My bucket list – 30 things before 30

So my birthday is approaching, which makes me happy because we get to go on holiday, and I will be turning 27 which is one step closer to 30. So it got me thinking of all the things I would love to do before I’m 30, given that I have three years to make it happen, and it’s prompted me to write a bucket list!

I have cheated a little bit, by including five things I have already done, but I definitely consider these to be bucket list moments of my life over the past few years, so they deserve to be included on the list. I know some of these items on my list are absolutely once in a lifetime holidays and experiences, and honestly, I don’t expect to be able to tick them all off in the next three years, so this might end up being a rolling bucket list of forty things to do before I’m 40!

But, here is my absolute dream bucket list of thirty things to do before I’m 30:

  1. Hot air balloon ride

Those of you who read my blogs will know this is something I have already ticked off, and it definitely was up there with one of the best things I’ve ever done. I was lucky enough to do a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, where every day, weather permitting, 150 hot air balloons grace the sky at sunrise. Even if riding in a hot air balloon isn’t your thing, just watching them all float up over the mountains at sunrise was breath taking.

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  1. Swim with turtles

Swimming with turtles out at sea has always been a dream of mine and we were finally able to do this whilst visiting Muscat in December. Sadly, we didn’t have any cameras / go pro with us so we just have the memories to last for this one!

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  1. Skydive

Ryan and I did a skydive with Skydive Dubai when we first moved here in 2015 which I had booked as his birthday present. I don’t really count myself as the daring and adventurous kind, and I’m not sure if I actually would have the courage to do it again, but the skydive over the Palm is one of the most mind blowing moments of my life. The views were insane and we were so lucky that it was such a clear day, we could see for absolutely miles!

  1. Take a cooking class in Asia

A cooking class is such a great way to fully immerse yourself into another culture, and that’s exactly what we did in Nepal. We started by walking to the market to purchase all of the local produce to cook our meals; we got a lift in a tuk tuk back from the market and we got to cook four dishes of local Nepalese food – but eating it was definitely the best part!

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  1. Seeing elephants in the wild

When I first decided to go travelling at 19, I spent eight weeks in Thailand, two of which I spent volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park (just an FYI, this is the most amazing place in the whole world). ENP has created a sanctuary for elephants that have been rescued from tourist riding, the logging industry, the circus and many other terrible places that elephants just shouldn’t be. Having spent two weeks with these gorgeous animals, I wanted to see them for myself in the wild, and also with their tusks.

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As a surprise, Ryan booked a 5 day holiday to Kenya and took me on safari. Ryan had been speaking with our tour guide and told him how much I love elephants and so he was determined to find some for us. As we were driving through Tsavo National Park our guide started shouting “fresh poo, FRESH POO” and as we drove round the corner we saw a watering hole with an entire herd of ele’s including babies, and the big daddy’s with their huge tusks. I burst into tears, it was one of the most magical moments of my life.

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Now for some items on my bucket list I haven’t yet ticked off…

  1. Go camping in the desert
  2. Swim with sting rays
  3. Swim with sharks
  4. Visit Japan to see the cherry blossom
  5. Go wine tasting in Cape Town
  6. Walk along the Great Wall of China
  7. Ride in a vintage car in the South of France (I would say drive but I’m not a very good driver!)
  8. Visit the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia
  9. Camel / donkey ride in Petra, Jordan
  10. Swim in the dead sea
  11. Cruise down the River Nile
  12. Surf in Sri Lanka
  13. Stay in an igloo (Norway, Switzerland, Austria and Finland)
  14. See the Northern Lights
  15. Helicopter ride
  16. Get married (just over 6 months to go!)
  17. Go to an England football match
  18. Buy a house (sadly with all of this travelling, being a proper adult and buying a house is being pushed further and further down my list…)
  19. Visit the place my Mum was born in Singapore
  20. Horse riding in the desert / on the beach
  21. Visit the Pyramids
  22. Go on safari and stay in a safari lodge
  23. Visit Alcatraz, San Francisco
  24. Wine tasting tour in Napa Valley
  25. Have a BBQ in the desert

We have a few trips planned / pencilled in for this year, but obviously our priority is the wedding in August (and so ticking off number 21 from the list). But, in March I am hoping to tick off number 24 when we visit Singapore and head to either Changi Museum or Changi Beach to see the place where my Mum was born 50 years ago.

So, if anyone has any tips / advice for any of the above items on my list, please let me know as I would welcome all recommendations!

A look back on 2018

2018 was an amazing year for me, travel wise, in my work life and also in my personal life. I visited 6 new countries, returned to 4 countries and visited home three times to see family. I wanted to write this blog to reflect on some of the amazing memories I made last year. 

