Ibiza – Part Dos, Es Canar

We planned to spend the first leg of our trip in the small town of Es Canar which is located about 40 minutes from the airport on the north east side of the island. As mentioned in my first post, we extended our trip one day early, and unfortunately, our hotel in Es Canar was already fully booked so we were unable to add an extra night on. So we opted for a small village that was situated around 10 minutes away from Es Canar.

Cala Llenya

We found a cute little resort in Cala Llenya with good reviews called the Cala Llenya Resort and Spa. The hotel resort was quite dated but the rooms felt more modern, they were spacious and bright so it was perfect for the night.

We took a short walk from the hotel down to the local beach which was tucked away in a sheltered cove with crystal clear water.

On the way back we found a lovely little restaurant, Restaurant Cala Llenya, and joined the locals for some seafood – of course, I had the grilled prawns and Ryan had the mussels, which set the tone for the rest of the trip!

We planned on heading out for dinner as well, but I fell asleep around the pool at 5pm, moved to the room at 6pm and slept almost the whole way through to 8am the next morning! Breakfast was included in our stay so we fuelled up on bacon and eggs and checked out to head onto our second hotel of the trip in Es Canar.

AluaSoul Ibiza Resort

We were not stuck for choice when choosing a hotel on the island, Ibiza has everything from large 3/4* resorts, to apartments, to boutique hotels. AluaSoul is a 4* adults only hotel with the option of having breakfast, half board, full board and all inclusive packages. We opted for breakfast only as one of the only things we planned on doing during this trip was eating out! The hotel is situated a stones throw from the beach, surrounded by local eateries and just down the road from a taxi rank and a supermarket, so we had everything we needed in walking distance.

The lobby was lovely and bright, with high ceilings and windows and had several lounge areas where guests can chill. Upon check in, we were provided with a wrist band which identified our hotel package but also doubled as the room key – this was a great touch as we never had to worry about who was taking the key with them!

The hotel room was nice, although I would say on the smaller side, but had a worktop with a chair which was perfect for Ryan to sit and work at, as well as a balcony, lovely shower and it was equipped with dressing gowns, slippers, a fridge, hairdryer and bathroom toiletries.

Our balcony overlooked the pool area, which is one of the biggest highlights of the hotel. The pool area consists of three pools surrounded by sun loungers as well as an area of Astroturf at the top with another smaller pool. The pool area had a really chilled vibe and the hotel had in-house entertainment that was put on throughout the day with activities such as water-aerobics, waterpolo, abs workouts etc. For people to join in if they wished.

Exploring Es Canar

As we arrived at AluaSoul relatively early, we left our luggage with the staff and set out to explore the local area. The beach was lovely but we followed the sea further round the coast into the next bay which passed in front of the gorgeous Bless Hotel and found some stunning views and another spectacular beach.

As Ryan was working for the duration of our stay in Es Canar, each morning I would get up and go for a walk / run to explore. I had seen on the map that Nikki Beach was around 2.5km from our hotel, so one morning I made it my mission to find it. It was a lovely walk but when I arrived it hadn’t yet opened so I decided to stop next door in the ME Hotel for an iced coffee and admired the surrounding views.

The rest of my time was spent completely relaxing around the pool and of course, eating. I will share all of our restaurant recommendations shortly (there’s quite a few!)

We absolutely loved Es Canar, it’s chilled out vibe and great location, but our next stop and final stop of the trip was to Playa Den Bossa…

Dubai to Ibiza

Ryan and I had been planning our summer trip back to the UK since before last summer and were gutted when Emirates cancelled our flights a few months ago. Everything has felt so uncertain in COVID times, especially with Boris making changes to the country travel list every few weeks. So as soon as the Balaeric Islands popped onto the green list and the timing fell perfectly with the dates that we wanted to return home, we took the opportunity to travel back.

We have a close family friends birthday and also a wedding that we just did not want to miss in July so decided to bite the bullet and spend 11 days in Ibiza before flying back home.

Unfortunately, I use the term loosely, I was not able to “work from home” in Ibiza so I was required to take the entire trip as annual leave. Ryan, however, worked for the duration of the trip doing his UAE hours, meaning he was up at 6.30am and finishing at 3.30pm.

I decided to make the absolute most of my time in the Ibiza, relaxing and completely resetting. Initially we were planning on renting an apartment that we could both work from for the duration, but once I knew I was going to be having a holiday we opted for hotels and to spend six nights in Es Canar followed by five nights in Playa den Bossa.

When booking our flights, they were rocketing in price for travel on the Friday so we opted to fly on Saturday 3rd. However, when we calculated the number of days / hours we would be spending in Ibiza before flying into England it would have been just a few short of 10 days to the hour. We had heard stories of friends traveling through Border Security in England that they were cross checking the timing of entry and exit stamps and I just did not want to take the risk that we had done something wrong and end up in a situation where we were required to spend an additional ten nights in the UK hotel quarantine – could you even imagine that! So we paid the extra cost and changed our flights to travel a day earlier meaning we would have 11 nights in Ibiza.

