Exploring KL

As we landed in Malaysia I was so excited to start exploring my 34th country and to finally be back in South East Asia. We were really impressed by KLIA airport – it was huge!

Getting there

The flight to KL from Dubai is around 7 hours plus the 4 hour time difference, so we left Dubai at 9pm and arrived in KL at 8am the next morning.

We read online (this site was super helpful) that it is relatively easy to get a taxi so we headed down to the lower ground where there’s an Airport Taxi kiosk. You have to pay 2RM (approx. 40p) for a ticket and you choose whether you want a budget taxi, Premier Limo, Super Luxury or Family Service taxis. We opted for budget as it was the cheapest option but nevertheless, it was comfortable and had AC (and to be honest we slept most of the drive to central KL anyway). The drive from the airport is around 50 minutes however there was so much traffic – we must have hit the morning rush hour or something – so it ended up taking close to 2 hours! Our hotel had quoted 150RM for a transfer from the airport but we paid our budget taxi 55RM including tolls and a tip.

Accommodation

Kuala Lumpur had a variety of hotels ranging from luxury 5* to budget hostels and motels. We decided to stay at Traders Hotel (part of the Shangri La brand) and we were sold on the view from the hotel room of the Petronas Towers. Right from checking in the staff were extremely helpful and even though we arrived at 11am our room was prepared and ready for us. The concierge were also so helpful with recommendations of things to do and getting around the city.

Traders Hotel run a free shuttle bus every 15 minutes to Suria KLCC mall (but it is only a short walk). It is also situated in front of KLCC park which was lovely to walk through and sit on the grass for some down time. The only downside of the hotel was that the swimming pool was indoors whereas other hotels nearby, such as the Mandarin Oriental, W Hotel and Four Seasons, all had amazing outdoor pools. But we didn’t intend on spending a huge amount of time at the hotel during this trip so we didn’t mind too much.

Sightseeing

We got to our hotel checked in, dropped our bags, got changed and we’re out of the door within 30 minutes ready to explore with my strict itinerary for the day!

  • Thean Hou Temple

We jumped in a taxi and went straight to the Chinese Thean Hou Temple. Our taxi driver explained that it’s quite difficult to flag taxis down in that area and so left the meter running and waited for us to look around. The temple was beautiful with hundreds of red lanterns, ornate statues and flowers all around.

  • Sri Mariamman Temple

A driver then took us to Sri Mariamman temple which is the oldest Hindu Temple located in China Town. We decided to leave the taxi and continue exploring by foot. We had been with our taxi driver for approximately an hour and a half and the meter only totaled 65RM.

  • Petaling Street Market

Petaling Street Market in China Town was a crazy array of shopping and street food and it was bustling with tourists and locals combined. We spent an hour or so just walking around and seeing what all of the stalls had to offer before heading back to the hotel to chill whilst admiring the amazing view of the Petronas Towers again from our room!

  • Batu Caves

We flagged down a budget taxi that drove us around 20 minutes to the Batu Caves which are located slightly out of the city centre. It’s free to enter the Batu Caves and you do not require any tickets or tour guides. You do need to dress respectfully but you can rent scarves / long skirts from the base of the steps.

We climbed the 272 stairs up, relatively quickly I must say, and explored the inside of the caves and the shrines. We saw the infamous monkeys hiding out inside the temple scouring for any goodies they could steal from the people inside! One monkey got hold of a mans bag which, to the monkeys delight, contained a coconut and we watched, amazed, as the monkey started smashing the coconut on a rock to open it!

We then descended down the 272 stairs and found out little taxi driver waiting to take us back to the city!

  • KL Canopy Walk

This was another nice (free) activity to do in the city. The canopy walk runs through a protected garden area in the centre of the city and you walk up several steps (not a great choice post Batu Caves, but we still had fun) and the canopies guide you through the tops of the trees, heading towards the Manara KL tower.

We decided not to enter the Manara Tower as there was a huge queue and entry charge up to the viewing platform. So instead we walked (a long walk) back to our hotel, stopping off in the KLCC gardens first.

  • KLCC Gardens

The gardens are located out the back of the Petronas Towers (between the back of the towers and the back of our hotel, conveniently). We stopped in one of the supermarkets located on the ground floor of the KLCC Suria Mall to get some drinks and snacks and sat out in the park, taking in the view and lovely weather.