2018 NYE in Germany

We saw the new year in from Frankfurt in Germany. Although it’s a country I’ve previously visited it was the first time Ryan and I visited together. Frankfurt was also a new city for me. When we booked the trip a lot of people asked “why Frankfurt?” Honestly, the reason was because we got such a good offer on flights from London to Dubai with a 3 day layover in Frankfurt so we thought, why not?! One of the highlights of this trip was stumbling across a wine and food market where people were out dancing and singing in the streets, drinking wine and it was only 10am! Inside the marquee was a huge food market and we went from stall to stall trying cuts of hams, cheese, breads and olives, we were absolutely in our element!img_0512

To celebrate New Years, we went for dinner at a teppanyaki restaurant called Kabuki. There was a chef for every table of 8 and the food was absolutely delicious. We finished our meal at around 11.45 and headed out to the bridge to watch the fireworks. It really was the perfect way to see in the new year. 

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Tbilisi, Georgia

This was the first new country of the year for me, and honestly, not a country I had ever really considered travelling to. Ryan loves to ski and since we moved to Dubai in 2015 we hadn’t been skiing together. Georgia was the perfect option for a ski holiday from Dubai. The flight was less than 4 hours, ski passes and equipment hire is super cheap (especially compared to Europe) and we had the slopes almost to ourselves – which was great for me only just being off the training slopes in Ski Dubai!

We spent three days skiing followed by one day in Tbilisi to explore (and drink lots of wine). It’s given us the bug to look at skiing elsewhere in 2019 (please Ryan!) and we are exploring options close to Dubai such as Romania, Azerbaijan or Lebanon. 

It was after this trip that I first decided to start documenting our travels, and you can read about skiing and Tbilisi here.

The Philippines

Our second new country of the year and I have to say my favourite holiday of 2018 (obviously Italy will always hold a special place in my heart and I will get to that soon) but, I have such a connection with Asia, I think it’s because when I first travelled solo at the age of 19 I spent two months in Asia exploring Thailand. The Philippines really was everything I imagined it to be and more, it is the most breathtaking country I have visited with so much natural beauty, the people are some of the friendliest I have met and we just loved the chilled out island vibes. 

We spent time on Coron island, which is an island just of Palawan, and also in El Nido. I would love to return to explore more of what the Philippines has to offer.

Nepal

The third new country that we visited for a long weekend in June at the end of Ramadan was Nepal. As I’ve said previously, we really try to make the most out of the long weekends and public holidays we get in the UAE and a long weekend in Nepal was the perfect escape from hectic Dubai life. The flight to Nepal is less than 4 hours from Dubai and you can pick them up relatively cheap (we don’t mind budget airlines). When we landed in Nepal, my ele pants were straight on, my backpack on my back and we were off to explore for the day. Kathmandu was a world away from the built up shiny city that is Dubai but the vibrant, crazy, chaotic streets of Kathmandu captured me. 

Although we only spent two nights in Nepal, we worked the flight times so that we had three full days, packed full of activities and we felt like we had been away for a lot longer. 

England

I decided to take a short trip back to England in April as I was feeling a bit homesick, Ryan stayed in Dubai whilst I travelled back alone and spent the full four days in Lowestoft with my family, which was exactly what I needed. Our second trip home was in July, the reason we were flying home was a surprise 80th birthday party for my Grandad and we decided to make a little holiday of it. 

Every time we travel home we split the time between Kent and Lowestoft. This trip was lovely because we spent so much time with our families, the weather was amazing and the World Cup was on! We spent a day in London at Hyde park – you really can’t beat London in the summer!

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Mini Euro Trip

We were lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in Scotland in August and decided to make the most of being in that part of the world. So we spent four days in Prague, three in Scotland followed by five in Italy

Our euro trip ended in a way that I didn’t see coming, with Ryan proposing on our first night in Positano. I know I said the Philippines was my favourite holiday of the year, but Italy really was a dream. 

France

We returned to Dubai after our engagement and started looking at wedding venues for 2019. We fell in love with the idea of a wedding in France and found some stunning venues which meant we had to take a last minute trip to France to view them! Ryan and I got engaged on 28th August and confirmed our venue on 29 September – there was no hanging about!

Our trip to France was unexpected but extremely important and we now have plans to return to our wedding venue in April to trial the food etc. and then of course we will be returning in August for our actual wedding day!!

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Turkey

Turkey was my fifth new country of the year but Ryan wasn’t invited on this holiday, it was a girls only trip! Cappadocia truly took my breath away and it was a definite bucket list moment for me. I know social media often portrays things to be better than the reality and having seen so many amazing photos of Cappadocia I was worried it would be the same.  But honestly, the photos don’t even do justice to the magical sunrise with 150 hot air balloons coming up over the mountains. And riding in a hot air balloon basket 500ft Up in the air over the valleys and the mountains, this holiday was definitely one of the highlights of my year. 

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Oman

Last but not least, our final new country that we ticked off this year. Muscat was a real treat and took us by surprise with its natural beauty and all of the amazing outdoorsy activities you can do. The highlight of this trip was another bucket list moment for me as we swam with turtles out at sea (and didn’t get a single photo but I don’t care, the experience was amazing!)

