Last year I booked a one night stay at the Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai for a relaxing girly weekend away with one of my friends. I managed to get a great rate on the hotel, booking a discounted “industry rate” as an Independent Travel Agent.
Besides from the road works on the way in, the entrance to the Versace Hotel is just as grand as you would expect. As you enter the hotel, you are greeted by the large Medusa head in mosaic tiles on the floor, the lobby is bright with high ceilings and coated in gold.
We reached the hotel early as we wanted to make use of the facilities and our room wasn’t quite ready, so we left our luggage with the reception staff and headed out to the pool.
The hotel has a gorgeous spa, salon and gym that you can access as a hotel guest. It also has three pools, the Central and West Pools are family pools and the East Pool is an adults only pool. Outside guests are able to use the pools at a day rate of AED200 which is fully redeemable on food and beverage but access to all three pools is complimentary for in house guests.
As the hotel does not have it’s own beach, hotel guests are able to use the pool and beach at the Nikki Beach Resort and Spa in Dubai at a charge of AED300 minimum spend per adult and AED150 minimum spend per child.
We decided to head down to the East Pool (making the most of it being adult only) and started our day off with some cocktails whilst soaking up the sun. The East Pool had a good choice of food on the pool menu, which is served from La Piscina, so we stayed around the pool for some lunch as well.
There is a great selection of restaurants at the hotel from Italian, to Iranian to Continental you won’t be stuck for choice.
For dinner, we decided to book into Enigma which is the Iranian restaurant and we ordered a selection of the mixed grill, rice and breads. The food was great and the service was excellent. The restaurant has a special dish called “Meet the King of Persia” which the table next to us ordered. This consists of a slow cooked lamb rack and leg which is marinated in “the King’s secret recipe” and is brought out by several members of staff playing instruments and with the King of Persia presenting the food to the table. It was great to watch – I kind of wish we had eaten it too!
Our hotel booking included breakfast for two in Giardino which is the hotel’s buffet restaurant. It had a great selection for breakfast including an egg station, pancake and waffle station, fresh pastries, fresh fruits and teas and coffees.
After breakfast, we headed back down to the East Pool for another day in the sun. Overall, we had a lovely stay at the Versace hotel, it was perfect for a relaxing, girly weekend with a lot of cocktails, sun and nice food.
So, even though this visit wasn’t technically a “staycay”, I recently spent the most amazing day at the luxurious, 7* Burj Al Arab hotel. The Burj Al Arab is Dubai’s most iconic hotel, located along Jumeirah Beach, next to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel – which is often referred to as “the Wave”. The Burj Al Arab is extremely exclusive with rooms being charged at a rate in excess of GBP2,000 per night! In order to even gain access to the hotel, you are required to have a booking at one of the restaurants, the beach club or the spa, otherwise you will not be allowed past the first security gate.
I am extremely grateful that my friend (and boss) treated me to a relaxing spa day and afternoon tea experience as a “baby shower” day and my last day at work before heading off on maternity leave. I have visited the Burj Al Arab previously for dinner in the hotel’s buffet restaurant, Bab al Yam, which is located on the first floor, and also to visit the beach club, Sal, which is located at the backside of the hotel but doesn’t require entrance to the main hotel. I was, therefore, very excited to spend some time inside the hotel itself.
Talise Spa at the Burj Al Arab
The Talise Spa is located on the 18th floor of the Burj Al Arab and from the moment you are welcomed at the spa’s reception, you are treated like royalty. Whilst completing our questionnaires before the treatment we were given a hot towel and fresh ginger tea which was lovely.
I had called in advance to confirm which treatment I would be able to have – as I was 37 weeks pregnant at the time. Unfortunately, I was not able to have the prenatal massage so I opted for the Moroccan Organic Facial which was not on the spa menu but came recommended by the therapist as being suitable for pregnancy as they use only organic, natural products.
The spa is separated into a female-only area and a unisex area which also contains the male changing facilities. We headed through the female changing rooms and were provided with our lockers which contained the softest slippers and robe – I felt like I was wearing a cloud. I was taken up to the room for my treatment and was blown away by the view. The female treatments rooms over look the Palm Jumeirah and have an amazing view of the Dubai Marina as well.
The treatment was so relaxing and my skin felt amazing. After the treatment, we changed into our swimwear and headed through to the unisex pool for a swim and some relaxation.
Following our extremely relaxing morning, we headed down to Sahn Eddar which is the restaurant located in the hotel lobby on level 1. Previously, the Afternoon Tea was served in the Sky Bar, however, the hotel has recently changed the location of the Afternoon Tea as the Sky Bar is now only open from 6pm each day.
