We planned to spend the first leg of our trip in the small town of Es Canar which is located about 40 minutes from the airport on the north east side of the island. As mentioned in my first post, we extended our trip one day early, and unfortunately, our hotel in Es Canar was already fully booked so we were unable to add an extra night on. So we opted for a small village that was situated around 10 minutes away from Es Canar.
We found a cute little resort in Cala Llenya with good reviews called the Cala Llenya Resort and Spa. The hotel resort was quite dated but the rooms felt more modern, they were spacious and bright so it was perfect for the night.
We took a short walk from the hotel down to the local beach which was tucked away in a sheltered cove with crystal clear water.
On the way back we found a lovely little restaurant, Restaurant Cala Llenya, and joined the locals for some seafood – of course, I had the grilled prawns and Ryan had the mussels, which set the tone for the rest of the trip!
We planned on heading out for dinner as well, but I fell asleep around the pool at 5pm, moved to the room at 6pm and slept almost the whole way through to 8am the next morning! Breakfast was included in our stay so we fuelled up on bacon and eggs and checked out to head onto our second hotel of the trip in Es Canar.
AluaSoul Ibiza Resort
We were not stuck for choice when choosing a hotel on the island, Ibiza has everything from large 3/4* resorts, to apartments, to boutique hotels. AluaSoul is a 4* adults only hotel with the option of having breakfast, half board, full board and all inclusive packages. We opted for breakfast only as one of the only things we planned on doing during this trip was eating out! The hotel is situated a stones throw from the beach, surrounded by local eateries and just down the road from a taxi rank and a supermarket, so we had everything we needed in walking distance.
The lobby was lovely and bright, with high ceilings and windows and had several lounge areas where guests can chill. Upon check in, we were provided with a wrist band which identified our hotel package but also doubled as the room key – this was a great touch as we never had to worry about who was taking the key with them!
The hotel room was nice, although I would say on the smaller side, but had a worktop with a chair which was perfect for Ryan to sit and work at, as well as a balcony, lovely shower and it was equipped with dressing gowns, slippers, a fridge, hairdryer and bathroom toiletries.
Our balcony overlooked the pool area, which is one of the biggest highlights of the hotel. The pool area consists of three pools surrounded by sun loungers as well as an area of Astroturf at the top with another smaller pool. The pool area had a really chilled vibe and the hotel had in-house entertainment that was put on throughout the day with activities such as water-aerobics, waterpolo, abs workouts etc. For people to join in if they wished.
Exploring Es Canar
As we arrived at AluaSoul relatively early, we left our luggage with the staff and set out to explore the local area. The beach was lovely but we followed the sea further round the coast into the next bay which passed in front of the gorgeous Bless Hotel and found some stunning views and another spectacular beach.
As Ryan was working for the duration of our stay in Es Canar, each morning I would get up and go for a walk / run to explore. I had seen on the map that Nikki Beach was around 2.5km from our hotel, so one morning I made it my mission to find it. It was a lovely walk but when I arrived it hadn’t yet opened so I decided to stop next door in the ME Hotel for an iced coffee and admired the surrounding views.
The rest of my time was spent completely relaxing around the pool and of course, eating. I will share all of our restaurant recommendations shortly (there’s quite a few!)
We absolutely loved Es Canar, it’s chilled out vibe and great location, but our next stop and final stop of the trip was to Playa Den Bossa…
Ryan and I had been planning our summer trip back to the UK since before last summer and were gutted when Emirates cancelled our flights a few months ago. Everything has felt so uncertain in COVID times, especially with Boris making changes to the country travel list every few weeks. So as soon as the Balaeric Islands popped onto the green list and the timing fell perfectly with the dates that we wanted to return home, we took the opportunity to travel back.
We have a close family friends birthday and also a wedding that we just did not want to miss in July so decided to bite the bullet and spend 11 days in Ibiza before flying back home.
Unfortunately, I use the term loosely, I was not able to “work from home” in Ibiza so I was required to take the entire trip as annual leave. Ryan, however, worked for the duration of the trip doing his UAE hours, meaning he was up at 6.30am and finishing at 3.30pm.
I decided to make the absolute most of my time in the Ibiza, relaxing and completely resetting. Initially we were planning on renting an apartment that we could both work from for the duration, but once I knew I was going to be having a holiday we opted for hotels and to spend six nights in Es Canar followed by five nights in Playa den Bossa.
When booking our flights, they were rocketing in price for travel on the Friday so we opted to fly on Saturday 3rd. However, when we calculated the number of days / hours we would be spending in Ibiza before flying into England it would have been just a few short of 10 days to the hour. We had heard stories of friends traveling through Border Security in England that they were cross checking the timing of entry and exit stamps and I just did not want to take the risk that we had done something wrong and end up in a situation where we were required to spend an additional ten nights in the UK hotel quarantine – could you even imagine that! So we paid the extra cost and changed our flights to travel a day earlier meaning we would have 11 nights in Ibiza.
Entry to Spain
We had read conflicting information about entry requirements for Spain, and whether or not a PCR was required if you are fully vaccinated. We decided for the sake of AED180 we would have the PCR test in Dubai regardless.
All tourists entering Spain are required to download the Spain Traveller Health App which requires you to enter accommodation details, confirmation of your vaccine and date of vaccine and flight information. The app only accepted EU PCR certificates and we were unable to upload ours so instead we entered our vaccination information. You can only compete the outstanding information in the app 48 hours before your flight and at that time you are provided with a QR code. I would advise printing the code so you have a hard copy as well as the screenshot from the app.
We booked our journey with Emirates as one ticket although the second leg of the journey was fulfilled by Vueling. We departed Dubai at 3am and arrived in Barcelona at around 8am local time. Our luggage was taken all the way through so at least we didn’t need to wait at baggage claim, but we were required to pass through border security and obtain an exit stamp before checking in again and collecting our Vueling boarding pass. We had two hours which was the perfect amount of time for a little breakfast before heading to the departure gate.
