Sharjah’s Hidden Gem

Tucked away off one of Sharjah’s busy roads is a small entrance to the Chedi Al Bait. The complex opened its doors as the Chedi Hotel in December 2018 and I have to say that it was only this past summer that I began to hear about the hotel. So, we packed our bags and booked up a one night stay at the start of August. The hotel was a relatively short drive from our villa so we enjoyed the little road trip crossing the border into Sharjah – I have to admit that in my almost six years living in Dubai this is the first time I visited Sharjah (as opposed to just driving through it)!

When the maps told us we were only one minute away I thought to myself, “surely we have the wrong address here” but we turned the corner to see the subtle Chedi sign at the side of the road. The concierge assisted us with our luggage through the narrow walkways into the reception.

Upon check in, the staff provided us with a small sanitising pack which contained anti-bac gel and gloves which was a nice touch.

Hotel Facilities

Inside the grounds of the hotel it felt so peaceful. There are courtyards with olive trees and casual seating areas tucked in all corners of the hotel. It really is like a maze wandering around the narrow pathways.

The hotel also houses a library which explains some of the history of the building itself and has a large collection of books in both English and Arabic.

The hotel also has a lovely, albeit small, swimming pool. As we visited during COVID times we were required to book a 2 hour slot at the pool so as to prevent it from becoming overcrowded.

Our Room

One of the highlights of our stay was the amazing bed in our room! No, seriously. This took hotel beds to a whole other level! The mattress is made from horse hair (you should probably check if you have allergies before staying) and it really felt like I was sleeping on air. The bathroom continued the traditional Arabic themed décor with neutral walls, wooden doors and dark basin sinks. It also had a gorgeous waterfall style shower.

Restaurants

We dined in both the International restaurant as well as the Arabic restaurant during our stay at the hotel. We decided on having lunch in the International restaurant whereby we had a range of small dishes from salads to soft-shell crab and it was all lovely. The International restaurant is very light and open and also had a lovely outdoor seating area (which we chose not to make use of in August)! The breakfast also served in the International restaurant and has a great selection of egg dishes, pancakes, waffles etc. of which you could order multiple items! We were also served a selection of freshly baked pastries as well as juice, tea and coffee – as you can tell, I love a good breakfast! 

We ate at the Arabic Restaurant for dinner on the Friday night – we were glad to have made a reservation as the restaurant was quite busy. We shared a selection of Arabic meze starters such as hummus, tabbouleh and falafel, followed by one sharing platter of chicken shish tawook and another platter of grilled seafood. Everything was super tasty!

Sadly, during our stay at the Chedi, I feel ill (which I know now as being the onset of my Bell’s Palsy). As much as I enjoyed our stay it was shrouded by stress with not knowing what was wrong with me at that time. I would love to return because it really was so relaxing and a lovely way to escape the city.

Holiday Dining at its Finest

This trip was our first time travelling to the Maldives, and we had heard from friends who had visited previously that alcohol is quite expensive, so when choosing a hotel we were leaning towards an all-Inclusive package so that we could really chill out and enjoy our time away with no worries about the costs of all the cocktails I knew I would be drinking!

One thing that stood out when reading about Ozen was the great choice of restaurants included as part of the all-Inclusive package; but the thing that stood out the most for Ryan was the wine list! We worked our way through five of the six restaurants at the hotel (and only missed out on the sixth one as it was unfortunately closed)!

From my previous posts, you may have come to know that Ryan and I are complete foodies so we were really excited about the extensive variety of food available at Ozen, ranging from Indian to Chinese to International foods. So here is a summary of the amazing restaurant options available at Ozen… don’t read this on an empty stomach!

IndoCeylon

Located on a small pier is a gorgeous wooden restaurant, from the outside the restaurant doesn’t look that big, but inside it houses both the IndoCeylon and Peking restaurants on different sides of the building.

The food at IndoCeylon is à la carte and we had a great selection to choose from, so good we actually didn’t know what to choose, so the chef prepared us a selection platter of all starters which included chicken tikka, samosa and others. When it came to the mains we were just as indecisive and again ordered a selection. This time we had a Goan prawn curry; Lamb Rogan Josh and a butter chicken alongside rice and naan breads.

