Have you ever dreamed of going to a place you've always seen in photos ? Rottnest Island was one of the places on our bucket list, we booked via Rottnest Express easy booking took only a few minutes, we checked the weather prior to booking, as you always do , it said it would be sunny.... unfortunately it was very windy and cloudy. 

We parked at Fremantle Docks (B-shed on Victoria Quay), and went onto the Rotto Express boat, loved the staff and service, theres a snack bar on board, and the whole trip took us 20 minutes, not too bad considering the windy weather I thought oh God this trip will be so choppy and I´ll end up being sick (happened in Maldives!). once we arrived there was a lot of people already on the island. we wore cardigans because it was quite cold, although it didn't rain, the overcast was pretty bad. 

We didn't let the weather stop us from having fun, we took a map and started to explore Rottnest, you will see a lot of Quokkas around and take the famous selfie with them, my kids loved this experience they truly are the ¨Happiest Animals on the planet¨(the Quokkas I mean ). Theres a quite a lot of things to do on the island, we booked snorkel gear to do some swimming but we didn't get to do any of that due to the weather, theres bike hires on the island, which is a great way to explore. A few cafes and a bakery, a supermarket and an Italian restaurant. a gift shop which had really nice souvenirs and beach wear. You may also book accommodation on the island, it will be great to spend a few days on the island rather than just booking one whole day! 

Things to do on Rottnest are, the free guided walking tours of Rottnest, bike and snorkel rentals, swimming in the clear waters with 63 beaches and 20 bays to choose from, learn about the history of Rottnest Island in the Museum, climb the lighthouse, theres whale watching expeditions, see all the wildlife on the island which include the Quokkas , birds and dolphins, sky diving over Rottnest Island, these are just a few things you can do on this beautiful Island. 

We had our lunch on the beach, the kids slashed around on the shore, I just cant wait to come back again in the summer and snorkel! Loved Rottnest and so lucky to be living in Western Australia and being able to make a short trip whenever we can and explore more! if youre in perth then you need to add Rotto on your list, Below are links to help you book !

Booking your trip on Rottnest Express (ferry) :

¨You don´t have to be rich to Travel well¨

Im back to Srilanka, I cant help it I love this place so much, Im determined to visit all parts of Srilanka ! This time it was just me and the kids, Summer holidays and all, two bored kids at home, husband on training, this time, I knew exactly where I wanted to stay this time, a property Ive been dreaming about for a year but never had a chance to book until now.
Arabella On Boossa is a newly built private hotel, in Gintota, a comfortable two and a half hour car ride from colombo Airport, overlooks the beachfront, and just 10 minutes away from Galle Fort by Tuk Tuk.  We arrived pretty early, our check in was smooth and super fast, we were shown around the property by the Rohan, the front office manager, he´s lovely, Rohan showed me around our massive suite, and when I mean Massive I mean ¨wow¨ this was the biggest suite I´ve ever seen, ask for Room 8 ! The ceilings are so high, contemporary and Srilankan style, large windows that fold out onto the private balcony bring in so much beautiful sunlight in the morning, just laying in bed all day and watch the waves is so relaxing!
There are 8 rooms all complete with their own ensuite bathrooms. The rooms are well equipped, facilities include Ac´s, ceiling fans, flatscreen TV´s Satellite channels, DVD´s, wifi , tea & coffee facilities, electronic safe, the most comfortable beds ever, sheets and pillows are soft as butter, I love! foldaway beds for kids, bathroom amenities locally made in Srilanka, loved their shampoo, linen and towels and they even provide kids towels which my children loved, our suite was an upgrade thanks to the lovely owners, did I mention that we had a private balcony? overlooking the sea and Garden, waking up to waves and ocean breeze is exactly how everyone should wake up on holiday! I was so chuffed upon arriving, did not expect the hotel to be this gorgeous, photos don´t justify how beautiful  the property is, and when I love something you cant get me to stop raving about it, Arabella on Boossa is by far one of the most beautiful places Ive ever stayed at, hands down! something about the ambiance felt like I belong there like I was home, the interiors are my style. The swimming pool is chilled, all day dinning available at AHARA, the Chefs make the freshest dishes, international and local, do try the Srilankan egg hoppers which come with onion Rotti bread delicious and my favorite, Banana coconut Pancakes, Musseli or Eggs any style served with toast and Jam, a big plate of fresh cut fruits is served with your breakfast and juices (try the Papaya) if you are to order lunch I highly recommend the fresh fish Taco, fried tuna served on a soft shell,  lemon slices for that extra bite, and coriander, I ate this 4 days in a row, its that good! The kids loved the fish n chips, juices and smoothies are made to order, enjoy a cool smoothie while tanning on the beach, I love the banana lassi. The second floor has a lounge area also overlooking the garden and sea, a selection of books are available if you fancy reading, and breakfast, lunch and dinner can be arranged for you in the living/lounge area as well.

View the dinning menu at AHARA here. You will need to book your room in advance, as the hotel gets quite busy, room rates available here .  

The Beach is quiet, clean and the sunsets are stunning, as for kids theres lots to do both at Arabella and in Gintota, Terrecotta bowl painting  and coconut painting in the garden is arranged by the staff, its alot of fun for the kids, keeps them busy for hours, they even custom made coloring books for my kids with their names on it which is a lovely touch! its all these attention to details that I love, my kids also enjoyed playing football with the staff and collected seashells too, I didnt have to worry about them , I enjoyed my cocktails as I lay down on the lounger, perfect for me since I was traveling alone this time! 
Things to do with kids in Gintota, recommended by Arabella on Boossa who made me a list of fun things to do which was super helpful, we ticket off almost everything on that list, I took them to Ahikava Surfing school with a couple we met at Arabella from Malaysia , Rachel and Jack who also havent been surfing before, Ahikava is round 20 minutes away by tuk tuk we went early as didnt want to get caught up with traffic, there are two surfing schools, the best one is Ahikava, they only take cash, so make sure you have enough, the charge around $15- $20 a child for an hour, the other school which is a few steps away is Mahantun Surfing school, not as great as Ahikava, but they were very nice with my kids and we all had a great time. We also went to the Turtle rehabilitation center, in Hikkaduwa, entrance fee is RS 1000  ($6) you see how they rescue turtles who have lost their limbs due to fishing boat accidents or getting caught in nets, it was quite educational and my children saw the turtles and held a few, it was a nice experience, on the way back I asked our Tuk tuk driver Lakshoun (AKA Shaun) to stop us in Hikkaduwa beach, I showed him photos of people feeding turtles in the sea, he took us to the exact same spot and we were so lucky to spot one huge turtle, there was a few people feeding it, we grabbed some seaweed from a guy who was there, my kids where ecstatic, I was so happy they got to do this, it was so nice watching them feed the turtle, do try that if you are in the area.

Getting around Gintota with children is a challenge, you need to find a reliable Tuk Tuk Driver, and avoid walking on main roads, our driver was on standby for me while we stayed at Arabella, he was great, once you find a good driver take down his number and always bargain on the price. Day trips are arranged by Rohan and the team at Arabella, like the Bentota & Madu river tour, or surf in weligama for all you surf addicts and check out the shops and cafes like Ceylon Sliders, book a bicycle tour with Idle Tours, visit the temples off Baddegama Road in Hikkaduwa town, the monks would love to show you around,  check out the stick fishermen between Galle and Mirissa. A secret beach also popular now with tourists is ¨Jungle Beach¨between Galle and Unawatuna, its quite small so get there early! Whale watching can also be arranged its almost 3 hours each way from the hotel, so you will need to wake up super early for this tour, make sure that its the season as you may not spot a lot of whales and dolphins  which will be hard to miss out on. When In Galle, stop by at Sugar Bistro, an Australian owned Bistro the food is great, try the crab burger and fish n chips, a few steps away is also another restaurant, The Tuna & The Crab, their signature dish is the spicy crab and pasta, they usually run out of crab so try to book in advance. Fancy some Gelato, just 5 minutes away is Il Gelato, Italian owned gelato shop its small but the gelato is so good, my kids got a treat every day when we went! walk around and check out the little shops in Galle, pedlar street has quite a few cafes and shops, we love Galle, its such a cute little town with character.

Gintota is a great area, I loved it, Arabella on Boossa is an amazing property which I highly recommend you visit, a top 5 on my list of boutique hotels! Immaculate service, we feel right at home here, the staff and service is fantastic, I would book here every time Im back, I would like to thanks Emma & Myles on their hospitality and making our stay so comfortable, the wonderful staff at Arabella on Boossa, Chef Prasana , Chef Pradeep, Laharu, Sahan,  nihal and lastly the front office manager, Rohan for arranging everything for me and my kids. One of the ¨best holidays ever ¨ hearing this from my kids made me very happy, I cant recommend Arabella on Boossa enough! get booking now you will fall in love as much as I do, I promise !

Visit Arabella On Boossa 

¨The world is too big to stay in just one place and life is too short to do just one thing¨

Our second trip to RAK, last year we stayed at the Banyan Tree al Wadi which is now Ritz Carlton, this was a family trip with my sister who lives in Dubai and our friends, we drove a day before and stayed in Dubai and head out to RAK early morning on the next day, about an hour and a half drive, got lost half way and offcourse from the others, but our wrong turn took us through a road filled with camels, goats and sheep, not something we see regularly unless youre driving through the desert. 

We booked at the Waldorf Astoria in RAK, my sister booked us all two nights, it was the last two days of Ramadan, quiet, I dont like when its super busy, Eid time is when hotels are on full capacity, so it was nice to have a quiet two days just before, the hotel is beautiful, very grand, our check in was fast, the staff are very friendly and efficient. The Waldorf is part of the Hilton Hotels if you are a Hilton Honors member dont forget to give them your membership number. There are 346 Rooms at the Waldorf RAK, Yep 346 Rooms! We booked the King Junior Suite with Sea view (perfect for a family of 4 ) I mean it´s 84 square meters, with your own balcony facing the sea! Massive walk in closets, black marble bathroom, includes a tub and a standing shower, Arabian interiors throughout the room and hotel, this room will set you back (AED3690 - USD 1050 inclusive of Tax including breakfast subject to when you book) for two nights, this was our first time staying at the Waldorf, (I prefer boutique hotels rather than resorts you wont find boutique hotels though ) but our stay here was great, the room is fully equipped with a Nespresso machine, kettle , tea coffee capsules and a well stocked mini bar, two wide screen flat TV´s (which is great if you have two young kids) and two couches on each side of the room, the staff will provide blankets and pillows and anything else you need, theyre very quick too and helpful, they noticed we had kids so they stocked extra shampoo and soaps, and I loved the little treats they had like mini lemon meringue tarts and coconut biscuits everytime we came back there was something. 
The resort has ten restaurants/lounges, which include cuisines like Japanese, Arabic and a steak house.  Breakfast is located on the ground floor at Qasr Al Bahar restaurant, the breakfast is amazing, the restaurant is really big and spacious, and they ensured we (a party of 10 people) sat together, omelette/egg stations were set up on each side of the restaurant, fresh juices, vegan selections, healthy light breakfasts like fresh cut fruit oatmeal, freshly made croissants, whole wheat bread , gluten free options too and delicious smoothies, and Pancakes, waffles and Hash browns for kids and grown ups too! 

There is a kids club as well, you can leave the kids and escape for a quiet Spa treatment, mine didn't want to stay at the kids club, so didn't have a chance to have any treatments! there is a golf course on the property, pre booking is recommended.  If you are staying during the winter months I recommend a desert safari which is popular with the tourists, as well as a trip to the Old souk which is around 20-25 minutes by car from the hotel, visit the old spice and carpet markets, if you are there during the summer, then stay hydrated and go early morning, just make sure that there isn't a public holiday at the time. 

The temperature was 45 C when we got to RAK, thats normal in the Summer, it gets very hot! We stayed by the cooled pool the two nights we spent there, there are two pools, the Main pool which is really nice, has a pool bar , Service was very slow though at the pool bar, the drinks options were good, lunch is also served close to the pool in the shade, portions are good, they serve the usual, burgers, salads, sandwiches, etc, theres also a selection of ice creams available close to the pool,  I suggested the ice cream to be free because its so good you cant just have one scoop! Wishful thinking maybe, kids enjoyed the ice cream thats what matters. 

The other pool is located on the other side, very chilled out, for those who want to relax and unwind, with views of the sea, I think it was meant to be kid free at that pool as all I saw were couples, there are cabanas around the both pools if you want to stay away from the scorching sun, the sun loungers have umbrellas too, and the staff bring you complimentary cold water in ice buckets which is nice. The private beach is a few steps away from the pool, the sand is hot unless you are closer to the beach, the sea is fairly cool not as cool as the pool as its summer time in the UAE, there was a lot of bottles,  plastic and other things that was probably washed ashore, which was a shame, the staff were clearing it the second day we were there,  just makes me sad that people continue to throw things into the sea and pollute the beautiful water, this shouldn't be others responsibility so please consider the planet. 

Water sports like kayaks and jet skies , parasailing and other activities can be arranged. A lifeguard is on duty as well, ensuring the safety of everyone on the resort, the beach is lovely, but like I said it was too hot we stayed in the pool. we also brought our floats,  we were the gang with the huge avocado, banana tube, the polka dot lilo and the penguin! holla if you were there and saw us haha! usually other resorts wont let you bring these into their pools but the pool in the Waldorf was enormous no one minded. For dinner we went to Al Hamra Mall which is less than 5 minutes by car from the hotel, it has a few cafes, like Shakespeare, Nero cafe and theres a Pizza express, pizza is the way to go when you're with kids, the mall isn't very big, theres a Spinneys supermarket which is convenient, most other shops were closed due to it being Ramadan. 

We ordered room service the next day and had everyone over at our suite, watched tv and stayed up till late which was fun, it was a very lovely relaxing stay to say the least, kids had fun, and for a change it was nice to visit the neighboring cities in the UAE, I love RAK. 

Thank you Waldorf Astoria for your hospitality we had a great time!

Our booking was made through 

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

Namaste! Welcome to Jaipur, what an enchanted city, as soon as we arrived to the airport, immigration took us about 10 minutes till we were done, super fast and efficient. We applied for electronic visas a week before traveling, E-visas are available here (check if you need an E-visa). We took an Airport taxi , approved by the government (you will find a desk just before leaving the main gate), Jaipur airport is small, but organized, the taxi to our hotel was RS 750 (USD 11, AED 42) very reasonable and it was 25 minutes away (depends on traffic).

The Oberoi Rajvillas is located around 20 minutes away from Jaipur airport, takes less time when theres no traffic. The Oberoi sits on 32 acres of land, filled with trees and exotic birds. As we approached the entrance, the staff escorted us towards the lobby, we had rose petals thrown over us and greeted with a gorgeous orange garlands and put them around our neck, what an awesome welcome!

The Surya Mahal serves the best of both worlds , indian and international cuisines, I recommend the black dhal served with freshly made butter naan, the best Ive ever had! the morning breakfast spread is delicious, you get to choose from either indian breakfasts like dosa, any style eggs, or fancy some pancakes? the chef makes the fluffiest pancakes with a choice of salted caramel and bananas or chocolate and orange, I ordered the Salted Caramel of course! theres a wide selection of breakfast items on the menu, and a range of freshly made baked goods, gluten free as well! I was very impressed with the breakfast at Surya , the restaurant sits just after the main lobby, with high ceilings and hand painted flowers on the walls. 

The hotel architechture is based around jaipur, the pink /beige  colors of the entire hotel is built in a traditional Rajasthani Fort Style. Showcasing many of the regions traditional crafts such as the lime plaster, blue tiles, stone marble carvings, brass doors and painting surrounding the walls which once belonged to the Rajput Rulers, I can go on and on about the beauty of this hotel which took my breath away. a mini pink city I call it.  The Oberoi Rajvillas is built around an 18th Century Shiva temple, located in the center of the property,  I was very honored in joining the hindu priest in a morning chanting and blessing session, the priest is 5th generation and has been blessing many visitors as did his ancestors before him. 

The Spa, an ancient Haveli (mansion) which has been restored and converted into the know Oberoi Spa, offer Ayurvedic and western massages, we obviously booked the Ayurvedic Massage, me and my friend booked a couples room (much more fun), the massage was for an hour, the treatment was perfect, just what we needed on the day we arrived. 

We had the premier room the Standard room, but nothing was standard about this room, It was huge, the bathroom a walk in closet (a girls dream) his and her sinks and a sunken Marble bath, a mini bar and espresso machine, complimentary tea and water, the works! cotton robes exclusively made for the Oberoi. I mean how cool is that! The bed is so comfy, cotton bedsheets I could lay in forever, a dvd selection and your own butler available 24/7 , Turn down service is twice a day! there seemed to be a gift every time we came back to the room. Anup who was in-charge while we stayed there, took extra care of us and ensured we got everything we needed, let me just say, in all my years of traveling and all my hotel stays I have never met anyone like him, his attention to detail is immaculate, while we were out on our tour, just before arriving, he had arranged a rose filled bath with bath salts and oils, and had left us a note on the bed with a  handmade candle, perfection! if this isn't luxury I don't know what is, Anup you my friend are one of a kind. Me and my friend shared that bath, cos there is no way we were going to waste such a relaxing ambience, I made some tea and we just chilled, yes, I can safely say that Im a grown woman who sat in a bath tub with her friend and giggled like a 5 year old. what a great way to unwind.
We had a tour of the other hotel rooms, one which made my heart flutter was the Kohinoor Villa, I fell in love with it! Anup our lovely escort showed us around this magnificent villa, spreads across 1,057 square meters, a 20 meter pool, yep! thats right 20 meter private pool, twin bedrooms and beautiful garden, usually booked for Presidents and other royals who have stayed here before. Just stunning, if only I had my wedding here !

We had a few drinks and watched a live Rajasthani dance, a beautiful indian woman danced while two men played the drums, quite entertaining, we didn't want it to stop, we watched as we had dinner, then had a few drinks at that library bar, my father would have loved this place, I imagined him sitting lighting up his cigar sipping on cognac, gorgeous leather seats , the ¨Rajwada¨is very laid back, great to unwind, on Tuesdays and Saturdays they host an hours discussion from 6 pm, with a local historian who talks about Jaipur and the Rajputana.

