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!

Our First Time Traveling with a Baby

Since before Arlo was born, we were already dreaming of, and planning all the amazing places that we could take him. Travelling and creating memories is something that Ryan and I love doing, it only seemed right that Arlo would just slot into that lifestyle and come on all of these adventures with us.

Of course, the most special first adventure we could take him on would be travelling to England to introduce him to all of his family.

Maternity leave in the UAE isn’t great so we wanted to be sure to make the most of the time we had off. We planned a six week itinerary in England with a short 3 night stay in Paris built in – you can read more about that trip here.

Flying

We booked our flights direct with Emirates before Arlo was born. Then, once we received his passport we contacted the airline to have him added on to my ticket. With most airlines, infants travel for free up to the age of two. We had a small supplement to pay as we requested the bassinet seat for Arlo which meant we needed to pay for the seats with extra leg room.

I was very nervous at the thought of flying with a three month old baby, I was worried he wouldn’t be comfortable, that he would be out of his routine and he would disturb the other passengers. But, Arlo was brilliant. Annoyingly, we were sat on the tarmac on the plane for over an hour which wasn’t ideal. I had read that when flying with infants you should feed at take off to prevent their ears from popping, so I prepared a bottle of expressed milk and fed Arlo at that time. As he was finishing his bottle we heard the poo explosion that he had clearly been saving for us a for a few days. Thankfully, Ryan offered to take the lead on that one!

Arlo didn’t sleep for very long on the flight, considering we were on the plane for around 8 hours in total, he slept for maybe an hour and a half. The rest of the time he was just happy to lay and chill in the bassinet or sit on our laps looking around.

Travel Essentials

I packed a backpack which was dedicated to Arlo for the flight which contained all of his essentials. That way, we knew we only needed to search in one bag, rather than across all three of our hand-luggage bags, if we needed something for Arlo.

I packed several travel pouches which were each dedicated to: changing, feeding and toys. This worked really well for us as when we needed to change Arlo we just picked up one pouch which contained nappies, cream, wet wipes, disposable changing mats, plastic bags and a change of clothes.

I also panicked about breastfeeding Arlo whilst traveling and was worried about taking liquids through the airport. In Dubai Airport they were absolutely fine and there were no additional checks on the milk. However, when leaving Gatwick we were required to take out Arlo’s milk so it could be run through a separate scanner. When flying home to England, I packed 4 portions of breastmilk in a cooler bag which had been defrosted the day before so they were good for 24 hours. I also packed 4 bottles of the Aptamil 1 Ready to Drink Milk (at this point, we hadn’t given Arlo formula but I wanted to have it with me as a back up). I also packed my portable Elvie breast pump which worked extremely well for us during the flight. Ryan would give Arlo a bottle of expressed milk and, at the same time, I pumped using the Elvie to prepare for the next bottle.

When we were deciding on a stroller we knew a travel stroller would be essential for us so we opted for the Leclerc Magicfold which self-folds down to fit in the overhead baggage area on the plane. At the time of flying home, Arlo was still only 3 months old so we decided to take the bassinet attachment with us but we checked this in along with our cases. Getting through the airport, I carried Arlo in a baby carrier so he was close to my chest and we placed out hand-luggage in the stroller which Ryan pushed through the airport. This worked really well for us as Arlo loves being carried and often falls asleep!

*You can purchase any of the items linked above on Mumzworld.com using my code LOU10 for discount.

The Flight Home

Unfortunately, we had to cut our trip home short as I fractured my ankle with just over a week of the trip left. I was wearing a boot and didn’t have a lot of mobility to begin with and I found it hard getting up and down the stairs in the cottage. It also meant that I wasn’t able to drive and was completely reliant on Ryan.

So, we made the decision to fly back on the Wednesday, instead of the Sunday but there were no bassinet seats left. The thought of flying with Arlo and my foot in a boot in a window and an aisle seat really made us anxious so, we decided to bite the bullet and upgrade to Business Class – and it was the best thing we could have done. I was able to lay out with my foot elevated which really helped with the swelling on the flight. It also meant that Ryan and I could take turns with laying Arlo down on the mattress. Arlo ended up sleeping for 5 hours on the flight back which was brilliant. But I think we may have built a rod for our own backs with the flying experience with Arlo now!

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.

Versace Versace Versace

Last year I booked a one night stay at the Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai for a relaxing girly weekend away with one of my friends. I managed to get a great rate on the hotel, booking a discounted “industry rate” as an Independent Travel Agent.

Besides from the road works on the way in, the entrance to the Versace Hotel is just as grand as you would expect. As you enter the hotel, you are greeted by the large Medusa head in mosaic tiles on the floor, the lobby is bright with high ceilings and coated in gold.

