High50 http://www.high50.com A global community for people over the age of 50. Reach out. Reboot. Read on. Tue, 27 Jan 2015 15:08:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Getting back into the dating game, by a 50-something male (scary after 28 years of marriage) http://www.high50.com/love/getting-back-into-the-dating-game-by-a-50-something-male http://www.high50.com/love/getting-back-into-the-dating-game-by-a-50-something-male#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:59:05 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=71118
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If you find yourself single in your 50s, be honest, be a gent and get back in shape when dating

After 28 years of marriage, I found myself exactly where I didn’t think I would be… alone. My wife and I met when we were both in our early 20s, married a few years later and started building our lives together.

Suddenly, in my 50s, I’m now alone. My wife fought a two-and-a-half year war against cancer, but in the end it simply overwhelmed her. As a family, we were devastated.

My choices were simple. Sink into a deep, lengthy depression or start living again. I thankfully decided the latter and that meant, at least in part, meeting women. Not just for friendship, but to develop a relationship, sexually and emotionally. But to get there and do that meant dating. Yes, gulp, dating

In our 50s we carry a lot more baggage, or luggage, or life experience. It all amounts to the same thing, and it’s how you deal with that’s important.

If you’re going to start dating in what some call life’s ‘third quarter’ here are a few basic tips to help. I should say up front I feel as good in my 50s as I did in my 30s. I still have a ton of energy, I’m excited about life and I think it’s fun to meet new people. Anyway, here’s what I found useful on my quest.

Be honest

If you tend to exaggerate your worth in the world, embellish, tell tall tales or generally string a line of B.S. then women will see right through you. Women are incredibly intuitive and in all likelihood have put up with someone like you – and are not likely to do it again.

Here’s a fail safe solution: just be honest, it works every time. Tell her your interests, what your children are like. Tell her about your career highlights and lowlights. Just be ready to come clean because she will know immediately if you’re not who you say you are.

Get in shape

In our 50s, our metabolism slows down and our ability to gain weight increases. I have always been a runner, hitting the streets three to five times a week, but never accomplishing much more than five to eight kilometres at a stretch.

So I made a renewed commitment to running, watched what I ate and cut down on my alcohol consumption. It won’t take long for you to notice some results, but you’re going to have to stick with it. Remember, you want to present yourself as in shape and active. Everyone has a few pounds to lose, that’s entirely understandable, but you’re going to have to make an effort.

Pay attention and be a gentleman

Listen to what she has to tell you. Get to know her and find out her story, where she comes from, what she does for a living, her likes and dislikes. 

Especially listen to what she says about her family. I’m looking for a woman has a great relationship with her children and her parents, so I want to know about her family trips, traditions and their love for one another.

Any sign of a dysfunctional family could be a red flag, so pay attention. Also listen for conversation about her ex-husband/boyfriend. You’re trying to get to know one another, not each other’s ex.

And remember your manners – always pay for dinner, with no expectations. It’s the gentlemanly thing to do.

Learn to cook

As your relationship progresses you’ll want to start spending more time at each other’s place. She may cook for you and vice versa.

Find out some of her favourite dishes. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, just follow the recipe and leave yourself good time prior to her arrival to prepare.

She will love that you went out of your way to cook regardless of how well the meal turned out. The point here is you made the effort!

Quick dating tips

Clean up, get a shave and a haircut. Buy some new clothes, develop a fashion sense.

Cut down on the alcohol, learn something about wine and enjoy it.

Try something new. It’ll help you meet new people as well as have something interesting to talk about. I took up downhill skiing, which scared me to death, but I did it and it’s actually kind of fun now.

Buy a new aftershave: smell good and look good.

Make sure above all else, you have fun. 

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100 days to go, but who will actually vote: Why it’s going to be the 50+ General Election http://www.high50.com/life/100-days-to-go-but-who-will-actually-vote-why-its-going-to-be-the-50-general-election http://www.high50.com/life/100-days-to-go-but-who-will-actually-vote-why-its-going-to-be-the-50-general-election#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:43:36 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=71165
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Do the over 50s hold the key to the General Election this May?

So, today marks 100 days to go until the 2015 General Election, God help us all. Amid the blizzard of words and images that will form a wall of white noise ahead of May 6, perhaps the most crucial question of all will hardly gets a look in: who is actually going to vote?

Let’s get on to for whom we might vote for later, but by this I mean, who is physically going to turn up at the booth and put their cross by a name in May. And, let’s be clear a lot of us won’t.

The General Election: who is going to vote?

Do you know what the UK’s voter turnout at General Elections is? In the last three elections it has veered between 59.4% in 2001, 61.4% in 2005 and 65.1% last time around in 2010. This is a huge slump on the 71.4% that brought in the Blair era in 1997 and the 77.7% that saw in John Major in 1992. The post-war record? 83.9% in 1950. It really was another century.

If the last election is anything to go by then, some two thirds of us will vote. Which is why this week’s Populus research into voting habits makes such fascinating reading. The percentage of people that is absolutely certain to vote is a shockingly low 54%. It’s even lower among women (49%).

That’s notable enough, but consider this: only 35% of 18-24 year-olds say they are absolutely certain to vote, only 43% of 25-34 year-olds. That’s a hell of a lot of younger voters who simply will not vote.

Contrast this with these numbers: 59% of 45-54 year-old, 60% of 55-64 year-olds and a healthy 71% of 65+ are adamant that they will vote. But don’t just take the Populus poll’s word for it.

