Of all years for Ryan to decide that he wanted to go away on holiday for his birthday, he decided that it would be smack bang in between our wedding and our honeymoon! Of course, I’m not complaining and I’m not one to say no to a holiday, especially when it means visiting another new country!
Ryan has wanted to visit South Africa for such a long time, I must say I had never really looked into SA but, once we started planning this trip I couldn’t believe how much we had to try and squeeze into just 10 nights!
Every single meal we had in Cape Town was amazing, you can read my separate post on where we dined with our food and wine recommendations here.
We left Dubai at 4am, I managed to get a 3 hour nap before heading to the airport and another 6 hours sleep on the flight! The flight was just over 9 hours long and we arrived in Cape Town just after 11.30am.
We had arranged a transfer to our hotel in Camps Bay direct with the hotel which removed the stress and hassle of having to locate a taxi at the airport. By 1pm we were at the hotel, checked in and ready to start exploring!
Camps Bay is a beautiful area, located right on the white beach front with a great selection of restaurants and bars overlooking the sea. We stopped at La Belle for a light lunch and dived straight into the seafood, ordering mussels and calamari – straight away we knew we were going to love it here.
We stayed at South Beach which is a small boutique hotel a stones throw away from the beach. The staff were extremely friendly and constantly helped us with arranging Ubers and other excursions. The hotel has complimentary bikes which you can take out along the walkway, two pools and a bar. The rooms come with a full kitchen and fully stocked fridge and the staff leave fresh bread and croissants on your door every morning at 8am!
That afternoon we had made a reservation at the Mount Nelson Hotel for High Tea. We sat outside on the terrace drinking MCC (Method Cap Classique, South Africa’s own champagne), eating cakes, sandwiches and scones and it was lovely.
Dinner: the Bungalow, Camps Bay
We booked onto the 9am tour across to Robben Island for the tour of the museum and the prison. They offer three tours a day starting at 9am, 11am and 1pm, each lasting around 3.5-4hours including the ferry ride too and from the island. We booked our tickets in advance online (here) as we were advised that in the high tourist season the tours can book up quickly! You should also take your passport or ID with you so that staff can check your e-ticket against your ID (I didn’t know this but luckily had a copy of my passport with me which they accepted).
The boat ride across to the island was quite choppy (and cold!) but if you get the chance to sit outside on the boat you absolutely should. The views as you leave the harbour are just incredible with a full skyline of the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, Lions Head and the stadium built for the FIFA World Cup held in South Africa in 2012.
The tour around Robben Island was so informative and eye opening. We were taken on busses around to different parts of the island, culminating with the tour of the prison itself. Our tour guide was an ex-prisoner who had spent almost 20 years in the prison himself for political crimes. We saw the quarry where the prisoners were forced to work every day, including Nelson Mandela. We were taken around the prison cells in each of the blocks, finishing at Nelson Mandela’s cell. The tour was so educational and I would highly recommend it.
We spent the afternoon wandering around the V&A Waterfront. It was a hive of activity with different things going on around every corner. By this point we were hungry so headed straight to the food market, it was full of stalls ranging from Poke Bowls, biltong, pork belly, oysters, samosas, anything you could think of! We bought a selection from a few of the stalls and sat outside with a drink in the sun. There were also local street performers around the area so we sat watching a group of young children in tribal wear singing and dancing and it was just amazing.
Dinner: The Pot Luck Club, The Old Biscuit Mill
We wanted to visit Cape Point and Boulders Beach but didn’t want to do this as part of a big group so we decided to hire a private driver for the day so we could arrange our own itinerary and move around at our leisure. I contacted several companies but we decided on using the company Citi Shuttles. They were really professional and helpful during our correspondence with them and mid range price. We were required to make the full payment upfront as they did not want their drivers to be carrying large amounts of cash so we made the payment using TransferWise to reduce the bank charges.
We started our day at 8.30, driving the coastal route down to Cape Point. On the way we stopped at Hout Bay and went down to the harbour for a coffee and a wander around the stalls. From here, you can take a trip across to Seal Island.
The coastal route was beautiful and at one part you drive on a road that has been carved into the edge of the cliff. We got to the Cape of Good Hope in good timing and avoided all of the queues at the entrance to the National Park. We saw wild ostriches roaming around and baboons! We attempted to have our picture taken with the sign “Most Southernly Point in Africa” but we couldn’t quite fight our way through the tourists so we went for a short hike up one of the trails. It was so windy down there, I’m glad I chucked my hoody in last minute!
