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!

Zanzibar

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

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

Stone Town

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

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

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

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

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

COVID Testing

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

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

Our Poor Hotel Choice…

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

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

Upendo Beach Zanzibar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safari in the Serengeti

I started writing this blog as we were sat in a tiny “terminal” waiting to board our flight from Zanzibar to the Seronera Airstrip for a two night stay at the Melia Serengeti Lodge. I’m feeling so grateful that we were able to experience our third African safari, having previously visited Tsavo National Park in Kenya and the Garden Route Game Reserve in South Africa.

In typical Louise style we arrived at the airport super early! As we checked in we were informed that we only needed to arrive 20 minutes before our flight, and there’s us standing there an hour and a half before. But, it was fine we just found ourselves a little seat in the corner to wait. The plane was tiny, the smallest I have ever flown on and seats 12 people, plus the pilots! We booked our flight with Coastal Aviation but there are several other companies that offer the same internal flight route. It was a surreal experience as we chose the seats at the very front within arm’s length of the pilots and we watched them intently as they prepared us for take-off.

We had two other airstrip drops on the way to Seronera Airstrip and as people departed our excitement grew to start our safari adventure. We were looking out of the windows and at one point we looked down and the pilot pointed out a herd of elephants walking under us, it was honestly an unforgettable moment.

Day 1

By the time our plan landed at the airstrip there was only Ryan and I and one lady left on the plane! Our safari ranger, Vincent, was waiting ready for us and took us straight for a gorgeous picnic in one of the segregated picnic areas in the park. We thought we would be heading straight to our hotel but didn’t realise that we were about to start our first safari of the trip which was amazing!

After the picnic the first animal we saw was a crocodile, basking on one of the streams. It was absolutely huge and the safari buzz kicked in instantly!

On our first day we were so lucky to witness six female lions dozing in a tree who then spotted a buffalo in the distance. We watched these lionesses for over an hour and a half as they stalked, one by one, down from the tree and into the grass to approach the buffalo. Thankfully, our ranger had binoculars at the ready for us and we witnessed the lions attack the buffalo, circling it and hanging off its back at one point! It was incredible to watch but I was happy to see the buffalo escape!

As we carried on our safari we saw a huge herd of elephants, my favourite, and I just loved seeing the playful babies in amongst the herd. We also saw giraffes, a serval cat, hyenas, lots of impala, ostrich, monkeys, warthog – to name a few!

When we arrived at our hotel, the sun was slowly starting to set. The hotel had kindly upgraded us to the “Savanah” room and we had a lovely, bright, open room with a cushioned terrace seating area so we sat back and watched the sun set before heading down for dinner.

Day 2

After our first super comfy night’s sleep we were up at 6am to get ready and head down for breakfast before starting our second safari of the trip. The breakfast, I have to say, was one of the nicest breakfasts I have had in a long time. We were greeted with a selection of pastries and preserves brought to the table, as well as juice and coffee and we were able to order eggs any way as well as side dishes. I opted for scrambled eggs with a side of bacon and it was delicious.

We set off on our safari just after 7am with the view of returning to the hotel by lunch time and to spend some time enjoying the hotel facilities. we requested to have Vincent for each of our safari’s. He has been working as a ranger in the Serengeti for over fifteen years so he had great knowledge of the animals, plants and locations of where certain animals liked to hang out. 

There was a lot of chatter on the radios amongst the rangers regarding the location of the leopards and cheetahs that morning so we spent quite a bit of time trying to scout them out, but with no luck. We then saw in the distance several vultures circling so Vincent followed their trail and we stumbled across a pride of nine lions, including a big older male and a younger male, of about five years old. We were so close to them but they didn’t appear phased in the slightest as they lazed about in the grass.

Later that morning we were due to be setting off about an hour and a half drive to the north to see the migration, but we received a call of a further sighting of the leopard. We set off on its trail and almost lost hope until Vincent, somehow, spotted him up in a tree! Even as we approached, Ryan and I still couldn’t pick out the leopard until we were almost below the tree. He just laid up on his branch chilling and watching the world go by, it was amazing. I honestly don’t think you can beat the excitement of searching for animals out in the wild and finally sighting them!

We then made our way to the northern quarter to check out the migration. We could see a sea of dark patches from a distance and as we approached we realised that we could see hundreds of thousands of zebras and wildebeest across the plains. It was an unforgettable sight. Our ranger had been told that earlier in the day there had been a cheetah sighting in the area, we unfortunately didn’t spot him but when we flew back to Zanzibar we were swapping stories on the plane and a lady showed us videos of two cheetahs eating a wildebeest – eek!