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I wrote this post on the flight from Abu Dhabi to London as we were flying home for Christmas. I feel truly grateful for every country we visited, all the people we met and all of the new experiences we had in 2018. I know that Ryan often jokes that we go on too many holidays (and that we need to save for the wedding blah blah blah) but I love travelling, I love holiday planning and I can’t wait for the new adventures that lay ahead for 2019. Currently we have our March holiday booked which consists of two nights in Kuala Lumpur, four nights in Langkawi and two in Singapore so if anyone has any recommendations for those, they are always welcome!

Making Memories in Muscat

Living in Dubai I feel that I often take for granted the opportunities that we have to travel, and the counties that we can visit that are right on our doorstep! Oman is a country I have wanted to visit for a while now, having only previously crossed the borders for my visa run when I first moved to Dubai almost four years ago. I also realised I haven’t actually visited any other Gulf countries since living in Dubai! We try to make the most of the public holidays and long weekends, so with this years National Day weekend I decided to book a surprise trip for Ryan and I to Muscat.

The flight to Muscat from Dubai is less than an hour so I literally booked the cheapest flight option available. Flying on the Thursday night after work, we reached Muscat by 9.15pm and were at our hotel within the hour. Before booking this trip, I had read online that you could pick up taxis from the airport relatively cheap – in fact they were half the price offered by the hotels and also metered. I had also read about an app called O-Taxi, which is the Uber equivalent in Oman and it connects you to local taxis. Although the taxis weren’t always available, the app tells you the journey fare which was a good bartering tool for the non-metered taxis.

When we arrived at our hotel we decided to have a quick turn around and pop down to the Lazy Lizard pool bar in our hotel for some causal drinks to start our long weekend. We stayed at the Radisson Blu and I managed to get a good deal by booking direct through the hotel and using the Entertainer voucher for a free nights stay.

Dolphin sightseeing trip

We used the O-Taxi app to take us from our hotel to the Marina Bandah where our dolphin boat trip was starting with Captain Salim. We were only joined by one other couple but the price remained at 25 OR per person (if the boat has 10 people or more then the price is reduced to 20 OR pp). We spent approximately an hour and a half searching for the dolphins but sadly we didn’t see any on any our trip. So our captain took us to a hidden location for snorkelling.

I’ve always been a confident swimmer but I knocked my confidence when we were in Bali a few years ago and I had a panic attack at sea. I tried to overcome it on a staycation in Fujairah a few months later but the same thing happened again. But at the start of the year I was determined to overcome it when we were in the Philippines and we had an amazing time group snorkelling. So this weekend, I felt more confident when we snorkelled off the boat together. Every time we have visited Asia we’ve hoped to be lucky enough to swim with a turtle but we’ve just never seen one! But this weekend within a few minutes of being in the sea we saw two turtles swimming together. We swam above them and followed them as they ate, one even came up for air just a few inches away from me and I was able to touch it’s shell. We then saw five more mooching around at different parts of the coral – this was definitely a bucket list moment for me!

There’s a lovely restaurant in the Marina called Blue Marlin so we sat and had some lunch after the trip. It was the perfect temperature to sit outside, I had fresh prawns with garlic and chilli and Ryan had the fresh snapper fish sandwich, all of which was delicious!

That evening, we made a reservation at The Chedi in the Beach Restaurant. The hotel was absolutely stunning and as we approached the restaurant the walk way was lit with fire and we sat outside on the terrace which was lined with fire pits on the beach front. It was a really romantic setting for dinner. To start, Ryan had mussels (obviously) and I had the seared salmon carpaccio which was beautiful! For our main, we shared the mixed seafood platter and a bottle of wine. The local gentleman behind us was kind enough to send us each over a glass of red wine so we went over to say thank you and he asked us to join him and his family for a drink which was lovely. Omani people are some of the friendliest I have ever met.

Wadi Shab

One of the main reasons we wanted to visit muscat was to visit the Wadi Shab and although most people do this trip alone, I decided to book a tour guide through Oman Day Tours. Our driver picked us up at 8am and we drove two hours out of muscat along the coast line to Tiwi to spend the morning at the Wadi Shab.

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When you arrive at the Wadi Shab parking area you have to take a boat across a small lake to begin the hike. The only way to cross the lake is via boat and they have a company which runs boats across daily for a small charge. From there, we had a 45 minute hike through semi-mountainous terrain. We wore normal gym trainers for this part which of was fine. As we walked further we felt like we were entering Jurassic World! It’s such a unique place with palm trees and greenery growing inside a valley in the mountains, I’ve never seen anything like it before.

We stopped to swim after 45 minutes of walking and chose a spot to leave our items. We then entered the Wadi and swam for another 30 minutes! The water was the perfect temperature and it felt so refreshing to swim in the fresh mountain water. One thing I would strongly advise to take on this trip is waterproof shoes to wear in the water, as part of it is shallow and very stony, and also a waterproof camera! I can’t believe we forgot to take the GoPro with us! Some parts of the Wadi were super deep and people were climbing up and jumping off the cliffs!