We then headed to the lighthouse and hiked up the hill to the top. The views were beautiful. We had made a lunch reservation at the Two Oceans, when we arrived we had the choice of tables but within half an hour the restaurant was packed inside and out. They have a great selection of seafood platters and we chose one with langoustines, prawns, calamari and mussels, with a bottle of Chenin Blanc to soak it up!
After our amazing lunch, we headed down to Boulders Beach. The beach is famous for being the home of around 2,000 penguins! I’m not sure what I was expecting but to be honest, it was part of the trip that I would say could be missed out if you’re pushed for time. It was completely crowded and you pay an entrance fee of around $20 per person and the walk way is relatively short. It was cute seeing the penguins but it didn’t really feel any different than being in an overcrowded zoo.
Dinner: Bilboa, Camps Bay
On our final full day in Cape Town we woke up to thick fog, cloud and mist. This morning, we had planned to hike up Table Mountain, starting at 7am. Initially, we intended to do this alone as I had read online that you don’t necessarily require a guide and that the route is signposted. However, I was slightly apprehensive due to the weather so contacted reception and they strongly advised us not to go alone, especially with the weather conditions and that we book with a guide. Our hotel kindly then contacted and booked a guide for us to start the hike at 11.30 (as he was already half way up the mountain with another group!)
Our guide, Johan October, was so passionate about nature and his main priority was getting us up to the top safely. So we started the hike at 11.30 and could not see a thing the entire way up due to the clouds. It was disappointing however, we still feel so accomplished that we completed the hike. I would not advise doing this hike without a guide, especially when the weather is unpredictable. We took the easy route, Platteklip Gorge, and found parts of it very challenging. We had to scramble over rocks at certain points and the whole trail is not well signposted, I think we came across two on our whole hike. Also, due to the weather conditions we only crossed paths without around 8 other hikers. Johan advises that from December onwards the route would be much busier and so you may feel more confident doing it without a guide.
We took the cable car back down which took less than five minutes as we had booked our tickets in advance to save queueing twice and headed straight to the Codfather to reward ourselves with a huge amount of seafood!
Dinner: Paranga, Camps Bay
Our last morning in Cape Town was spent chilling in our apartment and having breakfast before heading onto the next part of our trip, Stellenbosch! Again, we booked a transfer with our hotel in advance however, you can just as easily book an Uber from Cape Town out to the wine lands.
We absolutely loved our time in Cape Town. Prior to travelling there I was slightly apprehensive but we didn’t have any issues at all. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. It’s really easy to get around and everyone uses Uber as it’s much more convenient and also cheaper than taxis. You also find that everywhere has WiFi so you can pre-order your Uber before leaving. We were advised by our hotel not to carry large amounts of cash with us which was no issue at all because everywhere we ate / visited accepted card, including entry to the nature reserves. It is also custom to tip 10-15% for good service so it’s helpful to have some notes on you for that, we found it was definitely appreciated but not expected.
We recently spent the weekend at the Anantara on the Palm for the perfect weekend of R&R. The 25th of May marked our four year Dubai-anniversary – four years of living in Dubai! We like to celebrate each year with a staycation and this year we decided on the Anantara.
We’ve visited the hotel previously for brunch but when we arrived and the hotel staff took our bags, I was so ready to make the most of the hotel experience. Anantara is a Thai hotel chain and we were greeted with the same Thai hospitality and warmth as you receive in Thailand. We arrived at 10am, even though check in wasn’t until 2, as we wanted to make the most of using the facilities so we headed straight down to the pool.
Surprisingly, the weather in Dubai right now is still perfect and we’re not melting away just yet! It was lovely just laying out, soaking up the sun and reading. Around midday we went for a little walk along the beach front and checked out the over-water villas before heading down to Revo Cafe for a bit of lunch. (I say “a bit” of lunch, I ordered the southern fried chicken sandwich and it was about 15 inches long!)
We were able to check into our room an hour early which was great because we had booked a Premier Lagoon Access Room which meant that we had a terrace with two sun loungers and direct access down into the lagoon pool from our room. It was such a welcome break from the craziness that is Dubai and due to the location of the hotel on the palm, we couldn’t see any of the high rise towers so we really did feel like we were on holiday for the weekend.
