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Europe Football International Sports United Kingdom

A Round-Up Of The 19/20 English Premiere League And A Look Towards The Season Starting September

The 2019/20 English Premiere League (EPL) finally drew its curtains on Sunday, 26 July 2020.

Spanning almost an entire year, the 28th season was the league’s longest ever, with an unprecedented 100-day hiatus enacted from March till mid-June.

After global sporting events had been put on an indefinite hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league subsequently drew up plans to safely reinstate the season, titled ‘Project Restart’. It officially began on 17 June 2020 behind closed doors but televised.

As its trophy was lifted by eventual champions Liverpool in a vacant Anfield stadium, we marvel at some of the accolades, statistics, and circumstances which made this a remarkable season throughout.

The Champions

Liverpool ended their 30 year hunt for a league title since 1990, and their first in the modern Premiere League era. Beyond the trophy, the Merseyside club boasts a treasure trove of impressive achievements throughout their dispatch.

The league leaders finished the season with a 99-point record, just a point shy of breaking Manchester City’s 2017/18 stronghold, but amassed a major 25-point lead during the season, the biggest ever obtained in English top-flight history. They’ve also pipped City to the most home wins in a row (21), outshining the blues (20) in their 2011-2012 season.

This Liverpool team are also the quickest to win the title in history, with 7 matches to spare, outing both Manchester outfits (5).

Lastly, they’ve also achieved a feat no other team has in any of Europe’s top leagues, boasting 79 points from their first 27 matches to be awarded the best league start ever, a stat befitting of the English and European champions.

The League

The hiatus and eventual restart was a welcome sight for some and saw a fall from grace for others.

Frank Lampard’s maiden season in-charge in the league saw him silence critics and steer Chelsea to a 4th place finish, meaning their position for Champions League football was deservedly secured ahead of their FA Cup final against Arsenal, which they eventually lost. The Gunners plundered for glory in the Cup as their only hopes for European competition, after finishing 8th under Mikel Arteta.

Level in points to Chelsea (but besting in goal difference) were 3rd placed Manchester United, who much enjoyed a spring in form as the only team left unbeaten since the restart (5W2D), with many attributing their success to January capture Bruno Fernandes.

The Red Devils, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers, are also still in the mix for the Europa League trophy, which could see either Ole’s or Nuno’s side possibly come away with a Champions League position should either emerge as champions.

Pep Guardiola’s side finished 18 points behind Liverpool, and despite being runner-up’s, have drawn criticism from pundits and watchers for their unfamiliar erratic form throughout the season.

Leicester City’s hopes of obtaining a Champions League place after finishing 5th were dashed by Manchester City’s successful appeal to overturn their UEFA ban, and re-occupying a Champions League seat, which see the foxes competing in the Europa League instead, alongside José Mourinho’s 6th placed Tottenham Hotspur.

The Pandemic

The league adapted to a variety of changes which were put in place for the pandemic. ‘Project Restart’ saw teams train in social distancing groups of 5, with squads being segregated into allotted training schedules and divided segments of training grounds, with dedicated coaching staff for each session.

Stadiums were allowed a maximum of 300 people at any one time, which meant beyond squad members, club staff, and grounds caretakers, matches were played in front of a barren stadium void of chants and cheering.

An inevitable consequence of this meant home and away games did not replicate the same ambience and mental weight as status quo, but also that watchers of the game on television could opt between ‘simulated stadium ambient’ sounds of cheers, or simply hearing the players’ shouts and screams as they were.

FIFA also allowed a use of 5 substitutes instead of the usual 3, which addressed fitness concerns and workload on players post-restart. Dedicated “red zones”, such as dressing rooms and tunnel/technical areas, were enacted with specific health restrictions, which included barcode scanning and COVID-19 health questionnaires prior to entry.

It remains to be seen how the 2020/21 season, beginning in September will shape up to be and whether the plethora of measures will still be in place/policed, but many grey areas, like the non-policing and non-punishment of players for violating stipulations, as well as post-match embracing and celebrations, will be enforced, if at all.

