The lifestyle of travel writing is a hot topic right now, as more and more millennial’s are seriously considering becoming a travel blogger. As we get ready to plan our summer travel adventures, many of us can’t help but wonder: Would it benefit me to start a travel blog?
19 NOV 2018- 1PM
If like me, you’ve done the whole “fly for 6 hours, go to the mall, shop all day, sleep all night, go to the beach” thing and want some heart racing thrill and throat throbbing excitement in your life, listen I’m telling you… This. Is. IT. The crazy that is me, did a long-haul flight… landed and checked in by 11am, changed, and was at the XLINE booth in Dubai Marina Mall by 12.45pm.
As we step in, the signs are huge, so we wander around slowly, taking it in.
Men sit around in tailored suits, laughing richly over their latest lavish spends. Couples walk hand in hand, and small groups of Chinese tourists stand in the pathway, ignoring everyone having to walk around them. There are white people, black people, Arabs, Asians, Hispanics and Europeans. Women in stilettos and high neck tops strutting along, looking too made up and plastic for so early in the day. Spa after spa, health centres and luxury hammams line the route. Ghost by Ella Henderson plays over the speaker. Is it normal to feel nostalgic already? Certainly feels like an upgraded version of Westfield, without all the Beckys and hoodrats that roam around day and night. Smells like warm melted chocolate, & it feels good… This aint London for sure.
The booth is tucked under the escalator, and extremely easy to miss- so pay attention. We strolled up to the counter, still a little dazed, exhausted and jet-lagged. I’m not sure it had hit us yet that this was even Dubai. A lady approached us, weighed us in, took photos of our ID and paired us with a harness, helmet and trolley each. Quick safety briefing and were off to the point of no return…
A bus service chauffeured us to Amwaj Towers, a residential building 41 stories high and raises up a whole 170m off the ground and 558 feet away from civilization. For those in London, a good comparison is that it is a little under the BT Tower in Camden and 10m taller than the building with the Sky Garden. Imagine jumping off that?! Bloody hell, even that gives me chills.
I think it was much easier because I just didn’t know. I didn’t know how high up or which building until last minute. Then, the demons in your heads can’t play games with you. Murphy’s law can’t act up and whisper in your ear. You just don’t know. Legally Blind.
We took a lift to the 40th floor and walked up 2 flights of stairs to get to the roof. One guy, Australian fella, had come alone, and you could see his heart pounding with evident sweat. A fat grin plastered through his ginger beard. He was perhaps no more than 26, travelling through Dubai for a day or two. He’d be going to Thailand next he told us, and we’d mentioned we’d be going too. He’d said he’d be near Phuket, staying at Phang Nga Bay. The conversation was short. The view on the rooftop of the 40th floor is breath-taking. The crystal, sapphire-blue sky is cloud-less for early afternoon. It was mesmerising, how simple it looked, yet it seemed to hold every one of our thoughts, dreams, our secrets. The space was a vast thing, stretching out for infinity over our heads. It was terrifying and yet so affectionate, daunting yet friendly. If you stared at it for a long time, watching everything come and go, you would think, maybe, it was all talking to you. It was communicating in a language you couldn’t begin to understand. I got lost in thought before they called for the first two volunteers.
Of course, I volunteered. The worlds longest urban zipline- twice the distance and lasts twice the time at twice the speed as the last one. And I volunteered to go first.
My ginger beard friend volunteered to come with, and slowly, we made our way to get strapped into the superman harness. The guy high fives you, attaches you onto the cable that your trusting with your life, and makes you lie down horizontal onto a launch bed. Once you’re in, the bed is lowered and your hanging, mid-air, 40 floors up, A WHOLE 558 FEET AWAY FROM THE GROUND, ready to fly.
I nearly shat myself. I nearly cried and yelled right there to get me off. Whenever I get myself into moments like this, silence is my friend. Someone once said, “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” Often, we think, “I’ll do it when I am not so afraid.” But in reality, it works the other way around. The ‘doing it’ comes before the fear goes away. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go and do it. So, we diiiiiiiiiiiiiiid it baby! We done flew through the sky, over land and water, at up to 80km/h and from 170m down to ground level. I FLEW, did the Michael Jackson moonwalk mid-air, imitated wonder woman, became a local super hero. I FLEW. And it was amazing. The marina water glistens, and yachts bob up and down below you. Everything is so saturated this time of day, full HD colour.
You supposed to be streamlined. like a bullet. They told us if you start turning to one side, pull your weight to the other. I nodded. Easy. I’m not sure what juice they drank to not tell us how strong those winds would be. Wind veered me right, my weight got pushed to the left. I almost flipped, slipped and tripped mid-air. You still move forward, and the helmet provides some sort of aerodynamic vacuum for you. But lard haffi mercy, I could’ve been a leaf in the wind the way I was twisting up in here. Lasted a few seconds though. So, prepare for it. You will be twisted.
If you go, maybe don’t pick the right rope out the two. As you draw closer to ground level, you come awfully close to the brick corner of the mall building. Its quite the scare at the speed your going at- an uncomfortable but safe distance. The whole thing is recorded, and photography is taken for you by the XLine team. The goPro strapped to your helmet gets the best shots of the experience, and so, feeling more alive than ever, we made our way to our lockers to update the world.
The experience felt super safe, built and operated by highly qualified and globally certified teams. They carry out daily testing and regular maintenance of the line, making sure safety is always first. Id like to hope so anyway! The company have strict requirements for the experience; You need to be between 12 and 65 years of age, taller than 130cm, weigh 50 to 100kg and in good medical health. Loose clothing can’t be worn, and footwear is preferably sportwear or boots. Closed. They take off every single day from 9am till 5pm and are situated inside the Dubai Mall. You can click here to book it or visit the booth at the Marina Mall or visit any of the Platinumlist partner merchants across the UAE. The entire experience lasts for approximately 90 minutes, from registering at the XLine booth until you complete the zipline ride.