We really enjoyed exploring KL but found that a few days was enough to cover off our itinerary. If you would like to read more about dining in KL, check out my other blog here.

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!

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.

24 hours in Rome

Seriously… we only had 24 hours in Rome! When we started planning our Euro trip we were looking at ways to reduce our travel time as much as possible. Because we were on quite a strict schedule, we had to leave Scotland on a Monday and were, therefore, quite restricted with our flight times. Initially, we hadn’t planned on spending any time in Rome at all – of course one day in Rome was not long enough but even though it was very short I’m so thankful we were able to visit!

Our flight left Edinburgh at 6.25am and we managed to sleep the entire flight to Rome! When we arrived in Rome we exited the airport and turned right into the taxi rank. The taxis are by set meter and the fare to central Rome is €30 per car which was very easy and efficient. We stayed at the Rome Times hotel which was lovely. The reception staff were extremely helpful and allowed us to check in early at no extra cost. The hotel was in a great location, approximately 12 minute walk to the Colosseum; less than 10 minutes taxi to Termini train station and a short walk to and from the metro station. Another benefit of this hotel was a complimentary mobile phone in our room with unlimited use! You were able to make domestic and international calls free of charge a well a use the phone for google maps and navigation around Rome.

Roman Forum

The obvious first stop for us was the Colosseum due to the location of our hotel being less than a 10 minute walk away. I had read online about how crazy the queue is to get in, but I also read that if you head straight to the Roman Forum you can purchase an entry ticket that is valid for both the Roman Forum and the Colosseum at no extra cost – so that’s exactly what we did! The ticket office at the Roman forum had one person in front of us in the line, we couldn’t believe it. So we purchased a double ticket for €12 each that gained us entry to both sites. If we had longer I would have liked a guided tour around the Roman Forum (because I didn’t really know anything about it) but the girls on the ticket desk were probably the least helpful people we met on our Euro Trip! But it was still nice to walk around and read the information on the signs.

Colosseum

b85f73e1-d064-48f4-bd95-13fff91f838dAfter a short while we headed to the Colosseum, I couldn’t believe the size of the entry queue and we literally walked straight  past everyone! Again, I would have loved to have a tour guide take us around but we simply didn’t have the time on this trip, so instead, we hired one of the audio tours which was informative and we were able to go round at our own pace. The Colosseum was quite overwhelming, and even though at this point I hadn’t watched the Gladiator, it was still crazy to think of what used to happen in such a place! Note: I have since watched Gladiator and understand why Ryan was a bit emosh when we were there!

Just outside of the Colosseum there’s a metro station, so we decided to take the metro across to the Vatican as opposed to the hour walk. The tickets cost €1.50pp which is valid for 100 minutes. We had to make one line change and then a further 6 stops and we were at the Vatican City station. We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant on the side of the road called La Carravella Tretoria, which was located off the main roads, to get our first fix of Italian pizza, pasta and of course wine!

Vatican City

img_2678The Vatican City was beautiful and we were in awe of the buildings around us. Ryan and I aren’t religious and so visiting the Vatican was just something we wanted to tick off the list but we didn’t really know a great deal about the history or the buildings. I really wanted to head inside the museum to see Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and I am quite gutted we missed out on this – but it’s the perfect reason to return!

Pantheon

The Pantheon was an unexpected gem for us. The building is a former Roman temple which has since been converted to a church standing now at almost 2,000 years old. There was quite a crowd of people gathered in the square at the front of the Pantheon but inside it was so peaceful. We spent a bit of time just walking around the statues – I couldn’t believe how old some of them were! The most fascinating part of the Pantheon for me was the dome roof which has an open hole in the centre and when it rains, water gathers on the slanted floor, and is drained out through an ancient drainage system. The fact that all of this was constructed almost two thousand years ago just blows my mind!

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Spanish Steps

I was slightly disappointed by the Spanish Steps – to be honest I didn’t really know what I was expecting from them – but by the time we arrived it was around 5pm and the place was heaving with tourists. So we headed to one of the side streets and grabbed a gelato (mine consisted of coffee, chocolate and vanilla which was delightful) and we just sat on the steps eating our gelato and taking it all in.