The Shiva temple which sits in the middle of the hotel grounds, guests are welcome to participate in a Puja ceremony, with the Pundit ¨Priest¨ the shiva temple is over 300 years old and the Pundit is 5th generation, an old tradition where the pundit gives you his blessings, very spiritual indeed, very peaceful. I recommend you get blessed by him. 

The Oberoi can arrange tailor made tours for you, I recommend you book prior to your arrival, I booked in advance, with a local agent, Janu travels, read reviews online, the experience was Ok, the dry was kind enough to take us to the Amber palace and the Pink city to see the Hawa Mahal, one tip is take water, and if you are visiting Jaipur try to go in the winter, ¨November- January¨, it was 45 degrees Celsius! it was very hot and the air was dry, even for me and I've lived in the Gulf for a very long time! hats are a must all year round and stay hydrated.

The Amber Palace, is not that far from the hotel, you walk quite a bit to reach the top where all the tourists are, most people walk others take an elephant ride which costs RS 1200 (USD 18). Its not something I encourage though,  there was quite a few tourists riding these elephants it was very hot and I felt quite bad for the elephants. To go through the Amber Palace, you will need to pay (RS 500 (USD 8), beautiful views from the top and worth the walk. There are refreshment stalls at the foot of the Amber palace, you can also buy souvenirs from the locals too they're hard to miss, and mind the goats sitting in the shade they wont harm you! Please give your spare change to the old ladies selling bread crumbs to tourists for feeding the fish.  Theres not a lot of food places around, so pack a snack or some fruits, Max from our hotel was kind enough to pack us a box of pastries and fruits for our trip.

The Pink City, why is it all Pink? theres a historic reason for the pink color of Jaipur  the Maharaja (Sawai Ram Singh) wanted to impress Prince Albert when he visited Jaipur in 1876,  The Pink Palace or Hawa Mahal which translates to the¨ Palace of Breeze¨ is an iconic architecture staple in Jaipur, one of the most magnificent structures I have ever seen, its was built  in the form of Krishna´s crown, the Maharaja  was devoted to the hindu God. The best time to visit is early in the morning,  entrance fees are RS 50. There are 953 windows in Hawa Mahal, The purpose of the Hawa Mahal was so that the Royal women ( who were not seen in Public) could watch the festival celebrations and other activities in the streets below without being seen. If your´e in Jaipur the Pink Palace is a must.

Traveling solo or female travel whichever you choose, rest assure that Jaipur is safe, the people are very helpful, just watch out for your belongings, if youre lost ask for help everyone is happy to guide you in the right direction.

Our stay in Jaipur has been fantastic, I can´t even begin to describe how much Jaipur has grown on me, the people the experience, not only has it made a huge impression on me and my friend, I fell in love with everything about it,  the hotel on it´s own has exceeded my expectations, what made our  stay in Jaipur amazing was the people, the fantastic service, the attention to detail, I love this city and it´s people and I cant wait to be back again. A special thanks to Anup, Akshay, Max and all the wonderful staff at the Oberoi for making us feel at home and for treating us like royals, Thank you to Abhishek Sharma the General Manager at Oberoi Rajvilas for everything you went above and beyond to make us feel welcome, I don't think any other hotel will top our stay here. The Oberoi Group is becoming one of my favorite hotel chains. A magical and unforgettable experience. And finally thank you to the wonderful people of Jaipur,  Till we meet again, Shukriya! 

Jobs fill your pocket, adventures fill your soul

Welcome to paradise. Maldives, Kihavah Huravahlhi Island to be exact,  I´ve been dreaming of you for so long. Light blue sea and scattered islands is all you see as you descend into Male, after a four hour flight from Abudhabi, getting through the airport was a breeze, I was so impressed with immigration we were done within ten minutes of arriving. 

We were staying at the Anantara Kihavah, we were picked up and driven to the lounge which was just (8minutes) away from the airport, we had a few snacks at the Anantara lounge waiting for our sea plane, there is a two hour wait, which was fine, we freshened up and got on the seaplane, Kihavah is (35 minutes) by seaplane, with Maldivian air  , flights were booked with our stay. (A round trip will cost you USD 1280 per couple and needs to be booked  in advance prior to your arrival).

Once we landed we had a speed boat collect us not too far from the hotel and we were greeted with champagne and juice then our villa taken straight to our Beach villa, as you can imagine it was almost mid afternoon and wanted to make the most out of the day, our check in was done in the villa, Zaheen our lovely villa host, showed us around our massive Beach villa, it was much bigger than expected, I was in aw! the outdoor bathroom with a sunken bath, his an hers sinks and walk in closets, a pond surrounding the bath, two outdoor showers a the villa is 258 square meters, with our own private pool and sundeck a swinging day bed and one of the most comfortable beds weve ever slept with, the Anantara offers ¨bedding by design¨ the softest bedsheets made with Egyptian cotton, felt like butter! I recommend anyone booking to take the Half board or all inclusive packages so make sure if you're booking on or to take the Half/Full/All Inclusive deals. The in-room dining is excellent, lots of choices too, we ordered the Margarita Pizza on the first night we were so hungry, it hit the spot!
All villas have yoga mat, beach bags, beach slippers, books and board games, life jackets too,  and a list of all the complimentary activities as well as the other activities and timings listed for easier reference check with the activity center, the morning yoga is complimentary on Sunday´s at 6 am, you will have a mat ready in your room upon check in. Kayaking and paddle surfing is also available at the activity center, this also includes diving and snorkling for all guests. 

Theres an outdoor dinning area, an in-room wine chiller, in-suite bar and an Nespresso machine with all my favorite coffee. Zaheen booked us dinner at 7:30 at Salt , the Asian inspired dinning by the ocean, our Salt Sommelier ¨Hunain¨ paired our main courses with himalayan salt infused with charcoal to pair with our meals, I recommend the vietnamese spring rolls and the Nasi Goreng, one of the best Ive had, I had mine without chicken, the Chef was aware that I didn't eat chicken (to ensure my meal wasn't prepared with or near chicken), I loved that. The dinner setting is beautiful and the open kitchen watching your dinner being made was the highlight of the evening, one of the recommendations was the Red snapper cooked on Himalayan Salt block, view the SALT menu here 

Anantara has four main restaurants SEA - SALT - FIRE - SKY all situated close to each other, SEA is an underwater restaurant with the first underwater wine cellar with 428 labels from 22 countries , vintage and ¨ready to drink wines available at SEA, this includes  wine pairings with your dinner as you watch the fish swim past. I had a private tour of this restaurant with Jenny who was kind to show me around, if you are staying at the Anantara Kihavah, SEA I recommend you book prior to your arrival, it´s an experience not to be missed. View the menu of SEA here Breakfast  Lunch Dinner Wine Menu

FIRE is the Teppanyaki lounge, very theatrical, perfect setting of the ocean, and a hit with families traveling with children. FIRE Menu here

The SKY Bar our favorite,  serves light bar snacks, cocktails a selection of shisha for all you shisha lovers, a very mellow rooftop bar, I loved the live band. Make sure you say hello to Jenny, Adul and Ayan! SKY Menu here.

The other restaurants close to the lobby area are Plates (Breakfast buffet) located on the beach, with a selection of Asian, arabic and international dishes, Manakeesh (a Lebanese bread with a choice of cheese or zaatar) freshly made to order, a pancake and crepe station, selection of breads, donuts an endless selection of tropical fruits, desserts , quiches and cheeses, detox juices fresh young coconuts, Asian cooking station and eggs made to order, get the eggs Benedict delish! If you dont feel like getting up and out of bed, your villa host will arrange for breakfast to come to you, with an extra charge, hey if thats not convenient then I dont know what is!

The pool bar, Manzaru, offers italian cuisine and medetaranian salads, the Angus cheese burger and vietnamse rice rolls are my recommendations, cant beat the views while sitting by the pool. 

If youre looking for something more intimate, perhaps thinking of proposing to your lady, a romantic dinner on the beach they can make it happen, Dinning by design, an ultimate romantic dinner, personalised and prepared by your own personal chef on the beach overlooking the indian ocean, or on the deck of your private yacht. I watched from a far as the staff set up dinner by the beach, for a couple, red roses and champagne, it was a proposal, made my heart flutter with excitement, such a romantic setting !

Theres a children's club lots of activities, so parents have no fear, you're pretty much covered, relax while the lovely staff at ¨Thiththi Boli¨ that means Beautiful shells in Maldivian, baby sitting is also available for children as young as three months. 

Cinema under the stars for a fun family night,  an alfresco dinning and private screening of any movie of your choice, uninterrupted. How cool is that! Ask your villa host to book you in advance. 

I pre booked a local experience with  DISCOVERY LOYALTY, the ¨Slumber Guru Experience¨, I booked for 9 pm, for me and my husband, a romantic candlelight setting, massage for an hour for both of us, out on our sundeck, the sound of the waves and soothing music, lavender oil and scented mist, followed by a milk bath in the comfort of our villa, as our masseuse Grace prepared the warm milk bath for two in our large outdoor bath, we had a choice of hot chocolate or herbal tea and homemade cookies. As we lay in our milk bath, they served us tea and left us to relax in our warm silky bath, this was one of the most relaxing experiences we have ever had, our bed was prepared and sprayed with lavender mist, soft cotton pillows ordered for us to have the most rested sleep, truly one of a kind experiences, we slept like babies! Redeem the Slumber Guru experience here 

We viewed the Over water villas, the next morning, very romantic, perfect for honeymooners, couples or even friends the villas are 259 square meters, glass bottomed bathtubs, overwater hammocks,  outdoor rain showers the works! I recommend the over water villas ! The views are stunning and worth it if its your first trip to the Maldives, whichever reason it may be, Maldives needs to be on your bucket list.

I would like to thank DISCOVERY LOYALTY or this wonderful trip and our pamper session the ¨Slumber Guru Massage¨ what a great Local experience that was! Our stay at Anantara Kihavah was amazing, I would like to thank the team, special thanks to Zaheen for making us feel at home, and to Jenny, Ayan and Adul at the SKY bar for your hospitality, the F&B managers Rauf and Ismail, and to Hunain and Angeline for taking great care of us! See you all soon!

¨Happiness is, planning a trip somwhere new, with someone you love¨

Back to beautiful Srilanka, with the kids in tow, we booked with Srilankan Airlines this time, and so glad we did, Etihad more than double the price, AED 11, 400 to be precise! (for the 4 of us) on Economy!  I checked the prices on Srilankan and booked, the fare difference? AED 4280 (for 4 ) seriously, what is up with the prices on Etihad!? Anyway, I highly recommend Srilankan  Airlines! we loved the service, the inflight entertainment, and they even accommodated me with a vegetarian meal even though I didn't prebook my meal option which I though was very nice of them, flight time was perfect we arrived at 3:30 am, immigration was fast. I had also booked a car transfer with Ceylon Airport Transfers, they sent me a quote and booked them. The car ride to Tangalle is almost 4 hours, yes thats a very long trip but so worth it ( you can also book a flight from colombo to Dikwella airport which saves you half the time, book through cinnamon air) . The Kids slept all the way, we had a van and Chamana our driver  was so sweet, we even booked him for the return. Take lots of snacks and bottles of water, and the IPADS came in handy too, (You can get a sim card on arrival at colombo trust me you will need one). 

We arrived at the beautiful Anantara Tangalle, and were greeted by beautiful Srilankan ladies, we went straight to our Ocean Pool Villa with Gihan our lovely Butler, the resort is huge, absolutely stunning, the villa was on the Ocean a few minutes walk to the Beach, we had our private pool, the villa is stunning, 64 Square meters and a 33 square meter out door terrace! kids went straight into the pool, we had a complementary foot scrub too which was exactly what we needed after the long trip. 

Gihan (Who is amazing !) booked our dinner at Journeys (the buffet restaurant), which had a different theme every night, (I recommend your book your villa with the half board option) the total cost was (AED 11,500 for 5 nights approx USD 3130), The resort overlooked lush gardens and the beautiful sea, the ocean front villas are bigger and more expensive, the beach is right outside your door literary! great for honeymooners. After a long day of travel, a day by the pool , light snacks and relaxin where exactly what we needed, the kids club is open from 10 am till 7 pm, there were lots of wild life on the resort, the kids loved this experience, nature walks and interaction with the animals was a daily routine, much needed couple time with the hubby while they stayed at the kids club, the ladies are so lovely it was hard to leave on the last day. Breakfast is fantastic, also at Journey´ s international as well as asian cuisines, the buttermilk pancakes and waffles are to die for! one of the best pancakes Ive ever had hands down! The food and beverage Manager Dinesh and his staff have been so kind in making pasta for my kids at dinner time. I honestly loved the service and by Dinesh treating us like VIP made our stay very very rewarding, Dinesh, thank you for everything (and for my special tea selection), because of your hospitality we will be back because of you. Make sure you meet this gentleman and tell him I sent you! If you do have a chance book the Teppanyaki restaurant Verele, really fun for the kids, and for a more romantic setting, the property has an Italian restaurant Il Mare , I recommend the shrimp linguine. Wine tasting and tapas nights are arranged for groups in a private setting in El Vino, I loved this place, wine pairings and delicious tapas! really fun for groups of friends traveling together.

I didnt have a chance to book a spa treatment, but I did have a loo at the Spa and it´s beautiful, the Srilankan designs and the quiet atmosphere located in the middle of the lush gardens, so if you do have a chance, get yourself a treatment, the Srilankan way!

The concierge are able to book everything for your trip, the tea plantations trips, Yala National Park, you name it! The resort didnt feel ¨resort-y if you know what I mean. While the kids were away on the nature walk (arranged by the kids club) we relaxed by our pool then went for strolls on the beach, very much needed R&R.

We took a car trip to Matara a small town near Tangalle, it was busy, lots of buffalo´s on the street, the market had everything from fresh fruits to clothing, although most of the shops were indoor, the others were outside in the scorching heat, never the less it was a lovely experience, my children were fascinated with everything. The main beach in Matara was open to the public, people were shopping and some were drinking coconuts to cool off under the trees, while others just swam in the ocean, I kind of loved how busy it was. There is a few temples in Tangalle the popular one is Mulgirigala Raja Maha Vihara Temple,  Take any Tuk Tuk in the area and explore, (for a better experience book with TUK TUK Safari Tangalle ).

A wonderful experience, a stunning resort, this trip is a memorable one. Special thanks to Gihan our butler, who has gone above and beyond to make our stay special, and to our friend who is now part of our family Dinesh, you made us feel like Royals, thank you so much to you and your team.

¨I would rather own a little and see the world than own the world and see a little¨

What can I say, I love the Seychelles, something about this country makes my heart melt. My second trip to this Island, it was spontaneous, my friend Sarine´s birthday was coming up and she wanted to do something special, ofcourse I jumped at the idea of travel (as I always do) it was a no brainer. Spending your birthday abroad relaxing and doing nothing but fun sounds like a great idea, don't you think? ¨where shall we go ?¨ I asked her where she hasn´t been before, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles I suggested, Seychelles! Lets go there!!  

Counting down to this trip was exciting, the day was finally here. The flight was on Air Seychelles, the crew are great, the inflight service was excellent, I watched a couple of movies as the duration was around 4 and a half hours and I couldn't sleep, the trip itself wasnt so bad, I've flown Air Seychelles before and since they are now code sharing with Etihad it was even better. (and cheaper).

We reached in Seychelles at 7:30 am, immigration was fast, its a small airport but they are very efficient, outside the airport were hotel transfers and agents, I had already been before so I knew where to get the airport taxis. The taxi ride was 25 minutes from the airport to the Kempinski, cost was 845 RS (AED 228) (USD 62) its cheaper to take an airport taxi than to book via the airport, no pre bookings necessary. 

The check in was smooth, the hotel lobby is stunning. The hotel crew welcomed us with a lemon grass cocktail as we were checking-in, was very refreshing!. I got upgraded to a Sea view Garden room (ground floor) (you must book this room! The upgrade was because of my DISCOVERY LOYALTY membership! (I recommend you get one as you get loads of benefits including local experiences) , Ms.Edwina (lady in red) was so sweet, she immediately booked us a local experience and made our stay very special. 

Our room was facing the ocean, on the ground floor with our own sun loungers, the room was huge, the bed was super comfy I slept like a baby that night! if you are to book at the Kempinski then you need to book the ground floor ocean facing room. The first couple of days we spent exploring the resort, the beach looked like a dream, literally like a photo in a magazine! The water was crystal clear, the staff were amazing, oh and guess what, they not only bring you ice lemon water and icy towels right to you on the beach, they come round with fruit skewers and bite size cakes! Who serves cake by the ocean!? I mean if this isn't luxury then I don't know what is!  At the Kempinski, there is a turtle feeding area and horses for those who love horse riding on the beach, although everyone else there was either on their honeymoon or for a wedding, we felt really special.

A couple of days into our lounging by the sea and drinking coconuts, we booked snorkeling but due to the bad weather conditions we had to cancel, Edwina (our life saver) booked us a private hill top yoga session, a car picked us up and took us half way up the mountain, then Kenny Our instructor took us by foot into the jungle, walking through beautiful cinnamon, cashew and thorn-spiked trees, I loved it! Once we reached the top on a granite elevated rock it was complete silence, the views of the tranquil Baie Lazare beach below us, a perfect spot for meditation and yoga,  a 90 minute relaxing session was exactly what I needed on this trip. Kenny even took our photos after and we chatted all the way down. If you do get a chance please book him he also does water aerobics which is alot of fun! Thank you Kenny can't wait to come back! Booking Local Experiences with DISCOVERY LOYALTY is not only a guest recognition programme, but also treats you to special experiences tailored for you, you could also earn nights as well as hotel benefits on your stay! how cool is that! Learn more here.

