5 Fun New Year’s Resolutions – and how to keep them!

Why are New Year’s resolutions so difficult to keep? Every year we start off with such good intentions, but, according to research, only around 1 in 10 of us stick to our resolutions.

This is because most of us set unrealistic goals at the start of the year that we can’t possibly keep…and that makes us reluctant to set any more.

The key to keeping your New Year’s resolutions is to make them small, easy to maintain and fun! So here we’re taking five common New Year’s resolutions and recommending a fun way to make your aspirations a reality.

1. Travel more

mountain path leading to lake at Cwm Idwal, Devils Kitchen

First off, forget expensive, faraway destinations and those stressful hours trapped in the departures lounge. There are plenty of unexplored gems right here in the UK, just waiting to be discovered.

In fact, for breathtaking mountain scenery, an intriguing local language and and even a dormant volcano, you need only go as far as north Wales and the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. If you want to avoid the crowds of Snowdon itself, explore the rich natural and cultural treats of the rest of the park, including the ancient castles and events celebrating Wales’ ‘Year of Legends’.

2. Get fit

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The bad news is that spending money on a gym membership you’ll hardly ever use will not get you fit. Amazingly, millions of pounds are still wasted in this way every year in the UK. The good news, however, is that a sure-fire way of making exercise work is to make sure you enjoy it. Instead of a sweaty, crowded gym, get yourself fit out amongst some of the outstanding natural beauty that Britain has to offer.

The Forest of Dean, just north of the River Severn and close to the Welsh border, is the perfect location for a fitness break. There’s a simply incredible number of activities available in this spectacular location, including cycling, caving, climbing and canoeing. There’s even diving at one of the UK’s newest inland dive sites. Plus, of course, there’s the simple pleasure of walking and hiking around one of England’s surviving ancient woodlands. You’ll be so captivated by the amazing scenery, you won’t even realise how fit you’re getting!

3. Learn a language

Le Mont Saint Michel
They say the best way to learn a new language is not in the classroom, but to immerse yourself in the culture. With a self catering break in the gorgeous countryside of France or Italy, you can escape the stifling cocoon of hotels, cities and resorts, and mingle with the locals. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can pick up the basics in a supermarket or cafe. Plus, by visiting a stunningly beautiful location, you’ll give yourself even more motivation to persevere with the language.

An ideal place to start your learning is the stunning Armorica Regional Natural Park in Brittany. From the mountains to the sea, you’ll discover some incredible wildlife and breathtaking views. Here, you can forget the old French stereotypes: the local Bretons are very friendly, and fortunately they’re rather used to helping Brits struggling with the language!

4. Relax more

Bamburgh Castle and seat

To truly achieve relaxation, you need to give your body the most peaceful stimuli: creature comforts, natural beauty, and calm, quiet surroundings. Likewise, there are a few things you need to avoid at all costs, such as long-haul flights, stressful airports and lost luggage.

How about a holiday let with a hot tub, surrounded by the rugged beauty of Northumberland? In this most northerly part of England, you can really get away from the crowds, with miles of stunning coastline and woodland to enjoy.

5. Spend more time with the family

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Spending more time with the family does not mean staying at home in front of the telly! Jobs, housework and the distractions of normal life mean that getting away is the best option for renewing those family bonds. Getting everyone from the kids to the grandparents in one place is a great idea, and there’s no easier way to do so than by renting a large holiday cottage.

There’s no better choice than the Peak District, Britain’s first national park. If you’ve got family members spread far and wide, its location right in the heart of Britain, nestled just between Manchester and Sheffield, will ensure it’s easy to get to for everyone. With so much to see and do throughout its 500 square miles, there’ll be something to keep the whole family entertained, before you all come together for some real family bonding.

We hope this has given you some inspiration for how you can keep your New Year’s resolutions this year, whilst at the same time exploring some of the wonderful countryside right on your doorstep.

Your Favourite French Regions

Mont St. Michel reflected in the sea at night

The Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel: one of the most iconic landmarks in France

France remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe and with good reason. This huge country offers a wide range of varied landscapes and holiday settings, added to that the lure of fine wine and food, and it is easy to see why France maintains its strong appeal. Whether you are looking for winter sports in the Alps, or summer sun in the Cote d’Azur, here at Cottages4you we have a huge selection of villas, gites and cottages across the length and breadth of this beautiful country to choose from. Here are some of our customer recommended French destinations for 2014.

