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 Cape Town Itinerary

Of all years for Ryan to decide that he wanted to go away on holiday for his birthday, he decided that it would be smack bang in between our wedding and our honeymoon! Of course, I’m not complaining and I’m not one to say no to a holiday, especially when it means visiting another new country!

Ryan has wanted to visit South Africa for such a long time, I must say I had never really looked into SA but, once we started planning this trip I couldn’t believe how much we had to try and squeeze into just 10 nights!

Every single meal we had in Cape Town was amazing, you can read my separate post on where we dined with our food and wine recommendations here.

Day One

We left Dubai at 4am, I managed to get a 3 hour nap before heading to the airport and another 6 hours sleep on the flight! The flight was just over 9 hours long and we arrived in Cape Town just after 11.30am.

We had arranged a transfer to our hotel in Camps Bay direct with the hotel which removed the stress and hassle of having to locate a taxi at the airport. By 1pm we were at the hotel, checked in and ready to start exploring!

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Camps Bay is a beautiful area, located right on the white beach front with a great selection of restaurants and bars overlooking the sea. We stopped at La Belle for a light lunch and dived straight into the seafood, ordering mussels and calamari – straight away we knew we were going to love it here.

We stayed at South Beach which is a small boutique hotel a stones throw away from the beach. The staff were extremely friendly and constantly helped us with arranging Ubers and other excursions. The hotel has complimentary bikes which you can take out along the walkway, two pools and a bar. The rooms come with a full kitchen and fully stocked fridge and the staff leave fresh bread and croissants on your door every morning at 8am!

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That afternoon we had made a reservation at the Mount Nelson Hotel for High Tea. We sat outside on the terrace drinking MCC (Method Cap Classique, South Africa’s own champagne), eating cakes, sandwiches and scones and it was lovely.

Dinner: the Bungalow, Camps Bay

Day Two

We booked onto the 9am tour across to Robben Island for the tour of the museum and the prison. They offer three tours a day starting at 9am, 11am and 1pm, each lasting around 3.5-4hours including the ferry ride too and from the island. We booked our tickets in advance online (here) as we were advised that in the high tourist season the tours can book up quickly! You should also take your passport or ID with you so that staff can check your e-ticket against your ID (I didn’t know this but luckily had a copy of my passport with me which they accepted).

The boat ride across to the island was quite choppy (and cold!) but if you get the chance to sit outside on the boat you absolutely should. The views as you leave the harbour are just incredible with a full skyline of the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, Lions Head and the stadium built for the FIFA World Cup held in South Africa in 2012.

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The tour around Robben Island was so informative and eye opening. We were taken on busses around to different parts of the island, culminating with the tour of the prison itself. Our tour guide was an ex-prisoner who had spent almost 20 years in the prison himself for political crimes. We saw the quarry where the prisoners were forced to work every day, including Nelson Mandela. We were taken around the prison cells in each of the blocks, finishing at Nelson Mandela’s cell. The tour was so educational and I would highly recommend it.

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We spent the afternoon wandering around the V&A Waterfront. It was a hive of activity with different things going on around every corner. By this point we were hungry so headed straight to the food market, it was full of stalls ranging from Poke Bowls, biltong, pork belly, oysters, samosas, anything you could think of! We bought a selection from a few of the stalls and sat outside with a drink in the sun. There were also local street performers around the area so we sat watching a group of young children in tribal wear singing and dancing and it was just amazing.

Dinner: The Pot Luck Club, The Old Biscuit Mill

Day Three

We wanted to visit Cape Point and Boulders Beach but didn’t want to do this as part of a big group so we decided to hire a private driver for the day so we could arrange our own itinerary and move around at our leisure. I contacted several companies but we decided on using the company Citi Shuttles. They were really professional and helpful during our correspondence with them and mid range price. We were required to make the full payment upfront as they did not want their drivers to be carrying large amounts of cash so we made the payment using TransferWise to reduce the bank charges.

We started our day at 8.30, driving the coastal route down to Cape Point. On the way we stopped at Hout Bay and went down to the harbour for a coffee and a wander around the stalls. From here, you can take a trip across to Seal Island.