At the end of the Wadi there’s a small gap in the caves that you can swim through. The gap is so small that only your neck and head can be above water to swim through it, the rest of your body needs to be under the water. I would never have dared swim through here if we were not with our guide. But, the other side was completely breathtaking and had inside it a natural waterfall flowing down from the mountains!

After the 30 minute swim, 45 minute hike and boat trip out of the Wadi were exhausted and went to a local Omani restaurant for some traditional food for lunch. On our way back to Muscat, we stopped at Bimmah Sinkhole, another natural beauty of Oman. Locals believe that it was created by a meteorite thousands of years ago but now, it is filled with a mixture of fresh and salt water which you can swim in!

On our final day we were so exhausted by all of the adventures that we slept in until midday and ordered room service, before checking out and heading back to Dubai. I thoroughly enjoyed our long weekend in Muscat and I have already started looking into other trips that we can take back to Oman! I would love to do a hiking trip in Jebel Jais, visit the pink lake in Jalan Bani Bu Ali (on the far east coast) as well as taking a trip down to Salalah – so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

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Dubai Days

When I first started this blog and decided on the handle of “vacays and sunny days”, my intention was to write about holidays (aka vacays) but also other things that we do here in Dubai on the sunny days and I’ve realised that since starting this blog I haven’t  actually written about any of my favourite weekend activities here!

I’ve lived in Dubai for three and a half years now and no two weekends are the same. This past weekend has been a long weekend with a public holiday on Sunday. Usually when a public holiday is announced, Ryan and I try to get away somewhere for a weekend break but this time, a long weekend in Dubai was just what we needed. I got to spend a lot of time catching up with the girls, having breakfast dates and I also spent the day with Ryan walking around Jumeirah Golf Estates watching the Race to Dubai golf tournament. I’m not exactly a fan of golf but every year Ryan and I go and spend the day there together, and I really enjoy it – especially as a free outdoor activity – and it’s prompted me to think of some of my other favourite outdoor things to do in Dubai.

Outdoor activities

The weather in Dubai is great from around October through to May but in the summer months it really is hot! The weather is amazing at the moment, I forget what it feels like as during the summer I feel like my face is going to melt off every time I step outside so  during the winter months, we have to take advantage of this weather. This year, I am trying to steer away from brunches and spend more time outside. So here are some of my favourite outdoor activities:

K9 friends dog walk

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Each year my company arranges a charity morning and we all head down to Jebel Ali where K9 Friends is based. K9 Friends is a dog charity in Dubai for abandoned dogs. The work they do is amazing and they are constantly seeking donations to help feed and house all of the rescued dogs. On the organised dog walk that my company arranges, we all head down and each take a few of the dogs out for a walk around the industrial area and the nearby desert. The dogs are so happy  and excited to be out walking – I just want to take them all home! Sadly, K9 Friends is above capacity and some of the dogs haven’t even been walked before. Anyone can contact K9 friends and request to take some of the dogs out for a walk at any time of the year, if you have a car you can even take the dogs out for the day.

Abu Dhabi Mangrove kayaking

The mangroves are a definitely one of Abu Dhabi’s best kept secrets. The most recent time I visited the mangroves, we stayed at the Anantara Abu Dhabi Eastern Mangroves hotel and were lucky enough to be upgraded to a mangrove facing room. The hotel room was lovely and the balcony overlooked the mangroves. It was so peaceful and a world away from the buzz in Dubai.

There are a few companies that are based along the promenade whereby you can hire kayaks for a few hours. Some of the companies offer guided kayak tours at set times of the day, but myself and my friends decided to head out alone and explore. I would advise stocking up on drinking water before heading out as this is something we overlooked and only had 1 litre each.

The mangroves are located less than a 10 minute drive from the Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque so it’s easy enough to see both in a day.

Al Qudra cycle track

My parents were over visiting Dubai recently and my Dad had been mentioning for a while about cycling at Al Qudra’s cycle track. As we no longer have a car in Dubai, we hired one for the weekend which was super easy and very cost effective. We drove out to the cycle track which was about 40 minutes from the Marina. I had emailed Trek Bikes in advance to reserve our bikes for two hours. All of the bikes are provided with helmets and my Mum and I were provided with a free gel seat cover (which I was very thankful for the next day!) The cycle track has several different routes that range from 8 to 56 kilometres. As we were only cycling for fun we timed ourselves and cycled out for just over an hour before turning back.img_6063

I definitely get my ‘explorer gene’ from my Dad as he wanted to stop and track what he thought were snake trails in the sand! We also dumped the bikes to walk up some of the sand dunes whilst Mum and Ryan waited patiently on the cycle track! On the way back to the base we were lucky enough to see wild oryx and gazelles but sadly no camels on this trip!img_6087

It was such a fun morning but it’s the most exercise I’ve done in a while. So, to allow us to unwind we headed straight to Bab al Shams Desert Resort and Spa for some R&R. The pool pass is on the Entertainer so it worked out to only AED 90 per person for a pool access with a sun bed and towel.