So, if your looking to go… get ready to hang tight and I’ll see you someday to applaud you. It isn’t for the weak hearted, that’s for sure.
Definitely going to do this again… perhaps this time in Ras Al-Khaimah for the entire world’s longest zip line. A whole 2.83 km long, the Jebel Jais flight is 1,680 meters above sea level and has a glass bottom suspended floor. Um… YES PLEASE.
21 NOV 2018.
BY far my favourite, and the one I was most excited for leading up to it. On the morning of my 24th Birthday, at 5.25AM, an Indian man dressed in dungarees, donning an overgrown moustache, picked us up. We drove 36-minute to the take-off site, where the largest Hot Air Balloons in the world are being inflated, glowing in the predawn darkness. Although still dark, the world of Dubai is still lit and roads still busy, we can see filtered bits of light looming in as birds awaken and stir. It’s just before sunrise, and we take off to meet the sun as it rises over the Arabian desert and the sky fills with light. Early morning provides the best flying conditions. The tent is filled up with hot air using a burner, which somehow manages to get bucket loads of sand all over us- so wear a hat. The shower of sand only lasts whilst you’re on the ground- don’t look up during lift off or your teeth take a grit bath and your eyelashes are coated in a blanket of fine granular rocks.
You’d think after passing the headache that is security and check-in at an airport, you’d have nothing to worry about besides getting to your gate on time and having your fully charged phone ready at hand.
That’s a lie.
Notorious for its dated and archaic classical Greek architecture, Greece is also prominent for yielding Olive Oil, Honey and Mastiha Chios- something I didn’t even know and learned as I typed out this very blog post. Like me, there are things people still don’t know about this little European country, and questions don’t come quicker than when you plan to take a little trip there yourself. Below are some useful answers to some much asked questions, which helped me before I headed out to visit the country myself. Feel free to add any other tips from your trip in the comments below!
The Greek islands are a grouped in clusters, surrounded by both land and sea. To the east of the mainland is the Aegean Sea, to the south is the Mediterranean Sea and to the west is the Ionian Sea. For this reason, plenty of ports are available and a great many shipping companies provide their services to get in and around the country with a modern and luxurious fleet. All the islands are linked to the mainland with regular service, so island-hopping is a definite option during your vacation!
Check out timetable for ferries for Greece or the Greek islands here.
Passports and Visas
Greece is still a very active member-state of the European Union and consented to the Schengen Agreement back in 1992. The agreement abolishes many of the EU’s internal borders, facilitating passport-free movement throughout the bloc. This means that citizens from EU countries can move around Greece with just their passport, or a police issued I.D card that is easily obtained with the help of respective embassies, consulates or even travel agencies. Visas are not required by citizens of countries within the Schengen Agreement and the following is a list, correct as of January 2015:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France and Monaco, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
Citizens from these EU countries that are not apart of the Schengen agreement may also visit Greece without a visa:
Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and United Kingdom.
So if you’re like me and hold a British passport, you do not need a visa to enter Greece. As a British passport holder, you can stay as a visitor for 3 months. For longer stays, you will need to apply for a residence permit.
Getting to/from the Athens International Airport and the city center, located about 20 km (12 miles) east can be achieved via:
Metro Line 3 connects the Athens airport with the city centre. Trains run every 30 minutes, 7 days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The trip from/to the Airport to Syntagma station (Athens centre) lasts 40 minutes.
- 24-hour express buses:
Express bus routes connect Athens (city centre & greater area) and Piraeus (port) directly with the Athens International Airport. Service is provided on a non-stop basis seven days a week including holidays (24/7 operation). Bus tickets are sold at the info/ticket-kiosk (located outside the Arrivals between Exits 4 and 5), or onboard (ask operator) at no extra cost.
There are four main routes, check them out here.
The Suburban railway (Proastiakos) connects the Athens airport with the Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis Station) and Acharnai Railway Centre, and through them to the National Railway network. The Suburban railway departs every 15-25 minutes from the Athens Airport railway station to Plakentias station, where you can change trains and continue to the city centre (Metro Line 3 to Egaleo), using the same ticket.
Taxis are available at the designated Taxi waiting area located at Exit 3 of the Arrivals Level. A taxi from the airport to the city centre (inner ring) costs a flat rate of €35 from 5:00 a.m. to midnight, and €50 from midnight to 5:00 a.m.
Note: The charge is determined by the time of arrival at the destination and includes all applicable surcharges and extras.
Health and Safety
For you to have access to necessary healthcare citizens from member-states of the EU must have the European Health Card (EHIC) or any form of legal community document issued by their competent social security agency. It’s free to acquire one in the UK and isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become urgent during your stay. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Greek nationals. Visit your health care professional at least 3 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need vaccinations or any other preventative measures. In case of any emergencies, have these following numbers close by:
Ambulance Service: 166
Tourist Police: 1571
SOS Doctors: 1016
Duty Hospitals and Clinics: 1434
Open Line for alcohol drug Addiction: 210 3617089
Poisoning First Aid: 210 7793777
Local Laws and Customs
Greece has made it illegal to smoke in all indoor places, violating this could mean a penalty fine of up to €500.
Don’t become involved or even try to bring Class C drugs of any kind into the country. Possession of even the smallest amount will lead to arrest and could mean lengthy prison sentences- visitor or not.
Any indecent behaviour is not tolerated by the Greek, including mooning. The courts will most likely impose a heavy fine or prison sentences on people who behave indecently.
Lastly, keep any receipts of purchases you make! Arrests have been known to be made for purchasing/acquiring/handling pirate CDs and DVDs and have led to imprisonment in some cases. Keep any and all receipts! Dont say I didnt warn you.
Greece has a Mediterranean climate with ample amounts of sunshine, meek temperatures and a limited amount of rainfall. In the summer, the warmer and dryer days and cooled with seasonal winds called the Meltemi, whilst the more rocky regions have commonly lower temperatures. In the winter, mild temperatures in the lowland areas attract low amounts of snow and ice, whilst the more mountainous area is completely covered in snow.