We ended up back at our hotel at around 3pm after an amazing almost eight hour safari and were treated to a wonderful set menu lunch, which was included as part of our all-inclusive package. I then treated myself to a dip in the pool – which was absolutely freezing at the time due to the wind – and left Ryan at the bar while I snuck off for a massage.

Day 3

We were so sad to be leaving the gorgeous Melia but counted ourselves so lucky for the amazing experiences we had in such a short amount of time. We sat down for the wonderful breakfast and checked out before setting off on our final safari.

We left the hotel on our journey back to the airport and gave ourselves some extra time in case we saw anything on the way… and did we see some sights!! We first came across a pride of 9 lions with 4 small Cubs! We sat watching them for a while and moved on. About 5 minutes up the road were two males on the road side following a scent. We were so close to them! The strolled in front of our car and carried on into the bushes. We then saw them stalking another female with 6-7 young cubs! The Cubs ran off to the right whilst the mum walked to the left. The largest male began to track her and it turned into a chase as the male started running after the female!! We followed parallel to them and realized behind us on the left side of the road was a family of giraffes who also started running as they had spotted the lions as well! Then a bit further a long we saw some hippos fighting! We felt like we were on a David Attenborough set!

We reached the airstrip and had to part ways with our lovely ranger Vincent (if you are planning a trip to the Serengeti I would highly recommend Vincent, his company can be found here). Our flight back to Zanzibar was indirect so we had a short layover in Arusha before embarking on the final stint of our magical holiday which was four final nights at a beach resort in Zanzibar.

The Magical Maldives

2020 was a tough year for travel but in December we were lucky enough to go on our first holiday of the year and we headed off to the Maldives. The Maldives has been on my bucket list forever, but we have always said we would save it for a special occasion. But, as our honeymoon was cancelled and we weren’t able to travel anywhere else in 2020 we decided to treat ourselves. 

A key factor when booking trips at the moment is whether quarantine is required on arrival and any other COVID restrictions of that country. The Maldives has been open for travel since the Summer and, when travelling from Dubai, the requirement is to present a negative PCR test upon check in and as residents, when returning to Dubai, a negative test was required for check in for the return flight. Apart from that, there were no other restrictions or isolation requirements in either the Maldives or Dubai. 

So, with a five day public holiday approaching, we took the plunge and booked a four night all inclsuive stay at Ozen Life Maadhoo.

Firstly, and most importantly for travel in current times, Ozen’s response to COVID was outstanding. The island is COVID free which means that hotel guests are able to roam the island without the need to wear masks – we had forgotten what that felt like! Our personal Butler, Kunal, assisted us with everything throughout our stay, including scheduling our COVID test for our return flight to Dubai via the hotels onsite doctor. The doctor came to our room for an examination and to conduct a nasal and mouth swab. The results were then sent to the main island for analyzing and we received the results the following day. Ozen provided us with a soft copy of the report and hard copy print outs for the check in desk at the airport. Given the travel situation in the world right now we were anxious about travel but Ozen really took that stress and worry away.

Now onto the fun stuff! 

From the moment we arrived at Male airport an Ozen member of staff was waiting for us. They greeted us at arrivals, took our luggage and we set straight off on the hotels private boat for the 45 minute journey to the island. 

The island was absolutely stunning. On arrival, we were given an itinerary for our stay which included a fishing trip, dolphin sunset trip and a snorkel trip as well as reservations at each of the hotel’s restaurants. We didn’t have to think about anything – it was the ultimate relaxation.

The hotel has five restaurants which were all included as part of our all inclusive package (I will write a separate post about all of the amazing food we ate during our stay). We stayed in one of the overwater villas which was a dream come true. The hotel also has beach front villas which looked just as amazing, imagine waking up and stepping onto your own private beach! We really wanted that Maldives experience of laying out on the terrace watching the fish swim below, and heading down the steps of our room straight into the ocean.

Ryan and I are creatures of habit so every morning we got up and sat out on our terrace trying to spot any sharks or sting rays with our morning coffee before heading down to breakfast. We ate in the Palms restaurant every day for breakfast which had a great buffet selection along with a live cooking station. Ryan followed his three course breakfast with a Mimosa, whilst I had an iced coffee with a shot of Kalua as my tipple!

