Top of the world! Oman

Alila Jabal Akhdar Oman

When the Dubai heat became unbearable during the past summer, I decided to go on a road trip to Oman and venture up Jebal Akhdar mountains so as I could stay at the stunning Alila Resort.

The road trip took 5 hours from Dubai which was pretty straightforward - with the volume up and singing in the car, the time went by so quickly. We made our way to the airport so as one of the Alila staff could meet us in order to jump in their 4x4 so we could climb the narrow roads 2000 feet up the side of the Jabel Akhdar mountain to the resort. It took an hour to get to the top but once inside the gates it opened up to the most beautiful and stunning property nestled in the mountain environment keeping with the natural beauty of its surrounding. The Alila is a haven for nature lovers and adventurers and has the only Via Feretta in the region right on its doorstep or should I say mountainside.

If you’re wondering what is Via Feretta, well in simple terms it’s climbing up and down a mountain edge while being strapped to a harness.  Adrenalin junkies will love this – its 1.5 hours of sheer excitement. My favorite part was literally climbing the metal pins in the rock face on the cliff edge and then you had to climb up to meet a wire line bridge in order to cross to the other side. This was the most frightening part of the entire experience for me. I just kept telling myself - "don’t look down – keep looking straight, ignore the wind and put one foot in front of the other because if your feet slip you will be hanging on via your harness ONLY."  Watch my video below, I’m walking so slow and concentrating. I have to admit this was the first time that I had ever done this and I was super nervous but I would do it all over again.

 

For the brave and physically fit you could opt for the 4 hour experience which includes passing some of the most spectacular mountain scenery to the village of AlKhutaymi, hidden in a cave in the wadi floor. Continue another 15 minutes to discover the best swimming pool in the Green Mountain, where you can enjoy a refreshing dip before hiking back.

 

Due to the resort being 2000 feet above sea level and hidden in the mountains the weather is so much cooler which makes it even more enjoyable to relax and unwind  by the pool. If you’re looking for more activities the resort prides itself on utilizing its stunning habitat - there are activities such as butterfly trail, bike riding, canyon walking, hiking and stargazing. The stargazing experience is hosted by the resident astronomer who explains the night sky in detail and shows you the stars and constellations through the most amazing telescope which is so clear its unreal.

 

All the rooms offer mountain views but the 2 bedroom Jabal villa is exquisite and pure indulgence. You literally don’t have to even see another person during your stay as the villa comes with a pool, jacuzzi and its own butler, it is so secluded its literally only you and nature. If you want you can take a bike and ride to the main hotel for dinner or stay home and simply order room service and enjoy al fresco dining by the pool.

 

I really enjoyed the food served at Juniper Restaurant; every night they had different options available from Middle Eastern cuisine to dishes from the Mediterranean region. Everything was so fresh and tasty.

 

With regards to children staying at the resort, there is a lot to do for the slightly older children from bike riding to walking and even cooking classes but for the younger there is a small indoor play area but I would personally recommend taking a private villa with your own pool so the kids are entertained all day and the noise volume isn’t too much for the other hotel guests.

 

A visa is required to enter Oman, which you can get on arrival either at the airport or at border control. The cost is 20 Omani Riyals, which is AED 190, and you can pay either cash or card.

 

Alila Resorts are actually one of my favourite hotel groups. I have had the pleasure to stay at Alila Seminyak in Bali and would love to try Alila Manggis located in East Bali.  However one of my bucket list experiences which gets me super excited is the Alila Purnama – Komodo Expedition. This is a 7 days adventure on a boat in and around the waters of the Komodo National Park in Indonesia between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores.

 

So if you are looking for an exquisite and exhilarating Alila experience, pack your bags for Oman and head up the mountains.

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

Shangri la

Family Friendly Shangri La

I was looking for a weeks break during Easter 2017 for my family –I wanted a resort not too far from Dubai which offered activities in and around the resort, lots of entertainment for the children and a place where we could get some R&R.  Virtual high five for me… I found the right place that ticked every box, let me introduce you to The Shangri La Hambantota Golf Resort and Spa.