The second leg of the journey was only an hour so we spent that watching Too Hot To Handle on the iPad 🤣
I have to say, the taxi situation upon arrival at Ibiza airport was absolute carnage. I had tried booking a taxi before we travelled, but the Welcome Taxis app was quoting €98 whereas our first hotel informed us it would be around €45. I had a mini meltdown (maybe more than a mini meltdown) but anyway the queue wasn’t too bad and we waited around 40 minutes for our taxi.
I think that just about covers all of the life admin for travel from Dubai to Ibiza and although there is a lot more planning and preparation required for travel right now, as long as you keep up to date with the countries regulations and print everything (twice) it isn’t too bad.
We have just returned from a lovely holiday in Athens and it was my first trip back to Greece in almost seventeen years – goodness that makes me feel old! Mum and Dad used to take us on our summer holidays to Greece when my sister and I were younger and we were lucky enough to visit several Greek islands including Crete, Corfu, Kos, Rhodes as well as Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. I love Greece and have lovely memories from our family holidays, like singing karaoke with Katie, playing card games with Mum and going on walks with Dad to find cats (I haven’t changed!)
So as the Eid holiday was approaching, Ryan and I looked into our options for travel, as certain countries are opening up for travel from the UAE – it also helps that we are both fully vaccinated. We were initially looking into the Seychelles but as Eid approached the prices started to rocket. So we browsed through the options on Emirates Package Holidays and found a great deal for flights and four nights accommodation in Athens and booked a locally branded hotel called Divani Caravel – it was quite a corporate hotel but was great for the price and a nice walk into the city centre.
We were so excited to be heading back to Europe as we haven’t been since our mini-moon in Nice almost two years ago. For the first time in ages we had a day flight which was actually lovely, we normally opt for the red eye night flight to maximize our holiday but decided to stick with the nice 10.50am flight which got us into Athens for 3pm.
When you arrive in Athens and you are fully Vaccinated for COVID (having had both doses at least 14 days before travel) then there is a separate queue which requires you to show proof of vaccination and you can head straight for passport control. Alternatively if you’re not vaccinated with both doses then you must go in the queue for a rapid COVID test (you do not need to pay for this) and await the results as a group before proceeding to passport control. It was strange receiving a passport stamp for entry to Greece!
We weren’t sure how easy it would be to get from the airport to the main city so we pre-booked our transfer on an app called Welcome Pickups. It was the first time I had used this app but it was extremely easy to use. It can be accessed across 63 countries and connects users to local taxi drivers (in the same way as Uber) but it allows you to book your ride in advance. We were then provided with the driver’s name, phone number and registration plate which was great. There is also the option of taking a metered taxi or the train as there is a train station located at the airport and several metro links across the city.
As planned, our driver was waiting in the lobby holding a sign with my name and we headed straight to the hotel. The hotel was slightly out of the city centre but was only a 25 minute walk. We thought that it would be a lovely way to walk around and explore the city each day. We reached our hotel at around 4.30pm, had a quick change and then set off on our first adventure. Of course, I had done my research online beforehand and found some gorgeous restaurants and tips for sightseeing in Athens (you can read all about our amazing dining options here). One of the top places to visit in Athens is Plaka; one of the older neighbourhoods which is filled with brightly coloured buildings and quaint restaurants and cafes. It was about a thirty minute walk from our hotel to Plaka and we loved taking in the views (and some beverages) along the way.
On our journey from the airport we asked our taxi driver for recommendations for any local bars we should visit during our trip and he suggested a wine bar called By The Glass. It was relatively easy to find from our hotel and sat outside overlooking a cute church whilst enjoying a few glasses of rosè and a charcuterie board – it was the perfect way to start our trip!
We had made a reservation at Psara Tavern – which means the old fisherman’s tavern in Greek – and is listed as the most romantic restaurant in Athens. The restaurant is gorgeous and set at the top of a stairway with other bars dotted alongside. The restaurant has a lovely view over Plaka and the food was just as impressive as the view!
I had planned a day of sightseeing for our first full day so we were up and rearing to go bright and early! We had breakfast at the hotel and set off straight to the Acropolis. We didn’t buy our tickets in advance we purchased them at the site entrance for €20pp. We had also toyed with the options of a tour guide but decided against it but it was easy enough to pick up local licensed tour guides at the entry for €50pp – these tours last approximately 50 minutes but we felt we wanted to go at our own pace although it would have been great to have the ancient history told along the way.
We were provided with a map, along with our tickets, which identified stops along the way with placards of information so we were able to read up on the information ourselves as we went at our own pace. We visited at the start of May which is outside of the peak season and it was an amazing time to visit as we only crossed a handful of people of the way up whereas we have been told that during the peak season there will be thousands!
After a few hours at the Acropolis we continued exploring the narrow roads of Plaka and the New Town before grabbing a taxi back to our hotel for a quick change before dinner. Uber was one of the most convenient ways for us to get around but it was just as easy to flag down the local yellow taxis and request the journey on the meter.
For dinner that night we had booked a restaurant called Orizontes Lycabettus which is located on Lycabettus Hill. To reach the restaurant you can either walk (not in heels) or take the cable car up which was €7 per person for a return journey. The views from the restaurant were amazing, we felt like we could see across the whole of Athens. As the sun started to set, we noticed what looked like smoke, followed by fireworks and the waiter informed us that Olympiacos had just won the league!
By our third day we were exhausted from all of the sightseeing so I was very happy we had booked a relaxing beach day in the middle. We grabbed a taxi outside the front of our hotel and headed down to the beach. The drive was around 35 minutes and cost around €17 in the taxi. Astir Beach Club is affiliated with the Four Seasons and when making your reservations online you can choose different sections, one being adults only (yes please)!
As we travelled before the season fully opened it was pretty quiet when we arrived, but in typical Louise style we were early. Throughout the day the beds started to fill up and we had chosen a cabana on the front row. It was super chilled and the food was amazing so if you are visiting Athens and need a day to relax I would highly recommend Astir Beach.
We had also booked dinner at a restaurant called Blue Fish that evening which is a short 15 minute walk from Astir Beach around the sea front. The food was incredible (you can read all about it here) and it was a unique dining concept which I would absolutely recommend if you love seafood!
