Bahrain – Short but Sweet

I’m slightly delayed with sharing this post but in September we had a lovely long weekend stay in Manama, Bahrain. We’ve lived in Dubai for almost eight years and Bahrain is only the second Gulf country we have visited outside of the UAE. It’s only a short 50 minute flight from Dubai, and so when we knew we had family staying in Bahrain from the UK, we thought this would be the perfect time to visit.

Hire Car

Travelling with a baby means there is a lot more to think about and one of our concerns was access to a taxi with an infant car seat. We contacted our hotel and they quoted us for a return journey to and from the airport with a private taxi and car seat, but this worked out to be more expensive than hiring our own car with an infant seat.

As we are used to driving the roads of the UAE, we didn’t mind driving in Bahrain and found it to be very similar. Bahrain International Airport has several well known car hire companies on site and we opted with SIXT as they were the cheapest option. We were lucky enough to also get a free upgrade on collection!

Hotels

My cousin was staying on Reef Island and so I searched for accommodation close by – although we soon found out that most places in Manama are only a short drive away. We decided on the Wyndham Grand Manama. The hotel had a rather corporate feel about it as it comprised of both business offices and also hotel rooms. The hotel was situated only a 15 minute drive from the airport, a 4 minute drive from the Four Seasons, and 10 minute drive from Reef Island. I also managed to make a great saving on our booking by reserving the hotel through my travel business, saving us 50% compared to Booking.com!

Upon arrival, we were given a complimentary upgrade to the Himalayan Salt Room which had an entire wall made from 800 million year old Himalayan salt! The room also had a lovely bath and waterfall shower; a desk (which was good for Ryan who ended up having to work a little bit) and a good sized wardrobe.

The Wyndham has an amazing spa facility which includes a snow therapy room! It also has a family pool and an adults only pool located on the 11th floor which provide great views of the bay. 

Things to Do 

Bahrain also has a Brunch Culture like Dubai so on Friday we headed over to the Four Seasons for their family brunch. It had an amazing selection of food and drinks as well as a kids area with activities.

We hadn’t really researched many things to do in Bahrain before traveling as mainly just wanted to spend time with our family. So we visited a few of the malls for a browse then spent the rest of the time around the pools at our hotels.

We really loved spending time with our family and it was a great excuse to visit Bahrain and see another country.

Family Time in England

Our 6 week holiday at home with Arlo required a lot of planning to ensure we were able to see as many family members as possible. Especially due to the fact that mine and Ryan’s home towns are several hours drive from one another.

We started our trip with a 10 night stay in Lowestoft with my family. My parents were still working so during the days we spent our time going for walks down to the park and walking round to see my Grandparents (and Arlo’s Great-Grandparents!) It was so lovely for us to just be able to spend some time outside with Arlo as we haven’t really had the chance to do that yet in Dubai as it has been too hot.

The second part of our trip was for seven nights in Kent. For this, we hired a little cottage called Sandhole Barn in Snodland which we chose as a base so we had a bit more space to spread out with all of Arlo’s things!

We had a lovely time in Kent with trips down to Herne Bay to see Ryan’s Grandparents (also Arlo’s Great-Grandparents – he’s such a lucky boy); a trip to Whitstable for Afternoon Tea in the castle; lovely walks around Leybourne Lakes and a BBQ with the Stansfield’s.

We then took the Eurostar over to Paris for a short city break which you can read all about here. When we returned to Kent we had another few nights staying with family. The evenings were very relaxing (I have to admit we got hooked on Love Island which was partnered with a take away most evenings). On the Sunday, my parents drove down to Kent and we went for a lovely meal with Ryan’s family before he had to fly back to Dubai for 2 weeks for work.

I was very apprehensive about how I would manage with just Arlo on my own during the night times, but at least I knew I had my Mum, Dad and Sister to help keep Arlo entertained in the day times.

