Mas Salagros, A Magical Eco Resort Right Outside Barcelona

My life can be a little hectic, with a busy career that keeps me travelling on a fairly regular basis and a toddler to care for – and whose childhood I have no intention of missing. When our family look for spots to have a holiday, even for a short weekend getaway, we want a space where we can relax for some down time with the option of action-packed activities if we are up for it. And on this last recent trip to Barcelona, that’s exactly what I got.  An eco resort with a strong focus on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices, which does not compromise on luxury or culinary standards. Sweet.

About 30 minutes away from the busy centre of Barcelona stands Mas Salagros, an eco resort that serves as a haven for mindfulness. Advertised as the first entirely eco-friendly destination in the Iberian peninsula, the resort meets the standards established in European regulations on sustainability in the hospitality industry. More specifically, every single slice of life in this place is crafted to be as eco-friendly as possible. For example, all furniture is handmade in sustainable materials, including the beds and their mattresses. There is an honest commitment to sustainable living, including following energy efficiency practices and using the most organic waste management system possible. These details were what drew me here, so you can imagine I had very high expectations of a spot like this – and I have to say I was quite satisfied.

Designed to encourage slow living, Mas Salagros was built with relaxation in mind, and the creators were very careful to incorporate that idea into every aspect. First, the peaceful location: in the village of Vallromanes, it’s well within a natural reserve in the Catalan coastal range. The air is always fresh between the mountains and the sea, and the hill views add to the general feeling of well-being. The resort is well positioned, perfect if you’re looking to visit the city, but also remain secluded away enough in its little corner of nature to feel like an oasis. Whilst an inland location, Mas Salagros is also near the sea, and the staff is more than happy to recommend nearby beaches that aren’t too crowded.

In fact, the staff we met were one of the biggest highlights of Mas Salagros, including the dynamic Sabir who shuttled is around with great charisma and warmth. Even if a few more members of staff might have taken the pressure off those working, the remained truly stellar. Besides being friendly and easy to communicate with, I loved how multicultural they were: Catalans and foreigners relax and get in touch with themselves here, getting away from thriving Barcelona. There’s also a real feeling of family between the people working here. At the resort, between the staff and the guests you’ll find people from all walks of life, a really sweet melting pot in the middle of the hills. Near the pool, the layout is very invites social mixing between guests which was truly lovely. We stayed at the garden suite opposite the pool, and going out always felt a little like catching up with the neighbourhood crowd. The knowledge that we’re all in this together, searching for a time of relaxation in the greenest possible way, just added to the sense of community.

Inside the resort, considered details will catch your eye without being abrasive, like the beautiful décor and the subtle art. Every piece of furniture is sustainable, made with a mix of natural materials, recycled details and sustainable wood. Each area is unique, in soft hues and comfortably broad spaces, lit by energy-saving lights or natural lights alone.

But the standout for relaxation here is the resort’s spa, easily the best I’ve visited. The spa is managed by international brand AIRE Ancient Baths, which focuses on creating a bathing experience based on the Roman, Greek and Turkish millenary traditions. As a policy, AIRE baths are always located in restored ancient buildings, to maintain as much authenticity to the process as possible; the Mas Salagros baths specifically are inside a XV century farmhouse. The candlelit environment and the pools at different temperatures all provide an experience that fully transports you to another time. They offer a warm bath pool at 36º Celsius (Tepidarium), a hot one at 40º, and a cold one at 16º (Frigidarium), besides a bath with 1,000 jets (Balneum), a steam room (Laconicum) and finally a salt water bath (Flotarium). To finish, the spa provides a relaxing massage given by an expert therapist, which can last between 15 and 60 minutes depending on your preferences.

The marvellous spa is the star of Mas Salagros, but the rest of the facilities are just as focused on wellness, from an in-house yoga practice to excursions and organic wine tastings.