The Beach House
The hotel has a great selection of restaurants (all of which are on the Entertainer as well which is a bonus) we were torn between Mekong, the Thai restaurant; Bushmans which is an Australian BBQ and grill or the Beach House which serves Mediterranean cuisine.
We decided to dine at the Beach House for our evening dinner as we won’t have the luxury of dining outside for much longer in Dubai – summer is definitely approaching! The restaurant is set on the beach which has a lovely view of the Marina in the background.
We shared the Beach house Antipasti to start, I had the grilled tiger prawns and Ryan had the seafood pasta – his pasta included prawns, mussels, clams, red snapper, calamari and crab! All of the portion sizes were extremely generous so you should arrive hungry! Our waiter, Nicholas, was extremely friendly and informative of the menu and we never had to ask for anything.
The lagoon access room is open 24 hours so when we got back from dinner the plan was to go for a a night swim. By the time I had my bikini on, Ryan had already fallen asleep on the sun lounger on our terrace! So I went for a little swim in the lagoon which was lovely and then proceeded to fall asleep on the other sunbed. It was so peaceful.
I am such a fan of a breakfast buffet. Lady in the street but a freak at the buffet – that’s me all over 🤣 the selection at this breakfast buffet was great, it had so much choice! I just get too excited and pile so many things on my plate that it ends up a bit of a mess. But everything was super tasty and fuelled us for our next nap out on the terrace!
Our second day was spent between the terrace and the lagoon, we wanted to make the most of our room so requested a later check out. The highlight of the lagoon was the little bar boat that comes along serving up cocktails whilst you’re in the lagoon! I chose a Malibu Coconut, it was heavenly!
We left the palm feeling super relaxed and as though we had actually left Dubai – even though the drive home was only 18 minutes!
If I had to use one word to describe dining in Kuala Lumpur I would say “overwhelming” purely because there is so much choice! Kuala Lumpur has a huge range of high end restaurants, budget cheap eats and also street markets to choose from during your stay.
We were lucky enough to stay in an area that was surrounded by high end restaurants with Michelin Star ratings however, we feel that we are spoilt for choice with this style of dining in Dubai, so during our stay in KL we decided to eat in the more rustic, authentic restaurants and street markets.
Here is a run down of our favourite eateries during our short stay in KL:
We found ourselves in Suria Mall as we were staying close by and a Malaysian friend had recommended that we find a Little Penang Kafe during our time in Malaysia. We wouldn’t normally choose to dine in the mall but the food did not disappoint. The food was authentic local cuisine and we ordered a seafood noodle dish, chicken rice dish and a side of minced prawns in pastry (kind of like an opened spring roll). This restaurant was a great dining option for local cuisine in a not so authentic setting!
We visited Chinoz twice during our stay in KL. The first was for an afternoon drink in happy hour, it was lovely to sit amongst all of the plants in their little outdoor terrace area. It also had a lovely view of the KLCC Park.
We then returned for breakfast the next morning as it was the only restaurant we found open for breakfast at 9am on the weekend. We both ordered poached eggs on toast with a coffee which was lovely (and much cheaper than breakfast in the hotel).
This was one of our favourite meals in KL! The restaurant was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and it had a huge outside dining area but it was full to the brim when we arrived! We waited, only a short while, to be seated and ordered a selection of local dishes. We ordered salt and pepper shrimp, pork belly (which was amazing, I wish we ordered a bigger portion!), Hakka fried rice and black pepper crab. The food was really reasonably priced given the size of the portions.
It was a lovely setting and buzzing atmosphere and I would definitely recommend this restaurant to people visiting.
We had read great reviews on Trip Advisor about NZ Curry House so we thought we would try it out for lunch – and we were not disappointed. I ordered the Nasi Goreng with chicken which was a huge portion with almost half a chicken and Ryan ordered a local noodle dish with prawns, we both shared a garlic naan bread which came with a small portion of dal curry to dip and also had a sprite each. The bill came to 27RM!!
The restaurant also offers a daily set menu with a drink for 5 RM (equivalent to £1!). It is definitely a cheap and cheerful dining option if you’re dining on a budget. The setting itself was quite basic but the food was lovely and definitely worth a visit.