The coastal route was beautiful and at one part you drive on a road that has been carved into the edge of the cliff. We got to the Cape of Good Hope in good timing and avoided all of the queues at the entrance to the National Park. We saw wild ostriches roaming around and baboons! We attempted to have our picture taken with the sign “Most Southernly Point in Africa” but we couldn’t quite fight our way through the tourists so we went for a short hike up one of the trails. It was so windy down there, I’m glad I chucked my hoody in last minute!

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We then headed to the lighthouse and hiked up the hill to the top. The views were beautiful. We had made a lunch reservation at the Two Oceans, when we arrived we had the choice of tables but within half an hour the restaurant was packed inside and out. They have a great selection of seafood platters and we chose one with langoustines, prawns, calamari and mussels, with a bottle of Chenin Blanc to soak it up!

 

After our amazing lunch, we headed down to Boulders Beach. The beach is famous for being the home of around 2,000 penguins! I’m not sure what I was expecting but to be honest, it was part of the trip that I would say could be missed out if you’re pushed for time. It was completely crowded and you pay an entrance fee of around $20 per person and the walk way is relatively short. It was cute seeing the penguins but it didn’t really feel any different than being in an overcrowded zoo.

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Dinner: Bilboa, Camps Bay

Day Four

On our final full day in Cape Town we woke up to thick fog, cloud and mist. This morning, we had planned to hike up Table Mountain, starting at 7am. Initially, we intended to do this alone as I had read online that you don’t necessarily require a guide and that the route is signposted. However, I was slightly apprehensive due to the weather so contacted reception and they strongly advised us not to go alone, especially with the weather conditions and that we book with a guide. Our hotel kindly then contacted and booked a guide for us to start the hike at 11.30 (as he was already half way up the mountain with another group!)

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Our guide, Johan October, was so passionate about nature and his main priority was getting us up to the top safely. So we started the hike at 11.30 and could not see a thing the entire way up due to the clouds. It was disappointing however, we still feel so accomplished that we completed the hike. I would not advise doing this hike without a guide, especially when the weather is unpredictable. We took the easy route, Platteklip Gorge, and found parts of it very challenging. We had to scramble over rocks at certain points and the whole trail is not well signposted, I think we came across two on our whole hike. Also, due to the weather conditions we only crossed paths without around 8 other hikers. Johan advises that from December onwards the route would be much busier and so you may feel more confident doing it without a guide.

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We took the cable car back down which took less than five minutes as we had booked our tickets in advance to save queueing twice and headed straight to the Codfather to reward ourselves with a huge amount of seafood!

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Dinner: Paranga, Camps Bay

Day Five

Our last morning in Cape Town was spent chilling in our apartment and having breakfast before heading onto the next part of our trip, Stellenbosch! Again, we booked a transfer with our hotel in advance however, you can just as easily book an Uber from Cape Town out to the wine lands.

We absolutely loved our time in Cape Town. Prior to travelling there I was slightly apprehensive but we didn’t have any issues at all. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. It’s really easy to get around and everyone uses Uber as it’s much more convenient and also cheaper than taxis. You also find that everywhere has WiFi so you can pre-order your Uber before leaving. We were advised by our hotel not to carry large amounts of cash with us which was no issue at all because everywhere we ate / visited accepted card, including entry to the nature reserves. It is also custom to tip 10-15% for good service so it’s helpful to have some notes on you for that, we found it was definitely appreciated but not expected.

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Our Wedding Day

Oh, our wedding day. When I try to put into words how I feel about our wedding day the only word I tend to use is amazing. I’m not the type of person who can say I have always dreamt about what my wedding day would be like or that I had it all planned out as a young girl because honestly, I had never even thought about it until we got engaged! But our day really was everything I ever could have imagined it to be, and more.

Throughout the day I had to keep stopping to remind myself, “this is actually your wedding day… you’re getting married today” to make sure I tried to take it all in. Like when I was sat having my hair done in the morning by Sheree, or just as me and Dad were about to walk down the aisle, I just had to take a moment to process it all.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t exactly have the best start to the day. Katie and I shared a bed the night before as Ryan was in with his best man, Harry. I think I got a total of about 90 minutes sleep the night before the wedding… it was without a doubt, the worst night’s sleep of my entire life. At one point, I was convinced the entire wedding party had food poisoning from the BBQ and I called my mum at 2.30am in tears saying “Mum, everyone’s got food poisoning, there’s not going to be a wedding, everyone’s ill!” I needed Mum to be the voice of reason and tell me, that actually, no one has food poisoning and I’m probably just feeling a bit nervous!

The morning of…

So on the wedding morning at 7am, my Mum, Ryan’s Mum (Lisa), Katie, Sheree and Jemma came to the bridal suite to start getting ready for the day. I am so lucky to have such an amazingly talented best friend as Sheree and she was not only a bridesmaid, but also our hair wizard. Kelly, from Perfection, also travelled across to France to do everyone’s makeup. Me, being me, prepared a schedule for the morning, broken down by every 15 minutes so that we knew who had hair and makeup at what time and to avoid the issue of running late or anyone feeling stressed out.

getting ready

I have to say that getting ready was one of my favourite parts of the day. It was such a lovely, relaxing morning. We had presents, champagne, croissants and just all had such a lovely time. At around 1pm the flower girls and page boys came up to the bridal suite for some photos and to prepare for walking down the aisle.

We had suggested a hotel nearby for the wedding party to stay at and, for ease, arranged transportation to and from the wedding venue for the BBQ day and wedding day. At about 1.30pm, the wedding planner came to me and said “I don’t want to worry you but there’s been a slight issue with the coach… it’s broken down, so we’re going to be slightly delayed!” Can you believe the entire wedding party kept the bride waiting?! I just popped open another bottle of champagne! Both the photographer and the videographer wanted to capture me getting into my dress so, as we had time, I did it twice so that they could both get the shots they wanted.

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The Ceremony

The guests all pitched together and made their own way as a lot of people had hired cars for the weekend anyway. Once we were informed that guests had started to arrive, that’s when the nerves started to hit me. Luckily the ceremony had only been delayed by 30 minutes but by this point I was itching to get started. Our ceremony was supposed to be outside but the weather on the morning was very hit and miss with a bit of rain and so the wedding planner and florist decided it would be best if the ceremony was held in the barn. As we walked from the Chateau to the barn we were all holding umbrellas, my dress was tucked right up and I could hear the cellist as we were approaching. Everyone told me how cute and well behaved out little page boys, Rufus and Rafferty, were. Now that we’ve received the video back I can see the nerves in my whole body as I walked down the aisle with Dad.

The ceremony itself seemed to go so quickly for us. As part of our ceremony, we had a Wine Ceremony. Ryan and I had to write a note to each other which is to be stored in a wine box alongside a Polaroid picture from the wedding day. If our marriage is ever experiencing any difficulty we are supposed to sit together, open the bottle of wine and read our notes to one another, to remember the reason why we got married and the reason we fell in love. The aim though, is that our marriage never comes into difficulty and that we are supposed to open the wine and enjoy it together on our 5th wedding anniversary.

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After the ceremony, we had the cocktail and canapés reception. We had arranged for the band to play an acoustic set during this time and when we visited France in April we sampled all of the canapés that would be served at this time. We even had a live station where the chef was carving a leg of Serrano ham. I’ll be honest, this is the part of the day that I was most looking forward to (obviously apart from actually marrying Ryan!) But, we were taken away during this bit with our photographer and videographer to capture some special moments together. I did manage to make my way in for some of the Serrano ham though, and it was lovely!

