In the summer, we were lucky enough to get hold of tickets to the England v USA world cup game in Qatar! I was in England at the time and managed to persuade my Dad to come along with us as well!
Roll on November and England beat Iran in their first game 6:2 and we were absolutely buzzing for our game the following week!
We were traveling over to Qatar with friends so we went over to their hotel to meet for lunch and then took a minibus down to Dubai World Central Airport. The main airport in Dubai is DXB, but as Dubai were running several “shuttle flights” daily over to Doha, they made use of DWC airport for this purpose. We flew with Qatar Airways for the 40 minute flight over to Doha.
Our flight left Dubai at 5pm and arrived in Doha at 5pm local time (factoring in the one hour time difference). Doha Airport had such a buzz about it. People from all over the world were there, playing music, wearing flags, dancing. It was an incredible thing to experience. We saw a couple of Mexican fans with their flags and sombreros and I went over to say hi and have a photo with them.
900 Park Fan Zone
We took a local taxi to the 900 Park Fan Zone which was attached to the Intercontinental Hotel. The fan zone atmosphere was incredible, people were dancing on the tables, offering face paint – and you could buy as much alcohol as you wanted (unlike how the Daily Mail had been reporting!)
We stayed in the fan zone for a few hours and watched the Denmark game on the big screen before getting an Uber over to the Al Bayt stadium.
Al Bayt Stadium
The drive to the stadium was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Our taxi driver was amazing and connected our phones up so we could play all of the England songs. We were all singing along getting so excited for the game. The taxi driver then drove down a side street to a small café and brought us all a cup of tea. It was so kind of him.
The traffic to enter the stadium had really built up so our taxi driver pulled over on the side of the road and we ran across the motorway to cut the queue! As we entered the grounds of the stadium, people were chanting and there were bands playing music with dancers.
Entering the stadium itself was a feeling I think I will remember forever. By the time we had arrived, the majority of fans were already there so there was a great atmosphere. We headed down to our seats – Row B – and as we sat down the camera panned to us and we could see ourselves up on the big screen!
My Dad had a flag made with our home town, Lowestoft, and a Leeds United badge (his team) and he was so excited that it made it up onto the big screen as well!
England v USA
The game itself was probably the most disappointing part of the trip! The score was 0.0 and honestly, not a lot happened during the match. We were surprised that the fans were mixed so we were sat amongst both England and USA fans for the game.
The Journey Home
I have to admit, leaving the stadium was a bit of a nightmare. We followed the queues to the taxi, which took about 45 minutes to walk, and once we arrived, there wasn’t a single taxi, Uber or Careem in sight. Everyone was piled in this car park, confused and not sure what to do. We ended up knocking on car windows asking for a lift to the airport and paid a local guy QAR400 to drive us there. It should have only been a 45 minute journey but took almost 2 hours in traffic. We arrived at the airport as our gate opened – luckily we had been provided with our return boarding passes on the outward journey and had no luggage so were straight through and boarded within no time. By this point it was 4am and we were all exhausted. I slept the entire flight back to Dubai.
Although we didn’t get the score we had hoped for, and didn’t see any goals, being able to watch England play in a World Cup game with my Dad is a memory I will treasure forever.
Ah, the Maldives. Was it actually a dream? I swear we waited almost two years for this holiday and it went by in a flash!
Ryan and I visited Ozen Life Maadhoo in December 2020 and it was our first time visiting the Maldives. That Christmas, my lovely Mum got drunk and said she would take us all there on holiday to celebrate my dads 60th birthday in 2022. Full of regret the next day, she told us it wasn’t happening. But once Dad spent a bit of time thinking it over, they decided that we should all go. So I reached out to Ozen and we booked three of their Wind, overwater, villas.
Roll on March 2022 and our little Arlo was born. We decided it would be best to change our room to an Earth Villa with a pool, which was located on the beach front, as this would be a better option with Arlo.
Mum, Dad, Katie and her fiancé Tom flew over to Dubai and spent the night at ours, this allowed them to break the journey up from the UK. We then all flew over to the Maldives together from Dubai.
The flight is only 3.5 hours and we booked the 2.30am flight which got us to the Maldives at 7am. It was the first night flight we’ve done with Arlo but he was such a trooper and slept for the majority of the flight – which meant Ryan and I were able to get a few hours in as well. When landing in the Maldives you’re required to fill out an entry form, which we had completed in advance and were provided with QR codes. Unfortunately, not everybody had completed this so the queues at immigration were quite lengthy. It also took a bit of time to collect our cases but once we were through to the other side and greeted by the Ozen staff, that’s when we knew our holiday could really start.
We were taken to the Ozen private lounge in the airport and provided with water, tea and coffee before we were escorted to the Ozen speedboat to take us to the island. The trip is 45minutes from Male. One huge benefit about the Indulgence Package with Ozen is that it also includes transfers to and from the hotel. If you opt for a hotel that requires you to take the seaplane, this can incur charges of up to $500 per person, each way.