Entry to Spain

We had read conflicting information about entry requirements for Spain, and whether or not a PCR was required if you are fully vaccinated. We decided for the sake of AED180 we would have the PCR test in Dubai regardless.

All tourists entering Spain are required to download the Spain Traveller Health App which requires you to enter accommodation details, confirmation of your vaccine and date of vaccine and flight information. The app only accepted EU PCR certificates and we were unable to upload ours so instead we entered our vaccination information. You can only compete the outstanding information in the app 48 hours before your flight and at that time you are provided with a QR code. I would advise printing the code so you have a hard copy as well as the screenshot from the app.

Flight

We booked our journey with Emirates as one ticket although the second leg of the journey was fulfilled by Vueling. We departed Dubai at 3am and arrived in Barcelona at around 8am local time. Our luggage was taken all the way through so at least we didn’t need to wait at baggage claim, but we were required to pass through border security and obtain an exit stamp before checking in again and collecting our Vueling boarding pass. We had two hours which was the perfect amount of time for a little breakfast before heading to the departure gate.

The second leg of the journey was only an hour so we spent that watching Too Hot To Handle on the iPad 🤣

I have to say, the taxi situation upon arrival at Ibiza airport was absolute carnage. I had tried booking a taxi before we travelled, but the Welcome Taxis app was quoting €98 whereas our first hotel informed us it would be around €45. I had a mini meltdown (maybe more than a mini meltdown) but anyway the queue wasn’t too bad and we waited around 40 minutes for our taxi.

I think that just about covers all of the life admin for travel from Dubai to Ibiza and although there is a lot more planning and preparation required for travel right now, as long as you keep up to date with the countries regulations and print everything (twice) it isn’t too bad.

Our Long Weekend in Athens

We have just returned from a lovely holiday in Athens and it was my first trip back to Greece in almost seventeen years – goodness that makes me feel old! Mum and Dad used to take us on our summer holidays to Greece when my sister and I were younger and we were lucky enough to visit several Greek islands including Crete, Corfu, Kos, Rhodes as well as Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. I love Greece and have lovely memories from our family holidays, like singing karaoke with Katie, playing card games with Mum and going on walks with Dad to find cats (I haven’t changed!) 

So as the Eid holiday was approaching, Ryan and I looked into our options for travel, as certain countries are opening up for travel from the UAE – it also helps that we are both fully vaccinated. We were initially looking into the Seychelles but as Eid approached the prices started to rocket. So we browsed through the options on Emirates Package Holidays and found a great deal for flights and four nights accommodation in Athens and booked a locally branded hotel called Divani Caravel – it was quite a corporate hotel but was great for the price and a nice walk into the city centre.

We were so excited to be heading back to Europe as we haven’t been since our mini-moon in Nice almost two years ago. For the first time in ages we had a day flight which was actually lovely, we normally opt for the red eye night flight to maximize our holiday but decided to stick with the nice 10.50am flight which got us into Athens for 3pm.

When you arrive in Athens and you are fully Vaccinated for COVID (having had both doses at least 14 days before travel) then there is a separate queue which requires you to show proof of vaccination and you can head straight for passport control. Alternatively if you’re not vaccinated with both doses then you must go in the queue for a rapid COVID test (you do not need to pay for this) and await the results as a group before proceeding to passport control. It was strange receiving a passport stamp for entry to Greece!

Day One

We weren’t sure how easy it would be to get from the airport to the main city so we pre-booked our transfer on an app called Welcome Pickups. It was the first time I had used this app but it was extremely easy to use. It can be accessed across 63 countries and connects users to local taxi drivers (in the same way as Uber) but it allows you to book your ride in advance. We were then provided with the driver’s name, phone number and registration plate which was great. There is also the option of taking a metered taxi or the train as there is a train station located at the airport and several metro links across the city.  

As planned, our driver was waiting in the lobby holding a sign with my name and we headed straight to the hotel. The hotel was slightly out of the city centre but was only a 25 minute walk. We thought that it would be a lovely way to walk around and explore the city each day. We reached our hotel at around 4.30pm, had a quick change and then set off on our first adventure. Of course, I had done my research online beforehand and found some gorgeous restaurants and tips for sightseeing in Athens (you can read all about our amazing dining options here). One of the top places to visit in Athens is Plaka; one of the older neighbourhoods which is filled with brightly coloured buildings and quaint restaurants and cafes. It was about a thirty minute walk from our hotel to Plaka and we loved taking in the views (and some beverages) along the way.

On our journey from the airport we asked our taxi driver for recommendations for any local bars we should visit during our trip and he suggested a wine bar called By The Glass. It was relatively easy to find from our hotel and sat outside overlooking a cute church whilst enjoying a few glasses of rosè and a charcuterie board – it was the perfect way to start our trip!

We had made a reservation at Psara Tavern – which means the old fisherman’s tavern in Greek – and is listed as the most romantic restaurant in Athens. The restaurant is gorgeous and set at the top of a stairway with other bars dotted alongside. The restaurant has a lovely view over Plaka and the food was just as impressive as the view!