Arriving in Athens this morning, my last flight into Thira wasn’t for another six hours. In my world, instead of booking a hotel, dropping my bags and staying in close vicinity to the airport… I went straight into the city to explore. Time not on my side, this is my 6 hours in the ancient city of Αθήνα (Athens).
After arriving at the International Airport at roughly 11:40am, the taxi service from Exit 3 took me directly to the city’s centre for a mere €35. From there, first stop was the famed Ancient Agora. The marble structure still standing provided shade from the punishing sun, and the site was oddly heaving with people for a midday Saturday. Tourists and their children and their grandchildren walked around aimlessly in shades and shorts, in stark contrast to me who lugged a carry-on suitcase and donned a heavy black jacket. The sun wasn’t proving kind to me at all.
A flock of what looked like American tourists, around 18 of them by eye count, were taking a tour around the ruins. I joined them, smiling. The American voice on the microphone told us about how every ancient city has a place called an ‘agora’, the word defined as an assembly of people and by extension, means the ‘gathering place’. She told us that the site had gone through countless deconstruction and rebuilding cycles, and had served as an Iron Age cemetery, library of Pantainos, a Basilica, gymnasium for the Herules and a roman Stoa. Quite the history.
A little history…
Today, the pillars of Hephaisteion stand intact without its arched ceiling, and its columns riddled with holes that appear to be from bullets. The round large foundations of Tholos are still visible, and the voice on the microphone tells us it served as the headquarters for the 70 executives of the Boule- “The council of Citizens”. It also served as the dining place for the Prytaneis who were fed here at the public’s expense.
I’m imagining a scene from Game of Thrones of the Bloody Wedding- long tables unnecessarily crammed with food, and live folk bands playing wildly. Women in long woolen peplos adorned in gold jewellery, entertaining drunken men. And a professed king at the high table, looking down at his intoxicated nation. It’s just all crazy. Tholos must’ve been one heck of a place.
I’d grew tired of being in the sun at this point, so 45 minutes into this trek, I left the crowd. Close by was the Acropolis of Athens, my next stop. I could’ve taken the walk in hindsight, but the 18 minute taxi journey was BY FAR the best few minutes I’d had the whole day. It wasn’t until I’d actually sat down in the taxi that I realized just how exhausted I was.
We arrived and I asked Pablos, my aged driver, to stay for another 5 minutes. He kept the meter running and I sat back. I had a habit of going to Trafalgar square in London, and simply sitting back to observe scurrying people hurriedly live their lives. Here, now, I was doing the same. Young, old, busy people in their own heads living their own little lives, so laissez-faire. It was quite refreshing in a way.
I took a deep breath, grabbed my suitcase and made my way out.
An hour and 30 minutes into Athens and I was at the Acropolis. The term Acropolis literally means hilltop, and is the most significant one in all of Greece. It housed many ancient buildings of great architectural significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. I didn’t know any of this stuff myself so I won’t pretend like I’m an expert – the Greeks have kindly placed boards of information all around the entrance from the main road. Saved me quite some time having to go through my little Smiths tour guide book.
“Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes….” ♫
Taking out my trusted camera, I walked to the rocky outcrop and found a perch to view the city. You know the moments that simply take your breath away- no words to illustrate them; no emotion to express… this was one of those. I was quite literally, ontop of the world.
I sat still. In that moment, an absurd feeling washed over me. I’ll never forget it. I almost shivered as goosebumps ran down my spine. Almost whispering, I broke out into a familiar hymn Mr Thompson once taught us in Primary school. Quite fitting really.
The Carpenters- Ontop of the world.
In that moment alone- sitting on the highest point of Athens, looking at the city basked in a gorgeous afternoon glow, I felt grateful. The horizon was so far out, everything between us packed with silhouettes and shapes of buildings, structures and busy roads. The city was buzzing with life, and the entire thing felt surreal.
In all honestly, I did pick this place for the views. I took a few more pictures and made the long walk down the hill towards the main road again.
From here, another short taxi ride away was the Monastiraki flea market neighbourhood with traditional souvenir shops, retail boutiques and customary stalls to please any heart’s desire.
I walked around, not really looking to purchase anything and instead, went to check out the Tsisdarakis Masjid. Legend has it, the governor that built this mosque back in 1759, used one of the pillars from the Temple of Zeus to make lime for the building… but I mean, who knows for sure? I couldn’t get inside as it was closed for some reason, or perhaps I didn’t find the right door. The mosque by definition was definitely of Turkish influence with its architectural style and design. I loved it- majestic in its stature yet gentle and welcoming in its presence.
I’m hungry at this point, the rumbling in my stomach a constant reminder. Since I haven’t sorted out my mobile data for this country just yet and wifi isn’t an option, I don’t know where to find Halal food. My options are fruit and fries. I don’t mind. I need something hot though, and walking past stalls and stalls of lamb, poultry and pork, I found a ragged, aged greek woman frying fish and potatoes- for tourists less inclined to meat or greek cuisine I guess. I purchased my lunch and two cans of Orange Juice and looked at the time. 4:10pm.
The last leg of my flight was in 1 hour 30 minutes. I stopped a taxi new-york style and proceeded to the airport to catch my flight. It began to rain, I was relieved.
Athens, you were kind to me.
Santorini, here I come.
I’ve wanted to see Greece since I first studied its vast history and Greek mythology with Ms Wilkinson back in secondary school of 08. Something attracted me to the still shots of the once strong, erect structures of the Parthenon- dedicated, in Greek mythology, to the goddess Athena- and the ancient temple of Erechtheum that once stood tall, proud and buzzing with life.
Although I have absolutely no interest in the details of history, it fascinates me that time can literally float right past you. That a whole generation of people existed and fought and ruled their land, only for time to claim them, and we stand here looking at what remains. Time and life fascinate me. It’s the most precious commodity we have, and humbles you to see how far common humanity has come.