On Sarine´s birthday we opened a bottle of champagne and the hotel had a delicious coconut cake ready for her at the room, cake by the ocean? Yes please! The food at the resort is absolutely delicious, we booked dinner at L´Índochine, a Pan Asian restaurant with stunning outdoor setting, I ordered the mushroom risotto recommended by Zulu, who made our evening very special and even brought over a birthday cake while the staff sang to Sarine, it was truly a wonderful night. 

The Windsong bar and barbecue by the beach serves up a mean burger, and drinks for the shisha lovers. The planters bar and lounge serves snacks and drinks with a live band happy hours are great and the cocktails are worth it! The all day dinning at the Cafe Lazare offers buffet (breakfast and dinner) as well as a la carte items during lunch, make sure to check the dining themes at the cafe, the breakfast is delicious, pancakes and eggs are made to order, champagne and cocktails are also served during breakfast which was so cool since we were celebrating! The croissants and brioche are not to be missed, I had lots, hard to resist, do try the tropical marmalades the papaya was my favorite. The rooms are all equipped with a kettle, tea and coffee including water refilled every day, the mini bar are complementary (refillable with an extra cost).

If you are up for kayaking, you can rent one with a guide or just on your own from the pool pavilion, it was so much fun to kayak, and a workout as well! I love kayaking, next time I'll have to do the fish cave snorkeling as well (kayaking costs RS 560, approx. USD 45 per person). The hotel can also book a private tour for you and your family to the main island, I've already been before and its worth it if its your first time in Seychelles. The Gym is well equipped and opens very early. I didn't use it, I was busy baskin in the sun.  

The resort itself exceeded my expectation, I loved the hospitality and service, if I were to come back I would book the Kempinski in a heart beat.

Thank you Kempinski for making our stay so special. Thank you DISCOVERY LOYALTY for our Private  hill top yoga Local Experience. 

I booked this stay on and the Air Seychelles tickets booked on

¨Home is wherever you leave everything you love and never question that it will be there when you return¨

Not everyone knows that Im originally Jordanian, I did not grow up there, but it is where I call home. I remember going there for our summer holidays, my cousins would all stay over and we would have the time of our lives, we use to wait for the summer holidays till we went to Germany then Jordan, our friends would wait patiently for us, our bicycles and toys everything was in the same place. I haven't been to Jordan for over 12 years, I went back in 2011 I was 7 months pregnant, it was cold and my daughter was still a toddler, so I stayed home most of the time with mum it was a really short trip and I didnt do much. Years passed and this year I wanted to go back and explore Jordan with my family, I still want my children to know where I was from and I wanted to show them where we used to play when I was their age during our summer holidays. This trip was spontaneous my mother was a bit surprised when I said that I booked us all to fly down in December, I pre booked our trip to the dead sea and Petra too so we would have something to do while we where there, although I was a bit skeptical of how the weather would be, it turned out to be perfect the whole time we were there.

We usually fly with Etihad, but I wanted to reach super early to Jordan so we took the first flight out on Royal Jordanian, the prices were amazing too, and I was quite impressed with how Royal Jordanian has improved, Ive never flown with RJ before, this was my first time, the flight was great, kids settled quickly and the flight was about three and a half hours, would have been more comfortable if my son didn´t have a fever and a sore throat (note to self, never fly with a sick kid...everrrr). As soon as we landed I felt the cold on my breath, my kids made puffing sounds to watch the mist come out their breath.  We arrived and walked through Alia International, I was super impressed with the new airport, last time I was here we landed in the old terminal and it was nothing compared to this one. Made our way through to immigration, I couldn't help but smile proudly, I love Jordan, and I love my people.

Walking into my parents house, I see mum has made a few changes to the house, me and my sisters room was the same but now with a huge bed, our stuffed animals sat there on the bed. I was home. feeling nostalgic, I showed my kids and hubby around, the kitchen was my favorite, mum had prepared breakfast and was walking Tchai (her dog) we waved to her from the window and she rushed up completly forgot what time we were arriving, super happy she cuddled the kids and us and we all sat down and had a full on traditional Jordanian breakfast, arabic saj bread, fresh labneh , zaatar , fried eggs, olive oil and hummus, homemade apricot jam and eggplants stuffed with spicy walnuts which are my favorite theyre called (makdus). Everything tastes fresh in Jordan, farm fresh ! the cheeses and yogurt, the eggs, vegetables taste real! nothing artificial at all, I loved that my husband was enjoyng ever bit of our stay.

We spent two nights in Amman, my son wasnt feeling well, took him to the doctors and he was feeling fine on our third day, I was worried as I was leaving him behind to go to Petra but he was up and about the day we left. Although I would have loved to take both my children to Petra it would have been hectc for them. The trip took us almost three hours, I hired a Jordanian driver through a friend, a round trip cost us around JD 140, almost USD 200 (not bad for a two way trip) make sure you book with an agent or someone you know locally books for you. we arrived early in Petra, dropped our bags at the Movenpick hotel a few steps away from the Petra tourist center, the hotel itself was nice, traditional interiors, but it aint amazing, I booked through and got a great deal, it was just one night anyway. The rooms are very clean, you get a balcony with views of the mountains, nothing fancy , but it´s good enough. We walked through and bought our tickets I used my Jordanian passport we only paid one Dinar each ! sweet! walking down the siq we saw a few young boys trying to get us to pay for a horse ride, some tried selling us postcards, I kept laughing they stuck to my husband and wouldnt let go of him. We finally made it through and we were there, I remember the Treasury from when I was just a little girl, it looked just as big as it did then, absolutley stunning, we stopped for tea (theres a souvenir store and a cafe shack) the weather was freezing, I just wanted to be in the sun. took our map and started walking, half way through the monestary trekk I realised people at the top of the mountain, I want to go there! I asked around a few boys with their horses who all offered to take us up there but wanted to rip us off, they assumed we were foreigners, as soon as I spoke arabic the price went down, they made me laugh, we kept walking thats when I saw this goofy looking kid with his mule coming towards us. he walked with us trying to bargain with me, ¨Ill take you up there ¨ how much do you want to pay? I will give you a good price¨he said in an almost perfect American Accent, ¨Shu ismak inta?¨(whats your name I asked him), he stared at me for a second and said youre arabic? and laughed at me. and your husband? ¨Jowzki Arabi?¨he said in his bedouin language. I said what do you think? he said ¨he looks like an Ajnabi¨(a foreigner) I said Ill let you find out later if you take me up that mountain and back for 15 Dinars ! he thought I was mad, he said 15 Dinars one way, I told him to go away and kept walking, he followed us and said, okay I will take you up and back down for 15 dinars, ¨I would have given you twenty¨ I said, I like you whats your name , Meshari and you ? Sarah and your husband the Ajnabi? I laughed and told him he isnt a foreigner but ill let you guess till we reach the top. 

The mountain was called Khubtha Mountain, it overlooks the treasury, if you are in Petra you must go up there, if you are athletic then walking is fine, almost an hour and a half to reach the top, 500- 900 steps, I wasnt that athletic, and had just recovered from bronchitis, I rode a mule, Nawar (the foreigner husband of mine) walked, and filmed me riding a mule which he thought was so entertaining, laugh all you want buddy, I aint walking in this state of mine, ofcourse Meshari and me kept chatting all the way, we stopped took photos, then he asked if we wanted to see something cool, so obviously I said yes! he took us to his tribe, they had a tent overlooking the Treasury, I loved it. sat down had a few cups of zaatar infused tea, spoke with the tribesmen took beautiful pictures and went on our way to another mountain top called Jabal Madbah ¨High place of Sacrifice¨, a well preserved site that was actually built with drains for the blood to drain of sacrificed animals, not appealing for some but the views are incredible,Panoramic views of the old theatre about 50 meters down you could see the Royal tombs, but it was worth the very steep uncomfortable mule ride, I was more worried about ¨Shakira¨my mule than anything else, she knew the way, Meshari just casually speaking as he walks on the edge of the mountains, I kept looking up and trying not to freak out, we finally started gong down, the whole tour took us about five hours maybe more I lost count, I enjoyed the fact that Meshari couldnt figure out where my husband was from, utter shock when I told him, poor kid thought he didnt speak arabic, bless him. We had more tea then paid Meshari 20 JD´s and he was on his was to grab more tourists before the sun set. A really great experience, I was a tourist in my own country I loved it. we walked back to our hotel, took a hot bath and ordered room service, too exhausted to do anything but rest we both passed out at 7pm. Besides there wasn't much you could see or do around the city of Petra, shops close early, so if you don't have to stay the night then it would be worth heading back to Amman on the same day.

On the way back to Amman, we stopped in Karak gorgeous town, and one of my favorites, my dad had family living there and I remember going to their little farm as a kid, chasing butterflies in the field, Karak is one of these places you cant forget, and although Jordanians are so welcoming and their hospitality is fab, the people of Karak are the sweetest, when we stopped for a tea break they all came rushing to say hello, some farmers wanted us to taste their apples and figs ¨dont buy just taste, taste this and that¨pointing to their tangerines and sliced melons. I love Karak, I wish we had time to tour, but we had to head back to repack for our trip to the Dead sea.

The weather in Amman was chilly, although it was warmer in Petra, Amman´s temperature dropped drastically to 6 degrees celcius, my kids thought that it would snow that night, unfortunately no snow, but they loved huffing and puffing mist out of their mouth and nose, my kids have never seen snow nor been somewhere cold before.. Im determined to have them see snow this year!

We woke up at 7 am and got the kids ready for our trip to the dead sea, I checked the weather, although it was December I expected it to be cold there, the weather forecast said it would be sunny, warm with highs of 26 degrees! Perfect! the whole trip took us 40 minutes, my mum drove, we missed an exit but stopped and asked a man at a gas station for directions, as soon as we got close to the dead sea, the temperature quickly changed. I booked the Kempinski Ishtar, I was told it would be worth it, and wow, it sure was, the hotel was massive, check in took a few minutes , we got upgraded which was really nice , our Villas where facing the sea, kids quickly changed and I took them to the kids pool which was warm, the beach was stunning, they had mud set for all the guests to use, people were already in the sea floating and snapping pictures, mum relaxed on the loungers and I read a book, best thing about the hotel is the atmosphere, views and how absolutely quiet and relaxing. we had lunch by the pool and sat by the sea. The service was excellent, while mum watched the kids, me and hubby snuck up to the infinity pool just to have some quiet time together, I loved the fact that there was a pool just for adults, the views are stunning too! Now the hotel is beautiful, the downside was the kids club, there was an extra charge for the children, which is fine, but no activities, the club itself was worn-out and quiet, my kids where slightly disappointed in the fact that there wasn't much they could do. so we just spent the whole day at the pool.

Our rooms where huge, we had our own patio, the fridge was well stocked, and the bath amenities as well,  if they could just sort out the kids club, and maybe offer extra pillows for the comfort of the guests. I booked a Spa treatment for me and mum, now the Spa is just breathtaking, Thai interiors and amazing treatment rooms, a plunge pool with the dead sea salt water, the treatments range from JD 58 to 190 JD´s we had the dead sea mud wrap for 30 minutes.

The breakfast buffet is served from 6 am to 10 am, the views are beautiful the restaurant is facing the sea, buffet was very well prepared, and there is a variety of things to choose from, especially for the kids. After breakfast we swam again in the sea, my daughter collected salt crystals , mum told me about Palestine ( you could see it from where we stood its on the opposite side of the dead sea), it´s interesting how close it was, and that will be the closest Ill ever be to seeing Palestine. My fathers family left Palestine in 1948 and never went back. I love hearing my fathers story, it´s quite inspiring how far he has made it in life, and how my grandparents left everything behind. Sad but a very inspiring story.

We checked out and went back to Amman, one night is more than enough in the dead sea, unless you're on your honeymoon then okay book two nights. Amman, was sunny but cold, nothing like the dead sea, then again the dead sea is 400 meters below sea level, so it´s warm all year round.

Hubby left a week before us, mum took me around the city some places I remembered others not so much, my kids love being at my mums, the reason was that she has a dog and they get to walk the dog every day as well as buy candy and slushies from the local shop next to the house, every day I would show them a place where we used to hang out during our summer holidays, they asked me so many questions, it was nostalgic. Sitting at home roasting marshmallows watching movies was the perfect ending to our holiday, we would go out all morning then come back and relax in the evening, me and mum would make soup or chili at night like the good old days, it was good to be home, and I should make a habit of it and go more often. why have I not come back to Jordan ? it really is a beautiful country. If you have a few days in the city, do make use of checking out Rainbow street, they have the best food spots ¨street food¨, whether you have falafels at Al Quds or ice cream from Gerards, or fancy a hotdog then try ¨wassup dawg¨ this spot blew my mind. go to the ¨Balad¨ downtown for cool souvenirs and authentic Jordanian crafts, have lunch at Jafra, eat hummus and Foul (fava beans) at ¨Hashim´s¨ or shawerma at ¨Al Reem¨ lots of delicious food everywhere in Amman. Im so glad I took my kids to see the real Jordan, how people lived, and how everyone is grateful. I got to renew my Jordanian ID and Passport which was a bonus, it only took me 30 minutes  brilliant!! do try the corn on the cob vendors they're everywhere, and have ¨kaek with eggs¨ those are my favorite, Kaek is a big round bagel (but softer) with sesame, stuffed with boiled eggs or you can choose cream cheese or zaatar, also sold by a guy on a cart,  street food in Amman is delicious so please try ! Everything is freshly made, the smell of baked goods and turkish coffee everywhere you go, I love you Jordan. I will come back more often. Im so glad my children got to see my parents home and learn about our heritage and my people. although we are more foreign now living abroad, Jordan will stay in my heart forever.

¨Im in Love with cities I´ve never been to and people I´ve never met¨

I have been waiting for this trip for years, just didnt find the right time to go, so when a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go with her, I was thrilled. A girls trip is just what I needed. planning and booking took less than an hour, and as for things to do I had already a few places in mind we could do once we get there.

We flew on Etihad airways and Air Portugal via Amsterdam, now let me just prepare you for Air Portugal, the flight is three hours from Amsterdam, not bad but coming off a seven hour flight from Abudhabi and a three hour stopover, was a killer. As for the trip itself, it felt like I stepped back into the 90´s ... the plane was really old, remember the Ashtray´s in the seat of the arm, yea, no flight entertainment, except for the toddler infront of me who played peekaboo with me for three hours and a Portuguese flight magazine. But hey, it is what it is, my advice, take a couple of cosmo mags, a granola bar and an Ipad if you get bored . The inflight service was Ok , if you are vegan or a vegetarian you need to prebook your meal (and when I mean meal they hand out sandwiches and juice). So be prepared.
Since we travelled via Amsterdam, immigration stamps your passport there, at schiphol airport, so once you get into Portugal you dont go through customs, the airport is really nice and the process is quick.Our taxi driver was waiting for us outside, I got a sim card from vodaphone just before the exit for 15 Euros, and was on our way. The taxi ride took us 15 minutes to our hotel in Rossio square, I booked at the Rossio Garden hotel, a cute boutique hotel located in the center of Lisbon, and I would stay there again, the trams and train stations are all located within 5-10 minutes away, a starbucks for ll you starbucks loves is 2 minutes away and so is the main railway station. I was quite surprised at how beautiful the architecture and how modern the city of Lisbon was, totally different from what I had in mind. I was not prepared for what I saw. Everyone speaks English, the people are so kind and friendly, the weather was amazing, around noon the temperatures went up to 16 C , if we traveled a bit later in November then it would have been quite cold and cloudy, so we just made it to the end of the perfect weather in Portugal.

We stayed in Portugal for 7 nights, and that was perfect we actually managed to do a lot of our sightseeing and lots of walking, we fit in two trips outside Lisbon, Ill tell you about that later on. Lisbon has a lot to offer, sightseeing, art, food, nightlife and beaches. First things first, get yourself a map of Lisbon, found everywhere including the hotel you are staying at, figure out where the metro  stations are, and get yourself a Lisbon Card this card gives you access to all the attractions Lisbon has to offer including discounts, if you cant get one in time you can get a card fro the metro information desks. places you need to go to in Lisbon are Castle of Sao Jorge, Jerenimos Monastery, The Tower of Belem is gorgeous, Comercio Square and  Monument to the discoveries (which unfortunatley was under renovations when we where there), The Newly opened MAAT -Museum which is 15 minutes walk from Belem Tower and Jerenimos Montasery. We found it very convienient to take the trams and Metro everywhere, the map shows you exactly what tram and metros you are supposed to take, you don't need to be an expert everything is straightforward , I loved the public transports in Lisbon, the key to going around Lisbon is waking up early to make use of the day, you wil be surprised how much you can do in a day, the metro is very safe, but it could get very very crowded so make sure you  push your way into the metro (it gets claustrophobic at peak times). My favorite spot is Chiado, a very lively street with lots of cafes and shops, super trendy spots and delicious icecream parlors, a spot I wanted to check out was Nut Chiado, a crepe, waffle,pancake and churro place, the churros are baked by the way, smothered in nutela chocolate, this small cafe gets so busy during the afternoon and on weekends theres a line up! I absolutely loved Nut Chiado, it was worth getting lost a couple of times to find it, it´s on the corner of Sacremento road and Chiado if you see Oysho it´s right behind it, I wish someone just guided us! and when in Chiado please have some gelato at Amorino ! Im so addicted to the non dairy pistachio! and the servings are quite generous! Walking and using the metro and trams is the best way around the city, there are Tuk Tuks everywhere but honesty, they rip you off once they know youre a tourist they bump up the price, we took one from Belem to comercio (mind you this was a 7 minute ride) he charged us 15 Euros! unbelievable, so just walk or take the metro. The tram takes you to the St.Jorge Catsle, the views are absolutley stunning, you can see all of Lisbon from there, the entrance fee was 10 Euros, and once you are done with the tour of the castle, you can have a glass of wine with gorgeous views. Walk down to Alfama, a very colorful town with lots of Cafes and the famous Lisbon Cathedral, another place I loved was  Miraduro da Senhora Monte, a very popular area also walking distance from the Sao Jorge Castle, the views from Miraduro are breathtaking, very colorful, grafiti on the walls and neighborhood, every turn you take you find hidden treasures, stairs and random  cafes and wine bars, a very romantic area.

Aveiro is about two and a half hours away by train, ticket should cost around 50-55 Euros (return), I highly recommend a trip to Aveiro its absolutely stunning, they call it the venice of Portugal, the cafes and small shops are so cute, everything is locally made, you can catch a bus to Costa Nova (beach) Its so beautiful , a small town with striped houses , it felt like we were in a candy land, theres a famous bakery cafe in costa nova called ¨Padaria Costa Nova¨ the baked goods are delicious and you can barley find a seat its always full. This cute little town was the highlight of my trip I loved it so much I didn't want to leave, so worth the train ride. 

Porto was also a long trip by train almost three hours, we got our tickets from the central station which is Santa Apolonia, you can also take Estacao do Oriente station which is close as well. (all metros take you to both main train stations). Porto is very beautiful, I found it quiet and has alot of historic monuments, but it wasn't as fun as Aveiro, if you are into history then Port is great for you, didn't find a lot of cafes as we did in lisboa and Aveiro, we did not spend much time there.

Back to Lisbon for a few more days, we enjoyed eating out, a place you should go to was the Time Out Market in Lisboa, its right outside Cais do Sodre metro station (did I tell you guys how much I loved the metro in Lisbon? so easy to get around !) Time out market is the best thing in lisbon, so much food to try and desserts all under one roof, you sit down with random strangers and eat , I loved it so much we kept going for three days in a row!

One last stop before leaving å was the Rua Agusta Arch, walk towards the arch and you will find the entrance on the left just under the arch, hard to miss, the entrance fee is 2 euros per person, you take the elevator to the second floor and then take the steep stairs all the way up, the views are epic. This was the perfect ending to our Lisbon trip. Our seven days were over and I was super sad to have to leave so soon, I cant wait to be back. Portugal has a very special place in my heart now. I love the people we met and friends we made. Truly a wonderful experience.

¨Live your life by a compass not a clock¨

We had to make a stop in Amsterdam, my friend Sarine has never been so I said we need to make a stop you have to see Amsterdam even if it was for a day, we got to Amsterdam and took the airport train (do not ever take the taxis outside the airport they will charge you 50 Euros one way) total rip off! buy a return train ticket from the ticket counters (hard to miss) and then validate the ticket and go one floor down to the trains, the trip to the central station took 15-20 minutes, (also make sure you dont carry so much luggage you need to drag your bag every where) take the tram number 15 (you can buy the ticket for the tram onboard) and our tram took us right infront of Rembrant square , I previously booked the Hampshire rembrandt square because of the location, it was perfect when I went with my husband a few years ago so I booked it again, the hotel has been refurbished since Ive been, the location is great and I knew my way around Amsterdam from there, we literarly dropped our bags in our room and left , walked in the freezing cold weather, I didnt bring a coat as it was warmer in Lisbon and Amsterdam was not on the agenda, we had dinner in Dam Square, which has become filled with tourists and many new shops I haven't seen before, christmas lights were already up and the city was looking very festive.  woke up in the morning, had a cup of latte in a glass and walked around the city, since ive already been to Amsterdam a couple of times I had to take Sarine to my fav spots, so first things first...brekkie and what better way to start your day than with dutch pancakes at the best pancake place in central Amsterdam.. the Pancake bakery, we ordered the classic traditional pancakes, apple and bacon, cherry and powdered sugar and the cheese and mushroom , the service is great and it was already full of people.

we walked off the massive meal around the central canals tried a few more cafes and even went to the oh so popular Red Light district, it was super early but my friend liked my tour guide skills. I had to buy a coat as the temperatures where dropping so we found a couple of stores but then I found what I was looking for at Mango (typical girl raised in the GCC I go for what I know) but hey I found the coat Ive always wanted! we walked around Dam square again, had holland fries loaded with paprika and mayo , had a few drinks at a couple of bars and basically ate our way through the city, I thought Id gain so much but due to the 14 hour walks a day i actually lost a bit of weight! I love Amsterdam I would keep going there in a heartbeat, I just love the vibe and how kind the dutch people are. We left that night, sadly our long trip has come to an end, I enjoyed every bit of it and cant wait to be back ... maybe when its warmer though!

¨Live the life that people write novels about¨

I'm always up for any adventurous getaway, although Id rather be by the sea and tend to book beach holiday's, it´s always good to change scenery from time to time. my previous desert stay was at Qasr Al Sarab in Abudhabi, this time stayed at the Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Al Wadi means "valley" in Arabic, and what a stunning valley valley this was, "Wadi Khadeja" also known as Al Mazra, Ras Al Khaimah. 

The hotel was just about two and a half hours drive from AbuDhabi, we honestly didn't feel like a long drive and the kids slept most of the way. I heard great things about this particular hotel and was looking forward to spend three nights with my family and friends. We booked through, three nights cost AED 3150 which isn't too bad considering how expensive hotels are in the region. Our villa was huge, way bigger in real life than photos, a private pool in each Al Rimal Villa, the pool was a great size , the only downfall was that it was covered, I had requested a night before for them to accommodate us in a villa without a shaded pool, but they failed to do that and by the second day it was too late to change rooms, although they offered, it would have been nice to get some sun, the management didnt really give us much of an option which was a bummer since it was my husbands Birthday, but it wasn't a big deal, if you where to book make sure you ask them for an unshaded pool villa before you arrive. The hotel does not have a main pool for the hotel, all the villas including the Khaimah Tent villa have their own pools, very luxurious I must say. 
The hotel provided us with bicycles for our kids and us that was amazing since we rode them throughout the hotel. There are two main restaurants Al Waha where they serve breakfast and dinner, Safran which is only open for dinner is Banyan Tree´s Signature Thai Restaurant, you can order al a Carte, and there is a buffet on most evenings, I recommend dinning at least one night at Safran everything was delicious. The breakfast buffet is nice a wide range of middle eastern cuisine, freshly made pancakes and crepes and eggs made to order. Loved the breakfast, to go early it tends to get super busy around 10 am. The Samar Lounge is stunning and the sunset views from the roof are not to miss, the bar serves light snacks, I recommend the hummus and Sliders, the portions are actually enough for two. Happy hours are from 5-6pm no reservations required.  
What I loved about our whole stay was the adventure club, we booked everything we wanted to do as soon as we arrived. The owl and Falcon show are very educational and free of charge for guests, my children and myself loved being up close to these magnificent birds. he owls and Falcons are kept in a large facility on the property and are well taken care of.

On our second day I booked an early morning Nature walk through the dessert on the hotel premises, (The hotel sits on 100 Acre private nature reserve in Wadi Khadeja), lots of untouched Ghaf trees and dunes as far as the eye can see. The Hotel is just incredible, and its the UAE´s first integrated desert resort. The nature walk was complimentary, and very educational, you need to book a day before you plan and it starts at 8 am, my children had another tour another day called Trails & Tales, this was a private tour (also free) where they discovered rare birds of the desert and had their binoculars and bird books, this was super exciting for them, recommended for ages 5 -11. 
The Banyan tree has their own horse stables, and you will usually find oryxe and ghazels roaming freely throughout the property, absolutely stunning animals, a wonderful experience not only for my children, but also for us! I was so excited when I saw them up close. there is around 52 Oryxe on the property, The horse stables are well maintained and you can book in advance (24 hours) , I booked an hour horse ride for my children and I booked a desert ride for an hour too, if you love horses as much as I do, this is truly an experience not to be missed, I however spent 5 hours in the stables feeding and kissing all the horses, followed by two very mischievous goats (who were harmless by the way), there were lots of animals roaming around like geese, chickens and ducks and a couple of turkeys and ofcourse it wouldn't be a desert without Camels, The horse trainer Ms.Yasmin is absolutely amazing and she gives lessons too if you book with the hotel, so worth booking if you haven't been on a horse before. 
The Award winning spa at Banyan Tree is stunning, signature massages and treatments need to be booked in advance, a menu can be provided in your room. Asian inspired, luxurious and tranquil environment, and their rainforest experience is fabulous. For all you mamas who need a break this is your place to be. For all you Golfers out there, Banyan tree has an eighteen hole championship course at the AL Hamra Club(booking required) The Arabian inspired desert resort also overlooks the Hajjar mountains, for a bit of romance, the hotel can customize a romantic dinning experience for you, recommended in the cooler months like November and December. 
The Staff are very friendly, and have been very helpful, my only recommendation would be that they inform guests about the mandatory shaded pools.

A wonderful desert experience, Thank you Banyan tree for an amazing family weekend.

¨I was never going to go if I waited for someone to come with me¨

Travelling solo at least once a year is truly something I believe in, if I was going to wait for someone to travel with me, I would never be able to actually travel.  We had just come back from four weeks of travel with our children for the summer holidays, I had a week still left from my annual leave, so I just went ahead and booked Sri Lanka again, although we've already been to Srilanka nine months ago, it was perfect for me, flights were available and the hotel too, I booked and left a few days later, on my own, no family, no friends just me. 

Arriving at Colombo airport at 3:30 am after a 4 hour flight from Abu Dhabi, I made my way to the airport taxi stand booked a cab, just before leaving the airport I noticed something new I never seen before at the airport, a couple of mobile sim card shops, tourists bought sim cards for their holiday and made sense for me to get one too, it only cost 12 usd, then I was on my way.  I reached the Hotel at 6 am, the whole road trip was about 2 and a half hours almost, I slept most of the way.

The Elysium hotel is located on wijaya beach and is 10 minutes away from Galle, a boutique hotel with only 5 rooms / villas, very spacious rooms, super comfy bed and gorgeous interiors. The rooms were all located around the pool and there was a private beach a few steps off the property, I had read the reviews online and the Elysium had exceeded my expectations, the staff are very friendly and helpful, I was pampered a lot. The hotel had a sharing tv lounge area (there are no TV's in the rooms) which I thought was great, a pool table on the top floor and library, the hotel furniture is mostly traditional srilankan lots of local art work too. I loved this place, the rooms have everything you need, although they didn't have in room amenities like toothbrush, shower caps, cream etc , but I had brought my own anyway, the rooms do not a kettle for tea coffee, you need to pay for the tea each time which was the only thing I didn't like, because I love making my own cup of tea , I did mention it to the front office manager that's my only comment about the rooms.  Each room has a garden terrace if you prefer dining in private all the villas opened up into the courtyard and you can request for in room dining too.

I booked through, it cost around USD 780 (all inclusive of tax) including breakfast, the villa is huge and can accommodate two adults and two children, although I recommend the Family room (which has a bunk bed for little children), Breakfast, lunch and dinner is made to order, the chef prepares the food in the main kitchen, there's no buffet (thank God) breakfast is basically a fruit platter, tea/coffee, coconut water or fresh juices, pancakes , eggs (any style) or srilankan breakfast  (hoppers) which I highly recommend. The lunch and dinner menu has a variety of Italian and srilankan cuisine, lots of salads I loved the seared tuna Niscoise salad. The Elysium has its own Tuk Tuk driver, he drove me around Galle and stayed with me the whole time which was nice, the return trip anywhere on the island cost USD 10 (1600 Rupees) which is super cheap. Although you can take a tuk tuk from anywhere it will cost around (1200 Rupees). Galle Fort a touristic area very small but beautiful architecture and history, lots of cute little shops and cafes you can spend a few hours in that area and the views are spectacular, I loved Galle, the fish and vegetable markets and local food sold on the streets don't buy the coconuts at Galle though! super expensive and they know that youre a tourist. The Rock temple "Yatagala Rajamaha" Temple is gorgeous, I went super early the temple was empty, the monks were all there, I had to wear a long wrap and take my shoes off as respect, then climb the 30 plus flight of steep stairs to reach the Buddha, I have never seen anything as peaceful and colorful as this temple, the budhist kids giggled and waved at me, as I made the tour around the temple there was an older monk performing a sermon and a woman following him so I asked what he was doing, my Tour guide AKA Tuk tuk driver Nilanka told me that her husband had died not long ago and the monk was performing a prayer, she then layed flowers and candles as a gift to the Buddha, it really was beautiful. As I made my way down the stairs Nilanka said that I can get blessed so we made our way down and I kneeled with my head down and got blessed by the monk it was a very humbling experience.  Yoga was on my priority list , book through Yoga Trail 10 yoga teachers who are available in several locations throughout Galle and talpe, otherwise you will find a few yoga studios who also give private sessions at your hotel, all located on Talpe road. Surfing classes are also just a few minutes away from the hotel Sadu Surfing Cottage was highly recommended also in Talpe. Massage and reflexology can be arranged just inform the front desk.

Special thanks to Indika, Humair, and Chandana for the wonderful hospitality an unforgettable stay at the Elysium hotel.

Just a few steps away, there was "The Satin Doll" newly renovated, modern villa also located on the Unawatuna beach, shares the same owner as the Elysium hotel and 48 Lighthouse , The satin doll is a relaxed modern day hotel with only 4 bedrooms, a large dinning area, all rooms face the beach, an acre of lush gardens and a beautiful pool (not as big as the Elysium hotel Pool), this intimate boutique hotel is perfect for both families and honeymooners, a few steps onto the beach, the rooms are spacious. Fully staffed team, and a wonderful Chef that prepares delicious meals throughout the day. Just like the Elysium the Satin Doll is truly a beautiful romantic getaway for those who love nature and romance too. If you're lucky you get to see the turtles swimming close by the beach, and the local fishermen are there everyday using the traditional Sri Lankan fishing method of stilt fishing, they sit perched on top of wooden crosses with their fishing lines, usually find them early morning or at sunset.

The Next day I was invited for a tour of a nearby hotel (and by nearby I mean this was just a few steps away), to the newly opened "owl & the Pussycat" , I had previously tried to book at the OTP but they where fully booked, as soon as you walk in there's a pop of color, this was the most beautiful boutique I have ever seen, I was shown around by the office manager Rachana who was kind enough to explain all the room categories for me, The OTP has a total of 16 rooms, the décor is just stunning, the owner of the hotel has put a lot of love and hard work into it, the rooms were spacious, contemporary yet traditional artwork throughout the hotel, It was absolutely stunning. I have never seen anything like this before, the rooms are colorful , bright and the energy at the OTP is just stunning, each room has its own tea and coffee making facilities and cute baskets of goodies too, the bathrooms and flooring, the attention to detail makes my heart melt, green lush gardens, and a beautiful pool that lights up with tiny stars at night, handwritten "Owl & The Pussy cat" Poetry by Edward Lear across the walls and doors,  contemporary art and a gorgeous pantry café overlooking the wijaya beach. The outdoor bar and shaded restaurant by the sea "The Runcible Spoon" which served delicious home made Sri Lankan cuisine with a twist, I recommend the fish "Thali" and the Feta Couscous salad, or perhaps try their fresh juices. The Chefs prepared the most amazing meal for me and Rachana. The rooms are stunning the service is immaculate a 5 star experience all the way.  I would not think twice about booking here on my next trip, a romantic getaway perhaps? I mean my anniversary is coming up soon!

The OTP Signature one double bed room is huge, great for a family of four adults, your own private kitchen and guess what? The staff will go to the market and get your groceries for you so you can enjoy cooking in the kitchen, how cool is that? click here to see the rates.  The Owl & The Pussycat is located in Talpe a few steps away from the Elysium hotel,A very romantic (perfect for honeymooners), modern hotel that will surprise you. If you asks me which hotel represents my personality, then my answer would be, this one. so in three words to describe the OTP; Extraordinary, Romantic, Stunning.

Traveling Solo

Solo travel , not only makes me a better person, it pushes me out of my comfort zone, being in unfamiliar places, finding my inner spirit, no iteneraries, discovering the world being fascinated as though I was a child seeing something for the first time, discovering my true self, who I am as an individual is really an indescribable experience, doing something I love by myself with no one  commitments, as much as I love travelling with my family, I love being alone for me, to be who I am in a different place, I took the time to rejuvenate, appreciate life and appreciate myself too.

¨Travelers are dreamers who make their desires for adventure a reality¨

Our summer vacation has finally come, we had just got off the plane from our Marbella trip landed in abudhabi got home at 6 am, exhausted at this point, my kids where waiting paitently not excited that we are home, they were more excited that we were leaving the same night to Malaysia, I was so glad I had pre packed their bags way in advance, this saved me the agony of packing with them driving me crazy with a milion and one questions. I unpacked our bags from the previous trip and repacked for Malaysia, new fres set of dresses, swimwear minimum make up as going to be on the beach mostly, the one regret was packing my hair dryer, was pointless as the humidity was high but anyway, I didnt think it would be more humid than the UAE, I was wrong. 

We flew on Etihad to KL then took air Malaysia (I avoided this airline so much but there wasn't any other choice, the other flights didn't have better connections) it was a 40 minute flight so wasn't as bad as I thought. Now let me give you a tip when booking to Langkawi, once in KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) make sure there is at least 3 hours till your connecting flight, immigration in KL takes a while, its an International Airport, so be prepared, they were fast at immigration but you still need a minimum of 3 hours, after immigration you will need to take the airport train , to the the main terminal, my kids loved this train it was super fast and took you over the airport and it was outdoors, you get into the airport then you get to baggage claim then off to the Malaysian Airlines counter, another tip and please do this otherwise you're pretty much screwed if you have kids  so before you even leave your country make sure you check in online on both airlines! because once you arrive to the check in counters you wont have to wait another hour in the normal Que., this has always been a life saver, you just walk up to the baggage drop and you're done in less than 10 minutes. They take this quite seriously in Malaysia so if you haven't checked in online they will send you back to the normal Que. Ive seen this happen to lots of travelers before and it sucks. If you want to buy a sim card you will find a shop right after the luggage , just make sure that they do it for you as everything is in Malaysian, 5GB should cost not more that 70 RMB, if you couldnt get one at the airport you will find many mobile stores on the island just as k your driver to stop and help you get one. 