We reached the hotel early as we wanted to make use of the facilities and our room wasn’t quite ready, so we left our luggage with the reception staff and headed out to the pool.

Hotel Facilities

The hotel has a gorgeous spa, salon and gym that you can access as a hotel guest. It also has three pools, the Central and West Pools are family pools and the East Pool is an adults only pool. Outside guests are able to use the pools at a day rate of AED200 which is fully redeemable on food and beverage but access to all three pools is complimentary for in house guests.

As the hotel does not have it’s own beach, hotel guests are able to use the pool and beach at the Nikki Beach Resort and Spa in Dubai at a charge of AED300 minimum spend per adult and AED150 minimum spend per child.

We decided to head down to the East Pool (making the most of it being adult only) and started our day off with some cocktails whilst soaking up the sun. The East Pool had a good choice of food on the pool menu, which is served from La Piscina, so we stayed around the pool for some lunch as well.

Restaurants

There is a great selection of restaurants at the hotel from Italian, to Iranian to Continental you won’t be stuck for choice.

For dinner, we decided to book into Enigma which is the Iranian restaurant and we ordered a selection of the mixed grill, rice and breads. The food was great and the service was excellent. The restaurant has a special dish called “Meet the King of Persia” which the table next to us ordered. This consists of a slow cooked lamb rack and leg which is marinated in “the King’s secret recipe” and is brought out by several members of staff playing instruments and with the King of Persia presenting the food to the table. It was great to watch – I kind of wish we had eaten it too!

Our hotel booking included breakfast for two in Giardino which is the hotel’s buffet restaurant. It had a great selection for breakfast including an egg station, pancake and waffle station, fresh pastries, fresh fruits and teas and coffees.

After breakfast, we headed back down to the East Pool for another day in the sun. Overall, we had a lovely stay at the Versace hotel, it was perfect for a relaxing, girly weekend with a lot of cocktails, sun and nice food.

My Daycay at the Burj Al Arab

So, even though this visit wasn’t technically a “staycay”, I recently spent the most amazing day at the luxurious, 7* Burj Al Arab hotel. The Burj Al Arab is Dubai’s most iconic hotel, located along Jumeirah Beach, next to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel – which is often referred to as “the Wave”. The Burj Al Arab is extremely exclusive with rooms being charged at a rate in excess of GBP2,000 per night! In order to even gain access to the hotel, you are required to have a booking at one of the restaurants, the beach club or the spa, otherwise you will not be allowed past the first security gate.

I am extremely grateful that my friend (and boss) treated me to a relaxing spa day and afternoon tea experience as a “baby shower” day and my last day at work before heading off on maternity leave. I have visited the Burj Al Arab previously for dinner in the hotel’s buffet restaurant, Bab al Yam, which is located on the first floor, and also to visit the beach club, Sal, which is located at the backside of the hotel but doesn’t require entrance to the main hotel. I was, therefore, very excited to spend some time inside the hotel itself.

Talise Spa at the Burj Al Arab

The Talise Spa is located on the 18th floor of the Burj Al Arab and from the moment you are welcomed at the spa’s reception, you are treated like royalty. Whilst completing our questionnaires before the treatment we were given a hot towel and fresh ginger tea which was lovely.

I had called in advance to confirm which treatment I would be able to have – as I was 37 weeks pregnant at the time. Unfortunately, I was not able to have the prenatal massage so I opted for the Moroccan Organic Facial which was not on the spa menu but came recommended by the therapist as being suitable for pregnancy as they use only organic, natural products.

The spa is separated into a female-only area and a unisex area which also contains the male changing facilities. We headed through the female changing rooms and were provided with our lockers which contained the softest slippers and robe – I felt like I was wearing a cloud. I was taken up to the room for my treatment and was blown away by the view. The female treatments rooms over look the Palm Jumeirah and have an amazing view of the Dubai Marina as well.

The treatment was so relaxing and my skin felt amazing. After the treatment, we changed into our swimwear and headed through to the unisex pool for a swim and some relaxation.

Afternoon Tea

Following our extremely relaxing morning, we headed down to Sahn Eddar which is the restaurant located in the hotel lobby on level 1. Previously, the Afternoon Tea was served in the Sky Bar, however, the hotel has recently changed the location of the Afternoon Tea as the Sky Bar is now only open from 6pm each day.

Sahn Eddar was a beautiful setting for Afternoon Tea as the lobby is very bright with high ceilings and a view out towards the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Souk Madinat. We sat down just before the Afternoon Tea was due to start and ordered the gold-leaf Cappuccinos because, why not?

The Afternoon Tea consisted of four courses, starting with shredded Alaskan King Crab with Caviar and pancakes – although I skipped the Caviar – followed by a selection of four finger sandwiches which were plated and served to us individually. The next course consisted of a selection of tarts, pastries and biscuits which were divine. They were served on tiered plates that were shaped like the Burj al Arab itself which was a lovely touch.