The island was so relaxing and each morning we would set off on a walk or bike ride around the island after suitably stuffing ourselves at the buffet! The sun was very powerful and even though we live in the sun all year round we still got quite burnt!

Another great benefit of the all inclusive package was the unlimited complementary use of snorkel equipment, kayaks and paddle boards so most mornings on the way back from our walk, we would stop off at the water sports area and head out on the water. I love paddle boarding, Ryan on the other hand isn’t much of a natural so he would always opt for a kayak!

One of the highlights of our stay was dining in the under water restaurant, M6M, which is located 6 meters below the sea! Eating lobster and drinking champagne whilst watching the sharks swim by – that’s an experience that is going to take a lot to beat.

Also included within our all-inclusive package was a complimentary 60 minute spa treatment which we saved until our final morning. The spa is located nearby the gym and saltwater swimming pool and consists of several small huts which each accommodate couples massages and face out to sea. The massage was heavenly and the perfect way to end our five days in paradise.

We cannot fault any part of our stay at Ozen. Every member of staff took time out of their day to speak to us, ask how our day was going and if we needed anything. We can’t thank them enough for making this trip so special. We already can’t wait to return.

A Lovely Stay at the Zabeel Saray

During our intense period of lockdown I felt as though I was constantly scrolling through booking.com and other hotel booking apps, sat inside our little one bed apartment just day dreaming. At that point in time, hotels weren’t able to open to the public as a result of COVID and there seemed to be a crash in rates. Being the bargain hunter that I am, I booked a one night stay at the Zabeel Saray for mid-July. The deal – AED600 including breakfast and taxes… I couldn’t believe it either!

Ryan told me not to book as we didn’t know what the situation would be with regards to the lockdown, I know he was just being his typical sensible self, but I thought if it’s booked on free cancellation we can just assess the situation closer to the time. So that’s exactly what I did!

As our staycay date approached, Dubai started to open up and the COVID rules relaxed. The Zabeel Saray is a hotel that I have wanted to stay at for such a long time now and it just so happened that we had cause for celebration on the weekend we stayed there as i had just finished my notice period at my previous job so it marked the start of a new chapter for me.

We have visited many hotels in Dubai for beach days, brunches etc. but, surprisingly, neither of us had previously visited the Zabeel Saray! As we pulled up to the hotel entrance it was just as grand as I had expected it to be. The hotel staff was exceptional and they have put many measures in place in relation to COVID. Our room was available upon arrival which was great – I love it when that happens!

We headed straight to our room to change and get down to the pool. Of course, in July the weather is very, very hot. So we really wanted to get a bed close to the pool so we could easily jump in and cool off, but the pool was absolutely packed with kids, eek! There were no beds available and just so, so many children! I guess this was the only downside to the hotel that, not having an adult only swimming pool! But we moved on down to the beach and with an umbrella and a slight breeze it was actually lovely.

For lunch we headed to the pool restaurant, Plaj, which had a Côte d’Azur feel to it, so I sipped my Aperol, closed my eyes and imagined that’s exactly where we were!

After a day in the sun we headed up to our room for a glass of bubbles on the balcony, and I treated myself to one of my favourite things to do in a hotel room and that was a nice, hot bubble bath!

For dinner, we decided on the hotels Indian restaurant, Amala, which has also been on my restaurant list for a while and it’s on the Entertianer which was a bonus! I really wanted to visit the Rib Room which is a steak restaurant located at the hotel but sadly, as a result of COVID, the restaurant hadn’t yet re-opened. Amala did not disappoint and we left suitably stuffed, there was no room for dessert but there was just about enough space for one more glass of bubbles on our balcony!

After an incredible night sleep, on the worlds fluffiest pillows, we were treated to a delightful breakfast. The breakfast is usually buffet, however, the hotel had adapted to allow you to order a “main course” from the breakfast menu followed by several trolleys of pastries, fruits, yoghurts, juices and coffee! Worn out from all of the breakfast, we pitched up on the beach again and had a little nap!

We loved our stay at the Zabeel Saray, the highlight was definitely the enormous bath in our room and the gorgeous view from our balcony.

Stellies and Safari

Our recent 10 day trip to South Africa was split into three parts, four nights in Cape Town (you can read about it here and also about all of the amazing food that we ate here) three nights in Stellenbosch and two nights at a safari lodge – the Garden Route Game Reserve. Each part of the trip was completely different to the other, with each area having a totally different vibe.  This is one reason I loved South Africa; the abundance of activities and beautiful places that it has to explore.

Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch, or “Stellies” as the locals refer to it, is only a short one hour drive from Cape Town. We had pre-booked a driver however, we soon found out that most people simply book an Uber to take them, this is a much cheaper option, although having our hotel transfer was very convenient. As you leave Cape Town, the terrain changes entirely, the towns become more dispersed, it’s much greener and you can see mountains and fields for miles.

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Zorgvliet Wine Estate

When deciding on our accommodation for Stellenbosch there was a huge selection to choose from. So many lovely boutique hotels; farm houses; luxury guest houses and so on. One of our criteria was that we wanted to choose accommodation that was directly connected to its own vineyard, but within a reasonable budget so we decided on Zorgvliet Wine Estate.

When we arrived the sun was beaming down and it was a gorgeous 27 degrees! The hotel only has 12 rooms which sleep from one to six guests so it had a very personal feel to it. From checking in the staff were extremely friendly and helpful and we were able to head straight to our room. We decided to take a walk out through the vineyards and explore the estate. Everything was so beautiful. We made our way round to the chapel and wine tasting room. You are able to hire the hotel and grounds out for private weddings, I kind of wish I knew this a year ago!

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Situated around the back of the hotel was a cute little farm shop (which I spent far too much money in) and they had a picnic basket menu …. yes, a menu for selecting your picnic basket. It was so cute! We chose a basket that came with chicken wraps, cold cuts of hams, a cheese selection, salad, baguette, chocolate brownie and, most importantly, a bottle of white wine! We sat on one of the little picnic benches enjoying our picnic and it was just lovely.

The Fat Butcher

That night, we ventured out of the hotel to visit the Fat Butcher steak restaurant which is located in Stellenbosch town centre. We drove through the university campuses to get there so it was nice to see a bit more of the town. From the outside, the restaurant looks very quaint and relatively small, inside was a different story! There were several different rooms all full of people dining. We were sat in the main room, close to the bar. The interior was lovely and the staff were all wearing lovely brown leather aprons. To start, I ordered the carpaccio which was really thick compared to the usually wafer thin slices of beef, I was almost full with the main part yet to come! Ryan had the bone marrow which most other people appeared to order as well! For our main we shared an 850g T-bone steak with truffle mash, seasonal veggies and a bottle of red wine. There was no room for dessert, but there was space for an espresso martini! The overall bill came to just over £50, we couldn’t believe it. I don’t know if we are just spoilt with Dubai prices or if South Africa really is super cheap!

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Delaire Graff Wine Estate

The next morning, Ryan headed out to De Zalze golf course for a round of golf and I had booked myself in for a spa morning at Delaire Graff Estate. I had a 60 minute body massage followed by a 60 minute facial and then headed out to the infinity pool for a chill, what a treat. Ryan joined my shortly after and we sat and had a few glasses of champagne while chilling around the pool. We had a wine tasting session booked in where we sampled five of their wines, followed by lunch out on the terrace. The food was amazing! I had the pork belly and Ryan chose the sea bass. By the time we left I was quite tipsy and very full. We arrived back at our hotel and Ryan went for more wine tasting (I don’t know how he managed it) whilst I had a little snooze around the pool.

Platform Wine and 3/4

On our final day in the winelands we headed across to Franschhoek. We had booked a transfer with the Wine Tram company in advance but it wasn’t actually required as it was only around a 15 minute drive from our hotel and we definitely could have got an uber there. The Franschhoek Wine Tram was one of our favourite days in SA! You definitely need to book in advance online to avoid disappointment and do a bit of research to decide which vineyards and route you would like to do for the day. I let Ryan choose this for us and he decided on the orange line. We started by getting on a bus to the first part of the tram line for the orange route. Once we sat on the tram we were each given our first glass of wine of the day … it was 9.36am!

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At the start of the day you’re provided with a schedule which outlines each of the stops, the time that the tram or bus arrives, and the time that it will depart. They stick to the schedule by the minute! The tram/bus picks you up from each stop after every 35 minutes / 1 hour 10 / 1 hour 45 and so on, so you can plan your day according to how many stops you wish to visit.

The first vineyard we visited was Noble Hill. We sat out in a cute little terrace for the wine tasting followed by a stroll around the grounds. We allowed 1 hour 10 for this stop so we didn’t feel rushed and it was just the right amount of time.