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Trevi Fountain

The final tourist spot on our whistle-stop tour of Rome was the beautiful Trevi Fountain. We had read before just how busy it gets so we decided to leave this until the evening to visit but even at 11pm it was packed! We each threw our Euro into the fountain and made a wish and just sat on the side watching everyone and taking in the beauty of the fountain. It felt so peaceful sat there and it was the perfect end to our jam-packed day in Rome. I had read online that the best time to visit the Trevi Fountain is just after sunrise (so around 6am) this sounded great, in theory, but we had to be at the train station the next morning and I didn’t fancy rushing around just for a photo!

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Rome > Naples > Positano

But the action didn’t stop after our day in Rome! The following morning we caught the train from Rome to Naples – for anyone planning the same route this is an option I would highly recommend. The train took 70 minutes and cost only €12pp. We booked our tickets online here before travelling, printed our tickets and took them on board with us – it really was an easy way to travel. Previously, we had considered driving from Rome to Positano, stopping off at Pompeii in the middle but I’m so glad we didn’t, the roads looked crazy both in Rome and once we arrived in Positano.

Anyway, the train arrived in Naples and we had planned the remainder of day with a company called My Day Trip. The company was fantastic and for a set fee we had a driver collect us from the train station and take us to our final destination, stopping off at any excursions we required on the way. We booked online, selected our start and final destination and the company suggested sightseeing options in the middle, we made the payment online before travelling and were provided with an itinerary for the day.

Pompeii

The first stop of the trip was to Pompeii where we had two hours to spend exploring. Our company driver dropped us to a tourist shop whereby we rented an audio guidebook and map of the archaeological site. The map was helpful because it highlighted a key route that would take us around the highlighted sites in an hour 30. We hadn’t purchased our tickets online beforehand – which I would recommend doing – but luckily, because we arrived at 9am there was not a great queue to enter.img_2707

Pompeii has always been a place on my bucket list to visit, I remember studying it at school when I was about 10 years old; the story and the history of the town still overwhelms me today. The town of Pompeii is located near Naples and at the base of the only active volcano in Europe, Mount Vesuvius. In 79AD the volcano erupted and covered the town of Pompeii and all of it’s people in ash. The city, buildings, people, animals were all almost perfectly preserved under several feet of ash and rock from the volcano and remain that way almost two thousand years later.

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As soon as we entered the archaeological site it took my breath away. On the right hand side as you enter was a glass case which contained about 10 bodies, the one that struck me the most was two people cuddled together – I’m glad I had my sunglasses on because my eyes were already streaming at this point!

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As we followed the key points on the map we entered another amphitheatre and even though the crowd capacity was a third of that of the Colosseum it still felt very surreal standing in the centre of it. We spent almost two hours wandering around the streets of Pompeii, the audio tour was really informative but we hadn’t even touched the surface of the town and there is still an archaeological team onsite still working to uncover more of the town.

Cantina Del Vesuvio

We left Pompeii with our driver and headed to Cantina Del Vesuvio, a family run vineyard, now third generation, at the base of Mount Vesuvius. We had a brief tour of the vineyard where we learnt about the grapes and how the wine is made.

Surprisingly, due to the ground formation, the vineyard does not require an irrigation system to water the vineyards. This is because the ground is formed of lava rock and black soil from when the volcano erupted thousands of years ago.  After the tour we had a three course lunch which was accompanied by five glasses of wine; two red, two white and one rose. We purchased two bottles of our favourite wine from the tasting and also a bottle of the Cantina del Vusuvio family recipe wine vinegar which was beautiful!

By around 2pm we were on the road again but this time heading to the final stop of our Euro trip, Positano – the most unbelievable end to the holiday.

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Another new country Czeched off the list!

We started our mini Euro-trip with a three night stay in Prague, another new country to czech off the bucket list! Most people we have spoken to have visited Prague during the Winter so we were excited to see what it had to offer in the summer months.