The 50+ election

Last year High50 published the results of our own survey with research Now which found that 85% of 50-65 year-olds say they always or nearly always vote. That “nearly” being a crucial adjective. It makes the constant courting of the young and the daft campaign to give 16-year-olds a vote that they don’t want and won’t take up seem laughable, bizarre even.

In our 50+ Project we also found that 48% of 50-65 year-olds have switched party allegiance in their lives and a stunning 34% are undecided as to for whom they will vote about in May. However, 48% believe we should quit the EU, 49% that there should be a new quota on immigration, and 27% that it should be stopped altogether!

Perhaps surprisingly then, the Populus poll this week found that UKIP would garner 13% of the vote if it was tomorrow. Labour was on 35%, the Conservatives 35%. With LibDems on 9% and the Greens on 6% there is clearly still all to play for.

So, what chance that the parties will actually stop flirting with those that will not vote and focus more on those that will? Well, being cynical about it, be prepared for a whole raft of announcements regarding pensioner benefits closer to election day. They won’t want to announce them this far out. Well, you know older people and their memories…

But, what about the 45-64 year-olds that form a large part of the “squeezed middle” who have taken the brunt of so many of the austerity policies over the last five years?

All the parties need a manifesto for the middle-aged; not just words they put in a document to win votes in May, but something far more profound: a strategy that demonstrates a basic understanding of the demographic changes taking place in Britain that will see 41% of us over the age of 50 by the year 2020.

Sadly, it’s unlikely to happen, particularly given the Punch and Judy nature of our adversarial, short-term voting system. So High50 will provide one instead. We will launch our own 50+ manifesto outlining a response to the demographic shifts. Watch this space next week.

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Be The First To Sample New Dishes at the Iconic Waldorf Astoria in NYC, Rome, Berlin and Beyond http://www.high50.com/travel/restaurants-waldorf-astoria http://www.high50.com/travel/restaurants-waldorf-astoria#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:01:41 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=71015
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Spot the renowned hotel in movies including Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Serendipity and Scent of the Woman

To say the Waldorf Astoria is a luxury hotel is like saying the Mona Lisa is a great painting. The iconic institution is so much more than that – it’s a legendary part of New York City’s history. Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra lived there.

Fidel Castro once entered the lobby with a flock of live chickens. Yassir Arafat was welcomed, The Who was kicked out. With its bulletproof glass suite, it is the default digs for presidents and royalty visiting New York City. If all this means nothing to you, know this: The Waldorf invented room service. Respect.

Signature Dishes

When it comes to a history of culinary genius, cheeseburgers in bed is just the tip of the iceberg. A long list of iconic foods originated here, many of which are credited to a man known as Oscar of Waldorf, who was maître d’hotel for many years, and is now immortalized on their relish bottles. Oscar published a cookbook of his recipes in 1896, and within its pages, recipes for items like eggs Benedict, Waldorf salad, Red Velvet cake, and Thousand Island dressing were sent out into the world.

The hotel has kept up it’s tradition as one of the world’s most inventive culinary institutions, and released several more popular cookbooks over the years, mixing updated versions of traditional dishes with new favorites.

But let’s face it – many of the Waldorf’s recipes are too complicated or exotic for mere mortals to prepare – we’re talking about a restaurant that knows how to serve hippo. (At least they did, for one banquet in 1973.) Better to leave the cooking in the hands of Waldorf’s world-class chefs, and make a reservation at one of their restaurants.

The hotel takes an active role in making sure it’s cuisine stays cutting edge throughout the years and the new Taste of Waldorf program is one interesting way the hotel is introducing new dishes to it’s menu. Now a global chain, the Waldorf has put down roots in cities like Amsterdam, Dubai, and Beijing – and this global reach has allowed the Waldorf’s cuisine to become as diverse as its locations.

Taste of Waldorf

Taste of Waldorf puts together chefs from different culinary backgrounds to create new forms of fusion. The program takes promising young chefs from the James Beard Foundation and sends them to one of the Waldorf’s kitchens in cities like Rome, Edinburgh, and Shanghai to work with Michelin starred chefs to create entirely new recipes. Each duo spent last fall perfecting a completely new dish, blending together their culinary backgrounds to create new forms of fusion cuisine.

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When in Rome, dine at the Rome Cavalieri three-Michelin-starred restaurant

In February, the chefs will descend on the Waldorf Astoria in New York, where they will each prepare their new dish for a panel of world famous foodies, who will ultimately select one as the best dish.

If you can’t make it to New York, no worries – the winning dish will be added to the menu in Waldorf restaurants across the globe, so you can sample it a bit closer to home.

Although if you do make it to New York, you’ll be able to eat what might become the next eggs Benedict against the backdrop of some of the most iconic scenes in Hollywood history.

Pulling up to the hotel might remind you of the scene from Coming to America when Akeem’s parents come to visit – being royalty, of course they stayed at the Waldorf. Or remember Al Pacino’s infamous tango scene in Scent of a Woman? Go ahead, recreate it.

If you’re looking for romance, well it worked for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who may have fallen in love here while filming Mr. and Mrs. Smith. You can even imagine Jennifer Lopez cleaning your room – after all, she worked here in Maid in Manhattan.