Overlooking the pristine southern coast of beautiful Sri Lanka, Shangri-La's Hambantota is located along the ancient Spice Route in a city steeped in rich history. Hambantota is known for its natural beauty and wildlife, and allows visitors to explore some of South Asia’s most fascinating nature sanctuaries, including the Yala, Udawalawe, Lunugamvehera and Bundala National Parks.

 

The luxury resort spans 58.8 hectares, making it the largest resort in Sri Lanka, and boasts 300 spacious rooms, including 21 suites, all surrounded by stunning tropical gardens. It is home to an 18-hole golf course, an expansive spa and an artisan village that celebrates local arts and crafts.

 

The morning we arrived the kids were blown away by everything they saw, not knowing what to do first. As parents we fell in love with the stunning grounds that we could access from our garden level rooms as they offered so much space and privacy in a controlled environment.

 

The hotel had three swimming pools. One being the main large pool, the other being a pool with two water slides and shallow enough for the children to stand or for my youngest to jump on her tip toes. The other pool was an adult only, sun set pool and located on the opposite side of the resort which was the quieter, kid free zone.

 

There is also a baby water park attached to the main pool which the kids loved -running through the sprinklers and up and down the slides.

 

The beach was pristine, white sand, completely raw and untouched, the waves are quiet rough so sadly we didnt swim in the sea during this stay as the red flag was up during our entire stay.

 

The hotel had thought about everything and even included a trapeze school were twice daily queues of kids would patiently wait to climb the 7m high trapeze and show off their skills. My eldest was addicted and actually pretty good. I tried it and it wasn’t easy and not a pleasent sight when I landed! The staff were very aware of safety and were extremely hands on and supportive while assisting the children up and down the ladder, putting them in a harness and encouraging them not to be frightened and talking them through how to swing on the trapeze bar.

 

Since the hotel hadn’t been open for long, I didn’t know what to expect from the kids club aptly named The Cool Zone Kids Club – well, it only turned out to be the best and biggest hotel kids club I have ever been too. It had a brand new and rather big soft play area, amazing activities and crafts and the most amazing, patient and extremely kind staff. When your kids don’t want to leave – even for ice cream – then you know you have a winning kids club.

 

I also have to thank the hotel, as Sisi was 4 years old at the time and while getting out of the pool she slipped and sliced her chin on the wall. It was a deep cut and still has the scar to prove it. The hotel first aid and medical center were amazing and reacted quickly, being gentle and attentive. Everyday during the course of the week, the nurse would look out for Sisi and ask to change her bandages. 

 

As the kids enjoyed the kids club so much we took full advantage of the alone time by visiting CHI Ayurveda Spa. For 90 minutes we enjoyed one of the many massages and had got ourselves some well-deserved peace and tranquility.

 

The sun set pool was our fav late afternoon spot to enjoy a dip, view of the ocean and a glass or two of vino. This was supposed to be a quiet zone but with no guests around the kids enjoyed a swim with us as we ordered snacks from the cool food tuk tuks - a nice trendy touch.

 

For golf lovers, the resort is home to Sri Lanka's premier 18-hole* golf course which is set amid a vast coconut palm plantation, offering spectacular views. The beautifully landscaped par-70 course takes you on a memorable golf experience through three landscaped zones, each with its own unique character.

 

The hotel had a selection of restaurants from the golf club restaurant to Bojunhala which offered traditional Sri Lankan food. My children loved the all day dining and I have to high five the hotel as every day they offered a kids buffet with children’s character plates and on a counter level where the children could actually reach and see inside the serving dishes. This made dinner with the kids less stressful as they could help themselves to their own food deciding for themselves what they wanted to eat.  After dinner most nights they did ‘movies under the stars’, but by this time my three were exhausted and off to bed they went.

 

Because we enjoyed the resort so much, we only managed to enjoy one excursion outside of the hotel, but it was a great one – An Elephant Safari – click the link below to find out more:

 

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Shangri La Hambantota - it was a perfect family get away where we managed to relax, and the children were constantly entertained. This hotel/resort does a fantastic job of finding the right mix for both the parents and the children hence I don’t mind at all putting it near the top of my list for ideal family hotels.

