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My Top Ten Travel moments of 2016 and travel plans for 2017

2016 was a year full of such varied travel and I am so grateful for all the experiences that I have been lucky to have. My top ten travel highlights, in no particular order, were as follows:

  1. A BBQ out at sea in Mauritius

Having a BBQ on a Catamaran in the middle of the Indian Ocean in Mauritius was one of those “pinch me, is this real?” moments and was an unforgettable experience. What made it even more special was that we saw some dolphins jumping in and out of the water whilst we were chilling on the Catamaran, soaking up the sunshine. I generally am happiest when on a boat, out at sea, so this was definitely a memory I will cherish forever.

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2. Exploring St Malo, in Brittany 

I had visited St Malo, when I was 15, as part of a school trip to spend a few weeks there, attending a school to learn French. In 2016, I was invited by Brittany Ferries, to experience St Malo again and it was just stunning! I fell in love with it all over again and ate all the salted caramel I could manage. It is such an easy trip from the UK and I highly recommend it.

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3. Making my own pizza in Naples, Italy

As part of our cruise in September 2016, one of our stops was Naples, in Italy and it happened to be during the Pizza Festival. We spent the day exploring Naples by foot, learning about the history and then went to a restaurant where we learned how to make the pizzas Naples is famous for ourselves! It was such a lovely experience and one of the top foodie moments of 2016 for me. The pizza was delicious too!

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4. Visiting Monaco

Monaco had been one of the destinations on my travel wish list for so long so when it was part of the destinations our cruise was going to I was ecstatic! I loved exploring Monaco and taking in the views and aspiring to own a yacht parked in the marina one day!

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5. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world, and this was my third visit to the Catalonian capital and I can never tire of seeing the sights.

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6. Climbing the Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico City 

Climbing the third biggest pyramid in the world in Mexico City was also a top travel moment. I was very unfit and had to stop several times before I made it to the top! However, the view from the top made up for the exhaustion! If you ever visit Mexico City do not miss this out and make sure you climb it!

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7. Visiting my husband’s family’s Kesar Mango Farm in India

This year my husband took me to India to visit his ancestral home outside of Bhuj. They grow the famous Kesar Mangoes at the farmland close to his home and trust me those mangoes, when in season, are the best mangoes you will ever eat!

It was nice to have a (forced) social media detox and not be able to check emails and just immerse myself in the laid back culture and breath that fresh air every day.

PS: I know I look like a Kesar Mango myself in this bright yellow outfit LOL

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8. Seeing the Gateway of India in Mumbai

Another landmark, top of my list to see, was the Gateway of India, and in 2016 I ticked this off the list. It had always interested me, especially after reading about the Mumbai Terror Attacks, and the major plus point was it was right opposite the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which we stayed at and also ticked off our hotel wish list.

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9. Going to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Although I have visited Dubai several times, we have never actually gone to the top of the Burj Khalifa until 2016 on a family trip there. It was dark when we got to the top at our scheduled time so we saw all the pretty lights making the city sparkle. I would love to go again during the day time on my next visit to Dubai.

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10. Attending The Latin America Top 50 Restaurant Awards

The final highlight of many, was attending the Latin America Top 50 Restaurant Awards in a very glitzy ceremony in Mexico City, as part of a press trip. This trip was especially confidence boosting for me as I had never travelled so far by myself before and with a lack of knowledge of much Spanish I did struggle a little. However, it has also led to one of my new year’s resolution being to learn Spanish as I would love to visit other parts of Latin America.

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So far in 2017 I have plans to visit Athens in January, Paris in February and a long trip back to Kenya in March to attend my youngest brother’s wedding as well as spend lots of time with family and friends.

We have yet to plan a trip for our seven (gasp) year wedding anniversary as well as a big trip for when I end my career at some point this year (tbc).

I would love to see more of Asia, Latin America, North America as well as some more city breaks in Europe.

Keep an eye out on my Instagram to find out as and when I make some more travel plans.

What is on your travel wish list this year? I would love to know in the c0mments section below 🙂

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The Sheraton Dubai Creek

Having been to Dubai a few times, on this trip we decided to stay somewhere different and opted to be Creekside at the five star Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel. With its nautical boat shape, the Sheraton Dubai Creek is a gorgeous, luxurious hotel with its plush interiors, variety of restaurants and bars, as well as amenities such as a gym and a spa.

It was one of the first five star hotels in Dubai, and has remained popular since 1978. It  is located within walking distance of Dubai Metro, which is convenient.

You can get to Bur Dubai in 3 minutes, and to the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall in 15 minutes, which is really good. There is also water taxi services that you can take to the souks, such as the gold souk, which is a must do experience.

It is a really good hotel, whether you are in Dubai for business or pleasure, and is great for families too. There are complimentary shuttle services to Dubai Mall, the world’s largest mall, which is really convenient.

We stayed in the Junior Suite, which had a panoramic view of the creek, and was such a fabulous room, and a treat for my in laws, as this was their first time in Dubai.

The room was really spacious, the bathroom was really big and the room had its own living room area, which was so nice to relax in after a day of touring Dubai. Not forgetting that famous Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed. This is my favourite part of staying at Sheraton hotels as you know exactly what to expect and honestly that bed is super dreamy. I always have the best sleep when I am away from my own bed in them.