One of the highlights of dining at Ozen is that the chefs always make the effort and take the time to come and speak to all of the diners, it really adds that personal touch. We were chatting to the chef and it turns out he had trained at Bukhara, a restaurant that we visited in New Delhi in 2017! After hearing that, we weren’t surprised the food at IndoCeylon was so amazing.

Peking

The other restaurant situated in the same building as IndoCeylon was the Chinese restaurant, Peking. Similarly, the menu was à la carte and we ordered a selection of sharing starters, including some sweet and sour prawns that blew my mind! They were so tasty! In fact, the dim sum, crispy shredded beef and duck spring rolls were all so good we ordered another entire round!

We needed a bit of a break before embarking on the mains, as you can imagine. For the mains, we again ordered the Chef’s selection which included a range of chicken in cashew nut sauce, noodles, white fish and rice. We tried to book in again for the following night but unfortunately, as the hotel was at full capacity, Peking was fully booked – and I am honestly not surprised by that!

The Palms

The Palms was the hotels buffet restaurant, although it’s far from your typical, mundane buffet. Starting with breakfast, there is a wide selection of fruits, yoghurts, pastries and international breakfasts if you prefer. The highlight is the grill station where you can place your order for eggs any way, including Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royale etc. Each morning I would choose my egg selection followed by pastries and a coffee. Ryan, on the other hand, would treat himself to a three course breakfast ending with freshly made waffles or pancakes and a cheeky mimosa.

The selection available for lunch time at the Palms was just as varied and the grill station had different options such as tiger prawns, crab, steak, chicken etc. as well as having a section for fresh sushi made every lunch time. 

We ate in The Palms for dinner one evening and it was the night of the international BBQ night, it was a great evening with different BBQ stands such a chicken tikka, a huge rack of ribs, seafood etc.

M6M

The legendary underwater restaurant. M6M is located 6metres below the sea and it was absolutely breath-taking. Depending on the number of nights you stay at the resort, you are able to eat in M6M for lunch or dinner as part of your all-inclusive package. We were torn between whether we should dine there for lunch, as we were told the lighting is much better and you can see an abundance of sea life; or dinner which is adults only and feels much more romantic. We decided on lunch because we just wanted to see more fishies!

Even though there were families dining at the same time, it actually added to the atmosphere as it was cute to hear the squeals of the children every time a shark, or in our experience, eel swam past! Also, due to the layout of the restaurant, all of the seats are in tables of two facing out towards the glass and the chairs have high sides so it felt very private anyway.

The lunch menu is four courses with a choice of two options for each course. I chose the scallop to start which was set on a lovely curried chickpea base and served in a shell platter. Ryan ordered the salmon which was presented in such a unique way with a washing line running over the plate with thin bread croutons pegged to the line! We both chose the Alaskan Crab and butternut squash soup which was beautiful. The dish was served with the crab in the bowl and the butternut squash soup was poured over the dish by our waitress. For the main course, we both chose the lobster (of course), it was served with purple mash and sautéed vegetables and was absolutely delicious, the lobster was cooked perfectly. Finally, the desert. I ordered the raspberry chocolate bomb which was a raspberry dome that the waitress covered in hot chocolate sauce. It was so tasty but by this point, we were absolutely stuffed!

The food and atmosphere at M6M was amazing and to top it all off, each course came with wine pairing, starting with bubbles to white, red and a desert wine. It’s fair to say I had earnt my afternoon nap after a solid two hours of eating and drinking. 

Joie De Vivre

Oh, the pool bar! I feel like we spent most of our time down at JDV! The main pool at Ozen is awesome, it stretches across the beach front with an infinity pool; four double cabana beds in one corner and several other sofa-style beds also set in the pool. There is then several other sun-loungers along the right hand side of the pool and other seating both outside and inside the bar.