Sahn Eddar was a beautiful setting for Afternoon Tea as the lobby is very bright with high ceilings and a view out towards the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Souk Madinat. We sat down just before the Afternoon Tea was due to start and ordered the gold-leaf Cappuccinos because, why not?
The Afternoon Tea consisted of four courses, starting with shredded Alaskan King Crab with Caviar and pancakes – although I skipped the Caviar – followed by a selection of four finger sandwiches which were plated and served to us individually. The next course consisted of a selection of tarts, pastries and biscuits which were divine. They were served on tiered plates that were shaped like the Burj al Arab itself which was a lovely touch.
The final course, my favourite, was a selection of warm scones with fresh cream and jam. I could only just about finish mine as I was extremely full by this point. Throughout the afternoon we could have unlimited drinks such as teas and coffees and as we had the non-alcoholic package it also included a sparkling juice.
We left the Burj Al Arab at around 5pm after a long, relaxing day of luxury and feeling extremely stuffed from our lovely Afternoon Tea.
The Seychelles has been on our bucket list for several years and it is somewhere we have saved for a “special occasion” trip. But, had I realised the flight time to the Seychelles from Dubai was only 3 hours 40, I would have probably visited sooner!
We booked our flights and hotel as a package using Emirates Package Holidays – I received several quotes from the hotels using my own connections as an Independent Travel Agent, but the price with Emirates is great when you purchase as a package as you get a discount on the flights too. Flights to the Seychelles from Dubai are generally quite expensive all year round and honestly, the timings weren’t the best for me being pregnant (and tired), but they worked well for maximising our stay for the long weekend.
Of the hotels available, we decided on Constance Ephelia, a stunning hotel across acres of land, with two private beaches and five restaurants – what more could you want?! Usually when we travel, we like to explore the local areas, local restaurants, day trips, island hopping etc. however, given I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time of our trip, we decided to use this time to completely chill out. Constance Ephelia was perfect for that as we really didn’t need to leave the resort.
Our flight left Dubai at 2.20am and landed in the Seychelles ahead of schedule at around 7am. I had been told by friends to book our airport taxi in advance as they can often be quite expensive, other friends also recommended the option of hiring a car and driving around the island ourselves. But for ease, we booked an airport transfer with Mervin Manouc at Sey Taxi who was a pleasure to deal with and charged us €45 each way, which was slightly less than the market rate of €50 each way.
We were at our hotel by 8am and after checking us in, they had a separate area for guests who had early arrivals to have some pastries and coffee which was a lovely touch. Our room was available shortly after which was great, meaning we were in our room by 9am so that we could unpack, get freshened up and set about our day.
Constance Ephelia has two beautiful private beaches located on the North and South side of the resort. We walked to the South side beach which was about 5 minutes from our room and then walked 2km across to the North side beach – the hotel has golf buggies available to take you but we decided to walk… we took the buggy every time after that!
The North side had a gorgeous French restaurant, Cyann, we stayed there for lunch and sat out on the beach overlooking the sea, it was heavenly. Cyann is a fine dining restaurant and the interior was just as stunning as the views outside. After lunch, we walked along the North beach and then took the golf buggy back to our room for some down time. That evening, we decided to head to Seswala, which was the local cuisine restaurant in our hotel. The half-board package was great, we were entitled to a 3 course meal at any of the restaurants each night of our stay. We decided to both have curries, one of the delicacies being bat fruit curry, but we weren’t brave enough for that. Ryan had the octopus curry whilst I had chicken and both were lovely.
After a great night sleep we headed down to Corossol, the hotels buffet restaurant, for our breakfast. There was a great selection for us to choose from with live cooking stations, freshly baked bread and pastries and a waffle / pancake station, so Ryan was happy! We followed breakfast with a chilled walk along the Southside beach and headed towards one of the pools to spend the day. The hotel had several pools located throughout the resort – not including the villas that had their own private pools – and each of the restaurants had their own pool. We spent the day at the pool of Adam and Eve which is the Asian restaurant.
For lunch, I opted for the Nasi Goreng and Ryan had the local fish wrapped in banana leaf. Both of our meals were excellent. After lunch, we walked around 12 footsteps back to our sun loungers where we crashed for a well-earned afternoon nap.
That evening, we booked into Helios which is the hotels Mediterranean restaurant. I have to say, I think this was my favourite restaurant at the hotel, each dish was phenomenal. To start, I had the gnocchi in butter and lemon sauce, followed by the grilled king prawns (there was a small supplement to pay in addition to the half board package for the prawns, but it was so worth it). Finally, I finished with the coffee and vanilla ice cream sundae.