 

The room had air conditioning, 2 TVs (one in the room and one in the lounge), a hairdryer, coffee machine, mini bar and safe.

Love how its so modern as well and that there are buttons to press for either making up the room or do not disturb. The traditionalist in me loves hanging up the sign though!

With the Junior suite, you also have access to the club lounge for breakfast, afternoon tea and happy hour, as well as a dedicated hospitality desk in the Sheraton lounge. In fact when we checked out, we did the formalities in the lounge sat in comfortable chairs which was such a different experience to the usual standing at the front desk and handing in your keys experience.

The Starwood hospitality as always is amazing and we were happy to indulge in this Chocolate Cake.

My favourite part about staying in hotels is the breakfast and the variety at Sheraton Dubai Creek was amazing. From fruits, cereals, cold meats, cheeses, cooked breakfasts and fresh juices, there was something for everyone. I especially loved eating parathas for breakfast.

 

You could eat inside or outside facing the pool. We alternated between the two while we were staying at the hotel.

Lounging by the pool was also nice and there were plenty of sun beds. You can catch glimpses of boats from here. It is not close to the beach, however, and the pool is on the slightly smaller side.

On one morning I even decided to blog from my room whilst admiring the view outside! There was complimentary wifi throughout the hotel.

On other days, I got my coffee and cake fix at the Lobby, which is the hotel’s coffee shop and area to relax. They also serve food here so if you fancy an alternative to the breakfast buffet, you can dine here. The omelette with avocado was my favourite.

There is also an Indian, Italian, Japanese restaurant as well as a Pub in the hotel. I also loved the bar area as it had a fabulous view of the creek. Friday brunch is a big thing in Dubai and the hotel offers some really good deals for this too.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Sheraton Dubai Creek and found the service to be excellent, the food fantastic and the hotel perfect in terms of its surroundings as well as luxe interiors and amenities. If you don’t mind being far from the beach, and are after a different location in Dubai, then this hotel is really ideal.

For more information about Sheraton Dubai Creek click here.

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Things to do in Dubai

 

Dubai is an ultra luxurious holiday destination with its opulent hotels, fine dining restaurants and high end shopping, beaches, a marina, creek,as well as state of the art entertainment venues and daring skyscrapers. It is also home to the largest shopping mall in the world and the highest building in the world.

Perfect for a holiday either as a final destination or a stop over, Dubai also benefits from year round sunshine. It is extremely safe and you do have to respect the culture and dress appropriately.

I have been to Dubai a few times and so this post is a combination of suggestions from my visits, of my favourite things to do.

Dubai Marina

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You can take a 7km long walk alongside the Dubai marina which has a whole host of restaurants, entertainment complexes and views of the various skysrapers and hotels. You can also take a dhow ride.

We enjoyed a lovely meal at one of the eateries whilst people and yacht watching.

The Burj Khalifa

 

You can take an ultra fast elevator to see Dubai from the tallest building in the world. Perfect for day or evening, the views are incredible. It is advisable to book your tickets in advance though, as this is a very popular activity.

From the 124th floor you can get a 360 degree view of Dubai, which is just breathtaking.

The higher floors are also fabulous and you have photo opportunities available too. If you happen to be there around 6pm you can also watch the Dubai Fountain show from up above, or alternatively head down for 6pm.

Desert Safari

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Dune bashing in a landcruiser – perfect for adrenalin seekers, as a 4×4 car takes you on a rollercoaster journey through the desert sand dunes. It is a must do and the perfect adventure before a lovely dinner in a Bedouin style camp, where you can watch belly dancers whilst you dine.

There are various types of packages available and options of types of cars depending on your budget, so there is bound to be something that appeals to everyone.

You can even go for camel rides in the desert or jump around in the sand like I did. Trust me it was lots of fun!

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Dubai Mall

Go shopping in the world’s largest shopping mall which has some of the biggest luxury and designer brands all under one roof. It also houses an aquarium, ice rink amongst a host of fabulous restaurants and coffee shops. We enjoyed a lovely coffee and cake break at the Armani cafe, before going up the Burj Khalifa, whose entrance is from this mall.

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Gold Souk – Deira

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All that glitters is gold – quite literally! You can find so much in this souk (market) but make sure you negotiate the prices. The government keeps an eye on the quality of the goods so you are safe in the knowledge that it is genuine.

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Burj Al Arab

The mythical ‘seven star’ hotel is definitely one of the most opulent I have seen! To gain access inside the hotel you have to have a booking at one of the restaurants or bars. However, you can also marvel at the architecture from various vantage points.

Pictured below was the view from dinner at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, part of the same group of hotels. I love seeing it at night as it changes colour and occasionally has a brief animation show.

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The view below was from Madinat Jumeirah, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch.

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Other ideas:

  • If you have enough time, a day trip to Abu Dhabi, which is only a couple of hours drive, is a must to see Ferrari world, Yas Island and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
  • A day spent at Atlantis at the Palm, which has a water park, swimming with dolphins experience, restaurants, bars and shops.
  • A helicopter ride over Dubai for an aerial view.
  • Skiing at Ski Dubai!Yes really
  • Fine dining at one of the many amazing restaurants in Dubai.

Have you been to Dubai? What was your highlight?