The Town by the Lake, Aix-Les-Bains

For the last couple of years I have spent my holidays seeing Europe by train and trekking to gorgeous little towns around France and Italy. One of my particular favourites has had to be the town of Aix-Les-Bains, nestled quietly next to the towering Alps and the beautiful Lac Du Bourget in France.

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The weather here can be changeable and on the couple of occasions I have visited it has been prone to some quite fantastic thunderstorms! More specifically after our arrival it seemed to pour with rain as soon as we’d walked into the hotel lobby! We also had a bbq one evening which resulted in a quick dash inside when the first spots of a heavy shower started to plop onto our plates.

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For those who are keen cyclists the location is perfect and the nearby Chambery is the finishing point for Stage 9 of the 2017 Tour De France. Routes close to Aix-Les-Bains include Col Du Chat and the renowned Mont Du Chat, for those who would like more of a challenge and is also to be featured on the 2017 Tour de France.

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For those who like to explore on two feet, I recommend taking a trip down to Lac Du Bourget and what better way to get there than by miniature train which leaves the Hotel De Ville throughout the day. This is a perfect way to see the town – the commentary is mostly in French – but it is still wonderful to see the beautiful scenery on the way down to the lakeside. Once by the lake you have the opportunity to walk for miles, there are lovely areas to sit and relax as well as wonderful bars and restaurants which I’m sure would be open in an evening to watch the world go by.

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Although there are not many chain stores here, it is a beautiful town to stroll around at a leisurely pace, visiting the various independent stores. I bought some stunning shoes in one of the stores – a gorgeous pair of pastel coloured wedges. I had a wonderful morning enjoying some retail therapy and planning my dream French maison!

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If you are looking for a fabulous hotel in which to base yourself for the duration of your stay then definitely take a look at the Golden Tulip. With recently refurbished spa facilities it is the perfect place to relax and rest those aching feet from all that retail therapy. The large bar and reception area is perfect for chilling out – reading a book or catching up with the latest on the Tour De France on their widescreen TVs.

If you are looking for a town where you can truly practice your French. This is the place to go. I had quite an experience in a French lingerie shop where as it happened I had a brief lapse in remembering any French bar the words ‘tres chaud’ and manically trying to mime how hot the weather was outside.. fortunately the two French ladies were extremely excited about the fact that I was even attempting to speak their language – a very amusing experience by both parties involved!

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Becky

Pretty & Petit

 

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Two Cities of Love

Two beautiful cities, both beginning with V, and only 75 miles apart, 1 hour and 20 minutes by train. Two cities synonymous with romance and epic love stories, each filled with magical and mysterious tales. If you are staying at the nearby Lake Garda and you are interested in culture and city sightseeing they are the perfect addition to your visit whilst holidaying in the region.

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I first fell in love with Venice when I visited on a school trip. I love the water, so to be able to explore a beautiful city literally floating on water was a dream in itself. With countless bridges, the lapping of water against stone walls and the beautiful balconies, there’s a vibe about this city that is so mysterious and magical. There is also a peacefulness that lingers over the city. Masks loom from independent shop windows and little pathways between tall houses break open into courtyards home to beautiful, pristine churches.

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“Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water.” – Frida Giannini

The main difference between my first trip and my second, almost ten years later, was the full on tourist trap that is has become. I would say it’s a shame, but not for the people of Venice who of course would welcome tourism as a vital source for the economy. Whilst there is the odd tourist with a shiny new selfie stick looming on bridges and in gondolas on the canals, there is also a calmness and to even take one turning off the tourist track leads you to the serenity of residential Venice. For those who want the unique Italian experience, even just for a weekend, this would be the place to go.

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“What about damp? What about flooding? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a little lawn or garden as a sort of buffer zone between the house and the water? But then it wouldn’t be Venice, said Connie’s voice in my head. Then it would be Staines.”- David Nicholls, Us

More recently I visited the gorgeous city of Verona. This ancient walled city was one that I had only briefly thought about visiting and now I am so glad that I had the opportunity. I am a huge fan of Romeo and Juliet, so to be able to visit Juliet’s balcony was a dream come true. It was truly incredible to see just how many names and padlocks were there, as well as the number of people that can fit in one courtyard! There’s so much love in the world but it seemed like it had all accumulated in this one place!