Day Two

I had planned a day of sightseeing for our first full day so we were up and rearing to go bright and early! We had breakfast at the hotel and set off straight to the Acropolis. We didn’t buy our tickets in advance we purchased them at the site entrance for €20pp. We had also toyed with the options of a tour guide but decided against it but it was easy enough to pick up local licensed tour guides at the entry for €50pp – these tours last approximately 50 minutes but we felt we wanted to go at our own pace although it would have been great to have the ancient history told along the way.

We were provided with a map, along with our tickets, which identified stops along the way with placards of information so we were able to read up on the information ourselves as we went at our own pace. We visited at the start of May which is outside of the peak season and it was an amazing time to visit as we only crossed a handful of people of the way up whereas we have been told that during the peak season there will be thousands!

After a few hours at the Acropolis we continued exploring the narrow roads of Plaka and the New Town before grabbing a taxi back to our hotel for a quick change before dinner. Uber was one of the most convenient ways for us to get around but it was just as easy to flag down the local yellow taxis and request the journey on the meter.

For dinner that night we had booked a restaurant called Orizontes Lycabettus which is located on Lycabettus Hill. To reach the restaurant you can either walk (not in heels) or take the cable car up which was €7 per person for a return journey. The views from the restaurant were amazing, we felt like we could see across the whole of Athens. As the sun started to set, we noticed what looked like smoke, followed by fireworks and the waiter informed us that Olympiacos had just won the league!

Day Three

By our third day we were exhausted from all of the sightseeing so I was very happy we had booked a relaxing beach day in the middle. We grabbed a taxi outside the front of our hotel and headed down to the beach. The drive was around 35 minutes and cost around €17 in the taxi. Astir Beach Club is affiliated with the Four Seasons and when making your reservations online you can choose different sections, one being adults only (yes please)!

As we travelled before the season fully opened it was pretty quiet when we arrived, but in typical Louise style we were early. Throughout the day the beds started to fill up and we had chosen a cabana on the front row. It was super chilled and the food was amazing so if you are visiting Athens and need a day to relax I would highly recommend Astir Beach.

We had also booked dinner at a restaurant called Blue Fish that evening which is a short 15 minute walk from Astir Beach around the sea front. The food was incredible (you can read all about it here) and it was a unique dining concept which I would absolutely recommend if you love seafood!

Day Four

Whilst we were in Athens, some of the COVID restrictions started to ease. A curfew was in place meaning we had to be home by 11pm but on our final night this was extended to 12.30am. We were also lucky enough that on our final day the restrictions on closure of museums was lifted, meaning we were able to visit the Acropolis Museum – to Ryan’s delight!

We walked from our hotel into the city centre and timed it well so we were able to see the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was interesting to watch as the guards are dressed in traditional uniform (my favourite part being their shoes).

The entrance to the Acropolis Museum was amazing as the museum itself is built over ruins which used to house some of the most affluent residences in Athens! The entry to the museum is €10 per person and you can purchase your tickets at the entrance on the day.

We ended our final full day by meeting some friends for drinks and dinner in the New Square, starting at A for Athens and finishing across the square in 360 Bar. Both of these bars have increidble views of the Acropolis during the day and at night.

Day Five

We decided to have a lay in and just chill on our final morning so we popped out for our last breakfast and in true European style found a café on the side of the road to sit and drink our coffee and orange juice. We ordered an Uber for our journey back to the airport which was very straightforward and an easy drive.

For our return flight to Dubai we were required to show a negative PCR test upon check in so we arranged that with a company called IASYS. They were extremely responsive by email and I informed them of the date and time that we were flying and they scheduled our COVID test for the morning before. The nurse came to our hotel and carried out the test in our room which took no more than 15 minutes for us both from start to finish. We were then emailed our test results within 24 hours. This service cost €60 which we were more than happy to pay for the convenience of not having to leave our room!

Eating and drinking our way around Athens

My goodness did Athens have a vast range of cafes, bars and restaurants. I don’t think you would be able to work through them all if you tried! We carried out a little bit of research in advance of our trip and made reservations for our evening dinners but decided to just go with the flow with regards to our lunch and afternoon Aperols!

Brunch

Athinaikon

We stumbled across Athinaikon on our penultimate day when we were walking back from the Acropolis Museum. The restaurant looked beautiful from the outside and as we walked inside we saw an outdoor seating area on the road at the back. The seating area was surrounded by plants and had a lovely atmosphere. 

We shared a half litre of the house wine along with the halloumi which was served Caprese style with fresh tomatoes. I chose the prawn linguini whilst Ryan had the mussels and we were both really impressed with the food. Our waiter was also great and very friendly. This was one of our top finds during our trip.

Plakaki Cafe Bistro

Plakaki is located in the same square as Pantheon (where we had stopped for a drink on our first day) and was super busy at lunchtime so we thought we would stop for a bite to eat. Ryan opted for the Greek Salad and I chose the margarita pizza (boring I know) but they were a great combination together and we devoured everything alongside a few Aperol’s. 

Privilege at Astir beach club

We spent the day at Astir Beach Club a d pre-booked our cabana at online before visiting. We chose to have lunch in the Privilege restaurant which is located to the right hand side of the beach. The decor in the restaurant is lovely with neutral colours and a boho-vibe. 

We shared (another) bottle of rosè as well as a burger and tempura prawns with kale chips. The tempura prawns were so good we had just about finished a mouthful and ordered a second portion! The staff were extremely friendly and we can imagine this restaurant will do great as the summer season starts.

Regal

After an active morning hiking the steps of the acropolis we stopped in Regal for some refreshments. It was slightly too early for me to have a wine – although Ryan was gasping for a cold beer – and instead I chose a homemade fresh lemonade. It was delightful and exactly what I needed. 

Utopia Bystro

On our final morning we decided to head out for breakfast and just along from our hotel was a little stretch of four or five cafes that we saw were busy most mornings. We popped into Utopia where I chose the English breakfast and Ryan chose the Greek breakfast. Both were lovely and came with a selection of coffee, juice, pastries, toast and jams. The restaurant was very popular and had a selection of indoor and outdoor seating. 

Dinner

Blue Fish

We absolutely loved our dining experience at Blue Fish and would highly recommend this to seafood lovers visiting Athens. 

The restaurant has a unique dining concept whereby you choose a whole fish or lobster (which are charged per kg) and the fish is prepared in four ways using four separate parts of the fish. This way, you enjoy the unique flavors of each part of the fish without any going to waste. 

To start, we had the mushroom risotto which utilized the head of the fish which was used to prepare the broth of the risotto.

Next up was the fish collar which we chose to have teriyaki style and was served with grilled avocado and was delicious.

Following that was the fillet which was a lovely, meaty part of the fish cooked Robata style and served with mashed potato and grilled vegetables (this dish was my favourite!)

Finally, the tail fillet which was grilled and served in a curry style sauce with vegetables.

Each dish was so tasty and yet so unique and it was an authentic dining experience.

Lithos

For our final night in Athens we decided we wanted some local Greek food and had read excellent reviews about Lithos online. It is located just outside Monastiraki Square – close to our favorite bars: A for Athens and 360. We were joined for dinner by some friends from Dubai so decided to share a few dishes. We chose the chicken souvlaki and pork souvlaki which are essentially skewers of grilled cubes of meat as well as the grilled octopus, which is a local specialty, and the Parma ham risotto. The food was honestly delicious and washed down with a bottle of Prosecco for the girls, red wine for the boys and some complimentary shots of oozo! 

Orizontes

We came across Orizontes when searching through tagged photos of Athens on Instagram. The view looked stunning so we booked for a table at 8pm to ensure we got to enjoy the views in daylight and sunset. You can take a cable car up to the restaurant which is €7pp for a return trip. The cars run every twenty minutes which we didn’t realize but somehow timed it perfectly.

Although the restaurant was relatively quiet, the staff were lovely and gave us a complimentary soup starter. Ryan opted for the seabass whilst I had the prawns and we shared some Greek “Patatas Bravas”. The food was nice but the views were outstanding and that really was the highlight of this restaurant.

Psara Taverna

We had made a reservation at Psara Tavern – which means the old fisherman’s tavern in Greek – and is listed as the most romantic restaurant in Athens. The restaurant is gorgeous and set at the top of a stairway with other bars dotted alongside. The restaurant has a lovely view over Plaka and the food was just as impressive as the view!

We ordered a selection of breads and olives to start alongside the calamari which was some of the tastiest calamari I’ve had and a very generous portion size! We followed that with the prawn linguini and chicken gyros which came deconstructed with the bread, chicken tomatoes etc on the plate. Both dishes were so tasty – and actually the best food we had during our time in Athens. 

In our eyes, the restaurant lives up to its name of the most romantic restaurant in Athens with the gorgeous views and an authentic setting.

Drinks

A for Athens 

A for Athens came highly recommended from several friends before traveling to Athens so it was high on our bucket list and did not disappoint. The bar is located in the same square as 360 Bar but I have to say, the views here are unbeatable! With a direct view across Monastaki Square up to the Acropolis we sat and watched the sun setting whilst enjoying some cocktails. 

We had made the reservation via email in advance as we were visiting on a Friday evening and wanted to ensure availability but when making a reservation there is a minimum spend of €20 which is not required for walk in reservations – although this is around two drinks so we did not mind anyway.

By The Glass

On our journey from the airport we asked our taxi driver for recommendations for any local bars we should visit during our trip and he suggested a wine bar called By The Glass. On our first day we headed into Plaka via this bar and sat outside overlooking a cute church whilst enjoying a few glasses of rosè and a charcuterie board – it was the perfect way to start our trip!