The final course, my favourite, was a selection of warm scones with fresh cream and jam. I could only just about finish mine as I was extremely full by this point. Throughout the afternoon we could have unlimited drinks such as teas and coffees and as we had the non-alcoholic package it also included a sparkling juice.

We left the Burj Al Arab at around 5pm after a long, relaxing day of luxury and feeling extremely stuffed from our lovely Afternoon Tea.

Ibiza – Part Tres: Playa Den Bossa

A fair few months have passed since our amazing Ibiza trip this Summer and I realised I hadn’t shared the final part of our holiday!

For the final leg of our Ibiza trip we spent five nights at Hotel Torre Del Mar in Playa Den Bossa. The hotel was approximately a thirty minute drive from Es Canar and was located on the far right hand side of Playa Den Bossa beach. The vibe was very different to that of Es Canar. Es Canar was super chilled and felt slightly outdated with an older generation of tourists. Whereas Playa Den Bossa was much more vibrant and had a real buzz about it. To be completely honest, I didn’t like how busy it was to begin with, it actually made me feel very on edge (with regards to COVID) especially as Ibiza was only ever a gateway for us to get home to England.

So we left Es Canar and checked into Hotel Torre Del Mar on the Thursday, and that afternoon Ryan was still working but changed to our new hotel room.

I headed out for a leisurely walk along the beach almost to the far end of the beach and passed Ushuaia, the Beach House, Tanit Beach and others. I walked slightly faster as I passed Jet Apartments and Bora Bora (IYKYK, soz for being a snob). The beach is actually a lovely, sandy beach, unlike some of the other beaches we had visited in Es Canar which were smaller, cove like beaches. Apart from walking along the beach, we mainly ate and drank (a lot) during our time in Playa Den Bossa so I have listed out some of our favourites below. Of course, it goes without saying that every meal was started with a portion of olives and Aoili!

Casa Maca

A visit to Casa Maca is an absolute must! The restaurant is attached to a cute boutqique hotel which is located on hill overlooking olive trees and and fields over into the city. You walk from the hotel down a gravel path into the various seating areas the restaurant has to offer with indoor and outdoor seating. As we walked through the restaurant to our table, there was a huge smoking BBQ pit that was towered with cuts of steak and fresh veg.

The food was some of the best we have ever had, we started with the baked aubergine and the chorizo with cheese, followed by the steak with a side of potato gratin, asparags and avocado. We definitely did not have room for dessert so finished with another Aperol!

Cotton Beach

We spent the day on the sunloungers as Cotton Beach, the booking came with a minimum spend so we had a delicious lunch consisting of sushi and a burratta and tomato salad. Later in the day we headed upstairs to the restaurant for some aperols, olives and Aoili (of course). The restaurant was such a vibe, we didn’t actually realise that they had a brunch on so we sat back and enjoyed the music, watching the brunchgoers partying away!

Bambuddha

We had read some great reviews about Bambuddha before our trip and were excited to book in for dinner. The restaurant is a short 15 minute drive from Hotel Torre Del Mar and has vairous seating areas inside and outside. The food was amazing, we shared a selection of beef gyoza, edamame and softshell crab sushi to start, followed by the black cod (my absolute favourite), pad thai and crispy duck pancakes (literally drooling as I’m typing this!). The restaurant was such a vibe with a DJ and a great atmosphere.

Beachouse

On our first day in Playa Den Bossa I walked along the beach to scope out some of the beach clubs and came across the Beachouse, it looked great with a super relaxed Bali vibe. I tried to make a reservation for lunch for any of the days we were there but they were fully booked each day! So we decided to head down one morning for breakfast which was a nice change. The food was lovely and they even offer a variety of yoga and meditation classes in the mornings.

La Cava Tapas

One evening we decided to walk into the old town which was about a 30 minute walk from our hotel. La Cava has a real European vibe with the restaurant seating located in the middle of the highstreet. It had that hustle and bustle about it with people walking past shopping and on their way out for dinner etc. We absolutely love tapas and wanted to try as many things as possible on the menu and didn’t hold back, ordering the Iberian ham; patatas bravas; padron peppers (Ryan’s fave); aoli and olives, of course; calamari; beef meatballs and crusty bread and tomatoes. Everything was so tasty and we were glad for the thirty minute walk home to walk all the food off!

Ohana

Ohana was a short walk along from Hotel Torre Del Mar and was the perfect stop for lunch for us, esepcially on the days when Ryan was working as he could pop out to meet me for lunch and return to work. 

