Without sounding too corny 2016 has literally been the best year of my life! 2016 was the year we became parents to Baby E ! What more could we have asked for than our perfect little girl. Parenthood is a great adventure but to on top of that we have had some great travel adventures with her already!
We have been back to the UK 3 times visiting family in birmingham and having city breaks in Henley and Oxford and spending her first Christmas in Yorkshire!
We’ve been on a Med cruise – visiting Rome, Toulon, Palma, Corsica and Valencia and had a Christmas city break in Stockholm!
And the diary for 2017 is filling out already!
So on this New Years Eve I am thankfully for my daughter and the adventures we’ve already had together and promise you many more in 2017!
Happy new year everyone! I’d love to hear your 2016 highlights and plans for 2017!
This is a monthly feature to let you know where we are travelling to in the following month. We are hoping this page will keep our readers informed, get us recommendations from other travellers about our upcoming locations and let any potential partners know locations of where we are going should anyone want to partner with us while we are there (please contact wandermustfamily at wandermustfamily.com for any potential partnership work).
That being said in January we will be in:
Doha for the most part as we have guests in town. Me and Wandermust Granny are also thinking of doing a Doha staycation or beach day – where do you think we should go?
At the tennis – the Qatar open arrives every January and being a tennis fanatic this is one of my favourite January activities! Even better as Murray is coming this year!
Wandermust daddy is escaping parenthood for the weekend and travelling to Kolkata to see the cricket while staying at the beautiful Lalit hotel. I’m not jealous at all! Honest!
We have lived in Qatar for almost three years and think we’ve got to know it pretty well so in honor of Qatars national day we have compiled our a-z list of things to do in Qatar!
A is for al Khor & Purple Island One of my favourite places to go outside of the city. Purple island is located in al Khor and is called purple island because of the small snails found there which are said to create the color of the Qatar national flag when crushed. You can read our post about why Purple Island is the perfect desert experience for kids here! In the winter you can see flamingoes but it is a great spot for bird watchers all year round.
It’s also worth remembering that Al Khor has a great public park for children. B is for Barzan Towers
I love history. Qatar has some great forts located in the north but Barzan is even closer – right near IKEA in fact. Definitely worth a visit.
C is for the Corniche
Anyone who visits Doha has to visit the Corniche! You can walk around the whole corniche from the Museum of Islamic Arts to West Bay with great views of each. Al mourjan is a good place to stop to have lunch right on the water front. I love walking by night where you can get great views of the city.
D is for Dhows
Dhows are a great way to see the skyline and catch some rays. Qatar international adventures offers trips from the dhow port opposite the souq. You can do a day or night trip and have a BBQ on the boat. We even enjoyed jumping in the salty sea to cool down.
E is for East meets West
The famous Richard Serra sculpture in the desert at Zekreet. It’s size in such a barren landscape is such an awe striking scene. Nb you will require a 4×4 to visit
Nearby you can enjoy a beach day at zekreet and see the amazing mushroom rocks.
There is also a film city with a reconstructed village which is worth a look.
F is for Fuwarit
Fuwarit is a beach to the north of Qatar. One of the few powdery beaches in Qatar it also is a breeding site for turtles.
G is for the Grand Mosque
A beautiful structure in the center of Doha. It’s worth a drive past at night to see it in its full splendor.
H is for al Hazm mall
Although not open quite yet, the mall is a great architectural nod to the malls of Milan and Naples.
I is for the inland sea
A remarkable geologicalfeat. The inland sea is a great place to go dune bashing. We went with Arabian Adventures and had an amazing day. The driving was safe but exhilarating. I would recommend doing only with a recommended company as driving the dunes is tricky and not something to undertake on your own.
J is for al Jassasiya rock carvings
Comprising of 874 petroglyphs, you can see carvings showing boats, stars and rosettes amongst others. A great site for the archaeology lover!
K is for Katara
The cultural village of Doha. It has lots of great restaurants, (one is on my list of dohas best restaurants from a-z), is a great space for art with and exhibition space run by Qatar museums, and performance space. There is also a stamp museum specializing in stamps from the region and is a lovely place to go for a walk. In the winter, katara hosts a series of festivals the most well known is the show festival which takes place in November.
L is for lusail
A must see for sports enthusiasts. At the moment it is a city under dvelopment but it is worthwhile to try and get an event at the lusail arena.
One of Most iconic buildings in Doha, designed by I.M. Pei. It has a great collection comprising of jewelry, astrolabes and carpets amongst others and home to great temporary exhibitions such as the recent Treasures of China exhibition containing five terra-cotta army.
