10 Reasons Why Your 30s Are Better Than Your 20s

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!! And despite being another year closer to my mid-thirties, I'm feeling rather good about my advancing age. In fact, I'm currently attaching such little significance to these digits that I even had to ask my husband to remind me what age I would be turning this year.

 
OK, I'm sure this is partly due to my brain cells rapidly depleting due to continual sleep deprivation, but I mainly put it down to being entirely content with who I am and what I stand for at this point in my life. There's no need to count towards any huge life milestones any more; I think I've finally reached them.

Yup, looking back on the last couple of years, I can happily say that so far my fourth decade of life has surpassed my third in every way possible. So, before I take a deep dive into a summer's worth of food and travel posts, here are 10 reasons why I think your 30s are soo much more fun, fulfilling and favourable than your 20s.


1. Remember those hours you used to spend in front of the mirror worrying about they way you look? What a waste of time that was! Nowadays, you're more confident about rocking YOU - wobbly bum, knobbly knees, warts and all - and you're more comfortable about giving the proverbial middle finger to anyone who has a problem with that too.

2. All FOMO has gone out the window. Yes, we see your twenty-something lifestyle involving frenetic holidays and Friday nights out on the lash. No, we don't have any desire to join you. Been there, done that. Our new, quilted pyjamas from M&S, Ugg slippers and a night in with tea and Ozark is looking far more appealing, thanks. YOLO.

3. All this inner confidence about how we look and how we're spending our time slowly begins to give us that unicorn feeling of self-worth that we've never, nope, not in our thirty years on earth, experienced before. It's not about trying to be someone you're not any more to create a life that fits in with some unquantifiable, unjustifiable, unrealistic standard. Life is now about embracing your uniqueness, and celebrating it.


4. Speaking of self-worth, any 'friends' that don't help to boost it can say goodbye at this point. It dawns on you that it's not the number of people you have in your life that counts, but the number of people that count.

5. You are ready to embrace family life, whether that is becoming a parent, or being a better daughter, son or sibling. Your parents annoy and embarrass you a little less, and instead you start to realise the amazing job they did and all of the sacrifices they made. Your children are the apple of your eye and you now know that there is nothing more fulfilling than bringing another human into the world. It isn't just about you any more.


6. You become a better partner too. Remember those stupid bickers you used to have back in the day because your other half was half an hour late home or forgot to buy milk at the supermarket or because you were feeling a little jealous about some stupid correspondence with another woman (OK, just me then!). All of that is a thing of the past. Empowered and happy people make strong and happy partnerships.

7. You have a group of friends that you feel completely comfortable with, can share anything with and would do anything for. After all, you've been through decades of shiz together, and you've learned to work out who has your back through it all (see point 4). With friends like these, you don't need to worry about whether they are judging you, and can relax into the fact that you're all a bunch of nutters, who love each other to the moon and back no matter what goes on in each of your respective crazy lives.



8. You know how to pour yourself just one glass of wine and then stop. OK, maybe two. But only two...No more than three.

9. You 'do life' a little better. Better quality clothes that last longer instead of ones which look good but fall apart after the first wash. Better holidays that are about quality food, sights and time spent with family, rather than just what will look good on your Insta feed (but bonus if it does that too, amiright?!). Better food, at better restaurants. A few extra $$ in the bank helps, but so does being selective and tasteful.



10. You've finally discovered what makes you 'you'. Some say that life's a continual journey of self-discovery, but I actually think that if you don't know who you are by the time you reach your mid-thirties, you never will. Instead of trying different things on for size, you should now know your likes and dislikes, your pet hates and your deepest desires. And this makes for a very happy life indeed.



There must be more...come on 30 somethings, what have I missed?!

Top 10 Family Friendly Things to do in Bali

Friday, 1 September 2017

Remember that post I wrote recently, where I recounted the tale of the lady who checked us in at the airport who told us that Bali wasn't at all child friendly? (Spoiler: we didn't listen to her and continued on our merry way). Well, it turns out that she was wrong. Very wrong, in fact. Not only do the Balinese people adore children, but 90% of the sites that we discovered and the activities that we pursued on our travels around the island were incredibly easy to do with young children or a baby in tow.