Tanit

The walk from Hotel Torre Del Mar was about 40 minutes along the beach so I headed fror lunch to meet some friends whilst Ryan was working. The vibe at Tanit was really chilled and the restaurant had a lovely boho vibe. The menu had a lot of sushi (yum) and I opted for the buratta salad with an Aperol Spritz (of course).

Casa Manolo

We wanted to spend our final evening eating local food in a laid back restaurant – nothing too fancy. We had eaten quite a bit of tapas throughout our trip so decided to look for a restaurant serving paella. As luck would have it, Casa Manolo was listed as the best paella restaurant on the island and was a four minute walk from our hotel which was ideal. We hadn’t made a reservation as it was late notice so tried our luck and thankfully got a table before the restaurant became too busy.

The restaurant is located along the promenade on Playa Den Bossa beach and is very understated from the outside. The food, however, spoke for itself! We ordered the seafood paella to share and it was huge and delicious. I would definitely recomend this restaurant for authentic Spanish paella.

We were sad to see the end of this trip as we really had the most amazing time on the magical island – even more so knowing that it’s where our little bump was conceived! But, Ibiza was always just a route to get us back home to England to spend some time with the family this summer. Honestly, if we had the choice I don’t think we would have chosen Ibiza as the destination for our summer holiday but I am so glad that we did and we both really can’t wait to return.

Our Long Weekend in Athens

We have just returned from a lovely holiday in Athens and it was my first trip back to Greece in almost seventeen years – goodness that makes me feel old! Mum and Dad used to take us on our summer holidays to Greece when my sister and I were younger and we were lucky enough to visit several Greek islands including Crete, Corfu, Kos, Rhodes as well as Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. I love Greece and have lovely memories from our family holidays, like singing karaoke with Katie, playing card games with Mum and going on walks with Dad to find cats (I haven’t changed!) 

So as the Eid holiday was approaching, Ryan and I looked into our options for travel, as certain countries are opening up for travel from the UAE – it also helps that we are both fully vaccinated. We were initially looking into the Seychelles but as Eid approached the prices started to rocket. So we browsed through the options on Emirates Package Holidays and found a great deal for flights and four nights accommodation in Athens and booked a locally branded hotel called Divani Caravel – it was quite a corporate hotel but was great for the price and a nice walk into the city centre.

We were so excited to be heading back to Europe as we haven’t been since our mini-moon in Nice almost two years ago. For the first time in ages we had a day flight which was actually lovely, we normally opt for the red eye night flight to maximize our holiday but decided to stick with the nice 10.50am flight which got us into Athens for 3pm.

When you arrive in Athens and you are fully Vaccinated for COVID (having had both doses at least 14 days before travel) then there is a separate queue which requires you to show proof of vaccination and you can head straight for passport control. Alternatively if you’re not vaccinated with both doses then you must go in the queue for a rapid COVID test (you do not need to pay for this) and await the results as a group before proceeding to passport control. It was strange receiving a passport stamp for entry to Greece!

Day One

We weren’t sure how easy it would be to get from the airport to the main city so we pre-booked our transfer on an app called Welcome Pickups. It was the first time I had used this app but it was extremely easy to use. It can be accessed across 63 countries and connects users to local taxi drivers (in the same way as Uber) but it allows you to book your ride in advance. We were then provided with the driver’s name, phone number and registration plate which was great. There is also the option of taking a metered taxi or the train as there is a train station located at the airport and several metro links across the city.  

As planned, our driver was waiting in the lobby holding a sign with my name and we headed straight to the hotel. The hotel was slightly out of the city centre but was only a 25 minute walk. We thought that it would be a lovely way to walk around and explore the city each day. We reached our hotel at around 4.30pm, had a quick change and then set off on our first adventure. Of course, I had done my research online beforehand and found some gorgeous restaurants and tips for sightseeing in Athens (you can read all about our amazing dining options here). One of the top places to visit in Athens is Plaka; one of the older neighbourhoods which is filled with brightly coloured buildings and quaint restaurants and cafes. It was about a thirty minute walk from our hotel to Plaka and we loved taking in the views (and some beverages) along the way.

On our journey from the airport we asked our taxi driver for recommendations for any local bars we should visit during our trip and he suggested a wine bar called By The Glass. It was relatively easy to find from our hotel and sat outside overlooking a cute church whilst enjoying a few glasses of rosè and a charcuterie board – it was the perfect way to start our trip!

We had made a reservation at Psara Tavern – which means the old fisherman’s tavern in Greek – and is listed as the most romantic restaurant in Athens. The restaurant is gorgeous and set at the top of a stairway with other bars dotted alongside. The restaurant has a lovely view over Plaka and the food was just as impressive as the view!