Unforgettable Experiences

If you’re feeling more adventurous than nostalgic, one of Waldorf’s more exotic escapes might be more your speed. The hotel just opened it’s doors in Beijing, where the architecture is styled on traditional on Chinese courtyard homes, creating a perfect backdrop for dining on some world-class dim sum.

You can also get your Chi flow sorted out with a Traditional Chinese Medicine consultation, and take part in a Kung Fu tea ceremony that, perhaps thankfully, does not involve actually doing any Kung Fu.

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The Caledonian, or the Caley in Edinburgh has two exquisite restaurants

Or head to Edinburgh, where you can stay next door to an actual castle while sampling world-class whisky before playing a game of golf right where it was invented.

And don’t worry about the planning – the hotel has created a series of destination vacations called “Unforgettable Experiences,” where everything is planned out for you over the course of a few days. Dubai, Jerusalem, Paris and Amsterdam are also offering world-class packages, too. 

So if you’re looking to take in world class luxury with a historical pedigree, don’t feel boxed in by New York – might as well say hello to Paris.

 

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Get fit at 50: 12 ways to eat healthily, from our exercise guru (and champion fitness model) http://www.high50.com/health/healthy-eating http://www.high50.com/health/healthy-eating#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:39:39 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=71060
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Healthy eating doesn’t mean counting calories – stick to our guidelines (and you can have the odd treat too)

I’ve devised a set of eating guidelines which I both use for myself and recommend to others. Why? Because they have worked for me, and along with a plan of weight training and cardio, they have consistently helped me to achieve the twin goals of fatness loss and fitness gain.

Many nutrition strategies rely on a more detailed approach than I’ve described. But I’ve found this is too much for most people, so here are some guidelines to help you eat more healthily without having to count calories and grams of nutrients. I’ve tried this tactic with a number of my personal training clients, and usually with a good level of success (that’s ‘always’ rather than ‘usually’ if they stick with it!).

To make it work, there is a set of guidelines. You can call them rules if you like, but rules can be broken, and guidelines are easier to return to if you have wandered off track. And below are some suggestions for what to eat at each meal.

[No time for exercise? Click here for our guide to fitting it into your day]

The 12-step guide to healthy eating

1. Eat six times a day at two to three-hour intervals. Obviously, vary the times on a day to day basis as each day progresses, but maintain a minimum gap of two, maximum of four hours.

  1. 2. Try to maintain a 12-hour period every day without consuming any calories – an overnight fast. A typical day for me is breakfast at 7:30am, snack at 10am, lunch at 12pm, snack at 2:30pm, another at 5pm, then dinner at 7:30pm.  
  2.  
  3. 3. Each meal and snack should include complete protein, such as non-fried fish, lean meat, egg whites, or added protein powder. I’m not asking you to count, but as a general principle about 40 per cent of your calories should come from protein over the course of a day.

4. Sugary, white starchy fast-digesting carbohydrates are usually a bad thing. However, you should have some of these ‘fast carbs’ at breakfast and after your main physical exercise of the day.

You should include slow carbs, such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and vegetables in the rest of the day’s meals. The carbs form another 40 per cent of your daily calorie intake. In other words, have about the same amount of carbs as protein.

  1. 5. Have some fats, specifically the unsaturated ones found in oily fish, avocados, oils and a few nuts and seeds. Try to keep the saturated fats down, by cutting off the obvious fatty bits of meat and minimise dairy products with fat.

  2. You need to have much less fat overall than protein or carbohydrates. Saturated fats aren’t good, nor are sugars. But the very worst is the combination of the two, such as chocolate, ice cream or pastries. 

6. Early morning cardio-based exercise is ideal, with black coffee and water beforehand. After the cardio, your first meal should be a good breakfast.

7. Choose low-carb, sugar-free or low-fat versions of everything. But check that low or zero fat things aren’t full of carbs – fast carbs can be worse for you than fat.

[Click here to read Chris Zaremba's 'fat to fit at fifty' story]

8. Think portion size: don’t stuff yourself. If it’s something that you love, keep the portion size small. The first mouthful of anything is the best, and the enjoyment drops off with each spoonful, so keep the portion size under control. However, when it comes to protein and slow carbs, eat lots!

  1. 9. Fresh fruit is great – but not too much, as there’s a load of sugar among all those vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. 

  2. 10. Avoid extra salt, fats and sugar: don’t add these to anything. And always choose fresh over processed, grilled over fried, water over juice, and brown over white. 

11. Vary the guidelines to be social, don’t be a diet bore. But always try to load up on the proteins and fibre, and cut down on the sugars and saturated fats.

12. Breaking the guidelines: If something is worth breaking the guidelines, then do so – but make it something special. Make sure you have reasoned this out and justified it before making the decision to break the guidelines at any time; the occasion should be worth it.

Finally, remember, it’s your body. You, and you only are responsible for what you consume. If you put the work during exercise sessions, you need to reinforce that effort with the correct nutrition to keep the fitness-increasing, fatness-reducing programme on track.

What to eat

These menu suggestions are tasty, inexpensive and fit within the rules:

Breakfast

• Oats with hot water, whey protein power, raspberries, blueberries, cinnamon

• Omelette with wholemeal toast and fruit

• Steak and scrambled eggs on toast and a peeled grape or two (as a Sunday treat!)

