Category Archives: Tried and Tested

Seeing a different side to Dubai – Bab al Shams Desert Resort 

Dubai, I have found on the whole is a marmite kind of place – you either love it or you hate it! It’s a pretty showy place and every time I have been I have stayed on the palm! So this time we wanted something a little different so we booked ourselves into the Bab al Shams desert resort and spa! Meaning gateway to the sun, we were hoping for something special from our stay at the desert resort – Bab al Shams!

One of the things I like when staying in a luxury hotel is getting a real sense of place. Personal touches and things unique to the place. To be honest, the hotels I’ve stayed in Dubai previously have been lacking in this! There a lot of chains (nothing wrong with that) but on the inside can feel like anywhere else in the world. My favourite hotels always have something unique about them and this was my hope for Bab al Shams and it didn’t disappoint! All the luxury and 5* treatment that you expect f a great middle eastern hotel coupled with a taste of tradition and heritage! 

We flew into Dubai maktoum airport which is much closer to the resort than dxb but offers only regional flights at the minute but was perfect for us! From here it was about a 40-50 minute drive. When we arrived we were greeted with a lovely Arabian welcome and some fresh lemon mint and baby e was given a soft camel which she became very attached to! 

The desert resort

After a slight confusion over booking details we were shown to our room. The resort is laid out like an Arabian fort – low rise and you walk down winding corridors and alleys with quaint ‘historic’ objects littering the walkways to get to your room! On the way there are many areas to sit and unwind such as reflecting pools and nighttime fire pits! 

Water feature
Fire pit

The room was stunning and had a true sense of place that other Dubai hotels can lack. I was particularly fond of the bathroom.

The bath
Luxurious bathroom
 

The only downside to the traditional layout could be that it can seem a little dark but I think the ambience it creates more than make up for it!

Sitting area

As we arrived late in the evening we went straight out to dinner in one of the five onsite restaurants. Night one we tried masala the Indian offer and were very impressed with the quality. There was a nice mix of traditional and more contemporary dishes and a live band which baby e enjoyed dancing the night away too. Of all the restaurants we tried, this was our favourite.

Masala

On other nights we tried the Italian, Le Dune and Arabic, Al Forsan, which are nice and have lovely views across the desert especially for sundowners. There is also an Arabic buffet restaurant, Al Hadheerah, that has a live show and has a firework display at weekends. Since wandermust daddy was ill and the baby has an earliesh bedtime I didn’t get to do this but is something I’d love to return and do!

As we went half board we had our breakfast at the buffet restaurant. I am not always a buffet fan but was really impressed with the breakfast, especially the live cooking stations. Due to illness, I mostly experienced the resort on my own, I was concerned about the mix of baby and buffet while solo parenting but the staff were so helpful. I had a great time even if wandermust  daddy was shut away in the hotel room for most of the trip! At least we had a nice bed! 

The bed

The whole resort was perfectly set up for families of any size and age. Baby E enjoyed the heated pool and there was plenty of space around the three pool areas.

The pool

Your room rate also includes some desert activities such as camel riding, nature walks, fat bikes and baby E’s favourite falcons! She has now become slightly obsessed with trying to pet birds!

Our fearless traveler

I must admit that even I enjoyed the falconry. The blend of afternoon activities I think makes Bab al shams perfect for the young and he young at heart! 


The resort, while well connected by road is set amongst the sand dunes! You could organise trips out through the hotel but we just enjoyed sitting and taking in the scenery! The baby particularly enjoyed the sand between her toes!


We had a fantastic time and would thoroughly recommend anyone who wants to experience a more traditional Dubai scene to try visiting a desert resort.

Top tip – the resort is much busier on a Friday than in the week due to a large brunch and pool day passes so try and stay mid week if you can 

Have you ever stayed in a desert resort? I’d love to know what you thought! 

