Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Dubai 2014 | Desert Safari and the World's Largest Shopping Mall

In our next few days in Dubai we booked a desert safari. We booked through Planet Tours and found it amazing (our driver was Mr Abbas-he was so great and really made the tour special for us). It was such a different experience to everything I have ever done before. We got picked up at our hotel, and luckily we were able to have a 4x4 by ourselves as we were a family of 5 (in a smaller group you may be sharing). We headed out to the desert, and as soon as we got to the edge the tyres were taken down on the car, we then went straight into dune bashing, which is basically a roller coaster on sand. They then found us a great place to take some beautiful sunset desert pictures.

After a little more dune bashing we arrived at a camp in the middle of the desert, where we rode camels and my brother and dad went off on quad bikes around the desert dunes. At the camp we had henna tattoos, ate a BBQ dinner and watched a traditional Arabian dance as well as a belly dancer. I definitely think this is an experience not to be missed if travelling to Dubai. We had read some really negative reviews about the experience with some people talking about how crowded it was, but visiting at this time of year worked really well as there was lots of space and a very chilled atmosphere. 

The next day we headed out to the Dubai Mall in the evening. This was AS level results day so we went to Rainforest Cafe to celebrate my sister's results! We looked round a couple of shops, and walked around to look at the aquarium which is in the middle of the building, and the indoor theme park. At the end of the evening we went to the fountains to see the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world, right at the side of the Dubai Mall) and to watch the fountain show. It was such a crazy experience as it is literally massive, but definitely worth seeing, even though we didn't do any shopping!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Dubai 2014 | Off to UEA

Dubai is a place I have wanted to visit for such a long time so I was very excited when my family decided to book a week there in August. I've never been to the Middle East before so I was really looking forward to a very different kind of holiday (we have spent the last few summers in USA).

We had been given advice to stay at Jumeriah Beach Resort (JBR) area, and we chose apartments at Hilton the Walk. This was a great choice as we were able to have our own space but could still have the facilties at the hotel available. The Hilton apartments were great and we were lucky enough to be upgraded which was amazing. The first evening we settled into our apartment and ordered pizza to the room.

The next morning we headed out to the beach and pool. A lot of resorts have their own beach, so if you are booking a hotel it is a good idea to understand whether it has part of the beach, as using the beach at other hotels can incur a charge. I had been warned how hot Dubai would be, but I literally couldn't believe the heat! It was over 40 degrees everyday, and the sea was over 30 degrees, so like getting in a warm bath! We ate lunch at Wavebreaker, one of the hotels' restaurants, which was really nice but quite expensive. After a morning outside we went for a walk around the shops on The Walk, many of these were not yet open, many are under construction and are opening in September 2014. After our walk we went out for dinner at Frankie's which is Frankie Dettori's restaurant and it has such good food. They were so welcoming and made sure we had a really lovely time.  

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Barcelona 2014 | Park Guell and Sunshine

On the third day of our holiday we got up early and headed to Park Guell. This was one of my favourite places we went to over the holiday! It was so lovely. On the way we stopped for pastries for breakfast. We found that food at the hotel was expensive so it was nice to be able to get some breakfast cheap locally (the massive croissants were 1 euro!) 

We got the metro to the Park Guell stop, and then the walk was about 20 minutes, which was all up hill, they even have escalators in the middle of the road as some parts of the hill were so steep to climb up! We walked round the top of the Park and got some amazing views, and then decided to go and buy tickets to enter the main part of the park. Using the tickets from the previous day (the museum tickets) we managed to get cheaper entry which was useful! 

Looking round the actual park was amazing, there was so much to see, I really enjoyed it, I think it is definitely something that should be seen and getting the metro there was easy enough. We went for a late lunch in town and I had the nicest vegetarian paella. 

For the rest of the afternoon we lay by the pool enjoying the last bit of the sun, that evening we headed out for tapas and tried lots of different dishes. It was an amazing (but very short) holiday and we found that we could definitely do Barcelona in a short amount of time for not too much money! Before we went we had been warned about the crime level in the city but I found as long as you were very aware, and kept hold of your bag, then it was quite easy to stay safe. There was definitely more that we could have seen, but Barcelona on a budget worked really well!

Barcelona 2014 | City Break

After finally all having finished our degrees, we decided it would be nice to have a girly city break, and seeing as we wanted to be near a beach as well we decided Barcelona would be the perfect place.

We booked a couple of weeks beforehand through Expedia, where we sorted flights (Monarch), transfer and hotel (Confortel Barcelona). The aim was to do Barcelona relatively cheaply and get to see as much of the city as possible in a short space of time, we definitely achieved this!
Leaving early in the morning meant we arrived in time for lunch, after problems with our transfer not turning up (we ended up waiting for 2 hours!) we were lucky enough to be able to check in early. The hotel was lovely and our rooms were clean and spacious. We headed out for lunch on Rambla del Poblenou which is a street full of restaurants, shops and cafes at reasonable prices, we stayed outside the main city as we wanted to be close to the beach. The rest of our first day consisted of a walk to the beach and down to the harbour, cocktails on the beach at a really nice beach bar, Chiringuitos and a picnic from the local supermarket back at our hotel. We sat on our roof top to watch the sunset.

The next day began early as we got up ready for a walk down the quiet Las Ramblas in the morning, it gets very busy just before midday so we wanted a chance to look round properly. We found the Gothic cathedral and the Gothic Quarter which was amazing, and went to the Barcelona History Museum, which was 5 Euro as we are all students. This ticket enabled us entry to many other attractions in Barcelona, so we would have been able to use this if we had been staying longer. For lunch we found an Italian restaurant which was very reasonably priced for high quality food. I would definitely recommend this restaurant as the service was great and food was so yummy.

We headed to the Sagrada Familia after lunch and rather than going inside we walked round the exterior and found a place across the lake looking straight at the Cathedral which was lovely. We decided upon going to the Casa Batllo and Casa Mila afterwards, however didn’t go inside either. Unfortunately the Casa Mila seemed to be having building work done as it was completely covered by a sheet! But at least we got to see it!

Up until this point we found everyone to be highly friendly and helpful, however on the metro home we experienced our first (and only) look at the pick-pocketing we had been warned about. Although it was quite scary, everyone on the Metro ensured the pick-pocketer didn’t escape with the bag that she had taken which was quite reassuring.

We had a picnic dinner on the beach and spent the rest of the evening on the beach followed by at a beach bar with Sangria.