The next two weeks in Lowestoft absolutely flew by. We missed Ryan so much but made sure to have lots of video calls. Arlo started to have disturbed sleep which wasn’t great for me. One morning at 6am I had to wake my Mum up and ask if she would sit down with Arlo as I had been up with him since 4am! Thankfully he seems to have moved out of that phase now. During this two weeks Arlo had lots of firsts. I took him swimming for the first time with his little cousin Maeve – he was so relaxed he fell asleep for a moment in his float!

We also took him to the zoo. He fell asleep within 15 minutes of arriving and woke up in the gift shop on the way out, I couldn’t believe it! So we had to quickly pop back through to show him the giraffes, zebras and flamingos!

We had family down to visit us in Lowestoft the weekend that Ryan was flying back to England and we went down to the local park for some games. I can’t actually believe it but I fell backwards when we were having a kick about and ended up having to head to A&E with Mum! I felt terrible, worrying that we were going to be sat there for hours. Thankfully, I was in and out within three hours but left with a fractured ankle and a support boot.

The final part of our trip was back in Kent and we had booked another lovely barn on the outskirts of Maidstone called Woolhouse Barn. Situated close by was a lovely country pub called the Horseshoes where we went for a Sunday Roast with Ryan’s family and, I have to say, it is one of the best roast dinners I think I’ve ever had – sorry Mum!

The following day, Arlo and I spent the day with Ryan’s Mum and her Partner and we went for a lovely breakfast followed by a day relaxing down the beach. It was 30 degrees, I couldn’t believe it!

Woolhouse Barn was based in a very rural area and, the intention was, for me to get insured on our hire car so I could get out and about in the mornings for my breakfast dates whilst Ryan worked. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to drive and we decided to cut our trip short and fly back to Dubai so I could seek proper medical advice about my foot. I felt so sad that our trip ended like this but, we were so lucky to have spent such a long time at home in the first place. So we flew back to Dubai a few days early with cases full of nappies and wet wipes to keep us going until Christmas!

Bonjour, Paris

It’s been a few years, but we made it back to Paris! I can’t believe the last time we were in France was for our wedding in August 2019 followed by our mini-moon down in Nice. It’s amazing to now have returned almost three years later to such a special place to us and be able to bring our little one too.

When booking our trip home to the UK for the summer for Arlo’s first trip, we wanted to be able to spend a little bit of time somewhere else in Europe but we weren’t quite sure how we (and Arlo) would be with flying and spending time in the airport etc. So when I saw that the Eurostar had a flash sale, I took the opportunity to get tickets for the three of us to head over to Paris for four days. We got a great deal paying only GBP208 for a return for the three of us (well, for the two adults as babies travel free, but I had to find a way to sell it to Ryan!)

Travelling on the Eurostar with a Baby

When we arrived at St Pancras, it was chaotic I’m not going to lie. But once we joined the queue and started making our way down the line it was quite a simple process. We arrived 2 hours before our departure to allow us some extra time, as the tickets say to arrive at least one hour before. In the first part of the queue we were required to show our COVID vaccine pass; the second part of the queue we were required to scan our Eurostar ticket; the third part was the UK Border Force to exit England, shortly followed by the French Border Force for our entry to France. All in all, the queue system was quite straight forward.

I carried Arlo in his carrier throughout the queue which was really efficient, especially at the border force so they could easily see Arlo’s face. At security, we were required to remove everything from Arlo’s stroller and place it in a tray, they then separately scanned and searched the stroller. I wish I had been slightly more organised so we didn’t have as much in the bottom of the stroller, but here’s to learning!

Once we were on the train it was pretty much smooth sailing through to Gare du Nord. Arlo was good as gold again and just loved sitting on our laps looking out of the window and watching everyone go by. I found traveling on the Eurostar with a baby very easy and it is a journey I would definitely recommend and would do again. You can read my blog here which lists all of my travel essentials for traveling with a baby!