The park is also a beautiful place to go for a walk and has the cafe with the best views in Doha.
The park also has the al Riwaq exhibition space which houses exhibitions such as the Damien Hurst retrospective. Check the QM website for current exhibition details.
N is for the National museum
Although not open yet it is worth driving by the museum. An architectural gem in the making. Designed to resemble a desert rose, a geological feature of a Qatar, it will reopen to show the history of the country.
O is for Oryx
Qatar’s national animal. Unfortunately I’ve only seen as statues at the st Regis or on the tail of a Qatar Airways plane but there are apparently some in the wild. I would love to see one.
P is for the Pearl
Doha’s answer to the Palm. Great shopping and even better restaurants (see my a-z of Doha’s best restaurants for more information). We love strolling around the marina and looking at all the boats.
Q is for the qanat quarter
A largely residential area of the Pearl made to look like Venice. It even has its own Rialto bridge. A great place to walk around especially now more shops and restaurants are opening. I personally can’t wait to try the Breakfast Club.
R is for al ruwais
A town in northern Qatar. Known for its port, it has a lovely park and is a great jumping off point to see the forts of northern Qatar. You can read about our experience of al ruwais and forts here.
S is for Souq Waqif
Meaning standing market Souq Waqif is Doha’s main souq. It is a great place to experience local culture. Don’t miss the gold Souq and handicraft market.
Why not check out our Souq waqif series to find out more about visiting with a baby and our favourite restaurants in the Souq!
T is for the Torch
A striking building in the aspire zone. You can have dinner and view the city from above. Then why not take a stroll around the aspire zone park!
U is for under the stars kayaking
Ran by the company Entalek, kayaking under the stars is definitely on my Doha bucket list.
V is for villagio
A mall modelled on Venice with gondolas running through the center. Can be visited at the same time as the torch.
W is for al wakra
The old pearling center of Qatar. Today, it is known for having the second souq of Qatar, located on the waterfront.
Z is zubarah
Qatar’s only UNESCO world heritage site. A fort and museum that is worth the drive out of Doha to visiti! You can read all about how to get there and out experience here.
How many have you done? And what else do you think should be on the list?
I have never really been one to stay in my own country for holidays. Something that I actually regret now we live in a country that is only 11,000km. But when I hit the point of no return mark – aka the airlines will not let you fly anymore, Wandermust Daddy and I decided that we would do a Doha staycation to enjoy one of our last baby-free weekends!
Before being pregnant, I would never have considered staying in the place I live for a stay cation but it was amazing how relaxing it was. No airport queues, no travel tiredness, no worries about hospital or travel discomfort – third trimester stay cations in your hometown i think are a definite winner!
For our staycation we decided to spend the weekend at the Intercontinental Doha Hotel using a buy one get one free Entertainer Qatar Voucher . The first nice surprise when we arrived was that they upgraded us to a suite which was bigger (significantly) than our flat in London.
The Intercon boasts a lovely pool, plenty of shaded seating and a beautiful beach. Being so close to popping, we made use of the pool and covered beds to provide me with some respite from the Middle East sun.
You are not short of food and beverage options at the Intercon. Our favourite place to have lunch being the Greek restaurant Mykonos which overlooks the pool and has a tasteful Santorini inspired décor and a reasonably priced menu. I would thoroughly recommend the calamari and the mousakka! The vast mocktail menu also meant that I had something more interesting than fizzy pop or water to drink.
Despite, being under refurbishment – the spa provided a lovely prenatal massage which provided welcome relief from the aches and pains of pregnancy. I look forward to returning when the new spa is opened.
The benefits of a staycation towards the end of pregnancy mean that you can get away right before the baby is due, without worrying about being away from your hospital of choice and means you can get away really close to your due date.
The Intercon Doha is definitely a family favourite and I can’t wait to return to test the children’s facilities in the Autumn.
As expats in Qatar many of us can be guilty of not getting out of the city but there is more to Qatar than Doha!
Our day started by driving 1 hour and ten minutes out of the city as we headed towards al Ruwais! Al ruwais is the port town of Doha. With 4000 inhabitants it is more a sleepy fishing town than what you would imagine a commercial port to be like.
We loved seeing the old dhows and fishermen at work. We particularly enjoyed watching this from the beautiful Abu Dhalouf Park ( open for families only with restrictions to women on Tuesdays and Wednesday).
After a brief stop at the park we headed towards Zubarah. By driving from al Ruwais to Zubarah you drive along the coast and visit sone of the less well known and less preserved forts such as al thugab and rakiyat to name just two. Important – you will probably want a 4×4 to visit these.
The final fort you come to is zubarah – the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Qatar.
