need it! And then anti-bac wipes will be an essential in my bag, and I have a few small packs to take with us. There will also be essentials like Imodium and Ibuprofen but they didn't seem fun to add to a flatlay!
Sterimar Nasal Spray
I'm very excited about this little travel pack of essential oils by Doterra from The Rainbow Rooms in Marlow. I do get a bit anxious with travelling and don;t always sleep well but Michelle has put together some travel essentials for me and I can't wait to use them.
So that's about it, it's a good thing we bought some big lightweight suitcases, I never travel light! I have bought some of those packing cubes to make finding things a bit easier, I hope, as we will be moving about a bit so won't be unpacking properly. I also decided on a lightweight backpack, I can't see me dragging a stylish straw tote with me on sightseeing trips!
Scarf/Sarong from Sweet Bea (as above)
Hair ties (tiebandz from Sweet Bea)
Spectacle wipes (as above)
I will be packing some protein/energy snack bars as well as our Chilly Bottles - these keep water cold for 24 hours and really do work!
Have I missed anything that you think I might need? If you have been to Sri Lanka and can make any suggestions, do let me know.
And do check my Instagram while we are away as I will be posting or updating stories most days so you can follow what I am up to.
I'm leaving my son fully in charge of the house while we are away so let's hope I come back to it all being clean and tidy, washing and ironing up to date and the fridge fully stocked! Well I can dream! I suspect I will miss him a lot and be continually saying 'oh I wish he could see this / be with us to share this experience'.
Disclaimer: Some of my links are affiliate links which means that the brand knows you have come to their website from here and I may get a small commission if you buy something and keep it. This small income goes towards the running costs of my blog so I am very thankful for every click.
Previous posts you might like to read:
Bikini's and packing for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Holiday 2018 | An overview of what we have planned
Just a quick extra outfit to share with you, this dress is from Hush and is now reduced in the sale to £45 (all sizes available except an 8) This isn't the clearest photo of it but do follow this link and take a closer look, it is so pretty and it has pockets!
Marina Dress £45 Hush
Last weekend I had a flying visit to Dartmouth with my daughter. We left after lunch on Friday in the hope of avoiding the worst of the traffic but that wasn't to be and it took us 6 hours to get there! Not good at all, I had wanted to get the train but as it was a fairly late decision to go, the tickets were too expensive (top tip - book 12 weeks in advance).
We stayed at Just B who provide the bed without the breakfast! Good name! The room was so central that we were literally just off the main shopping street and two minutes from the harbour and River Dart. We were lucky to get a last minute reservation with it being summer and such fabulous weather, the room was quite small but we literally needed a bed and shower room so it didn't really matter.
Friday evening we had a very enjoyable dinner at Bayards Cove Inn and this is another good place to stay - they didn't have any rooms for our dates but my husband and his sister stayed there a few weeks ago and really liked it.
We started with breakfast on Saturday morning at Cafe Alf Resco because we could sit outside and watch the world go by! And they are dog friendly and provide a little portion of sausage for their furry customers!
With it only be a flying visit we then decided to visit our favourite place nearby, Coleton Fishacre, a beautiful National Trust house and stunning gardens on the Kingswear side going towards Brixham. We have been before when the children were younger and loved it so much, it was a treat to go back. The gardens are full of colour and flowers, lots of interesting paths and secret corners to explore, and they lead down to the sea and the views are spectacular - a word of warning though, it is quite steep coming back up! But it is worth it and do try and get to the second viewing point as well, you will be rewarded with the best view of the Devon coastline.
It is fairly easy to get to from Dartmouth, you can take the lower ferry over and drive but it will get busier in the summer holidays (expect queues for the ferry), you can get a bus but then it is a 30 minute walk down the lane to get to the house (not so good with children or in the heat) or we decided to get a taxi to take us door to door. Parking spaces are a premium in Dartmouth during the high season and we didn't want to risk losing ours!
Seriously how wonderful is this weather! I wore shorts or a dress all weekend and din't need a jumper at all. These are the Richmond shorts from Boden and I picked up this pair in the sale recently. My blouse is from Hobbs last year, my bag is Accessorize and my trainers are from Vionic - take a look at my review here.
We then headed back into Dartmouth for a wander around the shops, there are many of the big chains like Jack Wills, Joules, White Stuff etc but also lots of individual shops which are worth a wander around, I loved Escape to the Coast and enjoyed chatting to the owner who had relocated from near us to Dartmouth and was loving it.
Dinner Saturday night was at Bushell's Upper Deck - my only requirement was that we eat somewhere with a view and wow what a view! And the food and service didn't disappoint either, we asked for a window table and look what we got!
Sunday was extremely hot and we thought a river trip would mean a cool breeze, it didn't! But anyway, we took the ferry to Greenway to visit Agatha Christie's house. As time was limited due to our drive home we didn't go into the house this time, we just walked through the gardens, we then got the little ferry across to Dittisham - very quaint, you ring the bell when you want to summon the ferry and it arrives to take you on the quick trip across the river. There is a cafe at Dittisham, The Anchorstone Cafe, which has wonderful views but best to book if you can, it was too busy and we were unable to get a table, we will save that for another visit. They do run their own water taxi though so worth considering as an alternative to the busy ferries in Dartmouth (call to book).
On Sunday I wore a previous season beach maxi dress from Accessorize, with my silver bag from Accessorize (similar here) and my men's trilby from Marks & Spencer.
Then sadly it was time to go home, we had a late lunch at Beth's Bistro - another absolute gem to recommend!
I am in love with Dartmouth, we have been visiting for many years as we have family that live nearby but this is the first time I have actually stayed in the town which was extra special. There are so many gorgeous walks and places to visit - a walk to Dartmouth Castle is a must! And the views along the coastline near Dartmouth are breathtaking.
Dartmouth is ideal for families and children, romantic weekend getaways, girls weekends, as well as a longer holiday to explore the whole area. I want to stay at the Dart Marina Hotel if I get a chance another time!
PS Quick outfit post below - this top is from Hush and is so soft, cool, flattering, and floaty, it is cotton and I love it! I wore it with jeans (below) but also denim shorts. It isn't the cheapest at £65 but I think it will be a wardrobe staple for years to come - Hush Finsbury top.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, Some of my links are affiliate links which means that the brand knows you have come to their website from here and I may get a small commission if you buy something and keep it. This small income goes towards the running costs of my blog so I am very thankful for every click.
Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
Use my hashtag on Instagram #beingfiftyandfab
I’d love to see what you are doing and with your permission, share some of your images.
Join my mailing list for regular updates and don’t forget to look at my social media pages too..
Subscribe to receive regular blog updates by email: