Exploring Old Dubai

I used to save taking a trip down to Old Dubai as something to do with guests when they’re over on holiday. But lately, it seems I have swapped Friday Brunches, for Friday adventures – and I like it!

Dubai is such a vibrant, advanced and modern city to live in, but I love heading down to the Creek to experience the “old Dubai” and see some of the amazing variety of culture that this city has to offer. So, if you are planning on taking a trip down to the Dubai Creek soon, here are some of my favourite things to do there:

Gold Souk / Spice Market

Obviously this has to be first on my list, because diamonds 686b56bc-a370-4c2e-8483-70f9304dbd09really are a girl’s best
friend! I love visiting the Gold Souk to window shop and also barter on jewellery to haggle the price down. I recently visited to search for my wedding jewellery, albeit some ambitious wedding jewellery, but it was still fun!

Just around the corner from the Gold Souk is the Spice Market. All of the shops sell a range of local and imported spices at great prices (I should copyright that slogan).

Abra across the Dubai Creek

Previously, if someone told me I could purchase something in Dubai for AED 1 (=£0.20 /  $0.27) I would not have believed them. But you can take one of the small abra boats across the Creek for AED 1 for a return trip!

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Visit the Iranian Mosque

When I visited the Iranian Mosque I saw just how beautiful it was from the outside, but sadly, we hadn’t planned the timing of our trip very well and arrived at prayer time on a Friday! So the mosque, and car park, was actually packed full to the brim so we were unable to enter and explore inside.

I would therefore advise visiting the mosque on any other day of the week and also try to avoid prayer times! One important thing to note is that when visiting this mosque you should be sure to cover arms / legs fully. I was also advised to take a headscarf to enter the mosque – but sadly didn’t need to use it on this occasion!

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood allows you to see what traditional life was like in Old Dubai hundreds of years ago. You can walk around the narrow streets which are full of pop up shops, cafes, art galleries and even a boutique hotel.

You can find out more about it here: https://dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/Live-Our-Heritage/Pages/Al-Fahidi-Historical-Neighbourhood.aspx

Lunch at the Arabian Tea House

I’m getting hungry just writing this part of the post! The Arabian Tea House is located in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood so it’s a great place to stop and refuel. The food at the Arabian Tea House is traditional Emirati food so you can be sure to find a selection of breads, hummus, meze, biryani, shawarma and grilled meats. The food is delicious and really reasonably priced but, because of that, the queue is out of the door! If you are able to make a reservation here in advance, I would definitely advise doing so.

Ride on the Dubai Metro

This may seem like a strange one, but Dubai Metro is one of the top things to do in Dubai on Trip Advisor… I live in the Marina and a taxi up to the Creek would cost around AED 90 whereas the metro is AED 10 (in Gold Class or AED 5 in normal) so it’s a no brainer! If you’re looking for a cheap day out then I would definitely advise jumping on the metro. You can use the Journey Planner to help plan your trip.

My bucket list – 30 things before 30

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

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

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

  1. Hot air balloon ride

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

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  1. Swim with turtles

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

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  1. Skydive

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

  1. Take a cooking class in Asia

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

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  1. Seeing elephants in the wild

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Memories in Muscat

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

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

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

Dolphin sightseeing trip

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

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

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

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

Wadi Shab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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!