Initially, we had planned to stay for only two nights however, due to the change of the predicted Eid dates, we were able to change our FlyDubai flight to leave a day earlier for AED 220 – definitely worth it for an extra day of exploring! Unfortunately our original hotel was fully booked for the additional night so we stayed at Miss Sophie’s hotel for the first night and moved to Pure White for the following two nights. The staff at both of our hotels were extremely helpful and provided us with maps and recommendations for things to do in the city. Both times we arrived too early for check in however the hotels had safe, locked storage rooms for luggage which put us at ease when heading out for the day.

We had read mixed reviews about picking up taxis from the airport with regards to meters etc so we booked private transfer company, Prague Airport Transfers, to collect us and take us to the hotel. It is a fixed price company that charges one price to any hotel in the city centre so we simply selected our hotel online and made the payment in advance. This may have been slightly more expensive than a regular taxi however it was hassle free and very convenient. You can find the company we used here https://www.prague-airport-transfers.co.uk

The airport was one of the quickest we have been through at that time in the morning so we were at our hotel, luggage dropped off, changed and out to explore by 9.30am!

Day 1

We headed straight out to find a spot for breakfast, my favourite meal of the day, and found a cute little cafe called Dolce Monte where I got my fix of coffee and eggs! We walked from our hotel in New Town through to St Charles Bridge in the old town. Like typical tourists we had a map (that we couldn’t really read) but had a lovely walk taking in all of the sites and the amazing buildings the city has to offer. It was much busier with tourists in the Old Town but we made our way through and on to St Charles Bridge. The views were beautiful and there were lots of people busking playing beautiful music, it had such a lovely vibe.

We exited the bridge and took a left to find the infamous John Lennon Wall. I didn’t really know what to expect from it but it was such a cool place, a guy was playing a guitar and singing The Beetles songs it was so fun. We then found a little restaurant on the side of the street for lunch and Ryan has his first beer of the holiday!

Imagine all the people…. who visited this wall!

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In the evening we went for sundowners at the Dancing Houses rooftop bar it was so chilled and had gorgeous views of the city. Along the river below we saw several boats moored up with bars on so we decided to take a wander. The whole length of the river had people sitting along drinking, eating, hopping in and off the boats it was such a fun place! We sat for a few more drinks, it was a lovely end to the day!         img_2029

Day 2

On our second day, we headed down to the river front, stopping in a little shop for some wine and beers on the way, and rented pedalos for an hour from Slovanka Boat Rental! This was one of the highlights of my time in Prague! It was so relaxing pedalling around the river, drinking wine and listening to music in the sun. We only paid CZK 300 (AED 49 / £10) for an hour and I would highly recommend this.

We then walked to a rooftop bar that Ryan had read about online called Tanker which was located above a shopping centre. The views were beautiful across the city and the food was lovely as well – this is definitely one of the hidden gems within Prague.

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One recommendation we received for our trip was to head to a bar called Vytopna for a drink. This bar was so cool and such a fun restaurant experience where your drinks are served by model trains. I was telling Ryan to drink his beers faster so another train could come down our track! The drinks were reasonably priced in comparison to the other bars we visited and there was a service charge of CZK 25 (AED 4 / £0.88) which is used for maintenance of the trains and tracks.

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For dinner that evening, we headed to a lovely tapas restaurant called The Bistro and sat outside in a quaint terrace garden. The dishes were lovely and designed for sharing so we ordered a selection including hummus, prawn tempura, pork dumplings and duck croquettes. The food really was delicious and the service was great.

Day 3

On our final day, we headed into the Old Town to join the free walking tour provided by Prague Airport Transfers company. The tour started at 11am and took us around the streets of the old town to begin. The tour was great and even though we had been wandering these streets for the last few days, it was great to learn the history of the buildings and Prague itself. We stopped for a quick lunch and met up with the tour group shortly after to continue the tour up to the Castle and St Vitus Cathedral. The tour ended at the top of the castle and we slowly made our way back down to the old town, stopping for beer and chimney cake ice cream on the way!

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A final bar that we wanted to visit was Lokal, a restaurant serving traditional Czech cuisine but the main attraction was, of course, the beer. Inside the pub was a huge beer tank whereby they brew their own beer. I’m not a beer drinker but was told this pub served some of the best beer in the world so I had to try it.

On our final evening we were so exhausted that we just walked to a little restaurant near our hotel and got an early night. We walked a total of 60,182 steps during our 3 days in Prague and I’m so glad I packed my blister plasters!!