Lamiral roof top garden

We came across Lamiral one afternoon when we were wandering around Plaka and saw the gorgeous decor of the outside of the restaurant which enticed us in. We were actually walking off lunch so we’re not hungry at all so we stayed and enjoyed some drinks in the rooftop garden.  It is a lovely spot for afternoon drinks and the food smelt divine when it was brought out to the tables around us. 

Pantheon

We stumbled across a lovely square surrounded by bars and restaurants on our way into Plaka and decided to stop in Pantheon for quick drink before dinner. I had a lovely Aperol Spritz whilst Ryan got on the local beer and we sat in the sun taking in the alfresco ambience on our first day.

360 Bar

We visited 360 Bar post-dinner two out of the four nights of time in Athens. The bar has a great selection of cocktails, beers, wines and spirits as well as gorgeous views of the Acropolis and wider Athens. One word of advice would be to take the lift as opposes to the stairs as I was panting like a dog by the time I reached the bar!

Acropolis views from 360 Bar

Our Mini-moon

I’m a little bit late with this post.. over 6 months actually! My goodness time flies! As we were lucky enough to get married in France, we decided to head down to the South of France for 6 nights for our mini-moon.

I cannot believe that I have never visited the South of France before! On the flight in we lost count of the number of super-yachts and private jets we saw, it was insane! The coast line was absolutely beautiful as well and it made me so excited to spend the next week there.

Hotels

When searching for accommodation we struggled a little bit because there is so much choice! There are so many amazing hotels in Nice such as Negressco, Le Meridien, the Radison Blu etc. all of which have amazing sea views. Then you also have the options of Air BNB and serviced apartments as well as the boutique hotels. When choosing your hotel you have to consider the location, and decide whether you want to stay along the promenade or in the Old Town… there was just so much choice! We decided on Hotel Villa Victoria which was a lovely 4* hotel based around 5-10 minutes’ walk from the beach and around 15-20 minutes from the Old Town.

We arrived at the hotel around 7pm and the staff were so helpful from the moment we checked in. We decided to drop our bags in the room and head out for a quick bite to eat as we were both feeling exhausted from the journey. We got back and sat outside in the hotels garden on the terrace with a bottle of wine and opened all of our wedding cards and read through our guestbook, it was so perfect.  One of the other reasons I loved this hotel is they have two cats in the garden that they look after (of course that’s what sold me!)

Beach Days

We had a total of five full days in Nice, I had (obviously) planned an itinerary for our time   but we decided to balance it by having a few chilled days down the beach and the rest exploring and activities! We definitely needed those chilled days after the build up to the wedding.

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The beach in Nice is stony so we didn’t fancy rocking up and putting our towels down on the floor. As you walk along the Promenade de Anglais you see several different beach clubs where you can hire a sunbed, towel and umbrella for the day. On our first day we stopped at a beach club called Le Galet, it looked super chilled, had a bar and restaurant and sunbeds to hire for the day for €20 each. We were sold!

We ate lunch the in Le Galet restaurant and just told the staff on the beach when we were ready for a table and within 15 minutes we were seated with a glass of wine in hand!

The food was amazing and the portions were huge! We shared a Caesar Salad and lobster linguini, both were wonderful! We also had several, probably too many, glasses of rosè! As you can imagine, the rest of the day was spent napping on the sunbed!

A few days later when we had another beach day factored into our itinerary, we headed straight down to Le Galet again! We spent the day in exactly the same way, the only thing that changed was our lunch order! Ryan ordered the Thai Beef Salad and I ordered the Seafood Pasta Salad, the food was seriously amazing!

Monaco

Our first adventure day out was one that i was most excited for. As one of our wedding gifts, Ryan’s dad kindly paid for us to hire a vintage car. We opted for a convertible 1963 cream MG MGA. I’m not exactly a car enthusiast but my god this car was amazing! We (Ryan) drove from Nice along the coast to Monaco, stopping in the small town of Eze on the way for some photos. We didn’t even have a satnav or map with us but we managed to navigate our way there using the road signs – I was more impressed at us managing this than anything else!

We arrived in Monaco and drove around the one way streets in front of the casino and Cafe de Paris, people were stopping to take photos of the car, it was honestly incredible. We parked up and headed into the casino to play on the slots. I thought I had one €24 and cashed out but it turns out €20 of that was the note I put in to start with! Oh well, it was still a win!

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After the casino we had a reservation for lunch at Cafe de Paris. We had a lovely meal followed by wine and coffee and spent a bit of time walking around the area. We headed down to the harbour to see the yachts and window shopping (sadly it was only window shopping).

Ryan done so well driving considering the car had no assisted steering or breaks .. or air conditioning! But we wanted to make the most of our time with the car so we headed back to Nice and continued along the coastal road through Cannes and along to Antibes. It was such a memorable day.

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Cannes

A few days later we had another day trip exploring and this time we got the train down to Cannes which was around an hour and only cost 12 Euros for a return. We stopped for a bite to eat at a little bagel cafe and then headed down to the main promenade. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us now whenever we visit France to stop in Le Fouquet for a drink. As we arrived relatively early we just had a coffee this time but at least we can say we have stuck with our tradition!

