Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Travel Diaries: Rome

Where we stayed

We stayed at La Maison di Sant'Anna which is in a great location, just behind Campo de' Fiori in the heart of Rome.  Teatro Argentina was also just a minute walk away.  In fact, almost everything was in walking distance with the Pantheon being just 5 minutes walk, the Trevi Fountain about a 25 minute walk and great bars and restaurants in the close-by area of Trastevere.

My husband booked a 'Deluxe Double Room with Hot Tub' and it certainly didn't fail to impress! The high end spec of the space and the luxury of your breakfast being delivered to your room every morning definitely felt like a treat.

Things to do

{The Trevi Fountain}

You definitely need a few days to fully take in everything that Rome has to offer.  My favourite place was undoubtedly the Trevi Fountain, however a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel was definitely a highlight.  I do highly recommend a walking tour for the Museums - it gets REALLY busy but with a guided tour you not only get to queue jump (it's a long queue!), you also get an insight into the overwhelmingly beautiful and historic art the museum has to offer.

 {The Spanish Steps}

The Spanish Steps is also a sight not to be missed and it wouldn't be a trip to Rome without a visit to the Colosseum.  We visited just before sundown and there were minimal queues.

 {The Colosseum}

The best way to see the city (or any city for that matter) is to get tickets for a hop-on, hop-off bus tour.  We stayed on for one complete route and then decided where we wanted to go and in which order.  The city is walkable, and there's something historical and beautiful around almost every corner, however I did find the tour useful to get my bearings and get to know which areas of the city were home to each landmark.

Places to eat

Surprisingly, it was difficult to find a good meal in Rome that was comparable to the standard of quality and taste we're used to in the UK.  It really was hit or miss and the Trastevere area is the only place I recommend you go for a good meal, with most of the restaurants in that area boasting 4.5+ reviews.  


Monday, 7 November 2016

Travel Diaries: Santa Barbara

{Palm trees & blue skies in Santa Barbara}

A year last Christmas we took a trip to San Francisco and followed Route 1 down to LA - stopping at Santa Barbara on the way.  We only stayed as an overnight stop before continuing our road trip but I wish we'd scheduled more time to take in this beautiful beach town.  Santa Barbara spoke to me, in a way most of California did.  The laid back atmosphere, continuous sun and calm waters were idyllic and waking up there is something I will never forget.

{Views from Route 1 - Photo by me}

Before I get into where we stayed in Santa Barbara I feel the need to mention a sea-view cafe we stopped at on our way down the coast road.  We had the most amazing lunch overlooking the sweeping ocean.  The views were uninterrupted and literally stunning to the point where I still think about this place (a lot) almost 2 years later! The Lucia Lodge & Restaurant.

Where we stayed

We spent our brief stay at The Harbor View Inn right across from the beach in Santa Barbara.  The room was very comfortable with a huge bed (important when you're still suffering from jetlag!) and the view from our balcony was amazing. Unfortunately I only have video footage and didn't take any photos of our room but it was just like the website pictures!

We had breakfast before setting off in the cafe attached to the hotel - Eladio's (guests had a percentage off - I think around 10%) and the views were amazing! Another moment that's hard to forget.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Travel Diaries: Dubai

Travel is one of my favourite things to do.  I've been fortunate enough to have visited some amazing places and seen some amazing things.  I've decided to start a new series on my blog documenting my travels; where I've been, what I've seen and what I found to be the best experiences and things to do in each place.  Starting with one of my favourite places I've visited - Dubai.

Where I stayed

{Rooftop view at Auris Plaza, Al Barsha}

We stayed at the Auris Plaza in the Al Barsha region.  I have to say, the hotel was a little out of the way (we stayed there to be close to a friend) however the hotel is within 2 minute walking distance of the Mall of the Emirates (more on that later in this post) and there was a supermarket just down the street which was definitely convenient for snacks and water etc.

The hotel itself was clean and modern, with a rooftop pool, bar and jacuzzi with views of the city.  The rooftop wasn't the biggest space but was well appointed and the hotel also had a spa, which unfortunately we didn't have time to visit.  Food was served downstairs just off the lobby (we had breakfast there most days) and there was enough choice to have something different every day.

