Coping in Quarantine

It’s such a strange time to be alive. I’ve been sitting out on the balcony looking outside at the marina promenade and seeing people outside running, walking, out on bikes, pushing prams and I feel like I’m in prison! Looking down on the outside world where I want to be, but can’t be there. When actually, they shouldn’t be there either!

I don’t understand why people risk it. I get that it’s not ideal having to spend all of this time at home but we are in a state of lockdown, it’s just not worth the risk. Here in the UAE we are allowed outside for essentials such as groceries and medicine but that’s it. They have also imposed a strict lockdown from the hours of 8pm-6am to allow for disinfecting of the streets to help prevent the spread of the virus. People just need or abide by the rules until this is all over.

I keep coming over in waves of sadness and then positivity so I’m trying to channel the positivity to overcome this time. The sadness I feel is due to us having to cancel our honeymoon, which we were supposed to be going on in less than a week. I’ve unfollowed the hotels we had booked up and a few travel pages on Instagram, just until this blows over, so I don’t have to see too many pictures! I love researching and booking holidays though, so I am excited to be able to find the best prices and get everything booked back up for, hopefully, later in the year.

It’s not easy spending so much time inside, especially when we have such gorgeous weather in Dubai at the moment. So, to try and make the most of my time I’ve got myself into a bit of a routine before starting my day. As Dusty (our recent rescue kitten) has found his vocal cords, he’s waking us up at around 6.30 every morning, so that gives me two hours before I need to log on for work. I get myself ready, almost as if I was going to work (without the makeup and in comfier clothes) and then have a little tidy up and Hoover of the apartment, feed the boys, change their litter and then do some exercise. I find it really hard to be motivated when I’m training on my own so I’ve been trying some new classes online. I’m really enjoying yoga and a few studios in Dubai have been putting up live sessions to follow on Instagram which has been great.

I’ve also written myself a Quarantine To Do List of all the things I want to achieve with all this time we have to spend at home. For example, I finally got around to organising our professional wedding photos – it has only taken me 7 months! I’ve also created photo books on Snapfish for our grandparents which contains some of our lovely photos in the order of the wedding day. I’ve ordered a scrapbook so that I can arrange our wedding cards and store them nicely – as I have to admit, we still have them hanging up on the wall! We should have taken them down by now but we are pretty limited for space; plus they always make me happy looking up and seeing them.

As we are hoping to move out of our apartment and into a villa by June, I’m also going to take this opportunity to have a huge clear out of my clothes (yes Ryan, I really did say that)! Once life returns to a normality I will head down to the Ripe Market in Dubai and set up a stall to hopefully sell a few bits!

I have also decided to use my time more wisely and rather than spending hours on end scrolling through social media, I’ve decided to learn Spanish! I’ve started with a free app for now called Duolingo and so far I’m on day three and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve told myself that if I keep this up for two weeks with a little bit of learning each day that I’m going to pay for a course to keep it going long term, and once isolating is over, see about getting myself a tutor! I’ve always been envious of people who speak at least one language. It’s something that I enjoyed at school but never stuck with, and looking back, I really regret that.

So, those are just a few things that I’m doing to try and help the days pass. I don’t want to just wake up and try and get through each day, I want to really try and enjoy this time at home and focus on a few things for myself and also things I should have for round to doing myself in the last six months! I hope that everyone is staying safe, have you got any tips / things that are keeping you busy right now?

Travelling in the face of a Pandemic

If there is one thing that this global crisis has taught me, it’s not to take things for granted. Simple things such as toilet roll in the shops. Pasta on the shelves. Fresh produce in the fridge. The opportunity to travel. The freedom to literally step outside of my own apartment.

These are all things that I feel are basic to living in the modern world (without sounding too privileged as I know that these are not basic things in many people’s lives, I am simply talking about my own experience) and yet, these are things that we are now finding to be restricted.

It has baffled me the way that media and society have responded to this crisis. We all knew how much the media sensationalizes stories, but honestly, I have come to the point of deleting my news apps and only reading government advice or publications on the current situation.

The travel point for me is something I definitely feel that I take for granted. Living in Dubai we live in the perfect travel hub, we can be in Europe, Asia, Africa, all within just a few hours. But with countries closing their borders and flights being cancelled, it has really put things into perspective for me.