Beginning 12 September 2020, the season will see West Bromwich Albion promoted, as well as Leeds United’s 16-year return, while Bournemouth, Watford, and Norwich City are relegated to the Championship.

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Asia Destinations Europe France Lifestyle Relaxation Singapore Spain United Kingdom

The Best Places to Relax in Any City (Other Than the Spa)

Did you know? National Relaxation Day is an internationally celebrated annual event, held every August 15th. The day was first founded in 1985, by an American fourth-grader, Sean Moeller. The intention is simple — to take a day off for yourself to refresh and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.

Most of us live in a fast-paced, constant state of ‘doing’, but as the founder of this day suggests, it is important to find ways to relax and unwind from a busy lifestyle. So, in honour of National Relaxation Day, take a moment for yourself and explore the following places to let your hair down:

The park

With dozens of shades of green, fresh air, and a sense of expansion, parks top the list in terms of being ideal places for relaxation. Research has shown time and time again that there is a strong link between nature therapy and a decrease in physiological stress and immune function levels — because of our evolutionary history, it is thought that we are essentially adaptive to nature.

A recent study supports this, and shows that these stress-relieving benefits can easily be achieved in as little as 10-minutes. If you live in a concrete jungle, opt to take a stroll through the nearest park or spend a lazy afternoon picnicking with friends and family for the ultimate rejuvenation.

Hot picks

Some of the biggest cities in the world also feature the most stunning pockets of green —  from Hyde Park in London to Central Park in New York City. Indulge in an urban oasis — your body will thank you for it.

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Pixabay

The beach

If parks are not your thing, the beach is a fantastic alternative for outdoors relaxation. There’s a reason tropical vacations are in vogue — the mere visualisation of aquamarine waters and powder soft beaches can have a calming effect on the body.

Because beaches are often not centrally located, they’re best for the days you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With no shortage of relaxation activities — ranging from getting that Vitamin D with friends to swimming and walking along the beachfront — it is easy to spend a whole day at this invigorating location.

Hot picks

While the Mediterranean cities in Europe (think Spain and Portugal) offer some of the coolest beaches in the world, Singapore comes a close second. Check out Sentosa Island in Singapore, for some of the island’s prettiest beaches.

The museum

Beyond being educational institutions of the arts, museums are also restorative sanctuaries of the mind and body. The beneficial effects of art on human health and well-being have long been documented, and art therapy is very much a trend.

A fascinating article by Psychology Today makes a strong case for museums as healing places, arguing that museums can provide the same revitalising effect as spending time in nature by offering the same characteristics that enable one to shift mental gears, and refocus attention in a less effortful way. Findings from a 2008 study showed that museum goers have reported benefits like restored attention, tranquility, and reflection, further corroborating the association between museum visits for leisure and stress reduction.

Hot picks

Home to the Renaissance, Europe is the best continent to visit for some of the most spectacular masterpieces of the world. Other than Le Louvre in France, check out The British Museum in England or The Uffizi Gallery in Italy for national collections that have withstood the test of time.

The library

Given that reading a book can help provide a welcome escape from routine and everyday demands, it makes sense to head to the one place where books are the ‘cells of life’. And in a world filled with distractions and white noise, the library provides a safe haven for those seeking absolute peace and quiet.

Cosy nooks offer the passing traveller comfortable corners to while away the afternoon, while a cornucopia of resources promise to entertain and inform. Individuals will face little difficulty in finding a new world to lose themselves in with columns of books and magazines to choose from. According to a 2009 study conducted by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce up to 68% of stress, and just 6-minutes of reading can reduce your heart rate and improve your overall state of being.

Hot picks

As with museums, Europe showcases some of the most beautiful libraries in the world due to the rebirth of the literary arts during the Renaissance. Trinity College Old Library in Ireland is one of the most magnificent of the lot, with dark mahogany arches and millions of rare manuscripts collated since 1712.

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Unsplash

A café

Often cosy and well-lit, cafés are great places to chill out in a city, be it for brunch or a mid-day break. For a lazy afternoon, bring along a book to read, or have an intimate setting with a couple of close friends or your date. If you run out of things to do, take up people watching — you’ll find that the conversations and interactions around you can be disarmingly familiar and pretty funny, usually unintentionally.