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By this point, it was still drizzling and my dress had started to become a bit muddy. I had a bit of a bridezilla moment when mum said “don’t worry Lou, we can have it dry cleaned” I snapped back “but I need it clean NOW!” (Sorry Mum!) Everyone told me throughout the day that all the best wedding dresses end up covered in dirt and wine and that they tell a good story of the day but it was just a little heart-breaking seeing the bottom of it getting so muddy and wet in the rain. Thankfully it doesn’t show up in any of the photos!
We then had the family portraits which seemed to go on for ages so after that, Ryan and I decided to go for a little walk around the back of the Chateau, just the two of us, have some champagne and just spend a little bit of time together. That’s another thing so many people had told us in the lead up to the wedding… “make sure you get to spend some along time together on your wedding day”’

The Dinner

One thing that we really loved about our venue was all the space that could be used for different aspects of the day. Originally, we had planned to have the ceremony outside in front of the Chateau but thankfully had the backup of the gorgeous barn. The wedding breakfast was then held in the marquee which was attached to the barn and the barn itself had the stage and the band and was essentially our party room.

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The marquee looked absolutely gorgeous, so much more beautiful than I could have imagined. Rather than having the tables set with name tags for people to find their seat, we had polaroid’s held in corks (all of the photos were taken of the wedding guests the day before at the BBQ)! Ryan and I entered to Luther Vandross “Never Too Much” being played and joined our family at the top table. The speeches were lovely, and I’m so glad we have our video which includes all of the speeches as when we watched it back, I couldn’t remember half of what was said, it all seemed like such a blur!

One of my favourite parts of the room was the corner where the cake was. Our wedding planner had set two oak barrels with flowers either side of a trolley on which the cake sat, I thought it looked gorgeous. The marquee was clear so you could see through to the Chateau in the background, and once the sun had set the festoon lights connected from the tree to the marquee looked beautiful. We cut the cake and then had our first dance, ready to get the party started.

The Party

Our band were absolutely incredible our first dance was to Robin Es “Show me love” as an acoustic version which then sped up into the dance version. It got everyone straight up on the dance floor and I literally didn’t leave for the rest of the night! The band were honestly brilliant and made the evening for us. It was so amazing to be surrounded by our family and friends, dancing and laughing and just having the best time. We had a sparkler send off at around 9.30pm after the bands second set and the proceeded to DJ for the remainder of the night. It was only the next day that I remembered that we had arranged for burger sliders and bacon buttys to be brought out for the evening food – everyone else polished them off and I didn’t even have one!

As we had to use up all of the alcohol that we had ordered for the wedding day, we started to hand out bottles of the champagne so, me being the classy bride, had one glued to my hand for the rest of the night! The coach was arriving at 1am to pick up the guests and take them back to their hotel so Ryan and I slipped off at 12.55 as we were told we should leave before everyone else starts to leave.

Writing this has made me wish I could just live the whole day again. It really was the best day of my life.

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The Lead up to Our Wedding

I really don’t know where to start with writing this. I also cannot believe how quickly the time has gone. We’ve already been married almost three weeks. In the build up to the wedding everyone told us how fast the day would go but you don’t realise it until you’re actually there, in the day. I had to stop and have a few moments to try and take it all in.

Ryan and I arrived in France on the Wednesday with a luggage allowance of 75KG! We picked up our hire car and headed straight to the venue. The weather was a bit hit and miss on the drive to the venue but I didn’t want to let it put a downer on things so we headed straight out to Ikea and Carrefour to get some of the final things we needed for the weekend. As our wedding was dry hire it meant that we had to source everything through vendors. However, there were somethings that were definitely cheaper to source ourselves, for example the caterers wanted to charge €2 per shot glass whereas you can get a pack of 6 for €1.60 in Ikea. The same with water and soft drinks. So after approximately 5 hours in the shops with a stop at McDonalds in between we were tired and headed back to the Chateau. On the drive back the heavens opened and I was sat in the back of the car surrounded by Coke and glasses and just cried. I thought, I can’t believe everything we have planned over the course of the last year is now going to be ruined by the weather.

We got back to the Chateau and unpacked everything into the caterers kitchen connected to the marquee and sat in the lounge with a bottle of wine and wrapped up our gifts for our family.