Doha’s Best Restaurants from A-Z

Since starting this blog I’ve discovered that Actually people know very little about Qatar, and certainly isn’t on a lot of people’s bucket lists so I thought I would share something I love about Doha – that’s all the great restaurant you can chose from in this town. From High End to Cheap Eats, Doha is full of unusual and interesting restaurants. So here are my favourite restaurants in Doha from A to Z! Continue reading Doha’s Best Restaurants from A-Z

Review of the Grand Hyatt, Melbourne

When choosing a hotel for business rather than pleasure it is all about location, location, location! Which is why when travelling to Melbourne I chose the Grand Hyatt because of its proximity to my conference venue. On top of this however, the Grand Hyatt is also perfectly located for sightseeing being on Collins Street. Collins Street is one of the main streets in Melbourne and being located there meant you had easy access to Melbourne’s awesome museums, theatres, restaurants and coffee and street art laneways. What more could you want!

Obligatory blogger bed shot

Continue reading Review of the Grand Hyatt, Melbourne

Saturday dim sum brunch at Nozomi 

Today we went for Saturday brunch at Nozumi. It was a more low key affair than Friday brunch and had a dedicated a la carte dim sum menu!

On arrival the staff were friendly and I was impressed with the modern interior overlooking the Persian Gulf! The waiter was happy to explain the menu set up and suggested we let him order for us which we were only too happy to do.  When the food arrived he was able to knowledgable explain what we were eating.

The menu is laid out in vegetable, fish and meat dumplings but each serving brought out offered a little of everything.

Continue reading Saturday dim sum brunch at Nozomi 

Five Reasons why Suites are Good for Cruising Families! 

Our first cruise with a baby we were lucky enough to be booked into a suite. Despite being seasoned cruisers we had never actually been in a suite before. Most of our previous cruises were done slightly not the cheap – once we went on a week long cruise for less money than we would have spent eating takeaways and at restaurants in our home of London – but that is a story for another day! We keen to have a suite with a baby to have extra space as we knew we wouldn’t be travelling light and thought we would be spending  more time in it than usual – so was it worth it?

For us this was a big yes for several reasons

More Room 

We could store the stroller, car seat, travel cot and luggage without a problem. I believe you can enjoy a cruise with any room size (See my Cruise Cabin Room Guide for Families) but it was certainly nice not to have to look at the baby clutter all the time.

It also meant that we had room to put the baby playmate out to give our little one chance to explore and play safely

Our suite

It has an amazing balcony with plenty of room for us to sit out while baby played in an inflatable bath as a paddling pool. It also meant we could enjoy the balcony easily while baby was enjoying a nap.

Continue reading Five Reasons why Suites are Good for Cruising Families! 

Afternoon tea buffet at Westin Doha

I have been a big fan of Westin Doha since I first went to Hunters Grill and am always eager to try their offerings. I am not a huge desserts fan, as regular readers will know, so when I read about the afternoon tea buffet I was very excited. An opportunity to have afternoon tea where I could have more sandwiches and scones and less cake. My ideal afternoon tea; that’s why what we had was even more disappointing.

The buffet display

Continue reading Afternoon tea buffet at Westin Doha

La Veranda, Doha brunch review 

Today being Friday we embraced the glorious expat tradition that is Friday brunch. After being recommended by a colleague we device to head to la veranda at the Sheraton for an Italian themed brunch at La Veranda!

So how was it?

I’ll admit it first impressions left me wondering if we had made a mistake. The restaurant itself is not in the Sheraton hotel but in the fitness centre to the right of the main hotel. Walking in past the indoor tennis courts and people in gym clothes made for a weird atmosphere but once we were in the restaurant the atmosphere transformed!

The view
Continue reading La Veranda, Doha brunch review 

The Luxuri-less Hotel Miramar

Let me say I hate writing bad reviews, so much so I have been putting off doing this post. You see all we wanted at the end of our travels in the med was to have an indulgent and lazy couple of days. Instead what we got was the sour note at the end of a fantastic trip.