I left my place at 3am, and began the long journey to LHR. Roads were quiet, the airport was just as eerie and calm. I like it like that- fast, productive and efficient. I booked a 2-stop flight to Thira (Santorini) because let’s face it, whose bucket list is Santorini NOT on?! Booking a layover in Frankfurt, Vienna and Athens saved me quite a pretty penny- layover flights are not the best thing in the world, but when you can visit four cities for the price of one and you actually want to see them, then you’ve just manoeuvred the biggest and oldest secret to cheaper deals in the book.
I only had 6 people on my flight, I’m not sure why that surprised me given the length of the journey we were about to undertake. 6am came, gate A8 was called. I handed my KLM boarding pass to the young Caucasian man who looked way too hyper for 6am, and we boarded.
If there’s anything I love more than chicken (and Somali’s love their chicken), it’s the window seat. The seat that has a clear parallel view of a window with no disruptions, bent angles or horrible positioning. My pre-selected seat on this flight was 19A- perfect view of the wing, yet within 5 rows of the nearest exit. I pulled out “How to Win Friends and Influence People” By Dale Carnegie and my first 2 hours and 10 minutes were filled with casual glances at fluffy candyfloss clouds and some orange juice. There is no feeling in the world better, in my opinion, than being ontop of the world. The sun was at full beam by this point, and a shard of light pierced silently through the cabin. Felt good to just sit back and appreciate the beauty that is life.
Flight AF1738 arrived at Flughafen Wein (VIE) at 8:15am.
You’re beautiful. You rained on me but I still love you.
The layover was only one hour, so leaving the airport wasn’t an option. The plummeting rain further solidified that choice for me. The shuttle service took the 6 of us to Terminal 3 for our departing flight at gate F13 to Athens. My connecting 9.15am 0S801 flight with Austrian Airlines arrived, we boarded. They’d sat us closer together this time, guess it saved the crew having to parade up and down the aisles a hundred times for the next 2 hours. 1 hour in, the pilot came out of the cabin whilst airborne and asked each of us how the flight was. It added a nice touch to the dullness of the flight.
2 hours and 20 minutes of Greys Anatomy and Hawaii Five-0 later, we arrived at the Athens International airport. 11:35am and I was in Greece. 6 hours and 25 minutes to go till my flight to Thira. I better get exploring.
If the title Sun City wasn’t taken by its friendly neighbour across the pond, Barcelona would definitely have that title. Instead, dubbed ‘The City of Counts’ owing to its history as the seat of the Count of Barcelona between 9th and 15th century Catalan, it is now a hotbed for tourists, trade fair, fashion and avid socialites. Located on the northeast coast of the mountainous Iberian Peninsula region, facing the Mediterranean Sea, the 101.4km² city inhibits around 1.6million people and is the 2nd most populous municipality of the Kingdom that is Spain.
Attracting trekkers from all walks of life all times of the year, it was a refreshing site to see empty beaches and less crowded markets during my stay there earlier in the year. I wanted to live like a local for a week, experience the Catalonian lifestyle as well as be surrounded by the native people and the best place to stay I determined, was near the beach. Set a block from the Nova Icaria seafront, SB Icaria Hotel encapsulated the entire definition of the perfect Barcelonan stay with a 12 minute walk to the Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica metro station and a 25 minute stroll to the architecturally imposing grand Sagrada Família church.
I stayed with 2 girl friends, bubbly and a bag of laughter throughout the trip. We stayed in a 3-bedroom suite on the 3rd floor of the building which was just as well since I actually couldn’t get a room in the hotel a week before. I’d been so sold out on the idea of staying at the beachfront luxury W Hotel that by the time I’d saved up enough the hotel had booked out everywhere. Infact, Id left it so late that no hotels in the entire Ciutat Vella District had vacancies. Flights booked, bags packed and nowhere to stay was quite the conundrum to face. Safe to say I’ve never made the mistake of saving up for a hotel ever again. The girls flew out a day before me, so arriving and checking in wasn’t much of a problem. My Ryanair (Yeah, we cheap like that) flight FR9044 from LDN STN arrived at BCN El-Prat on Thurs 03 March at exactly 16:00. A quick taxi ride had me so lost staring at the beautiful city; I’d arrived at my destination long before my mind had. I paid and exited, still lost in the towering buildings and the soaring sun rays that pierced through them.
A shower was first call. We all had our Aluminé skin care range decked out like a showroom floor in the bathroom. My go-to is the Soy & Baobab Shampoo and Conditioner- everywhere I go, it’s a must. Ofcourse anything over 100ml doesn’t get through security so in the spirit of making things happen, I got 4 x 25ml bottles straight from Amazon and took my trusted toiletries on their first little adventure. Unpacked, passport silently sealed away, clothes neatly on pegs in the walk-in wardrobe and heels attentively stood in a line, Barcelona was about to get a taste of an excited british Somalian.
The hotel offered breakfast buffet every morning which was delishhhhh, a quaint outdoor swimming pool with an enticing hot tub – the ultimate instagram backdrop we later learned– and a gym and sauna that in hindsight, I wish I used more of. Whilst we spent our morning nonchalantly by the pool every day, our evenings were a cultural excavation of restaurants and diners and beaches. Close by, we had our midnight €1 fries spot at Parc de Mar’s very own McDonalds. Walk down the beach from there towards the wharf with luxe-grade yachts and fleets of Bugatti’s and Bentleys of very wealthy high rollers, you’ll see a two-storey food and dining destination below ground level. A lively area with a great buzzing atmosphere, we had tons of food concepts and seating options available. Most nights we found ourselves in Jerusalem, a Mediterranean Restaurant and bar with added Shisha/Hookah lounge. They stayed open until about 3am every night, and we’d just eat and enjoy each other’s company with locals all around us, and fellow foreigners making conversation. Felt surreal to be honest, to be in such a calm state in a completely unknown environment with strangers and unfamiliar territory. Yet so tranquil, and so peaceful.