Best Western Premier Kapital Opera

The choice of accommodation available in Paris is quite overwhelming as there really are so many options. When deciding on accommodation for us for this trip, our requirements were different to usual. We wanted something in a great location but also relatively close to Gare du Nord as we wanted to avoid having to take taxis as much as possible. Essentially, for this trip, we wanted to be able to get everywhere by walking.

We also decided that having a room with a balcony was very important to us, that way, in the evenings when it was time for Arlo to sleep, we had the option of still being able to sit outside and enjoy the view / have some room service and some wine. Finally, we needed somewhere with a travel cot available for Arlo and somewhere that wasn’t going to break the bank.

I contacted several hotels directly requesting industry rates as an independent travel agent and we decided on booking the Best Western Premier Kapital Opera hotel in the Opera District. The staff were extremely kind and provided us with a disabled access room which meant that we had more space for the stroller and travel cot.

The terrace was the highlight of the room and we loved sitting out of an evening to have pizza and wine whilst Arlo was asleep. Although a room with a terrace was slightly more expensive, we felt it was definitely worth paying extra for the additional space so that Ryan and I could still enjoy our evenings.

Our Itinerary

Day 1

We arrived at our hotel by 1.30pm and had a very quick turnaround to make it to our lunch reservation for 2pm. We were slightly late (which gives me such anxiety as I hate being late) but the staff at Coco were lovely and accommodated us for our booking. The restaurant was located behind the Opera Theatre with beautiful surrounding buildings. We sat outside but there was lots of shade so the sun wasn’t a problem. Arlo had a bottle and slept straight away so Ryan and I were able to enjoy our lunch which was lovely.

We shared the burrata and beef carpaccio to start, I then had the cod with gnocchi and Ryan had the lamb chops. I have to say, it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time. The cod was cooked to perfection and the lemon butter gnocchi melted in my mouth! All of this was accompanied with a few glasses of rosé.

After lunch we headed for a little shop at Galleries Lafayette where I was spoilt with a little “Push Present” from Ryan and Arlo. As a result of Brexit, if you shop in Paris take your passport along with you and you are able to claim back up to 11.4% VAT as long as you request the required documents from the store and scan these at the Eurostar when you leave!

We headed back to the hotel to get Arlo settled down for bed. Ryan popped out to The Little Italy to get us take away pizza and a bottle of wine which we sat and ate on our terrace, it was the perfect end to the first day.

Day 2

On our second morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and then headed back down to Galleries Lafayette to the food court. They had so many stalls with so much variety of cheese, pastries, cakes, hams, olives, breads – you name it, they had it and everything was so fresh. We spent some time browsing the stalls and bought ourselves some bits for a picnic and then walked over to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic. The walk was around an hour which we didn’t mind as it was a lovely temperature and the weather was slightly overcast. I carried Arlo in the carrier most of the way (which my legs did not thank me for later in the day!)

After our picnic we walked along to the Champs Elysee and it has now become our tradition, when we are in Paris, to stop and have a drink in Le Fouquet. After drinks, we walked back to our hotel for a relatively early evening and Ryan headed out to The Little Italy again to get our dinner – honestly the pizza was that good!

Day 3

I think all of the walking from the previous day caught up with us as we didn’t get out of bed until 10.30am (save for a few feeds for Arlo). We sat out on the terrace for a coffee and a croissant before setting off on our walk to St Germaine as we had lunch booked at Les Deux Magots. It was my first time visiting the area of St Germaine and it was beautiful. There were so many cute and quirky bistros and shops around the area. Les Deux Magots was positioned on one street corner and on the adjacent corner was Cafe De Flores – famous for it’s feature in Emily in Paris!

The food at Les Deux Magots was lovely, hearty French food. I opted for the Croque Madame whilst Ryan had the seabass and we both ordered a pastry from the dessert trolley which were amazing!

