Before Covid hit, Benidorm welcomed a whopping average of five million UK tourists to its sun-kissed shores. However, these figures plummeted amid travel restrictions put in place both by the UK and Spanish Governments.
She told Express.co.uk: “I have been regularly translating the government information about the facts and figures for the pandemic to try and help as I know a difficulty for many expats, of all nationalities, was being unable to understand the data which was only published in Valencian and Spanish.”
Spain endured one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe, which Lauren points out was challenging for the majority of those in the country.
However, amid the strict rules, there were some little things that, once they were allowed, made the lockdown “bearable”.
“The initial lockdown was very tough here,” she admitted.
“We weren’t even permitted to go out for a walk, but it made it much more bearable to be able to see the sun, the beach and the blue skies.”
As for most people, being apart from family was difficult, but it was technology that helped Lauren to stay connected with friends and family back home.
“I think our difficulties through the pandemic have been the being so far apart from family and friends,” she said.
“With the ease of regular low-cost flights, I would be back home in Leicester every few weeks for a weekend and my family would come and visit during every school holiday.
“This has been the longest we’ve been apart from family and friends, which has been the most challenging part for us.
“We’re very heavily reliant on the power of technology and FaceTime at the moment.
With both friends and family, we tend to FaceTime rather than call as it’s nice to see their faces.
“Sometimes, I’ll FaceTime my mum even whilst she’s getting on with the household chores just to chat and be involved.”
However, it wasn’t just loved ones back in England who Lauren was able to connect with virtually.
One of Benidorm’s greatest draws for the expat is its “sense of community” and this was something that was maintained, even despite the stay at home order.
“We also ‘see my family’ at Asa Elliott’s and Pablo Bloom’s, who are two known Benidorm singers, weekly online concerts.”
Though Spain is not out of its lockdown just yet, with many regulations still in place to try and curb a new surge in cases of the virus, the nation is preparing to reopen to visitors.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, has said she thinks Spain will be able to open up to tourists again in May.
She estimates that 40 percent of the population will have received the vaccine by then.
According to Lauren, many businesses are already keen for things to reopen, despite some “caution”.
She explained: “Although there are a few people steering on the edge of caution, the majority of business owners are desperate for tourism and the good times to return.
“When Benidorm is normal, it’s a goldmine for businesses.”
The good news is, the tide is beginning to turn thanks to the hope provided by the nation’s vaccination programme.
“The vaccination programme is on schedule and although Spain is currently looking at encouraging national tourism just after Easter, they and many of us, are remaining hopeful that international tourism will be able to resume in summer,” Lauren said.
“The hospitality has reopened in Benidorm, for the terraces only, at 75 percent with a maximum of four people and a forced closure of 6pm.
“The non-essential shops have been able to extend their opening hours now until 8pm.”
However, she admits some of the ongoing precautions might be a cause of concern for visitors hoping to jet off to the resort.
“There’s lots of people cautious about returning to Spain, due to masks being compulsory at all times in public spaces, including outdoors,” she said.
“Many of us are hoping that it won’t be much longer that we’re required to wear masks outdoors.”
Lauren has her own blog where she offers up-to-date information on life in Benidorm. You can read ithere. 
“Free and fair elections are the foundation of who we are as a state and a nation. Secure, accessible, fair elections are worth the threats. They are worth the boycotts as well as the lawsuits,” Kemp said at a press conference Saturday.
“I want to be clear: I will not be backing down from this fight, and neither are the people who are here with me today,” he added.
The comments marked Kemp’s latest rebuke of MLB over its Friday announcement that the July 13 game would be taken out of Georgia over the law he signed last month.
The new restrictions include limits on ballot drop boxes, shorter periods in which Georgia residents can apply for mail-in ballots and new photo ID requirements for absentee voting.
Democrats have come out swinging against the new law, saying it amounts to voter suppression and pressuring private companies to speak out against it.
MLB went the furthest of any private group, announcing it would pull its annual All-Star Game directly in response to the new measures.
Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, said in a statement that the decision was made after conversations with teams and players and that moving the game is “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.
The MLB draft will also be moved out of Georgia.
Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey has also called the restrictions “unacceptable” and “a step backwards,” and Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said the law “includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives.”
Kemp on Saturday ramped up his criticism of companies that have come out against the law, name-checking several that have hammered the new restrictions.