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Living in Dubai you would think that we were used to seeing the super cars but honestly Cannes promenade was another level, even though 90% of the number plates were Emirati!

We had made a lunch reservation at La Guerite on St Margerites Island which is a small island off the coast off Cannes with not a great deal on it, apart from the restaurant! You can travel to the restaurant by arranging a speedboat with them or taking a public ferry. As we had a bit of time and wanted to explore the island a little, we took the ferry across and then walked around the island before making our way to the restaurant. The atmosphere st La Gueriete was amazing, it started with a live band going around the restaurant singing to each of the tables and later a DJ came on which is when the party really got going! It was crazy seeing all of the superyachts moored up outside and people taking their speedboats from their yachts to the restaurant and back. The food was also excellent, Ryan had the pot of mussels and I chose the prawns which were delicious! As the wine was flowing we got a bit carried away and ordered ourselves a bottle of Dom Perrignon! We told the waiter that we had just got married and when they brought it out to us, the Dj played Bruno Mars “I think I wanna marry you” and they were carrying huge England flags over to our table! It was so much fun.

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Wine Tasting

The other fun activity day we had planned whilst we were down in Nice was a wine tasting tour. My sister and her boyfriend were also down in Nice for a few days at the same time as us so we all met up for breakfast and then headed to the Old Town to where our tour was starting from. This wine tasting tour was a bit different to others as it was on bikes, yes, bikes! We only a small group on our tour consisting of us four, our tour guide and another group of four Americans. Thankfully, the bikes were assisted which was definitely needed when we were cycling up the windy mountain roads to the vineyards.

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The views on the way were beautiful and we were able to take in so much more around us by cycling rather than driving. The vineyard we visited is one of the only vineyards in France that is inside the confines of a main city. We completed our tour of the vineyard which was followed by sampling five of the wine. We also bought some baguettes in the Old Town so we could stop and have a little picnic at the vineyard. We chose our favourite bottle of red wine and chilled out for a little while. By this point, I must say I was feeling slightly tipsy. On the way back down we had the assisted pedalling on and my bike reached up to 40k! I pulled over to get my phone out to video my speedo but as I was picking up the pace I felt a bit wobbly and pulled on the left break as my right hand was holding my phone. The left break slammed on and turned the front wheel of the bike to a halt and I absolutely stacked it off the bike! It was inevitable really wasn’t it, combining me with wine and a bike!!

On our final day we had the morning spare so met up with my sister and her boyfriend again for breakfast before heading across to the Old Town for a free walking tour. We actually got a little bit bored part way round and also distracted by the market so decided to slip away from the tour group before heading back for our flight. We absolutely loved our time down in the South of France. France will definitely hold a special place in our hearts now with all of the memories we made there this summer.

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Our Wedding Day

Oh, our wedding day. When I try to put into words how I feel about our wedding day the only word I tend to use is amazing. I’m not the type of person who can say I have always dreamt about what my wedding day would be like or that I had it all planned out as a young girl because honestly, I had never even thought about it until we got engaged! But our day really was everything I ever could have imagined it to be, and more.

Throughout the day I had to keep stopping to remind myself, “this is actually your wedding day… you’re getting married today” to make sure I tried to take it all in. Like when I was sat having my hair done in the morning by Sheree, or just as me and Dad were about to walk down the aisle, I just had to take a moment to process it all.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t exactly have the best start to the day. Katie and I shared a bed the night before as Ryan was in with his best man, Harry. I think I got a total of about 90 minutes sleep the night before the wedding… it was without a doubt, the worst night’s sleep of my entire life. At one point, I was convinced the entire wedding party had food poisoning from the BBQ and I called my mum at 2.30am in tears saying “Mum, everyone’s got food poisoning, there’s not going to be a wedding, everyone’s ill!” I needed Mum to be the voice of reason and tell me, that actually, no one has food poisoning and I’m probably just feeling a bit nervous!

The morning of…

So on the wedding morning at 7am, my Mum, Ryan’s Mum (Lisa), Katie, Sheree and Jemma came to the bridal suite to start getting ready for the day. I am so lucky to have such an amazingly talented best friend as Sheree and she was not only a bridesmaid, but also our hair wizard. Kelly, from Perfection, also travelled across to France to do everyone’s makeup. Me, being me, prepared a schedule for the morning, broken down by every 15 minutes so that we knew who had hair and makeup at what time and to avoid the issue of running late or anyone feeling stressed out.

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I have to say that getting ready was one of my favourite parts of the day. It was such a lovely, relaxing morning. We had presents, champagne, croissants and just all had such a lovely time. At around 1pm the flower girls and page boys came up to the bridal suite for some photos and to prepare for walking down the aisle.

We had suggested a hotel nearby for the wedding party to stay at and, for ease, arranged transportation to and from the wedding venue for the BBQ day and wedding day. At about 1.30pm, the wedding planner came to me and said “I don’t want to worry you but there’s been a slight issue with the coach… it’s broken down, so we’re going to be slightly delayed!” Can you believe the entire wedding party kept the bride waiting?! I just popped open another bottle of champagne! Both the photographer and the videographer wanted to capture me getting into my dress so, as we had time, I did it twice so that they could both get the shots they wanted.