Day Two

I had planned a day of sightseeing for our first full day so we were up and rearing to go bright and early! We had breakfast at the hotel and set off straight to the Acropolis. We didn’t buy our tickets in advance we purchased them at the site entrance for €20pp. We had also toyed with the options of a tour guide but decided against it but it was easy enough to pick up local licensed tour guides at the entry for €50pp – these tours last approximately 50 minutes but we felt we wanted to go at our own pace although it would have been great to have the ancient history told along the way.

We were provided with a map, along with our tickets, which identified stops along the way with placards of information so we were able to read up on the information ourselves as we went at our own pace. We visited at the start of May which is outside of the peak season and it was an amazing time to visit as we only crossed a handful of people of the way up whereas we have been told that during the peak season there will be thousands!

After a few hours at the Acropolis we continued exploring the narrow roads of Plaka and the New Town before grabbing a taxi back to our hotel for a quick change before dinner. Uber was one of the most convenient ways for us to get around but it was just as easy to flag down the local yellow taxis and request the journey on the meter.

For dinner that night we had booked a restaurant called Orizontes Lycabettus which is located on Lycabettus Hill. To reach the restaurant you can either walk (not in heels) or take the cable car up which was €7 per person for a return journey. The views from the restaurant were amazing, we felt like we could see across the whole of Athens. As the sun started to set, we noticed what looked like smoke, followed by fireworks and the waiter informed us that Olympiacos had just won the league!

Day Three

By our third day we were exhausted from all of the sightseeing so I was very happy we had booked a relaxing beach day in the middle. We grabbed a taxi outside the front of our hotel and headed down to the beach. The drive was around 35 minutes and cost around €17 in the taxi. Astir Beach Club is affiliated with the Four Seasons and when making your reservations online you can choose different sections, one being adults only (yes please)!

As we travelled before the season fully opened it was pretty quiet when we arrived, but in typical Louise style we were early. Throughout the day the beds started to fill up and we had chosen a cabana on the front row. It was super chilled and the food was amazing so if you are visiting Athens and need a day to relax I would highly recommend Astir Beach.

We had also booked dinner at a restaurant called Blue Fish that evening which is a short 15 minute walk from Astir Beach around the sea front. The food was incredible (you can read all about it here) and it was a unique dining concept which I would absolutely recommend if you love seafood!

Day Four

Whilst we were in Athens, some of the COVID restrictions started to ease. A curfew was in place meaning we had to be home by 11pm but on our final night this was extended to 12.30am. We were also lucky enough that on our final day the restrictions on closure of museums was lifted, meaning we were able to visit the Acropolis Museum – to Ryan’s delight!

We walked from our hotel into the city centre and timed it well so we were able to see the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was interesting to watch as the guards are dressed in traditional uniform (my favourite part being their shoes).

The entrance to the Acropolis Museum was amazing as the museum itself is built over ruins which used to house some of the most affluent residences in Athens! The entry to the museum is €10 per person and you can purchase your tickets at the entrance on the day.

We ended our final full day by meeting some friends for drinks and dinner in the New Square, starting at A for Athens and finishing across the square in 360 Bar. Both of these bars have increidble views of the Acropolis during the day and at night.

Day Five

We decided to have a lay in and just chill on our final morning so we popped out for our last breakfast and in true European style found a café on the side of the road to sit and drink our coffee and orange juice. We ordered an Uber for our journey back to the airport which was very straightforward and an easy drive.

For our return flight to Dubai we were required to show a negative PCR test upon check in so we arranged that with a company called IASYS. They were extremely responsive by email and I informed them of the date and time that we were flying and they scheduled our COVID test for the morning before. The nurse came to our hotel and carried out the test in our room which took no more than 15 minutes for us both from start to finish. We were then emailed our test results within 24 hours. This service cost €60 which we were more than happy to pay for the convenience of not having to leave our room!

Eating and drinking our way around Athens

My goodness did Athens have a vast range of cafes, bars and restaurants. I don’t think you would be able to work through them all if you tried! We carried out a little bit of research in advance of our trip and made reservations for our evening dinners but decided to just go with the flow with regards to our lunch and afternoon Aperols!

Brunch

Athinaikon

We stumbled across Athinaikon on our penultimate day when we were walking back from the Acropolis Museum. The restaurant looked beautiful from the outside and as we walked inside we saw an outdoor seating area on the road at the back. The seating area was surrounded by plants and had a lovely atmosphere. 

We shared a half litre of the house wine along with the halloumi which was served Caprese style with fresh tomatoes. I chose the prawn linguini whilst Ryan had the mussels and we were both really impressed with the food. Our waiter was also great and very friendly. This was one of our top finds during our trip.