On our third morning we were booked in for our PCR tests for our return to Dubai. After completing our form for our entry permit to the Seychelles we had the option of booking our PCR test straight away. This is through the government portal and they offer a 50% discount if you book via this method. Every hotel in the Seychelles is linked to this portal and our hotel offered the PCR testing service directly at our hotel. So we had our breakfast and then headed along to one of the villas that had been converted to a Covid testing facility. It was extremely efficient and saved any hassle of having to travel externally for the test.
We spent the rest of the morning relaxing around the pool near the Adam and Eve restaurant but decided to head outside of the hotel for lunch. We had read some great reviews about a restaurant close by called Del Place Restaurant. As the tide was low, we were able to walk from our hotels private beach, wade through the sea to the public beach and then a short 5 minute walk up to the restaurant. It was a beautiful setting overlooking the sea and the service was excellent. I opted for the prawns whilst Ryan had local grilled fish. When we left the restaurant, we decided to walk back to our hotel through the mangroves which was a lovely walk – although a little on the warm side at 2pm.
Every day at 3pm, the staff allow the hotel guests into the pen with the resident tortoise for feeding time so we headed down to see the little (well, big) guys.
On our final morning, and being the creatures of habit that we are, we headed down for breakfast at Corossol and followed it with a little beach walk. We then decided to head over to the North side of the island for our final beach day.
The North Side beach is completely breathtaking. We arrived at around 10am and saw that the tide was out and a lot of people were in the sea around waist height looking in the water. We walked over and realised that you could clearly see all of the coral reef and spent around an hour just walking around and looking down at the fish. It was as though we were snorkeling but we were walking in around with the sea up to our waist just looking through the crystal clear water. We saw thousands of colorful, exotic fish and even saw a puffer fish!
The hotel has a complimentary water sports service so we hired out a kayak to expend some energy before lunch – well, Ryan did! We had our final lunch in Helios restaurant and both opted for the fried fish sandwich – it was delightful.
Our flight back that evening was very late, at 11.50pm, but thankfully we were able to extend our room until 7pm for €150 which was worth the money as it meant that we were able to fully enjoy our final day.
The service throughout all of the restaurants and from all of the hotel staff was amazing, we couldn’t have asked for more and I would absolutely return to this hotel, with our little addition at some point.
A fair few months have passed since our amazing Ibiza trip this Summer and I realised I hadn’t shared the final part of our holiday!
For the final leg of our Ibiza trip we spent five nights at Hotel Torre Del Mar in Playa Den Bossa. The hotel was approximately a thirty minute drive from Es Canar and was located on the far right hand side of Playa Den Bossa beach. The vibe was very different to that of Es Canar. Es Canar was super chilled and felt slightly outdated with an older generation of tourists. Whereas Playa Den Bossa was much more vibrant and had a real buzz about it. To be completely honest, I didn’t like how busy it was to begin with, it actually made me feel very on edge (with regards to COVID) especially as Ibiza was only ever a gateway for us to get home to England.
So we left Es Canar and checked into Hotel Torre Del Mar on the Thursday, and that afternoon Ryan was still working but changed to our new hotel room.
I headed out for a leisurely walk along the beach almost to the far end of the beach and passed Ushuaia, the Beach House, Tanit Beach and others. I walked slightly faster as I passed Jet Apartments and Bora Bora (IYKYK, soz for being a snob). The beach is actually a lovely, sandy beach, unlike some of the other beaches we had visited in Es Canar which were smaller, cove like beaches. Apart from walking along the beach, we mainly ate and drank (a lot) during our time in Playa Den Bossa so I have listed out some of our favourites below. Of course, it goes without saying that every meal was started with a portion of olives and Aoili!
A visit to Casa Maca is an absolute must! The restaurant is attached to a cute boutqique hotel which is located on hill overlooking olive trees and and fields over into the city. You walk from the hotel down a gravel path into the various seating areas the restaurant has to offer with indoor and outdoor seating. As we walked through the restaurant to our table, there was a huge smoking BBQ pit that was towered with cuts of steak and fresh veg.
The food was some of the best we have ever had, we started with the baked aubergine and the chorizo with cheese, followed by the steak with a side of potato gratin, asparags and avocado. We definitely did not have room for dessert so finished with another Aperol!
We spent the day on the sunloungers as Cotton Beach, the booking came with a minimum spend so we had a delicious lunch consisting of sushi and a burratta and tomato salad. Later in the day we headed upstairs to the restaurant for some aperols, olives and Aoili (of course). The restaurant was such a vibe, we didn’t actually realise that they had a brunch on so we sat back and enjoyed the music, watching the brunchgoers partying away!