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The Ceremony

The guests all pitched together and made their own way as a lot of people had hired cars for the weekend anyway. Once we were informed that guests had started to arrive, that’s when the nerves started to hit me. Luckily the ceremony had only been delayed by 30 minutes but by this point I was itching to get started. Our ceremony was supposed to be outside but the weather on the morning was very hit and miss with a bit of rain and so the wedding planner and florist decided it would be best if the ceremony was held in the barn. As we walked from the Chateau to the barn we were all holding umbrellas, my dress was tucked right up and I could hear the cellist as we were approaching. Everyone told me how cute and well behaved out little page boys, Rufus and Rafferty, were. Now that we’ve received the video back I can see the nerves in my whole body as I walked down the aisle with Dad.

The ceremony itself seemed to go so quickly for us. As part of our ceremony, we had a Wine Ceremony. Ryan and I had to write a note to each other which is to be stored in a wine box alongside a Polaroid picture from the wedding day. If our marriage is ever experiencing any difficulty we are supposed to sit together, open the bottle of wine and read our notes to one another, to remember the reason why we got married and the reason we fell in love. The aim though, is that our marriage never comes into difficulty and that we are supposed to open the wine and enjoy it together on our 5th wedding anniversary.

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After the ceremony, we had the cocktail and canapés reception. We had arranged for the band to play an acoustic set during this time and when we visited France in April we sampled all of the canapés that would be served at this time. We even had a live station where the chef was carving a leg of Serrano ham. I’ll be honest, this is the part of the day that I was most looking forward to (obviously apart from actually marrying Ryan!) But, we were taken away during this bit with our photographer and videographer to capture some special moments together. I did manage to make my way in for some of the Serrano ham though, and it was lovely!

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By this point, it was still drizzling and my dress had started to become a bit muddy. I had a bit of a bridezilla moment when mum said “don’t worry Lou, we can have it dry cleaned” I snapped back “but I need it clean NOW!” (Sorry Mum!) Everyone told me throughout the day that all the best wedding dresses end up covered in dirt and wine and that they tell a good story of the day but it was just a little heart-breaking seeing the bottom of it getting so muddy and wet in the rain. Thankfully it doesn’t show up in any of the photos!
We then had the family portraits which seemed to go on for ages so after that, Ryan and I decided to go for a little walk around the back of the Chateau, just the two of us, have some champagne and just spend a little bit of time together. That’s another thing so many people had told us in the lead up to the wedding… “make sure you get to spend some along time together on your wedding day”’

The Dinner

One thing that we really loved about our venue was all the space that could be used for different aspects of the day. Originally, we had planned to have the ceremony outside in front of the Chateau but thankfully had the backup of the gorgeous barn. The wedding breakfast was then held in the marquee which was attached to the barn and the barn itself had the stage and the band and was essentially our party room.

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The marquee looked absolutely gorgeous, so much more beautiful than I could have imagined. Rather than having the tables set with name tags for people to find their seat, we had polaroid’s held in corks (all of the photos were taken of the wedding guests the day before at the BBQ)! Ryan and I entered to Luther Vandross “Never Too Much” being played and joined our family at the top table. The speeches were lovely, and I’m so glad we have our video which includes all of the speeches as when we watched it back, I couldn’t remember half of what was said, it all seemed like such a blur!

One of my favourite parts of the room was the corner where the cake was. Our wedding planner had set two oak barrels with flowers either side of a trolley on which the cake sat, I thought it looked gorgeous. The marquee was clear so you could see through to the Chateau in the background, and once the sun had set the festoon lights connected from the tree to the marquee looked beautiful. We cut the cake and then had our first dance, ready to get the party started.

The Party

Our band were absolutely incredible our first dance was to Robin Es “Show me love” as an acoustic version which then sped up into the dance version. It got everyone straight up on the dance floor and I literally didn’t leave for the rest of the night! The band were honestly brilliant and made the evening for us. It was so amazing to be surrounded by our family and friends, dancing and laughing and just having the best time. We had a sparkler send off at around 9.30pm after the bands second set and the proceeded to DJ for the remainder of the night. It was only the next day that I remembered that we had arranged for burger sliders and bacon buttys to be brought out for the evening food – everyone else polished them off and I didn’t even have one!

As we had to use up all of the alcohol that we had ordered for the wedding day, we started to hand out bottles of the champagne so, me being the classy bride, had one glued to my hand for the rest of the night! The coach was arriving at 1am to pick up the guests and take them back to their hotel so Ryan and I slipped off at 12.55 as we were told we should leave before everyone else starts to leave.

Writing this has made me wish I could just live the whole day again. It really was the best day of my life.

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The Lead up to Our Wedding

I really don’t know where to start with writing this. I also cannot believe how quickly the time has gone. We’ve already been married almost three weeks. In the build up to the wedding everyone told us how fast the day would go but you don’t realise it until you’re actually there, in the day. I had to stop and have a few moments to try and take it all in.