Blowing of the Conch
Of all the things my sister was excited for when arriving at Ozen, it was the greeting of the staff as we disembarked from the speedboat. Just as described on their website, the staff were ready and waiting to blow the conch and play the drums whilst greeting us onto the island.
We were taken to the lobby for a glass of champagne and were introduced to our butler, Blue. Blue provided us with our itinerary which covered everything from our restaurant bookings, excursions and spa treatments. Blue then take us each to our rooms so we can unpack and get settled in before meeting up at the pool bar.
Ozen has a great selection of restaurants and bar options on the island. From authentic Chinese cuisine at Peking; traditional Maldivian dining at their beachfront restaurant, Lonu; to the incredible underwater dining experience at M6M, it really caters to everyone.
Each morning we would meet up at The Palms, the buffet-style restaurant where breakfast was served and would enjoy our breakfast with a Mimosa, or two. The pool bar, Joie de Vivre also has a daily snack menu whereby you can order pizzas, sandwiches, spring rolls etc. (all of which is also included in the all inclusive package).
When Blue provided us with our itinerary this included a selection of excursions which are complimentary as part of your stay. This included a snorkel trip (which I opted out of so I could stay with Arlo), but the rest of the family enjoyed this and even saw sharks on their trip!
One evening we had the sunset fishing trip. Not to blow my own trumpet, but I caught two fish! One was a grouper fish and the other was a red snapper. The Captain arranged for the snapper to be taken back to the hotel and we had this grilled for lunch the next day. It may be because I caught it myself, but I think it might have been the best fish I have ever eaten!
One of the other evening excursions available is the sunset cruise and we were lucky enough to see dolphins! It was so magical.
Ryan and I also decided to opt for one of the paid excursions and go swimming with sharks! The boat trip was approximately thirty minutes from Ozen to an area where nurse sharks gather. The experience was incredible, although I was quite nervous once I was actually in the water and they were nudging and bumping around us! It was definitely a bucket list moment.
We had the most incredible family holiday and created memories that will last a lifetime.
I’m slightly delayed with sharing this post but in September we had a lovely long weekend stay in Manama, Bahrain. We’ve lived in Dubai for almost eight years and Bahrain is only the second Gulf country we have visited outside of the UAE. It’s only a short 50 minute flight from Dubai, and so when we knew we had family staying in Bahrain from the UK, we thought this would be the perfect time to visit.
Travelling with a baby means there is a lot more to think about and one of our concerns was access to a taxi with an infant car seat. We contacted our hotel and they quoted us for a return journey to and from the airport with a private taxi and car seat, but this worked out to be more expensive than hiring our own car with an infant seat.
As we are used to driving the roads of the UAE, we didn’t mind driving in Bahrain and found it to be very similar. Bahrain International Airport has several well known car hire companies on site and we opted with SIXT as they were the cheapest option. We were lucky enough to also get a free upgrade on collection!
My cousin was staying on Reef Island and so I searched for accommodation close by – although we soon found out that most places in Manama are only a short drive away. We decided on the Wyndham Grand Manama. The hotel had a rather corporate feel about it as it comprised of both business offices and also hotel rooms. The hotel was situated only a 15 minute drive from the airport, a 4 minute drive from the Four Seasons, and 10 minute drive from Reef Island. I also managed to make a great saving on our booking by reserving the hotel through my travel business, saving us 50% compared to Booking.com!
Upon arrival, we were given a complimentary upgrade to the Himalayan Salt Room which had an entire wall made from 800 million year old Himalayan salt! The room also had a lovely bath and waterfall shower; a desk (which was good for Ryan who ended up having to work a little bit) and a good sized wardrobe.
The Wyndham has an amazing spa facility which includes a snow therapy room! It also has a family pool and an adults only pool located on the 11th floor which provide great views of the bay.
Things to Do
Bahrain also has a Brunch Culture like Dubai so on Friday we headed over to the Four Seasons for their family brunch. It had an amazing selection of food and drinks as well as a kids area with activities.
We hadn’t really researched many things to do in Bahrain before traveling as mainly just wanted to spend time with our family. So we visited a few of the malls for a browse then spent the rest of the time around the pools at our hotels.
We really loved spending time with our family and it was a great excuse to visit Bahrain and see another country.
Our 6 week holiday at home with Arlo required a lot of planning to ensure we were able to see as many family members as possible. Especially due to the fact that mine and Ryan’s home towns are several hours drive from one another.
We started our trip with a 10 night stay in Lowestoft with my family. My parents were still working so during the days we spent our time going for walks down to the park and walking round to see my Grandparents (and Arlo’s Great-Grandparents!) It was so lovely for us to just be able to spend some time outside with Arlo as we haven’t really had the chance to do that yet in Dubai as it has been too hot.
The second part of our trip was for seven nights in Kent. For this, we hired a little cottage called Sandhole Barn in Snodland which we chose as a base so we had a bit more space to spread out with all of Arlo’s things!
We had a lovely time in Kent with trips down to Herne Bay to see Ryan’s Grandparents (also Arlo’s Great-Grandparents – he’s such a lucky boy); a trip to Whitstable for Afternoon Tea in the castle; lovely walks around Leybourne Lakes and a BBQ with the Stansfield’s.