We had read some great reviews about Bambuddha before our trip and were excited to book in for dinner. The restaurant is a short 15 minute drive from Hotel Torre Del Mar and has vairous seating areas inside and outside. The food was amazing, we shared a selection of beef gyoza, edamame and softshell crab sushi to start, followed by the black cod (my absolute favourite), pad thai and crispy duck pancakes (literally drooling as I’m typing this!). The restaurant was such a vibe with a DJ and a great atmosphere.
On our first day in Playa Den Bossa I walked along the beach to scope out some of the beach clubs and came across the Beachouse, it looked great with a super relaxed Bali vibe. I tried to make a reservation for lunch for any of the days we were there but they were fully booked each day! So we decided to head down one morning for breakfast which was a nice change. The food was lovely and they even offer a variety of yoga and meditation classes in the mornings.
La Cava Tapas
One evening we decided to walk into the old town which was about a 30 minute walk from our hotel. La Cava has a real European vibe with the restaurant seating located in the middle of the highstreet. It had that hustle and bustle about it with people walking past shopping and on their way out for dinner etc. We absolutely love tapas and wanted to try as many things as possible on the menu and didn’t hold back, ordering the Iberian ham; patatas bravas; padron peppers (Ryan’s fave); aoli and olives, of course; calamari; beef meatballs and crusty bread and tomatoes. Everything was so tasty and we were glad for the thirty minute walk home to walk all the food off!
Ohana was a short walk along from Hotel Torre Del Mar and was the perfect stop for lunch for us, esepcially on the days when Ryan was working as he could pop out to meet me for lunch and return to work.
The walk from Hotel Torre Del Mar was about 40 minutes along the beach so I headed fror lunch to meet some friends whilst Ryan was working. The vibe at Tanit was really chilled and the restaurant had a lovely boho vibe. The menu had a lot of sushi (yum) and I opted for the buratta salad with an Aperol Spritz (of course).
We wanted to spend our final evening eating local food in a laid back restaurant – nothing too fancy. We had eaten quite a bit of tapas throughout our trip so decided to look for a restaurant serving paella. As luck would have it, Casa Manolo was listed as the best paella restaurant on the island and was a four minute walk from our hotel which was ideal. We hadn’t made a reservation as it was late notice so tried our luck and thankfully got a table before the restaurant became too busy.
The restaurant is located along the promenade on Playa Den Bossa beach and is very understated from the outside. The food, however, spoke for itself! We ordered the seafood paella to share and it was huge and delicious. I would definitely recomend this restaurant for authentic Spanish paella.
We were sad to see the end of this trip as we really had the most amazing time on the magical island – even more so knowing that it’s where our little bump was conceived! But, Ibiza was always just a route to get us back home to England to spend some time with the family this summer. Honestly, if we had the choice I don’t think we would have chosen Ibiza as the destination for our summer holiday but I am so glad that we did and we both really can’t wait to return.
We planned to spend the first leg of our trip in the small town of Es Canar which is located about 40 minutes from the airport on the north east side of the island. As mentioned in my first post, we extended our trip one day early, and unfortunately, our hotel in Es Canar was already fully booked so we were unable to add an extra night on. So we opted for a small village that was situated around 10 minutes away from Es Canar.
We found a cute little resort in Cala Llenya with good reviews called the Cala Llenya Resort and Spa. The hotel resort was quite dated but the rooms felt more modern, they were spacious and bright so it was perfect for the night.
We took a short walk from the hotel down to the local beach which was tucked away in a sheltered cove with crystal clear water.
On the way back we found a lovely little restaurant, Restaurant Cala Llenya, and joined the locals for some seafood – of course, I had the grilled prawns and Ryan had the mussels, which set the tone for the rest of the trip!
We planned on heading out for dinner as well, but I fell asleep around the pool at 5pm, moved to the room at 6pm and slept almost the whole way through to 8am the next morning! Breakfast was included in our stay so we fuelled up on bacon and eggs and checked out to head onto our second hotel of the trip in Es Canar.
AluaSoul Ibiza Resort
We were not stuck for choice when choosing a hotel on the island, Ibiza has everything from large 3/4* resorts, to apartments, to boutique hotels. AluaSoul is a 4* adults only hotel with the option of having breakfast, half board, full board and all inclusive packages. We opted for breakfast only as one of the only things we planned on doing during this trip was eating out! The hotel is situated a stones throw from the beach, surrounded by local eateries and just down the road from a taxi rank and a supermarket, so we had everything we needed in walking distance.