Our final stop of the day was at Le Café Marly which is a lovely bar / restaurant situated in the grounds of the Louvre (Ryan and I ate here previously when we were in Paris on a wedmin-trip!). We met up with some friends from Dubai for some drinks before walking back to our hotel for yet another evening of pizza on the balcony.

Day 4

On our final morning, we decided to walk out to a cute café we had seen for breakfast called Triadou Haussmann and we had an amazing continental breakfast with croissants, eggs, ham, coffee, fresh orange juice – the full works. We also popped back into Galleries Lafayette so Ryan could have one final shop before heading home.

We decided to take a taxi back from our hotel to the train station which the hotel arranged for us and the driver was fully prepared with an infant car seat. We were lucky that when we arrived at Gare Du Nord the earlier Eurostar was delayed and they moved us onto the earlier train so we were straight onto the train and arrived back in England a few hours earlier than planned.

We absolutely loved our first city break with Arlo, we’re so lucky that he is such a chilled baby and just loves observing what’s happening around him. I’m sure he’s going to grow up loving to travel just as much as we do.

Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa

Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa is one of my favourite hotels in Dubai. Located on the far end of Jumeirah Beach, the hotel has three swimming pools, two of which have swim up pool bars to really give you those holiday vibes! The hotel spans across a huge grass area which leads onto its own private beach which in turn connects down to JBR beach. The hotel is definitely family friendly with a children’s play area; kids swimming pool; volleyball courts; football pitch; table tennis and mini golf!

Ryan and I have visited Le Royal Meridien many times for brunch at Brasserie 2.0, which is a must if you haven’t done it before, and for pool days (as they often have some great deals, especially during the summer) but we had never actually stayed before. I decided to book a girly weekend (sorry Ryan) and my friend and I booked a one night stay with breakfast for a weekend in October of last year. 

Pulling up to the hotel entrance, the concierge are instantly at hand to assist you with taking your luggage and valet parking your car. I love the lobby with its chic light interior, hammock chairs and seating areas. The hotel has installed clear plastic dividers between the guests and the hotel staff at the check in desk, as well as installing queue mechanics to ensure that a safe distance is left between the guests checking in. We had booked with a great deal on Booking.com and upon check in we were offered an upgrade to a sea facing room with balcony for an additional 60 dirhams, which we jumped at!

The rooms are modern, although on the slightly smaller size, and come equipped with all of the standard items you would expect, including extra-cosy dressing gowns (my favourite). We headed straight down to the pool for a frozen daiquiri and a sunbathe and relaxed straight into holiday-mode. Unfortunately, the hotel did feel quieter than the usual buzz it has about it – but that can only be expected in these times. The staff were great with taking all precautionary measures required as a result of COVID. The sunbeds were well distanced and the beds were frequently sanitised.


Restaurants

The hotel has a whopping twelve restaurants to choose from with the choice of Mexican, Indian, Italian, seafood, steak and international buffet. We wanted to get as much time in the sun and so for lunch we decided to order from the pool bar food menu and eat at our sun-beds. For dinner, as you can imagine, we were spoilt for choice but the steak restaurant, Rhodes 2.0 had a great offer on for starter, two mains, two sides and a bottle of wine for AED500! The food was amazing and the restaurant had a really romantic feel with high ceilings, chandeliers and an intimate feel to it.

I love a hotel breakfast and, I must say, this was one of the best hotel buffet breakfasts I think I have ever had! The choice was huge! We ordered sausage and bacon (yes, real pork), eggs in any way you like, and then headed up to the buffet. There was a great choice of pastries, fruits, juices, coffee, tomatoes, mushrooms, the lot. I didn’t need to eat again until dinner!

Spa 

We couldn’t end our girly weekend without a trip to the spa for a pamper. So after breakfast we spent the morning around the pool  and booked a massage for 3pm. The spa is also on the Entertainer which is great so the massage was buy one get one free.

I would absolutely stay at Le Royal Meridien again, and as we have a few friends that often stay at the hotel, we plan on joining them next time they make it over!