We then took the Eurostar over to Paris for a short city break which you can read all about here. When we returned to Kent we had another few nights staying with family. The evenings were very relaxing (I have to admit we got hooked on Love Island which was partnered with a take away most evenings). On the Sunday, my parents drove down to Kent and we went for a lovely meal with Ryan’s family before he had to fly back to Dubai for 2 weeks for work.
I was very apprehensive about how I would manage with just Arlo on my own during the night times, but at least I knew I had my Mum, Dad and Sister to help keep Arlo entertained in the day times.
The next two weeks in Lowestoft absolutely flew by. We missed Ryan so much but made sure to have lots of video calls. Arlo started to have disturbed sleep which wasn’t great for me. One morning at 6am I had to wake my Mum up and ask if she would sit down with Arlo as I had been up with him since 4am! Thankfully he seems to have moved out of that phase now. During this two weeks Arlo had lots of firsts. I took him swimming for the first time with his little cousin Maeve – he was so relaxed he fell asleep for a moment in his float!
We also took him to the zoo. He fell asleep within 15 minutes of arriving and woke up in the gift shop on the way out, I couldn’t believe it! So we had to quickly pop back through to show him the giraffes, zebras and flamingos!
We had family down to visit us in Lowestoft the weekend that Ryan was flying back to England and we went down to the local park for some games. I can’t actually believe it but I fell backwards when we were having a kick about and ended up having to head to A&E with Mum! I felt terrible, worrying that we were going to be sat there for hours. Thankfully, I was in and out within three hours but left with a fractured ankle and a support boot.
The final part of our trip was back in Kent and we had booked another lovely barn on the outskirts of Maidstone called Woolhouse Barn. Situated close by was a lovely country pub called the Horseshoes where we went for a Sunday Roast with Ryan’s family and, I have to say, it is one of the best roast dinners I think I’ve ever had – sorry Mum!
The following day, Arlo and I spent the day with Ryan’s Mum and her Partner and we went for a lovely breakfast followed by a day relaxing down the beach. It was 30 degrees, I couldn’t believe it!
Woolhouse Barn was based in a very rural area and, the intention was, for me to get insured on our hire car so I could get out and about in the mornings for my breakfast dates whilst Ryan worked. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to drive and we decided to cut our trip short and fly back to Dubai so I could seek proper medical advice about my foot. I felt so sad that our trip ended like this but, we were so lucky to have spent such a long time at home in the first place. So we flew back to Dubai a few days early with cases full of nappies and wet wipes to keep us going until Christmas!
Since before Arlo was born, we were already dreaming of, and planning all the amazing places that we could take him. Travelling and creating memories is something that Ryan and I love doing, it only seemed right that Arlo would just slot into that lifestyle and come on all of these adventures with us.
Of course, the most special first adventure we could take him on would be travelling to England to introduce him to all of his family.
Maternity leave in the UAE isn’t great so we wanted to be sure to make the most of the time we had off. We planned a six week itinerary in England with a short 3 night stay in Paris built in – you can read more about that trip here.
We booked our flights direct with Emirates before Arlo was born. Then, once we received his passport we contacted the airline to have him added on to my ticket. With most airlines, infants travel for free up to the age of two. We had a small supplement to pay as we requested the bassinet seat for Arlo which meant we needed to pay for the seats with extra leg room.
I was very nervous at the thought of flying with a three month old baby, I was worried he wouldn’t be comfortable, that he would be out of his routine and he would disturb the other passengers. But, Arlo was brilliant. Annoyingly, we were sat on the tarmac on the plane for over an hour which wasn’t ideal. I had read that when flying with infants you should feed at take off to prevent their ears from popping, so I prepared a bottle of expressed milk and fed Arlo at that time. As he was finishing his bottle we heard the poo explosion that he had clearly been saving for us a for a few days. Thankfully, Ryan offered to take the lead on that one!
Arlo didn’t sleep for very long on the flight, considering we were on the plane for around 8 hours in total, he slept for maybe an hour and a half. The rest of the time he was just happy to lay and chill in the bassinet or sit on our laps looking around.
I packed a backpack which was dedicated to Arlo for the flight which contained all of his essentials. That way, we knew we only needed to search in one bag, rather than across all three of our hand-luggage bags, if we needed something for Arlo.
I packed several travel pouches which were each dedicated to: changing, feeding and toys. This worked really well for us as when we needed to change Arlo we just picked up one pouch which contained nappies, cream, wet wipes, disposable changing mats, plastic bags and a change of clothes.
I also panicked about breastfeeding Arlo whilst traveling and was worried about taking liquids through the airport. In Dubai Airport they were absolutely fine and there were no additional checks on the milk. However, when leaving Gatwick we were required to take out Arlo’s milk so it could be run through a separate scanner. When flying home to England, I packed 4 portions of breastmilk in a cooler bag which had been defrosted the day before so they were good for 24 hours. I also packed 4 bottles of the Aptamil 1 Ready to Drink Milk (at this point, we hadn’t given Arlo formula but I wanted to have it with me as a back up). I also packed my portable Elvie breast pump which worked extremely well for us during the flight. Ryan would give Arlo a bottle of expressed milk and, at the same time, I pumped using the Elvie to prepare for the next bottle.