Meng Kee Grill Fish at Alor Street Food Market
I am so glad we (Ryan) had done our research on Alor Street Food Market before going because it was absolutely crazy and packed full of stalls and restaurants offering a huge variety of local cuisine. We had read great reviews about Meng Kee so decided to give it a try.
We got a table slightly set back from the busy walk way so we could enjoy our meal but still see the hustle and bustle of the street.
We ordered spring rolls, a local noodle dish with beef and a platter of grilled pepper prawns. The portion sizes were generous and the food was delicious. The prawns were quite large and seasoned beautifully.
We also had two beers and a water and the bill came to a total of 111RM. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you’re looking for local cuisine in an authentic setting.
Ryan also found restaurant Wong ah Wah had great reviews and is famous chicken wings. Our other option was Cu Cha which serves the traditional Char Kuey Teow dish.
We definitely did not leave KL feeling hungry. It would have been lovely to try out some of the Michelin star dining options but maybe we can save that for another trip! This post has also made me realise that I like taking pictures of Ryan and food!
I absolutely love the beach, I have done my whole life. Growing up in Lowestoft I really took for granted the fact that we had the beach right on our doorstep. In the summer holidays my friends and I would bike down to the beach and spend all our time there. It was only when I moved away to uni that I realised we had been so lucky throughout our childhood.
In Dubai, it’s even better because we have the amazing beaches as well as the amazing weather, so here is a list of a few of my favourite beaches to visit:
Kite Beach is slightly further away from my apartment in the Marina but still only a 15-20 minute taxi ride. I’m not really sure where Jumeirah Public Beach ends and Kite Beach starts but the beach is huge and stretches from the Burj Al Arab right the way up the Four Seasons (which would take around 2 hours to walk)! I prefer this beach because it’s a lot quieter than JBR. It doesn’t have as many restaurants or facilities but it does have SALT Burger (amazing) and also loads of parking which is free on Fridays for those who drive.
This is probably the beach I go to most often because it less than a 10 minute walk from my apartment. JBR is great because it has a good selection of restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a spacious sandy beach to plonk down for the day. There are sunbeds and umbrellas available to rent for the day at AED 110 (which I think is quite pricy) so I literally head down there with my towel, a book and a bottle of water and set up on the sand for the day – or a few hours depending on how hot it is! JBR can also be quite busy with tourists and families so I tend to walk to the far end where it is a bit quieter.
La Mer is one of the newer public beaches to open in Dubai and is located the opposite end to the Marina (so heading back towards the airport). It is owned by the Developed as JBR beach so it offers a great range of restaurants and cafes but the best part about La Mer is that it is licensed for alcohol.
The Fairmont, Palm Jumeirah
This is actually one of my favourite hotel beaches to visit for the day. They often have deals on Groupon etc. for beach and pool access with a two course lunch for around AED200. This beach has gorgeous views of the Marina and there’s a great choice for sunbeds either down the beach or around the pool. It’s nice to feel like I’m on holiday just for a day at the weekend!
Atlantis The Palm
Another favourite pool / beach day of mine is at Nasimi Beach at the Atlantis. They have recently started a new deal on Saturday’s where for AED 149 girls can receive a sunbed and towel, unlimited wine, cocktails, beer and soft drinks from 12-4 as well as a token for lunch! It’s an amazing deal and a great way to show guests the Atlantis.
Although Zero Gravity is better known for the pool rather than the beach, it’s great to chill out during the week and then livens up during the weekend for their weekend brunches. On Tuesdays, ladies can join the guest list and spend the day around the pool and the beach free of charge.
Barasti is another beach club I recommend to guests when they visit on holiday, mainly because it’s one of the only free beach clubs in Dubai. It’s great because there’s no entry fee for men or women and they have sunbeds / beach cabanas that are also complimentary. They also have a pool which opened last year some time. I have to admit though, I haven’t been here for a beach day in a while because I don’t like the music! If you want a chilled beach day this probably isn’t the best option.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 Boutique
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!
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.
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.
After 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!
The 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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
We started our mini Euro-trip with a three night stay in Prague, another new country to czech off the bucket list! Most people we have spoken to have visited Prague during the Winter so we were excited to see what it had to offer in the summer months.