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

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A Unique Retreat In Ibiza

Forget about the hottest lunch spots to be seen at, the coolest pool parties and the late night party scene as lets face it, we’ve all been there and done that in Ibiza!

 

Let me introduce you to the other side of the island – the side which is extremely beautiful, peaceful and of course family friendly.

 

Set in 30 acres of serene pine forest in northern Ibiza stand two charming traditional designed houses which are joined together by a covered courtyard which make up the stylish Casa la Vista property.

 

This 6 bedroom property has two elements the first being the smaller building which is a restored 800-year-old finca, while the larger building is a high-ceiling, architect-designed wonder which blends traditional Mediterranean architecture with moorish-style archways and vintage doors.

 

Outside is an infinity pool which overlooks the pretty Cala Xucla bay and the lush green forest surrounding the property. When in season you can pick pomegranates, figs and plums from these trees.

 

There is a lot to do in the area for families from cycling, hiking, horse riding, tennis and of course sailing as the sandy beach is only 1km away from the villa.

If you don’t want to eat at home the closet restaurant and bars are approx. 10km away and Port de San Miquel which has more restaurants and shops is 15km away.

 

Watch the below video to see the villa in all its beauty:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml0o19VCzSw

 

 

As well as hiring the villa privately, the owner also runs week long retreats throughout the year called – Santhosh Retreats.

 

The aim of Santosh Retreats is to ensure guests enjoy, relax and re-energise

 

Their health and fitness programme includes hiking, the art of yoga and dance, and the discipline of Pilates to strengthen the core. Your day will commence with the sun salutation, welcoming the sunrise with an hour of Yoga. Continue your day with a hike through the forest and along the rugged coastline with a knowledgeable local guide. You’ll get to try LatinBurn - Santhosh’s own fitness dance, similar to Zumba but with more of a focus on the dance steps. West End stars and Latino dance experts jet in to host workshops - from salsa and tango to dirty dancing. 

 

Full information on the retreat please visit www.santhoshretreats.com.

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

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25 Hours – Vienna

At the 25hours Hotel, Museums Quartier, Vienna, guests are submerged in a bold circus of artists, clowns and elephants. This hotel is the stage with its guests as part of its ensemble cast.

 

The 25 Hours interior designers bring creativity, vision and imagination to a whole new level. They take the pulsating Viennese culture outside the hotel and bring it crashing inside with an explosion of color, character and vibrancy. By smartly and efficiently utilizing the space inside the hotel, they offer a unique, urban yet cosmopolitan experience.

The originality and unique interior of 25 hours Vienna is that every room has a slightly different circus theme – each room has a main feature wall and each room comes in its own bright color palette. Our room’s main color was bright yellow and the wall which had the bed against it depicted a horse with circus acrobats standing on its back and a big top in the distance. This particular room had floor to ceiling windows along two sides offering wonderful views of the city. I especially loved the TV stand which was made from three vintage suitcases stacked on top of each other.

Another style room which our friends were staying in was slightly smaller but had a blue color palate and came with a balcony and an out door free standing bath – yep true story… a bath on the balcony in the middle of the city. For a couples break this is a cute romantic room where you can turn off all the lights and watch the city by candle light emerged in bubbles! Ooh Laa Laa!

 

Keeping up with the cool current trend, the hotel operated a burger food truck on the hotel grounds. They also had a restaurant on the ground floor and a funky roof top bar and terrace which provides breathtaking views of the city.

 

The best way to see Vienna is by bike and at 25 Hours Hotel they say that you should ‘ride it like you stole it’ –basically the bikes are yours during your stay so enjoy them and ride everywhere but remember to book in advance, grab a bottle of water and off you go.

 

The 25 Hours concept has hotels in 7 European cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Zurich, Dusseldorf, Cologne and soon to be Paris. Each hotel is totally different but true to its location and its originality, creating a unique fresh appeal that brings the outside world into your dreams. It’s certainly a fun brand and perfect for the cool free spirited soul to rest their head.

 

 

 

  

 

 

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

Dead sea

Jordan – The Dead Sea

I have wanted to visit the Dead Sea for many years especially as living in Dubai, we are only 3 hours away from Jordan. This summer I finally got the opportunity to visit Amman as we had a friend’s wedding and meetings with my charity’s medical partners.