Zanzibar

Our flight landed into Zanzibar at 6.10am, we had applied for our visa online in advance of traveling which saved us a lot of time at the airport. The visas cost $50 for UK passport holders whether this is completed online or on arrival. We were also required to complete a health declaration form on the plane for handing over to the staff when entering immigration. Even with the requirements of the additional forms we were through security in record breaking time and as we had decided to travel with hand luggage only we were out of the airport within 15 minutes!

We had arranged our airport transfers in advance, which I would highly recommend, as it can be quite overwhelming with all of the taxi drivers waiting around the exit. Our hotel in Stone Town had put us in contact with a local driver who organized all of the transfers we needed for our trip. Our driver was waiting outside for us and took us to our first destination which was Tembo Hotel in Stone Town.

Stone Town

Stone Town is the “old town” of Zanzibar with a very active port that has daily ferries that run to mainland Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya. Stone Town has a real buzz about it and is full of restaurants, roof top bars, gift shops and one of the main attractions is a museum dedicated to Freddy Mercury! When Freddy Mercury was younger he and his family used to live in one of the rooms at Tembo Hotel (this was secretly another reason I wanted to stay there)!

We had booked a trip across to Prison Island which is one of the main tourist attractions in Stone Town. The story behind the prison is interesting but the main attraction on the island is the tortoise sanctuary. There are over 100 tortoises at the sanctuary with the oldest being 195 years old!

You can easily pick up boats and tour guides around the area and probably for a cheaper price than we paid so if you’re not on a tight schedule I would advise just checking out what’s around when you arrive in Stone Town. 

We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant called 6 Degrees South and I tucked into my eagerly awaited spicy prawns – they didn’t disappoint. We were absolutely shattered by this point so headed back to our Freddy Suite (joke) and had a little nap before getting ready and heading out for some sundowners. We had read about a restaurant called the Beach House which is connected to the Park Hyatt hotel and ended up staying for 4 hours watching the sunset and having a lovely meal.

The following day we were up early and excited for our flight out to the Serengeti for a 2 night stay and safari – you can read all about that here. After the 2 night stay, we landed back in Zanzibar for the final 4 night stretch of our holiday. 

COVID Testing

We had arranged to be collected from the airport by the same driver we previously used and he was stood ready and waiting for us. We headed straight to one of the nearby COVID-19 testing facilities as we were required to have our test carried out at least 4 days prior to our flight – this is because all tests are then sent to the mainland for laboratory testing so the results take slightly longer. We had been well informed by some friends regarding the process before our trip so felt as though we were as prepared as could be… oh how wrong we were. Of course, the day we visited they had changed the process, which no one was aware of, and we were required to complete a form online via the Zanzibar COVID-19 Testing app. In the form, you are required to add the date in which you would like your test results dated, although we had the test on the 9th March, we requested that the results were dated 11th March so that it was sufficient time prior to our flight on 13th March.

So, once you have downloaded the app and completed your form, you need to print and take a copy of your form as well as your passport copy to the counter for payment. You can make payment by card or cash, it is $80, but we were advised to have cash as sometimes the electricity goes out! After making payment and with your printed form you can then make your way through to the test itself. After this, you are free to leave and you can check for your results via the app by simply entering your passport number. This was the most efficient part of the process as once your results show up in the app you can then print this for your check in at the airport.

Our Poor Hotel Choice…

We left the test centre feeling very flustered, hot and were excited to get to our hotel to relax as it had been a long day of traveling. But. We arrived at the hotel we had booked in advance, Karafuu Beach Resort and Spa, and without going into too much detail it was horrendous. Ryan and I are well-seasoned travellers and know, most of the time, what we are getting ourselves into. We also have a list of all the hotels we have stayed in together which currently totals 63, and Karafuu is the first hotel which we have asked to move rooms and although our booking was for 4 nights we stayed for one and checked out only 16 hours after checking in!