Here are 10 of my recommendations for the most family-friendly things to in Bali.
 

1. Visit the rice terraces at Tegalalang, Ubud



The famed steep green valleys of rice terraces that are located in the village of Tegalagang are a must-visit if you are staying in or near to Ubud. Located just half an hour away from the town by car, this landscape is one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen on my travels.


Ignore the naysayers who tell you that the terraces are too steep for young children to cope with, or too trecherous for them to climb. Sophia, aged 16 months, tackled them admirably (with a little assistance!) and enjoyed counting the steps down the hillside and back the other side.


As an added bonus, she also slept incredibly well that night!


TIP: Take some small change with you, because even though it is free to enter the terraces, the men who maintain the paths will ask for a donation as you cross certain points along the way.

2. Make friends with the monkeys in Monkey Forest



While in Ubud, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is also an exciting place to take children. It's one of Bali's most popular attractions for a reason: the beautiful (and rather ancient) natural forest is home to a troop of feisty grey long-tailed macaques.

Besides being able to watch these monkeys play for hours in their natural habitat, which is far more appealing to children than staring through the bars of their cage in a zoo, the site offers interesting walks through leafy walkways, with stunning ancient temples en route.


TIP: Educate your children to be careful around the monkeys before you enter, as they are very bold and have been known to be vicious if provoked. Also, keep bags zipped up and food & drink tucked away from their grabby hands!

3. Spend a day on Jimbaran Beach



Arguably the most visually appealing of all of Bali's beaches, Jimbaran Beach is located on Bali's southwestern coast, where Bali's mainland joins the Bukit Peninsula.

With a plethora of luxury hotels nearby, including the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, as well as great dining spots, such as the famous beach BBQ huts which spring to life as the sun goes down, there is more to see and do on this beach than any other in Bali.


Plus, it's one of my favourite places from which to watch the sun set.


TIP: There are no sun loungers or parasols for shade actually on the beach, unless you head to one of the beach clubs. If you are going to be there at the height of the day, hats and/or a portable sun shade is a must to keep children out of the scorching heat of the sun.

4. Watch the sun set on the west coast



Before we left for Bali, it was the sunsets that our friends who had already been there raved about more than anything else. Pinterest backed up their claims, but I had to see my first Bali sunset for myself to truly believe the hype.


I can't put into words how magical Bali sunsets are. A combination of the perfect weather conditions, clear skies and just the right aspect make the south west coast of Bali one of the best places to view a sunset in the world.


TIP: The sun typically sets around 6.15pm in the summer, which is quite late for very young children. Therefore, we tried to combine our sunset watching with dinner, by booking a restaurant with a view.


5. Spend a day at a cliff club or beach club



Bali is renowned for its fabulous beach clubs, with their sparling azure pools, trendy cocktails and chic clientele. However, super-glamorous doesn't always come hand in hand with super child-friendly, so if you want to spend a day at one, do your research first.


El Kabron, the Spanish restaurant and cliff club located just outside of Uluwatu, has excellent food, provides high chairs and has plenty of shaded areas for little ones.


Sundara Beach Club, attached to the Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay has the most amazing infinity pool overlooking the beach, a fabulous children's pool and kids club, and provides colouring books and crayons for the youngsters.


TIP: Check whether the beach club has a children's menu before you book. You might find it's worth packing some extra provisions if they don't cater for the under twelves.

6. Visit a temple...or three!



A visit to Bali isn't complete until you've visited at least one Hindu temple. It was top of my list of things to do while we were there, but I was worried that it might be an impossible feat, as many of them are located in quite remote places, a long drive from the main settlements where we were staying.

I needn't have fretted. Located just off the main street in the centre of Ubud, at the end of a pathway which crosses scenic lotus ponds, is the stunning Saraswati Temple.  With intricate architectural details and pretty grounds, this is a great place for kids to have a run around.