Marina walks

It’s such a simple activity but something I had taken for granted until recently. We have lived in the Marina ever since we moved to Dubai and I still love it as much as the day we moved in! We have everything we need right on our door step. I try to get out for a walk around the Marina at least twice a week although I need to motivate myself to start running in the morning again! So although this may seem like a boring activity, it is up there with one of my favourite things to do living here in Dubai.

Of course there are so many other amazing things that we get to spend our time doing here. One thing I haven’t even mentioned is all of the amazing beaches, hotels and pools we get to make use of here, so I will dedicate a whole post just to that shortly!

Our Tour de France

I’m a little delayed in writing this post, I had two weekend breaks in quick succession last month and haven’t had time to write! I still can’t believe how fast everything is moving! Engaged for two months already, a whole month has passed since visiting France and confirming our venue and now we have confirmed our wedding planner, photographer, and can start ticking other vendors off our list! As long as we continue to make progress at this rate we will be fine – we’re now just over 9 months away from the wedding ahhhh!

We never planned on having an abroad (or destination wedding) the reason being we wanted to ensure that all of our family members would be able to travel and attend. But we were so surprised at just how quickly venues get booked up in England and we definitely wanted to have the wedding in 2019. The majority of our venues were completely unavailable, those that were available were only on random days like a Tuesday or Wednesday! So we looked further afield into other counties in the UK which meant that both families would have to travel and stay over night regardless. So we decided to branch a bit further out, across the sea and into France. Every wedding planner we have spoken to has asked “why France?” Well we love French food and definitely French wine, our family members can travel by train, plane or even drive across to Calais and we are hoping the weather will be easier to predict than it is in England!

As soon as we started looking at venues in France we realised they too were booking up very quickly. We found three venues that fitted our criteria of being less than two hours from Paris airport; onsite accommodation for at least 35 people and a building that has the “Wow factor”. When searching for a venue the part we struggled with the most was on side accommodation for guests in the northern region. We settled on the three venues:

– Chateau de Bonnemare;

– Chateau de Carsix; and

– Chateau Cheronne.

Once we contacted the venues to determine their available dates for 2019 they informed us they would only hold our venue for two weeks! So we had to book a last minute weekend trip to France (which I’m definitely not complaining about!) we flew over night from Dubai, arriving in Paris at 8am and had arranged a hire car for the weekend and we were both so excited to explore and hopefully find our venue!

Chateau Cheronne

Starting from the last first, the third venue we viewed as Chateau Cheronne a stunning castle built in the 1700s in the French countryside, just over a two hour drive from CDG airport. The grounds of the castle were huge with a lovely pond, old horse stables that had been converted into accommodation and of course the castle. The castle itself had so many hidden rooms, we felt like we were walking round in circles but it actually could sleep 30 people in the castle. We really loved the venue however it definitely felt the most outdated of the venues interior wise, even though it wasn’t the oldest chateau that we viewed. It was also further out than the other venues we viewed and so we needed to be able to justify the extra journey time.

The chateau had some amazing features, for example it was fully self-sustainable until quite recently and still has the damn and water pump from the 1700s. The grounds and garden area were also beautiful, we just felt this venue was a little outdated and not quite the right fit for us and what we would like from our wedding day.

Chateau de Carsix

The second venue we viewed was actually my favourite from looking online and I was so excited to view it. But, the night before our viewing, the wedding planner called to say she wouldn’t be able to make it to show us around… as you can imagine that did not go down well with me whatsoever. We had flown 7 hours to Paris, driven almost two hours to the venue and the woman who will potentially be planning and over seeing our wedding cannot be bothered to show up?! That was a big red cross against the venue and we hadn’t even viewed it yet!

When we arrived in the morning, we were told that the groundskeeper would be showing us around, but she didn’t speak a word of English – and we don’t speak any French! So we were a bit stuck! Ryan had the genius idea of downloading a translations app so we literally communicated by talking through an app and surprisingly it worked quite well!img_4455

The venue really did have the wow factor, a gorgeous chateau built in the 1800s which slept 96 people in the grounds. This was a huge bonus for us because it meant the entire wedding party would be able to stay together on the same grounds. However, the rooms were all quite basic and also smelt a bit musty, kind of like an old people’s home. There also wasn’t a specified Bridal Room or area for the bridal party to get ready in the morning, it felt more like a boarding school. The onsite accommodation was one of the key selling points but there’s no point in having a lot of basic accommodation, we decided we would rather have less onsite accommodation that’s of a nicer standard for our venue.

Chateau de Bonnemare

The first venue we viewed was chateau de Bonnemare, a gorgeous family run chateau built in 1555 approximately an hour and a half drive from CDG airport. Neither of us wanted to admit it right away, but we fell in love with this venue.