Anyway… the following morning we walked along Pingwe Beach, which is a gorgeous stretch of white sandy beach, and popped into every hotel along the way, asking if they had availability for a three night stay. Thankfully, the last hotel along the beach was Upendo Beach Zanzibar and they had room at the Inn for us to stay for three nights. We were ecstatic and managed to get a really good rate as we were making the booking so last minute. We headed back to Karafuu to collect our cases (which we hadn’t even unpacked), checked out and took a taxi back to Upendo. That is when we could finally just relax.

Upendo Beach Zanzibar

As we checked in we were greeted with a fresh coconut and the hotels guard doggies wagging their tail; it was bliss.

Our room was available immediately as the staff had been in to make sure everything was perfect before we arrived back with our suitcases. Honestly, our room was world’s apart from the room we had just come from – but I don’t want to dwell on the previous hotel – all I can say is that Upendo was absolute heaven. Our villa was standalone and on the beachfront so when we opened the curtains we could only see the sand and sea. On the front patio area we had a gorgeous hanging double lounge bed which we spent most afternoons chilling on! Inside the room it was nice and light with lots of small windows covered by mosquito nets which meant we had lovely day light.

The bathroom was one of the highlights of the room for us, it was huge. As you walked in, to the right hand side, just under the window was a lovely free standing bath followed by a Jack and Jill sink, the toilet and then the highlight, an outdoor open air shower! The shower had a waterfall shower head hanging from the ceiling; a huge piece of drift wood which was used for holding the complimentary shower gels and other toiletries but the best part of this shower was the plants and trees which had grown up the outside of the shower room and into the shower itself, it just gave it that real jungle feel.

 The room was gorgeous and felt very rustic and authentic yet with modern furnishings. It had a coffee machine with pods refilled daily; a water dispenser so we had unlimited access to complimentary water; gorgeous toiletries in sustainable glass bottles and of course, the best part was our private rooftop swimming pool!

We really fell into the swing of island life and fell asleep early each night and woke up early each morning. We would head down for breakfast which was served with tea, coffee, fresh juice and fresh fruit and worked our way through a different dish on the menu each morning.

Upendo is located at the far end of Pingwe beach so after breafast we would go for a lovely walk along the beach and onto the sandbanks where the tide had drifted out. Also along Pingwe beach is a great choice of restaurants so each lunch time we decided to head out to find some of the local seafood restaurants.

Upendo has a popular restaurant with an extensive menu so each night we stayed at the hotel and tried a different dish on the menu. The food was incredible and we loved the relaxed vibe of the restaurant, we could just lounge around for hours on the sofas.

We decided to book the Snorkel and Starfish trip and booked this direct through our hotel, rather than with the guys along the beach. Although the trip was slightly more expensive with our hotel, they always book through the same local man from the village and pay him a salary of the tours at the end of the month, he then distributes this throughout his village. Ryan and I were the only ones on the trip and so we were able to go at our own pace. It was lovely that our tour guide came in to snorkel with us and for a swim when we reached the starfish.

Our final day in paradise just so happened to be my birthday and we had some friends from Dubai who were in Zanzibar at the same time so they came over to our hotel for some drinks and we had a lunch reservation at the Rock Restaurant. The food was great (as were the drinks) and Ryan and I ended up heading back to the airport rather drunk but at least it meant we slept for the whole flight!

We absolutely adored our time in Zanibar and Tanzania and are so glad with our decision to change hotels at the last minute, we definitely would not have had the same incredible experience otherwise!

Al Maha – A Luxury Desert Resort

The name really says it all. This hotel took the meaning of Luxury to a whole new level for us!

The hotel is located about an hour’s drive from Dubai Marina and about 45 minutes from the Dubai Hills Estate. We set off relatively early and once we turned off the main road onto an adjacent slip road out to the desert, we were greeted by a security guard who confirmed our check in details before letting us through the gate. What we didn’t realise at the time is that Al Mahais located in the middle of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve which is why the security is so stringent. As we set off from security, the next 25 minutes of the journey was off the beaten track, on a small rubble road leading you further into the desert towards the hotel. On this part of the journey we were surprised to already encounter some wild Oryx and gazelles. Before we had even arrived at the hotel Ryan was bored of me shrieking “LOOK” every few minutes!