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“Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

I was amazed at the stunning architecture of the city. Walking through the walls of the city it was amazing to see the cobbled streets and the huge Roman amphitheatre, Arena di Verona, towering over the city and its citizens and visitors, famous for its opera which fills with over 15,000 spectators per performance.

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I was pleasently surprised by Verona and plan to return to this beautiful, intriguing city soon to explore it further. Would love to hear about any particular places you have explored in Verona! I’m looking for some more places to adventure to which are off the beaten track. Feel free to tweet me @prettyandpetit

Have you visited the cities? Did you have a preferred city? Let me know in the comments below!

Becky

Pretty & Petit

 

Dubai – A Dream Come True (Part 1)

Ten years ago I came across the city of Dubai whilst creating mood boards for a school project. At this time, many of the architectural masterpieces that reside there today were dreams of what the future of this international hub of trading, business and technology could become. Today, many of these structures have been created, from skyscrapers reaching towards the stars, the city sprawling and stretching out into the desert, and fresh land being reclaimed to form spectacular man made islands.

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My fascination with this city began with the beautiful imagery that was born out of this luxurious destination. As a gateway between Europe, Africa and Asia; it is formed of a magical, multicultural combination of Arabian and international cultures to form a destination that is wealthy, prosperous and unique.

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When an opportunity arose for entering a competition to win a 3 night trip to this dream destination I had to go for it! I wrote how I would spend three days in the city, combining my interests of exploring the more traditional side of Dubai to indulging in its modern counterpart of more recent developments, along with my pure fascination in the architectural wonders it holds. You can read my post here if it is of interest! After a few days of anxiously waiting I received the most amazing news via Twitter that I had won! It took a while for the news to sink in as it truly was a dream come true.

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Travelbag, who the competition was in conjunction with, made the booking process so easy. Our trip was handled smoothly and efficiently by all involved, particularly Ashley in the Brighton office and the lovely ladies in the Kensington office who ensured that all of our flights, hotel and transfers were confirmed. I ensured an itinerary was planned, with limited time in Dubai and so much to see, I really wanted to ensure we made the most of our time there. I booked our trip up the Burj Khalifa prior to going which was so easy to do online. It also enabled you to pre-book a time slot which meant no time was wasted by queueing. Click here to book your tickets!

Although we didn’t have enough time to do any specific excursions, they are definitely worth considering when going to Dubai. For our transfers to and from the hotel to the airport we had excellent guides who talked about the area, the various buildings en-route etc. This was amazing considering it was my first time in Dubai and there was so much to see. To see the city and learn about it when first stepping off the plane was incredible and I am so pleased we had such an excellent driver. He was part of Arabian Adventures, a company that offer a whole range of fantastic excursions, from city tours through to a desert safari, definitely worth taking a look prior to heading to Dubai to see if there is anything you would like to see in particular!

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On Thursday 12th May we had an early start off to London’s Heathrow airport. We headed over to a (quiet!) Paddington station to catch our Heathrow Express train to Terminal 3. Being located in West London the trip to Heathrow would have been fairly quick by underground (the Piccadilly line goes straight to the airports terminals) however we opted for the Heathrow Express for the accessibility (most notably the lack of stairs to drag a heavy suitcase up and down!) and comfort, the leg room is excellent and there is ample room for suitcases and other luggage. If you are looking for a cheaper option, I would highly advise the underground as there are very frequent services to all terminals. The journey to Heathrow was extremely quick and we arrived at our departing terminal within 15 minutes! The terminal was easy to navigate and after finding no queue at the check in desk we were able to promptly drop off our bags and head up to departures. After experiencing the new, efficient, full body scanner, some security gates seem more sensitive over the metal plate in my foot than others! We headed through duty free into the departure lounge. I was feeling both slightly apprehensive but also fairly excited about my impending flight. It was the furthest I have ever travelled but I was so looking forward to flying with Emirates.