I obviously don’t want to give too much away, but from the very entrance point we were in love. This was then complimented by the fact that it’s a small family run chateau by a lovely French family who have had the chateau in the family for several generations. Although the owners aren’t fluent English speakers, their son has excellent written and spoken English which really helped with choosing this venue.

The chateau has recently undergone a lot of renovation to modernise the accommodation and even though this chateau was the oldest venue that we viewed, it was the most modern but maintained its authentic, rustic feeling. One of the things we really love about Chateau de Bonnemare is the space that can be utilised for so many parts of the weekend, all of which will make different aspects of it individual and special.

There are a few towns located between 15-30 minutes from Bonnemare and we stayed in a family run b&b in a small village called Les Andelys. The village was so quaint and we bought sandwiches and pastries and sat on a grassy riverbank to have lunch. There’s not a great deal to do in the village so we just used it as a base to get to the venue which is definitely something we will recommend our guests do.

When we visited Bonnemare we could both just picture having our own wedding there, it just felt right. We are so excited to get married there and it’s approaching quickly!

284 days to go!

Cappadocia – A Turkish Delight

The journey to Cappadocia from Dubai was far from glamorous. It started with a 4.5 hour flight from Dubai to Istanbul on the most budget airline I’ve ever flown (yes we knew that it was going to be basic because it was so cheap but seriously, it made Ryan Air seem like Emirates Business Class!) Anyway… we arrived in Istanbul and had a few hours to kill before boarding our next flight to Kayseri Erkilet International (ASR). The second flight was only 1 hour 20 and much more pleasant, although the cabin crew still couldn’t crack a smile.

After landing in ASR the final leg of the journey was a 1 hour 10 minute drive from the airport to our hotel in Göreme, a small town in the centre of Cappadocia. We had booked our airport transfer through the hotel, they offered us either a mini bus transfer with other people staying nearby in the town, or a private transfer for €60. We opted with the latter because the journey was already long enough.

The drive to Cappadocia was beautiful and it made me realise just how out in the sticks we were.

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Balloons

We had a hot air balloon ride booked for our first morning in Cappadocia. Before travelling, I contacted our hotel who assisted us with making our reservation. Even two months before we visited three companies were already fully booked but our hotel managed to make a reservation with Air Kapadokya. So on our first morning our alarm went off at 4.45am and we got up to make ourselves pretty before being picked up at 5.15am. We really did not pack appropriately for the weather and hadn’t thought about how bloody cold it would be at 5 in the morning – it was literally 3 degrees! We looked like the Ugly Sisters and my outfit consisted of a cute maxi dress with trainers, socks, trousers underneath, a t shirt layer, hoody and a pool kimono that I wrapped around my neck as a scarf! And it was absolutely freezing!

The staff arrived dead on 5.15am to pick us up and take us to the office for breakfast before we were organised into our groups for the balloon. This part consisted of quite a bit of hanging around which wasn’t great at that time of the morning. At 6.15am our colour group was finally called and we were put onto a mini bus, only to be told that our ride was cancelled due to wind!! We couldn’t believe it. We headed back to the hotel and had breakfast before going back to sleep for a few hours.

We asked our hotel to book us on a balloon for the next morning but they were only able to get us on the waiting list. They said they would knock on the door to wake us if they were able to get us on a ride the second morning. So when we heard the knock on the door the next morning we jumped out of bed, only to be told that there was room for only one of us! We felt like being on the X Factor and that just one of us was making it through the audition and we had to decide whether to split up or stay together! We decided on the latter and that morning we headed up to Sunrise Point to watch the balloons come up at sunrise. Even though we were gutted to not be on the balloons, the views were like nothing I have ever seen before. Just imagine 150 hot air balloons rising up over the mountains with the sunrise just behind, it was so magical.

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Our hotel informed us they were able to get both of us on the hot air balloon ride on our final morning but I didn’t want to get too excited, we just had to pray for good weather! We woke up, again, at 4.45am and were taken out to the breakfast point; again, we were loaded up into the vans but this time we were taken about 20 minutes out to the take off point. As we were arriving, some balloons were already setting off. It was surreal seeing so many of the balloons in such close proximity and with open flames shooting around, heating up the balloons.

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Every day 150 balloons make their way up, each carrying up to 20 people in a basket. The basket was huge and, surprisingly, I felt safe the entire journey. We flew up to 650m in the air and dropped down to different heights at different points of the ride. We travelled through Pigeon Valley, Red Valley and Love Valley; the views of the valleys were phenomenal, let alone with the hundreds of brightly coloured balloons floating all around.

The journey lasted for approximately 1 hour 10 minutes and as we descended I was shocked to see a truck below us… little did I know that our pilot was actually going to land the basket on top of the truck, ready to drive the balloon straight back! We were unloaded out of the balloon and had champagne and a medal ceremony – for surviving the balloon ride!

It seems crazy that people travel so far to reach Cappadocia for a 1 hour balloon ride but it is definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my life and something to tick off the bucket list! I was just so grateful that we were able to make it onto one of the balloons! If you plan on travelling to Cappadocia, I would advise spending at least three nights there and booking your balloon trip for your first morning so that if you experience bad weather like we did, at least you have a few days to fall back on so you won’t be disappointed.