The hotel Miramar is somewhere I’ve wanted to stay since my first trip to Barcelona! Nestled on the Montjuic hilltop, the miramar exudes Art Deco opulence with unrivalled views of Barcelona. My long standing desire to stay there probably made my disappoint greater and it certainly didn’t live up to the 5* expectations! Continue reading The Luxuri-less Hotel Miramar

Masseria Il Frantoio – my best foodie experience!

Have you ever had a meal that you got so swept up in that you forget that perhaps pictures for your blog might have been a good idea? Well that is exactly what happened to be when we went to Masseria Il Frantoio.

We had travelled to Ostuni, Puglia with my in-laws for their Ruby wedding anniversary. As with all holidays I take, the first thing I do once we have booked is look for amazing foodie options nearby. As this was such a special anniversary this made this finding somewhere nice even more important and that is how I came to stumble on the website of the Masseria Il Frantoio.

Now in my opinion, Puglia is perhaps the most underrated part of Italy and this extends to people’s knowledge of its food and drink. People may have tried the signature local pasta called Orchiette but even then its not that common a fixture on menus. Also, it is quite a difficult pasta to cook so I bet most of those who have had it, weren’t that keen.

Now the Masseria specialises in local Puglian cuisine using fresh local ingredients. The Masseria also manufactures several varieties of olive oil, which is the only oil used in the cooking here. Before dinner we were given a tour of the olive press and grounds of the Masseria (also a hotel) which were absolutely stunning and got you salivating for dinner and added to the theatre of the evening.

The Beautiful On Site Chapel
The Beautiful On Site Chapel
The historic olive oil press
The historic olive oil press
Usually dinner takes place on the terrace of the Masseria, but unfortunately for us there were strong winds on the day we visited which made this impossible. The inside however still provided a lovely atmosphere.

The beautiful terrace where you eat when the weather is nice
The beautiful terrace where you eat when the weather is nice
Now the interesting thing about the Menu at the Masseria is you don’t know what you are having until you arrive and you eat what you are given. I love menus like this as it means that you try things that you would never normally dream of. We had Fried bread with a tomato sauce, fried courgette flowers, the most delicious swordfish I have ever tasted and desert accompanied by an olive oil shot to name but a few.

The dinner was also paired with three wines from the local area which were all lovely. The best however was the Rose, which is unusual for me to say as I am not usually a Rose fan. I mentioned this to our waitress and suddenly more of it appeared on a table. Maybe the wine also had something to do with the lack of pictures of the food!

Did I mention that there was wine?!
Did I mention that there was wine?!
The dinner cost 60 Euros for I forget how many courses and wine which in my opinion was a steal! It was definitely the most authentic Italian foodie experience I have ever had and I can’t wait to go back and actually get some pictures of the food this time!

This post was part of the #TravelLinkup

Four Seasons Afternoon Tea Doha Review

My parents were in town and afternoon tea has always been on my mum’s bucket list so we decided that this was the perfect opportunity. With so many great 5* hotels in Doha we had plenty of places to choose from. We settled on the Four Seasons as it was one of the few that could cater for diabetics!

We were shown to our table quickly, given a sofa in front of the large window, with plenty of room to manoeuvre the pram.
Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons DohaWe opted for a mixture of Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea but there were plenty of more exotic teas on offer for the more adventurous. Our boring Britishness with tea did shine through!

The afternoon tea was plentiful with a combination of sandwiches including some of a more local flavour including Cucumber and Mint Labneh and Lamb pittas as well as more traditional sandwiches. This was accompanied by a tier of cakes, and my personal favourite – a tier of scones! The scones were accompanied by cream and jam but perhaps the best thing was the jam for the diabetic. This came out warm as the chef had freshly prepared it and it was truly delicious. Often when you go to places with a diabetic, their plates can look a little miserly by comparison. This was not the case with the Four Seasons who were committed to providing an outstanding experience for all.

Overall this was a great experience for everyone and something I would not hesitate in returning to do again.