When we were deciding on a stroller we knew a travel stroller would be essential for us so we opted for the Leclerc Magicfold which self-folds down to fit in the overhead baggage area on the plane. At the time of flying home, Arlo was still only 3 months old so we decided to take the bassinet attachment with us but we checked this in along with our cases. Getting through the airport, I carried Arlo in a baby carrier so he was close to my chest and we placed out hand-luggage in the stroller which Ryan pushed through the airport. This worked really well for us as Arlo loves being carried and often falls asleep!
*You can purchase any of the items linked above on Mumzworld.com using my code LOU10 for discount.
The Flight Home
Unfortunately, we had to cut our trip home short as I fractured my ankle with just over a week of the trip left. I was wearing a boot and didn’t have a lot of mobility to begin with and I found it hard getting up and down the stairs in the cottage. It also meant that I wasn’t able to drive and was completely reliant on Ryan.
So, we made the decision to fly back on the Wednesday, instead of the Sunday but there were no bassinet seats left. The thought of flying with Arlo and my foot in a boot in a window and an aisle seat really made us anxious so, we decided to bite the bullet and upgrade to Business Class – and it was the best thing we could have done. I was able to lay out with my foot elevated which really helped with the swelling on the flight. It also meant that Ryan and I could take turns with laying Arlo down on the mattress. Arlo ended up sleeping for 5 hours on the flight back which was brilliant. But I think we may have built a rod for our own backs with the flying experience with Arlo now!
It’s been a few years, but we made it back to Paris! I can’t believe the last time we were in France was for our wedding in August 2019 followed by our mini-moon down in Nice. It’s amazing to now have returned almost three years later to such a special place to us and be able to bring our little one too.
When booking our trip home to the UK for the summer for Arlo’s first trip, we wanted to be able to spend a little bit of time somewhere else in Europe but we weren’t quite sure how we (and Arlo) would be with flying and spending time in the airport etc. So when I saw that the Eurostar had a flash sale, I took the opportunity to get tickets for the three of us to head over to Paris for four days. We got a great deal paying only GBP208 for a return for the three of us (well, for the two adults as babies travel free, but I had to find a way to sell it to Ryan!)
Travelling on the Eurostar with a Baby
When we arrived at St Pancras, it was chaotic I’m not going to lie. But once we joined the queue and started making our way down the line it was quite a simple process. We arrived 2 hours before our departure to allow us some extra time, as the tickets say to arrive at least one hour before. In the first part of the queue we were required to show our COVID vaccine pass; the second part of the queue we were required to scan our Eurostar ticket; the third part was the UK Border Force to exit England, shortly followed by the French Border Force for our entry to France. All in all, the queue system was quite straight forward.
I carried Arlo in his carrier throughout the queue which was really efficient, especially at the border force so they could easily see Arlo’s face. At security, we were required to remove everything from Arlo’s stroller and place it in a tray, they then separately scanned and searched the stroller. I wish I had been slightly more organised so we didn’t have as much in the bottom of the stroller, but here’s to learning!
Once we were on the train it was pretty much smooth sailing through to Gare du Nord. Arlo was good as gold again and just loved sitting on our laps looking out of the window and watching everyone go by. I found traveling on the Eurostar with a baby very easy and it is a journey I would definitely recommend and would do again. You can read my blog here which lists all of my travel essentials for traveling with a baby!
Best Western Premier Kapital Opera
The choice of accommodation available in Paris is quite overwhelming as there really are so many options. When deciding on accommodation for us for this trip, our requirements were different to usual. We wanted something in a great location but also relatively close to Gare du Nord as we wanted to avoid having to take taxis as much as possible. Essentially, for this trip, we wanted to be able to get everywhere by walking.
We also decided that having a room with a balcony was very important to us, that way, in the evenings when it was time for Arlo to sleep, we had the option of still being able to sit outside and enjoy the view / have some room service and some wine. Finally, we needed somewhere with a travel cot available for Arlo and somewhere that wasn’t going to break the bank.
I contacted several hotels directly requesting industry rates as an independent travel agent and we decided on booking the Best Western Premier Kapital Opera hotel in the Opera District. The staff were extremely kind and provided us with a disabled access room which meant that we had more space for the stroller and travel cot.
The terrace was the highlight of the room and we loved sitting out of an evening to have pizza and wine whilst Arlo was asleep. Although a room with a terrace was slightly more expensive, we felt it was definitely worth paying extra for the additional space so that Ryan and I could still enjoy our evenings.
We arrived at our hotel by 1.30pm and had a very quick turnaround to make it to our lunch reservation for 2pm. We were slightly late (which gives me such anxiety as I hate being late) but the staff at Coco were lovely and accommodated us for our booking. The restaurant was located behind the Opera Theatre with beautiful surrounding buildings. We sat outside but there was lots of shade so the sun wasn’t a problem. Arlo had a bottle and slept straight away so Ryan and I were able to enjoy our lunch which was lovely.