Whilst we were in Athens, some of the COVID restrictions started to ease. A curfew was in place meaning we had to be home by 11pm but on our final night this was extended to 12.30am. We were also lucky enough that on our final day the restrictions on closure of museums was lifted, meaning we were able to visit the Acropolis Museum – to Ryan’s delight!
We walked from our hotel into the city centre and timed it well so we were able to see the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was interesting to watch as the guards are dressed in traditional uniform (my favourite part being their shoes).
The entrance to the Acropolis Museum was amazing as the museum itself is built over ruins which used to house some of the most affluent residences in Athens! The entry to the museum is €10 per person and you can purchase your tickets at the entrance on the day.
We ended our final full day by meeting some friends for drinks and dinner in the New Square, starting at A for Athens and finishing across the square in 360 Bar. Both of these bars have increidble views of the Acropolis during the day and at night.
We decided to have a lay in and just chill on our final morning so we popped out for our last breakfast and in true European style found a café on the side of the road to sit and drink our coffee and orange juice. We ordered an Uber for our journey back to the airport which was very straightforward and an easy drive.
For our return flight to Dubai we were required to show a negative PCR test upon check in so we arranged that with a company called IASYS. They were extremely responsive by email and I informed them of the date and time that we were flying and they scheduled our COVID test for the morning before. The nurse came to our hotel and carried out the test in our room which took no more than 15 minutes for us both from start to finish. We were then emailed our test results within 24 hours. This service cost €60 which we were more than happy to pay for the convenience of not having to leave our room!
My goodness did Athens have a vast range of cafes, bars and restaurants. I don’t think you would be able to work through them all if you tried! We carried out a little bit of research in advance of our trip and made reservations for our evening dinners but decided to just go with the flow with regards to our lunch and afternoon Aperols!
We stumbled across Athinaikon on our penultimate day when we were walking back from the Acropolis Museum. The restaurant looked beautiful from the outside and as we walked inside we saw an outdoor seating area on the road at the back. The seating area was surrounded by plants and had a lovely atmosphere.
We shared a half litre of the house wine along with the halloumi which was served Caprese style with fresh tomatoes. I chose the prawn linguini whilst Ryan had the mussels and we were both really impressed with the food. Our waiter was also great and very friendly. This was one of our top finds during our trip.
Plakaki is located in the same square as Pantheon (where we had stopped for a drink on our first day) and was super busy at lunchtime so we thought we would stop for a bite to eat. Ryan opted for the Greek Salad and I chose the margarita pizza (boring I know) but they were a great combination together and we devoured everything alongside a few Aperol’s.
We spent the day at Astir Beach Club a d pre-booked our cabana at online before visiting. We chose to have lunch in the Privilege restaurant which is located to the right hand side of the beach. The decor in the restaurant is lovely with neutral colours and a boho-vibe.
We shared (another) bottle of rosè as well as a burger and tempura prawns with kale chips. The tempura prawns were so good we had just about finished a mouthful and ordered a second portion! The staff were extremely friendly and we can imagine this restaurant will do great as the summer season starts.
After an active morning hiking the steps of the acropolis we stopped in Regal for some refreshments. It was slightly too early for me to have a wine – although Ryan was gasping for a cold beer – and instead I chose a homemade fresh lemonade. It was delightful and exactly what I needed.
On our final morning we decided to head out for breakfast and just along from our hotel was a little stretch of four or five cafes that we saw were busy most mornings. We popped into Utopia where I chose the English breakfast and Ryan chose the Greek breakfast. Both were lovely and came with a selection of coffee, juice, pastries, toast and jams. The restaurant was very popular and had a selection of indoor and outdoor seating.
We absolutely loved our dining experience at Blue Fish and would highly recommend this to seafood lovers visiting Athens.
The restaurant has a unique dining concept whereby you choose a whole fish or lobster (which are charged per kg) and the fish is prepared in four ways using four separate parts of the fish. This way, you enjoy the unique flavors of each part of the fish without any going to waste.
To start, we had the mushroom risotto which utilized the head of the fish which was used to prepare the broth of the risotto.
Next up was the fish collar which we chose to have teriyaki style and was served with grilled avocado and was delicious.
Following that was the fillet which was a lovely, meaty part of the fish cooked Robata style and served with mashed potato and grilled vegetables (this dish was my favourite!)
Finally, the tail fillet which was grilled and served in a curry style sauce with vegetables.
Each dish was so tasty and yet so unique and it was an authentic dining experience.
For our final night in Athens we decided we wanted some local Greek food and had read excellent reviews about Lithos online. It is located just outside Monastiraki Square – close to our favorite bars: A for Athens and 360. We were joined for dinner by some friends from Dubai so decided to share a few dishes. We chose the chicken souvlaki and pork souvlaki which are essentially skewers of grilled cubes of meat as well as the grilled octopus, which is a local specialty, and the Parma ham risotto. The food was honestly delicious and washed down with a bottle of Prosecco for the girls, red wine for the boys and some complimentary shots of oozo!
We came across Orizontes when searching through tagged photos of Athens on Instagram. The view looked stunning so we booked for a table at 8pm to ensure we got to enjoy the views in daylight and sunset. You can take a cable car up to the restaurant which is €7pp for a return trip. The cars run every twenty minutes which we didn’t realize but somehow timed it perfectly.
Although the restaurant was relatively quiet, the staff were lovely and gave us a complimentary soup starter. Ryan opted for the seabass whilst I had the prawns and we shared some Greek “Patatas Bravas”. The food was nice but the views were outstanding and that really was the highlight of this restaurant.
We had made a reservation at Psara Tavern – which means the old fisherman’s tavern in Greek – and is listed as the most romantic restaurant in Athens. The restaurant is gorgeous and set at the top of a stairway with other bars dotted alongside. The restaurant has a lovely view over Plaka and the food was just as impressive as the view!