The fort is small but contains a small but interesting exhibition which tells you about the fort’s history and trade links.
The day we went, there was a vintage car rally on displaying 80s Nissan cars. Everyone was very friendly and Wandermust Daddy was in his element. It was really nice to see so many people at the fort and we got some great pics of old versus the new especially with the camels.
I think every expat should really make the effort to go out and see more of the country than currently call home as there is lots more to Qatar than Doha. Keep watching this space for more Qatar day trips!
I don’t know about you but whenever I’m booking a hotel, especially a luxury one I seek the opinions of others. Travel bloggers have often tried a range of hotels from quirky and one offs to high end chains. The Middle East, in my opinion, has some great hotels to suit every type of traveller. Here I, and some of my favourite bloggers, have picked their favourite Middle Eastern hotels that they have stayed in during 2016! I hope this inspires your travels in 2017!
Magnificent desert oasis Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter is just a couple of hours drive from the capital offering the luxury traveller the epitome of elegance set against a stunning panorama of sand dunes.
This imposing and architecturally impressive retreat blends old-world desert charm honouring Emirati heritage and culture with modern-day hospitality. Beautiful interiors combine traditional furniture, textiles, ceramics and artefacts in a series of low-rise buildings that are accessed via large wooden doors with walkways lined with water features and Arabic lanterns.
The service is impeccable, stylish restaurants offer a variety of cuisines, there is a fantastic spa and a multitude of activities from camel rides, dune bashing and falconry. The perfect sanctuary for a long weekend to relax and enjoy a peaceful little snippet of desert life.
What Catherine has to say:
I was staying with a friend for most of the time I was in Dubai, but I was desperate to really experience a hotel as Dubair are so famous for their luxury hotels. I booked myself into the Four Seasons Resort Jumeirah Beach for a night, and from start to finish the service was just incredible. The hotel itself was beautiful and despite my short stay, it was one of the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had. I think it’s well suited to couples and older families, and it was totally worth the money.
You can read Catherine’s full review here and why not check out her social media channels:
My husband and I visited Anantara on The Palm Jumeirah when our daughter was just two months old. It was our first experience of travel with a baby and we were looking for some peace and tranquility as well as somewhere that was friendly and accommodating to a young couple with a newborn. Luckily, the hotel gave us all of this and more. The South East Asian inspired villas which are spread out over the extensive grounds feature private balconies and steps down to lagoon-like swimming pools where Sophia had her first swim. The friendly staff, beautiful setting and unique features make this hotel ideal for young families and honeymooning couples alike. It has an exclusive feel, and is pricey but in my opinion, totally worth it.
You can read a full review here and follow Polly on Twitter @PolBag
We chose the Taj Dubai mainly because it’s location. It is located in Business Bay within walking distance (if it’s not to hot) to the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. Our favourite thing about the hotel was the choice of restaurants and the quality of the food, especially Friday Brunch. If you have a bit of cash to splash then we would recommend this hotel as even by Dubai standards it is quite pricey, but in our opinion well worth it. With swimming pool, spa and gym it has great amenities. Ideal for business travellers, couples and families.
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai – the tallest hotel in the world – wins our top vote with its combination of opulent luxury, fantastic leisure facilities and award-winning restaurants and bars like Weslodge, Rang Mahal and Tong Thai.
Best of all though, it can be amazing value. We’ve managed to get rooms in this five-star hotel for as low as 335 AED/night using the Entertainer Free Night Offer.
Ideal for business and leisure travellers, who need never leave the hotel due to excellent range of leisure venues and facilities, and close to the dazzling new Dubai Canal.
Proving that luxury and family really can go hand and hand we were blown away by Doubletree Marjan Island. Large family-sized villa rooms overlooking the lush gardens with several pools to choose from. For kids there is a giant playground, and all day (and evening!) kids club – but most loved by our little family was the giant pirate ship with 4 amazing slides! With multiple restaurants to choose from this resort makes a perfect weekend getaway.
You can read Keri’s full review here or if you would like to find out more about Keri and the BabyGlobetrotters travels you can follow them at:
The Intercon is a family favourite of the Wandermust Family. With a great pool and lovely beach with views of the city centre skyline to die for. Coupled with the fact, it has amazing service and brilliant restaurants – we particularly love the Greek restaurant Mykonos – The Intercon is the place to go for the ultimate relaxing break.
We went for our final baby moon here and its perfect for couples but would also be great for families. We would love to go back this time with our little one in tow!