We shared the burrata and beef carpaccio to start, I then had the cod with gnocchi and Ryan had the lamb chops. I have to say, it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time. The cod was cooked to perfection and the lemon butter gnocchi melted in my mouth! All of this was accompanied with a few glasses of rosé.
After lunch we headed for a little shop at Galleries Lafayette where I was spoilt with a little “Push Present” from Ryan and Arlo. As a result of Brexit, if you shop in Paris take your passport along with you and you are able to claim back up to 11.4% VAT as long as you request the required documents from the store and scan these at the Eurostar when you leave!
We headed back to the hotel to get Arlo settled down for bed. Ryan popped out to The Little Italy to get us take away pizza and a bottle of wine which we sat and ate on our terrace, it was the perfect end to the first day.
On our second morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and then headed back down to Galleries Lafayette to the food court. They had so many stalls with so much variety of cheese, pastries, cakes, hams, olives, breads – you name it, they had it and everything was so fresh. We spent some time browsing the stalls and bought ourselves some bits for a picnic and then walked over to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic. The walk was around an hour which we didn’t mind as it was a lovely temperature and the weather was slightly overcast. I carried Arlo in the carrier most of the way (which my legs did not thank me for later in the day!)
After our picnic we walked along to the Champs Elysee and it has now become our tradition, when we are in Paris, to stop and have a drink in Le Fouquet. After drinks, we walked back to our hotel for a relatively early evening and Ryan headed out to The Little Italy again to get our dinner – honestly the pizza was that good!
I think all of the walking from the previous day caught up with us as we didn’t get out of bed until 10.30am (save for a few feeds for Arlo). We sat out on the terrace for a coffee and a croissant before setting off on our walk to St Germaine as we had lunch booked at Les Deux Magots. It was my first time visiting the area of St Germaine and it was beautiful. There were so many cute and quirky bistros and shops around the area. Les Deux Magots was positioned on one street corner and on the adjacent corner was Cafe De Flores – famous for it’s feature in Emily in Paris!
The food at Les Deux Magots was lovely, hearty French food. I opted for the Croque Madame whilst Ryan had the seabass and we both ordered a pastry from the dessert trolley which were amazing!
Our final stop of the day was at Le Café Marly which is a lovely bar / restaurant situated in the grounds of the Louvre (Ryan and I ate here previously when we were in Paris on a wedmin-trip!). We met up with some friends from Dubai for some drinks before walking back to our hotel for yet another evening of pizza on the balcony.
On our final morning, we decided to walk out to a cute café we had seen for breakfast called Triadou Haussmann and we had an amazing continental breakfast with croissants, eggs, ham, coffee, fresh orange juice – the full works. We also popped back into Galleries Lafayette so Ryan could have one final shop before heading home.
We decided to take a taxi back from our hotel to the train station which the hotel arranged for us and the driver was fully prepared with an infant car seat. We were lucky that when we arrived at Gare Du Nord the earlier Eurostar was delayed and they moved us onto the earlier train so we were straight onto the train and arrived back in England a few hours earlier than planned.
We absolutely loved our first city break with Arlo, we’re so lucky that he is such a chilled baby and just loves observing what’s happening around him. I’m sure he’s going to grow up loving to travel just as much as we do.
Last year I booked a one night stay at the Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai for a relaxing girly weekend away with one of my friends. I managed to get a great rate on the hotel, booking a discounted “industry rate” as an Independent Travel Agent.
Besides from the road works on the way in, the entrance to the Versace Hotel is just as grand as you would expect. As you enter the hotel, you are greeted by the large Medusa head in mosaic tiles on the floor, the lobby is bright with high ceilings and coated in gold.
We reached the hotel early as we wanted to make use of the facilities and our room wasn’t quite ready, so we left our luggage with the reception staff and headed out to the pool.
The hotel has a gorgeous spa, salon and gym that you can access as a hotel guest. It also has three pools, the Central and West Pools are family pools and the East Pool is an adults only pool. Outside guests are able to use the pools at a day rate of AED200 which is fully redeemable on food and beverage but access to all three pools is complimentary for in house guests.
As the hotel does not have it’s own beach, hotel guests are able to use the pool and beach at the Nikki Beach Resort and Spa in Dubai at a charge of AED300 minimum spend per adult and AED150 minimum spend per child.
We decided to head down to the East Pool (making the most of it being adult only) and started our day off with some cocktails whilst soaking up the sun. The East Pool had a good choice of food on the pool menu, which is served from La Piscina, so we stayed around the pool for some lunch as well.
There is a great selection of restaurants at the hotel from Italian, to Iranian to Continental you won’t be stuck for choice.