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It was a smooth six hour (approx.) journey which was made comfortable through the wonderful ICE entertainment system with access to film, tv shows, radio and music along with the option to view the plane’s journey with three onboard cameras! Our plane had a smooth landing in Dubai as the sun set over the city and we headed into the largest airport terminal I have ever seen in my life! To top it off there was the largest fountain to welcome us, along with a wonderful lady from Emirates to direct us to our transfer through the airport arrivals, which helped to make everything so efficient for us.

Our journey to the hotel was unforgettable. I still remember every second now. The awe of seeing the row of skyscrapers dominating Dubai’s skyline, through to the Sheikh Zayed Road – six lanes across in some places – it was a marvel in itself! The most priceless moment however, was the journey across onto the palm, turning the corner to see the fantastic Atlantis hotel standing grand against the horizon, it was stunning, an architectural wonder.

Heading onto the palm was surreal, although I had seen pictures, these were often from the air, to be actually on the island it felt as though we hadn’t really left the mainland at all. It was only when we got to the far end of the palm to our hotel, the Sofitel Palm, that we realised how far out to sea we actually were. It was pitch black, besides the lights from the hotel. When looking back to the shore it was a beautiful sight to see all the twinkling lights in the distance. We headed down to a beautiful steak dinner at the Porterhouse restaurant as part of our half board package. This was quite beneficial as there were not too many restaurants nearby on the palm so we were secluded to our hotel. It didn’t matter, there was a wonderful range of restaurants to choose from!

Stepping out onto the balcony was a bit of a shock in the morning. The warm air engulfing me as I stood looking out over the Arabian Gulf. I could only stand out for a few minutes before heading back into the fridge of the hotel room!

By 11am the pool and beach were looking super busy. Fortunately, we were able to ask the hotel staff to find us some loungers on the beach (a free service that they provide) along with an umbrella for some shade. They also provided towels too meaning we didn’t need to bring our own. It was so nice to set up camp for the morning – sipping on an ice cold frappucino from the local shop, overlooking the view of Dubai in the distance!

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Friday was family brunch day in the Porterhouse restaurant. Not sure what to expect, we took our seats overlooking the beautiful gardens of the Sofitel. We were handed two menus and explained that they would be bringing ALL the dishes on the menu so we could choose – buffet style, what we would like to eat.

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After brunch we headed over to Deira in our gleaming white, beautifully air conditioned Lexus (oh yes, we only travel in style in Dubai!) to head to the souks. Upon arrival we were immediately approached by several men all asking if we would like to buy designer handbags, watches and jewellery – although I cannot say for certain how legitimate these items were! We politely declined and headed off to the gold souk.

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We must have been spoken to by every shop owner in the souks that day – each asking if we would like to see what they had for sale and saying hello in a multitude of different languages. It was a beautiful sight to see all the beautiful gold sparking in the windows, and the spices of spice souk all piled up producing such delicious scents. Although I have visited these types of markets in previous years I felt bit overwhelmed and so did not go into any of the shops on this occasion. Now I know what to expect I would definitely go back on my next visit to try out my bartering skills and I’m sure would get some wonderful bargains!

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After heading through the spice souk we reached the sparking Dubai Creek. The fresh breeze from the water was truly welcome at this point, a soothing break from the dry heat of the city. We came across the Abra (water taxi) who explained that we could either have a trip up and down the Creek for AED 14 (£2.63) or we could make the quick trip across for AED 1 (0.18p!) We went for that option.

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After an eventful ride on the Abra, testing my balance with getting on and off the boat! We took a walk through the back streets of Dubai exploring little alleyways and witnessing everyday life. Piles of shoes outside houses and Dubai’s local community going about their daily routine. We headed past a Sikh temple before getting back to the waters edge of the Dubai Creek. Following it along we noticed the juxtaposition of the beautiful yachts moored against the bank, to the wooden abras ferrying travellers from shore to shore. We headed back inland and stumbled across the Dubai Museum, quite accidentally! It was late afternoon by this point and wanting to get out of the heat so we headed inside.

The Dubai Museum has a wealth of treasures. You start your journey in a courtyard area, there are wooden boats and examples of bedouin life. You head inside and into the fortress, following a spiral ramp down to the galleries. The galleries explored the history of Dubai, an in depth look into the rich history of the city and its culture. It looked at the importance of the sea to the city and then the recent development of the city – the desire of the city to be home to the tallest, the widest, at the forefront of architectual design. It was an extremely insightful introduction to the city.