The other temple we visited was Uluwatu Temple; the oldest temple in Bali, and one of the most famous. Perched on steep cliffs overlooking the sea below, this temple hosts traditional dance shows and is one of the most picturesque places to watch the sun set.



TIP: Don't worry about having to cover your knees before visiting temples: most will provide you with a sarong at the entrance.

7. Go surfing and fishing at Padang Padang Beach 


 
This small beach in Uluwatu can be found at the bottom of a winding pathway which tunnels into the steep cliffs, meaning that the journey down to it is just as fun for kids as the beach itself.


This is one of Bali's most famous surf spots, attracting surfers from around the world. Here, you can rent boards or sign up to a surfing academy. If fishing is more your thing, there are several nooks in the cliffside around the beach which provide perfect places from which to cast a rod.

TIP: The waves on this beach break over shallow coral, so if your children are beginners, this might not be the best beach for them to start learning to surf on. However, it's just as fun to watch the pro surfers doing their thing here as it is to get stuck in.

8. Spend the day at one of the Four Seasons resorts



Undoubtedly two of the most luxurious resorts on the whole of the island, the Four Seasons Resort at Sayan and the Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay have so much to offer families. 

From picturesque grounds, to stunning pools; world class restaurants to incredible kids clubs, I can't recommend spending at least one day in complete and utter luxury at one of these resorts enough.


TIP: Look out for my upcoming blog posts on these hotels in due course!


9. Swim in an infinity pool with a view


 
With sunsets and sea views, beautiful natural landscapes and dramatic cliffsides, Bali is the dream location for a good infinity pool. There are a few world famous ones dotted about on the island, at The Hanging Gardens of Bali, Alila Villas Uluwatu, the Viceroy Bali and Ayung Resort, to name a few.

We enjoyed a few rather beautiful infinity pools on our trip, but Sophia liked the one at Sundara Beach Club, Jimbaran Bay the best. Look out for my upcoming blog posts for more info in due course!

TIP: Make a simple infinity pool more fun for the little ones by packing some pool toys. I'm still amazed at how a simple bucket, watering can or ball can transform their experience of a pool and keep them occupied for hours!

10. Enjoy the moment and get completely and utterly lost



With a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips these days thanks to the old WWW, it's all too easy to create packed itineraries full of sites to be ticked off before you head out on your travels. However, Bali is one of those places where magic lies around literally every corner, and if you stick to your plans too rigidly, you're likely to miss some special moments.

Some of our most treasured memories from our trips were from when we went 'off piste'...such as exploring the grounds of the Four Seasons Sayan to keep Sophia entertained when we were waiting for breakfast on our first day...


And getting lost down the narrow lanes of Ubud while searching for a restaurant and accidentally stumbling upon the pastel umbrellas of Ubud Art Market...


If you're travelling to Bali with kids, it's so important to allow yourself to get lost.

Just not so lost that you lose all phone service and are unable to access Google Maps. You know, just in case...

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A Staycation at City Centre Rotana Doha (Eid Competition: WIN a Night's Stay!)

Monday, 28 August 2017

Rising up from the skyscrapers of West Bay, nestled in amongst the bright lights of Doha, is a newly opened, yet formidable hotel which is rapidly making its mark on Qatar's tourist map and foodie scene. City Centre Rotana Doha has the dual benefits of being both conveniently placed and perfectly appointed, making it an ideal location for a short stay.


After enjoying a memorable high tea at this hotel earlier this year, and a very special staycation with my family recently, I couldn't be more excited to be collaborating with City Centre Rotana to say a huge thanks to those of you that have stuck around to follow our adventures over the years, with a competition to give one of my readers a chance to win a night's stay. Don't forget to scroll down to the end of the post for details on how to enter!
 
For now, grab a cuppa, settle back in a comfy chair and let me transport you back to last Thursday when our staycation at City Centre Rotana began...

Much like any other Thursday, I was exhausted after a busy working week and far too many nights of disrupted sleep. Luckily, my week was about to get a whole lot better. Following a swift check-in at the front desk (which is always appreciated when half of your mind is on your tired and hungry toddler), we were whisked up to the 23rd floor, and shown into the suite which would be our home for the next two days.