Hot picks

Korea and Japan feature some of the quirkiest and most Instagram-worthy cafés in Asia. Settle in with a cup of coffee or tea, and relish in a quiet afternoon amid a comfortable, affable ambience.

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Asia Destinations Europe Lifestyle Relaxation South Korea

The Most Unique Spas You’d Want to Try Around the World

Spas — the saving grace of many a weary and disillusioned soul. While the typical spa experience conjures up images of massages and mud baths, the definition of the modern spa experience has expanded to include facials, body scrubs, even meditation and exercise classes.

In this article, we dive deeper into spas that promote the renewal of mind, body, and spirit, through a variety of singular practices and environmental components. Slow down and pamper yourself with these one-of-a-kind spas from around the world:

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

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Unsplash

As one Tripadvisor reviewer puts it, the Blue Lagoon is a “joyful Disneyland feeling in water paradise”. Nestled amid rocky volcanic landscapes and alien-like black lava fields, the Blue Lagoon looks ethereal and otherworldly. Steam occasionally billows across the milky blue waters, and the stunning shade of blue is because of the unique combination of silica, algae, and minerals that does wonders for your skin.

Visitors can choose from three options: Comfort, Premium, and Luxury for entry into the spa. The lagoon is open all year round, and the best time to visit is often in the evening — for the midnight sun in summer or the Northern Lights in winter.

Thermal Beer Bath, Budapest, Hungary

For the ultimate rejuvenating effect, bathe in 36°C (96.8°F) thermal water combined with natural beer ingredients — malt, yeast, hops, and beer salt, all elements that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Bonus? You get a beer tap in between the tubs you’re soaking in, so you can drink all the Czech beer you want to your heart’s content.

One of two spas in the city to offer the option of bubbling in yeasty, aromatic beer, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths in Budapest is known to be healing and luxuriously calming. After your beer bath, soak in any of the 18 medicinal pools within the beautifully decorated, Neo-Renaissance inspired complex to end off your relaxing retreat.

Hammam, Turkey

The Traditional Turkish Bath (or ‘Hammam’) in Turkey is a transcendental experience of purification. The typical package includes 45 minutes of washing: beginning with 10-15 minutes in the hot room, where you can relax and sweat it out; a thorough scrubbing and exfoliation by an attendant with a special kese glove; and the highlight — the traditional foam massage.

If you’re looking for baths that accept mixed groups of men and women, try the Suleymaniye or Galatasaray in Istanbul. Sit back and relax on the warm marble slab (‘gobektasi’) as the attendant lathers your entire body with a soft, foam-filled cloth for a soothing, sudsy massage. This all takes place in an opulent, marble-covered room — usually designed for rays of light to stream through a high, central dome, creating a lavish, almost decadent experience.

Jjimjilbang, South Korea

The Jjimjilbang (a traditional, gender-segregated Korean public bathhouse) is a way of life in South Korea. These Korean spas are often multi-storey complexes that are open 24-hours and feature all kinds of amenities from hot tubs and saunas to ice rooms, private sleeping quarters, and karaoke bars.

Try immersing yourself in a kiln sauna for the ultimate Jjimjilbang experience — these wood and charcoal powered stone kilns reach up to temperatures of 200°C (392°F) and are believed to promote relaxation and detoxification of the body through sweat. Visitors often huddle on rice-straw mats within the clay dome and drape towels over their heads to protect themselves from the intense heat.

Banya, Russia

What the Jjimjilbang is to Koreans, the Russian Banya (traditional Russian bathhouse) is to Russians. The typical banya comprises a steam room with long wooden benches, pools or buckets of cold water, and leafy, fragrant bundles of birch, oak, fir or eucalyptus (‘venik’).

Named ‘the tsar of banya’, the venik is used to flog the skin, and this act is said to help improve blood circulation and release toxins from the body. Sounds unusual, but the Russian banya is all about high-humidity steaming, followed by a careful lashing of the skin with a softened bundle of twigs. Felt hats are part of the stimulating experience, and while they may look strange, wearing them is necessary to protect your head and reduce the risk of overheating. As the Russians would say, “A bath-broom in the banya is worth more than money.”

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Adventure Destinations Europe Lifestyle

Hello, Adventure: 5 Unique Things to Do in Iceland

Stepping into the landscapes of Iceland feels like tumbling headfirst into a rabbit hole — onto another planet altogether. Boasting otherworldly scenery filled with ethereal formations, Iceland is a destination fit for the history books. 

And in a country as incredible as this, Iceland is naturally bursting with unique activities for travellers seeking a generous dose of adventure. Check these off your bucket list the next time you’re in the country:

1. Snorkel between 2 tectonic plates

travelynns/Instagram

Thingvellir National Park is one of the stops on the popular Golden Circle route, which can easily be covered on a day trip from Reykjavik. Nestled within the park is ‘Silfra’, a rift created between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in 1789. This fissure measures 600 by 200 metres, creating a passage that’s wide enough for divers and snorkelers to pass through.

That’s right, here’s your chance to actually dive or snorkel between two tectonic plates! Silfra is filled with water from the Langjokull glacier, which is said to be some of the clearest water in the world. This allows for underwater visibility of up to 100 metres, with water temperatures remaining between a comfortable two to four degrees celsius all year round. 

2. Hike across a massive glacier

travelynns/Instagram

Did you know that more than 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers? A glacier forms when multiple layers of snow are compressed to form colossal blocks of ice — in a process that takes thousands of years. 

Strap on a pair of crampons, arm yourself with an ice axe, and make your way across sprawling blue fields and deep crevasses. If you wish, you can even sample some of the clear glacial water found in chasms along the surface of the ice. Don’t worry, this water is completely safe for consumption! Complete your adventure by venturing into the depths of an ice cave; however, do note that Ice Cave season only starts at the beginning of winter (start of November).

3. Walk amongst icebergs at the Diamond Beach

travelynns/Instagram

In Iceland, diamonds are everyone’s best friend. And the country’s home to some of the best diamonds around — which come in the form of countless chunks of ice that sparkle in the sunlight! These ice pieces break off from a nearby glacier and land in the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, before floating out to sea and washing ashore at the Breioamerkursandur Black Beach. 

The beach is dotted with numerous wedges of ice in all shapes and sizes, colloquially earning it the nickname of the ‘Diamond Beach’. Take your time to wander amongst the pieces of ice and even clamber onto some huge ones — at your own risk! — for the photo opportunity of a lifetime. If you’d like, you can even head across the road to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where you can take a boat ride around the lagoon.

4. Watch a geyser erupt 40 metres into the air

E-lyn Tham

Spanning an area of 3 square kilometres, the Geysir Geothermal Area is a fascinating hive of activity. Wander around and feast your eyes on numerous steaming pools and bubbling fumaroles, complete with jets of steam and a cloud of mist that envelops the area. 

Keep your eyes peeled for the Strokkur Geyser, which erupts in intervals of 10 minutes or so. When this happens, a large volume of water is thrown up into the air, reaching a staggering height of 40 metres! Do take caution not to stand too close, however; the temperature of the water ranges between 80 to 100 degrees celsius.

5. Explore an 8,000-year-old lava tube

E-lyn Tham

Conduct your very own ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ at Vatnshellir Cave, which inspired Jules Verne’s 1864 novel of the same name! Located within Snaefellsjokull National Park, the 8,000 year-old-Vatnshellir Cave invites visitors to explore its depths — a whopping 35 metres underground.

Arm yourself with a helmet and headlight, and follow your guide as he enthralls you with tales and information about the various lava formations. Spot all types of stalactites or stalagmites and, at one point of the tour, even experience what it’s like to be enveloped in sheer darkness. The tour does require clambering up and down a couple of metal staircases; a certain level of fitness is hence required for this experience. 

Other than the above, there’s plenty in Iceland to entice visitors of all ages — ride a horse through lava fields, pamper yourself by soaking in a geothermal lagoon, walk behind thundering waterfalls, and even go on a thrilling Northern Lights chase. 

The list goes on and on; all you need is a hunger for adventure, as well as the willingness to put yourself outside your comfort zone, and you’ll be all set!