Kemp and other Republicans have maintained that the new law is necessary to ensure election security, though no widespread fraud was found after three certifications of Georgia’s election results in November.
“There were reasons to try to figure out a better way, a more accessible way and a more secure way for us to hold elections, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We shouldn’t apologize for wanting to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he said.
The burgeoning private sector criticism is reminiscent of the backlash to a 2016 law in North Carolina that blocked cities from allowing transgender people to use public bathrooms that align with their gender identities. A flood of detractors and cancellations of major events forced the Tar Heel State to backtrack.
However, Kemp said he does not intend to revoke the law, even if more events are scrapped in Georgia.
“I can tell you that we will not waiver. For anybody that’s out there who’s thinking that any kind of snowball effect is going to have any kind of effect on me, it is not,” he said. “We have worked in good faith with the business community, with the chambers of commerce, with some of these same companies that have flip-flopped on this issue.”
The presenter took a 10-week break from This Morning and Sky News at the time which included his recovery period.
He previously told The Mirror: “The pain was too much, the inability to stand – whether at a party, or to report on a news story, host a quiz show, to go shopping, play a round of golf, fool around with my kids or even walk the dog – one by one became too much.
“So I didn’t make the decision, the decision was made for me.
“But I did I decide to have both my hips done at once.”
Post-operation, he added: “I stand straighter, am an inch taller, can touch my toes and sit without pain.”
Fitbit Sense is available in a single size, although the straps are available in different lengths (Image: FITBIT • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)
The Fitbit Sense is easily the most ambitious smartwatch the company has ever produced. However, that doesn’t automatically make it the most accomplished. Express.co.uk has been testing the dizzying number of modes and features for a few months now, here’s everything you need to know about the Fitbit Sense.
Fitbit Sense review: UK price and availability
Fitbit Sense launched in autumn last year worldwide. The smartwatch is available in a single configuration, with two colour options — Carbon or Lunar White. At launch, the Fitbit Sense cost £299, however, this has dropped in the months since launch. Fitbit now sells its Sense smartwatch for £269.99, with other retailers, like Currys, Argos, Amazon, John Lewis, and others all dropping to around the same price tag.
The Sense is available in Carbon (Black) or Lunar White (pictured above) (Image: FITBIT)
Fitbit Sense review: design
Fitbit Sense is easily the best-looking smartwatch the company has ever produced. Initially known for its svelte and stylish wrist-worn step trackers, Fitbit really lost its way when it first introduced smartwatches to its line-up. The Fitbit Ionic, its first effort released back in 2017, was a clunky square that looked like a prop from Back To The Future II.
Thankfully, the Fitbit Sense is much more elegant. With its soft edges and chamfered case, it looks great on your wrist whether you’re out on a morning run, sitting at your desk, or dressing up for a special occasion. Fitness-focused wearables, like the Fitbit Sense, offer the most value and insight when worn constantly. However, to convince people to strap a gadget to their wrist at all times — companies need to make sure their products look good.
And Fitbit has absolutely nailed that aspect of the Sense.
Fitbit Sense is designed to be worn all-day and all-night – not just when exercising (Image: FITBIT)
Fitbit pushes you to hit 10,000 steps every day (Image: FITBIT)
It’s also worth noting that it’s a pretty unisex design, which is appreciated. There has been a bit of a trend of designing all smartwatches in the vein of either bulky blokey divers watches (yes, that criticism is aimed at you, Samsung) or chunky masculine straps (like the Fitbit Ionic) so it’s nice to see a design language that also works for half of the world’s population.
Interacting with the Fitbit Sense is handled predominantly by the 1.58-inch touchscreen. This works well enough and the screen is bright enough that checking your stats in direct sunlight shouldn’t be a problem.
Fitbit has also added a small touch-sensitive button on the left-hand side of the case that throws you into your most frequently used apps. A single-press will open one app (Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, by default) while a double-press displays four shortcuts to other apps. It’s a nifty trick, however, the fact you always have to resort to tapping or swiping on the screen means you’ll always have a watch covered with fingerprints.
We’d have preferred to see something like the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch or the rotating bezel found on the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, which both keep the screen smudge-free.