The Room


The suite was the kind of space which you could immediately relax into. The cleverly thought-out dining room-come-living room had the advantage of being both large and cosy at the same time, with a huge dining room table which could comfortably sit six, as well as a separate seating area of sofas and foot rests, plus a desk.



One of the perks of the room was the ample storage space, which happily accommodated all three of our sets of clothing and possessions, car seat, push chair and then some.

In the bedroom, a gigantic bed dominated the space, with a cosy love seat over in one corner; a prime vantage point from which to soak up the panoramic views over the city.



It was these floor to ceiling windows which were my favourite feature of this dual aspect suite, situated at just the right angle to take in both the towers of West Bay and the iconic Sheraton with the Persian Gulf beyond.


In the bathroom, I loved the fact that a full range of luxurious L'Occitane goodies were at our disposal for the next couple of days. I already had an inkling it was going to be a rather good weekend.


The pool and children's play area


The pool area at City Centre Rotana was a pleasantly surprising discovery. Set against an impressive backdrop of the Doha skyline, the scalloped pool has two depth levels and a separate kids pool and jacuzzi.




All three of us spent several hours dipping in and out of the water to cool off from the 45 degree heat outside, in between cat naps in the shade of our curtained cabana.




Next to the pools is a fun children's play area, with swings, slides, tables and chairs, wendy houses and a tunnel. Now that Sophia is at an age where she's constantly looking for something new to explore, this was a very welcome sight. The first time she saw it, she ran around in glee, trying everything out one by one, and then returning for more. She enjoyed the swing so much in fact, that Mr Sunshine and I almost broke our backs from bending over to push her for so long!


The Spa


City Centre Rotana's spa is rather understated in comparison to some of the other hotels in Doha. It may not have the extensive facilities of the Four Seasons, or the relaxing vibe of the Grand Hyatt but what it lacks in stature, it makes up for in quality. Mr Sunshine and I both received a much-needed and very relaxing massage during our stay.


The Food


It wasn't the pool or the rooms which first brought City Centre Rotana to my attention, but the food. As mentioned previously, the High Tea in Caramel Lounge remains one of my favourite places for afternoon tea in Doha, and I had attended the opening of the hotel's international restaurant, Teatro, and had nothing but good things to say about it. I was excited to find out what other hidden gems I might discover.

Theme nights at Olive Oil


Olive Oil hosts a range of theme nights and when we heard that Thursday evenings were 'La Noche EspaƱola', as tapas and sangria lovers, we had to give it a try.


 
The open kitchen, headed up by Valencia born Adriana Toledo, was a flurry of activity when we arrived, and the buffet selection looked colourful and appetising.




The Tapas bites lived up to expectations and were moreish and delicious. Of partcular note was the salty Manchego cheese with Cecina Beef, and the deliciously fruity Catalan Salad.



The seafood paella was huge, and looked amazing, but on this occasion it didn't match up to the standard of some of the other paellas I've had in Doha. Nevertheless, it was still enjoyable.

 
Some of the dessert items, including my favourite, the crunchy Churros which come dipped in one of three different condiments of your choice, were delicious.



Breakfast options


For breakfast on Friday, in order to maximise our chill time, we opted for breakfast in bed, and I was so glad that we did! While Mr Sunshine got ready and rushed off to work, Sophia and I spent a few hours eating our way through the mountain of breakfast items I had (over)ordered, and started the day the way I wish I could every day: slowly!


On the Saturday, it was back to Olive Oil for their breakfast buffet, where our top picks were the granola and delicious cinnamon ring doughnuts (naughty I know, but technically we were on holiday!).

 

Brunch


Let's Do Brunch is a fun and relaxed Friday brunch, which is spread out amongst the hotel's restaurants Olive Oil, Misk, and the lobby in between. A distinctly Mediterranean vibe, with a few Asian, Mexican and Arabic flavours thrown in for good measure, this isn't as extensive as some of the other spreads that you might find around Doha, but if laid back is your vibe then I think you'll enjoy it.