Another thing I loved about this place is how family-oriented it is: while there are plenty of activities for solo mindfulness, it’s also keenly aware of the role of family life in a person’s all-around well-being. They offer plenty of entertainment for children to enjoy without their parents, like movie nights and a kids’ club for older children to play around and make friends with each other.

You’ll also find fun things for the whole family to enjoy together for some bonding time, like walks and hikes. There’s a place for everyone at Mas Salagros, no matter the age, and that’s a rarity to be treasured. Many parents get turned off by the idea of less-than-traditional hotels, as there’s a fear that there won’t be a space for children to enjoy themselves. Nothing could be further from reality here, and I’d love to take hikes with my son up Catalonia’s hills when he’s a little older.

Food is a very important part of the Mas Salagros experience, so much that offer organic cooking classes for both adults and children. Every single bit of produce is grown locally and in organic farms – in fact, a good portion comes from the resort’s own garden. The focus is on Mediterranean cuisine, and it’s prepared as originally intended centuries ago, using solely fresh and seasonal ingredients. There are two on-site organic restaurants: 1497 and Cibus. 1497 offers a fairly upscale experience, with select dishes from both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, in a sober ambiance facing the nature reserve; it only serves diners over 8 years old, so it’s not very comfortable for guests with small children. Cibus, meanwhile, has a comprehensive kids’ menu, perfect for young children that are perhaps pickier eaters. Both restaurants are very open and beautiful, with lots of windows overlooking nature. The organic food and wine options were delicious (Mas Salagros also has a chill Gastro Wine Bar), although I would have liked to see more vegan options would have been my only ask.

The breathtaking nature, attention to detail, incredible spa and great gastronomic and all-around experience should make all eco travellers, lovers of relaxation and family people feel right at home at Mas Salagros. Visit the official website here.

Sustainable Toy Brands For Mums Looking To Break The Plastic Cycle – Tenderleaf Toys

Sustainability isn’t just the basis of my work in fashion: it’s a guiding force in my life. I make a very conscious effort to navigate the world through environment-friendly practices, such as trying to cut back on plastic consumption in all areas of life. When I became a mother, this way to see things came with an extra responsibility: I am now raising a small human to be aware of his direct impact on the planet. I wanted to pamper my child with beautiful and fun toys, of course, but I also wanted the things that surround him to be meaningful. And so the quest to find sustainable toys began.

Read more…

Sustainable Toy Brands For Mums Looking To Break The Plastic Cycle – Lanco

Tender Leaf is a fairly new company, but there’s another toy maker I recently fell in love with that has been doing this for decades. Barcelona-based company Lanco has been making fully artisanal rubber toys since all the way back to 1952. The raw material used by Lanco stems from the same place as Tender Leaf Toys: the rubber tree. For over fifty years, this Catalan company has manufactured natural rubber toys for babies and even pets. A family company, Lanco has been at the forefront of European toy making for quite some time, and it was a joy to discover them, as I became a mum.

The Lanco founder and grandfather to the current owners, Alfredo Benet Domingo, was an artist who fell in love with the endless possibilities of rubber. Feeling a deep affinity to children, he decided to focus his talents of creating beautiful and colourful toys for babies. In the 1950s’, sustainability and ecology weren’t particularly popular concepts; it was just the way things were done. It’s a testament to Lanco’s commitment to the craft than in over 50 years they never neglected natural rubber for more toxic materials, staying true to latex for more than half a century. Still, it was only recently, in 2015, that Lanco began focusing its corporate image on the sustainable practices that have been the company’s backbone throughout its history. The company’s manufacturing process occurs in their factory in Fez, Morocco; each toy then heads to Barcelona, the starting point for them to be shipped internationally. As it often happens with traditional and family-based companies, the better part of Lanco workers have been there for over two decades, and women comprise 64% of their staff.

One thing I like about Lanco is that they make toys for babies as young as one month old. The items are hermetically sealed so that no mould can accumulate inside, in turn making it safe for newborn babies that are still too young to be vaccinated, and are thus much more exposed to bacteria. Lanco fulfills every European toy standard, using only biodegradable materials, from natural rubber to food-grade dyes. Every single one of the Lanco toys is crafted by hand, from prototyping in Plasticine all the way to adding the colour details.