The Sense makes it easy to switch between straps thanks to its quick-release buttons (Fitbit has thankfully dropped the fiddly toggles found on earlier gadgets), which is great because the fitness firm has a pretty stylish line-up of leather, woven, knit bands. Third-party companies and Etsy sellers have also created some fun options to help personalise your shiny new smartwatch for any occasion.
The Fitbit Sense is water-resistant to 50-metres, so there’s no worry about submerging this smartwatch in a pool or in the sea. And even if you’re not a keen swimmer, it’s reassuring to know that getting caught in a monsoon or forgetting to take your Sense off before the shower isn’t going to do any damage to this £299 piece of kit.
When it comes to health-tracking features, Fitbit has really thrown everything at the Sense. Of course, there’s the usual step count, heart rate, calories, and sleep tracking… but there’s also an electrocardiogram (ECG) test, EDA scans to measure stress, skin temperature tracking, and breathing rate.
If you’re unsure whether you need all of those health checks in your daily routine — rest assured, you don’t.
While it’s undoubtedly impressive that Fitbit has managed to cram so much technology into such a compact gadget, that alone doesn’t quite justify including all of these features.
Some of the new additions, like the ECG, are genuinely useful. While not something you’ll use every day, it’s reassuring to be able to run the test at the drop of hat and share the results with your GP if you’re concerned about your heart health. Likewise, the notification about a worryingly low or high heart-rate is a great feature. If your heart is beating unusually — your Fitbit will warn you, so that you can seek help promptly.
Other features, like the electrodermal activity (EDA) scans are pretty useless. At times, we struggled to get a reading from the Sense. And when it did work, it wasn’t immediately obvious what we were supposed to do with this data.
Unlike metrics like resting heart-rate and calories burned, it seems pretty easy to keep track of your stress levels without the help of a gadget. When you are feeling stressed, Fitbit has included some mindfulness exercises within its companion app, but these require a subscription to Fitbit Premium (£7.99 a month).
After a few weeks of wearing the Fitbit Sense and testing out all the flashy new tricks, we soon found ourselves relying on the same handful of tracking features. The built-in GPS, which isn’t available in the more affordable Versa 2, is a brilliant addition as it means walks and runs are accurately tracked without the need to carry around your phone in your pocket.
The Sense is the only gadget in Fitbit’s line-up that can perform an ECG wherever (Image: FITBIT )
Except that …you’ll probably end up lugging around your phone anyway. And that’s because Fitbit hasn’t included any built-in storage for music or podcasts in the Sense. While there is a helpful partnership with Spotify that makes listening to your playlists from your wrist easy, this works by piggybacking on the mobile internet connection from your phone. So, if you’re in a gym in the basement of a hotel with no Wi-Fi or want to leave your phone on the bedside table for your money run… you’ll have to make do with the sound of your own thoughts. Given that Apple and Samsung both let you track workouts, record GPS data, and listen to music from their wearables — so you only need to leave the house with Bluetooth headphones, your smartwatch and house key, it’s a pretty gutting omission from Fitbit.
Active Zone Minutes is a really helpful metric. By analysing your resting heart-rate and age, Fitbit will send out notifications during your workouts to let you know when you need to take action, like speeding up when you’ve slipped off the pace. If you’re looking to hit a specific goal, like shed a few kilos, you’ll want to make sure you’re racking up Active Zone Minutes (AZM). Fitbit Sense wearers earn 1 AZM when in the fat-burning zone, but you’ll clock-up 2 AZM when in the peak zone — so it’s well worth listening to its advice and pushing yourself.
While the hardware of the Sense is solid, it’s worth highlighting that one of the reasons you should consider paying a premium for a Fitbit over the sea of copycat wearables on Amazon is the app. Yes, the Fitbit companion app on Android and iOS is solid. It presents everything in a beautiful interface and has some brilliant social features.
If you have friends or family with Fitbit devices on their wrists, the fun challenges can be a phenomenal way to motivate you to heave yourself off the sofa and to the gym or park. There are plenty of beautiful watch faces that you can add to your Fitbit Sense from the app too. The app is also where you’ll add contactless payment methods too.