Most mornings, after suitably filling ourselves at breakfast in the Palms, we would head out for a nice leisurely stroll to try and walk off some of the food and would always find ourselves ending up at JDV. My morning tipple was an iced cappuccino with a shot of Kalua. Ryan’s was a San Miguel Pale! We would also treat ourselves to a mid-afternoon-post-lunch-but-too-early-for-dinner pizza! They change the menu every day so there was a great choice! 

The views from the pool bar at sunset are phenomenal, so we would enjoy a few cheeky cocktails / wines / beers before heading to dinner… and then some evenings head back down to JDV to carry the night on!

R.A.W

As one may assume from the name, R.A.W specialises in raw, healthy foods such as sashimi, sushi platters, juices etc. Sadly, during our stay R.A.W was the only restaurant at the resort that was not open, but every day there was still a great selection of fresh sushi available at lunchtime in The Palms. When wandering around the resort, we found the location of R.A.W restaurant and it looked stunning! I feel it’s worth a trip back to this hotel just so we can try out this restaurant!

Fairmont Ajman

In the UAE, our lockdown was pretty intense. We understand it was a necessity, but it proved challenging at times. During mid-March through April we experienced our strictest time of lockdown. All gyms, bars, restaurants and clubs were closed. Almost everyone was required to work from home, except for the key sectors, and to go outside we were required to apply online via the government portal for a permit. These permits would allow us a trip for essentials such as medication, groceries, ATMs etc.

Ryan and I were still in our one bed apartment at this time, with two cats and both working from home at opposite sides of the dining table. But, we made it through. We may have gotten through a bottle of wine a day, but we made it through!

Some of the other Emirates in the UAE were slightly more lenient with the easing of restrictions following lockdown. For example, Ras al Khaimah and Ajman allowed alcohol consumption in hotels and around swimming pools / beaches. At this time, in Dubai, this was not yet allowed. The border to Abu Dhabi remained closed and so in mid-May, we decided to head down to Ajman for a staycay.

We set off early on the Friday morning, really early, as we had planned to meet our friends Emily and James. It was James’ birthday weekend and Emily had booked a round of golf for him so, as a surprise, we met them both at breakfast and the boys went off to play golf whilst Em and I had a girly pool day together.

It was the first time I had been out in the sun in over two months and it was delightful.

The Fairmont Ajman has two main restaurants, an Italian called Gioia, and a Turkish restaurant called Kiyi. We decided on the Italian for lunch, which was absolutely amazing and the Turkish for dinner – although I would have preferred to have returned to the Italian restaurant for dinner!

The hotel was great with implementing safety precautions for COVID, the hotel was only booked to 30% capacity, the rooms were sterilized following each occupancy and although the breakfast was buffet, you were served each time by the staff. Masks were compulsory at all times whilst walking around the hotel and restaurants.
Overall, it was a cheap and cheerful stay and we were very grateful for the sun, cocktails (and time apart for Ryan to go off to play golf)!

The Address Sky View

As most of you know from previous travel blogs, I ALWAYS travel for my birthday. It’s just what I love to do! However this year, as we were due to be going on our honeymoon at the start of April, only a few weeks after my birthday, I decided it would be best to spend this birthday in Dubai. It’s a blessing in disguise really, could you imagine if we had travelled and ended up like all of those other poor people stranded around the world!

Anywho, our honeymoon was sadly cancelled as a result of COVID, but, I digress. This post is in relation to the delightful staycation we ended up booking for my birthday! I have a hotel wishlist on my phone, which appears to be constantly growing! And I decided on checking out the then-recently opened Address Sky View Hotel.

Located smack bang in the middle of Downtown Dubai, the Address Sky View has uncomparable views of the Burj Khalifa and is a stone’s throw away from the Dubai Mall. As we entered the hotel we were greeted with the familiar “Address” scent, our luggage was taken and we were whisked straight to check in. We managed to get a great offer by booking directly on the Address website. Our hotel price included breakfast and we each received three vouchers for use across the Emaar facilities, this was a nice bonus. We chose vouchers for the Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Ice Skating Rink and Reel Cinemas. (We used the Aquarium voucher in the summer and it was a great experience, I didn’t actually realise how huge the aquarium is in the Dubai Mall!)