Initially, we had planned to stay for only two nights however, due to the change of the predicted Eid dates, we were able to change our FlyDubai flight to leave a day earlier for AED 220 – definitely worth it for an extra day of exploring! Unfortunately our original hotel was fully booked for the additional night so we stayed at Miss Sophie’s hotel for the first night and moved to Pure White for the following two nights. The staff at both of our hotels were extremely helpful and provided us with maps and recommendations for things to do in the city. Both times we arrived too early for check in however the hotels had safe, locked storage rooms for luggage which put us at ease when heading out for the day.
We had read mixed reviews about picking up taxis from the airport with regards to meters etc so we booked private transfer company, Prague Airport Transfers, to collect us and take us to the hotel. It is a fixed price company that charges one price to any hotel in the city centre so we simply selected our hotel online and made the payment in advance. This may have been slightly more expensive than a regular taxi however it was hassle free and very convenient. You can find the company we used here https://www.prague-airport-transfers.co.uk
The airport was one of the quickest we have been through at that time in the morning so we were at our hotel, luggage dropped off, changed and out to explore by 9.30am!
We headed straight out to find a spot for breakfast, my favourite meal of the day, and found a cute little cafe called Dolce Monte where I got my fix of coffee and eggs! We walked from our hotel in New Town through to St Charles Bridge in the old town. Like typical tourists we had a map (that we couldn’t really read) but had a lovely walk taking in all of the sites and the amazing buildings the city has to offer. It was much busier with tourists in the Old Town but we made our way through and on to St Charles Bridge. The views were beautiful and there were lots of people busking playing beautiful music, it had such a lovely vibe.
We exited the bridge and took a left to find the infamous John Lennon Wall. I didn’t really know what to expect from it but it was such a cool place, a guy was playing a guitar and singing The Beetles songs it was so fun. We then found a little restaurant on the side of the street for lunch and Ryan has his first beer of the holiday!
Imagine all the people…. who visited this wall!
In the evening we went for sundowners at the Dancing Houses rooftop bar it was so chilled and had gorgeous views of the city. Along the river below we saw several boats moored up with bars on so we decided to take a wander. The whole length of the river had people sitting along drinking, eating, hopping in and off the boats it was such a fun place! We sat for a few more drinks, it was a lovely end to the day!
On our second day, we headed down to the river front, stopping in a little shop for some wine and beers on the way, and rented pedalos for an hour from Slovanka Boat Rental! This was one of the highlights of my time in Prague! It was so relaxing pedalling around the river, drinking wine and listening to music in the sun. We only paid CZK 300 (AED 49 / £10) for an hour and I would highly recommend this.
We then walked to a rooftop bar that Ryan had read about online called Tanker which was located above a shopping centre. The views were beautiful across the city and the food was lovely as well – this is definitely one of the hidden gems within Prague.
One recommendation we received for our trip was to head to a bar called Vytopna for a drink. This bar was so cool and such a fun restaurant experience where your drinks are served by model trains. I was telling Ryan to drink his beers faster so another train could come down our track! The drinks were reasonably priced in comparison to the other bars we visited and there was a service charge of CZK 25 (AED 4 / £0.88) which is used for maintenance of the trains and tracks.
For dinner that evening, we headed to a lovely tapas restaurant called The Bistro and sat outside in a quaint terrace garden. The dishes were lovely and designed for sharing so we ordered a selection including hummus, prawn tempura, pork dumplings and duck croquettes. The food really was delicious and the service was great.
On our final day, we headed into the Old Town to join the free walking tour provided by Prague Airport Transfers company. The tour started at 11am and took us around the streets of the old town to begin. The tour was great and even though we had been wandering these streets for the last few days, it was great to learn the history of the buildings and Prague itself. We stopped for a quick lunch and met up with the tour group shortly after to continue the tour up to the Castle and St Vitus Cathedral. The tour ended at the top of the castle and we slowly made our way back down to the old town, stopping for beer and chimney cake ice cream on the way!
A final bar that we wanted to visit was Lokal, a restaurant serving traditional Czech cuisine but the main attraction was, of course, the beer. Inside the pub was a huge beer tank whereby they brew their own beer. I’m not a beer drinker but was told this pub served some of the best beer in the world so I had to try it.
On our final evening we were so exhausted that we just walked to a little restaurant near our hotel and got an early night. We walked a total of 60,182 steps during our 3 days in Prague and I’m so glad I packed my blister plasters!!
What an amazing start to our mini Euro tour ❤️
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 our 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 lunch 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/
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.
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 shop 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/
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!
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!