The Family Night

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The next morning we went out to the shops again and stopped at a local bakery to order some sandwiches ready for when the family arrived. We asked the lady if she could speak English and her expression was shocked so she ran to get her son to help! We ordered 20 huge baguette sandwiches and some eclairs and little pastry bits for the family lunch and headed back waiting for them to arrive. Literally as the coach turned into the Chateau the sun burst through! It was so exciting to have all of our family there to show them what we’ve been talking about for the past year. We showed everyone to their rooms and all gathered in the marquee for lunch. It was exactly what we wanted, having all of our family there just relaxing and enjoying time together.

That evening was the first event of the wedding weekend and we had hired the caterers to prepare a 3 course meal. It was so lovely having all of our family together and the food was amazing. As people were on the first night of their hols and it was the first night we could properly relax and enjoy ourselves a few of us got a bit rowdy and didn’t make it to bed until almost 2.

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The BBQ

The morning of the BBQ, Ryan wanted to laze about in bed and nurse his hangover but I was up and out of bed at 8am to tidy the barn as we had a list of tasks we needed to do that day! Me, Ryan, Mum and Ryan’s Uncle headed back out to the shops to pick up the remaining soft drinks and some bits for lunch for the family. The soft drinks were one of the things we were really struggling with, how do you quantify how many cans of coke are going to be needed for 80 people for a two day event?!

When we got back to the Chateau the weather was beautiful and everyone was sat outside in the sun so we had a little picnic, opened some wine. It was just perfect. It was exactly how we had pictured having all of the family together and one of the reasons that we decided on a destination wedding in the first place.

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That afternoon, we had a rehearsal with all the people who would be walking down the aisle. Ryan and his best man, our mums, the flower girls and page boys, the bridesmaids and me and dad. That was the first time I got emotional and had to fight back tears a little bit. Ryan’s little cousins Rufus and Rafferty were so funny and I was kind of hoping they would be a little bit naughty walking down the aisle on the wedding day, but they were absolutely perfect on the day.

After the rehearsal, Sheree (bridesmaid/hairdresser) took me upstairs and treated me to a hair wash and blow-dry so I could get ready for the BBQ. Luckily the weather held off for the BBQ and we still had lovely sunshine. For the BBQ we had a selection of garden games and our wedding planner had set up some picnic blankets under the trees for people to sit and chill out. We had giant connect four,  corn hole, Bowles, beer pong and rounders. The rounders was a hit and at one point almost everyone was there playing rounders together, I even managed to run in my dress and heels! It was so surreal seeing so many of our amazing friends and family from all different walks of life playing games together, drinking and just having the best time.

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We had the same caterers for the family night, the BBQ and the wedding day and the food was amazing. We had chosen a selection of meats such as lamb chops, pork, sausages, chicken, salmon skewers and it was all so tasty. At around 10pm it started raining, to be honest I’m just glad the rain held off that long! Our wedding planner, Sarah, was on hand straight away handing out umbrellas and pashminas to keep us dry. At around 10.30 the fireworks started. They were brilliant. I was stood next to Ryan and Dad watching the fireworks under an umbrella just trying to take it all in.

When the fireworks finished, me and Katie snuck off and went up to get ready for bed as Ryan was spending the night with his Best Man, Harry. I can honestly say that that night was the worst night’s sleep of my entire life! Me and Katie were convinced that we had food poisoning which resulted in me calling my Mum at 2.30am in tears as I had convinced myself that there wouldn’t be a wedding because all of the guests were ill with food poisoning! That obviously wasn’t the case and it must have just been a combination of nervousness and excitement. Katie also wanted to keep the light on the whole night as she was worried about seeing a ghost in the Chateau (which I did actually see the previous two nights). I managed about an hour and a half’s sleep and once we noticed it started to get light outside, Katie turned the light off. Then within about 15 minutes our alarms went off to start getting ready!

Singapore

I can’t believe that it’s taken me so long to watch Crazy Rich Asians – even after Ryan constantly nagging at me to watch it for so long! Anyway, it didn’t disappoint and watching it brought back all the emotions I felt when visiting Singapore myself a few months ago … and reminded me that I’m yet to write a blog about it!