The sounds of the ocean and waves lapping at the beach will forever remain in my conscious mind. Looking out, you could see nothing. The moon played hide and seek during my whole stay, and so not much natural light was available to illuminate the sea. You’d look out, and it would be pitch black. And yet, so thunderously loud, as if it was right beside your ear, the rhythmic pulse of the sea and its steady, throbbing heartbeat ruptured your thoughts and demanded your attention. It was unmatched by anything else in nature. I don’t even think I can put in a nutshell how my skin would erupt in goosebumps at every wave or how humbled it made me to hear it. Amazing, and quite simply hypnotic. An empty beach at 4am, with nothing but pitch black in front of you. I sat down on the sand once or twice, the waves could’ve towered over me and I wouldn’t have known. The experience was surreal.
I made some lifelong friends during that stay- people from other cities in the UK that to this day, still hit me up on social media to ask about the next rendezvous. I appreciate them all.
The girls had rented out the room for 4 nights. I was staying for 5. They checked out and I was left in another predicament. Never will I forget this leg of the trip. On my journey, I’d seen only one other Somali pair on my flight into BCN. I’d smiled, we had shared conversation and by the end of the flight… we were in my head, friends. They were staying in the same hotel so naturally, I’d see them more and more during my stay. For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t go downstairs that night and just book the room we had to check out, for myself. Instead, I went to the first floor and knocked on their door and left my things in there. I don’t know whose handbook I got this from, or what the plan was… just acted. To this day, I could never forget that I knocked on someone’s door who I’d met on a flight and just stayed in their room for the night.
2 things to be thankful for. 1 is that they were a mother and daughter pair; otherwise it would’ve been totally awks. Not that it would’ve mattered. I mean… would it have? Hmm. 2nd is that their flight was at 3am and the room would be unoccupied for the remainder of the night. The room was still checked in, I mean… could God be looking out for me any further?! Lovely pair, great and truly self-effacing people. The mother took a nap at around 11pm and like the crazy insane person I am, I lead my new friend away at 11:30pm and we took a stroll to the beach.
Listen, the ocean at night is hypnotic. You’ll crave for more. I’m a “reflector”, I like sitting back and just meditating and reflecting on what I have and finding inner peace. Quiet places appeal to me. It was perfect. We strolled around, made some Jamaican friends who we probably – by their drunken state- should not have spoken to. We grabbed food, took some pictures and leisurely laughed way into the night. 1am came. They left. I had the room to myself.
I remember just as I shut the room door, my Whatsapp dinging. I’d reconnected with someone I’d met years before, and they happened to be in Barcelona same time as me. My flight out of Barcelona El-Prat was at 18:05 so I’d have a few more hours to indulge in some sunshine before heading to London. He came to my hotel that morning, and after some breakfast and checking-out, we left. The sun was beautiful. The air felt cleaner for some reason. It was such a beautiful day. In those last few hours, in that last stroll out of the hotel, I realised just how beautiful and peaceful the morning was. I missed every sunrise because I’d been out so late and needed to sleep. This was the first time I was out this early, and boy was it just gorgeous. A street peddler I’d grown familiar with near the restaurants approached us. He was selling fresh roses. He signalled to me and said to my new friend “Why not a rose for the lady?” My friend smiled. I got red and white roses to call mine that day, and still have them somewhere in my trip treasures, stored in a box deep in my room. My first ever set of roses. Sometimes, I find them and sometimes I smile- recalling memories long gone of laughter and sunshine.
If ever any of my readers find themselves in Barcelona, make sure you take a bus from Plaça d’Espanya towards Palau Saint Jordi. From the PSJ website, the buses you want are 55, 13 and 150. The winding hills give you the most breathtaking panoramic views of Barcelona city, the ports with boats and yachts, and glistening crystal clear water as far as the eye can see. Cross the road and you get a ‘Great Wall of China’ vibe with a huge wall and a city of chimneys and fresh clothes hanging out to dry beneath you. Take the bus back down to Plaça d’Espanya and explore the square, Valetian Towers, the shopping mall of Arenas de Barcelona and a whole host of cultural entertainment it offers. Make sure you take the first Montjuïc Cable Car station taking you 750m above ground and connecting you to the Montjuïc mountain and castle, if you’re a stickler for a good view.
I absolutely loved Barcelona. Next time, I’m vlogging it.
Do you have stories from your time in Barcelona? Perhaps a tale from another city? I want to hear about it. Drop a comment below… I love hearing back from my readers!
Probably one of the most fun-filled adventures I embarked on in 2015, the City of Rotterdam didn’t fail to make an impression during the few days I was a guest in the city.
Albeit short, it was my mission to explore with a group of friends and though we didn’t do much, my stay at the Bilderberg was one of contentment, relaxation and elevated comfort. Booked by a friend who’d previously busted a few jokes and made friends with the floor manager on a previous stay, we got a generously large discount on our stay, saving us perhaps what turned into countless feasts and unnecessary taxi fare expenses. Bonus! 🙂
In total, not counting the lifelong friends I made during the stay and came back to London with, I travelled with a total of 5 friends- none of which I regrettably am still in contact with. I stayed in a small single room on the ground floor of the hotel, with a blooming garden at my disposal. This hotel was a great stay, and in this post, I help anyone who is looking to stay or wants a heads up about what to expect at The Bilderberg Parkhotel in Rotterdam.
Free tip at the very bottom for anyone who enjoys incredible views and looking to make the most of their stay @ The Bilderberg. Keep reading!
This modern 4*, classic grandeur and contemporary hotspot in the centre of lively Rotterdam, gives you just the right level of access into the city centre and still the secluded sentiment of peace and quiet; a perfect mix of a trendy metropolitan hotel in the heart of a lively city. It offers exceptional personal service levels which you expect to find at a luxury hotel. The Bilderberg is near a river and walking distance of art museums including Boijmans van Beuningen (great work here), Witte de Withstraat and the Museumpark, as well as the World Trade Centre and the infamous Erasmus Bridge. (Must see all of these!!)