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Next, we visited Babylonstoren and spent just under three hours here! As you leave the bus stop on the left hand side they have a small gift shop that sells soaps and creams and you can make your own foot scrub and face clay! I had far too much fun in here mixing up the little potions. We also saw the small factory at the back where they extract lavender and rosemary oil from the leaves harvested around their grounds.

Their wine tasting room was a lovely bright area with floor to ceiling windows so you could look out across the vineyards. It was absolutely packed full of people in there but we managed to get a seat and enjoy the tasting. Some people were pairing their wine tasting with food platters but we had made a lunch reservation at a different restaurant on the grounds, Babel. Just outside the restaurant were two huge turkeys, I made a joke that they were getting ready for Christmas to which the waitress replied “those are actually our pets”… awkward.

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The food in Babel was amazing, honestly we didn’t have a bad meal during our entire holiday! I had the steak with my favourite glass of red wine I had tried during the tasting and Ryan ordered the pork belly. I could have spent all day at this vineyard as there were so many parts to it and if you follow them on Instagram they show different activities they have on at different times of the week, such as gardening and activities within their farm.

Our penultimate stop was at Vrede En Lust. By this point I was 11 glasses in and actually needed a break, Ryan soldiered on though and sampled another six wines there. This was my favourite vineyard for views. We sat outside on the little terrace looking across the vineyard with the mountains in the background and you could see the tram line and watch the tram arrive into the platform.

Our final stop of the day was at Boschendal it was stunning and by far the largest
estate that we visited. I decided to do the Rose Garden tasting which included two “tastings” of champagne which actually turned out to be full size glasses! I’m not sure how we were still standing by the end but we headed back to Stellenbosch and decided to chill in and have dinner at the little restaurant within the hotel.

Safari

The last stop of our trip was a two night stay at the Garden Route Game Reserve. It was a four hour drive from Stellenbosch to the reserve so we booked our driver in advance via the Game Reserve itself. The journey really wasn’t too bad and on the way we saw baboons and a little giraffe out in the distance. As we turned into the Game Reserve I was so excited.

We checked in and were given our itinerary for the three days. We had just enough time to drop our bags to our cute little hut before heading out on our first sunset safari. Our jeep held ten people plus our guide and we headed out in search of the Big Five.

The reserve’s land stretches for hectares! It is separated into different sections housing certain animals. Firstly is the elephant enclosure. The reserve has two elephants, both of which were rescued from elephant back safaris and are now living at the Reserve. As they have been used to human contact, and due to the huge amount of food that they eat per day, the eles have a bit of help from the staff with their food but you still cannot get close enough to touch them.

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The second area houses cheetahs, rhinos, hippos, zebra, water buffalo, ostrich, antelope, gazelles, springbok and many more. All of these animals live life as if they are truly out in the wild. There is no human contact whatsoever and you really have to drive around searching for the animals! We were lucky enough to see a Mummy, Daddy and baby rhino! When asked how many rhinos the reserve has our guide informed us that they are not allowed to disclose the exact number as rhinos are a protected animal and in danger of poachers so they have to keep their rhinos safe!

We were also lucky enough to see a cheetah with her four cheetah cubs! The cubs are around five months old, still a bit fluffy and super cute! The mum has a collar on her neck and when we asked why this was, our guide informed us that they track the mum to ensure that she and the babies are safe while they are growing. The reserve is also part of a cheetah conservation programme whereby when the cheetah cubs are old enough they will be sent to another game reserve to live. This ensures that the cheetahs bloodlines stay pure and there is no interbreeding within the families.

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Part way through our safari we pulled over for a little picnic, we had wine, beer some snacks and watched as the sun was starting to set. At he end of the Safari we were dropped back to the main part of the reserve where the staff had lit some bonfires and stood around having a glass of wine before heading to dinner. The perfect end to an amazing day.

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We were up bright and early the next morning to head out on the sunrise safari. We were told the animals were likely to be more active than the previous evening and we set off in search of the King of the Jungle in the lions section. The gates opened and as we drove through we saw the first of many springbok carcasses abandoned in the grass. As we approached we saw the big daddy with not one but four female lions around him. We stopped nearby, but still at a safe distance, and watched them go about their morning. One of the females started walking around and pulled a funny face that looked as if she was about to sneeze (our little cat Ted actually pulls the same face at home sometimes) and our guide informed as that she was picking up a scent of prey to catch for their lunch! This enclosure also homes springbok, antelope, gazelles etc so the lions are required to hunt for their prey; and the prey are still required to run!