 

The Dead Sea is literally 40 minutes’ drive from Amman and the best way to properly see it is by checking into a sea front property.  

So why is it called the Dead Sea? Firstly it is the lowest point on earth at 430 meters below sea level. I was amazed to find out that even though it is called a sea it’s more like a lake as its landlocked by Jordan and its neighbors Palestine and Israel, which on a clear day you can see in the distance. It’s also referred to as the Dead Sea because nothing lives in this water due to its high salt content. So, if you are not a fan of the sea as you don’t know what’s lurking underneath – then this is the perfect water for you.

 

The Dead Sea is a terminus for the flow of rain and surface water, which means water flows into it but doesn’t flow out: its water has no escape but is trapped to evaporate due to the high temperatures. 

 

The minute you step into the water, your legs lift from underneath you and you instantly start floating.  Definitely do not put your face in the water and you certainly should keep your mouth closed. I did lick my finger (I had to taste it) - let’s just say the taste was indescribably gross. It was hilarious as when I went to get out, it was so difficult to walk to the waters edge, my body just started to bob up and down like an inflatable swan lying on the water!

 

For the men, I would definitely not shave for a few days before visiting the Dead Sea as the pain would be too much, however the salt content and the mud do have many health benefits. The Dead Sea in general and its mud in particular, possess magical, beauty enhancing qualities and true enough, the Dead Sea mud is rich with minerals in general and sulfur in particular, known for its rejuvenating abilities.  I asked the hotel spa about the mud and they informed me that the minerals in the Dead Sea mud are blended so neatly into it, that the mud actually contains some minerals, that are small enough to penetrate your skin pores, nourishing your skin. The minerals in the mud help to improve blood circulation, promoting a natural, youthful glow.

 

Once out of the water – general rule of thumb is not to overstay your welcome over 15-20mins as the salt can start to get painful - my skin felt amazingly smooth and I swear to this day my skin especially my face, is still feeling the benefits, it’s the best facial I’ve ever had  (I didn’t put my face in the sea but I did wipe my hands all over!)  My husband also suffers from extremely dry skin and he believes his skin has become so much better and not as dry as it usually is. We even noticed a few medical patients, who needed support while floating in the water, I’m sure this was a type of pilgrimage to help with any aliments which they suffer from.

 

We stayed at the Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea, which just so happens to have been awarded the Conde Nast Luxury Spa 2018.  If you are only visiting the Dead Sea for the day, then you can use the hotel spa day pass which costs AED 340 - JOD 65 per person giving you access to all the facilities, these include a traditional eastern hamman, mosaic domed thermariums and mint scented tropical rain shower, indoor floatation pool, a hydro pool and the most gorgeous infinity pool giving you stunning views of the sea with Palestine in the distance. You can enjoy a spa treatment and then relax in the large whirl pool again offering unbeatable views.

 

I really believe everybody should visit the Dead Sea at least once if not annually just to immerse yourself in the natural waters for health reasons and to enjoy a truly unique experience.

 

Jordan I will be back very soon for another dip and this time to visit Petra and Wadi Rum!

 

Watch our video of the stunning views here: 

Dani

Money Box Relax Couple

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Mykonos Equals Fun

Coming soon

Dani

Boracay

Beautiful Boracay, Philippines

In 2012 Boracay was named the best island in the world to visit due to its stunning untouched beaches, however sadly in in 2018 Boracay was off limits to tourists due to the sad effects of over tourism and branded a “cesspool” by the Philippines President – I am glad to say we didn’t witness any of this – thank goodness!

We were lucky enough to visit as a family in 2017 and had a great time. When standing on the beach outside our hotel the peace and solitude takes your breath away. Ahead, the clear blue waters from Puka Shell Beach fan out to meet the sky in an endless expanse.

The sunsets in Boracay have been the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen in my life. The sky would turn from pink, to orange, to red and lasting a good 30 minutes.

Boracay has 13 beaches with the most popular being White Beach which is 4km long and one of the longest white beaches in Asia.