Lunch and dinner

• Any meat or fish (ideally grilled, not fried), loads of salad or green veg, limited potatoes

• Chicken and vegetable stir fry in a small amount of good oil, with a small sweet potato

• Baked potato (not huge) with tuna and loads of salad

Snacks

• Fresh fruit with nuts – but in small amounts

• Whey protein shake blended with berries

• High-protein, medium or low-carb bar

Chris Zaremba of Fitness over Fifty is a fitness consultant and personal trainer specialising in the over-50s. He is 58, and is the current World Champion Muscle Model and Fitness Model for his age group. You can email him at Chris@FitnessOverFifty.co.uk 

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Bone Broth: Should You Eat It And How Did It Become The First Health Food Trend of 2015? http://www.high50.com/health/bone-broth-should-you-eat-it-and-how-did-it-become-the-first-health-food-trend-of-2015 http://www.high50.com/health/bone-broth-should-you-eat-it-and-how-did-it-become-the-first-health-food-trend-of-2015#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:27:26 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=71076 Health. Bone broth UK. Chicken broth 620 Photo from StocksyIn the US, bone broth has been bubbling away for some time in the wellness world but it boiled over (sorry) into public awareness and the media in November with the opening of tiny broth kitchen, Brodo, on New York’s First Avenue

New Yorkers are now paying around $5-9 for a takeaway cup, Starbucks-style, of a choice of three broths, with add-ins such as fresh grated turmeric or fermented beet juice. It’s the slow food that’s getting a fast food-style makeover.

Earlier this year, it made it into the New York Times. Last night, Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard mentioned having bone broth this week (“Or stock, as sentient adults call it”).

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Marco Canora of Brodo

Brodo chef and owner Marco Canora credits broth with returning him to health after years as a stressed 80-hours-a-week chef, living on booze, fags and bread and butter, had turned him into a health wreck with gout, high cholesterol and high blood sugar.  

Nutritionists, health coaches and healthy eating cooks are extolling broth for its many nutrients, such as magnesium, calcium and amino acids, and its benefits, such as healing a damaged gut, making skin look more youthful (it’s the collagen) and improving joint and bone health.

There’s even a book about it: Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World.  

Bone broth is as old as the hills, long used in cultures all over the world including Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and probably by your nan, as a fortifying food, especially when ill. It’s a digestible way to pack a lot of nutrients into the body when someone can’t stomach heavier food. You could call it the original comfort food.

 

The UK sisters making bone broth cool

If anyone’s going to make broth relevant and cool to today’s cooks and foodies in the UK, it’s Hemsley + Hemsley, sisters Jasmine and Melissa, the health-conscious cooks and bloggers who regularly feature in mags such as Vogue and Marie Claire and are currently writing for The Guardian.

Hemsley and Hemsley Jasmine and Melissa

The Hemsley sisters: “Boil your bones!”

They say: “Nutrient-rich bone broth is at the heart of what we do. It is the foundation of many of our meals, full of flavour and deeply nourishing.

“It is simple and cheap to make, and makes everything taste amazing. It’s a kitchen essential – we’d feel lost without it. ”

Broth (or stock) is a base for soups, stews, rice or pearl barley risotto, sauces, or any dish that you’d use stock or water in. It’s especially good to cook quinoa in (but read this first if you’re cooking quinoa), to add flavor, or couscous. 

Or, as at Brodo, you can add various vegetables and have it as hot drink in between meals.

Broth is made from the bones and leftovers of meat. When it’s made with high quality bones, from organic or grass-fed animals, it contains nutrients including fats, vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin in an easily digestible form. But the bones have to come from a healthy animal if it is to provide you with these nutrients (yes, these days you even need to ask the provenance of animal bones) and, just to state the obvious, not from animals pumped full of antibiotics and hormones.

Marco warns against shop-bought or poorly made broth. He says: “A lot of cheap restaurants use bouillon cubes, so it’s important to ask where your broth is from.

“The majority of broth you buy at grocery stores is shelf-stable at room temperature. Personally, I don’t want a meat product that’s stable at room temperature. That scares the shit out of me.  

“I’ve really become frustrated with the notion that food just needs to taste good. It’s misguided, because food needs to do more than that. Good bone broth, in addition to being absolutely delicious and satisfying, has a long list of health benefits.

“Eating the right foods and caring about your body creates an awareness that permeates every aspect of your life.”

The benefits of bone broth

When the bones are simmered they release several compounds and minerals that benefit our health in several ways:

Anti inflammatory thanks to amino acids such as arginine and glycine.

Healthy hair, nails and skin. The first two because of keratin and gelatin; the skin because of collagen, which helps skin renew, tighten and remain firm, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.

Digestive healing. Collagen soothes the lining of the digestive tract, helping with IBS, acidity, damaged gut, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s. Gelatin also soothes the lining and can help repair leaky gut, and the autoimmune conditions that can result from that.

Cold, flu and immunity. A study by the University of Nebraska found that the amino acids produced when making chicken stock help prevent colds and flu by reducing inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion. Further research suggests it can boost immune system function and benefit arthritis, allergies and asthma.

Sleep and memory, due to a neurotransmitter called glycine.

Bone broth for bone health

In Ayurvedic tradition, which uses food as medicine, bone broth is traditionally eaten to strengthen a person’s bones, based on the principle of ‘like increases like’. Modern science agrees, suggesting that chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, from the bones’ boiled-down cartilage, may help arthritis and joint pain. The minerals in broth include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and glucosamine, some of which are important for bone health. Gelatin contains easily assimilated bone-building minerals that can reduce joint pain and bone loss. And a amino acid called proline regenerates cartilage to help heal joints.