Lanco focuses on making toys for babies, with squeaky and silent varieties that are soft to the touch and completely safe for any infant to chew. They have a few collections specialising in one of the toughest moments of parenting a baby: teething, which can be painful and traumatic for everyone in the household. Teethers Amapola are comprised of simple and unicolor shapes for babies to grasp and bite; Teethers Huella toys are shaped as animals, helping babies become familiar with their shapes and stimulated by colours; Teethers Semilla toys are all in bright colours, shaped as plants and fruits; and Teethers Orilla are two-piece toys inspired by waves, showcasing sweet shapes like elephants and birds.

The Spanish company categorizes their baby-focused products on four age groups: 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. The toys for each age are designed to fit each developmental stage, so, for example, toys for newborns have a focus on grip, which they can eventually change between hands.

Lanco also has a whole catalogue dedicated to one of the most traditional and beloved toys we inherited from the 20th century: the rubber duck. After manufacturing rubber ducks for over half a century, Lanco has this product down to an art. They go beyond the yellow rubber duck and expand to more colours, including white, black, green, purple and brown; there’s a holiday version with a Santa hat and they also have some “bad” duckies, including a Diablo one.

The classic versions don’t even begin to cover the wide variety present in the Lanco rubber duck arsenal. They have a multicultural line that includes a Viking and a Miss Piggy-type fashionista; there are work-inspired ducks like a bobby, a fireman and a DJ; and even some romantic ducks, from one holding a rainbow flag to a married couple. The options go on and they’re all very sweet and silly. It’s clear Lanco goes beyond simply making them for little kids; some of these can make a nice present for an adult who has stayed young at heart.

In all, I want my child to grow up in a world that’s increasingly aware of each product: where it comes from, who works on it and on what conditions, what measures are taken for it to be safe. The best way I can think of creating that kind of consciousness in him is by surrounding each step of his development with carefully thought-out items crafted by brands that care. I’ve fallen in love with the products and worldviews of Tender Leaf Toys and Lanco, and I can’t recommend them enough. I’m also madly excited to see my son go through each step of life, and I also can’t wait to find the toys that will help make him a happy and aware little human. Find out more about the company here.

Pure Thoughts, a Britain-Made Alternative to Conventional Candles

I love having candles around the house, particularly those that work their aromatherapy magic. However, I also have an infant at home, and my number one priority is always keeping the safest environment possible for him. Having a small child has made me hyper-aware of the number of mainstream things that contain harmful chemicals, and scented candles are no exception. Babies are highly sensitive to smells and chemicals, and it turns out that traditional candles release a lot of toxins when they’re burning. With that knowledge, my quest to find natural candles that wouldn’t jeopardise the health of my family began: the last thing I’d ever want to do is pollute the air inside the safe space of my home.

As an aromatherapy lover, I’m looking for soothing smells whenever I search for candles. Meanwhile, as a firm believer in sustainability, I also need to find a brand that matches ethical standards. Lastly, as a mum, I’m looking for something that the grownups in the house can enjoy that doesn’t come close to harming the little one. I’m happy to say that, after searching for a while, I’ve finally found the perfect brand: Pure Thoughts. Read more…

Serendipity Organics – A Magical Find

Sustainable fashion is my day-to-day. It is, first and foremost, the focus of my work; however, it is also a life philosophy. I love living in a time in which it is getting easier to consume fashion responsibly – and that goes for myself and my family. Finding sustainable fashion is also about raising my son to understand what his mum does – and why it’s important. So, with motherhood came a new challenge: delving into sustainable children’s fashion.

Children grow up quickly, and it’s ever so tempting to fall into fast fashion to clothe them. Thankfully, there’s an increasing number of brands dedicated to filling the gaps for parents looking to dress their children ethically. I’m always in the search for companies that put their values into manufacture, and attentiveness to organic textiles seems like the best way to do that when it comes to newborn and infant clothes.