We ordered a selection of breads and olives to start alongside the calamari which was some of the tastiest calamari I’ve had and a very generous portion size! We followed that with the prawn linguini and chicken gyros which came deconstructed with the bread, chicken tomatoes etc on the plate. Both dishes were so tasty – and actually the best food we had during our time in Athens.
In our eyes, the restaurant lives up to its name of the most romantic restaurant in Athens with the gorgeous views and an authentic setting.
A for Athens came highly recommended from several friends before traveling to Athens so it was high on our bucket list and did not disappoint. The bar is located in the same square as 360 Bar but I have to say, the views here are unbeatable! With a direct view across Monastaki Square up to the Acropolis we sat and watched the sun setting whilst enjoying some cocktails.
We had made the reservation via email in advance as we were visiting on a Friday evening and wanted to ensure availability but when making a reservation there is a minimum spend of €20 which is not required for walk in reservations – although this is around two drinks so we did not mind anyway.
On our journey from the airport we asked our taxi driver for recommendations for any local bars we should visit during our trip and he suggested a wine bar called By The Glass. On our first day we headed into Plaka via this bar and sat outside overlooking a cute church whilst enjoying a few glasses of rosè and a charcuterie board – it was the perfect way to start our trip!
We came across Lamiral one afternoon when we were wandering around Plaka and saw the gorgeous decor of the outside of the restaurant which enticed us in. We were actually walking off lunch so we’re not hungry at all so we stayed and enjoyed some drinks in the rooftop garden. It is a lovely spot for afternoon drinks and the food smelt divine when it was brought out to the tables around us.
We stumbled across a lovely square surrounded by bars and restaurants on our way into Plaka and decided to stop in Pantheon for quick drink before dinner. I had a lovely Aperol Spritz whilst Ryan got on the local beer and we sat in the sun taking in the alfresco ambience on our first day.
We visited 360 Bar post-dinner two out of the four nights of time in Athens. The bar has a great selection of cocktails, beers, wines and spirits as well as gorgeous views of the Acropolis and wider Athens. One word of advice would be to take the lift as opposes to the stairs as I was panting like a dog by the time I reached the bar!
I am reminiscing about our amazing holiday to Zanzibar and can’t believe we have been back for two months already! As you know by now, Ryan and I love love LOVE food and one of the best parts about travelling for us, is all the amazing food we get to try along the way. Being in Zanzibar, we really wanted to make the most of the fresh seafood that was all around us so below is a list of the restaurants we visited (and loved) during our trip.
We stumbled across this restaurant on our first day in Stone Town when we were walking around the area near our hotel. The staff were extremely welcoming and the restaurant had part inside / outside seating – we were part outside so needed a fan!
I opted for the grilled prawns with coconut rice and my husband ordered the kingfish and masala fries – both dishes were delicious and generous portions.
The restaurant also has a rooftop bar which we wanted to visit but it opens from 5pm and with happy hour!
Before traveling to Stone Town we had read great reviews online about the Beach House. A security guard greeted us at the entrance of the hotel and we went in for, initially, a few drinks. However, we fell in love with the view and the chilled vibes that we decided to stay for a few more drinks and then for dinner.
We shared the bruschetta to start which was a very generous sized portion and was really tasty, followed by the king fish and biryani. The food was delicious and service was great as well. I would highly recommend this restaurant as we felt it ticked all of the boxes.
We stumbled across Baladin when on our morning post-breakfast walk along the beach. We loved the style of the restaurant (well, the whole hotel for that fact) and decided to return for lunch that day. The restaurant decor was lovely, all wooden which gave that rustic feel but modernised with quirky seating areas.
To start, we shared the calamari which was fresh and delicious. We then both ordered the same main as it caught our eye and that was the beer marinated prawns. They were super tasty and served with rice and salad. The staff and restaurant manager were extremely friendly and we have recommended this restaurant to friends visiting Zanzibar since our trip.
As we stayed at Upendo we decided to enjoy dinner at the hotel each night of our stay. The menu is so expansive that we were not stuck for choice!
Breakfast was included in our stay and each morning it consisted of fresh juice, tea, coffee, a fruit platter and then a main breakfast dish. We worked our way through the breakfast menu and each morning it was the perfect start to the day.
In the afternoons we would treat ourselves to a little snack, our favourites were the homemade hummus and bread as well as the flatbread which were bruschetta style breads topped with a variety of toppings.
For dinners, we worked our way through the menu and would highly recommend the surf and turf; seafood skewers; local curry which is served with rice and bread (I think this was my favourite dish) and also the burger!
This inconspicuous restaurant is located along the beachfront, a stone’s throw away from the famous Rock Restaurant and our hotel, Upendo. We came across Pandu Ngozi on our morning walk and decided to return for lunch one day. I decided to have the lobster and Ryan treated himself to the jumbo prawns. The food was so amazing we returned the next day for lunch and I ordered the prawns and Ryan, the lobster. The staff were extremely friendly, the food was amazing and the rustic vibe of the restaurant is what we loved the most and would highly recommend a visit.
We visited the famous Rock Restaurant on my birthday and it did not disappoint. We were staying at Upendo and so our swimming pool looked out onto the Rock.
Our table was booked for 2pm and we timed it right with the tide as it was out so we were able to walk over to the restaurant. We sat outside and had an amazing view that looked the whole way along Pingwe Beach. We shared the tempura prawns to start followed by the grilled seafood platter. The food was great and a very generous portion. Overall we had a lovely lunch and would highly recommend visiting this restaurant.
… I hope reading this post hasn’t made you too hungry!
We are never bored for hotel choice in Dubai let me tell you! New hotels seem to be popping up left, right and centre and we had been eyeing up the new Address Beach Resort for a while. Located at the far end of Jumeirah Beach and close to the walkway across to Bluewater Island, Address Beach Resort dominates the skyline.
The building consists of two towers, which are predominantly residential, and are connected at the top with the world’s highest and longest rooftop pool!