For dinner, we decided to book into Enigma which is the Iranian restaurant and we ordered a selection of the mixed grill, rice and breads. The food was great and the service was excellent. The restaurant has a special dish called “Meet the King of Persia” which the table next to us ordered. This consists of a slow cooked lamb rack and leg which is marinated in “the King’s secret recipe” and is brought out by several members of staff playing instruments and with the King of Persia presenting the food to the table. It was great to watch – I kind of wish we had eaten it too!
Our hotel booking included breakfast for two in Giardino which is the hotel’s buffet restaurant. It had a great selection for breakfast including an egg station, pancake and waffle station, fresh pastries, fresh fruits and teas and coffees.
After breakfast, we headed back down to the East Pool for another day in the sun. Overall, we had a lovely stay at the Versace hotel, it was perfect for a relaxing, girly weekend with a lot of cocktails, sun and nice food.
So, even though this visit wasn’t technically a “staycay”, I recently spent the most amazing day at the luxurious, 7* Burj Al Arab hotel. The Burj Al Arab is Dubai’s most iconic hotel, located along Jumeirah Beach, next to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel – which is often referred to as “the Wave”. The Burj Al Arab is extremely exclusive with rooms being charged at a rate in excess of GBP2,000 per night! In order to even gain access to the hotel, you are required to have a booking at one of the restaurants, the beach club or the spa, otherwise you will not be allowed past the first security gate.
I am extremely grateful that my friend (and boss) treated me to a relaxing spa day and afternoon tea experience as a “baby shower” day and my last day at work before heading off on maternity leave. I have visited the Burj Al Arab previously for dinner in the hotel’s buffet restaurant, Bab al Yam, which is located on the first floor, and also to visit the beach club, Sal, which is located at the backside of the hotel but doesn’t require entrance to the main hotel. I was, therefore, very excited to spend some time inside the hotel itself.
Talise Spa at the Burj Al Arab
The Talise Spa is located on the 18th floor of the Burj Al Arab and from the moment you are welcomed at the spa’s reception, you are treated like royalty. Whilst completing our questionnaires before the treatment we were given a hot towel and fresh ginger tea which was lovely.
I had called in advance to confirm which treatment I would be able to have – as I was 37 weeks pregnant at the time. Unfortunately, I was not able to have the prenatal massage so I opted for the Moroccan Organic Facial which was not on the spa menu but came recommended by the therapist as being suitable for pregnancy as they use only organic, natural products.
The spa is separated into a female-only area and a unisex area which also contains the male changing facilities. We headed through the female changing rooms and were provided with our lockers which contained the softest slippers and robe – I felt like I was wearing a cloud. I was taken up to the room for my treatment and was blown away by the view. The female treatments rooms over look the Palm Jumeirah and have an amazing view of the Dubai Marina as well.
The treatment was so relaxing and my skin felt amazing. After the treatment, we changed into our swimwear and headed through to the unisex pool for a swim and some relaxation.
Following our extremely relaxing morning, we headed down to Sahn Eddar which is the restaurant located in the hotel lobby on level 1. Previously, the Afternoon Tea was served in the Sky Bar, however, the hotel has recently changed the location of the Afternoon Tea as the Sky Bar is now only open from 6pm each day.
Sahn Eddar was a beautiful setting for Afternoon Tea as the lobby is very bright with high ceilings and a view out towards the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Souk Madinat. We sat down just before the Afternoon Tea was due to start and ordered the gold-leaf Cappuccinos because, why not?
The Afternoon Tea consisted of four courses, starting with shredded Alaskan King Crab with Caviar and pancakes – although I skipped the Caviar – followed by a selection of four finger sandwiches which were plated and served to us individually. The next course consisted of a selection of tarts, pastries and biscuits which were divine. They were served on tiered plates that were shaped like the Burj al Arab itself which was a lovely touch.
The final course, my favourite, was a selection of warm scones with fresh cream and jam. I could only just about finish mine as I was extremely full by this point. Throughout the afternoon we could have unlimited drinks such as teas and coffees and as we had the non-alcoholic package it also included a sparkling juice.
We left the Burj Al Arab at around 5pm after a long, relaxing day of luxury and feeling extremely stuffed from our lovely Afternoon Tea.
The Seychelles has been on our bucket list for several years and it is somewhere we have saved for a “special occasion” trip. But, had I realised the flight time to the Seychelles from Dubai was only 3 hours 40, I would have probably visited sooner!
We booked our flights and hotel as a package using Emirates Package Holidays – I received several quotes from the hotels using my own connections as an Independent Travel Agent, but the price with Emirates is great when you purchase as a package as you get a discount on the flights too. Flights to the Seychelles from Dubai are generally quite expensive all year round and honestly, the timings weren’t the best for me being pregnant (and tired), but they worked well for maximising our stay for the long weekend.
Of the hotels available, we decided on Constance Ephelia, a stunning hotel across acres of land, with two private beaches and five restaurants – what more could you want?! Usually when we travel, we like to explore the local areas, local restaurants, day trips, island hopping etc. however, given I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time of our trip, we decided to use this time to completely chill out. Constance Ephelia was perfect for that as we really didn’t need to leave the resort.
