Shangri la Barr al Jissah

A few years ago a friend of mine had recommend I visit the Shangri-La resort in Oman. I had added it to my travel list but with so little time and many places to explore I just never got down to it.

This year I decided to make the best of our extended national day holiday and cart the family to the much talked about beach side resort for a week. Bar al jissah is a 30 minute drive from Muscat, the main city in Oman which is only a short 45 min flight from Dubai. However at the recommendation of my brother we all realized a road trip was long over due so we decided to brave it! We set off for the Oman border early Friday morning and the day was eventful to say the least. As luck would have it the first border we got to was closed and we had to re route to another which was then offline! Coupled with a thousand stops for the kids, a 5 hour journey ended up taking all of 9 hours and we arrived at the resort tired and crabby!

Luckily the resort and it’s amazing staff made certain that that was the last of the drama. The resort consists of 3 hotels: Al Husn, A bandar and Al Waha. Al Husn being the most exclusive of the 3 with the best rooms and beach areas is unfortunately only available to adults! However don’t despair the second best Al Bandar is worth traveling to Oman for. The resort offers a wide range of activities ranging from camel rides, mini golf, snorkeling, water sports and incredible Doplhin viewing trips. Be sure sure not to miss out on the luxurious spa treatments offered by the Chi spa especially the hammam and massage!

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Knowing me and my love for food, you won’t be surprised that I was most pleased about the exceptional food we were treated to. Breakfast and dinner was a different theme each day,ranging from seafood to Indian and everything in between. Lunch at the poolside was delicious and the beach was just as welcoming!

Overall it’s a great place for a family vacation especially if you live in the Middle East and want to avoid a long flight. The hotel is homely, the staff are helpful and obliging and the weather this time of year was great! I’m glad I finally made it to Oman, it was a trip worth taking!

Lotsa Love

Raeesah 🙂

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A Glimpse of Turkey

On a last minute whim we decided to dash away to Turkey for the long weekend and it turned out to be an unforgettable few days!!

The start of  the Islamic month of Muharram spoiled us with a long weekend in Dubai and the family and I were tossing ideas around about options of a local getaway. Fast forward a few hours and we had settled on a weekend to Turkey! Quite a drastic leap from our original idea, I know, but as you get to know me better you’ll realise I thrive on spontaneity.

We decided on Tuesday morning, booked in the afternoon and were off on Wednesday.  Fortunately South Africans don’t need to apply for Turkish visas in advance so we could be on our way, hassle free.

We arrived in Turkey late Wednesday evening at the Four seasons Hotel in Sultan Ahmet. The location is ideal for a short trip as all the main tourist attractions are a stones throw away. I can not emphasize enough the hospitality and amazing service we received from the hotel, from the moment we checked in till we left. The attention to detail was astounding!! From our favourite snacks to prayer requirements, we were short of nothing!! They even included an entire toiletry set, chair, toys, snacks and games for my two boys which kept them fully occupied and allowed us time to settle in. Four Seasons hotels, in general, have to be on my list of top hotel chains in the world. Turkey would be my 5th destination staying at one of their hotels and it just gets better and better. There’s so much I’d like to share with you about my Four Seasons experiences that I’ve decided to do a separate post on them soon!

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With limited time, I decided to visit the most famous attractions: Topkapi museum, The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. I had goosebumps walking from one extroadirnary exhibit to the next. Seeing the staff of Moosa (A.S), the swords of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) and the clothing of the great women of Islam was Surreal! That one experience alone would have made the entire trip worth it! This city was once part of the greatest empire in the world and the centre of Islamic learning and culture.

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The kids had a ball hopping from one street vendor to the next sampling the corn, roasted chest nuts and Simit bread!! Not forgetting the extra kilos we piled on from all the delicious Turkish delight. I quickly became addicted to the intense Turkish coffee. Definately an acquired taste, my advice, if it’s too strong at first don’t give up!! Try it with water, fresh Turkish delight, opting for small sips at a time and soon you’ll be able to taste the most amazing blend of coffee followed with an underlying taste of chocolate!! If you’re a strong coffee lover this is a dream come true!