Where to get animal bones for broth

Most local butchers or farmers’ markets will give you bones cheaply or free (let them know in the morning, so they don’t thrown them away as they prepare joints, and pick them up later). Or save the bones from any meat you cook until you have enough. Many online organic butchers sell bones.

How to make bone broth

Broth is a slow food, that is quick and simple to prepare but takes 12 to 24 hours to cook (ideally longer, as the longer it cooks the more nutrients are extracted from the bones), and up to 48 hours for beef bones.

You leave it to cook, though, just topping up the liquid level from time to time. It can be done overnight in a slow cooker/rice cooker, or to make the process quicker, use a pressure cooker.

You could make a big batch at the weekend to use all week, which can be frozen in small batches. (Use glass jars and don’t fill them completely to the top.)

The essential ingredients are bones, meat, fat, water and vegetables. Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (per pot) to further help leach nutrients from the bones into the broth.

After it’s cooked and cooled, a layer of fat will form. Leave this on until you are ready to heat and eat the broth.

This is the Hemsley + Hemsley recipe for bone broth. And scroll to below their recipe as there is a ton of useful and very specific information in the comments and answers below it.

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The Trans-Siberian Railway: take the train across Russia (with vodka, mountains and cabbage soup) http://www.high50.com/travel/slow-travel-at-its-best-experience-the-journey-from-sightseeing-to-vodka-tasting-as-you-dart-across-asia http://www.high50.com/travel/slow-travel-at-its-best-experience-the-journey-from-sightseeing-to-vodka-tasting-as-you-dart-across-asia#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 23:01:04 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=71003
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, credit Simon Pielow

The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express is a top-notch way to enjoy the journey. Photo by Simon Pielow

Flickering past the train window are birch trees and patches of spring snow. And this ever-changing, yet never changing, scenery has become the surprising highlight of my time on the Trans Siberian Express.

It’s slow travel at its best, where the chief thrill is the journey itself: the cosy carriages, on board camaraderie, and the constant edging forward across the vastness of Russia.   

The whole trip from Moscow to Beijing is a journey of 4,736 miles, which takes six days on an ‘ordinary’ through-train, or 16 days on the Tsar’s Gold tourist train, which makes sightseeing stops along the way. 

This German-run ‘cruising on wheels’ experience is for people who prefer everything pre-booked and arranged in advance and don’t fancy tackling the language barrier on regular Russian trains.

Group activities aboard the train

I boarded the Tsar’s Gold train in Yekaterinburg, just east of the Ural Mountains, for a three-night ride to Irkutsk, not really knowing what to expect.  

We chugged out of the city and passing the tiny kitchen at the end of the carriage, I entered the toasty dining car and began meeting the jolly group of about 20 English speakers. Most passengers on the train are German, but the ‘English’ group on this trip were Brits, Danes, Dutch, Italians, Americans, and a Spaniard. We were together for meals and tours. 

It was nice to warm up through, eat a hearty meal of fish salad, cabbage soup, and ‘beef in Russian Monastic Manner’, and move on from the gloomy spots that I’d visited before boarding in Yekaterinburg. In 1918, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were shot, mutilated, and then dumped down a well there. 

I learnt that it wasn’t just the Imperial family whose enforced journey eastwards was doomed, when after dinner, Larissa, the guide for us English speakers gave her evening talk on Siberia. 

“It’s been a place of exile for 300 years, with perhaps 21 million inmates passing through the gulags in total,” she said. The majority of people were sent east during Stalin’s time, when he expanded the isolated prison camps. 

“Even on the trains” said Larissa, “there were gun emplacements on the top of the carriages and hooks underneath to kill anyone trying to escape”.   

I wouldn’t fancy anyone’s chances in this wilderness. Between the cities there was barely a sign of life, save for a meagre hut or two close by the train tracks every few hours. 

I’d imagined that the size of towns would grow smaller and cuter as the train trundled further into Siberia, but Novosibirsk, the first stop after Yekaterinburg and 2,000 miles east of Moscow, was big and bombastic. 

Soviet era buildings here included the country’s largest opera house and a prominent Lenin statue flanked by five heroic workers.    

Five star travel

At Krasnoyarsk, while other passengers were having a city tour, I asked train manager Hans for a peek in all the carriages. Squeezing past a large man with a small vacuum cleaner, I entered the Classic category of cabin a basic compartment with two bench seats that convert to four bunks, with shared toilets at either end of the carriage. It costs about £4,000 one-way per person. 

“All of our classes include the same meals, and sightseeing,” said Hans, as we moved briskly down the corridor. The windows of the Nostalgia cabin, with one shower shared between two cabins, were being cleaned inside and out — “so our guests can always take good photographs”, he explained. 

At the front of the train were swish modern Bolshoi Class compartments with double beds and an en suite toilet and shower. 

I caught up with the group walking towards the city with local guide Irena. Siberia may conjure an empty freezing wasteland to us, but almost 25 million people live here, in an area about the size of China. 

Down by the river promenade, the spring sun was enlivening everyone’s spirits. Sitting on the open deck of a large pleasure boat, I fell into a backslapping beer-fuelled chat with some young Russian lads about football and pop music.

Vodka tasting and magical moments

On my last night aboard the train I returned to my compartment tipsy from a robust vodka tasting evening with Larissa and the group. I fell asleep wondering if she had really said that Tsar Peter the Great had made dancing and moustaches compulsory? 