The Safari ended at around 7.30am so we had breakfast and by this point the rain had set in so we sat out in the balcony at our hut over looking the watering hole and decided to crack open a bottle of champagne before our massage at midday!

Our final Safari that evening took us to yet another enclosure, this time in search of the final animal on our Big Five list, the giraffes. This enclosure is the newest piece of land that the reserve owns and only opened last year as it took four year to create the correct terrain for the giraffes and to plot the route for the safari to take. We were searching for around an hour before eventually sighting the giraffes. We stopped off again for our sunset picnic before driving back to the main reserve. As it had been raining that day we were lucky enough to see a hippo out of the watering hole grazing.

We had such an amazing time at be Garden Route Game Reserve and I would highly recommend it for those who don’t have enough time to head down to Kruger or other national parks that are much further away from Cape Town. It’s clear that all of the staff at the reserve are extremely passionate about the welfare of the animals and focus on the importance of allowing them to remain living in the “wild” whilst in the safe boundaries of the reserve.

Food in Cape Town 

I honestly don’t even know where to start with all the food we ate on our trip. We didn’t have one bad meal during our entire stay in South Africa and with such an abundance of choice, it was difficult to choose where to eat! We had received so many helpful recommendations from friends on the best places to eat before visiting and it was advised to make reservations so we weren’t disappointed!

Camps Bay

La Belle Bistro & Bakery

When we arrived in Camps Bay our hotel room wasn’t quite ready so we headed out for a bite to eat. Conscious that we had our Afternoon Tea already booked for later in the day we chose La Belle Bistro & Bakery and shared a pot of mussels, calamari and a few glasses of the Chenin Blanc. I don’t know if it’s because we were quite hungry or what, but the mussels in white wine sauce were some of the best I have ever had.
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The Bungalow

We were super excited to try the seafood at The Bungalow and it didn’t disappoint. Our reservation was at 8pm but I would advise arriving earlier to watch the sunset. The restaurant is located just off the beach with a really relaxed vibe. You can choose to sit in the marquee seating area closer to the beach or a bit further back into the restaurant. We ordered a portion of the langoustines which came with 6-8 in a serving and one portion of the prawns which came with 10 in one serving! We ordered a side of chips and veggies and a bottle of white wine. It felt like a lot of food but, of course, we finished it all! The staff were friendly and very informative and it was, all in all, a lovely evening.

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Bilboa

We sat in Bilboa for some sunset drinks one evening but as we started to see the food being brought out to tables around us we got slightly envious! So we ordered some starters just to tide us over until our actual dinner reservation later on that night. I ordered the halloumi which was amazing. It was served with a light marmalade sauce, freekeh and chilli. Absolutely gorgeous. Ryan ordered the lightly battered prawns which, considering it was a starter, was a generous portion of 5 large prawns. I wish we had time to return for a main meal! Upstairs, they have a rooftop bar, Chinchilla, which was much more lively with a DJ whereas the restaurant itself is a more chilled vibe.

Codfather

My favourite seafood meal in SA (and situated less than a three minute walk from
our hotel)! The Codfather had a much more rustic vibe to the restaurant than others we dined in. We visited for lunch and were dressed in our gym clothes and trainers as it was our reward after completing the hike up Table Mountain! They have a sushi counter with all of the fresh sushi on the conveyer belt which you can help yourself to at any time and take back to your table. They also have a fresh fish counter and your waiter explains all of the different types of fish that they have on offer and their flavours, what you should accompany it with and helps you decide on the portion sizes. As we had just worked up a huge appetite, we ordered 3 langoustines each, 3 prawns each, Kingklip fillet (which is the local line caught fish and is very similar taste and texture to cod) and also some butter fish, which was absolutely gorgeous and I would highly recommend. The food is served in a copper basket with rice, chips, vegetables and a side of four sauces, the garlic butter was my fave! We demolished the food and saved a little bit of room for some sushi which was super fresh and tasty!

Paranga

Paranga is located just along the seafront in Camps Bay with a mixture of big groups and couples dining when we joined for dinner which created a great atmosphere. We both opted for steak for dinner this time and were not disappointed. Ryan ordered the rib eye whereas I ordered the fillet, both cooked medium and with chips, mash and peppercorn sauce on the side. My steak was slightly undercooked for my liking but the staff quickly rectified that and when it returned it was cooked perfectly.
I saved room for desert this time and we ordered the rocky road which came with brownie, crushed chocolate biscuit, marshmallows, piped walnut icing and espresso flavoured ice cream. I’m not going to lie, this was my favourite part of the meal!