We left our luggage with the Concierge and headed out for some lunch at the restaurant around the pool. I have to admit, I was feeling quite sensitive (and sorry for myself) as I had been out celebrating my birthday with the girls the previous night.

Our room was ready early so we headed up for a quick change and then straight to the highlight of the hotel… the rooftop infinity pool.

We had access to the Lounge included in our room booking so popped there for a coffee and nibble before getting ready for our meal.

Ce La Vie
I was so excited to dine at Ce La Vie! For my birthday last year, we actually visited the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore and had lunch at Ce La Vie. I hope this has become my new birthday tradition…!

The food, service, drinks and view were all spectacular. It was by far one of the best meals we have had in Dubai.

We rolled out of the restaurant (I’m not sure if it was too much food or wine) but luckily didn’t have too far to go. When we got back to the room, the staff had laid rose petals on the bed, wishing me a happy birthday. It was a lovely touch and a perfect end to the day.

The following day we were able to extend our check out. The rooms come with a smart TV with Netflix built in so we decided to give in to all of the social media fuss and start the series Love is Blind. We all but finished the series that day!

I have to admit, this was the first Address Hotel that we have stayed in, but I cannot fault our stay from the service, cleanliness and overall experience. I would absolutely stay here again.

The Staycay Series

I have really missed writing my travel blog this year and I’ve decided that, even though we’ve been unable to travel abroad (so far…) we’ve still had a lovely year of staycays in the UAE! So I’ve decided to write this Staycay Series, giving a shout-out to all of the lovely hotels we have stayed at throughout the year.

It’s still not the quite the same as the excitement of researching and planning a holiday; the super early wake up call to get to the airport; the satisfaction of a full nights sleep on a red-eye flight; and the lists coming out of my ears to make sure I pack appropriately! Nonetheless, we are so lucky to live in the location that we do with the UAE’s versatile range of hotels, and looking back over the past six months, we have done a pretty good job of making the most out of them!

So here is a snapshot of what’s to come…

City Breaks
There’s nothing more relaxing than finding an oasis in the centre of a bustling, vibrant city. And we uncovered two of those this summer! Starting the year at the newly opened Address Sky View hotel with unbeatable views of the Burj Khalifa, it was a birthday to remember.

We then ventured into the narrow streets of Sharjah for our first staycay in the Emirate. The Chedi Al Bait is a hidden gem located in the middle of a busy street, but once you step inside the walls you’re welcomed by the calming sound of silence.

Beach Vibes
As soon as lockdown lifted in the UAE we headed straight for Ajman, the rules were slightly more relaxed, the hotel swimming pools were open and alcohol was being served so we treated ourselves to a cheap and cheerful stay at the Fairmont, Ajman.

Zabeel Saray – a hotel that has been on the hotel bucket list for a while! But we finally got to experience the hotel first hand (and yes, I did find an amazing deal).

A hotel that we have visited many, many times before is Le Royal Meridien but I was finally able to enjoy a one night stay! It was the perfect girly weekend full of sunbathing, wine, lots of wine, and fun!

Desert Dreaming
The one night stay that, I don’t think, will ever be beaten! Al Maha Luxury Desert Resort is exactly what it says in the name! The hotel really catered for our every need during our stay as well as the needs we didn’t know we had!

At the time of writing this post we also have one more staycation planned for a few weeks time for Ryan’s birthday as we are off to Sir Bani Yas Island. We have heard amazing things about this hotel so I can’t wait to experience it for ourselves!

I hope you enjoy the reviews to come, and hopefully by the time they’re finished, we will be ready to board a plane for our first holiday of the year… (please keep everything crossed for us!)

Exploring Jordan and the Lost City of Petra

This trip had been on our travel list for a while so we were really excited when we were finally able to book a long weekend away to Jordan. To be honest, we haven’t really made the most of exploring the Middle Eastern countries since living here; I guess it’s always the same when something is right on your doorstep. Jordan’s main appeal for us was the Ancient City of Petra; the basis of many films and stories, it really is crazy to imagine a city carved into the mountains, let alone one that was built in 400BC!