The hotel is located on the Westersingel main road, with local food, shopping and leisure stores a stone’s throw away in every single direction. It is situated within a 5-minute walk from the Centraal Underground station and just 700 meters away from the great colossal structure that is the Rotterdam Centraal railway station. Basically, everything is close by. Your underground station is next door, your food is across the street, city centre is aross the road, and tram transport is at your doorstep. Quite a convenient spot if you ask me.
It takes around 10 minutes to get to Rotterdam The Hague Zestienhoven airport by car- so now you know which airport to land at and will save you some extra £££ on journey time.
All in all, the lively buzz adds a pleasurable milieu to the hotel.
The hotel itself is of moderate size with 189 guestrooms across garden rooms, a villa wing and the grand Hoboken Tower donning 14 extravagant floors.
If I’m not mistaken I stayed in room 217, the last room at the end of a long and gloomy corridor. I booked a single room, with hopes I’d be in the regal Hoboken Tower witnessing breathtaking skyline views of the city. Don’t make the mistake I did in empty assumption. Singe rooms are located in the garden or villa wing of the hotel. I stayed in the garden rooms, and in my conceded opinion, the room to me felt like the leftover space of multiple spaced-out rooms on the same floor. Albeit small, it felt cosy and snug and reminded me a little of home. The view wasn’t much, I stared into other people’s windows directly opposite me and sometimes… sometimes they even stared back.
The room was polished to perfection though, no traces of dust anywhere at all. There was free wifi in my room, a flat-screen TV and tea and coffee makers at my disposal. I also had an Iron complete with board, hairdryer and a large desk to work on, which was convenient and very useful. The room has a minibar, soundproofed walls and a down comforter to aid sleep.
From asking questions I learned the following. The hotel has 4 room types-
- Executive rooms with 1 double bed, located in the tower
- Twin rooms with 2 single beds, located in the garden area
- Single rooms, located in the garden area
- Deluxe rooms with 1 queen bed, located solely in the tower
Next time, I’ll probably pick the deluxe rooms. I think it’s more fitting for me, but the single room was still a great room if you don’t plan to stay in the hotel much of your time. 24 hour room service is available with a wake-up service that I probably abused and luggage storage service at reception if you need to check out but do not need to leave until later.
This establishment accepts American Express, Visa, MasterCard, UCB card, Diners Club International and ATM cards. A down payment is required and this may be frozen on your card before arriving at the hotel. If not, a deposit is required for checkin by credit card or cash with the addition of a Government-issued photo ID for any incidental charges. I assume this is also to avoid giving your room to someone who isn’t you, and in most cases your Passport should do just fine.
You’ll also be asked for 4.5% city/local tax charge as well as a tourism fee of EUR 1.90 per person, per night on check-in or check-out, a deposit of EUR 50 a night and a resort fee of EUR 2.20 per night, per person. Don’t be scared off! Every travel agent or online booking platform such as Booking.com, Expedia and even uk.hotels.com all add this in the sum total. It’s just good to know a breakdown of what you’re paying for.
Optional extras include early check-in for a charge of 35 EUR, late check-out for a charge of 25 EUR, self parking onsite costs 19.50 EUR, rollaway beds charged at 35 EUR per night BUFFET BREAKFAST (YES!!!!) charged at roughly 24.50 EUR per person and pets are allowed for an extra charge of 25 EUR per night, per pet.
Food at this hotel is not specifically halal. I found out from the Reservations department that breakfast is buffet setup, with no specific halal food. It cannot be requested at this hotel, nor can they order it if booked in advance. There are however the standard options of toast, fruit and coffee. Lunch and Dinner include Fish and cheese and other items which are permissible to eat but unfortunately, this hotel does not cater for the halal person’s requirement.
Restaurants and local fast food joints are close by. During my stay at the Bilderberg, I regularly ate at a small but extremely delicious Turkish restaurant just a short walk from the hotel. Eethuis Center do Grill, Shawarma and Pizza all halal certified (Psst… Thank me later).
Turkish owners are multilingual, accommodating and helped us immensely with our stay and the food here is nothing short of exemplary cuisine. Google Map from the hotel or ask the receptionist to point you.
Hotel cancellations are not ideal in any case, but if the need arises, prepayment policies vary greatly according to your room type. I purchased a non-refundable room and so even if I cancelled, I would not get refunded. Please ensure your booking a non-refundable room that you are 100% available for, otherwise for a steeper price you can book a refundable one. Always check conditions of required room!
Check in time starts at 14:00/2:00pm in the afternoon and ends at Midnight. Check out time is at noon/midday/12pm. These can also be extended for an additional fee; checking into the hotel earlier will set you back EUR 35 and perhaps after a long night you’d like to comfortably sleep in, checking out later than noon will cost you EUR 25.
Only registered guests are allowed in rooms, or charges are incurred on your deposit. Pets are also allowed in the hotel, with hotel policy stating only 2 at a time. Charges incurred, see Payment section above.
If you travel by public transport in Rotterdam, you have to purchase a travelcard, OV chipkaart in Dutch. It’s a smartcard on which various types of tickets can be preloaded. The chipcard is valid for metro, trams, buses, lightrail and also on the train and waterbus. Tourists can buy disposable travelcards but you might be better off with the Rotterdam Welcome Card, which includes public transport as well as discounts for attractions and museums in Rotterdam.
|RET one hour||€3,00|
|RET two hours||€3,50|
|RET 2 x one hour||€6,00|
|RET 1 day||€7,50|
|RET 2 days||€12,50|
|RET 3 days||€16,50|
1) RET 1 hour
The RET 1 hour travel chipcard allows you to use tram, metro, bus and lightrail in Rotterdam during 60 minutes. The clock starts after your first ‘touch-in’. You are allowed to change lines but your last ‘touch-in’ has to be done 60 minutes after your first ‘touch-in’. Your card will automatically expire after 75 minutes after your first ‘touch-in’.