The beach on our hotel doorstep was stunning, with powder white sand and crystal blue water which was so shallow that you really had to walk quiet far out to get  the water to come up to your waist.. This was perfect for the children to play and enjoy the sea especially when having their paddle boarding lessons.

There is no shortage of hotels in Boracay, but don’t be fooled they aren’t as affordable as one might think especially if you're looking to stay in a premium luxury property. For us it was a toss up between the Shangri-La and Discovery Shores with Shangri La being the most luxurious property in Boracay.

We booked Discovery Shores, we were super impressed with our room as it was really big more like a duplex apartment with a Jacuzzi on the balcony offering great views of the beach and over looking the main swimming pool. Discovery Shores its more of a boutique property with no hotel entrance as you enter by car off the main road straight into the garage, walk up a couple of stairs and it opens up into a wide open space with the beach straight in front of you. The facilities were great including the spa and they had a vast menu catering for children. We did visit the Shangri –La a couple of evenings as the restaurants were amazing and the setting was very romantic.

We only left our hotel a couple of times to enjoy a few adrenaline activities, visit the shops or in the evening enjoy the nightlife bar hoping!

One of the activities which we loved and I would highly recommend  trying it out for yourself, was the Happy Planet Zip-line and Cable Car Station. Located on the highest point of the island, (ask your hotel to arrange a car) the station offers a beautiful panoramic view over the island’s only golf course, resorts and one of it’s beautiful beaches.

Little did we know until we got there that this zip line was a little different to ones we have done before as we’d be flying superman style! That’s right – instead of sitting upwards and holding on –this time we were lying down on our tummies, strapped in from above, arms outstretched! And to add to it, our 4 year old adrenaline junkie daughter Amara sitting upright on our back!

Once strapped in and our Go Pro at the ready (we took our own Go Pro but you can rent them and they also provide a selfie stick free of charge for your phone or camera) we were ready to go.

Looking back at the footage we took, I had to add music over it as I was screaming so much, my husband was laughing loudly and Amara was simply chilling enjoying the view and im sure she was thinking… “Really, is this it??!”

Watch our zip line video here: https://youtu.be/kPzfbushGEY

What was also great about this zip line was that it had two cables so the other family who we were traveling with could do it in tandem with us – I have to admit, they weren’t as loud as me!!

Once at the end of the zip line, your unbuckled and you jump on the cable car back to the start. This was great as you got to enjoy the view and witness all the things we’d missed earlier as we whizzed by head first! The aerial view of the island of Boracay gives you the opportunity to see just how much of a paradise island it really is – everywhere you look, green leafy palm trees, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters!

The next day we booked a private boat trip giving us the opportunity to see the island and snorkel. I managed to capture some great underwater shots of the kids and our friends not to mention the beautiful sea life.

Our boat captain was very proud to point out Manny Pacquiao (Filipino Boxer) million dollar resort which sat on the waters edge and only accessible by boat named Boracay’s West Cove.

We also took the kids parasailing, which we had to take a car to another part of the island. I wasn’t that impressed with the setup, maybe because it was super busy with tourists and after Zip lining this was rather boring – especially because Amara kept asking if it went any faster and any higher! – I guess it wasn’t an adrenalin rush for her!

Getting to Boaracy

I actually wouldn’t recommend the route which we took as the journey went on for hours – which really wasn’t fair on the children. We took a flight – bus –boat and then a hotel car to the resort.

We flew Silkair from Singapore Changi Airport to Kalibo Airport (International Airport)

What we should have done was fly Silkair from Boracay Godofredo Ramos Airport (Domestic flights) which can you believe was located 20 minutes from our resort flying direct into Manila.

Then Manila to Dubai on Emirates.

Update 

Im pleased to say after a 6 month tourist ban, Boracay was reopened in Oct 2018 and thanks to the large cleanup the beaches are immaculate and the waters crystal clear, significant work still needs to be done to get the road system up to speed before larger numbers of tourists are allowed back on the island.

 

 

Dani

Family Friendly Relax Couple

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Fall in Love in Como, Italy

Out of the five lakes, which compose the Italian Lakes region, Lago di Como is without a doubt the most popular. Shaped like an inverted Y, surrounded by mountains and dotted with charming resort villages, Lake Como is the most picturesque travel destination for travellers of any type and especially for lovers.