Plakaki Cafe Bistro

Plakaki is located in the same square as Pantheon (where we had stopped for a drink on our first day) and was super busy at lunchtime so we thought we would stop for a bite to eat. Ryan opted for the Greek Salad and I chose the margarita pizza (boring I know) but they were a great combination together and we devoured everything alongside a few Aperol’s. 

Privilege at Astir beach club

We spent the day at Astir Beach Club a d pre-booked our cabana at online before visiting. We chose to have lunch in the Privilege restaurant which is located to the right hand side of the beach. The decor in the restaurant is lovely with neutral colours and a boho-vibe. 

We shared (another) bottle of rosè as well as a burger and tempura prawns with kale chips. The tempura prawns were so good we had just about finished a mouthful and ordered a second portion! The staff were extremely friendly and we can imagine this restaurant will do great as the summer season starts.

Regal

After an active morning hiking the steps of the acropolis we stopped in Regal for some refreshments. It was slightly too early for me to have a wine – although Ryan was gasping for a cold beer – and instead I chose a homemade fresh lemonade. It was delightful and exactly what I needed. 

Utopia Bystro

On our final morning we decided to head out for breakfast and just along from our hotel was a little stretch of four or five cafes that we saw were busy most mornings. We popped into Utopia where I chose the English breakfast and Ryan chose the Greek breakfast. Both were lovely and came with a selection of coffee, juice, pastries, toast and jams. The restaurant was very popular and had a selection of indoor and outdoor seating. 

Dinner

Blue Fish

We absolutely loved our dining experience at Blue Fish and would highly recommend this to seafood lovers visiting Athens. 

The restaurant has a unique dining concept whereby you choose a whole fish or lobster (which are charged per kg) and the fish is prepared in four ways using four separate parts of the fish. This way, you enjoy the unique flavors of each part of the fish without any going to waste. 

To start, we had the mushroom risotto which utilized the head of the fish which was used to prepare the broth of the risotto.

Next up was the fish collar which we chose to have teriyaki style and was served with grilled avocado and was delicious.

Following that was the fillet which was a lovely, meaty part of the fish cooked Robata style and served with mashed potato and grilled vegetables (this dish was my favourite!)

Finally, the tail fillet which was grilled and served in a curry style sauce with vegetables.

Each dish was so tasty and yet so unique and it was an authentic dining experience.

Lithos

For our final night in Athens we decided we wanted some local Greek food and had read excellent reviews about Lithos online. It is located just outside Monastiraki Square – close to our favorite bars: A for Athens and 360. We were joined for dinner by some friends from Dubai so decided to share a few dishes. We chose the chicken souvlaki and pork souvlaki which are essentially skewers of grilled cubes of meat as well as the grilled octopus, which is a local specialty, and the Parma ham risotto. The food was honestly delicious and washed down with a bottle of Prosecco for the girls, red wine for the boys and some complimentary shots of oozo! 

Orizontes

We came across Orizontes when searching through tagged photos of Athens on Instagram. The view looked stunning so we booked for a table at 8pm to ensure we got to enjoy the views in daylight and sunset. You can take a cable car up to the restaurant which is €7pp for a return trip. The cars run every twenty minutes which we didn’t realize but somehow timed it perfectly.

Although the restaurant was relatively quiet, the staff were lovely and gave us a complimentary soup starter. Ryan opted for the seabass whilst I had the prawns and we shared some Greek “Patatas Bravas”. The food was nice but the views were outstanding and that really was the highlight of this restaurant.

Psara Taverna

We had made a reservation at Psara Tavern – which means the old fisherman’s tavern in Greek – and is listed as the most romantic restaurant in Athens. The restaurant is gorgeous and set at the top of a stairway with other bars dotted alongside. The restaurant has a lovely view over Plaka and the food was just as impressive as the view!

We ordered a selection of breads and olives to start alongside the calamari which was some of the tastiest calamari I’ve had and a very generous portion size! We followed that with the prawn linguini and chicken gyros which came deconstructed with the bread, chicken tomatoes etc on the plate. Both dishes were so tasty – and actually the best food we had during our time in Athens. 

In our eyes, the restaurant lives up to its name of the most romantic restaurant in Athens with the gorgeous views and an authentic setting.

Drinks

A for Athens 

A for Athens came highly recommended from several friends before traveling to Athens so it was high on our bucket list and did not disappoint. The bar is located in the same square as 360 Bar but I have to say, the views here are unbeatable! With a direct view across Monastaki Square up to the Acropolis we sat and watched the sun setting whilst enjoying some cocktails. 

We had made the reservation via email in advance as we were visiting on a Friday evening and wanted to ensure availability but when making a reservation there is a minimum spend of €20 which is not required for walk in reservations – although this is around two drinks so we did not mind anyway.