We joked as the train approached Irkutsk: “Yes Peter the Great really did that” beamed Larissa. Then after my 100-hour stint on the train, I popped back to the compartment for a last stare into the birch forests. 

The monotony had become magical, the carriages homely, and several of the group were now friends. What a cracking experience, and what a wrench to leave for my six-hour flight back to Moscow.

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Nine unusual Valentine’s Day ideas, from licking whisky off a model to love-bird watching in Norfolk http://www.high50.com/love/nine-unusual-different-valentines-ideas http://www.high50.com/love/nine-unusual-different-valentines-ideas#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:59:36 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=71027
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Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be dull

Valentine’s Day: the time of year when expectations are high and many restaurants merely turn on the schmaltz with unimaginative pink menus and icky background music.

Yet dining out doesn’t have to be a crushingly predictable, candle-lit affair. There are quirky alternatives. Reassuringly too, there are restaurants and hotels that simply offer their usual cosseting, impeccable service adding a few enticing extras. 

Here are our picks.

Lick whisky from the body of a model

Yes, this is a whisky-tasting with a difference: you get to lick the spirit off the bodies of performers, including a 50 year-old Hell’s Angel. The ‘anatomical whisky tasting‘ event pairs whiskies with performers of the same age – so a 30-year-old spirit with a 30-year-old model.

The tasting starts with a 25 year-old single malt, progressing upwards to a rare 50-year-old dram. The performers will each tell the compelling stories of their lives too, offering reflections on the implications of the ageing of spirits and humanity alike. 

The event takes place at the Ace Hotel Shoreditch at 3pm and 7pm on 14 Februrary. Tickets £48 per person.

A romantic dinner in a Victorian apothecary 

Stay in Shoreditch for dinner at Angela Hartnett’s Merchant House Tavern, a Victorian warehouse/apothecary conversion with a dark moody Manhattan vibe and leather seats like the back seat of a vintage Jag.  

There’ll be no concession to Valentine’s Day, so dine off Neil Bothwick’s usual menu of hearty dishes that may include venison haunch with beetroot and quince and sherry trifle.  

How compatible are you? Have your handwriting analysed

Couples dining at The Corinthia Hotel can book a handwriting analysis with graphologist Emma Bache, to reveal their personality secrets and see if they really click.

Then you can celebrate at the hotels Northall restaurant, where chef Garry Hollihead focuses on seasonal produce and Cornish fish. Try his roast monkfish with raisin and caper puree.

Valentine’s at a secret 1920s pop-up speakeasy

To add a bit of mystery to your relationship, try a Valentine’s at a 1920s-styled clandestine pop-up party taking place in a secret Art Deco speakeasy space behind a public library. You won’t know where until the day before the event. 

Benoit Viellefon and his orchestra (who played at Wills and Kate’s wedding) will provide swing jazz and ragtime rhythms for dancing in the palm tree-lined ballroom. 

There will be burlesque artists and a dance performance by the Gatsby Girls, plus Auntie Maureen playing vintage tunes.  

Flapper dresses are de rigeur. Dinner (£35.00) will be cooked by a Michelin-starred chef.   

Dinner and dancing at the Ritz

Be a Strictly star for the night, at one of the Ritz Hotel’s iconic dinner dances (£225 per head). Be inspired to tango, rumba and salsa after watching the resident dancers and Peter O’Donnell’s band.  

Chef John Williams MBE has put together a special four-course menu, including turbot with shellfish sauce, Bresse chicken Champenoise and a glorious-sounding chestnut Mont Blanc with Perigord truffle ice-cream. 

Give the gift of sleep (and a private balcony garden)

The Sleep Well Experience at the Marriott Grosvenor Square is designed to lull you into a luxurious and soothing sleep. Along with a four-poster bed, a private balcony garden with tinkling water feature and cosy lanterns, sleep-inducing L’Occitane products, lavender pillow mist, The Sleep Book, a ‘sleep bracelet’ by the jeweller Philip Stein, designed to work with natural frequencies to help you sleep better (huh?!) you will also dine at Gordon Ramsey’s Maze restaurant, located in the hotel.

The ‘Sleep Menu’ at Ramsey’s includes stunning fish courses and dishes straight from the open-plan sushi bar plus a show-stopping desert. For those frazzled by Feb and in need of some rest and relaxation this is just the ticket. Package is £499 a night.

An elegant 17th century Valentine’s

For a complete splurge out of London, the 17th century Lucknam Park Hotel’s Park restaurant has a seven-course feast by Michelin star chef Hywel Jones.  

Dishes include oysters with apple salsa and borage, lobster with Indian spices, mango and coriander, and soufflé with rosewater ice-cream.  

A two-night stay includes the feast, a Brasserie lunch, use of the spa and champagne in your room on arrival (from £470 per room per night).  

Extras include an Indian street feast or vegetarian cookery class in the cookery school, riding or dressage classes.

Love in the Highlands

“Lovelier and more romantic than anything I’d ever seen,” was Queen Victoria’s verdict on the streams and gnarled oak woods of the West Highlands, close to Inverlochy Castle.  

Nature is still virtually untouched here. However, dining on Philip Carnegie’s menu in the castle’s baronial dining room (£67) is opulent in the extreme.   

Make the visit extra memorable by arriving in style on the overnight Caledonian Sleeper, where haggis, tatties and neep can be served at leather banquettes in the grand dining car.  