As some of you know, I changed jobs in July last year and my lovely team from my previous company were extremely generous and gifted me a voucher which we used towards a one night stay at Al Maha. Ryan and I have stayed at several desert resorts throughout the UAE but AlMaha has always been slightly more on the expensive side. We decided to use our gift voucher for a one night stay to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. Crazy right, heading out to the desert in the middle of the heat in August… but don’t worry, every room comes with its own private infinity pool!

We spent the day chilling around the pool and every so often some of the gazelles would become a bit curious and come over to investigate. The hotel staff said that if we had a small amount of bread we might be able to feed them, so I asked for a side of bread with my pizza at lunch just in case. Sure enough later in the afternoon the gazelles came back and I got close enough to feed them!

As we approached the main reception of the hotel it just felt so calm and quiet everywhere. We checked in and were taken by a golf buggy straight to our room with an early check in (I say it every time, but honestly I love an early check in)! The staff dropped our bags and I’m not sure if they heard the clanging of the wine bottles in our bags, but they conveniently asked if we would like an ice bucket and glasses – which, of course we did!

The room was stunning and so spacious. As you entered the front doorway there was a small cloakroom area with a desk and chair and a small area to make tea and coffee. To the right of the entrance was the bathroom which was huge, with a lovely big bath, Jack and Jill sinks and a double door which opened wide so it felt as if the bath was outside – I got South African safari vibes from this! Located in the main room (which was a bed room / living area) was a huge double bed and a chilled out seating area with two chaise longue either side of a small coffee table which faced outside to the main highlight of the room, the pool. The room was designed in the style of a tent, so there was a pole in the centre of the room, propping up the draped ceiling. The pool was really big for a private room pool, considering that every room in the hotel has one!

As we were there celebrating our first wedding anniversary, we decided to treat ourselves to the private in-room dining experience and the sunset camel ride. We headed down to the lobby for 6pm for the sunset desert camel ride and both shared one camel which took us on a 20 minute journey out to the desert.

When we arrived, there was a small bar set up with champagne, beers, wine, soft drinks, anything you could want, and we sat on the dunes watching the sun go down before heading back on the 20 minute journey back to the hotel.

When we got back to our room, the hotel staff had already been in and set up the dining area outside our room on the terrace in front of the pool, it was so lovely. When we requested the in-room dining we were required to choose our options from the set menu. For starters, we ordered the beef carpaccio and shrimp tempura. The carpaccio was gorgeous and the shrimp tempura was presented on a bed of black rocks which was unique. For mains, I have to say that I made the best choice, and ordered the fillet steak which was served on a bed of creamy mash potato and a side of vegetables. Ryan’s main was also super tasty, he opted for the Arabic mixed grill which came with a selection of beef kebab, jumbo prawn, fish and chicken with a side of grilled vegetables and chips. To finish, the hotel had treated us to a lovely chocolate cake which was personalised to say “Happy Anniversary” which was extremely generous but by this point we were stuffed! At least we didn’t have far to go back to our room!

After an incredible night’s sleep, we requested the hotel to deliver our breakfast to our room and placed our order over the phone. We had an amazing selection of pastries, breads, eggs benedict, waffles, coffee and juices, all set up on the coffee table in front of the doors leading out to the pool.

We were able to have a slightly later checkout and spent the day chilling in the sun in our private pool; it was bliss. Thankfully, the drive back home was short and sweet after an amazingly relaxing stay. Al Maha really is one of, if not the most, luxurious hotel I have stayed it, nothing is enough for the staff and the proximity to central Dubai is great as its only a short drive home after a chilled out weekend.

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.