You can read the full review here and the Wandermust Family can be followed on the below social media channels:
I am huge lover of Shangri-La hotels after staying in their Singapore hotel regularly as a child, and stay with them whenever I can so it was a no-brainer for my visit to Doha. One of the reasons I love Shangri-La’s so much is that each one feels ‘on-brand’ and familiar, and I always feel safe and at home in them (especially when I’m travelling alone). The staff are always fantasti, and honestly can’t do enough for you. The Doha hotel was stunning: the pool was an oasis in the middle of a very futuristic and high rise city, the spa was super relaxing, and even the standard rooms are huge!
Catherine’s full review is over on her website for you to check out and can be found here
You can follow Catherine on the below social media sites:
We booked into the Grand Hyatt using the entertainer app buy one get one free voucher and were not disappointed. We were upgraded to the Presidential Suite which was spacious as well as beautiful filled with local decorative touches. The bathroom was particularly impressive with a huge bath and a technology fueled shower. The club lounge offers free breakfast and an evening happy hour, a perfect retrace for couples, We enjoyed spending time round the heated pool, perfect for a winter break with kids.
While I live in Qatar, sometimes I need to get away from my normal life, so I opted to do a staycation at the W Doha. Part of the reason I chose the W Doha is that offered a staycation rate that included early check-in and late check-out. It meant I could spend more time at the hotel. I also chose the W Doha because it is one of my favorite places to eat in Doha, so I knew I would be happy with the food choices. My favorite thing about this visit is that I was able to relax and unwind in a peaceful room with a comfortable bed. The service is always something I am impressed with when eating there and this extended into the hotel. This hotel is great because you can relax in your room, but enjoy the restaurants and nightlife the W Doha offers. It was a wonderful getaway in my hometown.
We are not beach bums! Hotels are usually where we rest our weary heads after a long day sightseeing. So the fact we never left the chedi tells you how good it is! Three pools, including the longest in the Middle East, a beach, beautiful architecture and several amazing restaurants mean the Chedi is a must for any couples wanting a romantic weekend in the Middle East!
You can read the full review here and the Wandermust Family can be followed on the below social media channels:
We were recommended the resort (made up of 3 hotels) and specifically the Al Husn as the must stay in Muscat.The pool area is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. The horizon infinity pool is stunning and tranquil atmosphere is uber relaxing.
Not a cheap get away (GBP 250+ per night) but worth every penny. They include complimentary afternoon tea, evening drinks reception and full mini bar use daily. With pool, gym, private beach areas, free wifi, use of the full resort, 10 restaurants and 3 bars.
The Al Husn is adults and perfect for that luxury couples get away. However the other 2 hotels on the resort are family friendly. The service, food and luxury finishes are second to none at this hotel and why we come return time and again.
You can read the full review here and follow Jersey Girl on the below Social Media Channels:
We stopped at the Six Senses Zighy Bay on our around-the-world trip for one reason: the paragliding entrance. But we loved everything about the hotel, including the excellent food, our private plunge pool, the warm ocean water, the bicycles we rode all around the resort, the library, the tubing and the kids club activities. It’s a lot less expensive in the (hot) summer, but even at the resort’s high-season prices, there’s a lot of value provided. The service was outstanding. Highly recommended for adventurous, non-budget-minded travellers who want to be pampered in a unique location.
I chose Toledo Hotel because it is located in Abdali, a largely residential area of cream-coloured townhouses and apartments intermixed with government and commercial buildings. There are no heavy traffic and loud noises unlike Downtown Amman. The nearest bakeries and shops are within 15 minutes’ walking distance while the major tourist attractions are a few minutes’ drive away, costing only 2-3 dinar by taxi.
The hassle-free bookings of city tour or day tours outside of Amman. The front desk will make the necessary arrangements, after which, guests can further discuss with the hired drivers for other requests. For example, I hired the same driver for the additional two days to drive me to Madaba and later, an excursion tour to Mount Nebo, Bethany and the Dead Sea – all at a reasonable price.
The rates for a single and double room range from USD68 – USD80 a night including breakfast at their Moorish-designed Andalusia Cafe.
In the room, there is air-conditioning, TV, desk, tea & coffee facilities, bar fridge, closet and a private safe box. I found no faults with the room and the attached bathroom as it was very clean, tastefully decorated, comfortable bed and everything functioned as it should be. The hotel has a gym and an indoor swimming pool. And of course, free Wi-Fi! Perfect for solo, business and family travellers.
Henley upon Thames, mostly known for its regatta is a lovely town just a short train ride from London and is the perfect spot for a family weekend away. So here are my top things to do on a weekend away in Henley with a baby:
Stroll down the Thames
Henley is on the Thames – clues in the name! – and it’s a beautiful place for taking a walk!