So, slightly delayed, but I’ve finally got round to writing about our (very short) time in Singapore and all that we managed to cram into our visit!

Day One

We landed from Langkawi into the famous Changi Airport at around midday and, as we travelled lightly, we scurried out with our hand-luggage and wasted no time in the airport. We had read online about the budget / comfort taxis so it was a little disappointing when the airport staff tried scooting us into the higher end, expensive taxis.

We took the little budget taxi and raced to check into our hotel the Pan Pacific. We contemplated staying at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (and not just for the rooftop pool) but we decided that for the cost of the hotel we just wouldn’t make our money’s worth as we didn’t intend on spending any time at the hotel as there was too much exploring to be done! The Pan Pacific was a lovely 5* hotel, although it had more of a corporate feel than holiday, it was in a great location within walking distance to Marina Bay Sands Hotel and it has an MRT station less than a minute walk away.

Ce La Vi

We headed straight to Marina Bay Sands and up to Ce La Vi. We landed in Singapore the day after my birthday and so Ryan treated me to the three course lunch with wine pairings. The food, and wine, was delicious and the staff were so friendly they made me a birthday card with a Polaroid photo of Ryan and I, sang happy birthday and prepared a dessert with gold flakes and my name! (Definitely service of a 5* hotel!) We had amazing views across the Singapore Strait and could see some of the Indonesian islands from up there. After we finished our food we headed round to the poolside and sat overlooking the Marina with all of the skyscrapers whilst drinking more wine. I must admit that out of the two sides of the hotel, my favourite view was across the Strait, it overlooked the Gardens by the Bay and the views were just breathtaking. Living in Dubai I’m lucky enough to have a view of the Marina and skyscrapers as soon as I open my curtains in the morning, so it’s nice to see some greenery and nature.

Gardens by the Bay

Its not often that we go on holiday and do super touristy things but I was so excited to visit the Gardens by the Bay. I had seen so many pictures on Instagram and read up on a few blogs but I did not expect the trees to be so tall!

We walked around the gardens for a little while and then headed to the domes. We started in the cloud dome which was amazing! It’s incredible to think that they have replicated and created a natural oasis inside what is essentially a huge green house! I was shocked at how many different species of trees and plants were housed in there, let alone the waterfall cascading through the centre and the naturally formed clouds on the higher floors.

We then headed across to the flower dome which was lovely but by this point we were exhausted – and had done a fair bit of walking! We had purchased a joint entry ticket but didn’t realise how long we would spend in the Cloud Dome and would probably have been better to just buy a single entry ticket.

Level 33

We went to meet one of Ryan’s friends for dinner and drinks and he took us to Level 33, a bar in the Marina Bay Financial District with insane sunset views of Marina Bay Sands.

Usually we are the ones meeting people on holiday in Dubai and showing them amazing bars and restaurants for dinner so it was nice to have the shoe on the other foot for a change.

Day Two

Orchard Road

We started the day by taking the MRT to Orchard road and went for a lush breakfast at Wild Honey. We would never have found this little cafe but it came highly recommended from Ryan’s friend and it didn’t disappoint – and we do love our brekkies!

China Town

The second stop of the day was China Town. China Town was crazy and full of life! There were market stalls popped up all around, we visited a few temples and stopped to have lunch at one of the Michelin Star Street food shops. I could have spent hours just walking around the markets and taking in the hustle and bustle of daily life there.

Little India

Our next stop was Little India – we just took the MRT between all of our stops, it’s super easy to use and all of the stops are written in English, it’s by far the easiest way to get around the city.

Little India was much quieter than China Town but we still loved walking around the colourful streets 💛

Raffles hotel

Our final stop of the day was Raffles Hotel for a legendary Singapore Sling cocktail! Although the hotel was under renovation the Long Bar is still open (as is the gift shop where we spent a small fortune!)

The cocktails were lovely and the decor of the bar made me feel as if we were in the 1950’s it was a great experience. We also ate our body weight in monkey nuts!