Our flight left Dubai at 2.20am and landed in the Seychelles ahead of schedule at around 7am. I had been told by friends to book our airport taxi in advance as they can often be quite expensive, other friends also recommended the option of hiring a car and driving around the island ourselves. But for ease, we booked an airport transfer with Mervin Manouc at Sey Taxi who was a pleasure to deal with and charged us €45 each way, which was slightly less than the market rate of €50 each way.
We were at our hotel by 8am and after checking us in, they had a separate area for guests who had early arrivals to have some pastries and coffee which was a lovely touch. Our room was available shortly after which was great, meaning we were in our room by 9am so that we could unpack, get freshened up and set about our day.
Constance Ephelia has two beautiful private beaches located on the North and South side of the resort. We walked to the South side beach which was about 5 minutes from our room and then walked 2km across to the North side beach – the hotel has golf buggies available to take you but we decided to walk… we took the buggy every time after that!
The North side had a gorgeous French restaurant, Cyann, we stayed there for lunch and sat out on the beach overlooking the sea, it was heavenly. Cyann is a fine dining restaurant and the interior was just as stunning as the views outside. After lunch, we walked along the North beach and then took the golf buggy back to our room for some down time. That evening, we decided to head to Seswala, which was the local cuisine restaurant in our hotel. The half-board package was great, we were entitled to a 3 course meal at any of the restaurants each night of our stay. We decided to both have curries, one of the delicacies being bat fruit curry, but we weren’t brave enough for that. Ryan had the octopus curry whilst I had chicken and both were lovely.
After a great night sleep we headed down to Corossol, the hotels buffet restaurant, for our breakfast. There was a great selection for us to choose from with live cooking stations, freshly baked bread and pastries and a waffle / pancake station, so Ryan was happy! We followed breakfast with a chilled walk along the Southside beach and headed towards one of the pools to spend the day. The hotel had several pools located throughout the resort – not including the villas that had their own private pools – and each of the restaurants had their own pool. We spent the day at the pool of Adam and Eve which is the Asian restaurant.
For lunch, I opted for the Nasi Goreng and Ryan had the local fish wrapped in banana leaf. Both of our meals were excellent. After lunch, we walked around 12 footsteps back to our sun loungers where we crashed for a well-earned afternoon nap.
That evening, we booked into Helios which is the hotels Mediterranean restaurant. I have to say, I think this was my favourite restaurant at the hotel, each dish was phenomenal. To start, I had the gnocchi in butter and lemon sauce, followed by the grilled king prawns (there was a small supplement to pay in addition to the half board package for the prawns, but it was so worth it). Finally, I finished with the coffee and vanilla ice cream sundae.
On our third morning we were booked in for our PCR tests for our return to Dubai. After completing our form for our entry permit to the Seychelles we had the option of booking our PCR test straight away. This is through the government portal and they offer a 50% discount if you book via this method. Every hotel in the Seychelles is linked to this portal and our hotel offered the PCR testing service directly at our hotel. So we had our breakfast and then headed along to one of the villas that had been converted to a Covid testing facility. It was extremely efficient and saved any hassle of having to travel externally for the test.
We spent the rest of the morning relaxing around the pool near the Adam and Eve restaurant but decided to head outside of the hotel for lunch. We had read some great reviews about a restaurant close by called Del Place Restaurant. As the tide was low, we were able to walk from our hotels private beach, wade through the sea to the public beach and then a short 5 minute walk up to the restaurant. It was a beautiful setting overlooking the sea and the service was excellent. I opted for the prawns whilst Ryan had local grilled fish. When we left the restaurant, we decided to walk back to our hotel through the mangroves which was a lovely walk – although a little on the warm side at 2pm.
Every day at 3pm, the staff allow the hotel guests into the pen with the resident tortoise for feeding time so we headed down to see the little (well, big) guys.
On our final morning, and being the creatures of habit that we are, we headed down for breakfast at Corossol and followed it with a little beach walk. We then decided to head over to the North side of the island for our final beach day.
The North Side beach is completely breathtaking. We arrived at around 10am and saw that the tide was out and a lot of people were in the sea around waist height looking in the water. We walked over and realised that you could clearly see all of the coral reef and spent around an hour just walking around and looking down at the fish. It was as though we were snorkeling but we were walking in around with the sea up to our waist just looking through the crystal clear water. We saw thousands of colorful, exotic fish and even saw a puffer fish!
The hotel has a complimentary water sports service so we hired out a kayak to expend some energy before lunch – well, Ryan did! We had our final lunch in Helios restaurant and both opted for the fried fish sandwich – it was delightful.
Our flight back that evening was very late, at 11.50pm, but thankfully we were able to extend our room until 7pm for €150 which was worth the money as it meant that we were able to fully enjoy our final day.
The service throughout all of the restaurants and from all of the hotel staff was amazing, we couldn’t have asked for more and I would absolutely return to this hotel, with our little addition at some point.
A fair few months have passed since our amazing Ibiza trip this Summer and I realised I hadn’t shared the final part of our holiday!