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On leaving the Dubai Museum we took a walk through the city, a mixture of the residential and industrial parts of the city. We followed a group of young men for a while who had a kitten walking beside them, much like a dog would, after a while one of the young men scooped it up and carried it. We eventually returned to the coastline and came across an old friend, the QE2, which had reached her final destination of Dubai before being turned into a beautiful hotel. I remembered saying goodbye whilst living in Southampton from my bedroom window, watching her sail down Southampton Water and into the Channel on to her final destination.

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Heading back to the hotel we decided on dinner at the Hong Loong restaurant, a gorgeous Chinese restaurant hidden away in a corner of the hotel – you had to get a lift to find it! We had such delicious Chinese cuisine, including Beef in Black Bean Sauce with Strawberry crushed ice for dessert accompanied by the most gorgeous Oriental Cosmopolitan I have ever tasted! I am so looking forward to recreating that at home – but I’m not sure it will match up to the same standard!

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Make sure you keep an eye out for part 2 of my Dubai adventure – coming soon!!!

Becky at Pretty & Petit

 

#SendMeAway with IceLolly.com – My Dream Destination for 2016

In 2016, this Olympic year, my dream destination would have to be Rio de Janeiro in Brazil! This city has everything a perfect holiday destination has to offer; sun, sea, beautiful beaches along with some truly magnificent cultural sites to visit. Not only that but there are some truly amazing photo opportunities to be taken, with vibrant, colourful scenery, beautiful views and fabulous people! It would be the perfect place to visit in Summer 2016.

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Check out my top 5 things to do whilst visiting Rio de Janeiro below and let me know if you have any more hidden gems!

Visit Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain. Christ the Redeemer, an icon of Rio, stands tall above the city and is best seen either from a helicopter or by making the climb up to it. It was completed in 1931 and is 30 metres in height (not including the base) and was beautifully designed in an art deco style by French sculptor, Paul Landowski. Another fantastic site to behold is Sugarloaf Mountain. Sugarloaf Mountain, stands tall opposite the Christ the Redeemer statue and is rated to be one of the top sites to see on a trip to Rio and with it’s fantastic views it’s easy to see why! Located on a peninsula out in the Atlantic Ocean it is widely known for its cable cars as a way to reach the top for the most spectacular 360 degree views over the city of Rio de Janeiro.

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A visit to Rio isn’t complete without a trip to Copacabana Beach. This beautiful beach, up to 4km long, is one of the many beaches located around the coastline of Rio de Janeiro. The beaches play host to a mix of activity, from beach soccer matches to games of volleyball, through to sun worshippers and swimmers.

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Carnival in Rio is like no other. One of the most famous festivals in the world, the carnival is full of the most vibrant, colourful costumes from the revellers and floats from Samba schools located in Rio. The carnival took place between February 6th and 10th in 2016 and will be taking place between 24th February and 1st March in 2017 if you want to experience it for yourself!

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Brazilian food is a mixture of Portuguese, African and Amazon influenced delicacies, however something you will definitely come across is barbecued meat – and a lot of it! Want to try some Brazilian barbecue before heading there? Why not visit the fabulous Rodizio Preto (so yummy I’m off there for my birthday meal next month!) One of the few foods that you will find wherever you visit in Brazil is Feijoada, a delicious stew of black beans, sausages and pork which is truly a labour of love taking up to 24 hours to cook. It’s definitely worth it though!

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Rio is home to the 2016 Olympics. Last held in London back in 2012 (has it really been 4 years?!), Rio will play host to this fantastic sporting event with everything from swimming and diving through to athletics and cycling. A trip to Barra Olympic Park is essential on a visit to Rio, located to the south of the city. The Olympics will be taking place August 5th to August 21st 2016.

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Make sure you take a trip to icelolly.com to get some inspiration for your next holiday in 2016!

I nominate the following three fabulous bloggers to share their dream destinations as part of the icelolly.com competition #sendmeaway!

  1. Twisted Beauty Blog
  2. Crunch Corner
  3. Cait’s Cozy Corner

Let me know in the comments where your dream destination would be for 2016!