What an amazing start to our mini Euro tour ❤️

A Weekend in Kathmandu

We’ve just got back from a jam packed long weekend in Nepal – although if you saw the size of my suitcase you would have thought we were travelling for months! I was really unsure what to expect in Nepal, so here are my travel tips and a look into our weekend in the vibrant city of Kathmandu!

Visa Entry

If you are entering the country for less than 15 days, you can obtain your visa on arrival. The process is relatively easy you just fill out the entry card and then submit your information on the computers they have available – although half of these didn’t work so we had to queue for a while. You then have to pay $25 per person for the visa. We were advised to take cash to pay for the visa so we had $100 note however, because it was dated pre-2006, they would not accept it! We didn’t have any other money on us and were very reluctant to allow us to pay by credit card (I don’t know why!) But we finally paid by card and were able to pass through.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Kathmandu Guest House which offers free airport collection so our driver was waiting for us when we arrived at the airport. It took approximately 40-45 minutes to get to the hotel as the traffic was rather chaotic heading through the centre of Kathmandu. The hotel was relatively cheap, we paid around $125 for two nights with breakfast. I would highly recommend this hotel as it’s in a great location in the centre of Thamel which is buzzing part of Kathmandu and full of different bars, restaurants and is very tourist friendly.

What to wear

I’m usually fine with packing lightly but for this trip I felt like I had to pack so many options! Firstly, it was a very last minute trip (and when I say very last minute, I mean we booked 30 hours before travelling!) so I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Secondly, I don’t know many friends who have travelled to Nepal before so it wasn’t as easy as just searching their Instagram to see what outfits they took with them!

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When travelling, I always like to be respectful of the culture and dress appropriately. I find throughout Asia there is a real mix of what is acceptable to wear and where – on the Thai islands you can wear beachwear but then you are required to cover knees / shoulders when visiting temples or local villages.

The vibe in Nepal is so chilled so I found myself wearing lounge trousers / ele pants for walking around and sightseeing which I just wore with a t-shirt. I also had  a few maxi dresses which I wore with a scarf/shawl which was also fine. It is advised when entering the temples that you cover your shoulders and knees so I just carried my scarf with me at all times in case I needed it. I did see some girls wearing denim shorts and vest tops around the town and no one seemed phased by it, I just think as long as you are respectful you can’t go far wrong.

Day 1

Annoyingly, our flight was delayed by 3 hours leaving Dubai, we were initially due to land at 9.30am but didn’t actually land until 12.30! So by the time we got to oimg_1169ur hotel we had missed our first morning so we had lots of making up to do. We booked a 3 hour walking tour with a company called Welcome to my Yard. WTMY are a non-profit organisation who work with young people and families in Kathmandu who may bit at risk and provide community based support, practical education and training schemes. The tour was excellent and our guide was so informative! We were picked up from our hotel and were taken all around the hustle and bustle Of Kathmandu Valley. We got to visit the markets, temples, Durbar Square, the Royal Palace and Museum. We had lassi and samosas for luncimg_1124h  from one of the street vendors which cost as little as 25 rupees (about 20p) – the street food was amazing and we would never have been able to find these places without our guide. We saw and learnt so much in the short 3 hours and I would definitely recommend using this company as the money goes towards helping the people of Nepal who need it most. You can find the organisation here: http://www.welcometomyyard.com/

Day 2

On our second day, we spent the day at Hotel Mystic Mountain for an incredibly relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu! We hired a driver to take us from the hotel to Nargarkot and up to Hotel Mystic Mountain for the day. We paid our driver 6,000 rupees and he waited for us the whole day before driving us back to Thamel. The drive was approximately 1 hour 45 each way on mountainous terrain but it was worth every second.

We visited on a Saturday and they have a deal whereby you pay 3,000 rupees per person for access to the swimming pool and facilities and also a 3 hour BBQ from 12-3 with a complimentary drink. The food was delicious and we had a great selection of meats from the BBQ which were cooked with Nepalese spices. They also had a Mongolian noodle section which were all made fresh and brought to you. The highlight of the hotel is the infinity swimming pool which overlooks the mountains and paddy fields and on a clear day you can see Mt Everest. We visited in June which is monsoon season but it only rained for 5 minutes during our stay but because of the weather it felt like we were up in the clouds. I would absolutely love to return to this hotel for a few nights to fully unwind and relax but would highly recommend a day trip here if you don’t have the time to stay.