You can access the entrance of the hotel either by driving down JBR, or you can take the last exit from Sheikh Zayed Road, take the ramp across the Marina and U-turn into the hotel – we chose this option to avoid the dreaded JBR traffic. As you drive up the ramp you are greeted by the valet guy, a quick sanitisation mist and the familiar smell which makes you instantly realise you have stepped into an Address hotel.
The lobby is a gorgeous, open area with olive trees and an abundance of seating areas. The interior is similar to that of the Address Sky View with details of books and ornaments neatly arranged. Our check in process was excellent and the staff could not do enough for us. We had arrived early, as we always like to make the most of the facilities, and they accommodated our request of a higher room and were able to provide us with immediate access which was great.
The hotel has three lifts, which can be quite confusing, one which takes you down to the ground floor restaurants with pool and beach access; one for hotel guests only which takes you to the hotel rooms; and the final lift which is for residents and for access to the spa and rooftop pool.
The main attraction for us to this hotel was the rooftop pool measuring in at 94.84m in length, 16.50m wide and height is 293.906m. Recently awarded a Guinness Book of World Records title, the pool is the highest infinity pool in the world! Use of the roof-top pool is exclusive to in-house guests and residents only, which makes the pool all that more desirable. You have to take the lift from the ground floor to level 75 then swap to a different lift for the final two levels. As the doors open you can just see the vast blue water ahead of you which morphs from the pool into the sea. The view is insane. You can walk around the whole rooftop and see all the way down to Jebel Ali on one side, across the Marina on the other and out to see with Palm views.
The pool has several sun loungers partly submerged in the pool itself which are super chilled. They also have double-gazebo beds available which are extremely comfortable as well – we opted for different loungers each day. Finally, they have private cabana pool rooms available to hire for the day which come fully equipped with a TV, shower, alcohol, food, personal butler and much more – you, of course have to pay for this privilege!
The hotel also has a child-friendly pool on the ground floor with a mini-splash park for keeping the little ones entertained.
We had booked a Marina facing room, I cheekily asked for an upgrade to a sea-view room but the hotel was fully booked on the weekend that we visited. The room was lovely, modern and bright – everything you would expect from a brand new hotel. The bed was extremely comfortable and the far side of the room had one long window which spanned across the entire length of the room and through the bathroom. In the bathroom was a free-standing bath in front of the window with a separate waterfall shower and Jack and Jill sinks.
All aspects of the room could be managed from one tablet, including the air-con, lights, TV, music and it also contained information about the hotel, facilities, and menus for room service.
The hotel has several restaurants located throughout it. On our first day, we decided to have lunch down in The Beach Grill which is located just about on the beach and next to the family pool on the ground floor. We loved the décor in this restaurant as it had boho / beach-chic vibes. I opted for the Salmon whilst Ryan had the burger and the food was delicious.
For dinner, we had booked a table at Zeta-77 and invited some friends to join us for sundowners before dinner. Zeta-77 is located on level 77 next to the infinity pool and the views from this restaurant are astounding, some, if not the best views in Dubai. We got there for 6.30 and as the sun set, we could see the lights start to appear across the whole of the Palm, Bluewater Island and the Marina. It was such a beautiful sight.
The menu at Zeta-77 is relatively small with only four options for main dishes, however we loved all of the mains so it wasn’t too bad. The food was delicious but, unfortunately, the service was terrible. I don’t like to complain in restaurants, I often just complain about it to Ryan, but on this occasion, as we had paid a deposit of AED2,000 to even book the table we did complain about the service. I guess that there is always teething problems when opening a new restaurant so hopefully things will improve.
Breakfast was located on the ground floor in the buffet restaurant and was included as part of our booking. And I have to say, the breakfast was absolutely amazing. I really love a hotel breakfast and this was a combination of served a la carte “main” dishes and buffet style for pastries, waffles, pancakes etc.
The hotel also has a Brazilian restaurant at located just left of the lobby which would be good to try.
Overall, we absolutely loved our stay at the Address Beach Resort and would return purely for the rooftop pool!
Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa is one of my favourite hotels in Dubai. Located on the far end of Jumeirah Beach, the hotel has three swimming pools, two of which have swim up pool bars to really give you those holiday vibes! The hotel spans across a huge grass area which leads onto its own private beach which in turn connects down to JBR beach. The hotel is definitely family friendly with a children’s play area; kids swimming pool; volleyball courts; football pitch; table tennis and mini golf!
Ryan and I have visited Le Royal Meridien many times for brunch at Brasserie 2.0, which is a must if you haven’t done it before, and for pool days (as they often have some great deals, especially during the summer) but we had never actually stayed before. I decided to book a girly weekend (sorry Ryan) and my friend and I booked a one night stay with breakfast for a weekend in October of last year.
Pulling up to the hotel entrance, the concierge are instantly at hand to assist you with taking your luggage and valet parking your car. I love the lobby with its chic light interior, hammock chairs and seating areas. The hotel has installed clear plastic dividers between the guests and the hotel staff at the check in desk, as well as installing queue mechanics to ensure that a safe distance is left between the guests checking in. We had booked with a great deal on Booking.com and upon check in we were offered an upgrade to a sea facing room with balcony for an additional 60 dirhams, which we jumped at!
The rooms are modern, although on the slightly smaller size, and come equipped with all of the standard items you would expect, including extra-cosy dressing gowns (my favourite). We headed straight down to the pool for a frozen daiquiri and a sunbathe and relaxed straight into holiday-mode. Unfortunately, the hotel did feel quieter than the usual buzz it has about it – but that can only be expected in these times. The staff were great with taking all precautionary measures required as a result of COVID. The sunbeds were well distanced and the beds were frequently sanitised.
The hotel has a whopping twelve restaurants to choose from with the choice of Mexican, Indian, Italian, seafood, steak and international buffet. We wanted to get as much time in the sun and so for lunch we decided to order from the pool bar food menu and eat at our sun-beds. For dinner, as you can imagine, we were spoilt for choice but the steak restaurant, Rhodes 2.0 had a great offer on for starter, two mains, two sides and a bottle of wine for AED500! The food was amazing and the restaurant had a really romantic feel with high ceilings, chandeliers and an intimate feel to it.