The straps are easy to unlock and there’s a strong line-up of Fitbit-designed and third-party options (Image: FITBIT )
Fitbit Sense review: final verdict
Pros: Gorgeous unisex design, huge number of strap options, built-in GPS, finds your phone with a touch of a button on the watch, Fitbit app is packed with challenges and social features
Cons: No offline music or podcasts, stress measurements aren’t particularly useful, pricey
Fitbit Sense is a stylish, beautifully crafted smartwatch that looks good on the wrist, regardless of whether you’re sweating profusely on a treadmill or during a job interview. The interchangeable bands are easy to use and Fitbit’s popularity means there are plenty of third-party options available if nothing from the official store takes your fancy.
The Fitbit companion app is the secret weapon for this wearable, with its easy-to-use interface, fun personal challenges, and selection of competitions to take on friends and family. Fitbit Premium adds some extra features, but there’s more than enough to get your teeth into without coughing up the £7.99 a month subscription fee.
There’s a lot to love about the Fitbit Sense. Built-in GPS, ECG, and proactive low and high heart-rate warnings are awesome tools that really help you keep track of your overall health. Likewise, the coaching around Active Zone Minutes is a handy virtual personal trainer that can really help you to push yourself, something that rudimentary pedometers can’t do.
However, some of the biggest new additions — like the EDA stress tracking and skin temperature sensing — are the most baffling. Cramming this technology into the Fitbit Sense undoubtedly contributed to the higher price tag (the EDA-less Fitbit Versa 3 has similar battery life, GPS, and water resistance but costs £100 less), and unfortunately, these features were the ones that we stopped using within a few weeks of wearing the watch.
If you’re looking for a stylish smartwatch that offers every bell and whistle that Fitbit can muster, there’s no doubt the Sense is a must-buy. Likewise, anyone who knows how to dig into Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) rates and really invest in tracking their mood and any correlation to the EDA data will be overjoyed with the Sense.
However, if you’re simply looking for an easy-to-use fitness tracker with great app support, social features, and enough insights to help you shed the lockdown beer belly …then it might be worth pocketing the extra £100 and looking at the Fitbit Versa 3.
Netgem TV is an up-and-coming telly service that brings together 120 of the linear channels you’ll find on rivals like Freeview as well as on-demand services like Rakuten TV, Prime Video, YouTube, Hayu, BBC iPlayer, and more. Depending on the set-top box you have, you can watch in High Definition or Ultra HD HDR quality. A companion app also lets you pick up where you left off in another room, or when you’re out-and-about. So you can watch a film on your iPad to speed-up the commute, then resume when you collapse on the sofa at home.
A number of full-fibre broadband firms have partnered with Netgem TV to bring this telly system to customers, including WightFibre, Voneus, Pure Broadband, and Air. But now, Netgem is going a step further.
The company has announced a new mesh Wi-Fi solution designed to take aim at the likes of Amazon’s Eero, Google Nest Wifi, Linksys and others. Dubbed Netgem SuperStream, the system has been created to bring up to 1Gbps speeds to every room in your home. Unlike traditional Wi-Fi extenders, mesh networks don’t require you to connect to a separate network. Instead, your gadgets will automatically jump between the nodes dotted around your home to make sure you always get the best signal.
Better than that, mesh networks can also intelligently shift devices around the nodes to even out demand. So, if there are a huge number of devices connected to a single Wi-Fi node in your living room, some might be shifted over to the kitchen next door to evenly distribute the number of gadgets trying to siphon off your wireless internet speeds.
Unfortunately, Netgem hasn’t revealed the exact specs of its mesh network as yet. However, it has confirmed that it will have a companion smartphone app that lets you track the performance of your wireless network, speeds, and more. Presumably, parental controls and content filters will also be included in this app.
Speaking about the upcoming arrival of SuperStream, Netgem Chief Commercial and Customer Officer Sylvain Thevenot said: “Our experience deploying SuperStream in France across thousands of Fibre homes confirmed that our service has a true mass-market appeal with more than half of customers adopting SuperStream WiFi Mesh with their Fibre Broadband and TV plans. In addition, building on 20 years+ of experience working with Operators, we have added the WiFi Mesh complete Quality-of-Service features to our existing Cloud-based service tool for Customer operations, and we are very pleased to make our first deployments of Super Stream with Netgem TV in the UK & Ireland.”
Netgem’s mesh network system will launch with Internet ThankYou, a full-fibre broadband company currently deploying gigabit-capable internet in 12,000 premises in Staffordshire, North Lincolnshire, Liverpool, and Manchester. Another full-fibre company, Origin Broadband, is expected to offer the mesh network to its customers soon too.