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Day 3

We booked the Nepalese cooking experience very last minute, only the night before but the reservation process was really easy as it was all done online. But, this was possibly the highlight of our trip! It started with a trip to the market to buy the local produce for our dishes. We stopped in a spice shopimg_1338 where we could also purchase our own spices. We then took a rickshaw back to the cooking class. First of all we had masala tea which was lovely! We then made a variety of local dishes which all tasted great (if I do say so myself!) the young girls who taught the cooking class were so lovely and friendly and really made our experience authentic, teaching us local language and songs and were really knowledgeable regarding the local cuisine. For anyone looking to do this cooking class you should definitely arrive hungry because by the time we left we were stuffed full! We also received the recipes via email so we can hopefully recreate the food! The class is located just behind Kathmandu Guest House so is really central and easy to find, you can find them online here: http://www.nepalcookingschool.com/

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We decided to do a bit more sightseeing on our final afternoon and visited the Garden of Dreams for a coffee which was nice and relaxing. We then visited Swayambunath Stupa (aka Monkey Temple) where we walked the stairs to the top of the temple but didn’t have enough cash on us for us for tourist entry so had to walk back down again! But I loved being around all of the monkeys!

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After our very long and tiring day walking around the city, we found an Irish Bar to sit in and watch the football – well, Ryan sat and watched the football, I disappeared to have a foot massage which was definitely well deserved.

One thing that amazes me about the Nepalese is their resilience. Nepal was hit by an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude in 2015, the effects of that earthquake are still very visible in Nepal. Due to its geophysical location, it is predicted that Nepal will experience a magnitude 8 earthquake once every 80 years but still, the people in the community are working with the government to rebuild some of the temples and palaces that were destroyed by the earthquake. In Durbar Square we saw a group of women sat scrubbing the original tiles from the building which will be used once again to restore the building as close to its original design as possible.

This country has so much to offer and you can do anything from mountain treks to a safari or a yoga retreat! I loved our short stay in Nepal and would love to return one day as we only touched the surface!

The Dream that was the Philippine’s

We have recently returned from the most amazing trip to the Philippine’s, I was so sad for the entire 17 hour journey back to Dubai – and not just because Cebu Pacific didn’t have TVs on the flight!

We had a slightly hectic start to the trip, the first leg of the flight from Dubai to Manilla was around 9 hours, and we were due to arrive in Manilla with approximately 2 hours transfer time before our connecting flight. However, we were delayed by around an hour and a half leaving Dubai and by the time we landed in Manilla we had about 25 minutes to make our next flight.. in another terminal! Thankfully we only took hand-luggage with us and the queue at immigration moved pretty quickly.

We had read online beforehand that there is a free shuttle bus that you can take from the international terminal (Terminal 3) to the Domestic Terminal (Terminal 4) that comes every 30 minutes and can sometimes be delayed. So we grabbed a taxi instead – the yellow taxis are airport taxis and when you queue you will receive a token which outlines your taxi driver, taxi number plate and journey charges. To cut a long story short, we made it to the (closed) check in desk but because the flight had not started boarding they allowed us to check in and get on the flight – thank God because this was the last flight of the day and I really didn’t want to deal with the hassle of spending a night in Manilla and arranging a flight to Coron for the next morning!

So, the second leg of the journey was a short flight from Manilla to Coron which took around 45 minutes. The views as we flew into Coron were stunning, the scenery was so untouched it looked like we were flying directly into Jurassic Park! We had our hotel arrange a transfer which consisted of a 30 minute drive to one of the ports and then a 30 minute boat ride to our hotel; as you can imagine, by this point we were exhausted and couldn’t wait for a drink!

Coron – El Rio Y Mar

We, eventually, started our holiday by spending four nights at El Rio Y Mar which is a hotel on a small island off the coast of Coron. The hotel resort was the only thing on the island which was absolute bliss! From the very first moment we arrived on the island we were greeted with a warm welcome and a song from the staff and we knew that we had arrived in paradise! The staff were extremely friendly and couldn’t do enough for us during our stay. We had booked one of the cottages along the seafront, the room had a lovely rustic feel to it.