We dropped our bags grabbed some more snacks for the onward trip it was 6 pm landed in Langkawi at 7 pm, Langkawi airport is small very organized and the staff are helpful, we grabbed our luggage and our driver from the hotel ¨CJ¨was waiting for us outside, you can always take an airport taxi youll find counters inside the airport, which I suggest you book through rather than waiting inline outside to catch a regular cab. Our trip to the St.Regis Langkawi was 40 minutes, it was already night time the kids were exhausted , we arrived and the staff got us sorted in less than ten minutes, we had dinner at the LÓrangerie, the main resturant at the hotel. The hotel which only opened this year in April was breathtaking, our suite was huge , we booked on and we took the Half Board option, when traveling with children this is very ideal and I recommend you do that, if your kids are under the age of 12 they get to eat for free at the hotel you just need to pay 10 USD per child per day (which is a great offer if you ask me) that means they get to not only have breakfast and dinner but lunch too at the pool. The hotel also has private pool suites called the St.Regis Pool Suite, as well as the super romantic Sunset Villas located on the far end of the beach perfect for honeymooners with the most stunning views of the Andaman Sea.

The St.Regis pool and beach are just breath taking, theres a childrens pool too close to the bar so you can keep an eye on your kids while having a drink, fresh coconuts and delicious icecream (try the tiramisu) is also served in the hotel,  we spent most of the day by the beach on the hammocks, the staff all knew our names which I was a bit surprised, like how did they know our names? they sure made us feel very special. We had our own butler, who made our stay super special, he offered to unpack our bags and make us a few cocktails, I mean wow, not that I would ask anyone to unpack my bag for me It was very sweet. My kids got customized cookies at turn down service which made our stay even more special, it´s the attention to detail that make our trips memorable.  The island is quite big, you can walk around and you will see a few monleys up on the trees, they usually come down to see if you have food, dont feed them because they will follow you everywhere! 

The St Regis, has a beautiful bar, which has wine tasting every evening between 5-8pm and kids are welcome, the staff made milkshakes for my kids while they sat quietly on their Ipads and we enjoyed wine tasting just before dinner. The hotel menu offers a wide range of food, and they can make anything you ask for, the prices of the menu items are actually not bad, I was surprised, you know when youre at a hotel and the prices are ridiculous and they over charge you for everything? well they dont have this concept at the St.Regis Langkawi, the menu choices and price list where very good. With our room, we got complimentary limo from and to the airport, laundry service for 5 garments, we also got USD 100 per day to spend at the pool, restaurants and Spa which was amazing. We had dinner in the evenings at the beautiful Kaya Puti Restaurant, and I mean the views are just stunning, they open the bar at 6pm you can watch the sunset and enjoy sundowners smoke shisha (hukkah)  while laying on the hammocks on top of the water. The food is fantastic, I recommend the red snapper, the food looks so beautiful that you almost dont want to eat it, the interior and the staff are fantastic, the kids menu is available, you can choose your wine as well to accompany your meal. I loved everything about this restaurant in particular. The St.Regis Langkawi is all about luxury, the staff are well trained and the hotel is just spectacular, I would book it over and over again, one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had. 

Langkawi isn't a big island, a few bars and restaurants  as well as 1 McDonalds, they have an aquarium for kids which is being renovated and they also have a wildlife park which is nice, mine enjoyed touching the rabbits and feeding the parrots and ostriches, it was fun and that only took an hour to go through the park, Im not a fan of zoos and animal parks as it concerns me how animals are treated and that people benefit making money out of animals and photos, but the wildlife was nice the wildlife rangers were very friendly to the animals and although some of the Pythons where locked up in cages etc I didn't see anything cruel at the wildlife. We took a regular cab cost 75 RMB (67 AED) and it was only 20 minutes away. The hotel also arranged for private and semi private tours through the mangroves, recommended for couples and families with children over 4 years old) they take you through the mangroves to see bat caves , monkeys eagle island, if you book through the hotel it will cost you more, so just take a regular taxi to the main jetty  and pay them directly, a trip will cost (350 - 400 RMB) for four people if its a private tour,  thats reasonable but doesn't include any food or drinks, so take a few water bottles and some snacks as the trip could take around 4 hours, but you can always discuss how long you want the trip for if you don't want to do the full tour. 

So we arrive in Malaysia, we take a normal airport Taxi (100 RMB) because we had 4 bags we had to take a larger car, and made our way to the city, it was an hours drive, if you arrive during peak hours then it'll take you 2 hours minimum, due to traffic, first impression? too crowded, very hot and very humid, I didn't like it but thought I wont judge, we had booked two nights in KL just to relax and do some shopping, later I would find out it was the biggest mistake ever. We booked Fraser Residence, In the heart of KL newly renovated, the apartment we booked was very big, super clean and views of the Petronas towers, but... and I emphasize on the BUT, it was crowded, loads of tourists the hotel was nothing compared to what we are used to, the staff were nice and friendly, but I wasn't happy about how congested the hotel was, I felt anxious. Anyway, we went out to the mall, we went to Suria KLCC its about 10 minutes walking from our hotel, lots of other hotels in this area, the Westin, Renaissance to name a few and a new Four seasons being built right next to the mall. The streets are clean and organized, loads of traffic, walking into the mall you will be amazed at how many people are in there, the mall is huge, but again super busy, and people who know me well, know I hate malls but I took one for the team, we looked for a cafe we can have lunch in , couldn't find any that had salads, later on we found out that the only place we would stick to is the tea leaf and coffee bean cafe, anyway, we went into chillies (gag!) now before you all jump to conclusions, we couldn't find anything that didnt serve chicken, meat and my kids wanted fish so we went into chillies (I hate these places, but we were desperate) we ordered beers and two fish and chips and tortilla chips for me and the husband, just so we could actually sit and figure out what places are where, (trust me you need to know these places before you go) over whelmed by the amount of people, the two naggers had finished their fish n chips, we walked around for a bit then went to another mall supposedly better than this one, which was true we ended up at the Pavillion Mall just behind the Petronas towers, it was a nicer version of the other one, it was big, looked like Dubai mall almost, we walked around found a few stores had coffee and headed back to the hotel. 

The Next morning was crazy, we woke up to have breakfast (as we booked the room with Breakfast) we stood in line, not kidding, for at least 10 minutes then asked them what was taking so long, they said that the restaurant was so busy they couldn't accommodate everyone so they opened another restaurant on the 21st floor, anyway it was taking too long, we complained to the manager but it was pointless when you have two kids who want pancakes right now. We left the hotel went to Pavillion ( we had scouted that mall the day before) stopped at one of the cafes had coffee and croissants walked around more, then made our way to the Aquaria, which is connected to Suria KLCC, (sidenote, to all you make up fanatics, KL has a lot of Sephora stores and one close to Suria Mall which is huge you could get lost in) . The aquarium (similar to the one in Dubai too) that was fun for the kids not too big we were done in half an hour, took a few pictures and then went to have lunch. They aren't fans of breakfast in Malaysia mostly its baked goods (do try the cheese tarts) and asian cuisine, unlike Bangkok which has a larger variety to suit every palette). So moral of the story, if you are traveling with children to Malaysia it will be quite difficult to find something they are used to in terms of food. The city is super busy and so are the malls, if you are planning on stopping over then two days is perfect, any longer then you will have to book a few tours etc. Honesty, Im not a city person, others might love the busy cities but I don't, I also don't think its fun for kids, (ask mine). Malaysia is a beautiful country the islands are absolutely stunning, 5-7 days is more than enough too, seafood is insanely delicious and the Malaysian people are very kind and friendly. If you are staying in KL the top hotels are the Mandarin Oriental and the St.Regis KL (which was fully booked unfortunately).  

Recommended to travel between November to January to enjoy the weather more. June-September is mostly raining season with high humidity. 

Our trip overall was fab, the kids had a blast and the husband enjoyed footwear shopping in the city, Malaysia is beautiful and filled with lots of culture yet a very modern city. The Malaysian people are very helpful, kind and have shown great hospitality to us, thank you for such a wonderful summer holiday, See you soon Malaysia x 

¨Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire¨

A much anticipated trip to Marbella has finally come, we booked with Turkish Airline, as the trip is direct from Istanbul, we took an early morning flight, long and very bumpy, we arrived in beautiful Marbella, the weather hits you as soon as you leave the airport, if you need a sim card they have a counter just before you leave the airport, 5GB data package for 55 Euros. 

The weather was slightly humid, but the skies where blue and absolutely stunning, take light clothes if you plan a trip in July/ August, it can get very hot at noon. The airport ride to the hotel took about an hour or so and cost 120 Euro, we had previously booked at Hotel El Fuerte via, Im glad we booked at this hotel, the location was perfect, in the heart of Old Town Marbella, a beautiful part I enjoyed and I will tell you why later.

The hotel decor is very spanish, the room was the perfect size and we had a beach view too, old marbella has more to offer than just great pubs and restaurants, theres heritage and culture too, although very touristic, the whole area had lots to offer. Bargaining isnt much of an option when it comes to boutiques the prices are final so dont bother bargaining, a dress/top will set you back 20-25 Euros, food and drink in the city is quite cheap tapas are delicious and so is the famous Paella, you wil find that most restaurants have deals on the tapas and drinks and it wont disappoint.

Cafes, gelato shops, souvenir stores all lined up across the pebbles roads, people lived around old marbella who have been there many years, it just felt so welcoming being there. If you are a burger lover then you need to try this awesome Burger Place ¨Burger Bar ¨in Puerto Banus, probably one of the best burgers Ive ever had. 

We enjoyed walking around the old town, discovered the most beautiful colorful houses on the way, the churches and traditional untouched buildings where just stunning. A place that was recommended that had great Tapas and flamenco dancers was ¨Tablao Ana Maria Los Chatos¨if you are in the Old town then its a must. booking in advance is required as this place gets filled up fast. Churro cafes everywhere you will be spoilt for choice, endless juice places, boutique shops beautiful embroidery and art everywhere I fell in love with this city.

Behind Hotel El Fuerte is a strip of public and private beaches a few steps from the hotel, a private beach area and a paella resturant on the pier overlooking the endless sea, the hotel staff and pools were just fab! I would book the same hotel again, the service was excellent.

I actually dont know why we havent been to Marbella yet, the reason we travelled was due to a wedding, so five days wasnt enough sadly, but we made the most out of this trip. Prior to the wedding we all met up at an Irish Pub O´Grady´s  located in Puerto Banus, an area I did not like at all, and let me explain why, it was extremly busy, lots of tourists, you can barely walk through the port, a strip of pubs and nightclubs as well as luxury brands all lined up next to each other, you cant even stop without being trampled on, the Pub was nice they only served drinks, food had to be delivered in take out boxes from another restuarnt, Yep, not kidding, literary a guy shows up with coxes of our Quesadillas and nachos and we had to pay him on the spot, never in a million years would I have expected that! it was pure comedy. Anyway, we tucked into our food had a few drinks and walked around a bit more until we just got sick of it, (just to get to puerto Banus took us 20 minutes with a local bus which cost 1 Euro) totally worth the trip it was actually cool getting on the bus, cabs are usually 10-20 Euro per way. We went back to the Old town adn had a proper meal then stayed out tll 1 am. More sightseeing in the mornings, breakfast and coffee, what I loved about the old town is that its quiet, and you see a lot more of the beautiful culture of Spain.

Wedding Day, I wasnt feeling well I woke up with a slight cold, and went to the first pharmacy I could find , the pharmacist gave me what seemed to be 500mg of paracetemol, I took two and went back to bed woke up around noon feeling much better, made a cup of tea and began to get ready, by this time the men had all gone to the grooms home to pick him up for pre wedding photos, I got ready and realised that my hair wasnt as curly as anticipated, and I couldnt zip up my dress alone, my cousin came to my rescue, thankfully she was also staying at the same hotel, we went back to her room and she started fixing my so called curls with her curling iron, lots of hair spray and wardrobe malfunctions we finally made it to the venue, Vila Tiberio, owned by restauranteur Sando Morelli, this luxurious villa turned restaurant with lush gardens and a dramatic entrance that has been a favorite to celebreties such as Sean Connery and Andrew Lloyd Weber, to name a few. Absolutly stunning perfect for that summer wedding.  The disney theamed wedding was beautiful, we had a blast.

The After Party, was the next morning at the famous Ocean Club Marbella, I fell in love with all the shades of blue, the beautiful views of the sea and yachts in the background, overflowing drinks and lunch by the pool,  great music and wonderful people.

Our last two days were spent well, a local tour through Marbella, lunch and coffee stops and the endless eateries and Tapas  bars, I mean what more can you ask for? great fresh food and the most humble people I have ever met in this beautiful town everyone loves. 

I was sad to leave and had wished we stayed longer, book a trip to seville and grenada or just rent a car which would be cheaper and drive around Spain, you would probably need at least 7-8 days minimum. 

Marbella you surprised me. It wont be the last time, I cant wait to go back.

Viva España

¨Blessed are the curious for they will have adventure¨

Qatar the pearl of the Gulf, I lived in Doha for part of my childhood, my father got a job there and we moved when I was born from Kuwait, I made great friends there who are still living in Doha. It has changed lot since I left and  although Doha has become modern, with all the buildings and the pearl Island, traditions and old iconic buildings remain untouched.

The Museum of Islamic Arts  was unfortunately closed when we went as it was Eid, definitely recommended for tourists, Souq Waqif is beautiful, full of culture and lots of bargain shopping.
Take a trip to the Doha Ports and see all the fishermen in action. Katara Cultural Village and Galleries are also worth visiting. Make sure to book in advance or ask your hotel concierge to arrange day trips for you in advance, if visiting in the summer months then book trips after 4 pm as it will be very hot.

¨There is a desert I long to be walking. A wide emptiness.Peace beyond any understanding of it¨

Qasr Al Sarab is truly one of the most beautiful desert resorts I have been to, we have already been three times since we moved to Abu Dhabi. This time it was my husbands Birthday, I booked us three nights as a getaway, the kids didn't come this time, but I recommend it for families.

We booked the Garden Deluxe Room and previously booked the stunning Royal Pavilion Villa (recommended for a family of 4 Adults and 5 children with your own private pool one of the most beautiful villas I have ever seen.  the Relaxing by the pool and enjoy sundowners and a delicious menu at the Terrace  with stunning views of the desert, if you are planning a trip to Abu Dhabi or the UAE then book yourself a weekend here you wont regret it. I had asked the concierge to arrange camel rides for us and a trip through the desert and I'm so glad we woke up early the weather was amazing since it was still October, at noon it got really hot, don't forget you are in the middle of the desert after all! it was truly memorable,  very relaxing couple if days basking the sun, I highly recommend the camel trekk it was such a wonderful experience! The tour guide Waris is such a sweetheart.

Breakfast was the best part of the morning , endless selections of fresh fruits, breads , Arabic mezzeh, the staff are all friendly and very helpful, the best sunsets are at the Arabian Terrace, the views are breathtaking and they serve the best Moroccan tea !

Our room was facing the sand dunes, we had a little garden it was stunning, very traditional and arabesque, the room itself was huge. We booked for the camel rides in the morning, such a wonderful experience, I highly recommend it for families, its quite early in the morning as it tends to get hot especially with children. The hotel also has horse rides and you can also book a trip into the desert with their tour guides. Enjoy the evenings at Al Falaj for a traditional meal while the sun sets and some shisha too.

The hotel is located in 'Rub Al Khali" the Empty Quarter in Abu Dhabi and you will need to have a GPS to get there or book a car with the Hotel. An Afternoon stroll on the dunes is recommended the view from the top is worth the steep climb, trust me. I never knew that the desert is this beautiful till I came here, you get to see the wild life and if you are lucky you will see Ghazel's walking freely, if you have an adventurous side like us then book a desert bike ride and follow the trail and get a workout while you are at it!

Whether you are a couple wanting to relax or with your kids there is lots to do and see. Qasr Al Sarab is one of the most stunning hotels filled with cultural experiences and beautiful views.  Relaxing at the Anantara Spa on our last day was the perfect ending to our trip, we booked the Couples Desert Romance treatment, no trip to Anantara is complete without a Spa treatment.

We love Anantara Hotels, the service and stays are always great and we have the best memories. One of my favorite hotel chains,I have become a GHD Member because I love them so much. 

Wonderful Stay Thank you Anantara.

*Our trip was booked on The above is based on  my opinion, our hotel stay was booked & paid by us. This is NOT an endorsement.

¨Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere your find yourself¨

Thai inspired resort in the heart of Dubai, absolutely stunning décor, friendly staff and fun for the whole family. I cant even begin to tell you how much fun we had, there was lots to do, the resort is huge! Anantara Dubai is the most beautiful hotel we have been to in the region, I just love the Anantara chain as it reminds me of the Thai culture, I love Thailand, I would live there if I could. 

The hotel is located on the Palm, it took us about an hour and 20 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi, as soon as we arrived, we were welcomed by the staff in the lobby, we got an early check in which was really nice of them , mind you it was still Ramadan and the hotel was not as full as expected but the next morning the hotel was packed.

We settled into our Deluxe Lagoon view room (recommended for families with two children) as they have a day bed which can be made into a day bed enough for three children below 8 years old,  located on the second floor with gorgeous views of the lagoons and other chalets, the room is big the balcony too, there is a rain shower, a large bath tub too, the room is equipped with a Nespresso machine and kettle, jelly beans, nuts and chocolates too,  as well as a fully stocked mini bar.  I would also recommend booking the Premium Lagoon Access room (direct lagoon pool access).  

We took the kids to the main pool and spent the day by the pool and beach, the main pool is beautiful, there is a kids pool as well which is shaded, a Mai Tai bar in the middle and a Jacuzzi too, with views of the beach which was a few steps away, there was a lot of pool activities around noon time for the kids, like tug of war and looking for rings placed in the pool which mu kids enjoyed the most, as well as water sports, kayaking and paddle boarding too, we paid AED 50 each for a paddle board session and renting a water boat, you can also take a long tail boat tour from the hotel which is a lot of fun if you are visiting Dubai for the first time. 