Brittany

Brittany or ‘Bretagne’ on the North West corner of France shares many scenic characteristics with its cousins across the channel in Cornwall and Devon. Indeed, the historic Celtic heritage is shared with the British Isles the result of a legacy of a trading network going back centuries. The sheer proximity to the UK makes Brittany eminently accessible via Ferry and consequently one of the most popular destinations in the country. With such a large rugged coastline, the beaches here are the envy of Europe. Popular with surfers, the coastline is perfect for water-sports and walkers alike. The outdoor lifestyle reflects the laid back atmosphere in region fiercely proud of its history. The result is an ambiance distinctly ‘Bretagne’ in character, indeed many locals still retains this ancient language. Be sure to include Rennes, Saint-Malo and Auray on your ‘to do list’ on your next visit to Brittany.

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Amboise on the Loire River

Loire Valley

Known as the ‘Garden of France’, the Loire Valley for many represents the very essence of a French holiday. The patchwork scenery conjures images of vineyards and golden fields full of sunflowers, with the Loire River itself providing a timeless backdrop to beautiful chateaux across the region.  The favourable climate helps nurture grapes which produce some of the world’s finest and best known wines including Muscadet and Sancerre.  Set within the historic heart of France, the region retains much of its Medieval and Gothic architecture the source of inspiration for writers and poets across the ages.  Amongst the Loire highlights include the unforgettable Chartres, Bourges and of course Orleans, home to one of France’s most famous historic figures, Joan of Arc. With so many beautiful chateaux to choose from, visitors are spoilt for choice but the Renaissance castle at Chambord is one of the most impressive sights in France.

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Normandy

The expansive 400 mile coastline in Normandy will forever have its place in history and this year marks the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings, the turning point in the Second World War. In contrast to its rugged Bretagne neighbour, Normandy less exposed Channel coastline is gentler in comparison to Brittany with rolling greenery bordering long sandy beaches protected by dunes.  Perhaps the most beautiful landmarks on this delightful coast, is the spectacular Mont Saint-Michel.  This imposing island is dominated by its 8th century Abbey, a world heritage site that looks out across a stunning tidal vista. The view from the top of the Abbey is unforgettable, and at night when the castle is illuminated against the backdrop of the sea, you are left with a magical impression of truly one of the most iconic landmarks in France.

Pas-de-Calais

Visible from the white cliffs of Dover, the Pas-de-Calais lies a very short hop across ‘Le Manche’ for holidaymakers from Britain. Particularly popular in the 19th century as the coastal summer retreat of choice for ‘city weary’ Parisians, the region retains a strong cultural association to its Flemish neighbour. With its proximity to Belgium, much of the local architecture retains a strong Flemish influence, particularly amongst some of the region’s most beautiful cathedrals. Indeed, the Pas-de-Calais geographically retains the character of it ‘lowland’ neighbours, with large expanses of flatlands extending east towards the border with Belgium. Today the Pas-de-Calais renowned for its vibrant flavour typified by a general celebration of life reflected in the varied festivals throughout the year. Perhaps the best known of which is the ‘Dunkirk Carnival’, a lively series of events which will take place each weekend through February and March.

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Beynac-et-Cazenac

Dordogne and Lot

The seductive south west of France with its promise of summer warmth, culture and fine cuisine has all the ingredients for a perfect extended holiday in France. The departments of Dordogne and Lot have much in common, with beautiful countryside and both enjoying long hot summers and mild winters. For many the attraction of Dordogne revolves around its lush greenery and slow pace of life which in many ways represents an echo of France from another age. It is an image that has drawn Britain’s throughout the decades and indeed you may find echo’s from rural England too, as many have been so enchanted by the region that they have the Dordogne their home.  Be sure to enjoy the sumptuous local delicacies in the famed local markets that offer special artisan shopping experience a world away from all too familiar high street clones. Highlights include the caves at Lascaux, the gardens of Marqueyssac, the picturesque village of Loubressac and the Chateau de Bonaguil.

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