Becky at Pretty & Petit

New Year, New You – Essentials for Travelling Abroad

As part of my ‘New Year, New You’ series this month I’m asking bloggers to share their plans, tips and resolutions for 2016! 

Today is the turn of Cait from CaitsCozyCorner who will be sharing her essentials for travelling abroad! Such a useful post as I will be travelling myself in a couple of weeks time so have picked up on some handy tips for my trip!

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Hey everyone! I’m so happy to be a guest blogger here at Pretty & Petit!! Today I wanted to chat about 4 essentials you need when traveling abroad. I don’t consider myself an expert of course but I have been to Europe several times ( and planning another one this October for Munich and Germany ) so I wanted to share some tips that have helped me! Whether its your first time abroad or your hundredth, these will ease your worry and make the trip as smooth as possible.

1. Passport case. Believe me, with all the stuff you’re packing in your suitcase, you want something fun and durable for your passport. After all, it’s what helps you get from country to country. If you’re feeling fancy, Kate Spade or Coach has adorable prints to keep your passport safe but if you don’t feel like splurging, your local convenient store should have some!
2. Durable luggage. I’m a suitcase girl. For me, a suitcase abroad means something with 4 wheels that I can push and turn in all directions. Those cobblestones you’re attempting to push your luggage over can be a pain so why not make it easy on yourself and get a suitcase that’s easy to push and pull.
3. Packing in layers. The one thing that took so much time was what to wear! Layers was the answer and simple ones at that. Don’t worry about the latest fashion because you want to be comfortable. A few pairs of jeans, leggings, tank tops, sweaters and a cute purse is all you need! You can mix and match everything! Be creative!
4. A Camera. You don’t have to have a fancy camera to make the most your trip. Our phones are so handy and easy to use at a moment’s notice that you’ll want to capture everything. Make sure you do because you’re in Europe creating memories! Enjoy every single second of it!
Cait is a 20 something blogger who loves writing about fashion, fitness, her family, and traveling. Follow her and her adventures on CaitsCozyCorner !

Dreams of Dubai

“Dubai, with all of its glitz and glamour rose in the heart of the desert.”

Soroosh Shahrivar, The Rise of Shams

Personally, I find the city of Dubai one of the most fascinating destinations in the world. With its contrast of old and new, historical and modern and it’s merging of a variety of cultures that use the destination as a gateway to the rest of the world, it is the ultimate city of dreams. When I was a little girl I first discovered the city of Dubai in an encyclopaedia (with the rise of the internet I’m not even sure they still exist!) At school I would create collage after collage of research in the form of images of future designs of architectural magnificence that Dubai was looking forward to, in any other city these would have stayed pipe dreams. Not in Dubai.  Most of these mesmerizing structures have now come into fruition or are certainly under development.

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The city of Dubai. Image from Tumblr

When the opportunity arose to take part in Travelbag’s blogger competition with a prize of a trip to Dubai came up I was beyond ecstatic. It took me back to those school days where I would be cutting and sticking images of a destination I could only ever dream of visiting and I had to get involved.

There are two sides to Dubai, and it is these contrasting sides that I would absolutely have the pleasure in exploring. The history of Dubai as a small fishing village; growing, developing and expanding into the metropolis it has become, a symbol of the modern UAE. A symbol of a prosperous future for not only the city but the country as a whole.

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History of Dubai. Image from Viralnova.com

On the first day we would start with a day of visiting historical Dubai. We would enjoy a historical tour, savouring the cultural aspect of Dubai, marvelling at the fashions, savouring the tastes and smells of the souks. We would visit the food souk, the spice souk and the gold souk exploring what each of these had to offer. This would be followed by a visit to the Jumeirah Mosque. I find mosques absolutely beautiful and fascinating. They are such a peaceful environment as well which provides a calmness and sense of wellbeing.

Jumeirah Mosque. From Flickr.com

Jumeirah Mosque. Image from Flickr.com

In the evening we would escape the hustle and bustle of the city to the desert on a Desert Safari. Enjoying the surroundings of the bedouin camp we would enjoy belly dancers and arabic henna painting into the night.