The kids club Aka "Tuk Tuk" and the staff are friendly, they have a full day of activities for the kids and you can leave them there as long as you like, (mine wanted to stay all day!) The staff are well trained and professional. They had face painting, henna tattoos and arts and crafts my kids had a blast. 

Mekong, restaurant is Asian inspired and the food is fantastic, you may also order room service if you want to relax in your room, Cresendo is where breakfast is served and they have quite a large selection, there is also a kids pancake and crepe section just for them with lots of delicious toppings. Gluten free cereals, bread and cakes are also served as well, Mediterranean , middle eastern and Asian cuisine is also served at crescendo and a large selection of breads, pastries, jams and a station for granola and yogurt flavored with fresh tropical fruits. Egg station made to order, crispy hash browns and a selection of desserts from donuts to hot sticky cinnamon swirls. We loved Cresendo. 

Lunch is served on the pool as well, there is a Lotus Lounge as well as Bushman's restaurant and bar that serves prime cut meats and fresh seafood opened for evening dining. The Beach house located right on the beach is open for lunch and the views are breath taking, I recommend everyone try it the kids loved it. 

The Anantara Spa is stunning, I recommend the Turkish Hammam get the full experience, everything from the design to the actual Hammam itself is fantastic, perfect way to relax and unwind on the heated marble after a scrub and foam bath. 

The lagoons are spread across the hotel in between the chalets beautiful quiet and relaxing, a snack boat comes around with fresh fruits and ice lollies to cool you down. The lagoons have a strip of beach sand for the kids to play with and it doesn't come in to the pool which I thought was a great idea I absolutely loved it.  

For couples who are on their honeymoon and would like a quiet more relaxing holiday I suggest you book the Over the water villa located on the beach, so romantic and the rooms have a glass viewing panel so you can watch the fish swim by! Anantara always seems to amaze me with the attention to detail, once we came back to our room on the second night the staff left my children stuffed toys on their bed and some chocolates. They really took care of us, it is Anantara after all and the service is immaculate, so expect nothing but the best from them. 

Fab Stay at Anantara, we would come back in a heart beat! I would like to thank the wonderful staff , special thanks to Ms. Zarifa at the front desk who not only made us feel at home but was so kind and professional and even gave our kids some souvenirs to remember her by. Thank you for making us feel special and because of you we will be back.  

*Our trip was booked on The above is based on  my opinion, our hotel stay was booked & paid by us. This is NOT an endorsement.

¨Fill your life with adventures,not things. Have stories to tell not stuff to show¨

I have never been to Oman, although I´ve lived in the gulf region for 30 years, every time I tried to book a trip there it never worked out. This trip was overdue, I initially wanted to go with a group of friends in January, I went to the embassy to check if I needed a visa, they told me I couldn't travel as Im on my husbands sponsorship(residence wise) long story! anyways, spring break was coming up so this was just perfect.

Alila hotel was on my list from last year, located in the mountains of Jabal Akhdar (meaning green mountain) in Arabic, later on found out that it´s because of the juniper tree that grows in that area,  we booked and were on our way, we took a flight and so glad we did, we flew to Muscat and had booked a car through the hotel ( to get to Jabal Al Akhdar you will need a 4x4 vehicle).

The trip took 2 hours to get to the hotel from the airport, I knew that when I booked so I prepared some snacks for the kids, brought an Ipad and some activity books. The road was pretty bumpy, I get motion sickness, so some nausea pills would have been helpful, when we finished from customs. Our Omani escort Mohamed waited for us outside with a sign, got into his Toyota and were on our way. it was still morning when we arrived, and the trip was not so bad. once we reached Nizwa (Northern Oman) there was a checkpoint just before going up to the mountain, the police were very nice, checked our passports and let us through. At this point the road became much more steep, the higher we got the more beautiful the scenery got, minus the pressure and ear popping, it was breathtaking.

Finally reached Alila, beautifully located 2,000 meters above sea level. We were greeted by the staff and made our way to our Suite. The resort is absolutely stunning and the view is dramatic, we were in awe. If you love Nature and utter silence, where you can relax and unwind,  then look no further.

Our Horizon suite was stunning, with our own patio overlooking the Hajjar mountains, the weather was 19 degrees Celsius, that's considered cold for us in the middle east, but the sun was out, it couldn't get any more better than this. we had a quick bite on the terrace of the hotel at the rose lounge, and went to the pool, the main pool was very cold so we couldn't swim in it which was a total bummer, but the indoor pool was heated so we swam indoors, I sat outside on the sunloungers with my book, the kids played inside and hubby sat with me, the views were just stunning and the resort was quiet.

We were staying for 4 nights at Alila, Oh make sure you take the half or full board option, lunch is very pricey, although the kids meals were rather reasonable, the adult meals were a bit overpriced to be honest, but the portions were big and the food at the resort is delicious. Our breakfast and dinner was included in our package . Breakfast is served from 6:30 am to 11:00 am they have a buffet set up which has pastries, breads, fresh juices, Arabic mezzeh like labaneh, hommus, olives pickles eggplant (Babaghanoug) etc, a spread of fruits and cereals as well, you can order any style eggs, shakshouka , pancakes , french toast and other a la carte menu items as well. As for dinner there is a three course menu which changes every night, a great selection of entree , mains and desserts ofcourse, there is a separate kids menu too including smoothies and fresh juices. Overall, Alia exceeds expectations with their food style.

On our third day we booked a tour of Nizwa Souks & Forts, we wanted something easy as we had our kids with us, this tour was perfect, our Omani tour guide Malek was ready for us at8:00am, we drove down to Nizwa, known as the birth place of Islam in Oman. The country's ancient Capital and one of Oman's most popular tourist destinations.  Nizwa was the center of trade, education and religion and is the site for many historical forst and castles which stand till today. The Nizwa souk is old, but vibrant, local merchants selling everything from dates, spices to fish and goats and the very famous ¨Halwa¨ a sweet treat served as a symbol of hospitality in all Omani homes, Halwa contains sugar oil, eggs water, saffron cardamom, nuts and rosewater ( it also happens to be ¨rose water season in April), no trip to Oman is complete without trying the¨Halwa¨, it´s delicious.  Take a look around at the pottery  and leather goods all made by local merchants, the silver souk is remarkable you can buy silver and stones locally as well, but extremely expensive as they go by weight. I recommend you go on any day except Fridays as it is extremely busy and you wont be able to go with children due to the amount of people there. Nizwa fort was incredible an hour of  touring the fort and its surroundings learning so much about the Omani culture and trade, and it was the highlight of this trip. On our way back we stopped at Misfat Al Abriyyin, a medieval village built in the rock face, and we also stopped at Al Falaj water that runs through the village from the mountains which the local villagers drink from.

The hotel also can arrange for customized trips to the Friday Goat Market and Birkat Al Mouz another fun trip that doesn't require a lot of walking. An auction which is held on Fridays selling and trading of sheep & goats . Birkat Al Mouz which means "pool of Bananas" located in the lush parts of the mountains, walk through old houses in Nizwa, and see all the date farms. Stargazing is a trusted ancient art by omani farmers, it is used to determine seasons, time the allocation of water in the irrigation system and cycle of the agricultureal activities, one of the most beautiful moments spend was on the terrace of our hotel watching the stars glitter across the dark sky so close you could it felt as though you could grasp them, clusters and clusters of stars, absolutley stunning.

If you are into hiking then there are a couple of easy to difficult routes which can be arranged by the hotel. We booked the "Explore on Foot" a discovery trail made close to the resort. Mountain and village trails can also recommended, they are around 4-6 hours each with a guide of course. My kids loved the exploring part and we started early as the weather was cooler.Wild mountain Shrubs are an important to Omani´s they are used as remedies. such as oil extract from the ¨Jadah Plant¨ which is used for stomach pain and soothes body aches, the Hanqalan plant is used to treat sore eyes. The Juniper tree which only grows on the Jabal Akhdar are as old as 3000 years and are very sacred to the community. 

The Spa is beautiful, lots of treatments to choose from including a rose water bath which is hihly recomended by other travelers who have stayed at the hotel, and what I loved the most was the childrens massage! yep, for kids,  as spoiled as that sounds it´s actually sweet if you and your daughter would like to bond and have a girlie afternoon, mine wasnt interested she wanted to go back to the pool. 

A suite for 4 nights would cost up to AED 5800 ($1589) not including taxes, the rates are including half board meals which we booked through, what I do suggest is you take a full board of half board which are better deals for you if you are traveling with your family. Considering the hotel is around 1 hour from the closest city you will need to pack some snack/ baby formula if traveling with an infant, extra beds rates are (AED 100 per night), my  eldest slept on the lounge which was convenient and my son with us on our king size bed. Cots are available upon request.

Our entire stay at the Alila Jabal Akhdar was amazing, a truely memorable trip for us, we would go back in a heartbeat, everything from the service to the weather, Arabian style interiors and stunning views of the mountains are worth the long drive. Lastly, do not expect any reception up on the mountain, the wifi is very weak, sit back and enjoy these views, it truly is a once in a lifetime experience. 

*The above is based on my own experience, photographs are all by Sarah Dehays

¨Traveling makes one modest, you see the tiny space you occupy in the world¨

The last time I went to Lebanon was in 1996, it was quite a drive from Amman that summer, with my family, I remember stopping in Chtoura , the reason I remember this specific place was because of their Labneh Saj, these were so good it stuck in my mind all these years. 

Fast forward twenty years. I decided it's time to check out Lebanon with a few friends, so I thought this would be a quick fun trip, the flight was around 4 hours, which is practical if you leave for a weekend. 

Packing my Bag the night before, I felt a lump in my throat, it´s my first trip alone in a very long time, I never travelled alone after having my kids so it was bitter sweet, they came into the room while I was packing and they sat on the bed and asked me all sort of random questions about my trip, who was I going with and what will I do, you know random questions kids ask, I was a bit sad but excited that I finally took this decision and decided to go on an all girls trip. My husband is very supportive and reassured me that everything was going to be OK... yea right I thought, ¨will you be able to bake that lasagna I kept in the freezer? ask your mum if you arent sure¨ as he rolls his eyes at me and says ¨baby just chill, we will be ok!¨little did I know, when I got back my kids lived on Margherita pizza and Salt burgers while I was away, Epic fail ! ah well at least he baked that lasagna without burning down the house. Did I feel the guilt when I got on that flight? yes, I did I felt extremely guilty but I loosened up the morning I woke up in Beirut. Let me tell you, this trip made me feel great, I came back rejuvenated and as my husband says more loosened up.... and yea I got my tragus (inner ear) pierced and almost got a tattoo, maybe next time. Do I recommend a trip alone, kid & husband free? the answer is ¨hell ya¨and I would so do this again!  x

Arriving at Rafic Hariri Airport, I noticed already that there's been a lot of changes in the city. The immigration was smooth, everyone was so nice, I had to fill out a card on arrival, Normal procedure for any non Lebanese, I handed over my passport and the card to the immigration officer, he welcomed me to Beirut , stamped my visa and done. 

We stayed at the Intercontinental, it took 15 minutes to get there, and it was raining and very cold. Checking in was quick, we got an upgrade on our room, which included club access too. Phoenicia Intercontinental is one of the older hotels in the city, overlooking Zaytuna bay, its stunning. 

We had a lovely breakfast at mosaic in the hotel, which was one of the best buffets I have ever had, you can order saj and lots of lebanese mezzeh, all fresh ingredients, and the best part is they serve Kunafeh every morning for breakfast how cool is that?!After breakfast we were our way to explore the beautiful city, the temperature was perfect, cold fresh air. I walked from the hotel to Hamra (took me around 20 minutes) you can take a taxi but since the weather is amazing you should walk through the city, I stumbled amongst amazing historical avenues on the way, I loved it, mixing in with the Lebanese people, getting lost on the way, a woman actually walked with me to Hamra when she saw me reading directions, grabbed my arm and crossed the roads with me, I was amazed, I mean how sweet is this lady!? honestly, who does that? Hamra is a busy area, lots of shops local and international, vendors restaurants , small cafes on the road, there's even a Starbucks an Costa on the way, people sitting watching others pass, a super busy local area, loads to see and buy. In Lebanon they use dollars or Lebanese Lira, I had dollars but when I bought anything they gave me lira in change, basically 1500 Lira is 1 US dollar. what I also did is use my debit card in cafes/ restaurants, its easier than counting bills and doing the math. very convenient. 

Beirut Souqs, also knows as 'Downtown" is more upscale, you can find everything from Chanel to Adidas stores, Downtown has transformed Beirut city completely, very European, vibrant and classy, cherry blossom trees down each road, this area was absolutely stunning. Lots of Cafe's and shops, a large HM & Zara store, you could spend a whole afternoon shopping and not get bored. If you are looking for something sweet to take back home then I suggest you try Al-Bohsali Sweets located in 'Riad El Solh' Street a few minutes walking distance from Down town, you need to try their 'Baklawa' and their 'Kunafeh B Kaek' (a kunafa stuffed in a sesame bun) delicious and known to be a breakfast mid afternoon snack.

On a side note, you will find local taxi's everywhere, trust me you will see and hear them, they honk at you as they pass you ion the street, even if you arent looking for one. Ladies don't feel offended they aren't honking at you, although its very annoying when they do that, this is just a thing they do here, the local taxi's have red number plates, and usually are cheap it just depends if you bargain with them first. I was encouraged to use the taxi service companies , which I recommend you do too, luckily I found an amazing taxi driver his name is Hasan, he drove me everywhere I just had to call him fifteen minutes before, Hasan works for 'Alo Taxi' a service company one of many in Lebanon, you can ask your hotel to call them for you, they are usually located outside your hotel. I was pretty impressed with this service, it can cost you between $13 - $20 if within the city, if you are thinking to go out of the city you can negotiate a rate, some may charge you $ 60 but will stay with you up to 6 hours, which is a great deal. Uber is also easy to use in Beirut, but honestly I prefer the taxi services. 

Gemmayze, also 10-15 minutes walk from the intercontinental hotel, or around 5-10 minute walk from downtown, a cute little road that has a few cafe's like Paul. My personal favorite is "Urbanista" a hipster cafe, serving great food, I had the quinoa chips with dip , a the urban rolls are a must and a crunchy Thai salad with peanut dressing, everything was fresh and delicious. there's a few Arabic cafes that were packed down the same road too all lined up next to each other, hard to miss. If you are into Italian, then look no further,the locals recommended we try 'Margherita Pizzeria" opposite Saifi area and very close to Gemmayze, fresh pasta and salads made to order, and their pizza is absolutely delicious.

Close to Gemmayze is the Saifi village, almost like a compound of upper end apartments, very colorful and chic , on weekends there's a market just like the markets in the UAE where local talents, there's lots of cool things you can buy, food stalls there's food trucks, cocktail bars etc the vibe is great, the community gathers there on weekends, a cool place to hang out, lots cool places to dine around in saifi I highly recommend "Meat the Fish" a really cool concept with delicious food, try their Chilean Sea bass, you wont regret it! 

Other than day and night life which is super fun in Beirut, I suggest you have a tour around the city, your hotel will be able to get you a tour guide, the city has a lot of historical places, old and new buildings and mosques, churches which are beautiful and worth checking out, the beautiful Mohamed Al Amin Mosque located between Saifi and downtown is absolutely stunning and hard to miss, blue dome of the mosque reminded me of the blue mosque of Istanbul, it's just stunning. 

Fancy lunch or dinner by the sea? then Zaytuna bay is one of the city's popular area's on the docks of zaytuna bay are beautiful yachts and lots of restaurants to choose from, indian to Lebanese cuisine with views of the sea. We had lunch at Babel Sur Mer, I couldn't stop talking about how amazing the food was at Babel, we ordered a few mezzeh, shrimp grilled in lemon and coriander, calamari, the Lebanese famous tabouleh, I loved everything  that was served. Since Babel is known for their fish we ordered grilled 'Louoz" and fried Sultan Ibrahim, I mean I have never ever had anything this delicious honestly. 

Snow and Mountains, then you need to go to Faraya, the next time I go to Lebanon will definitely be with my kids, its worth staying in Faraya for a couple of days to enjoy skiing and its loads f fun for families, my cousin picked us up at 8 am, and we were on our way, the trip took us an hour almost, we had to make a few stops to enjoy the scenery, try to make your trip early to faraya to avoid traffic, the only place that was open for breakfast was the Intercontinental Faraya, when we reached we ordered cheese and zaatar saj and tea, I recommend you stay at least one night to  experience Faraya properly, the other restaurants open at 12 pm, but again, if you leave Beirut later than 8:30 am you are bound to hit traffic regardless of the day, weekends are worse. If and when you are going to Faraya, I recommend you have lunch at Rikkyz one of Faraya's famous lodges and party places, you will need to book in advance, prior to your trip to Beirut, located near to the intercontinental and other lodge sites. 

Beirut, is filled with surprises, whether you want to travel for fun, shopping or sightseeing, there is something for everyone. My friends kept asking me if it was safe, I have never felt any safer to be honest, there was security everywhere we went, such a beautiful city with extraordinary vibe, the people are super friendly, everyone speaks English or french, they would go out of their way to help. Only a 4 hour plane ride and fifteen minute drive to downtown Beirut, this city should be on everyone's list of places to visit in the middle east. I will be going back again with my family. 

Thank you Beirut on your hospitality. 

I would also like to thank Lina at Phonecia Intercontinental Beirut for going above and beyond to make sure that our stay was enjoyable, because of Lina and the wonderful staff at Phoenicia our stay was memorable. 

*The above post is based on my opinion.This trip was not an endorsement.  Al costs were borne by Sarah Dheays

¨Travel is my therapy¨

The Maldives of the Middle east is what Zaya Nurai is being described as, and I couldnt agree more, a ten minute boat ride from saadiyat Island, this beautiful island takes Luxury to another level. A haven and sanctuary to those who enjoy tailored hospitality.
When booking any trip with my family, I look for something that suits us all, this trip in particular was booked while on holiday in Sri lanka, we were looking at all the hotel resorts that were available around my birthday, and that was difficult as mine falls on christmas eve, so everything is either fully booked or very expensive. My husband found availability and we booked right away, I mean Ive been trying to book Zaya Nurai for months and could not get anything because they were always fully booked, now I know why.  