Our experience of the hotel and staff was overall great, and after opting to take an earlier flight on arrival to the airport, we were very early for our check-in.  The reception staff were very accommodating and after making us comfortable with drinks in the lobby, they got a room ready for us within an hour.  The room itself was very clean and modern with a sizeable bathroom.  

{Selfies in the hotel room & at the rooftop pool}


Etiquette, dress code and being sensitive to religion in Dubai were things I was concerned about before we left.  Having researched, the little information I did find was that it is disrespectful to have bare shoulders and knees in public (hotels/beach bars/restaurants/private hotel beaches were fine).   For example at the malls I would wear things that covered both if it was possible.

Physical contact with your significant other in public is also frowned upon so definitely keep the PDA on the down low if you want to be respectful!

Things to do


{Yalumba Brunch @ Le Meridien}

Attending a brunch is an absolute must if you visit Dubai and there are no end of options to choose from.  We opted for the Yalumba Restaurant Brunch at Le Meridien near Dubai airport (a 20 minute taxi ride from our hotel).  The brunch did not disappoint with endless buffet food and drink options, an outside barbecue and food made to order.  Get ready to indulge!

The Malls

Dubai Mall

The scale of Dubai mall is nothing short of amazing.  As the world's largest mall it has an unbelievable 1,200 shops!  Certainly set aside half a day to wander around and take in the place, however you could easily spend a day (or two) here!  There's so much to see with an indoor aquarium, luxury and 'high street' shopping areas, ice rink, a cinema and the Vogue Cafe - you definitely won't be short of ways to spend your time!  We may have got lost a few times....

The Mall of the Emirates

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Mall of the Emirates was conveniently located within walking distance of our hotel.  It's definitely on a much smaller scale than Dubai mall with 630 shops, cafe's and restaurants.  It's also home to Dubai's indoor ski experience.

The Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa as you may already know, is the tallest structure in the world.  The above photos were taken at the visitor entrance to the Burj (accessed via the inside of Dubai Mall) and the entrance just outside the building looking up.  

We scaled the building (on the inside!) to reach the observation deck on the 124th Floor.  The views of the city were staggering and well worth the wait - it definitely gets busy so be sure to book tickets in advance.

The Dubai Fountains

We viewed the famous Dubai fountains from the balcony of the Armani Restaurant inside the Burj Khalifa.  Set to music, the fountains were a true spectacle with a similar feel to those at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The Armani Restaurant 


We dined in the Armani/Mediterraneo restaurant located inside the Burj Khalifa (one of many restaurants the hotel has).  The interior was as opulent as you'd imagine and the food and cocktails were of the high quality you'd expect.  Definitely worth a visit and as I said - a great place to view the fountains!

Burj Al Arab

We unfortunately didn't get to see the Burj Al Arab up-close but it is visible from many parts of the city including the Souk at Madinat Jumeriah (more below).  The landmark is the emblem of the city and a great sight.

Dubai Marina

The Souk at Madinat Jumeriah

With it's stunning architecture and beautiful stalls/shops the Souk was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.  It really was inspiring and gave me a real feeling of appreciation for Dubai's culture and beauty.  This place is high on my list as being worth a visit - day or night.

Dubai Desert

{Quad biking in the Dubai desert}

We booked a Jeep Safari during our stay (ask at your hotel reception) which included an optional camel ride (I didn't partake for ethical reasons) and quad biking through the desert.  There are a few moments in my life when I look around and think 'wow' and quad biking through the desert was definitely a wow moment and one I will never forget.  The organisers and our guide were very helpful and friendly - a lot of people who work in Dubai have to stay outside of the city because of the extortionate cost of living; our guide was originally from Pakistan but living in shared accommodation an hour outside the city.  


I hope you guys enjoyed this post and it was helpful if you are traveling or thinking of traveling to Dubai! There are so many things to see and do in Dubai and I have no doubt I'll be visiting again to try them out!  I have lots more Travel Diaries posts to come including San Francisco, L.A. & Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Rome, New York and Florida!  Where's your favourite place to travel?

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