I love a hotel breakfast and, I must say, this was one of the best hotel buffet breakfasts I think I have ever had! The choice was huge! We ordered sausage and bacon (yes, real pork), eggs in any way you like, and then headed up to the buffet. There was a great choice of pastries, fruits, juices, coffee, tomatoes, mushrooms, the lot. I didn’t need to eat again until dinner!
We couldn’t end our girly weekend without a trip to the spa for a pamper. So after breakfast we spent the morning around the pool and booked a massage for 3pm. The spa is also on the Entertainer which is great so the massage was buy one get one free.
I would absolutely stay at Le Royal Meridien again, and as we have a few friends that often stay at the hotel, we plan on joining them next time they make it over!
Our flight landed into Zanzibar at 6.10am, we had applied for our visa online in advance of traveling which saved us a lot of time at the airport. The visas cost $50 for UK passport holders whether this is completed online or on arrival. We were also required to complete a health declaration form on the plane for handing over to the staff when entering immigration. Even with the requirements of the additional forms we were through security in record breaking time and as we had decided to travel with hand luggage only we were out of the airport within 15 minutes!
We had arranged our airport transfers in advance, which I would highly recommend, as it can be quite overwhelming with all of the taxi drivers waiting around the exit. Our hotel in Stone Town had put us in contact with a local driver who organized all of the transfers we needed for our trip. Our driver was waiting outside for us and took us to our first destination which was Tembo Hotel in Stone Town.
Stone Town is the “old town” of Zanzibar with a very active port that has daily ferries that run to mainland Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya. Stone Town has a real buzz about it and is full of restaurants, roof top bars, gift shops and one of the main attractions is a museum dedicated to Freddy Mercury! When Freddy Mercury was younger he and his family used to live in one of the rooms at Tembo Hotel (this was secretly another reason I wanted to stay there)!
We had booked a trip across to Prison Island which is one of the main tourist attractions in Stone Town. The story behind the prison is interesting but the main attraction on the island is the tortoise sanctuary. There are over 100 tortoises at the sanctuary with the oldest being 195 years old!
You can easily pick up boats and tour guides around the area and probably for a cheaper price than we paid so if you’re not on a tight schedule I would advise just checking out what’s around when you arrive in Stone Town.
We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant called 6 Degrees South and I tucked into my eagerly awaited spicy prawns – they didn’t disappoint. We were absolutely shattered by this point so headed back to our Freddy Suite (joke) and had a little nap before getting ready and heading out for some sundowners. We had read about a restaurant called the Beach House which is connected to the Park Hyatt hotel and ended up staying for 4 hours watching the sunset and having a lovely meal.
The following day we were up early and excited for our flight out to the Serengeti for a 2 night stay and safari – you can read all about that here. After the 2 night stay, we landed back in Zanzibar for the final 4 night stretch of our holiday.
We had arranged to be collected from the airport by the same driver we previously used and he was stood ready and waiting for us. We headed straight to one of the nearby COVID-19 testing facilities as we were required to have our test carried out at least 4 days prior to our flight – this is because all tests are then sent to the mainland for laboratory testing so the results take slightly longer. We had been well informed by some friends regarding the process before our trip so felt as though we were as prepared as could be… oh how wrong we were. Of course, the day we visited they had changed the process, which no one was aware of, and we were required to complete a form online via the Zanzibar COVID-19 Testing app. In the form, you are required to add the date in which you would like your test results dated, although we had the test on the 9th March, we requested that the results were dated 11th March so that it was sufficient time prior to our flight on 13th March.
So, once you have downloaded the app and completed your form, you need to print and take a copy of your form as well as your passport copy to the counter for payment. You can make payment by card or cash, it is $80, but we were advised to have cash as sometimes the electricity goes out! After making payment and with your printed form you can then make your way through to the test itself. After this, you are free to leave and you can check for your results via the app by simply entering your passport number. This was the most efficient part of the process as once your results show up in the app you can then print this for your check in at the airport.
Our Poor Hotel Choice…
We left the test centre feeling very flustered, hot and were excited to get to our hotel to relax as it had been a long day of traveling. But. We arrived at the hotel we had booked in advance, Karafuu Beach Resort and Spa, and without going into too much detail it was horrendous. Ryan and I are well-seasoned travellers and know, most of the time, what we are getting ourselves into. We also have a list of all the hotels we have stayed in together which currently totals 63, and Karafuu is the first hotel which we have asked to move rooms and although our booking was for 4 nights we stayed for one and checked out only 16 hours after checking in!
Anyway… the following morning we walked along Pingwe Beach, which is a gorgeous stretch of white sandy beach, and popped into every hotel along the way, asking if they had availability for a three night stay. Thankfully, the last hotel along the beach was Upendo Beach Zanzibar and they had room at the Inn for us to stay for three nights. We were ecstatic and managed to get a really good rate as we were making the booking so last minute. We headed back to Karafuu to collect our cases (which we hadn’t even unpacked), checked out and took a taxi back to Upendo. That is when we could finally just relax.
Upendo Beach Zanzibar
As we checked in we were greeted with a fresh coconut and the hotels guard doggies wagging their tail; it was bliss.
Our room was available immediately as the staff had been in to make sure everything was perfect before we arrived back with our suitcases. Honestly, our room was world’s apart from the room we had just come from – but I don’t want to dwell on the previous hotel – all I can say is that Upendo was absolute heaven. Our villa was standalone and on the beachfront so when we opened the curtains we could only see the sand and sea. On the front patio area we had a gorgeous hanging double lounge bed which we spent most afternoons chilling on! Inside the room it was nice and light with lots of small windows covered by mosquito nets which meant we had lovely day light.
The bathroom was one of the highlights of the room for us, it was huge. As you walked in, to the right hand side, just under the window was a lovely free standing bath followed by a Jack and Jill sink, the toilet and then the highlight, an outdoor open air shower! The shower had a waterfall shower head hanging from the ceiling; a huge piece of drift wood which was used for holding the complimentary shower gels and other toiletries but the best part of this shower was the plants and trees which had grown up the outside of the shower room and into the shower itself, it just gave it that real jungle feel.