Pottery Class

The only other activity I had looked into before heading to Cappadocia was a pottery class. I had read online that Cappadocia is famous for its pottery due to the red and white clay that’s extracted from the valleys. Our hotel recommended we visit Venessa Seramik which is in a village about 10k from Göreme. We arrived without pre-booking a class but it was very informal anyway. We were given a tour of the pottery warehouse, shown the kiln and the different stages of making the pottery. We were then given a private tutorial by the master and were allowed to have a go ourselves. I wasn’t great but Soph was definitely much worse than me!

The surprising part about this excursion was that we didn’t have to pay. We were then guided through the gift shop and in my mind I was thinking “Ah OK here we go” but we were left to our own devices and even told that if we wish to purchase anything we would receive 20% for partaking in the class! We purchased a few gifts for our families and started the walk back to Göreme.

We were aware that the walk would take approximately an hour and a half but it was one straight road and we didn’t have any other plans for the remainder of the day. I always love exploring on holiday too so I was looking forward to the walk. The people in Cappadocia are honestly some of the kindest people I have met. We had three cars stop to offer us a lift to Göreme as they couldn’t believe we would want to walk for so long! After we had walked for about 5k a man on a quad bike stopped to offer us a lift and we decided to jump on! He took us straight to the centre of Göreme and when we offered money he wouldn’t accept a thing!

Uchisar Castle

One of the other sights worth seeing near Göreme is Uchisar Castle. The castle is located just under a 10 minute drive out of Göreme (our taxi there cost 20TL which is less than €3). There is a small entry fee of 7TL per person for the maintenance of the castle. As you reach the top, the views are incredible and you can see the valleys for miles around.

Also up near the castle is Rox Cappadocia, a beautiful family run hotel with a terrace that looks over the valleys. Rox also has a hotel in Göreme and we made friends with the lovely owner who told us about her sons restaurant which is a short drive from Uchisar Castle. The staff at Rox Cappadocia arranged a driver to take us to the restaurant Reserved Restaurant & Lounge where we sat outside, drank wine and had cheese and olives in the sun.

The staff dropped us back to the castle and we started the walk back to Göreme. On the way, two men with camels (yes, camels) stopped and asked if we were heading to Göreme and if we wanted a lift. Who doesn’t want a lift on the back of a camel?! These camels were HUGE and, I’m not going to lie but it wasn’t the most graceful moment of my life getting on the poor camel.

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Local Cave House Hotel

Before booking our trip, we compared several hotels online and shortlisted the following:

• Doors of Cappodocia
• Local Cave House
• Rox Cappodocia / Rox Göreme
• Miras Hotel
• Koza Cave Hotel
• Sunak Cave Boutiqueimg_2892

All of the hotels ranged between 850 and 1,700dhs for 3 nights with breakfast. We decided to book a room at the Local Cave House hotel because of the great reviews, location, pool, and we loved that it was a cave hotel built into the mountains. The staff were really helpful from the moment we confirmed the booking, they sent us an emailing which detailed lots of tourist attractions and activities in the area and assisted us with the most important activity which was booking out hot air balloon ride!

The hotel was in a really central location, we were able to walk less than 5 minutes down to the main strip of shops and restaurants in Göreme. Also, about a 10 minute walk behind the hotel you could find the trail up to Sunrise Point – this is an absolute must see!

So is it worth it?

Absolutely, YES! 3 nights / 4 days in Cappadocia was perfect. I wouldn’t be put off by the fact you have to fly indirect via Istanbul. If anything, I wish we had slightly longer so we could have spent some time in Istanbul first to visit the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar and then fly on to Cappadocia. We truly met the kindest people in Cappadocia, everyone was so friendly, they made us feel so welcome and it really was one of the most breath-taking places I have visited. I will tell anyone I speak to that they HAVE to go!

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Positano

We really did save the best until last on our mini Eurotrip!

The final stop of our holiday was in beautiful Positano. We spent four nights at Hotel Palazzo Murat, a stunning hotel in the heart of Positano. After a hectic week of travelling around it was nice to be based in the same hotel for more than two nights! The drive from Vesuvius to Positano was stunning and it took just under an hour and a half – our driver, from My Day Trip, took us along the coastal route which was much more scenic.

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When we first started planning our trip to Italy, we considered hiring a car and driving ourselves from Rome to Positano, which sounded like a lovely idea in theory, but when we were actually travelling on the roads I was so thankful we had booked a driver! The roads were tight and bendy, I just had to keep my eyes shut!

As we arrived into the centre of Positano, our driver had to call the hotel concierge to come meet us and take our luggage, the streets become too narrow that no cars are allowed and access is by foot only. We had arrived at the hotel slightly earlier than anticipated which meant we could enjoy some down time around the pool.