We arrived at the hotel and were greeted by the friendly staff, the villa we booked was available so we did not even have to wait till check in time which was perfect. Zaya Nurai or the ´Nurai´concept came from the Arabic word Nur meaning ´light´and was founded by an Emirati Entrepreneur Nadia Zaal. The hotel is fairly new and just opened in 2014, so they are still in the ´Soft´opening phase.This luxurious retreat has 55 residential villas, and I would say this is a boutique concept which I personally prefer. We stayed at the one bedroom villa , and it is way more bigger than I imagined, and the view of the sea is just breathtaking. The room has tea and coffee equipment, a rather great selection of tea, the mini bar filled with soft drinks and water, cookie , roasted nuts and date jars for snacking all complimentary, the bathroom has everything you need from a nail file to a comb and the bathe immenities are tailor made in italy by Aqua di Parma (very fancy) the body lotion is amazing!
The villas each have a swimming pool and full access to the beach, a fire pit is lit in the evenings when the weather is cold right on the foot of each villa,  a beautiful set up worth a try with the kids. If you love shisha, they can bring it right to you! Luxury is what Zaya is all about. The villa had two terraces that lead outdoor we kept them open because the weather was just perfect and the kids could come in and out as they please, for a quiet time alone I took my kids to the petit Z (kids club) which is open from 8 am to 8 pm, my kids are four and seven years old so they didnt need supervision, there was a full day of painting, games and fun activities and they were kept busy for a few hours and by a few I mean 4 to 5 hours because the problem was, they didnt want to leave! so dragging them out for dinner needed a bit of bribing, my son even said ¨Can we stay here forever¨ I dont blame him, I didnt want to leave either. We also watched the movie  ¨ELF ¨ on a large screen outdoors it was Christmas eve so that set a the mood, kids sat on bean bag and we lay on sun loungers, I thought that was really a great concept, as long as they were having a great time I was happy. 

There´s one restaurant at Zaya and a bar/ lounge too that serves delicious food. We had dinner at the main restaurant, and the staff are just wonderful. we recommend the Wagyu Beef burger and the tenderloin steak with Chimichurri sauce, they also have pastas and nuggets for the kids and a variety of other food items on the menu. The Breakfast is complimentary for all in-house guests, a large bakery section and arabic mezzeh , fruit platters and fresh juices and eggs made to order. you can sit outdoors by the sea or indoors, the same restaurant has a weekend brunch every Friday and Saturday from 12pm onwards, worth a trip down from Abu Dhabi even if you aren't staying at the hotel. The Brunch is AED 650 ++ (includes alcohol and pool access) and AED 550 ++ (includes soft drinks & pool Access) so if you plan to book a brunch then I recommend you use the infinity pool which is a few steps away from the restaurant. A great way to spend the weekend. In room dining is also available , and you can choose anything from the menu in the restaurant in the comfort of your own villa. 

We sat by the pool and enjoyed my birthday cake which was the best cake Ive ever had by the way, while the kids played on the beach, I wouldn't have spent my birthday any other way. The staff out did themselves with decorating our villa with flowers and balloons for my birthday and really made me feel special. On christmas day the kids woke up to stockings filled with chocolate, also arranged by the staff at Zaya a very sweet touch to our stay. 

The Spa is not fully operational, since the hotel is still new, they offer massages and treatments in the comfort of your villa, they will announce once the spa is ready. There is medical assistance available 24/7 I had to call the nurse because my son hit his toe on something during the day and it got swollen in the evening, the nurse came right away and cleaned up the wound and administered first aid, he was very sweet and kind he even made a glove balloon for little O. 

Zaya Nurai is a small getaway that does not involve a long journey, perfect for children or honeymooners. Relax, unwind by the sea read a book on the sun lounger, feel right at home. 

December is really cold although the pools in the villa are all fitted with heaters it was really cold coming out of the pool.  I recommend you book a trip in April or May if traveling with kids. If you don't mind the cold breeze like us , afternoons are really sunny and the weather was perfect, I didn't mind the cold weather I sat by the pool read a book and enjoyed the view, thats the best thing to do to unwind, is to do absolutely nothing. 

Zaya Nurai is a beautiful boutique resort, it takes a lot of hard work, great people and positive energy to run this place and I saw how dedicated the staff were in doing all they can to make us feel right at home, from the little details to knowing our names and entertaining our children to the beautiful gestures they showed me and my husband, an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. They take every thing into consideration and welcome suggestions from their guests, and they strive to make things better. If anything I would go back just t o see them all again. 

Thank you Zaya Nurai for an incredible experience, special thanks to Solah the Front Desk Manager who went out of his way to make sure we were well accommodated. Thank you to Grace, Irfan and Justin for entertaining our kids at the restaurant for breakfast. Hope to see you all soon! 

More info on Zaya Nurai Island contact here and Zaya Retreats here

"Travel brings power & Love back into your life"

Our ten year anniversary was coming up, and I knew my husband had planned something I just didn't expect it was a trip to Sri Lanka, although it was on our list of places to visit. It was a surprise, I only found out the destination at the airport!

The flight was in the evening a few movies later we arrived, the flight was only 4 hours and 50 minutes not too bad. We arrived in Colombo and went through customs, the airport is small but very organised, my husband had arranged for our visas online which cost USD 30 each and you get the approval within half an hour or so. 

Our Driver was waiting for us outside his name is Charlie, a very sweet young man who we then found out does tours and trips across Sri Lanka I highly recommend you book tours with him, he is very reliable and speaks English and German too! we even booked him for our return trip back to the city and airport. We arrived at 4 am the hotel was around 1 and a half hours away, Charlie was pointing out all the touristic places and telling us all about the Sri Lankan culture, and what to do and were to go. There is a newly built highway that really makes a difference while travelling in Sri Lanka, our hotel was in the south. We were both tired but excited, I slept on the way there, the sun still wasn't up, the weather was cool, beautiful lush gardens, rice fields and coconut trees everywhere, it reminded me of Mauritius, very tropical. 

We arrived at Saman Villas, which is rated one of Srilankas top hotels and has only 27 villas on the property, renovated in 2009 the hotel design and furniture was beyond luxurious. We were greeted at the entrance and taken directly to our villa, we didnt have to check in, sign any documents, everything was hassle free, they took our bags showed us around then left us to rest and freshen up, it was obvious that we were tired and wanted to get a few hours of sleep, it was only 6 in the morning when we got there. As we walked into our villa I saw the our private pool overlooking Bentota beach, shades of blue and orange across the sky it was the most beautiful view I have ever seen. In our room our bed was decorated and had "happy Anniversary" across the linen decorated with leaves and flowers, a cake as well and champagne on ice the bath was also prepared with our towels layed out! I fell instantly in love with this hotel.  (Saman Villas has a "no children below 10 years old" policy) Very romantic and extremly quiet... exactly what we needed. 

We showered and crashed for a few hours, and when I woke up the sun was out, the skies were endless blue with clouds in the background, I couldn't wait to go swimming. I ordered breakfast to the villa and sat outside. We spend the whole day by the pool. Saman Villas is located on a very private part of the beach, its so peaceful, you are left with the sea breeze and complete silence. 

The villa is huge my husband booked the deluxe suite with swimming pool, the bath and shower were separate from the walk in closet and sinks, so we had 4 sinks in the villa, since the bath and shower were out doors (the roof was open) you had the option of having an indoor sink as well which was convenient. I loved everything about this villa, complete luxury. There was no coffee and tea in the room but we could order at anytime which was nice. The sliding door takes you out to a veranda that was shaded and we had two sun loungers in the Garden. Everything from the service to the staff was perfect. The hotel has one restaurant overlooking the ocean, and every night the Chef prepares a 5 course dinner which we booked for our anniversary, and they always ask if we have any dietary requirements no matter what we ordered. we had an intimate sunset dinner overlooking the ocean and we were treated like royalty, they really made our stay memorable.

We stayed 5 days at Saman Villas, all we wanted to do was relax and rejuvenate so we booked spa treatments at the Sahana Spa located at the main Garden, each treatment costs between 50 to 140 USD depending on what treatment you go for, the spa itself is very beautiful and outdoors, my masseuse Chamilla was amazing I highly recommend her, I went for the Ayuverda Traditional Massage and deep tissue massage during my stay. This was exactly what I had in mind coming on this trip, is getting pampered and get a lot of sleep.  We didn't go on tours nor did any sightseeing, although we went on a tuk tuk ride to the local market and bought tea from a near by tea factory then visited a few souvenir shops, what I loved about the culture is that they never forced us to buy anything, so we bought lots of tea and headed back to the hotel. 

The beach strip next to our hotel is beautiful, we had sunset walks and discovered a few bars and restaurants along the way. I tried three different kind of Srilankan curries and we had lots of seafood, the meals were rather large portion wise and cost around 1560 Rupees so equivalent to USD 10 or AED 40,  pretty cheap and there are no taxes in the local bars and restaurants, unlike at the hotels, but honestly the local food and drinks are very cheap comparing to the portions you usually get abroad. 
Sunset dinner with the most breathtaking views was on our agenda for the next 4 days and we enjoyed the hospitality of the Srilankan people. I would suggest you take Mosquito repellent (we forgot to buy some !) it is a tropical island after all. There are a few places for sightseeing, I recommend the Galle fort the Fort was first built by the Portuguese in 1588 before being extensively fortified by the Dutch in the mid 1600s and is around an 50 Km away, a bit further south. There are walking and Cycling trails within a 10 Km radius too, the Kande Viharaya Buddhist temple is 6 Km away. The Hotel can arrange for all tours with certified tour guides like Charlie. There is a Maduganga River Safari and fish Market tour in Beruwala not too far from the hotel, you need to check the seasons and dates before travelling as depending in weather conditions some tours will be cancelled. 

Every morning, we would order breakfast in our room, you could either order to the room or  eat at the restaurant overlooking the sea, but we just enjoyed having it in our villa, the breakfast portions at Saman Villas is very generous, fresh juices , eggs any style you like, sausages, muesli pastry basket loads of muffins and croissants, locally made jams and pancakes or waffles of your choice I mean its a lot for one person. Just watch out for the sneaky squirrels they are so darn cute and not afraid of anyone! The room service menu has a variety of items to choose from, we  loved the pizza and thin cut fries they served us on one of the evenings. We enjoyed the Srilanakan cultural dance programme the hotel had one night over dinner, beautiful women dressed in colorful attire danced to traditional Srilankan music, I enjoyed that evening. 

On our anniversary day, me and my husband renewed our vows on the secluded beach, there are two beaches on each side of the Saman villas, one with all the bars and the other is more secluded. A private ceremony for us as the sun set and enjoyed dinner and more champagne. Saman Villas have a range of Wedding & Honeymoon packages  and registration. Intimate traditional Srilankan wedding and registration provide you with wonderful memories. 

Our last day finally came, and as sad as I was I knew I would be back again to this beautiful country, our ten year anniversary wouldn't have been the same any where else. We truly loved every moment of our stay. The staff have been so welcoming and pampered us every single moment, they all knew it was our ten year anniversary and went above and beyond making me feel special I felt like a royal. Fantastic stay and a very memorable holiday. All good things come to an end and as we got into our car with our main man Charlie the staff came out and said their goodbyes, I almost cried I felt as though I was leaving home. 

Charlie took us to the city and we stopped along the way and saw the rice fields and bought more souvenirs, more like a guided tour through colombo if you have time then I recommend you stop by the Ministry of Crab, rated one of the 50 best resturants of Asia. Sadly for us it was closed the time we went, but we will be back, Srilanka you have a special place in my heart. 

¨ The cure for anything is salt water¨

I have been waiting for this trip for over 6 months when we decided to go to seychelles we kind of flipped the coin, it was either Honkong or Seychelles and I'm so glad it was Seychelles. We had just got back from the wedding in Istanbul, switched bags woke the kids up and headed back to the airport! as crazy as that sounds I couldn't wait to be on the beach ! the flight arrived in Seychelles at 7 am, we moved smoothly through the small but cozy airport, you could instantly feel the beautiful breeze as you step out, the temperature was around 24 degrees when we arrived and the sun was shining bright and warm. 

Our driver was arranged by the Hilton hoteldirectly, which was very convenient and I highly recommend you do so when booking. Mr. Jovan greeted us at the exit, a sweet Seychellean man spoke perfect english chatted with us along the way showing us a few places to visit along the 30 minute ride to the Bel Ombre jetty to take the boat to Silhouette Island. The boat ride was around 40 minutes from Mahe (the main Island), I would take motion sickness pills as the sea is a bit choppy this time of year, I can't handle boats but the captain was very well experienced and got us there in less than the time expected.

As most hotels are located on other Islands you will still need to take a boat or a sea plane. The best times to visit Seychelles is basically all year round, they have a season for sailing which is in July and August and a season for diving sometime around November, the rainy season is mostly in April, but overall the weather is amazing all year , anytime is great to visit the Seychelles. 

Our return transfers cost 350 Euros in total, not bad considering how far the island is and with kids you need someone responsible to take you there. Also you may want to take a trip to La digua from Silhouette, around 68 km (2 hours by boat) you can arrange that from your hotel when you stay, Praslin also a very beautiful Island which you can arrange to visit and make a full day tour. Both worth the trips ( ask the hotel for day trips and costs).

The Hilton La Briz was located on Silhouette Island a beautiful island indeed, secluded from everywhere else a great way to unwind and spend quality time with family. We reached around 10 am took a tour around the resort with Dominic a sweet young man, he explained to us the history of the village outside the hotel a small village indeed where most of the resort staff lived, we saw some playing cricket outside and enjoying the wonderful weather. 
We did not wait too long for checking in to our villa, the hotel had arranged for a birthday cake for my daughter since we arrived on the 13th of August it was her birthday she was so happy and excited, while she enjoyed her cake we were served some tropical punch and mini bites then we were on our way to the villa. As we moved through the resort on the buggy Dominic escorted us to our King Garden Villa,  it was beautiful steps away from the beach, perfect! They had arranged two beds for my kids and buckets and spades for them to play after sun aloe vera, which we used a lot by the way the sun is very hot and you can get a sun burn real fast so SPF cream is a must!
The villa was 88 sqm with a shower outside and inside a tub and his and her sinks. Closet space were separate too which was perfect, we had a patio outside with our own steps, two lounge chairs table for having your private breakfast or coffee, all the TV channels were in english , french or German there are cartoons for kids and a dvd player which you can rent out movies from the activities center, but who needs TV when you are in paradise!

We all couldn't wait to go to the beach we got dressed and went right to the beautiful pool, there was a kids pool and an adults pool, the hotel is huge and right on the crystal clear waters of silhouette beach. The area is secluded, perfect just what we wanted for our holiday away from the city life and the crazy day to day living. 

We stayed at the hilton for 10 days, some people think thats too long, actually we would have stayed longer thats how beautiful the hotel and Island were. We felt right at home. Our package included breakfast so our daily routine was breakfast then a bit of snorkeling, you can rent the gear from the Padi center on the resort which costs 185 seychelles rupees equivalent to 55 dirhams or buy your own before traveling, the experience is out of this world, Im scared of swimming in the sea but here it was just crystal clear you can see everything, beautiful colored fish, sea urchins , eels! It was remarkable my daughter loved it! 

For those who want a bit of an adventure the center arranges private diving tours and lessons, you can get an international diving certificate from them. There is a fishing tour as well, it all depends on the weather conditions but when we were there everyone went, it seemed like a great idea but my kids are still young, maybe when they are a bit older.
The Spa located at the far end of the hotel is beautiful, they arrange mud wraps facials, scrubs and massages, I recommend you book in advance as they are always fully booked, you may also use their jaccuzi and sauna rooms, the spa is heavenly if you have a spare day book a couples massage with your partner, it's totally worth it. 
The first couple of days we just sat by the pool while the kids swam and made friends and we would watch them play from far, at night we would have dinner around the resort restaurants, there is quite a few to choose from actually, a Japanese tepenyaki which is located right on the beach with beautiful views, the restaurant is open so you get the fresh sea breeze as you enjoy your dinner, Portobello italian, is more of  a fine dining experience very romantic setting, perfect for honeymooners, Lo Brizan bar and lounge serving dinner and drinks all day and kids are welcome, also located on the beach. 
Cafe dauban is where we have breakfast everyday they also have themed nights from Creole to indian Ocean night, Asian and seafood night, no need to book at the cafe.  There is a kids  area inside as well, so you can enjoy breakfast or dinner while the kids play. 

After breakfast or during the day the Hilton La Briz has an activities center for kids open from 9 am to 530 pm located right next to the pool entrance you can leave your kids with their staff and enjoy the rest of the day while they play, paint etc, perfect for us since we wanted to be alone too and catch up on some reading on the well placed Hammocks across the beach!  The Silhouette Pavillion is also close by this is where you book the restaurants, tours rent DVD's basically the guest service center. There's also a very well equipped fitness center and you can start as early as 5 am using your room key! 
The food is made fresh to order, my favorite was the Vegetable lasagna and the Burger, the Hilton hotels must have a secret recipe when it comes to burgers, by far the best burger we ever had! The Chicken tandoori burger was amazing too, minced chicken breast marinated in spices and then grilled perfectly, its juicy and very addictive, between pita bread and topped with a cucumber raita (yogurt). There was nothing we didn't like.

We had to try the Creole resturant just outside the hotel around 10 minutes walking distance from the hotel, you can call for a buggy to drop you but we wanted to walk and see the fruit bats which was an amazing experience, my kids were so amazed! The creole restaurant called Grann Kaaz has a lot of history see menu here, the rustic plantation house a  perfect venue for a special occasion or intimate meal,  the restored home of the Dauban family, the former owners of the island. Grann Kaaz is a blend of modern Seychellois spirit and the island's English and French heritage. We were seated outside I wanted to enjoy the weather, we chose a starter and 3 mains and one dessert. The kids shared fish and chips . 