When planning our trip and researching online we were uncertain as to whether we wanted to hire a driver for the duration of our trip or whether to hire a car and travel around ourselves. We had read mixed reviews about the quality of hire cars, condition of the roads and also road signs. With the early starts we had planned for each day, we decided it would be the better option for us to pay slightly more and hire a driver for the three days (that way, it meant that we were able to catch up on some sleep during the journeys as well).

Jordan was not as cheap as we were expecting, the Jordanian Dinar (JOD) is almost on a par with the Pound. We also noticed that the price of petrol was quite expensive, again almost on a par with the UK, which is something you should bear in mind if you are considering hiring a car during your time in Jordan. Some friends of ours had visited Jordan in the summer and used a driver whom they highly recommended, Hamza, so I got in touch with him, outlining our full itinerary with dates and times and he replied almost instantly with a quote of 200JOD. Initially I was unsure if it was quite pricey, but considering our travel itinerary was from the Airport to the Dead Sea (approx. 1.5 hours); Dead Sea to Petra (approx. 3 hours) and Petra to Amman (approx. 3.5 hours) including petrol and tolls, I thought this to be quite reasonable. Hamza asked us to simply pay the driver at the end of our final trip which was great. You can find his Facebook page here. If you would like his mobile number please contact me privately and I can provide it.

The Dead Sea

So, we started our journey at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa. There are a cluster of hotels along the same small stretch including a Kempinski and Ramada. We decided on the Hilton because the facilities looked beautiful online, and they didn’t disappoint. On arrival, the security were extremely thorough with checking our vehicle and also our reservation before letting us enter. As we drove down to the hotel lobby we could see the entrances to the other hotels in the vicinity as well as being able to catch a glimpse of the Dead Sea. The Hilton lobby is beautiful, it’s a huge open space that looks out to the sea and has a lovely balcony with some seating overlooking the view.

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Our room was ready early (result) so we went straight there to change and head down to the pool. We found a spot near to the infinity pool but the water was freezing, so I just had a quick dip! We then went down to see what all the fuss was about on the beach. As we entered the sea it was pretty cold, although I guess we were there at the very end of November. There were also a lot rocks, pebbles and lumps of salt at the entrance of the sea. Once I was up to about hip height I threw myself forward and found I just bobbed straight up! No matter how hard I tried to touch the bottom, I just couldn’t! It’s such a strange sensation, especially when you flip onto your front and can’t get back round!

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I was told by a few people to remove all jewellery before going in, because if the jewellery is not solid gold the high salt levels within the water can cause deterioration. I wanted to absolutely ensure none went in my eyes so I kept my sunglasses on but tried to avoid getting any water on them. Ryan thought it would be a good idea to taste some of the sea… I think he may have burnt off a few taste buds in the process! We followed our short swim by smothering ourselves in the Dead Sea clay! It’s full of minerals that are supposed to be great for your skin so layered it on thick and stood out in the sun to bake it on!

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We tried out both the Italian and Arabic restaurants within the hotel and thought that both of our meals were lovely. The one thing that let this stay down was the flies! Oh my god thousands of flies! We sat outside for lunch which was a terrible idea and quickly moved inside. The staff informed us that it was fertilisation season for the fields which is why there were so many flies. So I guess you have to make the decision whether you visit in the heat of summer or in the cooler season and be attacked by flies!

Petra

The following morning we were up at around 6 to pack up, check out and start the next leg of our journey to Petra. Our driver arrived right on cue and decided to take us the scenic route via the Kings Highway. The terrain was stunning; breathtakingly stunning. We did meet a slight roadblock on the way though, two shepherds on donkeys trying to herd around thirty sheep out of the road!

We made a small detour via Little Petra which was our first taste of the Nabateean ruins. We had not yet purchased our Petra ticket but the guys at the entrance were kind enough to allow us through without showing the ticket. We hiked quite a way and navigated our way round to find some of the carvings in the mountains.