I hadn’t really looked into any of the recommended restaurants and bars in Positano, I left this to Ryan. He told me that for our first evening he had made us a reservation at one of the restaurants along the beach front, so we got ready and headed down there…

The First Night

Along the beach front there are several family run restaurants, opposite the restaurants on the beach there were a few kiosks for boat companies. I pointed out one, Positano Boats, and said, obliviously, “Oh look, that’s the company we are going to Capri with on Thursday!” To which Ryan replied, “Well, we actually have a trip booked with them now as well…” At this point I was slightly confused because I’m very organised when we go away, I print all of our travel itineraries and booking confirmations and I didn’t have any documents for this particular boat trip!

Ryan had booked a private yacht which took us around the Amalfi Coast to watch the sunset. Our driver, Hermes (secret twin brother of Harry Kane) was so sweet and kept us fully topped up with prosecco and nibbles! I should have realised something was up when Hermes opened our second bottle of prosecco after only half an hour (Ryan obviously needed a bit of Dutch Courage!)

We sailed around the coast and I was just in awe of how beautiful it was. After about an hour we turned around and headed back into Positano. The sun was setting behind the mountains, music was playing and we were sat on the front of the boat just taking it all in. Ryan suggested having a photo taken, so he got up to give his phone to Hermes, and at this point he got the ring. I was stood at the front of the boat, still taking everything in and as I turned around, Ryan was on his way down on to his knee (although slightly stiff because in typical Ryan style his trousers were very tight)! It’s not often that I’m speechless but I honestly had no words. People have asked me exactly what Ryan said but it all feels like such a blur I really can’t remember!

I, of course, said yes and as Ryan put the ring on Hermes started beeping the horn on the boat! As we pulled into the harbour, the staff from the boat company were waiting for us and cheered as we got off (luckily I said yes or that could have been very awkward!) I was still just in complete shock at this time but the night didn’t end there, Ryan had made a reservation at a gorgeous Michelin Starred restaurant called Rada (more info below) where we had our first meal as an engaged couple. We returned to the hotel and opened the wine we had purchased earlier in the day, wine tasting in Mount Vesuvius, and sat out on the terrace to call all of our family and friends. We managed to get through to all of our immediate family that night which was amazing, we both felt so loved ❤️

I had never really thought about what my dream proposal would be (other than it being from Robbie Williams) but nothing could have been more perfect than the evening of 28th August 2018.

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Capri

We didn’t have a lot planned for the remainder of our time in Positano, apart from our day trip to Capri, so we just spent time down the beach, around the pool and walking around the town.img_2385

Our trip to Capri was booked through Positano Boats again, we decided to go for a group day trip which had a total of 12 people on the boat. Our captain decided to get the party started by dishing out prosecco and beer at 10am! We stopped for snorkelling and arrive at Capri around 45 minutes later. We managed to find a 12 seater taxi, which was surprisingly easy, and headed up to Annacapri with the rest of our group. We took the cable car all the way up to the top and the views were phenomenal. We split up and ventured off in our couples to explore a bit more of the island. It really was beautiful but we found it to be extremely touristy.

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The Food

Those who know Ryan and I, know just how much we love our food (and drinks)! So here are a few recommendations of our favourite restaurants in Positano:

Chez Black

Before visiting Positano we read several reviews recommending Chez Black as the best pizza in Positano, and it did not disappoint. We headed down for lunch on our first day and shared an antipasti to start, Diavola pizza and Caprese salad. The food really was lovely and although the restaurant was packed the service was still great. If you have the chance to make a reservation I would recommend doing so as we were quite lucky to be seated without one.

Covo Del Saraceni

We had a lovely meal at Covo Del Saraceni on our second night in Positano. For our mains, we ordered the prosciutto pizza, mussels and a bottle of white wine as recommended by the staff. The food was very reasonably priced and the staff were so helpful. The restaurant had both indoor and outdoor seating so we decided to sit outside along the street, which  had a much more relaxed vibe.

Rada

Ryan had made a reservation at Rada on the first night of our holiday in Positano, after the proposal! The food was beautiful and the service was excellent, the staff were very knowledgeable about the dishes and the sommelier recommended a beautiful bottle of white wine to complement our food. We had a complimentary amuse-bouche from the chef and I had the grilled octopus followed by the lobster linguini. Both dishes were lovely and the lobster linguini had a fried lobster meatball on the side which was delicious. The restaurant had such a romantic feel and we sat overlooking the sea which was lovely as the sun had just set – the perfect setting for our first meal as an engaged couple.

Next2

Restaurant Next2 was by far the best restaurant we visited in Positano! Everything about the evening was lovely – I would definitely advise making a reservation in advance to avoid disappointment! To start I had the beef carpaccio which was amazing followed by the Mixed grilled seafood (fillet of fresh fish, octopus and prawn) with black rice and vegetables – both dishes were beautiful! We were too full for dessert but received a complimentary selection of cookies. The whole evening was lovely with regards to the service, atmosphere and of course the food and wine. I would highly recommend visiting this restaurant.