My favourite part of this weekend getaway was  a treat at the Aya Sofia Hamam. It was definately the most interesting ‘bath’ I’ve had in my life!! The treatment begins with a deep exfoliation, followed by a revitalising clay masque and ends with a relaxing sultan massage!! I definately recommend you try it if you ever visit the city!! If you’re on the shy side perhaps opt for a private package or choose a time when you’re not likely to bump into another barely clothed human! Trust me, if you’re not expecting it, the sight can be quite shocking!!

Whats any trip without a little shopping! I headed over to taksim square to get a taste of the local vibe! I loved the hip atmosphere of the area and the little local treasures I found along the way. I then visited the famous Grand Bazaar. Here you can find the exact replica of almost every designer bag and shoe! I fell in love with the beautiful carpets!! Those handmade beauties are definately on my list for my next trip!

Since it was a quick weekend away, I couldn’t see as much as I would have liked to. It was just a glimpse of a city I hope to visit again soon, most definitely for a longer time to cover everything I missed! I feel like Istanbul is a city you might visit 10 times and still find something exciting and new on your 11th trip. It looks like a city full of hidden treasures I can’t wait to discover!! Send me your Turkey experiences!! Would love to hear about them and add them to my list too.

Lotsa love

Raeesah 🙂

Paris

French Escapade

I couldn’t think of a better way to launch my travel section than with a lovely trip down memory lane to one of my favorite cities, the City of Lights. As far back as I can remember my dream was to travel. While others dreamed of shoes, bags and dresses I only pondered about where my next adventure would take me. It hasn’t hurt that I’ve added gorgeous additions to my closet as a result of visiting so many wonderful places, after all girls will be girls, but for me there is no better feeling than venturing through a new city and discovering it’s hidden wonders!!

I traveled to France in March for a quick break during the school holidays. Weather isn’t ideal in Europe at this time of the year but we packed super warm and decided to brave it!!

Having traveled to Paris before, I was looking forward to taking my kids to Disneyland, once again dining along the famous Champs Elysees and shopping up a storm!

We decided to start out at Disneyland. We arrived quite early from Dubai and went directly to our Hotel at the Disney Park. The Park offers a selection of hotels, each with its own theme .We stayed at The Disneyland Hotel spectacularly situated at the entrance of the park. This hotel is the only 5 star option however bare in mind that the term 5 star is used generously in this case! Its neat, clean, comfortable but looks a little tired inside. We had an absolute ball at both parks: The Disney Hollywood Studios and Disney Land Park. I felt like a child again and enjoyed it just as much as my little ones. Its best to book directly with the Disney hotel or through a Disney agent in your area. If possible take the fast pass option as this really saves time and avoids spending valuable hours in long cues. I definitely recommend Euro Disney over Hong Kong Disney any day!

After a fun filled few days at Disney we headed for the center of Paris. This is about a half an hour drive by car. You could also use the public transport options connecting Paris and Disneyland. We checked in for the remainder of the trip at the Marriot Hotel Champs Elysees. The location of the Marriot is perfect, on the main street of the city. If its your first time in Paris this is where you need to be, you are a short distance away from most of the main Parisian attractions and there is easy access to food outlets, public transport and tour bus services. The Marriot Hotel Champs Elysees is a reasonably priced, 5 star hotel with neat and cozy rooms, modern décor and excellent service. I chose this hotel because the Champs Elysees is so vibrant and in close proximity to all my favorite shopping spots, including the makeup heaven Sephora! Almost everything is in walking distance, the Louvre, the Arc De Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. If your feet are barking from all the walking try a cab, bicycle or one of the tour buses to roam around this amazing city.

The InterContinental Avenue Marceau is another good hotel option in this area.  My two favorites are the Four Seasons Hotel George or Hotel Fouquet, pricey but simply exquisite!

My favorite shopping spots included the golden triangle: (Avenue George V, Champs Elysees and Avenue Montaigne), Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore for luxury shopping and a trip to the famous Galleries Lafayette which in my opinion is a must!! Make certain you visit one of the Christian Louboutin boutiques scattered around the city and take the time to stop for a delicious crepe! If you’re up for a splurge try dining at Fouquet where you’re bound to bump into a star or two while sipping on your soup. Alternatively spoil your palate with delectable macaroons, marshmallows and meringues at the famous Laduree café.

Paris is a great city for a week of fun, food, shopping and touring… romance is a given, it is Paris after all. The famous city of lights has so much to offer its impossible to cover in one trip let alone one post! It’s one of those cities that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy and has you deciding to return over and over!!

Lotsa love

Raeesah