We spent the next day doing the Coron Islands Day Tour which was an excellent day exploring the beautiful islands and lakes of Coron. We visited Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Siete Picados Marine Park, Maquinit Hot Springs and Coron town – I will blog separately about the island hopping tours in Coron!

There was a short hiking trail around the back of the hotel which we walked one morning. There’s an easy route and a difficult route – or as the staff described “hard and harder”! We took the easy route and it only took 20 minutes at a very leisurely pace, whilst wearing flip flops.. The views from the top were beautiful and we could see the whole resort and more. On the walk back down we even saw a wild monkey which made my day!

We felt so relaxed at this resort, literally as if we were on Couple’s Retreat! They had plenty of equipment for activities that you could take out free of charge including paddle boards, kayaks and snorkelling gear. It was my first time paddle-boarding and I was motivated to stay on the board because we were advised that there had been sightings of box jellyfish close to the shore! I loved paddle-boarding and, unlike Ryan, I found I was quite a natural!

The staff could not do enough for us and the night before my birthday they gave me a birthday cake and sang happy birthday around our dinner table which was lovely. I felt so relaxed during my whole time at El Rio Y Mar I didn’t think the next stage of the holiday could top it…

Coron to El Nido

We travelled between Coron and El Nido on my birthday and although 4 hours of it was spent on a ferry, it was an adventure and something very different to my previous birthdays! We booked the ferry in advance online with Montenegro Shipping Ferrys which leaves from the pier just outside of Coron Town. The ferry cost around for £35 (1800pp) and I’m sure we could have haggled this down but we booked in advance online to ensure a seat as we were on quite a strict timetable.

When we arrived in El Nido we took one of the tricycles to the resort. The tricycle should be 50pp, we were quoted 100pp by the driver and instantly bartered the price down and he didn’t argue with this, so be sure to haggle!

El Nido – Mahogany Beach Resort

Thankfully we only had hand luggage with us as I don’t think we would have been able to fit in one tricycle with a suitcase each! The resort was about 10 minutes tricycle drive from the harbour and we stayed in a lovely cottage near the beach front. We had to give our breakfast order to reception the night before along with a time and this was brought to our terrace each morning as our wakeup call.

The resort did not have a restaurant but this was no problem at all because as you leave the resort onto the beach there are several restaurants either side (I will blog separately about all of the amazing restaurants we ate at during our stay in El Nido!).

We booked an island hopping day trip with Bay Breeze Travel and Tours, one of the local tour vendors along the beach front. We paid 6,500pp for a private day trip of the highlights from tours A and C which included: Seven Commandos Beach; Helicopter Island; Matinloc Shrine; Secret Lagoon beach; Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon.

As we were leaving Helicopter Island (named due to it’s resemblance to a helicopter?) we were lucky enough to see a turtle swimming in the sea! We didn’t have enough time to get our snorkel on and jump in as the anchor was already up but we were so excited as it’s the first time either of us have seen a turtle in the wild! Secret Lagoon Beach was one of the more unique islands we visited. The boat moored up at what looked like a mountain wall, we then had to swim through a small hole, you could keep your head above water to swim through, but when you got through to the other side the water was shallow and it had a hidden beach inside!

We also loved the small lagoon, which was our final stop of the day. You have to rent kayaks as the boats can’t fit through the lagoon. The water was so clear it was beautiful we could see starfish on the bottom of the sea floor! I would definitely recommend booking a private tour because it gives you more flexibility to spend as long as you want at each of the destinations.

When leaving, we took a flight from El Nido Airport. It took 30 minutes on a tricycle from Mahogany Beach and cost 350pp. I was so depressed for the whole 16 hours journey back to Dubai, I really did not want to leave! The Philippine’s has such a raw beauty, it feels completely untouched and I hope that it can stay this way. All of the restaurants / bars we came across used recyclable straws made of bamboo, none of them had plastic straws. Similarly with carrier bags, almost all of the vendors used paper bags which was refreshing to see. I would love to return and visit some of the other islands and also explore a bit more of El Nido.