2) RET 2 hours
The RET 2 hour travel chipcard allows you to use tram, metro, bus and lightrail in Rotterdam during 120 minutes. The clock starts after your first ‘touch-in’. You are allowed to change lines but your last ‘touch-in’ has to be done 120 minutes after your first ‘touch-in’. Your card will automatically expire after 135 minutes after your first ‘touch-in’.
3) 2 x RET 1 hour
This card works the same like the RET 1 hour chipcard, but it allows you to use it twice. This card is like a return ticket when you’re not able to return within one or two hours. Your chipcard will automatically expire after 75 minutes after your second ‘touch-in’.
4) Day cards
The full day travel cards allow you to use tram, metro, bus and lightrail within Rotterdam during one, two or three days. It cannot be used on board the night buses.
Information above CityGuideRotterdam, click link for more information.
Besides being yards away from many local tourist attractions and muses, the best mode of
transport in Rotterdam in my opinion, is taking a tram. The Rotterdam tramway network is a key element in the overall public transportation arrangements in Rotterdam. These are simple, hassle free and easy to use once you understand them. A 2 minute walk away is the Rotterdam, Eendrachtsplein Light Rail Station, connecting you to the city centre all the way up to The Hague.
Taxi services are available just outside the hotel, and reception is more than happy to call the service for you at a scheduled time.
You can easily contact the hotel on T 010-4363611 and F 010-4364212. The email address for any bookings, queries and questions is Parkhotel.Reservation@bilderberg.nl. If your lucky, I had quick, prompt responses from Emilie Van Koppenhagen at the hotels Reservations department so email in for your answers.
Additionally, the hotel website is always at your disposal: | www.bilderberg.nl
For photo enthusiasts, adventurers or if your just like me and like to randomly explore, take the lift directly adjacent to the hotel. This will take you exclusively if I remember correctly to the 8th floor and above. Besides any famous or professional executives you could bump into on these elite floors, the top floor has direct access to the roof with authorised admission. I assume this is a smoking zone for anyone staying in the Tower; nonetheless the breathtaking and remarkable views of the entire Skyline around Rotterdam will forever be etched in your head.
Found this useful? Let me know in the comments section below!
Check out my previous hotel review of Azimut Hotel in Munich, Germany!
Over the years, with the addition of exclusive specialist holidays such as Kosher and Vegetarian, there has been a huge demand in the tourism and travel industry for attending to the Muslim sectors needs. The birth of Halalbooking, Halalholidaypackages, Muslimbreak, Serendipity and Luxuryhalaltravel, has presented Muslims with a convenient tailor-made itinerary that is much more fitting for our needs. It ensures a seamless and idyllic experience; catering to dietary requirements, easy access to prayer facilities and of course, privacy for both genders. In this blog post, I’ve picked out 7 places around Asia that is the epitome of any travellers dream beach holiday, plenty of sand and sea, but with that modern halal twist.
These are all on my bucket list for the next 5 years! Let me know what’s on your bucket list in the comments section below, I’d love to hear what other resorts I could check out.
This officially rated 5* grand luxury resort and spa hotel, set in a stunning seafront peninsula in the province of Muğla, Turkey, offers many facilities for the Muslim woman. Booking a half-board inclusive package gets you an open buffet or set menu breakfast & dinner, with no alcohol served on the property’s premises. All food at this resort is halal, and with an entire private beach- “Hidden Sea”, 100% exclusively for women, you won’t get tired of the breathtaking panoramic views of the crystal clear Aegean Sea. The resort has a Hisar outdoor and indoor swimming pool with designated hours for women, a spa centre with 100% privacy for ladies, and a female’s only sunbathing station for unprecedented hours of bliss.
Ofcourse, the resort boasts water sports, yacht landing wharfs, health clubs, Spa & fitness areas, Aromatherapy, Hamam, Saunas, Amphitheatre shows, Angel’s party for the ladies, live music and an orchestra and live band every night. I mean, I feel like this resort is just what the doctor ordered for us ladies, after what feels like months of hard work. Much needed indeed.
The resort opens from 1st April until the 31st October, so get booking if you’re looking to kick-start your dream vacation break with a good one this year!
Can we take a moment to appreciate Indonesia in general?! I mean… Indonesia’s cluster of tropical islands, snow-capped mountain tops, stunning landscapes and white sandy beaches with water clearer than a crystal, make it a geographical masterwork of nature. Predominantly a Muslim country, there is no scarcity of halal food and activities, with Indonesia’s own Bali, Lombok, Java and Jakarta giving you breathtaking views of nature.
One of the resorts in Senggigi, Lombok, is Katamaran Resort, a 4* rated hotel that is 20 minutes from the boat pier to the Gilis and the famed Bali. The resort features 52 private retreats with 32 units of Ocean View Suites (Hell Yeah!) and 20 units of Tropical Pool Villas. The menu options vary, with only some options being halal, but halal food is available in restaurant and cafes only a short 500m walk away. No alcohol is served in your rooms, ensured by halalbooking.com if booked through them. Beaches are mixed and so are most of the facilities, but to avoid this- booking a Villa comes with secluded private pools, secluded outdoor area with gazebos and an open-air shower, furnished with outdoor furniture.
With the addition of Burkini, a female Muslim can enjoy the two-level infinity pools, spa and wellness centre with private rooms and beachfront cafe & bistro for those unfiltered holiday breakfast snaps!
This 5* rated hotel is located on Al Marjan Island in Rad Al Khaimah, the first manmade island of its kind, offering the most remarkable views of clear waters around the Arabian Gulf. Dubai is 45 minutes and the popular Ice land Water Park is only 10 minutes away. Their definitely isn’t a shortage of entertainment at this property, with a private beach for families, an indoor pool for women only and a spa centre with 100% privacy for ladies during certain hours of the day.