The room was gorgeous and felt very rustic and authentic yet with modern furnishings. It had a coffee machine with pods refilled daily; a water dispenser so we had unlimited access to complimentary water; gorgeous toiletries in sustainable glass bottles and of course, the best part was our private rooftop swimming pool!
We really fell into the swing of island life and fell asleep early each night and woke up early each morning. We would head down for breakfast which was served with tea, coffee, fresh juice and fresh fruit and worked our way through a different dish on the menu each morning.
Upendo is located at the far end of Pingwe beach so after breafast we would go for a lovely walk along the beach and onto the sandbanks where the tide had drifted out. Also along Pingwe beach is a great choice of restaurants so each lunch time we decided to head out to find some of the local seafood restaurants.
Upendo has a popular restaurant with an extensive menu so each night we stayed at the hotel and tried a different dish on the menu. The food was incredible and we loved the relaxed vibe of the restaurant, we could just lounge around for hours on the sofas.
We decided to book the Snorkel and Starfish trip and booked this direct through our hotel, rather than with the guys along the beach. Although the trip was slightly more expensive with our hotel, they always book through the same local man from the village and pay him a salary of the tours at the end of the month, he then distributes this throughout his village. Ryan and I were the only ones on the trip and so we were able to go at our own pace. It was lovely that our tour guide came in to snorkel with us and for a swim when we reached the starfish.
Our final day in paradise just so happened to be my birthday and we had some friends from Dubai who were in Zanzibar at the same time so they came over to our hotel for some drinks and we had a lunch reservation at the Rock Restaurant. The food was great (as were the drinks) and Ryan and I ended up heading back to the airport rather drunk but at least it meant we slept for the whole flight!
We absolutely adored our time in Zanibar and Tanzania and are so glad with our decision to change hotels at the last minute, we definitely would not have had the same incredible experience otherwise!
I started writing this blog as we were sat in a tiny “terminal” waiting to board our flight from Zanzibar to the Seronera Airstrip for a two night stay at the Melia Serengeti Lodge. I’m feeling so grateful that we were able to experience our third African safari, having previously visited Tsavo National Park in Kenya and the Garden Route Game Reserve in South Africa.
In typical Louise style we arrived at the airport super early! As we checked in we were informed that we only needed to arrive 20 minutes before our flight, and there’s us standing there an hour and a half before. But, it was fine we just found ourselves a little seat in the corner to wait. The plane was tiny, the smallest I have ever flown on and seats 12 people, plus the pilots! We booked our flight with Coastal Aviation but there are several other companies that offer the same internal flight route. It was a surreal experience as we chose the seats at the very front within arm’s length of the pilots and we watched them intently as they prepared us for take-off.
We had two other airstrip drops on the way to Seronera Airstrip and as people departed our excitement grew to start our safari adventure. We were looking out of the windows and at one point we looked down and the pilot pointed out a herd of elephants walking under us, it was honestly an unforgettable moment.
By the time our plan landed at the airstrip there was only Ryan and I and one lady left on the plane! Our safari ranger, Vincent, was waiting ready for us and took us straight for a gorgeous picnic in one of the segregated picnic areas in the park. We thought we would be heading straight to our hotel but didn’t realise that we were about to start our first safari of the trip which was amazing!
After the picnic the first animal we saw was a crocodile, basking on one of the streams. It was absolutely huge and the safari buzz kicked in instantly!
On our first day we were so lucky to witness six female lions dozing in a tree who then spotted a buffalo in the distance. We watched these lionesses for over an hour and a half as they stalked, one by one, down from the tree and into the grass to approach the buffalo. Thankfully, our ranger had binoculars at the ready for us and we witnessed the lions attack the buffalo, circling it and hanging off its back at one point! It was incredible to watch but I was happy to see the buffalo escape!
As we carried on our safari we saw a huge herd of elephants, my favourite, and I just loved seeing the playful babies in amongst the herd. We also saw giraffes, a serval cat, hyenas, lots of impala, ostrich, monkeys, warthog – to name a few!
When we arrived at our hotel, the sun was slowly starting to set. The hotel had kindly upgraded us to the “Savanah” room and we had a lovely, bright, open room with a cushioned terrace seating area so we sat back and watched the sun set before heading down for dinner.
After our first super comfy night’s sleep we were up at 6am to get ready and head down for breakfast before starting our second safari of the trip. The breakfast, I have to say, was one of the nicest breakfasts I have had in a long time. We were greeted with a selection of pastries and preserves brought to the table, as well as juice and coffee and we were able to order eggs any way as well as side dishes. I opted for scrambled eggs with a side of bacon and it was delicious.
We set off on our safari just after 7am with the view of returning to the hotel by lunch time and to spend some time enjoying the hotel facilities. we requested to have Vincent for each of our safari’s. He has been working as a ranger in the Serengeti for over fifteen years so he had great knowledge of the animals, plants and locations of where certain animals liked to hang out.
There was a lot of chatter on the radios amongst the rangers regarding the location of the leopards and cheetahs that morning so we spent quite a bit of time trying to scout them out, but with no luck. We then saw in the distance several vultures circling so Vincent followed their trail and we stumbled across a pride of nine lions, including a big older male and a younger male, of about five years old. We were so close to them but they didn’t appear phased in the slightest as they lazed about in the grass.
Later that morning we were due to be setting off about an hour and a half drive to the north to see the migration, but we received a call of a further sighting of the leopard. We set off on its trail and almost lost hope until Vincent, somehow, spotted him up in a tree! Even as we approached, Ryan and I still couldn’t pick out the leopard until we were almost below the tree. He just laid up on his branch chilling and watching the world go by, it was amazing. I honestly don’t think you can beat the excitement of searching for animals out in the wild and finally sighting them!