The lobby was lovely and bright, with high ceilings and windows and had several lounge areas where guests can chill. Upon check in, we were provided with a wrist band which identified our hotel package but also doubled as the room key – this was a great touch as we never had to worry about who was taking the key with them!
The hotel room was nice, although I would say on the smaller side, but had a worktop with a chair which was perfect for Ryan to sit and work at, as well as a balcony, lovely shower and it was equipped with dressing gowns, slippers, a fridge, hairdryer and bathroom toiletries.
Our balcony overlooked the pool area, which is one of the biggest highlights of the hotel. The pool area consists of three pools surrounded by sun loungers as well as an area of Astroturf at the top with another smaller pool. The pool area had a really chilled vibe and the hotel had in-house entertainment that was put on throughout the day with activities such as water-aerobics, waterpolo, abs workouts etc. For people to join in if they wished.
Exploring Es Canar
As we arrived at AluaSoul relatively early, we left our luggage with the staff and set out to explore the local area. The beach was lovely but we followed the sea further round the coast into the next bay which passed in front of the gorgeous Bless Hotel and found some stunning views and another spectacular beach.
As Ryan was working for the duration of our stay in Es Canar, each morning I would get up and go for a walk / run to explore. I had seen on the map that Nikki Beach was around 2.5km from our hotel, so one morning I made it my mission to find it. It was a lovely walk but when I arrived it hadn’t yet opened so I decided to stop next door in the ME Hotel for an iced coffee and admired the surrounding views.
The rest of my time was spent completely relaxing around the pool and of course, eating. I will share all of our restaurant recommendations shortly (there’s quite a few!)
We absolutely loved Es Canar, it’s chilled out vibe and great location, but our next stop and final stop of the trip was to Playa Den Bossa…
We have just returned from a lovely holiday in Athens and it was my first trip back to Greece in almost seventeen years – goodness that makes me feel old! Mum and Dad used to take us on our summer holidays to Greece when my sister and I were younger and we were lucky enough to visit several Greek islands including Crete, Corfu, Kos, Rhodes as well as Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. I love Greece and have lovely memories from our family holidays, like singing karaoke with Katie, playing card games with Mum and going on walks with Dad to find cats (I haven’t changed!)
So as the Eid holiday was approaching, Ryan and I looked into our options for travel, as certain countries are opening up for travel from the UAE – it also helps that we are both fully vaccinated. We were initially looking into the Seychelles but as Eid approached the prices started to rocket. So we browsed through the options on Emirates Package Holidays and found a great deal for flights and four nights accommodation in Athens and booked a locally branded hotel called Divani Caravel – it was quite a corporate hotel but was great for the price and a nice walk into the city centre.
We were so excited to be heading back to Europe as we haven’t been since our mini-moon in Nice almost two years ago. For the first time in ages we had a day flight which was actually lovely, we normally opt for the red eye night flight to maximize our holiday but decided to stick with the nice 10.50am flight which got us into Athens for 3pm.
When you arrive in Athens and you are fully Vaccinated for COVID (having had both doses at least 14 days before travel) then there is a separate queue which requires you to show proof of vaccination and you can head straight for passport control. Alternatively if you’re not vaccinated with both doses then you must go in the queue for a rapid COVID test (you do not need to pay for this) and await the results as a group before proceeding to passport control. It was strange receiving a passport stamp for entry to Greece!
We weren’t sure how easy it would be to get from the airport to the main city so we pre-booked our transfer on an app called Welcome Pickups. It was the first time I had used this app but it was extremely easy to use. It can be accessed across 63 countries and connects users to local taxi drivers (in the same way as Uber) but it allows you to book your ride in advance. We were then provided with the driver’s name, phone number and registration plate which was great. There is also the option of taking a metered taxi or the train as there is a train station located at the airport and several metro links across the city.
As planned, our driver was waiting in the lobby holding a sign with my name and we headed straight to the hotel. The hotel was slightly out of the city centre but was only a 25 minute walk. We thought that it would be a lovely way to walk around and explore the city each day. We reached our hotel at around 4.30pm, had a quick change and then set off on our first adventure. Of course, I had done my research online beforehand and found some gorgeous restaurants and tips for sightseeing in Athens (you can read all about our amazing dining options here). One of the top places to visit in Athens is Plaka; one of the older neighbourhoods which is filled with brightly coloured buildings and quaint restaurants and cafes. It was about a thirty minute walk from our hotel to Plaka and we loved taking in the views (and some beverages) along the way.