Organic textiles stem from an all-around commitment to make clothes that damage the Earth as little as possible. That means changing up the structure of how things have been done for decades: there’s far less water involved when sowing and harvesting, and there no harmful chemicals are used at any point of production. And that’s the basis of the entire philosophy behind Serendipity Organics. Read more…

An Urban Oasis of Luxury at AKA, the Perfect Place for a Longer Los Angeles Stay

Los Angeles is a great town, but that comes with a few hiccups: it’s also noisy and it can even feel altered. The iconic California city might be full of palm trees and have the joy of places by the ocean, but it’s no less a great metropolis. So, while it’s a lovely vacation spot, it can be a little tricky to find peace here, particularly for a couple travelling with a baby.

We needed to stay at a place where we could enjoy the vibe of the City of Angels without compromising a quiet time. We weren’t just craving luxury, we needed a lodging that we could call home, even entertaining guests. AKA gave us exactly what we craved, and then some.

The AKA Collection specializes in creating luxury accommodations for long-term stays, and they have venues in a few major U.S. cities as well as London. There are two AKAs in Los Angeles: one is in Beverly Hills and the other in West Hollywood. We stayed at the latter, and couldn’t have asked for a better location. We were in the midst of the thriving L.A. life, and we had no problem reaching the nearby local hotspots, from Mel’s Diner to Fred Segal. It’s one of the most walkable areas in L.A., so it was easy for us to get around without spending time in traffic – plus, of course, reducing our carbon imprint if only a little. Still, it wasn’t the prime location that made me fall in love with this place, but rather its truly cosy feel.

Our stay at AKA was absolutely incredible. First of all, the staff is among the most wonderful I’ve ever encountered in any kind of lodging. Every single person who works at AKA has a real dedication to service, from the reception to the cleaners. Everyone was very professional and friendly, making an effort in giving us the feeling of home. I was with my husband and our baby of eight and a half months, and when you’re with a small child, you need all the comfort you can get. The staff was quick to remember our preferences, always going the extra mile to make our stay as pleasant as possible. Read more…

The Quiet Cambridge Life at Athena

Cambridge will always be my home, even if I haven’t lived there in quite some time. It’s the town I was born in, where I took my first steps and where I started to become the person I am today. When I was a teen looking to move to the big city, the quiet and academic feel of Cambridge may have seemed almost provincial… but age is the best of life’s teachers. These days, I’m living between two hectic metropolises, London and Los Angeles, with a busy work life and a small child, and I crave the peace of a smaller town. Cambridge seems to be calling me, and I keep coming back to my hometown and reconnecting with it.

I spent last Christmas back there, blissfully accompanied by some of my favorite people in the world. I was surrounded by family and friends in a beautiful house, as we connected through food and kind words, as so many generations have before us. A winter wonderland surrounded us in the deceptively peaceful Cambridge surroundings. The city is a little quieter during the holidays, as many students are back home with their families, yet Cambridge remains a meeting point of cultures from all over the world.

Cambridge is a beautiful place to grow up in, and the university is betting on future generations to choose the town as a place to settle down. The uni partnered up with Hill, one of the biggest house builders in the UK, to create sustainable homes for the next generation of Cambridge dwellers. I’ve written about this project before, which is called Athena, but I keep circling back to its wonderful premise. It’s such a modern concept in a town well known for its ancient buildings and customs, and such a wonderful prospect for people looking to set up a home in Cambridge.

Athena is lifetime homes and apartments inspired by the city’s historic character, built to award-winning designs. Part of an ambitious project by the University of Cambridge to deliver a new neighbourhood for its city; the new district is known as Eddington; so named after the renowned astronomer, mathematician and physicist Sir Arthur Eddington, a Cambridge alumnus and resident in the local area in the early part of the twentieth century. Read more…