All food at this property is Halal! As well as restaurants with cuisine ranging from Lebanese, international, Italian, Moroccan, Japanese and Arabian, the property also boasts a no-alcohol zone and does not serve or allow alcohol on hotel premises.
The hotel features 299 guest rooms ranging from Superior double rooms to 3-bedroom suites with bathroom speakers, rain showers, plasma TV and a pillow menu. I don’t think you’ll find a more relaxing spot for a lazy trip that will embrace your Islamic vacation needs.
This lavish, alcohol-free resort is located on its own extensive 13-hectare island overlooking Hamad International Airport, next to Doha. It boasts its own marina, reefs, private beach, 9 dining options and a vast lagoon pool. All food at this property is halal, catering to international and Qatari cuisine, Italian, Arabian and Mediterranean, American cuisine, a beach grill and also in-room dining experiences. Banana Island Resort has a spa centre with 100% privacy for ladies at certain hours, including Jacuzzi’s, steam rooms, saunas, ice well, social Moroccan and Turkish baths and spa boutique with a ladies hydropool.
To say this resort is the ultimate comfort goals would be an understatement. Every room is decked out with free wifi, Plasma TVs, iPod docks and tea and coffee makers.
The resorts Villa type rooms (apart from over water villas) have 100% privacy from outside eyes in the swimming pools. The Over Water Villas at this resort give those Fiji and Maldives picturesque huts a definite run for their money, proving to be just as indulgent and luxurious. The resort boasts a complementary private marina for to 30 boats, a wellness centre and a stunning indoor botanical garden, entertainment centres including 8 lane bowling allies, VIP Cinema, billiards and extensive motorised and non-motorised water sport activities.
The ferry transfer service operates 24 hours (every hour) and is complimentary but allows a maximum of one piece of luggage with one hand carry on per person.
This 5* alcohol-free property overlooks the exquisite Persian gulf, a coastal resort with broad leisure activities- located close enough to the city centre of Salmiya and yet still secluded and extremely tranquil. The majority of the official population of Kuwait’s citizens are Muslim, making it very easy to access halal food and gender-specific activities.
All food at this resort is halal, and the property dons an impressive spa centre, sunbathing area and indoor swimming pools that guarantee 100% privacy for ladies. High tea is served in an ornate marble lobby with glass atrium and the opulent rooms with gulf/garden views have marble bathrooms with rainfall showers.
This resort definitely doesn’t fall short of the customary requisites that come with 5* resorts and rooms come with fat-screen TVs and free wifi. Suites have added lounges, Jacuzzis and pantries. 2 storey apartments are available which include a kitchen and even a butler service, available 24 hours. Fitness centre for women is available, and a secluded beach surrounded by portable fences for women.
Although this resort doesn’t scream the conventional ‘luxury’ interior structure quite like the other properties, the panoramic crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea around Turunç Village make up vastly for that omitted touch. Wedged between the enormous tree covered Taurus mountains from both sides, this alcohol-free resort swanks a private female outdoor swimming pool, spa centre and relaxation clinic, with amenities including Turkish baths, sauna, steam rooms and massages to pleasantly indulge in for us ladies! All food is halal, with an all inclusive meal board for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even snacks between meals, pools, spa and beach! To say you’re looked after would be a total understatement here.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the view from your furnished and simple decor room or head down to revel in the 120 square metres of the women’s-only secluded swimming pool with a waterslide, and masjid and pool bar (mocktails and juice ofcourse!) available extremely close by.
Every room gets a balcony, but make sure you book yourself one of the Sea View rooms. Thank me later. The last thing I want is for your view every morning to be of boisterous tourists clambering into the hotel to check in, when you could be waking up to serene and peaceful bliss and quiet of the sea. If your here for the breathtaking views and not necessarily to be bowled over by the accommodation, this resort is just the thing. The hotel is only open from May 1st until 30th October, so get booking!
The old English proverb “Saving the best till last” might prove true in this illustration. Let me know in the comments what you think but this one is by farrrrr my absolute number one!
Set on over 5000 square meters of landscaped grounds, this stylish beachfront resort has polished, upscale and sophisticated rooms the each feature balconies and floor-to-ceilings- which in my opinion is the paramount part of this entire property. I love the idea of a full and undisturbed view from my hotel room. This resort is a spanking new halal and alcohol-free property in a small peninsula, offering an enticing blend of exotic design with lavishly decorated interiors, perfect for stylish relaxation.
For those coming to unwind and experience the fusion of sea and sun, this resort offers nothing short of superlative levels in standard and excellent hospitality. For us ladies, we have 5 secluded swimming pool areas with Jacuzzi’s, a private beach area with special Egyptian sand and 100% private and secluded sunbathing areas to achieve our tan goals, a women’s spa centre donning; a sauna, steam bath, authentic Turkish bath and steam rooms and even a dedicated women’s fitness room. The masjid (mosque) is close by and every room comes with a Koran (Quran), prayer rug and Qibla directions, making life easier for the practicing Muslim.
Dining options include a restaurant, 3 cafes and a hookah bar. The food served ranges from International to Turkish cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, provided as an open buffet in the resorts main restaurant.
Personally, I’d recommend staying in the Select Room, a luxury designed room with a perfect full sea view and balcony Jacuzzi overlooking the sea, complete with foam. What better way to experience the true definition and sense of alternative tourism merged with its own Turkish magnificence, than at this glorious paradise resort.
Open all year long, but summer season is from April 10th until October 31st. Summer daytime activities and evening entertainment include games, sports, competitions, live folk music, poetry, comedy plays, parachutes, surfing the sea and Jet skis.
I reckon I definitely saved the best till last!
Am I right?
Have I missed out any that you think are worthy to go on this list?
You! Reading this right now, leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts.
First time travelling? Read about mine and know what you need to prepare for! I’m saving you from making the same mistakes I made!