On our journey from the airport we asked our taxi driver for recommendations for any local bars we should visit during our trip and he suggested a wine bar called By The Glass. It was relatively easy to find from our hotel and sat outside overlooking a cute church whilst enjoying a few glasses of rosè and a charcuterie board – it was the perfect way to start our trip!
We had made a reservation at Psara Tavern – which means the old fisherman’s tavern in Greek – and is listed as the most romantic restaurant in Athens. The restaurant is gorgeous and set at the top of a stairway with other bars dotted alongside. The restaurant has a lovely view over Plaka and the food was just as impressive as the view!
I had planned a day of sightseeing for our first full day so we were up and rearing to go bright and early! We had breakfast at the hotel and set off straight to the Acropolis. We didn’t buy our tickets in advance we purchased them at the site entrance for €20pp. We had also toyed with the options of a tour guide but decided against it but it was easy enough to pick up local licensed tour guides at the entry for €50pp – these tours last approximately 50 minutes but we felt we wanted to go at our own pace although it would have been great to have the ancient history told along the way.
We were provided with a map, along with our tickets, which identified stops along the way with placards of information so we were able to read up on the information ourselves as we went at our own pace. We visited at the start of May which is outside of the peak season and it was an amazing time to visit as we only crossed a handful of people of the way up whereas we have been told that during the peak season there will be thousands!
After a few hours at the Acropolis we continued exploring the narrow roads of Plaka and the New Town before grabbing a taxi back to our hotel for a quick change before dinner. Uber was one of the most convenient ways for us to get around but it was just as easy to flag down the local yellow taxis and request the journey on the meter.
For dinner that night we had booked a restaurant called Orizontes Lycabettus which is located on Lycabettus Hill. To reach the restaurant you can either walk (not in heels) or take the cable car up which was €7 per person for a return journey. The views from the restaurant were amazing, we felt like we could see across the whole of Athens. As the sun started to set, we noticed what looked like smoke, followed by fireworks and the waiter informed us that Olympiacos had just won the league!
By our third day we were exhausted from all of the sightseeing so I was very happy we had booked a relaxing beach day in the middle. We grabbed a taxi outside the front of our hotel and headed down to the beach. The drive was around 35 minutes and cost around €17 in the taxi. Astir Beach Club is affiliated with the Four Seasons and when making your reservations online you can choose different sections, one being adults only (yes please)!
As we travelled before the season fully opened it was pretty quiet when we arrived, but in typical Louise style we were early. Throughout the day the beds started to fill up and we had chosen a cabana on the front row. It was super chilled and the food was amazing so if you are visiting Athens and need a day to relax I would highly recommend Astir Beach.
We had also booked dinner at a restaurant called Blue Fish that evening which is a short 15 minute walk from Astir Beach around the sea front. The food was incredible (you can read all about it here) and it was a unique dining concept which I would absolutely recommend if you love seafood!
Whilst we were in Athens, some of the COVID restrictions started to ease. A curfew was in place meaning we had to be home by 11pm but on our final night this was extended to 12.30am. We were also lucky enough that on our final day the restrictions on closure of museums was lifted, meaning we were able to visit the Acropolis Museum – to Ryan’s delight!
We walked from our hotel into the city centre and timed it well so we were able to see the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was interesting to watch as the guards are dressed in traditional uniform (my favourite part being their shoes).
The entrance to the Acropolis Museum was amazing as the museum itself is built over ruins which used to house some of the most affluent residences in Athens! The entry to the museum is €10 per person and you can purchase your tickets at the entrance on the day.
We ended our final full day by meeting some friends for drinks and dinner in the New Square, starting at A for Athens and finishing across the square in 360 Bar. Both of these bars have increidble views of the Acropolis during the day and at night.
We decided to have a lay in and just chill on our final morning so we popped out for our last breakfast and in true European style found a café on the side of the road to sit and drink our coffee and orange juice. We ordered an Uber for our journey back to the airport which was very straightforward and an easy drive.
For our return flight to Dubai we were required to show a negative PCR test upon check in so we arranged that with a company called IASYS. They were extremely responsive by email and I informed them of the date and time that we were flying and they scheduled our COVID test for the morning before. The nurse came to our hotel and carried out the test in our room which took no more than 15 minutes for us both from start to finish. We were then emailed our test results within 24 hours. This service cost €60 which we were more than happy to pay for the convenience of not having to leave our room!
My goodness did Athens have a vast range of cafes, bars and restaurants. I don’t think you would be able to work through them all if you tried! We carried out a little bit of research in advance of our trip and made reservations for our evening dinners but decided to just go with the flow with regards to our lunch and afternoon Aperols!