We stayed in Cernobbio, which sits right smack in front of the large town square and right on the water’s edge making you in the middle of the action. And there is plenty of action with nightly summer festivals and fates. There are lots of nice restaurants and also a lido.  http://www.lidodicernobbio.com/v1/

 

Beautifully located in the square are two boutique hotels, the interior are a little old fashioned (think Faulty Towers) and the rooms are quaint but the location is perfect and the views are stunning:

 

Hotel Regina Olga – offers beautiful grounds with a private swimming pool. Prices range from Euro 150 upwards

 

http://www.hotelreginaolga.it/index.php?lingua=en

 

Hotel Miralago – a small boutique property on the waters edge. Room prices start from Euro 150 plus

 

http://www.hotelmiralago.it/en/

 

The most prestigious villa/hotel is without a doubt Villa d'Este, which has been transformed into the Grand Hotel Villa d'Este one of the most luxurious hotels on the lake and located on the waters edge of Cernobbio. Prices range from Euro 1000 to Euro 3000

 

https://www.villadeste.com/en/

 

Traveling around Lake Como is pretty easy by ferry. There are slow boats, fast boats and private boats – we ended up doing all three. For 20 euros the ferry will take you to the following towns of Varenna, Bellagio, Tremezzo, Lenno, Menaggio and Cadenabbia. We ended up taking the slow ferry from Cernobbio to Bellagio which took 2 hours and the fast ferry back which took one hour.

 

Check the public transport timetable http://www.navigazionelaghi.it

 

When staying on the lake you must rent your own speedboat and venture out for the day. Take everything at your own pace in order to really enjoy the beauty of Lake Como and all its hidden gems. The lake’s waters edge are dotted with countless restaurants, all serving classic Italian fare – moor your boat, and wait for the staff to ferry you onto shore. A lot of these restaurants also offer water sports too. We stopped for lunch at a great restaurant between Cernobbio and Bellagio called Hotel Albergo Aroura, the food was great, the view was simply stunning and the watersports were awesome.

http://www.hotelauroralezzeno.com/

 

If you want to take a break from the lake and enjoy Como from above then you should take the funicular to the top of the hills. My husband hiked up to the top of one of the hills, which has a tall tower at the peak. It took him and his friends 3 hours, but they enjoyed a splendid, chilled lunch at one of the cafes at the top, took some breathtaking pics of the view and then got the funicular back down. It’s a medium to high intensity hike but is well posted and the views at the top are well worth any discomfort.

Hiking Trails - https://www.mountainwalking.org

 

Bellagio is the most popular town on the lake and is bustling. With many shops and restaurants, its beautiful but very busy with tourists coming and going on ferries and private boats. Walk up the long straight flight of steps called Salita Serbelloni that starts behind the harbor and goes straight up the hill. All along the narrow street are small cafes, shops, and colorful houses, each one of them with their own unique story. To really enjoy the town I would recommend a walking tour in order to discover the little-known vantage points and sights that many visitors miss. It’s a 3-hour tour, were you visit a sleepy fishing harbor with rare Larian gondola boats bobbing on the water, a park, and a botanical garden. Then, finish up with a gourmet lunch at a Michelin-listed local restaurant. Another guided tour, with limited daily ticket sales is the beautifully maintained gardens of Villa Serbelloni which occupy a large area above the town and contain a myriad of highlights including plants, statues, small caves and water features.

 

A few must visit spots in Lake Como are:

 

Villa Balbianello - Visit the immaculate gardens and this dramatic villa on Lenno.

 

Villa Carlotta -This is the most visited villa in Lake Como for good reason! Get lost in the extensive and elaborate gardens, explore the museum and grab a bite to eat.

 

Como Cathedral Explore Como’s famous church with its impressive facade and ancient history.

 

Villa Oleandra  - Look out for George Clooney’s house – enough incentive!

 

For the adventurers and thrill seekers, try the following activities:

 

Paragliding – View Lake Como, from another perspective – the sky. Gera Lario is the perfect place to start this unforgettable experience. It takes about 50 minutes from Cernobbio to the village. A shuttle will take you up to Montemezzo where you can enjoy the breathtaking view before taking a flight that lasts 15-20 minutes and during which you get a chance to drive the parachute!