V&A Waterfront

V&A Food Market

If you’re in the area and are not quite sure what to have for lunch, head straight to the food market at the V&A Waterfront. I lost count of the number of different stalls inside offering everything from pokè bowls; samosas; wraps; burgers; oysters and fresh seafood; biltong; desserts, you name it and you’ll find it in there. We ordered a selection from different stalls including samosas, grilled pork belly wrap, lamb with aubergine wrap and Ryan got a beer (of course). We sat outside on the picnic benches and 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.
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Harbourfront House

We were so lucky with the weather when we visited the V&A Waterfront so we headed to one of the bars overlooking the port and had a few glasses of wine and some sushi. It’s in the perfect location for people watching so we each had a few glasses of the Chenin Blanc (as you can tell this it been a favourite of ours this holiday!) and the teriyaki salmon sushi which was lovely!
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We also wanted to visit the Grand Africa Restaurant and Beach Club during our stay in Cape Town but sadly, due to having to reschedule our hike up Table Mountain, we didn’t have time on this trip.

Others

Mount Nelson Hotel

Afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel has been voted in the top 10 in the world, and we understand why. Upon arrive the service is exceptional. The hotel has a high end but relaxing feeling to it. The weather was beautiful so we sat outside on the terrace and ordered a few glasses of MCC to go with our sandwiches! They start by first providing you with a stand of hot and cold savouries including salmon, egg, ham and cheese sandwiches, spinach and cheese frittatas, onion bhajis and others. You can request any of these as many times as you like! Then come the scones with jam and clotted cream. Obviously we had the standard disagreement on whether the cream or jam goes on first (I say jam, Ryan says cream)! The sweets are kept inside the lounge area and there’s a huge variety but by this point I was exceptionally full! They also have a menu with over 40 varieties of tea, all of which are included in the price. Overall, it was a lovely, relaxing afternoon and an entitled different vibe to the hustle and bustle of Cape Town outside of the hotel walls.

Two Oceans

We stopped at Two Oceans for lunch during our day trip down to Cape Point, before heading to Boulders Beach. We had read about how busy the restaurant gets so booked in advance which I would definitely recommend to avoid disappointment! We had a great seat outside overlooking the sea and ordered one of the seafood platters to share which came with a selection of prawns, mussels, kingklip, calamari and chips. It was the perfect amount of food for two which we shared with a bottle of white wine and couldn’t resist the carrot cake for dessert!

Pot Luck Club

The last, but by no means least, and actually our favourite restaurant that we visited, the Pot Luck Club. Reservations open on the first day of the month before you wish to visit, so we made sure to set a reminder to make our reservation on the 1 of October to avoid disappointment! When we arrived we were welcomed with a complimentary glass of champagne each as we had informed the staff that we were celebrating Ryan’s birthday which was a lovely touch. We were sat just opposite the cooking station so had the entertainment of watching the chef at work all evening which was so impressive. The menu is based on a tapas / sharing concept and they advise that you order 6-8 dishes to share. The plates are brought out in the order recommended by the chef, starting with the lighter dishes first.
We started with the fresh ceviche tacos, served with a jalapeño sauce, followed shortly after by the calamari which was lightly fried and served with a mustard aioli and Parma ham. Next came Doenjang Glazed Tuna which was four generous chunks of tuna, lightly seared with a teriyaki style sauce. Up next was the Springbok Carpaccio, I almost didn’t want to order this dish but I’m so glad we did as the meat was so tender and with balsamic dressing and thin crouton crisps on top, it was delicious.
These were essentially our starter dishes and we then moved on to the heavier plates, starting with the Peri Peri Chicken which was cooked perfectly and served with a feta crumble on the top – slightly better than Nandos I must say! Our penultimate dish was Penang Pork Belly which was served in a light coconut curry sauce with broccoli and broken fish crackers. We definitely got the taste of Malaysia through this dish. Finally, we finished with the Smoked Beef Fillet served in black pepper, truffle and cafe au lait sauce. Oh my god it was amazing.
Overall, everything about this restaurant was incredible, from the service, to the ambience in the restaurant and of course, the food.

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?!