Spot the love birds in north Norfolk

Twitchers will revel in a chauffeur-driven visit to RSPB Bird Reserve, as part of a Valentine’s stay at former Victorian farmhouse Titchwell Manor in north Norfolk, where chef Eric Snaith is renowned for his creative cooking. 

A five-course menu will include herbs incorporated from the garden.   

Enjoy nature’s aphrodisiacs 

In complete contrast, there are no waiters or finery and no bookings at The Company Shed in West Mersea, Colchester; merely abundant fresh seafood.  

Arrive well before noon to secure one of a handful of tables to feast on oysters with cream and parmesan, scallops and lobster. 

No music and no entertainment, aside from the queues and the sound of the wind whistling though the rigging of the sailing boats close by.  

Though, they now have a licence, it is still possible to bring your own bottle. But be warned, they stop serving at 4pm.

Go for some sophistication in a hidden idyll

Rustic in its location amid vineyards, yet rather more sophisticated with soaring Elizabethan beams and beautifully-set tables, the barn restaurant of Wyken Vineyards is a hidden idyll.  

Though the formal gardens aren’t open in the winter, it is possible to glimpse the immaculate box hedges and spot a meandering peacock. 

For Valentine’s lunch and dinner, on 13 and 14 February, choices including lobster jelly, Bressingham duck bresola, guinea fowl, beetroot tart tatin and Wyken rhubarb with pistachio shortbread (£42.50) plus a glass of Wyken kir royale.

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The Top Five Fitness Trends For Over-50s in 2015: From Body Weight Training at Number One to Yoga http://www.high50.com/sports/the-top-five-fitness-trends-for-over-50s-in-2015-from-body-weight-training-at-number-one-to-yoga http://www.high50.com/sports/the-top-five-fitness-trends-for-over-50s-in-2015-from-body-weight-training-at-number-one-to-yoga#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 12:23:25 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=71017 Fitness_top-fitness-trends-2015_YogaAs with fashion, fitness trends come and go. And according to the American College of Sports Medicine we should ditch the water workouts and Pilates and start embracing body weight training and functional fitness. Its annual survey of global trends in the health and fitness industry forecasts the top 20 most popular workouts for the year ahead and there are some surprising changes.

Formerly popular activities like Zumba, indoor cycling and Pilates no longer make the top 20, whereas yoga and wellness coaching are making a big comeback.

So what will we be getting into in 2015? Using the ACSM survey as our starting point, we have compiled our own, age appropriate, list of the top five fitness trends for 50-somethings in 2015.

Body weight training

Using your own body weight as a form of resistance training is one of the cheapest and most effective forms of exercise. It’s no wonder it claimed the number one spot in the ACSM’s 2015 survey. Instead of using complicated gym equipment or lifting heavy weights, body weight training involves exercises such as push-ups, squats and planks.

It can help to build muscle, improve mobility and boost strength. Body weight training offers a versatile option to those who can’t always make it to the gym – ideal for anyone with a busy lifestyle – and can be performed almost anywhere, from your local park to your own front room.

If you belong to a gym you could book a session with one of their personal trainers to get you started. Alternatively you could learn the basics from a book like The Complete Guide to Bodyweight Training by Kesh Patel or the DVD You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren (or his free YAYOG Android app).

Yoga

It may seem contradictory to include the ancient practice of yoga as one of the latest fitness trends. However, this physical, mental and spiritual practice is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, leading to a resurgence in popularity. From Bikram yoga, practiced in a heated room, to Yogalates, a fusion of yoga and Pilates, there are now many varied forms to choose from.

While yoga itself is a spiritual path comprising many aspects, classes generally consist of a combination of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). The health benefits of these are numerous, from increased flexibility and stronger muscles to improved posture and reduced stress.

Indeed, studies have shown that yoga can lower high blood pressure and improve the symptoms of depression. To find a local class, visit the British Wheel of Yoga (this is the Sport England recognised national governing body for yoga) or ask friends who they recommend in your area.

Ballet classes

Many of us lack core strength as we get older, but as an alternative to Pilates classes, consider taking up a ballet class. More and more people are taking up the barre as adult ballet classes are popping up all over the US.

The benefits are numerous. Not only will you improve your core strength and overall posture but you’ll strengthen your body and lengthen those muscles that don’t get used on a daily basis.

Ballet classes are a low impact but high-intensity workout suitable for women – and men – of all ages. If sweating it out at the gym doesn’t appeal to you and you’re looking for a more refined workout, then this could be just the thing. Look out for a class near you, or learn the basics with a DVD such as Ballet Fitness with Nicky McGinty

Functional fitness

Functional fitness exercises are designed to train your muscles to carry out everyday activities in a safer and more efficient fashion. If you’ve ever pulled a back muscle while lifting a heavy object, this is the activity for you. There is a big emphasis on core stability and teaching the muscles to work together rather than isolating them.

A squat is an example of a functional exercise because when you perform the action you are training the same muscles that are used when you get up from a chair or pick up something from the floor. This type of activity is particularly good for preventing injuries and can be done at home or in the gym. It can involve using equipment such as kettle bells, fitness balls and weights.

The benefits of functional fitness include improved balance, coordination, force, power and endurance. To find out how to get started, ask in your local gym or look for a personal trainer in your local area who can teach you some of the exercises.