We arrived at the Petra Guest House Hotel at around 10.30am and were so lucky that our room was vacant and ready (we were seriously lucky this trip)! We dropped our bags and headed straight to get out entrance tickets to Petra as we wanted to try and beat any queues possible. The entrance price was quite steep at JOD 50 per person for a single day entry, or JOD 55 per person for a two day entry. As we were staying overnight and had the next morning free, we decided to opt for the two day entry as it was much better value for money. We were undecided about getting a tour guide, but I always feel that you learn and absorb so much more by having a local tour guide than trying to read up before and after. You can pick licensed guides up at the same place as purchasing the entrance tickets for JOD 50 which takes you from the starting point all the way through to the Roman ruins. If you wish to head further to the Monastery, the guide charges an extra JOD 50, but ours was honest enough to tell us that the route was easy to follow and we didn’t really require a guide for the final stretch.

We entered the site at around 11am and opted to do the whole thing on foot. As you enter, there are hundreds of horses, camels and donkeys that you can pay to take you through, but honestly, it just looked quite cruel, so we boycotted this entirely. Our guide was lovely and really informative, stopping every so often to show us hidden carvings in the walls and explaining about the Nabateean way of life in 400BC. It’s astonishing to imagine it all such a long time ago! The walk from the entrance to the Treasury was around an hour as we stopped for several discussions and photos along the way. As you get closer and walk through the windy path you can just about see a narrow gap forming in the rocks where you can catch a glimpse of the Treasury. You turn a corner and all of a sudden the rock opens up to a huge open space with the Treasury right in front of you. It is amazing.

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The Treasury

We saw a few people hiking up the rocks opposite to the Treasury and above the path so we decided to follow suit and found a local guy who lives up in the rocks making tea who allows you to sit and have a picture taken. He charged JOD 1 per person to go there so he was making a killing, all in the name of Instagram! We had our photo and continued on down to the Roman Ruins for around another hour. We parted with our guide and continued by foot up the 850 steps to the Monastery.

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The Monastery

That evening we had dinner and drinks at the Cave Bar which was attached to our hotel. The bar was really quirky and had small coves that could sit 2-3 people comfortably. We enjoyed some Jordanian wine (which was surprisingly good) and some local food; Ryan had a shawarma and I had a chicken and rice dish, until we were suitably stuffed!

The following day, we were up early (again), had breakfast at the hotel and set off straight back into the site towards the Treasury, in an attempt to beat the crowds one more time. We headed up the rocks back to the gypsy who lived inside and had some tea with him whilst we watch the sun fully rise across the face of the Treasury. It was a lovely morning, topped off by the fact that he had a really cute cat living up there with him, who I of course befriended.

Amman

Our final night was in Amman, the capital city of Jordan. The drive from Petra to Amman was quite long and exacerbated by the afternoon traffic around the city centre. We set off from Petra at around 12 o’clock and arrived at our hotel, the Amman Rotana, just before 4pm. We checked into our room and our intention was to head straight out to Rainbow Street which is a road full of cafes and restaurants. But the thought of sitting in more traffic for the next 30 minutes wasn’t very appealing. So we decided just to stay around our hotel and have some down time.

The hotel was lovely. The Rotana is one of only two high rise towers in Amman and with very modern interior. We asked for a high room and were given a room on the 24h floor and had views all across the city. 

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The hotel had a good choice of restaurants with the international buffet, an Italian, a bar and an Argentinian Steakhouse. We opted for the steak! We shared a 1kg Tomahawk steak which was amazing, literally melt in the mouth. The restaurant itself was lovely and the internal décor was beautiful, the only thing that was missing was customers! We were literally the only people in there! It did however, mean that the service was exceptional and we didn’t feel like the staff were just hovering around us either.

 

We spent the rest of the evening just chilling in our lovely modern hotel room, watching TV and crashed after the hectic weekend. It was much easier getting back to the airport as it took less than twenty minutes from the Amman Rotana. It was a nice way to end the trip but we agreed it would have been nice to explore Amman a bit more, there’s some Roman ruins just outside the city which would have been great to see.