By The Glass

On our journey from the airport we asked our taxi driver for recommendations for any local bars we should visit during our trip and he suggested a wine bar called By The Glass. On our first day we headed into Plaka via this bar and sat outside overlooking a cute church whilst enjoying a few glasses of rosè and a charcuterie board – it was the perfect way to start our trip!

Lamiral roof top garden

We came across Lamiral one afternoon when we were wandering around Plaka and saw the gorgeous decor of the outside of the restaurant which enticed us in. We were actually walking off lunch so we’re not hungry at all so we stayed and enjoyed some drinks in the rooftop garden.  It is a lovely spot for afternoon drinks and the food smelt divine when it was brought out to the tables around us. 

Pantheon

We stumbled across a lovely square surrounded by bars and restaurants on our way into Plaka and decided to stop in Pantheon for quick drink before dinner. I had a lovely Aperol Spritz whilst Ryan got on the local beer and we sat in the sun taking in the alfresco ambience on our first day.

360 Bar

We visited 360 Bar post-dinner two out of the four nights of time in Athens. The bar has a great selection of cocktails, beers, wines and spirits as well as gorgeous views of the Acropolis and wider Athens. One word of advice would be to take the lift as opposes to the stairs as I was panting like a dog by the time I reached the bar!

Acropolis views from 360 Bar

Zanzi-Bars and Restaurants

I am reminiscing about our amazing holiday to Zanzibar and can’t believe we have been back for two months already! As you know by now, Ryan and I love love LOVE food and one of the best parts about travelling for us, is all the amazing food we get to try along the way. Being in Zanzibar, we really wanted to make the most of the fresh seafood that was all around us so below is a list of the restaurants we visited (and loved) during our trip.

6 Degrees South

We stumbled across this restaurant on our first day in Stone Town when we were walking around the area near our hotel. The staff were extremely welcoming and the restaurant had part inside / outside seating – we were part outside so needed a fan!

I opted for the grilled prawns with coconut rice and my husband ordered the kingfish and masala fries – both dishes were delicious and generous portions.

The restaurant also has a rooftop bar which we wanted to visit but it opens from 5pm and with happy hour!

Beach House – Park Hyatt, Zanzibar Stone Town

Before traveling to Stone Town we had read great reviews online about the Beach House. A security guard greeted us at the entrance of the hotel and we went in for, initially, a few drinks. However, we fell in love with the view and the chilled vibes that we decided to stay for a few more drinks and then for dinner.

We shared the bruschetta to start which was a very generous sized portion and was really tasty, followed by the king fish and biryani. The food was delicious and service was great as well. I would highly recommend this restaurant as we felt it ticked all of the boxes.

Baladin Zanzibar Beach Hotel & Restaurant

We stumbled across Baladin when on our morning post-breakfast walk along the beach. We loved the style of the restaurant (well, the whole hotel for that fact) and decided to return for lunch that day. The restaurant decor was lovely, all wooden which gave that rustic feel but modernised with quirky seating areas.

To start, we shared the calamari which was fresh and delicious. We then both ordered the same main as it caught our eye and that was the beer marinated prawns. They were super tasty and served with rice and salad. The staff and restaurant manager were extremely friendly and we have recommended this restaurant to friends visiting Zanzibar since our trip.

Upendo Zanzibar Beach

As we stayed at Upendo we decided to enjoy dinner at the hotel each night of our stay. The menu is so expansive that we were not stuck for choice!

Breakfast was included in our stay and each morning it consisted of fresh juice, tea, coffee, a fruit platter and then a main breakfast dish. We worked our way through the breakfast menu and each morning it was the perfect start to the day.

In the afternoons we would treat ourselves to a little snack, our favourites were the homemade hummus and bread as well as the flatbread which were bruschetta style breads topped with a variety of toppings.

For dinners, we worked our way through the menu and would highly recommend the surf and turf; seafood skewers; local curry which is served with rice and bread (I think this was my favourite dish) and also the burger!

Pandu Ngozi Restaurant

This inconspicuous restaurant is located along the beachfront, a stone’s throw away from the famous Rock Restaurant and our hotel, Upendo. We came across Pandu Ngozi on our morning walk and decided to return for lunch one day. I decided to have the lobster and Ryan treated himself to the jumbo prawns. The food was so amazing we returned the next day for lunch and I ordered the prawns and Ryan, the lobster.
The staff were extremely friendly, the food was amazing and the rustic vibe of the restaurant is what we loved the most and would highly recommend a visit.

The Rock Restaurant Zanzibar

We visited the famous Rock Restaurant on my birthday and it did not disappoint. We were staying at Upendo and so our swimming pool looked out onto the Rock.

