To ensure that I was fully in mind and body to start the wedding season of 2012 I kicked off the year with a friend at a yoga retreat on the coast in Morocco. This was the first retreat I had ever been on and so I arrived with an open mind and willingness to embrace whatever was on offer. Needless to say the excesses of the holiday season had taken it's toll and I was happy to cut out alcohol, caffeine and meat. Our group of 10 were effectively guinea pigs for the soft opening of the resort and so we had the run of the place. The resort itself, Paradis Plage, sits just along the coast from Tagazhout, a surfing town 40 minutes outside of Agadir, the nearest airport and has billed itself as a 'surf, yoga and spa' retreat . The tiny fishing village sits along side hills that ripple softly like fabric and the earthy coloured buildings squat low to the ground.
The rooms are all spacious apartments, simply decorated and with stunning views of the sea. The yoga sala was perfectly set upon the edge of the sea with 240 degree views of the coastline. Jax May Lysycia the instructor is the most beautifully honed woman whose body is an inspiration! She led us through 4 hours of yoga and meditation each day; two hours in the morning after a silent beach walk during sunrise as the long shadows reached across the textured sands of the empty beach, and two hours in the evening as the sun dropped into the sea in front of us. Under her reassuring guidance I found myself able to discover a flexibility in my body that I never knew I had, leaving me feel strong, supple and graceful before the end of the week and with a craving to do yoga daily.
We were particularly lucky to have had a group of 10 who bonded immediately and we spent a blissful week relaxing in the gorgeous winter sun, surfing, trekking in the dusty but aptly named Paradise Valley, paddle boarding on lake and enjoying a hammam in the spa.
And then the drive back to Marrakesh for two days of city (and excessive eating!) with new and old friends and staying at the spectacular Villa Filali with it's eclectic mix of traditional Moroccan style with flashes of kitsch.
The retreat was organised by Formentera Yoga who are based in Ibiza and run retreats throughout the year. I can't wait to book onto the next one and it will be without doubt and ongoing pilgrimage.
During quieter times I like to make the most of my destination weddings and so a wedding in Barra, the Southern most island of the Outer Hebrides, became a week long road (and boat) trip for me and mum in early June.Chris and Meghann are Americans who somehow found my details and got in touch. As a MacNeil, Meghann wanted to celebrate her Scottish heritage by marrying on the Isle of Barra, at the seat of the MacNeils, Kisimul Castle; situated on a tiny island in the bay of Castlebay. Given the journey involved getting from Pasadena where Chris and Meghann and their families live to Barra it was close family only.You can fly to Barra (it is the only airport in the world that has scheduled beach landings!) but mum andI decided we had time to take the slow route which involved me collecting her from Inverness airport (she coming from Gatwick, me coming from Inshriach House’s folk festival Insider, a little worse for wear) and driving to Oban for the 7 hour ferry crossing to Barra’s Castlebay. With only about 1600 residents, island life is a little different to life on the mainland. Our B&B (Tigh Na Mara Guesthouse) host looked quizzically at us when we requested keys for our rooms, ‘you won’t need those here’, he assured us. How refreshing.I joined the family for the rehearsal on the tiny castle out on the bay and the wind and rain whipped around us. The next morning however, the sky was blue and the waters calm. I loved the intimacy of a wedding of only 11 people (including the bride and groom) and the setting couldn’t have been more picturesque. It was a joy to spend time with them and their lovely families and they invited me and mum to join them for the wedding meal at The Castlebay Hotel that evening after I had stolen them away for a half hour for some informal shots on the beach. After honeymooning in Italy they are now back in the US and have a summer of celebrations to share their marriage with wider friends and family.
I've just arrived back home in Surrey after a whirlwind of three weddings, two engagement shoots and a magazine shoot in Scotland. I'm working through the editing but seem to have started backwards with this shoot being the last one I did last night whilst it's fresh in my mind. Hannah went ahead and booked me for her wedding at Mar Hall before we had even met. When we did finally meet it was a fleeting coffee in a café in Glasgow after I had spent a very special night with friends on a Gullane Beach in Edinburgh. I had woken at 6am to the sound of the sea and a clear blue sky before hurrying back to Glasgow to meet Hannah.
So on Sunday afternoon I finally got a chance to spend a bit more time with Hannah and to also meet Danny. Despite Hannah having just come back from her hen weekend in Ely she looked gorgeous and fresh faced. Hannah and Danny are easily the youngest couple I’ve photographed at only 23 (they will be 24 when they marry next month) and I sighed over how lucky they were to have avoided 10 years of dating and uncertainty – and of course that they will look handsome and young in their wedding pictures (something I feel I have now missed the boat on!)
They took me down to Cramond Shore in Edinburgh where Danny proposed after setting a treasure hunt trail for Hannah. After a few wrong turns she followed the clues including an ipod message left with an ice cream seller, a boat named ‘Hannah’ and a Harry Potter-esq tree with sprawling exposed roots to find Danny waiting for her on a bench by the river with a ring and a bottle of champagne. We followed the route of the treasure hunt stopping for plenty of photos along the way. The sun even came out for a bit as they snuggled down into the grasses on the beach. Such perfect young love.