We stumbled across Athinaikon on our penultimate day when we were walking back from the Acropolis Museum. The restaurant looked beautiful from the outside and as we walked inside we saw an outdoor seating area on the road at the back. The seating area was surrounded by plants and had a lovely atmosphere.
We shared a half litre of the house wine along with the halloumi which was served Caprese style with fresh tomatoes. I chose the prawn linguini whilst Ryan had the mussels and we were both really impressed with the food. Our waiter was also great and very friendly. This was one of our top finds during our trip.
Plakaki is located in the same square as Pantheon (where we had stopped for a drink on our first day) and was super busy at lunchtime so we thought we would stop for a bite to eat. Ryan opted for the Greek Salad and I chose the margarita pizza (boring I know) but they were a great combination together and we devoured everything alongside a few Aperol’s.
We spent the day at Astir Beach Club a d pre-booked our cabana at online before visiting. We chose to have lunch in the Privilege restaurant which is located to the right hand side of the beach. The decor in the restaurant is lovely with neutral colours and a boho-vibe.
We shared (another) bottle of rosè as well as a burger and tempura prawns with kale chips. The tempura prawns were so good we had just about finished a mouthful and ordered a second portion! The staff were extremely friendly and we can imagine this restaurant will do great as the summer season starts.
After an active morning hiking the steps of the acropolis we stopped in Regal for some refreshments. It was slightly too early for me to have a wine – although Ryan was gasping for a cold beer – and instead I chose a homemade fresh lemonade. It was delightful and exactly what I needed.
On our final morning we decided to head out for breakfast and just along from our hotel was a little stretch of four or five cafes that we saw were busy most mornings. We popped into Utopia where I chose the English breakfast and Ryan chose the Greek breakfast. Both were lovely and came with a selection of coffee, juice, pastries, toast and jams. The restaurant was very popular and had a selection of indoor and outdoor seating.
We absolutely loved our dining experience at Blue Fish and would highly recommend this to seafood lovers visiting Athens.
The restaurant has a unique dining concept whereby you choose a whole fish or lobster (which are charged per kg) and the fish is prepared in four ways using four separate parts of the fish. This way, you enjoy the unique flavors of each part of the fish without any going to waste.
To start, we had the mushroom risotto which utilized the head of the fish which was used to prepare the broth of the risotto.
Next up was the fish collar which we chose to have teriyaki style and was served with grilled avocado and was delicious.
Following that was the fillet which was a lovely, meaty part of the fish cooked Robata style and served with mashed potato and grilled vegetables (this dish was my favourite!)
Finally, the tail fillet which was grilled and served in a curry style sauce with vegetables.
Each dish was so tasty and yet so unique and it was an authentic dining experience.
For our final night in Athens we decided we wanted some local Greek food and had read excellent reviews about Lithos online. It is located just outside Monastiraki Square – close to our favorite bars: A for Athens and 360. We were joined for dinner by some friends from Dubai so decided to share a few dishes. We chose the chicken souvlaki and pork souvlaki which are essentially skewers of grilled cubes of meat as well as the grilled octopus, which is a local specialty, and the Parma ham risotto. The food was honestly delicious and washed down with a bottle of Prosecco for the girls, red wine for the boys and some complimentary shots of oozo!
We came across Orizontes when searching through tagged photos of Athens on Instagram. The view looked stunning so we booked for a table at 8pm to ensure we got to enjoy the views in daylight and sunset. You can take a cable car up to the restaurant which is €7pp for a return trip. The cars run every twenty minutes which we didn’t realize but somehow timed it perfectly.
Although the restaurant was relatively quiet, the staff were lovely and gave us a complimentary soup starter. Ryan opted for the seabass whilst I had the prawns and we shared some Greek “Patatas Bravas”. The food was nice but the views were outstanding and that really was the highlight of this restaurant.
We had made a reservation at Psara Tavern – which means the old fisherman’s tavern in Greek – and is listed as the most romantic restaurant in Athens. The restaurant is gorgeous and set at the top of a stairway with other bars dotted alongside. The restaurant has a lovely view over Plaka and the food was just as impressive as the view!
We ordered a selection of breads and olives to start alongside the calamari which was some of the tastiest calamari I’ve had and a very generous portion size! We followed that with the prawn linguini and chicken gyros which came deconstructed with the bread, chicken tomatoes etc on the plate. Both dishes were so tasty – and actually the best food we had during our time in Athens.
In our eyes, the restaurant lives up to its name of the most romantic restaurant in Athens with the gorgeous views and an authentic setting.