 

Jungle Park - The jungle rider park is the perfect family fun activity with 7 paths created depending on people’s ages. From 1-meter high platforms for children and higher platforms for adults that can reach 15 meters of height, Jungle rider park offers other attractions such as Soft Air for fight lovers, archery, canoeing for water and other adventures.

 

Mountain Bike Tours – There are many biking tours around lake Como, contact

info@lakecomo.bike - a great way to explore the beauty and charm of this place

 

Nearest Airport is Milan which is a 30 minutes car drive to Cernobbio.

 

Lake Como is one of those special places that a single visit does not do justice. As many families have done for generations, Lake Como can be an annual summer holiday and each time it can be as varied as the previous one. This was my first visit to this magical place, I fell in love with it and I will certainly be going back many more times again.

 

Here’s a little teaser…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw0rnRsj8Ko

Dani

Adventure Family Friendly Relax Couple

St Regis

Mauritius – St Regis Resort

This holiday came at a time when we needed it most. Our eldest child had just turned 2 years old and our twins were one. We had just hosted our first ever event for our charity The ZB Foundation (www.thezbfoundation.com) it was the first time we had openly spoken to a room full of people about our NGO based in Pakistan. The stress of it all was tempered when the St Regis in Mauritius gifted us a free stay at the property.

It took us a few months to get around to it as we sorted out who would stay with the twins while we took our eldest with us. It was going to be our first time to Mauritius and our first real break in a while, so the excitement was on another level, yet slightly squashed with the fact we were leaving our other two babies at home.

On Mauritius' southwest tip and on one of the island's most stunning and sheltered stretches of gleaming beaches, with the giant monolith, Le Morne Brabant, providing a dramatic backdrop, sits the stunning St Regis Mauritius Resort.

 

On arriving at the hotel, you encounter the welcome check-in area which is all open seeing right through to the turquoise blue sea of the Indian ocean along with the resort’s massive swimming pool, all decorated with palm trees and cabanas.

 

We had booked a ground floor deluxe room, beach facing as it was safest for children. The room was perfect as it opened up onto a grassed area which then led directly onto the beach. The rooms were a great size, lovely and bright. From the rooms you could walk along the beach to the main pool and restaurants or from the front door take a golf cart.

 

There was a fantastically cute kids club which had recently been renovated and installed with all new equipment, along with a small, kiddie swimming pool. If the kids wanted to eat at the club, there was a child’s menu and food was served with kids crockery and cutlery. Even though the kids club was great, as our daughter was only 2, she preferred staying with us and playing in the big pool.

 

The restaurants were situated around the pool area and offered a wide, sumptuous selection of cuisine. Of an evening there were a choice of three main restaurants, the Floating Market which was designed as a pagoda  serving  Asian, a more tranquil Japanese restaurant and then main colonial style dining room which served French Mediterranean  (this was also were breakfast was served) and was right next to the pool.

 

The resort had a great spa so it’s ideal for couples looking to strip away the stress. We really enjoyed walking along the long beach and when you walk right till the end of the resort you come to a small secluded swimming pool that offers a more relaxed and much more private sun downer atmosphere.

We didn’t do any watersports except for a speed boat ride, but the resort offers kayaking, diving and snorkeling.  Tennis courts are also available and in the main hotel there is a small cinema which shows movies a couple of times a week.

 

This was the perfect destination to switch off and do nothing except relax and catch up on some much-needed sleep. After all I did have three children under the age of 2, so the peaceful, and laid-back lifestyle with the most stunning surroundings was just what the doctor ordered.

 

Due to the emphasis on rest and relaxation, we didn’t experience anything outside of the hotel, however I do have a to-do list for the next time we visit Mauritius!

 

Dani

Adventure Family Friendly Relax Couple

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Tree House on the Saigon River

When we travel, part of the experience for us, especially with kids, is the hotel/resort. It’s not about being the most expensive resort, or the most luxurious or the biggest, its actually much more about the overall experience, the intangibles that will make the trip memorable. On our recent trip to Vietnam we wanted each hotel which we stayed in to be authentic to the area and offer something unique.    