Clarke’s Quay

We spent our final evening at Clarke’s Quay and ate in a lovely Asian restaurant called Little Saigon which was an Asian street food concept but the tables were sat slightly over the Quay which was lovely. We walked around and sat down at one of the bars right on the river bank and stayed there for a few hours drinking and watching the world go by.

Day Three

On our final day in Singapore we met up with my friend Ingmar who has lived in Singapore for the majority of his life. I met Ingmar when I first went travelling to Thailand at the age of 19 and we have stayed in touch through Facebook etc. since. It was lovely to see him as we had 7 years of life to catch up on!

Ryan and I then headed to Sentosa Island to spend our final day on the beach. We were unsure at first whether Sentosa, as a man made island, would feel like the Palm but actually we didn’t consider this once we were there. We took the tram across from the mainland which was only SGD$8 each for a return journey and extremely easy.

I couldn’t help but see the similarities between Singapore and Dubai. A financial hub, bustling city life but with the 5* hotels, beaches and all year weather (although I am aware at how lucky we were that it didn’t rain during our time in Singapore!) but the one thing I feel that Singapore has over Dubai is the nature and the deep rooted culture. My favourite part of our trip was spending time in China Town and drinking along the river bank in Clarke Quay.

Although indeed we were only there for little over two days, I have fallen in love with the place and I’m pining to return, whether for a holiday or permanently, who knows?!

Summer never tasted so good!

Those of you who know me, know just how much I love my food! Whether it’s a breakfast date, brunch, cheap eat or fine dining I just love eating out! Since joining Privilee, we have had the benefit of enjoying discount at some amazing restaurants throughout Dubai, and food definitely tastes better with a discount!

So here are some of my favourite restaurants in Dubai with Privilee discount:

Bussola @ The Westin

OK, I’ll admit, I ate here twice in one week (oops). Bussola is split into two restaurants with the fine dining restaurant on the lower floor and the pizzeria up on the first floor. I love the pizzeria because of the relaxed atmosphere, the pizzas are HUGE and are cooked in a clay oven and come packed full of toppings. The fine dining restaurant serves a great selection of pastas, salads, meats etc. and have gluten free options for all of the pasta dishes.

As a Privilee member, you receive 25% discount from Bussola from Sunday to Wednesday.

Little Miss India @ The Fairmont on the Palm

I think this is my new favourite Indian restaurant in Dubai! From  the moment you walk in the décor is so beautiful, from the large gate outside the entrance, to the vibrant painting around the bar and the elegant décor inside the restaurant itself. We ordered a selection of cocktails to start, all of which had their own Indian twist. When you enter the indoor seating in the restaurant the smell of the spices hits you instantly (I was salivating at this point!)

The waiter recommended the lamb chops to start, I would never have ordered lamb chops as a starter but four pieces were served in a jar with smoke funnelling out of the top! The meat literally fell off the bone! For our mains we shared a butter chicken, lamb Rogan Josh, pilau rice and lots of bread! I would highly recommend this restaurant and with Privilee you can enjoy 20% off the total bill (including the wine and cocktails)!

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Bounty Beets @ Le Meridien Mina Seyhahi

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 restaurant was very quiet when we visited so the service was great and the interior / fit out is lovely. The best thing about it though, is that with Privilee you receive 25% off the total bill!

Thiptara @ The Palace Downtown

The Palace Downtown is home to one of my favourite restaurants in Dubai – Thiptara. Not only does Thiptara serve some of the best Thai food in Dubai, it also has breath-taking views of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountains. Thiptara is a must when we have friends and family visiting on holiday and Privilee members get a lovely 20% discount off the bill!

The Atlantis

The Atlantis houses some of my favourite restaurants in Dubai including Nobu, Seafire, Breadstreet Kitchen and Privilee provides its members with 20% discount in each of these restaurants (and more)!

 

Privilee has an exclusive deal that’s valid for 72 hours only!! For AED 1499 you will receive a 3 month Privilee membership plus an extra 2 weeks for free so you can enjoy your EID holidays with Privilee as well. That’s less than 15dhs a day! You can find out more information on their website: https://www.privilee.ae/summer

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