A for Athens came highly recommended from several friends before traveling to Athens so it was high on our bucket list and did not disappoint. The bar is located in the same square as 360 Bar but I have to say, the views here are unbeatable! With a direct view across Monastaki Square up to the Acropolis we sat and watched the sun setting whilst enjoying some cocktails.
We had made the reservation via email in advance as we were visiting on a Friday evening and wanted to ensure availability but when making a reservation there is a minimum spend of €20 which is not required for walk in reservations – although this is around two drinks so we did not mind anyway.
On our journey from the airport we asked our taxi driver for recommendations for any local bars we should visit during our trip and he suggested a wine bar called By The Glass. On our first day we headed into Plaka via this bar and sat outside overlooking a cute church whilst enjoying a few glasses of rosè and a charcuterie board – it was the perfect way to start our trip!
We came across Lamiral one afternoon when we were wandering around Plaka and saw the gorgeous decor of the outside of the restaurant which enticed us in. We were actually walking off lunch so we’re not hungry at all so we stayed and enjoyed some drinks in the rooftop garden. It is a lovely spot for afternoon drinks and the food smelt divine when it was brought out to the tables around us.
We stumbled across a lovely square surrounded by bars and restaurants on our way into Plaka and decided to stop in Pantheon for quick drink before dinner. I had a lovely Aperol Spritz whilst Ryan got on the local beer and we sat in the sun taking in the alfresco ambience on our first day.
We visited 360 Bar post-dinner two out of the four nights of time in Athens. The bar has a great selection of cocktails, beers, wines and spirits as well as gorgeous views of the Acropolis and wider Athens. One word of advice would be to take the lift as opposes to the stairs as I was panting like a dog by the time I reached the bar!
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 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.
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 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!
Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa is one of my favourite hotels in Dubai. Located on the far end of Jumeirah Beach, the hotel has three swimming pools, two of which have swim up pool bars to really give you those holiday vibes! The hotel spans across a huge grass area which leads onto its own private beach which in turn connects down to JBR beach. The hotel is definitely family friendly with a children’s play area; kids swimming pool; volleyball courts; football pitch; table tennis and mini golf!
Ryan and I have visited Le Royal Meridien many times for brunch at Brasserie 2.0, which is a must if you haven’t done it before, and for pool days (as they often have some great deals, especially during the summer) but we had never actually stayed before. I decided to book a girly weekend (sorry Ryan) and my friend and I booked a one night stay with breakfast for a weekend in October of last year.
Pulling up to the hotel entrance, the concierge are instantly at hand to assist you with taking your luggage and valet parking your car. I love the lobby with its chic light interior, hammock chairs and seating areas. The hotel has installed clear plastic dividers between the guests and the hotel staff at the check in desk, as well as installing queue mechanics to ensure that a safe distance is left between the guests checking in. We had booked with a great deal on Booking.com and upon check in we were offered an upgrade to a sea facing room with balcony for an additional 60 dirhams, which we jumped at!
The rooms are modern, although on the slightly smaller size, and come equipped with all of the standard items you would expect, including extra-cosy dressing gowns (my favourite). We headed straight down to the pool for a frozen daiquiri and a sunbathe and relaxed straight into holiday-mode. Unfortunately, the hotel did feel quieter than the usual buzz it has about it – but that can only be expected in these times. The staff were great with taking all precautionary measures required as a result of COVID. The sunbeds were well distanced and the beds were frequently sanitised.
The hotel has a whopping twelve restaurants to choose from with the choice of Mexican, Indian, Italian, seafood, steak and international buffet. We wanted to get as much time in the sun and so for lunch we decided to order from the pool bar food menu and eat at our sun-beds. For dinner, as you can imagine, we were spoilt for choice but the steak restaurant, Rhodes 2.0 had a great offer on for starter, two mains, two sides and a bottle of wine for AED500! The food was amazing and the restaurant had a really romantic feel with high ceilings, chandeliers and an intimate feel to it.
I love a hotel breakfast and, I must say, this was one of the best hotel buffet breakfasts I think I have ever had! The choice was huge! We ordered sausage and bacon (yes, real pork), eggs in any way you like, and then headed up to the buffet. There was a great choice of pastries, fruits, juices, coffee, tomatoes, mushrooms, the lot. I didn’t need to eat again until dinner!
We couldn’t end our girly weekend without a trip to the spa for a pamper. So after breakfast we spent the morning around the pool and booked a massage for 3pm. The spa is also on the Entertainer which is great so the massage was buy one get one free.
I would absolutely stay at Le Royal Meridien again, and as we have a few friends that often stay at the hotel, we plan on joining them next time they make it over!
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 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.
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!