When it came to booking a hotel property in Ho Chi Minh, I really had to research the area. While there were many five-star hotels and luxury apartment options available, it still felt like being in any city and I really didn’t know what to expect from Hoi Chi Min and if there would be much for the kids to do.

 

In hindsight, I’m so lucky with the hotel we stayed in as it was just perfect for us. I did not take much of a liking to Hoi Chi Minh city itself – I don’t know if that was because it was super-hot and humid or due to the fact we struggled to find kid friendly activities. We visited the standard tourists’ spots such as the central post office, park, Ben Thanh market and the observation deck at Bitexco Financial Tower but that took a few hours and was that great!

 

At the Grand Central Post Office, we did meet a gorgeous little Vietnamese girl – she was a Girl Scout who every weekend along with her mother and brother visited all the tourist hotspots in order to chat to tourists to improve her English! She was amazing, so polite, confident and very grateful that we sat and chatted with her and exchanged a full dialog. It was a genuinely wonderful experience and speaks to the resiliency and creativity of the Vietnamese people.

 

I won’t keep you waiting any longer from reading about the stunning resort which we booked in Hoi Chi Minh. An Lam Luxury Retreat is perfectly located on the banks of the Saigon River. Nestled in a lush jungle vibe, this 19-suite luxury property is not only child friendly but offers a peaceful hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and a sense of escapism. You can get to the retreat either by speed boat during the day or by car at night with complimentary airport pickups.

 

The retreat doesn’t have a reception desk; instead each room has an assigned butler who checks you in to the hotel via your room. With only 19 suites, the resort is small but very misleading as you only see a few doors which open to people’s suites.

 

Our room was next to the pool which was perfect for the kids to simply roll out of bed and dive in. There is also a gym and a cute spa. There is one kitchen which is at the side of the property with one large open window for you to see what’s going on inside as the only restaurant is a few meters away on the water’s edge providing a great view of the river and offers a great selection of dishes.

 

Next to the restaurant was an amazing private dining area in a tree, kind of like a tree house. It had a large table catering for a group of up to 10 people. The kids were blown away with eating dinner in a tree house and added to the adventure, so you can guess where we had dinner every night. The staff were amazing and certainly catered to our every need – anything you needed, you just call your butler and she would arrange everything.

 

Because we enjoyed the property so much we didn’t leave except to visit the city on one occasion which we did via speed boat down the Saigon river, which gave us a great insight into the size of the city. Then we were back at the resort for more rest and relaxation while the kids had a blast in the pool.

 

The kids loved staying at An Lam, to them it really was an adventure in a jungle, and I felt comfortable to let them wonder around the property on their own as it’s quaint and small. They ate in the tree house, played in the pool and used their imagination when exploring the grounds playing hide n seek in the jungle foliage and looking for creepy crawlies –fortunately the only creepy they saw was a giant snail!!

 

So, if Hoi Chi Minh is on your itinerary, then An Lam should be at the top of your list as a place to stay. Its unique, its adventurous, its comfortable, its beautiful and offers a different perspective to the city that you will end up exploring.

 

Relevant links:

http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2018/09/10/visit-vietnam/

http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2018/09/10/you-must-read-this-before-visiting-hoi-an/

Dani

Family Friendly Relax

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About Us

As an avid traveler, pre and post my three children, and a lover of boutique hotels, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, stay at unique properties and take adventures off the beaten track.

I've been lucky to see and enjoy so much that I think now is the perfect time to share my travel experiences, so I have created Unique Family Travel - a company where my team and I can develop bespoke, wonderful and unique travel experiences for you and your family. I can guarantee our experiences aren't available on the likes of large booking websites as we take you on a tailored journey which caters to your specific needs.

Each destination and journey should be a timeless memory, created for you and your family and captured in fantastic memories to keep forever. We can help with this simply because that's how I would do it for myself, my family and friends!

Do get in touch with us, drop us a line and lets get you going on your next amazing, unique travel experience.

Happy Travels

Love Dani

PS. All photos on this site are taken by me, mostly on my iphone :)

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