The starter was a papaya pineapple salad with grilled chicken, very refreshing and a big portion for one person so sharing one is perfect, our mains were all fish dishes, a grouper baked in banana leaves which melted like butter topped with fresh tomato relish, the second dish was the famous fish curry that I love so much, of course we had creole food when we travelled to Mauritius on our honeymoon so we where used to these flavors. and the red snapper served with a spicy peppery sauce all  dishes were served with a bowl of steamed rice. Delicious! and the food was more than enough for us both. 

To end our wonderful dinner we had the coconut parfait and being a coconut lover I had to order this although my husband wanted a chocolate dessert he loved this more! A shortbread base with a cake like center of coconut parfait served with vanilla pod ice-cream Yum! the kids had some too it was quite a generous portion. Grann Kaaz is a must of you get a chance to book then please do. The food will blow your mind. A great idea would also be a fishing trip arranged by the resort you catch your fish and bring it back to the hotel where they clean it and then cook it for you creole style at Grann Kaaz which is a must. 

On our fourth day we booked a trip to the main island, it was a Monday everything was open. We had to take the 40 minute boat ride to the main island, which the hotel arranged for us, free of charge and a driver was also booked by the hotel we paid him direct after the tour, this cost around 150 Euros for a 5 hour trip of Mahe. we met Selby (our tour guide) on the jetty once we arrived, very nice man in his 50's he had a nice big car. Our first stop was Victoria Market, although its small it had so much to offer, spice markets fruits and vegetables, fish, souvenirs and lots more, I loved the colorful market of Victoria, everyone was bargaining and buying I got some spices and fruits for the kids and some souvenirs, you just need to bargain on the prices with the locals, they are very nice people. We went on a lot of sight seeing and beaches across Mahe island lush green gardens, mountains so beautiful. We stopped buy a food truck and had some fish and chips sat by the beach, the fish was fresh the kids loved it. On to see the tortoise sanctuary private owned it was a great experience my kids fed them and there was even a few goats which was nice , not something you see everyday. The turtles are all protected on the island they love them and care for them and they also live very long lives. We also saw the only Coco de Mer the sea coconut comes from the palm family, belongs to the island of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles, also found the island od St Pierre, Chauve Souris and Ile Ronde (round Island) all located near Praslin, but it has become extinct there. This was the only one found in Mahe which was planted on the property of a National Environmentalist who planted it in his home.  

As we continued on our tour we went upwards on the mountain to Mission Lodge we parked and walked a bit more through the forest till we arrived at the top, it was something I have never seen before, green mountains and never ending ocean view overlooking southward of Mahe, it was dead silent. We sat under the shaded gazebo and had some tea from a local vendor as we read about this particular place where Queen Elizabeth II had tea in the same spot. Words cannot describe the beauty of that particular view.

The next stop was the Tea factory where they produce tea right on the island of Mahe and distribute to other parts of the world. I had to buy cinnamon and citrus tea no tea bags it couldn't get any better than this.  We toured a bit more then head back to the jetty to catch the 5 pm boat to our hotel. The trip was fun and worth the day spent you may also book to see the botanical gardens which is fun for kids.

The days were long but we enjoyed that,  it's not everyday where we can just sit by the beach in amazing weather read a book, relax and do nothing! this was our time to do just that. All we did is bask in the sun, collected shells and spend quality time with the kids, the staff at the Hilton were very nice always accommodating our every need, such a wonderful family resort but also very romantic for honeymooners with all the beach pool villas and secluded dinners on the beach, so intimate and beautifully arranged. 

We had breakfast on the beach something we never tried before very private by the beautiful Front Office Manager Ms. Caroline Le Forestier who has been very helpful from before our arrival, she made our stay very memorable and we felt right at home. The breakfast on the beach was beautiful secluded and my kids loved this experience, you may also book this with the hotel directly. 

We went on bicycle rides on the resort which you can rent from the activity center, they even have kid bikes.  We explored the resort and stumbled on their own organic garden and plant nursery, I was amazed, they had herbs, pumpkins, tomatoes plants and flowers all sorts of beautiful plantation which the hotel staff take care of. Very Sustainable and a great idea for a hotel to do. Purple Basil, dil and iris a plant nursery and lots of flowers I haven't ever seen before. Beautiful.

The rest of our trip was perfect, lots of pool, sun, beach sightseeing, there was a live band  almost everyday David and Felix I will never forget you! They kept singing my favorite song (Somewhere over the rainbow), we all felt like this was our home away from home. We met such wonderful people on this trip gorgeous couples like Aiysha and Akeel who played with my kids and joined us for drinks and chats by the pool they were so sweet, this is what traveling is all about, you meet people who become part of your lives. 

Our stay at the Hilton La Briz Resort and spa has been amazing, the staff are friendly, kind and very professional, I would like to thank each one of them for making our holiday very memorable, thank you David and Flavio at the pool bar for making us feel like family, Amina, Sebestian, Jolana and the beautiful Caroline who has now become more like family to us, thank you all for the love and cake!

For more info on the beautiful Hilton La Briz Resort & Spa click here 

¨Travel as much as you can, as far as you can. As long as you can. Life is not meant to be lived in one place¨

Day One 

Istanbul was one of the cities that was on our list to visit, so a destination wedding couldn't happen at a better time! we have known about this trip for months building excitement and anticipation, counting down to every minute and second, the day has arrived! we got up real early, kissed the kids goodbye and went on our way. I was so excited this was the first trip for me and hubby without the kids, so lets just say I felt spoiled being the center of attention this time. Checked in and made our way through boarding, the Etihad crew tell us we have been upgraded to Business ! Now that's what I call a great start to the day. We found a few of our friends on the same flight, now it's a party!  we were all excited! 

As the flight landed in Ataturk International airport I felt the instant buzz it was crowded, it was electrifying. The airport itself was huge and organized. We stopped at the Voda phone stand and we all bought a local sim card, I recommend that if you are staying over 3 days they had amazing data package deals.  We took a local cab (the cabs are all yellow) and most of them are registered, but always check the meter before you go in. If there is no meter then take another cab. 

We arrived at the Conrad Bosphorus, as most of the wedding party crew had booked there it was easier for all of us to be together. The drive from the airport to the hotel was long as there was traffic and it was midday. It was summer season so it was pretty hot , there was a nice breeze and coming from Abu Dhabi , I couldn't complain really, but it was hot and the cabs don't switch on the Ac's. The trip took us about 45 minutes the airport is about 25KM away from the city, you barely feel it because the views are just beautiful. 

We arrive at our hotel earlier than expected we checked in to our rooms, the views were amazing! the hotel staff are friendly and spoke both english and arabic as well as turkish.  We headed to the roof top bar located on the 14th floor for a light snack and drinks, you have the full view of the Bosphorus river it's unreal ! 

We had lunch with the rest of our friends while others just started to arrived then headed back to our room to shower and change as we had three days of evening held events with the bride and groom, so we got ready and met in the lobby with the rest, we ordered a Uber which was a great idea , all us girls where dressed up so traveling in style was key and because we are just spoilt and wanted the Ac's on ! ha ha. The fare wasn't expensive at all so it was a win!

Dinner was booked by the brides maid Rezan, took care of all the arrangements, we all obviously knew where we were going as we had to confirm prior to the event etc. "Cahide on 5" pronounced [Ja/ he / Deh] a very famous venue, cabaret style open restaurant with a very entertaining group of drag queens ! yep Drag Queens, it was epic and I loved every part of it! 

We were all the closest family and friends to the bride and groom so this was more like a bachelor/ bachelorette night. a three course meal was served along with wine and followed  with dessert. The show will cost you around 250 Turkish Lira (AED 350) and worth every penny, the appetizers and mains are all turkish inspired and very delicious. 

The show starts with a couple of performances which include drag queens singing and dancing.  I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard! it was quite entertaining, along with that there were belly dancers and Brazilian carnival inspired performances, colorful Entertaining and a wild night that's how I would sum up this experience. So if you are planning a trip to Istanbul this place has to be on top of your list! The Drag Queens are funny and very talented, there was a few soon to be brides celebrating their Bachelorette party with their girlfriends along with couples old and young, everyone was having a great time, I have never seen anything like it . Chide on 5 is located in Capamarka  bookings on 02122196530 / 31 . follow them on instagram and twitter .

Day Two

I woke up super early had a cup of coffee then made it down with the rest for breakfast, it was still 8 am, the breakfast buffet had everything, including gluten free bread and pastas, fresh clotted creams and all the cheese you could possibly think of, the fresh fruits tasted so good, you know when you bite into a strawberry and it tastes like a strawberry? these were so fresh and tart I couldn't get enough. They serve turkish tea or coffee with your breakfast, you can order latte and cappuccino if you prefer. The staff are very kind and professional and even gave us tips on where to go etc. 

The morning was pretty much open for us to do what we wanted, so we decided to go to "Dolmabahce Palace" located in Besiktas district, 15 minutes walk from our hotel, 6 minutes by cab, on the coast line of the Bosphorus, which served as therein administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922. 

We arrived at 9 am, and got our tickets fast there wasn't a line up and I recommend you do an early tour rather than an afternoon one as it gets really hot. The total cost per person is 30 TL  for an hour guided tour of the palace and the "All Palace" tour which includes the imperial gate, the clock tower and museum, the glazed pavilion and the Harem Section for only 40 TL which is a great deal. 

The tour guides speak english very well,  they will give you bags to wear over your shoes as you enter the palace and you will not be allowed to take any photos inside the palace. The tour was very interesting and the history of the ottoman empire was fascinating. 

As we walked through the palace I was amazed by how grand and elegant everything was , they really lived large back then. I loved the furniture, carpets paintings the whole experience was worth it, I was also glad I wore light clothes because it was a very hot day and there is no Airconditioning in the palace, so I would recommend you wear something light and take a bottle of water with you. The last room was the Ballroom, my favorite part was the enormous chandelier which has 750 crystals and weighs around 4 tons, apparently thought to have been gifted to the Sultan by Queen Victoria of London, but turns out that it was actually a gift from the Sultan's mother, historians found the recpiept in 2004 that proves that. 

The palace is open everyday from 9 am to 4 pm except on Mondays and Thursdays (the same goes for Topiaki Palace). All tours are guided  you may reserve your groups on 0212369090.

After the tour I had to go straight to the bridal Hammam (bath) also booked by the maid of honor , I took a cab from the Palace to the Hamam , the whole ride was 10 minutes, although my cab driver didn't have the meter on he asked me for 25 TL for a 10 TL ride, but I was in a hurry to even check if he had a meter and negotiate the price, my fault. 

I made my way inside the gorgeous  "Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami  located  in Kemankes Mah Hamam Sok No.1 .  I met up with my friends and family (ladies only) . We were served  fresh juices then given locker keys and guided to the locker rooms to change, it was very professional and very clean 

the whole experience felt like I was in a  five star hotel, fantastic service. You will be given disposable undies to wear and a light cloth to wrap yourself with during the Hammam, since this was a bridal ham our gorgeous bride was dressed in a very beautiful red robe and we walked around a fountain with candles and each of us made a silent wish for her and the groom, as we all giggled and made our wishes and dipped our fingers in water to burn out the candle (it's considered good Luck for the Bride) we made our way inside the Hamam.The whole Hammam was booked just for us which was great and very private. We had to wrap our selves with the cloth and were asked to sit as they poured warm water before we enter the Hammam, we sat on a hexagon shaped heated marble in the center of the Hammam this was very relaxing. We started singing and dancing as one of the turkish ladies played the "tableh" an arabic drum, that was fun! there were ten of us  so you can imagine the madness!

The Hammam ladies came and took each of us next near a small marble tub,and started exfoliating our arms and legs and face with a special scrub glove and turkish soap. As you watch layers of dead skin fall off , which was shocking and soothing at the same time,because you see the dead skin just fall, what I loved about this is the bubbles, they bring a large cheese cloth then dip it into the soapy water then swing it around until it filles with air and squeeze out the bubbles! its so cool to watch them do that , it takes skills to be able to make that. They lay the bubbles on your body, you are then left with smooth silky skin! The hammam took around 2 hours which then was followed by some snacks consisting of limit (turkish bread) cheese olive paste, cherries and dolma (stuffed vine leaves). 

We all took lots of photos and enjoyed the afternoon, then headed back to the hotel to get ready for yet another evening of fun but before we got ready me and my friends wanted to grab a quick bite  so we stopped by a gorgeous area called "Nisantasi" pronounced [Ni / shan / ta / Shay ] a strip of shopping boutiques and international stores like Zara and Maxamara this was every girls haven! We stopped at the "House Cafe" a very famous cafe across turkey  they even have boutique hotels. The food was delicious, we each had a salad which we shared and a side of meatballs and wedges. 

We then walked around and checked some of the boutique shops then went back to the hotel, as the bride and groom had booked a Bosphorus cruise!  I couldn't wait. We took a cab down to the docks (approximately 10 minutes from our hotel) boarded this huge white cruise boat the "Sanzelize" (Champs Elysees). The ferry location is at "Kabatas Iskelsi " we met up with other family and friends as we arrived,  it was an intimate boat cruise. 

The sun sets late, so we took the opportunity to take lots of photos, the views were breath taking. Very romantic and worth the two hour trip. I recommend you book the boat cruise in advance as they are always busy.  

We danced the night away and enjoyed the views, then headed back to the hotel, it was around 11 pm when we reached so we decided to explore the city a bit more.  We went to a few cafes close to the hotel on Besiktas road and had dinner with the locals then called it a night. 

Day three (The Wedding Day)

The wedding day has arrived! after breakfast us and a group of friends decided to go to the  Grand Bazaar and possibly have street food in the same area, since we were short on time we headed to the Bazaar first, the trip took around 20 minutes because of traffic and we had to cross the bridge so that took a while, when we reached the Bazaar there was already early risers making their way inside, it was beautiful, there was  jewelry, plates, bags , shoes, sweet shops everything you could think of they had! we walked around and bought souvenirs and turkish delights for my mother, then headed back outside and to walk around, then it started to rain, so we couldn't make it to "Haga Sofia" and "Sultan Ahmet" unfortunately we were pressed on time, we took a cab to "Ortokay" to have some street food, Let me just say that this area is by far my favorite part of the city and it was just 6 minutes away from our hotel!

We had a few hours before we had to start getting ready for the wedding, the street food stalls had everything there was nothing we didn't like. The baked potato however is a must ! they just add endless toppings of sausages, corn, olives, pickles, radishes you name it!

I couldn't get enough of the flavors. We walked around Ortokay, which also happens to be  on the coast line of the Bosphorus, filled with cafes , restaurants , juice stalls it's just bustling with life. 

Before heading back to the hotel we had "Dondurma" which means ice-cream in turkish,  I knew I wouldn't fit in my dress after all the food I ate but I did not care. The turks sure know   how to eat!

As we got ready , a car had been booked to take us to the wedding venue, the elegant Hotel Les Ottomans located in Muslim Naci Street . In 1790s “Les Ottomans Hotel” used to be the seaside mansion of a reputable “Hattat” known by the name Muhsinzade. Unfortunately, the mansion had to remain as a ruin after it was burned down in 1933. Recently, it has been rebuilt according to its original outlook. Read More

The setting was out doors overlooking the Bosphorus river, the tables and decor represented the brides turkish heritage as well as the enchanted forrest. Beautiful. The wedding was epic, I have never been to any wedding as creative and beautiful as my cousins wedding, we were only 70 people so it was intimate and filled with love. The bride and groom had arranged for fireworks to start from the middle of the Bosphorus! I loved the fireworks, we all sat and enjoyed them from the terrace.

As the cake made its way to the dance floor we watched Carnival Dancers perform then we indulged in our four course meal.

 The night didn't end, we made our way inside to the lower ground of the hotel,  this hotel was just remarkable, the furniture the floors the chandeliers, I can't begin to describe how amazed I was. 

Hotel Les Ottomans is an All Suite Boutique hotel yep , not your typical hotel just suites and I would recommend you book yourself a night or two just for the experience. Remarkable. as we made ourselves comfortable in the Lounge we took off our heels and wore hotel slippers! best idea ever!  It was 3 am and it was time to go,  we had a blast, I can't remember the last time I danced like that! By far the best wedding any of us have been to. 

We reached our hotel barely, due to some road works we had to get out of the cab and walk, which was ok... then we noticed that not only are there road works, they were actually placing tar to the streets ! great! walking across that road was a mission , not forgetting that I still had my hotel slippers on!  I watched my friend Nina and Dania run across with my hubby I was scared and laughing at the situation I took off my slippers and wore my heels again (boy did that hurt) and i took the leap and crossed the road in agonizing pain from my heels I screamed "damn you Steve Madden!" while the others laughed at me, I flung my shoes off and wore my slippers again because there was a steep hill to get to the hotel still, however our friend Dania was wearing her gorgeous Dior heels , and walking with pain she walked across the tar and up the hill in those heels! at one point me and Nina took off our slippers and handed them to dania  we couldn't bare for her to walk in those babies up a hill!  we stood there  arguing with Dania to take our slippers she kept refusing to take them  then Nina just took her slippers off and walked  away barefoot ! now if thats not friendship I don't know what is! my poor hubby was stuck with three women arguing on a hill top at stupid o'clock in the morning this was definitely a night to remember! 

Day 4 (going Back Home)

The trip came to an end, we all said our goodbyes and were on our way to the airport, AbuDhabi Bound. Finally reaching Ataturk Airport and on our way in,  guess who forgot her glasses in the Car? Dania !  it wasn't going well for her since the night before and I just couldn't stop laughing, my hubby ran after the cab till he stopped and finally got the glasses , they were Dior after all so they were worth saving! 

We finally made it home I couldn't wait to kiss my kids I missed them so much. They were asleep so I put their gifts on their beds and started packing for our next destination... 

Istanbul You have been Amazing! Cant wait to be back again!