We have a difficult decision to make with regards to our honeymoon. The months of planning that goes into it and then suddenly we may not be able to go. A few of the events we had pre-booked have been cancelled and daily we are reserving emails cancelling reservations we have made in certain restaurants. Even if the borders are open and we are physically able to travel there, is it the right thing to do? We face the risk of landing in LAX and not being allowed through. We run the risk of being allowed through but three days later when we want to travel on to the French Polynesia that policies have changed again. Most importantly, we run the risk of catching the virus. I am not concerned about myself (although obviously my health is important to me) but I am concerned about being a carrier and I am very concerned about passing it on to someone who may not be able to fight it off.

We need to be pragmatic about the situation, but also socially responsible. The UK has also advised all Briton’s against non-essential travel for at least thirty days. We are going to continue to monitor the situation, however, my gut feeling is that it is in our best interest financially (although we are going to have to take a hit on some of the costs to reschedule hotels and flights) and morally to postpone the honeymoon to a date later in the year.

This makes me sad, but if this is my biggest issue I face in this pandemic then I can pick my chin up and deal with it.

Stay safe everyone.

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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!

Exploring Old Dubai

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

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

Gold Souk / Spice Market

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

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

Abra across the Dubai Creek

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

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Visit the Iranian Mosque

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

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

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

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

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

Lunch at the Arabian Tea House

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

Ride on the Dubai Metro

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

Beach Days in Dubai

I absolutely love the beach, I have done my whole life. Growing up in Lowestoft I really took for granted the fact that we had the beach right on our doorstep. In the summer holidays my friends and I would bike down to the beach and spend all our time there. It was only when I moved away to uni that I realised we had been so lucky throughout our childhood.

In Dubai, it’s even better because we have the amazing beaches as well as the amazing weather, so here is a list of a few of my favourite beaches to visit:

Kite Beach

Kite Beach is slightly further away from my apartment in the Marina but still only a 15-20 minute taxi ride. I’m not really sure where Jumeirah Public Beach ends and Kite Beach starts but the beach is huge and stretches from the Burj Al Arab right the way up the Four Seasons (which would take around 2 hours to walk)! I prefer this beach because it’s a lot quieter than JBR. It doesn’t have as many restaurants or facilities but it does have SALT Burger (amazing) and also loads of parking which is free on Fridays for those who drive.

JBR Beach

This is probably the beach I go to most often because it less than a 10 minute walk from my apartment. JBR is great because it has a good selection of restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a spacious sandy beach to plonk down for the day. There are sunbeds and umbrellas available to rent for the day at AED 110 (which I think is quite pricy) so I literally head down there with my towel, a book and a bottle of water and set up on the sand for the day – or a few hours depending on how hot it is! JBR can also be quite busy with tourists and families so I tend to walk to the far end where it is a bit quieter.

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La Mer

La Mer is one of the newer public beaches to open in Dubai and is located the opposite end to the Marina (so heading back towards the airport). It is owned by the Developed as JBR beach so it offers a great range of restaurants and cafes but the best part about La Mer is that it is licensed for alcohol.

The Fairmont, Palm Jumeirah

This is actually one of my favourite hotel beaches to visit for the day. They often have deals on Groupon etc. for beach and pool access with a two course lunch for around AED200. This beach has gorgeous views of the Marina and there’s a great choice for sunbeds either down the beach or around the pool. It’s nice to feel like I’m on holiday just for a day at the weekend!

Atlantis The Palm

Another favourite pool / beach day of mine is at Nasimi Beach at the Atlantis. They have recently started a new deal on Saturday’s where for AED 149 girls can receive a sunbed and towel, unlimited wine, cocktails, beer and soft drinks from 12-4 as well as a token for lunch! It’s an amazing deal and a great way to show guests the Atlantis.

Zero Gravity

Although Zero Gravity is better known for the pool rather than the beach, it’s great to chill out during the week and then livens up during the weekend for their weekend brunches. On Tuesdays, ladies can join the guest list and spend the day around the pool and the beach free of charge.

Barasti

Barasti is another beach club I recommend to guests when they visit on holiday, mainly because it’s one of the only free beach clubs in Dubai. It’s great because there’s no entry fee for men or women and they have sunbeds / beach cabanas that are also complimentary. They also have a pool which opened last year some time. I have to admit though, I haven’t been here for a beach day in a while because I don’t like the music! If you want a chilled beach day this probably isn’t the best option.

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My bucket list – 30 things before 30

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

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

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

  1. Hot air balloon ride

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

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  1. Swim with turtles

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

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  1. Skydive

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

  1. Take a cooking class in Asia

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

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  1. Seeing elephants in the wild

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

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

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

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

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

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