If you are walking from the city centre you will pass
It is a beautiful Tudor country house with, in my opinion, even more beautiful grounds! For the little ones, you can go on a hunt for fairy doors. We took our daughter and our niece and nephew who really enjoyed the hunt even though we were somewhat lacking in success!
Have you been to Henley? What would you recommend doing there on a weekend away?
We love a staycation. A chance to get away without the hassle of traveling especially now we have a baby. When we noticed that we had a buy one night get a night free at the Grand Hyatt Doha that had to be used by the end of the year we jumped at the chance to get away.
So how was our stay?
The service we received was excellent. From our check in with Maha to staff at the pool, we were made to feel welcome and taken care of. Staff around the pool were always ready to help carry the pram and the staff at majlis were particularly good.
Our room was upgraded so we got to experience the Presidential Suite. The suite was large and beautifully decorated. There was plenty of room for baby e to roll around.
Our bathroom – one of the things I love about top hotels is their bathrooms and gran Hyatt was no exception. It had a lovely big bath for me and baby E to relax in and an amazing shower for Wandermust Daddy. You know the shower will be good when it comes with its own set of instructions.
The pool is excellent for families. It is heated to a beautiful 29 degrees which meant we could take the baby in at any time of day and be guaranteed it would be comfortable for her. Despite what people think about the Middle East, it can get cold so finding a heated pool is a must for winter staycations.
The breakfast in the club lounge is a lovely addition and is available from 7-11am. We also loved the all day drinks and snacks.
The cot – I have stayed at many lovely hotels where design has been at the fore. Then you ask for a cot and everything goes to pot! Now this is only a small thing but I always think that it seems strange that you would spend so much time on design and then plonk a luminous cot into the centre of the room. What I loved about the cot at Grand Hyatt, was it seemed very comfortable – Baby E had a great nights sleep but it also was quite attractive.
We made reservations through the concierge on both nights of our stay and unfortunately both nights we had issues. The first night at Issaan the reservation couldn’t be found and the second our request hadn’t been sent through correctly. Now the staff at each of the restaurants were great and rectified the issue but it’s not what you expect particularly when you are in a suite.
The club lounge wasn’t as friendly as it could have been. On our first fight it took half an hour to get our luggage which unfortunately contained our baby food. When we went to grab a banana my husband wearing tailored shorts was told off because of the evening dress code. It was done in a polite but firm way however could have been approached width a more apologetic manner. It was also unfortunate that due to Qatari law you can’t take children into the lounge between 6-8. This meant that we couldn’t fully use the services of the suite and that groups of children would congregate on the bench outside the lift. It seems like perhaps table services instead of an open bar would make for a more inclusive atmosphere.
I have to say the hotel is particularly beautiful. When you visit a chain hotel you can feel detached from the place you are staying however The Grand hyatt seemed to be embedded with regional touches that we loved.
We all had a lovely relaxing weekend. It was well set up for families and was a truly luxurious weekend.
Keep coming back to the blog to see more about our Doha Staycations
Have you had a staycation at the Grand Hyatt? What did you think? What are your favourite things about staycations?
As we approached gymkhana in Souq waqif last night, it dawned on me that we had never set foot inside one of the many boutique hotels in Souq waqif! I wasn’t sure what to expect but if there instagram page was anything to go by we were in for a treat.
When we entered we were greeted warmly and taken to a table with two large wicker chairs and a baby chair quickly followed. The decor makes it feel like you are in an old colonial hotel. Beautiful and impeccable.
The menus were brought and we decided to start with the gymkhana chaat. An unusual mix of paneer, chickpeas and pomegranate on a spiced biscuit base. It was very unusual but we loved the unique flavour. It was the closest thing we have had to our experience at Michelin starred Indian restaurant in London, Tamarind!
For mains we thought we’d try something traditional and something more unusual so we opted for the home style chicken curry and the ghee roasted pepper mutton. The curry tasted similar to a dhansak minus the lentils, with sweet and sour notes. Absolutely delicious! While the lamb was pulled with a spicy kick! Neither was greasy and both packed with flavour.
We finished with a chai creme brûlée which was spiced and rich and perfect for sharing.
This is definitely my new favourite curry spot in Doha and I can’t wait to try more. But perhaps my favourite thing about gymkhana was exceptional service! It was flawless from start to finish. I feel like I’ve been missing g out not trying the boutique hotels before and definitely want to explore them more.
The dinner with lassi and water cost around 300qar!
Have you been to gymkhana? What did you think
Fearless Family Travellers! Embracing luxury and adventure around the globe. On a mission to prove that travel with a baby is not only possible but fun!