Our time in Jordan was lovely, if not a bit rushed, but that’s expected when trying to cram so much into just a 3 night stay. We would have loved to explore further by visiting the Wadi Rum and seeing a bit more of Amman city centre.

Our first month with Privilee

We have just finished our first month with Privilee and it’s fair to say it has had a huge impact on our spare time for the better! Not only have we been able to make the most of the 5* hotel facilities on the weekends, we have also been making the most of the gym access during the week days (it’s taken a year but yes, I have finally gone back to the gym!)

Here are some of the highlights from our first month on Privilee:

W Hotel Dubai Palm

W for “Wow”! Upon arriving at the hotel it definitely has the wow factor of a 5* hotel. The Reception staff were really helpful and guided us to the separate Privilee desk which allowed for a seamless check in of our Privilee cards. We headed up to the first floor to visit the gym and were blown away by the view from the outside training area. The gym has views of the W Hotel pool and beach area (which is breath taking on its own), as well as views of the Atlantis, the soon to be Royal Atlantis, the Palm and the Marina. The equipment in the gym is high-tech and the treadmill had access to news channels, Youtube and many more channels. We also loved the kettle bells which were designed to look like gorillas!

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We still couldn’t get over the views from the outside training area so decided to do some abs workouts outside whilst taking in the view – honestly the views actually motivated me to train for longer! We showered and changed before heading down to relax on the beach. The only downside of the gym facilities would be that the changing rooms are relatively small and there is only one shower in the changing room.

The pool area was pretty busy by the time we got down there, approx. 10.30am but this may have been due to the fact that the top pool was closed for brunch and also with it being opening weekend on Privilee. But there were still plenty of sun beds down the beach and we managed to get the last cabana. The hotel staff came over instantly with two complimentary bottles of water and apples!

We opted for sandwiches and chips for lunch, I had the chicken and avocado sandwich whilst Ryan had the Whole Cow (hard earned from the earlier workout) and the food came quickly, fresh and very tasty. We were pleasantly surprised with the bill at the end of the day, appreciating the Prviliee discount of 20% on food as well.

Overall, we had a lovely daycation at W Hotel and felt like it was the perfect way to escape a busy week in Dubai. This is definitely a hotel we will recommend to friends and family – along with the Privilee card.

Address Hotel Dubai Marina

Sticking with our weekend gym routine we decided to visit the Address Hotel Dubai Marina on Saturday morning to take advantage of the gym facilities (as we heard that this gym also has a great view) and we were not disappointed. The gym itself is much bigger than we expected with the 5 treadmills, cross trainers, bikes and rowing machines lined up along the windows with excellent views of the Marina.

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The staff were friendly and helpful by showing us where to exchange our Privilee cards for access cards. Sadly the weather wasn’t great so we didn’t stay to make the most of the pool facilities but, having caught a glimpse of the, we will definitely return!

Waldorf Astoria the Palm

When I first arrived at the hotel the staff were extremely helpful with signing in and swapping my Privilee card for a hotel guest access card. I headed down to the gym for a quick cardio and abs session before showering and beelining straight to the beach!

I really did feel like I was on holiday for the day. The Waldorf has such a relaxing, family holiday vibe that I pitched up on the beach with a book and barely moved for 7 hours!

The hotel offers a large family friendly swimming pool which was a buzz of activity with children playing. They also have a separate adults only pool with a Jacuzzi which was  a lot calmer and more relaxing.

Bounty Beets Breakfast Spot

Has anyone else ever chosen a breakfast spot just because it looks cute on the gram?! Well I did and I’m so glad that the food was just as lovely as the décor. Bounty Beets is located in the ground floor in Le Meridien (next to the Westin) and is the perfect place for a girly breakfast date! The best thing about it though, is that with Privilee you receive 25% off the total bill!

Habtoor Grand

We had such a relaxing day at the Habtoor Grand, the hotel is lovely and the pool area is large with slides in the pool which is great for kids. We, however, headed straight down to the beach to switch off and unwind. This end of JBR beach is lovely because it’s much quieter and you can take in all of the amazing views of the Marina / JBR skyline.