The desert of Dubai. Image from 99traveltips.com

The desert of Dubai. Image from 99traveltips.com

Rising early, the second day would take an intense look at the architecture of Dubai. This is a city which has a landscape that looks like something out of this world. We would start the day by taking a visit to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, standing at 829.8m tall, venturing to the dizzying heights of the 125th floor to view the landscape around us. We would marvel at the World’s largest the fountains of the Burj Khalifa lake as they perform their daily shows, at night sending beams of light into space!

The Burj Khalifa - Image from Harpers Bazaar.

The Burj Khalifa – Image from Harpers Bazaar.

After coming back down to Earth we would visit the Dubai Mall. We would have some retail therapy, before exploring the other attractions the Mall has to offer, such as visiting the DubaiDino, a dinosaur that has been transported all the way from the USA and Sega Republic for some video gaming fun! No doubt we would also end up in the candy heaven that is Candylicious!

The most beautiful candy in the world! Image found on valentinadepertis.blogspot.se

The most beautiful candy in the world! Image found on valentinadepertis.blogspot.se

We would take in the beautiful city scape, including the many towers that dominate the skyline. My favourite would have to be the Twisted Tower, the Cayan Tower standing at 306m high.

Cayan Tower. Image found on skyscrapercity.com

Cayan Tower. Image found on skyscrapercity.com

Ending our exploration would be a visit to the manmade islands of the Palm and The World. These fascinated me as I was growing up, a playground for the rich and famous, these are located in the waters of the Persian Gulf and as the name suggests are in the shape of a Palm Tree and all the countries of the World. 

The second day would end with a trip to Burj Al Arab, the most luxurious hotel in the world. It was this architecture that first drew me into want to learn more about Dubai. This is the ultimate icon of Dubai and an architectural wonder. We would enjoy cocktails in the sky bar looking over the beautiful coastline and city of Dubai as the sun sets.

Burj Al Arab - Image found on homedit.com

Burj Al Arab – Image found on homedit.com

After two days of absorbing the architecture and the cultural aspects of Dubai Day three would be time for some fun in the sun! Ironically, the first activity of the day would not be in the sun and would involve a visit to Dubai’s Indoor Ski Park located in the Dubai Mall. A faux winter wonderland, this ski park is 22,500 square meters with a variety of activities available including skiing and snowboarding.

The Dubai Ski Park. Image  found on thechive.com

The Dubai Ski Park. Image found on thechive.com

After a couple of hours skiing we would head to Dubai’s Miracle Garden, the world’s largest natural garden full of the most colourful displays and breathtaking landscaping I have ever seen! When I was researching more about these gardens I was absolutely convinced to put them on my bucket list and I’m sure after seeing the images below you will too!

Dubai Miracle Garden - Image found on travel.cnn.com

Dubai Miracle Garden – Image found on travel.cnn.com

Dubai Miracle Garden. Image found on icosnap.com

Dubai Miracle Garden. Image found on icosnap.com

Our final day would end with a trip to the Atlantis resort. Located on The Palm, this breathtaking hotel is a reflection of the Atlantis in the Bahamas and plays host to rooms surrounded by an aquarium so you can literally spot stingrays and beautifully coloured tropical fish from the comfort of your own bed! Aquaventure Water Park is also part of the resort with some of the best water rides in the world and we would spend the afternoon zipping down water slides and relaxing in the sun. After enjoying a fun filled afternoon of meeting sea lions, visiting Dolphin Bay and enjoying the sights of the Aquarium we would visit one of the 23 fantastic restaurants to choose from for the most delicious meal before sorrowfully heading back to the UK.

The Atlantis Dubai. Image found on telegraph.co.uk

The Atlantis Dubai. Image found on telegraph.co.uk

“Pilgrims from all over the world were making their way to the place deemed the pearl of the Middle East. The city was reminiscent of a modern-day Persepolis. Its buildings, like towering pillars, tested the sky’s limit. The evenly paved roads belched with the smell of new tarmac, as if a million masons woke up every morning and by hand lay asphalt one grain at a time. People of all colors, ethnicities, creed and social statuses came bearing money, knowledge or experience in order to build their legacies in the new kingdom, sprouting out of the desert.
Dubai had arrived.”
Soroosh Shahrivar, The Rise of Shams

Becky at Pretty & Petit