Our table was booked for 2pm and we timed it right with the tide as it was out so we were able to walk over to the restaurant. We sat outside and had an amazing view that looked the whole way along Pingwe Beach. We shared the tempura prawns to start followed by the grilled seafood platter. The food was great and a very generous portion. Overall we had a lovely lunch and would highly recommend visiting this restaurant.

… I hope reading this post hasn’t made you too hungry!

Address Beach Resort

We are never bored for hotel choice in Dubai let me tell you! New hotels seem to be popping up left, right and centre and we had been eyeing up the new Address Beach Resort for a while. Located at the far end of Jumeirah Beach and close to the walkway across to Bluewater Island, Address Beach Resort dominates the skyline.

The building consists of two towers, which are predominantly residential, and are connected at the top with the world’s highest and longest rooftop pool!

You can access the entrance of the hotel either by driving down JBR, or you can take the last exit from Sheikh Zayed Road, take the ramp across the Marina and U-turn into the hotel – we chose this option to avoid the dreaded JBR traffic. As you drive up the ramp you are greeted by the valet guy, a quick sanitisation mist and the familiar smell which makes you instantly realise you have stepped into an Address hotel.

The lobby is a gorgeous, open area with olive trees and an abundance of seating areas. The interior is similar to that of the Address Sky View with details of books and ornaments neatly arranged. Our check in process was excellent and the staff could not do enough for us. We had arrived early, as we always like to make the most of the facilities, and they accommodated our request of a higher room and were able to provide us with immediate access which was great.

The hotel has three lifts, which can be quite confusing, one which takes you down to the ground floor restaurants with pool and beach access; one for hotel guests only which takes you to the hotel rooms; and the final lift which is for residents and for access to the spa and rooftop pool.

The Pool

The main attraction for us to this hotel was the rooftop pool measuring in at 94.84m in length, 16.50m wide and height is 293.906m. Recently awarded a Guinness Book of World Records title, the pool is the highest infinity pool in the world! Use of the roof-top pool is exclusive to in-house guests and residents only, which makes the pool all that more desirable. You have to take the lift from the ground floor to level 75 then swap to a different lift for the final two levels. As the doors open you can just see the vast blue water ahead of you which morphs from the pool into the sea. The view is insane. You can walk around the whole rooftop and see all the way down to Jebel Ali on one side, across the Marina on the other and out to see with Palm views.

The pool has several sun loungers partly submerged in the pool itself which are super chilled. They also have double-gazebo beds available which are extremely comfortable as well – we opted for different loungers each day. Finally, they have private cabana pool rooms available to hire for the day which come fully equipped with a TV, shower, alcohol, food, personal butler and much more – you, of course have to pay for this privilege!

The hotel also has a child-friendly pool on the ground floor with a mini-splash park for keeping the little ones entertained.

The Room

We had booked a Marina facing room, I cheekily asked for an upgrade to a sea-view room but the hotel was fully booked on the weekend that we visited. The room was lovely, modern and bright – everything you would expect from a brand new hotel. The bed was extremely comfortable and the far side of the room had one long window which spanned across the entire length of the room and through the bathroom. In the bathroom was a free-standing bath in front of the window with a separate waterfall shower and Jack and Jill sinks. 

All aspects of the room could be managed from one tablet, including the air-con, lights, TV, music and it also contained information about the hotel, facilities, and menus for room service.

The Restaurants

The hotel has several restaurants located throughout it. On our first day, we decided to have lunch down in The Beach Grill which is located just about on the beach and next to the family pool on the ground floor. We loved the décor in this restaurant as it had boho / beach-chic vibes. I opted for the Salmon whilst Ryan had the burger and the food was delicious.

For dinner, we had booked a table at Zeta-77 and invited some friends to join us for sundowners before dinner. Zeta-77 is located on level 77 next to the infinity pool and the views from this restaurant are astounding, some, if not the best views in Dubai. We got there for 6.30 and as the sun set, we could see the lights start to appear across the whole of the Palm, Bluewater Island and the Marina. It was such a beautiful sight.

The menu at Zeta-77 is relatively small with only four options for main dishes, however we loved all of the mains so it wasn’t too bad. The food was delicious but, unfortunately, the service was terrible. I don’t like to complain in restaurants, I often just complain about it to Ryan, but on this occasion, as we had paid a deposit of AED2,000 to even book the table we did complain about the service. I guess that there is always teething problems when opening a new restaurant so hopefully things will improve.

Breakfast was located on the ground floor in the buffet restaurant and was included as part of our booking. And I have to say, the breakfast was absolutely amazing. I really love a hotel breakfast and this was a combination of served a la carte “main” dishes and buffet style for pastries, waffles, pancakes etc.

The hotel also has a Brazilian restaurant at located just left of the lobby which would be good to try.

Overall, we absolutely loved our stay at the Address Beach Resort and would return purely for the rooftop pool!