Playa Nomade

This was my first time visiting Playa Nomade and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We arrived at 10 (when it opened) but it didn’t get busy until around 1pm. So we chose a bed by the pool (with easy access in as it was quite hot) and chilled for the day. We treated ourselves to a pizza for lunch and some strawberry daqs in the afternoon (all of which tasted even better with 25% off!)

Fidelity Fitness JLT

Fidelity Fitness is the newest gym to be added to Privilee’s ever growing list of partners. It’s located in Almas Tower in JLT which is few minutes walk from the JLT metro stop which is perfect going on the way home from work. The great thing about Fidelity Fitness is that all of their classes are free to Privilee members! They have a huge timetable of spin classes which run throughout the day every day of the week. I decided to try out the TRX class which was a tough workout but I really enjoyed it. The gym itself is huge and is spread over three rooms and has a swimming pool!

Now that the weather in Dubai is heating up and we are just about to enter Ramadan, I plan on using Privilee to the maximum on weekends and making the most of the pools (and spas) throughout the summer months!

Cheers, Privilee

Exploring KL

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

Getting there

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

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

Accommodation

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

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

Sightseeing

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

  • Thean Hou Temple

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

  • Sri Mariamman Temple

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

  • Petaling Street Market

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

  • Batu Caves

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

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

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

  • KL Canopy Walk

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

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

  • KLCC Gardens

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

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

Dining in KL

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:

Little Penang Kafe – Suria Mall

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!

Chinoz on the Park

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).

Hakka Restaurant

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.

NZ Curry House

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.

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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!

Wedding Planning

Planning a wedding is hard.

Planning a wedding with a dry hire venue is harder!

Having a wedding planner makes it so much easier but oh my god I feel like there’s so much to do! People say that weddings cost a lot of money and that there are so many things to consider, and honestly, I hadn’t even thought about half of the things that are actually involved with planning a wedding.

With our wedding, there are several factors that have slightly added to the stress factor of planing our big day. Firstly, having a dry hire venue means that we simply hire just the venue itself. We then have to source all of the vendors, caterers, bar, furniture, band, DJ, marquee etc. separately!

Secondly, we live in Dubai, our family live in England and the wedding is in France! We are having to put in a bit of extra work with the coordination amongst the countries whilst also bearing in mind time differences. Additionally, we don’t speak French – honestly having an English wedding planner who speaks French has literally saved my life and my sanity! When we were first searching for a wedding planner, Ryan had set up a day of back to back calls to speak with different planners. Out of the six planners we spoke with, five were French, and although they had good spoken English, we would definitely have encountered some difficulties with the language barrier. I am so thankful for And Then We Got Married!

And Then We Got Married / Instagram

Also, the fact that we are planning a three day event – no, not an Indian style wedding – but having a family meal on the first night, a BBQ for all of our guests on the Friday and then the wedding on the Saturday, this has added another layer of consideration and cost to planning the weekend.

All of that being said, I am honestly having so much fun planning and researching for our wedding weekend. It’s great to have the knowledge of our planner who is on the ground and with amazing contacts but it is also fun to research and source different elements of the wedding ourselves.

The great thing about having a dry hire venue is that we can tailor it be completely our own. We have decided on the general decor and florals concept with our planner, without really having any restrictions from the venue. We have also been able to use the grounds of the Chateau exactly how we want to, so we’ve managed to plot different elements of the weekend at different locations around the venue. It’s allowing us to be creative and have fun in this huge project but we we also encountering factors that we wouldn’t necessarily have considered if we were using a traditional wedding venue / church / hotel.

We are both really excited for our next trip to visit the venue in April and we will be packing a lot into a few days whilst we are there! I will be meeting with my makeup artist for a trial; then both of our Mums are flying over to Paris so we can take them to visit the venue; trial the food and the wine; cake tasting and also to visit the hotel that our guests will be staying at locally.

We are seriously on the countdown now… 170 days to go!