For the final leg of our Ibiza trip we spent five nights at Hotel Torre Del Mar in Playa Den Bossa. The hotel was approximately a thirty minute drive from Es Canar and was located on the far right hand side of Playa Den Bossa beach. The vibe was very different to that of Es Canar. Es Canar was super chilled and felt slightly outdated with an older generation of tourists. Whereas Playa Den Bossa was much more vibrant and had a real buzz about it. To be completely honest, I didn’t like how busy it was to begin with, it actually made me feel very on edge (with regards to COVID) especially as Ibiza was only ever a gateway for us to get home to England.
So we left Es Canar and checked into Hotel Torre Del Mar on the Thursday, and that afternoon Ryan was still working but changed to our new hotel room.
I headed out for a leisurely walk along the beach almost to the far end of the beach and passed Ushuaia, the Beach House, Tanit Beach and others. I walked slightly faster as I passed Jet Apartments and Bora Bora (IYKYK, soz for being a snob). The beach is actually a lovely, sandy beach, unlike some of the other beaches we had visited in Es Canar which were smaller, cove like beaches. Apart from walking along the beach, we mainly ate and drank (a lot) during our time in Playa Den Bossa so I have listed out some of our favourites below. Of course, it goes without saying that every meal was started with a portion of olives and Aoili!
A visit to Casa Maca is an absolute must! The restaurant is attached to a cute boutqique hotel which is located on hill overlooking olive trees and and fields over into the city. You walk from the hotel down a gravel path into the various seating areas the restaurant has to offer with indoor and outdoor seating. As we walked through the restaurant to our table, there was a huge smoking BBQ pit that was towered with cuts of steak and fresh veg.
The food was some of the best we have ever had, we started with the baked aubergine and the chorizo with cheese, followed by the steak with a side of potato gratin, asparags and avocado. We definitely did not have room for dessert so finished with another Aperol!
We spent the day on the sunloungers as Cotton Beach, the booking came with a minimum spend so we had a delicious lunch consisting of sushi and a burratta and tomato salad. Later in the day we headed upstairs to the restaurant for some aperols, olives and Aoili (of course). The restaurant was such a vibe, we didn’t actually realise that they had a brunch on so we sat back and enjoyed the music, watching the brunchgoers partying away!
We had read some great reviews about Bambuddha before our trip and were excited to book in for dinner. The restaurant is a short 15 minute drive from Hotel Torre Del Mar and has vairous seating areas inside and outside. The food was amazing, we shared a selection of beef gyoza, edamame and softshell crab sushi to start, followed by the black cod (my absolute favourite), pad thai and crispy duck pancakes (literally drooling as I’m typing this!). The restaurant was such a vibe with a DJ and a great atmosphere.
On our first day in Playa Den Bossa I walked along the beach to scope out some of the beach clubs and came across the Beachouse, it looked great with a super relaxed Bali vibe. I tried to make a reservation for lunch for any of the days we were there but they were fully booked each day! So we decided to head down one morning for breakfast which was a nice change. The food was lovely and they even offer a variety of yoga and meditation classes in the mornings.
La Cava Tapas
One evening we decided to walk into the old town which was about a 30 minute walk from our hotel. La Cava has a real European vibe with the restaurant seating located in the middle of the highstreet. It had that hustle and bustle about it with people walking past shopping and on their way out for dinner etc. We absolutely love tapas and wanted to try as many things as possible on the menu and didn’t hold back, ordering the Iberian ham; patatas bravas; padron peppers (Ryan’s fave); aoli and olives, of course; calamari; beef meatballs and crusty bread and tomatoes. Everything was so tasty and we were glad for the thirty minute walk home to walk all the food off!
Ohana was a short walk along from Hotel Torre Del Mar and was the perfect stop for lunch for us, esepcially on the days when Ryan was working as he could pop out to meet me for lunch and return to work.
The walk from Hotel Torre Del Mar was about 40 minutes along the beach so I headed fror lunch to meet some friends whilst Ryan was working. The vibe at Tanit was really chilled and the restaurant had a lovely boho vibe. The menu had a lot of sushi (yum) and I opted for the buratta salad with an Aperol Spritz (of course).
We wanted to spend our final evening eating local food in a laid back restaurant – nothing too fancy. We had eaten quite a bit of tapas throughout our trip so decided to look for a restaurant serving paella. As luck would have it, Casa Manolo was listed as the best paella restaurant on the island and was a four minute walk from our hotel which was ideal. We hadn’t made a reservation as it was late notice so tried our luck and thankfully got a table before the restaurant became too busy.
The restaurant is located along the promenade on Playa Den Bossa beach and is very understated from the outside. The food, however, spoke for itself! We ordered the seafood paella to share and it was huge and delicious. I would definitely recomend this restaurant for authentic Spanish paella.
We were sad to see the end of this trip as we really had the most amazing time on the magical island – even more so knowing that it’s where our little bump was conceived! But, Ibiza was always just a route to get us back home to England to spend some time with the family this summer. Honestly, if we had the choice I don’t think we would have chosen Ibiza as the destination for our summer holiday but I am so glad that we did and we both really can’t wait to return.