Ryan and I arrived in France on the Wednesday with a luggage allowance of 75KG! We picked up our hire car and headed straight to the venue. The weather was a bit hit and miss on the drive to the venue but I didn’t want to let it put a downer on things so we headed straight out to Ikea and Carrefour to get some of the final things we needed for the weekend. As our wedding was dry hire it meant that we had to source everything through vendors. However, there were somethings that were definitely cheaper to source ourselves, for example the caterers wanted to charge €2 per shot glass whereas you can get a pack of 6 for €1.60 in Ikea. The same with water and soft drinks. So after approximately 5 hours in the shops with a stop at McDonalds in between we were tired and headed back to the Chateau. On the drive back the heavens opened and I was sat in the back of the car surrounded by Coke and glasses and just cried. I thought, I can’t believe everything we have planned over the course of the last year is now going to be ruined by the weather.

We got back to the Chateau and unpacked everything into the caterers kitchen connected to the marquee and sat in the lounge with a bottle of wine and wrapped up our gifts for our family.

The Family Night

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The next morning we went out to the shops again and stopped at a local bakery to order some sandwiches ready for when the family arrived. We asked the lady if she could speak English and her expression was shocked so she ran to get her son to help! We ordered 20 huge baguette sandwiches and some eclairs and little pastry bits for the family lunch and headed back waiting for them to arrive. Literally as the coach turned into the Chateau the sun burst through! It was so exciting to have all of our family there to show them what we’ve been talking about for the past year. We showed everyone to their rooms and all gathered in the marquee for lunch. It was exactly what we wanted, having all of our family there just relaxing and enjoying time together.

That evening was the first event of the wedding weekend and we had hired the caterers to prepare a 3 course meal. It was so lovely having all of our family together and the food was amazing. As people were on the first night of their hols and it was the first night we could properly relax and enjoy ourselves a few of us got a bit rowdy and didn’t make it to bed until almost 2.

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The BBQ

The morning of the BBQ, Ryan wanted to laze about in bed and nurse his hangover but I was up and out of bed at 8am to tidy the barn as we had a list of tasks we needed to do that day! Me, Ryan, Mum and Ryan’s Uncle headed back out to the shops to pick up the remaining soft drinks and some bits for lunch for the family. The soft drinks were one of the things we were really struggling with, how do you quantify how many cans of coke are going to be needed for 80 people for a two day event?!

When we got back to the Chateau the weather was beautiful and everyone was sat outside in the sun so we had a little picnic, opened some wine. It was just perfect. It was exactly how we had pictured having all of the family together and one of the reasons that we decided on a destination wedding in the first place.

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That afternoon, we had a rehearsal with all the people who would be walking down the aisle. Ryan and his best man, our mums, the flower girls and page boys, the bridesmaids and me and dad. That was the first time I got emotional and had to fight back tears a little bit. Ryan’s little cousins Rufus and Rafferty were so funny and I was kind of hoping they would be a little bit naughty walking down the aisle on the wedding day, but they were absolutely perfect on the day.

After the rehearsal, Sheree (bridesmaid/hairdresser) took me upstairs and treated me to a hair wash and blow-dry so I could get ready for the BBQ. Luckily the weather held off for the BBQ and we still had lovely sunshine. For the BBQ we had a selection of garden games and our wedding planner had set up some picnic blankets under the trees for people to sit and chill out. We had giant connect four,  corn hole, Bowles, beer pong and rounders. The rounders was a hit and at one point almost everyone was there playing rounders together, I even managed to run in my dress and heels! It was so surreal seeing so many of our amazing friends and family from all different walks of life playing games together, drinking and just having the best time.

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We had the same caterers for the family night, the BBQ and the wedding day and the food was amazing. We had chosen a selection of meats such as lamb chops, pork, sausages, chicken, salmon skewers and it was all so tasty. At around 10pm it started raining, to be honest I’m just glad the rain held off that long! Our wedding planner, Sarah, was on hand straight away handing out umbrellas and pashminas to keep us dry. At around 10.30 the fireworks started. They were brilliant. I was stood next to Ryan and Dad watching the fireworks under an umbrella just trying to take it all in.

When the fireworks finished, me and Katie snuck off and went up to get ready for bed as Ryan was spending the night with his Best Man, Harry. I can honestly say that that night was the worst night’s sleep of my entire life! Me and Katie were convinced that we had food poisoning which resulted in me calling my Mum at 2.30am in tears as I had convinced myself that there wouldn’t be a wedding because all of the guests were ill with food poisoning! That obviously wasn’t the case and it must have just been a combination of nervousness and excitement. Katie also wanted to keep the light on the whole night as she was worried about seeing a ghost in the Chateau (which I did actually see the previous two nights). I managed about an hour and a half’s sleep and once we noticed it started to get light outside, Katie turned the light off. Then within about 15 minutes our alarms went off to start getting ready!

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!

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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