We then made our way to the northern quarter to check out the migration. We could see a sea of dark patches from a distance and as we approached we realised that we could see hundreds of thousands of zebras and wildebeest across the plains. It was an unforgettable sight. Our ranger had been told that earlier in the day there had been a cheetah sighting in the area, we unfortunately didn’t spot him but when we flew back to Zanzibar we were swapping stories on the plane and a lady showed us videos of two cheetahs eating a wildebeest – eek!
We ended up back at our hotel at around 3pm after an amazing almost eight hour safari and were treated to a wonderful set menu lunch, which was included as part of our all-inclusive package. I then treated myself to a dip in the pool – which was absolutely freezing at the time due to the wind – and left Ryan at the bar while I snuck off for a massage.
We were so sad to be leaving the gorgeous Melia but counted ourselves so lucky for the amazing experiences we had in such a short amount of time. We sat down for the wonderful breakfast and checked out before setting off on our final safari.
We left the hotel on our journey back to the airport and gave ourselves some extra time in case we saw anything on the way… and did we see some sights!! We first came across a pride of 9 lions with 4 small Cubs! We sat watching them for a while and moved on. About 5 minutes up the road were two males on the road side following a scent. We were so close to them! The strolled in front of our car and carried on into the bushes. We then saw them stalking another female with 6-7 young cubs! The Cubs ran off to the right whilst the mum walked to the left. The largest male began to track her and it turned into a chase as the male started running after the female!! We followed parallel to them and realized behind us on the left side of the road was a family of giraffes who also started running as they had spotted the lions as well! Then a bit further a long we saw some hippos fighting! We felt like we were on a David Attenborough set!
We reached the airstrip and had to part ways with our lovely ranger Vincent (if you are planning a trip to the Serengeti I would highly recommend Vincent, his company can be found here). Our flight back to Zanzibar was indirect so we had a short layover in Arusha before embarking on the final stint of our magical holiday which was four final nights at a beach resort in Zanzibar.
The name really says it all. This hotel took the meaning of Luxury to a whole new level for us!
The hotel is located about an hour’s drive from Dubai Marina and about 45 minutes from the Dubai Hills Estate. We set off relatively early and once we turned off the main road onto an adjacent slip road out to the desert, we were greeted by a security guard who confirmed our check in details before letting us through the gate. What we didn’t realise at the time is that Al Mahais located in the middle of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve which is why the security is so stringent. As we set off from security, the next 25 minutes of the journey was off the beaten track, on a small rubble road leading you further into the desert towards the hotel. On this part of the journey we were surprised to already encounter some wild Oryx and gazelles. Before we had even arrived at the hotel Ryan was bored of me shrieking “LOOK” every few minutes!
As some of you know, I changed jobs in July last year and my lovely team from my previous company were extremely generous and gifted me a voucher which we used towards a one night stay at Al Maha. Ryan and I have stayed at several desert resorts throughout the UAE but AlMaha has always been slightly more on the expensive side. We decided to use our gift voucher for a one night stay to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. Crazy right, heading out to the desert in the middle of the heat in August… but don’t worry, every room comes with its own private infinity pool!
We spent the day chilling around the pool and every so often some of the gazelles would become a bit curious and come over to investigate. The hotel staff said that if we had a small amount of bread we might be able to feed them, so I asked for a side of bread with my pizza at lunch just in case. Sure enough later in the afternoon the gazelles came back and I got close enough to feed them!
As we approached the main reception of the hotel it just felt so calm and quiet everywhere. We checked in and were taken by a golf buggy straight to our room with an early check in (I say it every time, but honestly I love an early check in)! The staff dropped our bags and I’m not sure if they heard the clanging of the wine bottles in our bags, but they conveniently asked if we would like an ice bucket and glasses – which, of course we did!
The room was stunning and so spacious. As you entered the front doorway there was a small cloakroom area with a desk and chair and a small area to make tea and coffee. To the right of the entrance was the bathroom which was huge, with a lovely big bath, Jack and Jill sinks and a double door which opened wide so it felt as if the bath was outside – I got South African safari vibes from this! Located in the main room (which was a bed room / living area) was a huge double bed and a chilled out seating area with two chaise longue either side of a small coffee table which faced outside to the main highlight of the room, the pool. The room was designed in the style of a tent, so there was a pole in the centre of the room, propping up the draped ceiling. The pool was really big for a private room pool, considering that every room in the hotel has one!
As we were there celebrating our first wedding anniversary, we decided to treat ourselves to the private in-room dining experience and the sunset camel ride. We headed down to the lobby for 6pm for the sunset desert camel ride and both shared one camel which took us on a 20 minute journey out to the desert.
When we arrived, there was a small bar set up with champagne, beers, wine, soft drinks, anything you could want, and we sat on the dunes watching the sun go down before heading back on the 20 minute journey back to the hotel.
When we got back to our room, the hotel staff had already been in and set up the dining area outside our room on the terrace in front of the pool, it was so lovely. When we requested the in-room dining we were required to choose our options from the set menu. For starters, we ordered the beef carpaccio and shrimp tempura. The carpaccio was gorgeous and the shrimp tempura was presented on a bed of black rocks which was unique. For mains, I have to say that I made the best choice, and ordered the fillet steak which was served on a bed of creamy mash potato and a side of vegetables. Ryan’s main was also super tasty, he opted for the Arabic mixed grill which came with a selection of beef kebab, jumbo prawn, fish and chicken with a side of grilled vegetables and chips. To finish, the hotel had treated us to a lovely chocolate cake which was personalised to say “Happy Anniversary” which was extremely generous but by this point we were stuffed! At least we didn’t have far to go back to our room!
After an incredible night’s sleep, we requested the hotel to deliver our breakfast to our room and placed our order over the phone. We had an amazing selection of pastries, breads, eggs benedict, waffles, coffee and juices, all set up on the coffee table in front of the doors leading out to the pool.
We were able to have a slightly later checkout and spent the day chilling in the sun in our private pool; it was bliss. Thankfully, the drive back home was short and sweet after an amazingly relaxing stay. Al Maha really is one of, if not the most, luxurious hotel I have stayed it, nothing is enough for the staff and the proximity to central Dubai is great as its only a short drive home after a chilled out weekend.