Treadmill training

If you’ve always fancied taking up running but can’t bear the thought of endless laps around the park in the cold and wind, treadmill training could be your ideal activity. This up-and-coming fitness trend involves interval training on treadmills, mixing speed, duration, incline and recovery. It’s very similar to a spinning class, but with treadmills instead of bikes, and helps to bridge the gap between High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and long-distance running.

Treadmill training originated in New York last year and its popularity is growing. Running offers many health benefits, from improved cardiovascular health to beating low mood, anxiety and stress. In fact, studies have shown that just 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill can lift the mood of those suffering with a major depressive disorder. As running can be a lonely activity, joining a class will help to motivate you and spur you on.

Again, ask about classes at your local gym or look on the internet to find a class near to you.

So, if your New Year’s resolution is to get fit in 2015, try out one of these new trends. You’ll get fit and may even have fun at the same time!

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Wearable technology for over-50s: it’s not just for youngsters – and could benefit our health http://www.high50.com/health/wearable-technology-for-over-50s-and-how-it-can-improve-your-health http://www.high50.com/health/wearable-technology-for-over-50s-and-how-it-can-improve-your-health#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 23:01:23 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=70959
Wearables for over 50s. Apple Watch demo by CEO Tim Cook. Photo from Corbis

Apple CEO Tim Cook demonstrates apps that can run on the much-anticipated Apple Watch

Remember being 22? You only knew a hundred or so people. You could eat as much as you liked and not gain weight. You could sleep anywhere and wake up without a crick in your neck. You had one set of smart clothes that you saved for job interviews. Oh, and you had no money.

Fast forward 30 or 40 years and none of that’s true any more. Which is why people like you and me are the key market for wearable technology.

We’ve been squeezed into overcrowded trains and hunched over badly set-up computers for decades. No wonder our posture is shot to hell. And now we’ve got ourselves into these terrible slouchy habits, how are we going to get out of them? Enter the Lumo Lift, a posture trainer that clips to anything you’re wearing and nags you into sitting up straight better than any maiden aunt. 

Tech analysts predict that smart clothes (that’s clothes with in-built sensors rather than your interview suit) are the future, but if that that bad back of yours won’t wait for the next generation of technology to arrive, you can get the Lumo Lift from Amazon today for less than the price of an osteopath’s appointment.

Every January it gets harder to get rid of that post-Christmas spare tyre. You don’t actually need a whole stack of technology to help you jog around the block, of course, but devices such as the Nike+ sensor, a tiny widget that lives in a dedicated pocket in your trainers, can turn that dull chore into something approaching fun.

By tracking and gathering statistics on your daily run you can gamify the otherwise tiresome jogging experience. The various data upload into an app on your phone so you can compare the morning’s run to your previous efforts, motivating you (hopefully) to progress.

Best of all, it interfaces with iPhones and iPads to give you vital progress reports when you’re on the move.

For more all-round feedback, take a look at the Fitbit range of motion-tracking wristbands. Giving you day-long data on distance covered, flights of stairs climbed, and heart rate they provide solid evidence of how virtuous you’re being with your ‘get off the bus a stop early, always take the stairs’ programme.

Of course you may already have some of this functionality: Apple’s iOS 8 included the Health app, which tracks all sorts of daily movement data automatically. If you own a recent iPhone you’re probably already collecting data. A phone may not technically count as ‘wearable technology’ but many of us are more attached to our phones than we are to our underpants these days.

And if you do have an iPhone, the whole system is about to get a lot more exciting when Apple release its watch in March.

The Apple Watch’s standout feature for health-conscious over-50s is a heart rate monitor. It’s little more than a nice extra for casual exercisers. But for serious exercisers who want to more accurately calculate calorie expenditure or stay within a target or ‘fat-burning’ range, it’s very useful. And if you’re someone who needs to be a bit careful about overstressing your heart, it’s invaluable. 

And the heart isn’t the only organ that needs a little help now and then. The older we get, the more people we’ve met. So the more faces we need to remember. And it doesn’t get any easier.

While the current generation of Google Glass has just been discontinued, we all know the idea will be back soon enough. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll have glasses, or even contact lenses, that can compare the face in front of us with our address book and remind who we’re talking to before the cocktail party embarrassment sets in. 

While we’re looking further ahead, what about the Onyx brooch that brings that Star Trek ‘Next Gen communicator’ into the real world? Cambridge Consultants’ concept hairslides that detect excessive sun exposure? Or Mophie’s jacket, a jacket that contains enough battery reserve to power your Apple or Android phone, plus all these other things? 

One thing’s for certain: your wardrobe is about to get a whole lot smarter.

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Try Pact Coffee for a fresher, better tasting coffee, and get your first bag for just £1.95 http://www.high50.com/food/try-pact-coffee-and-get-your-first-bag-for-just-1-95 http://www.high50.com/food/try-pact-coffee-and-get-your-first-bag-for-just-1-95#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 16:04:30 +0000 http://www.high50.com/?p=70987 Offer pact coffee 620 x 349Pact Coffee are on a mission to get you drinking the best coffee you’ve ever made.

Their world-class beans are lovingly hand-roasted in London with each bag ground to suit your brew method at the very last minute to ensure maximum freshness.

Pact’s service is completely flexible, so you can set your delivery preferences to suit the amount you drink. Request a spur-of-the-moment, next-day delivery when you’re running low, or pause deliveries if you’ve got all you need. 

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