Sophia and I spent Friday afternoon here catching up with two of my best friends, as we sipped on bubbles and enjoyed the services of the personal somelier with his drinks trolley as he made his rounds.


 
Once again, I was grateful to City Centre Rotana for thinking about the needs of young children, who often get bored during brunch. Sophia was delighted to discover the children's corner which included a children's buffet, play house, table and chairs and a TV showing Disney classics.


She spent some time playing in here, when she wasn't running circles around the restaurant, continually trying to escape my clutches.

Dinner at Teatro


On our final evening, we made a rare effort to get dressed up, and headed down to my favourite restaurant in the hotel, Teatro.


This atmospheric restaurant, which offers a range of Eastern delicacies along with some Western favourites, has a lot going for it. It is a special occasion restaurant with none of the stuffiness that you occasionally find in other five star hotels around the world. Instead, the staff are absolutely wonderful - welcoming, friendly and kind. They loved Sophia and let her grab their hands and drag them around the restaurant. They even seemed to enjoy it!

With mood lighting and a long, well-stocked bar, this is not your usual baby-friendly haunt, rather somewhere to take someone that you would like to impress. And I'm reliably informed that on most weekends, the live music is some of the best in town (unfortunately we missed out on this on this occasion, due to it being the weekend before Eid).

 
There are some real stand-out dishes here. Mr Sunshine loved his steak which he said was tender and cooked to perfection (and he's hard to please!). The duck dim sum was meaty, melt in the mouth and delicious. The tempura prawn rolls contained the perfect balance of flavours and were incredibly moreish...I could go on.



Unfortunately, it was late and Sophia was tired, so we had a rather rushed dinner before heading up to bed.

Mr Sunshine and I are just going to have to come back alone so that we get a chance to sample the desserts and a few more items on the cocktail list.

 

The Club Rotana Lounge


One floor above our suite, sits Club Rotana, offering guests who want to upgrade their stay a very personal and special hospitality service. Afternoon tea, drinks and canapes are served here at certain times of the day, with tea and coffee on offer all day round.


I know that not all guests have the funds (or the inclination) to bump themselves up to a club room, but in my personal opinion, it's worth it here for the views alone.

After returning to Doha from the stunning rice terraces and dreamy coastal sunsets of Bali not so very long ago, it was going to take a pretty special sight to make me stop in my tracks, and say "wow', but the incredible view of Doha from above did it. Baby Sunshine pressed her nose up against the glass and let out a long "wooooow!" too. 


Not only was the view exceptional, but enjoying it side by side with my husband, from our comfortable chairs, mugs of coffee in hand while our toddler roamed about trying to spot birds and pointing out the tiny cars racing along below us was something very special indeed.

The Eid Offers


Enjoy an Eid staycation package from QAR 550, inclusive of breakfast for two and a dining discount of 20%

Enjoy the Eid Al Adha Brunch from QAR 249 per person, featuring a generous buffet featuring Arabic and international cuisine, plus a special kids' corner buffet.



The Eid Competition


Now for the bit that you all came here for!

This is your chance to win a night's stay for two adults (plus a little one if applicable!) in a standard room at City Centre Rotana, inclusive of breakfast at Olive Oil.

How to enter:

1. Like Follow Your Sunshine on Facebook here OR follow on Instagram here.

2. Like City Centre Rotana on Facebook here OR follow on Instagram here.

3. Comment on any of Follow Your Sunshine's Facebook or Instagram posts on City Centre Rotana with the name of someone who you think deserves a staycation.

4. Double your chances of winning by adding more names or sharing these posts on your own page.

Deadline:

The competition will run for a week, and will closing at 11.59pm on Monday 4th September. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 5th September.

Terms and Conditions:
  1. The prize is valid for three months from 1st September 2017.
  2. Winner and guest must be over 18.
  3. Booking is subject to availability.
  4. The prize is not valid on public holidays or in conjunction with other offers.
Good luck!

My stay with City Centre Rotana was complimentary.
DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS