There is something very special about a 'staycation'; a little holiday not far from home, sans the stress and upheaval of airport check-ins, heavy luggage lugging and long transits. It's a great excuse to explore a new part of your homeland, or to get away from it all on a minimal budget with minimal planning involved.
Rich and I were well overdue a proper weekend together so on Friday morning, we excitedly packed our bags, called a taxi and set off down the road...just two Whatsapp messages to my brother and three minutes later, and we had arrived. Hallelujah!
Our destination was the Grand Hyatt Doha, Qatar's ultimate weekend getaway hotel.
While our bags were taken to our room, we settled in for treats at Biscotti. Delicate mille fouille and a light and buttery croissant were shared with Cappuccino and English Breakfast tea to wash it down with.
One floor up, we found our suite - the most gorgeous of apartments complete with comfy living room including TV will ALL of the beIN Sports channels (a very important feature to note according to my other half)...
HUGE balcony overlooking the pools and sea below...
Gorgeous bedroom with enough space to swing a small animal...
Walk-in wardrobe-come-dressing room.
And a desk. Very convenient for a blogger.
Holiday mode officially activated!
After a spot of work (I know what you're thinking: not very vacay, but when you hold down a full-time job as well as a full-time blog, there is rarely a time when you can fully switch off and I secretly quite enjoyed sitting typing away at the mahogany desk while snuggled up in my hotel robe), I showered and got dressed up ready for the return of my man.
We were heading to the hotel's signature restaurant, Isaan for a spot of Thai cuisine.
The wide open space of the restaurant is punctuated by three open kitchens where the numerous chefs work together to put together complex dishes using fresh ingredients and plenty of authentically Thai techniques and equipment.
It was exciting to see the passion and dedication that went into each and every item on the extensive menu.
Baffled by the number of choices on offer and not wanting to limit ourselves, we opted for the "Taste of Isaan", which allowed us to choose three appetisers, two soups, three mains and two desserts - all for the relatively small sum of QAR 200. The friendly waiters assisted us in choosing the very best of the selection on offer.
While I enjoyed a very unique cocktail made from Thai whiskey, pineapple, chilli lime and mint leaves.
Each dish arrived at our table as soon as it was made, so that it didn't get cold, and every plate was as pretty as a picture.
Here are my highlights.
The Tom Kha Gai (chicken, lemongrass, galangal and coconut soup) was delicately sweet and undeniably moreish.
Sorry for the blur, I was too excited to get stuck into this one to be patient with my photography...
The Tom Yam (spicy green papaya, Thai tomato and peanut) was satisfyingly crunchy and beautifully well-balanced.
The Gai Hor Bai Toey (chicken in Pandan leaves) was juicy and seasoned to perfection.
The Pla Jiean (stir fried fish, ginger and spring onion) tasted vibrant and fresh.
The Kaeng Massaman Neua (Massaman beef curry) was so delicately spiced and complex in taste that even a curry wuss like me managed to enjoy it!
When the curry arrived at the table, our waiter came round with a big basket of sticky rice, which we loved.
And I committed the cardinal sin of combining rice with a whole plate of Pad Thai Goong.
Has anyone seriously ever visited a Thai restaurant without ordering Pad Thai?! I'm curious!
All of this was complemented by a bottle of deep but delicate Chianti.
Which I definitely did not choose because it had my name in the title (!)
One plate of fruit and coconut ice cream (more interestingly known as Puhn La-Mai Ruam I-tim Ka-ti) later, and we were ready for bed.
Yeah, that's not it, there was more...
Now I would love to say that all of the elements of this princely breakfast tasted as lovely as they looked, but sadly it was a little disappointing compared to the gourmet feast of the night before.
The toast was a little soggy, the eggs overdone, and the pastries hard.
I couldn't fault these beauties however.
And sitting on our balcony looking up at vibrant blue skies, cup of tea in hand, I could not be happier.
We ambled down to the hotel's beautiful expanse of beach to soak up a few rays.
We drifted into a blissful state for a couple of hours, and I was astounded when I reached for my phone and realised that it was lunch time already! We had a booking at Rocca and three minutes to get there. We hurriedly got dressed, and scuttled over to the restaurant.
Rocca is a lively poolside all-day dining Italian, with big windows and a bright and airy feel.
We chose a window seat and admired the view while munching on pillowy-soft olive bread, and waited for our order to arrive.
Grilled seabass and salad for him.
(flakey, buttery and delicious, with not enough fish and slightly too much green stuff apparently - what a man).
And a big bowl of Spaghetti Marinara for me.
Warming and comforting, with just a few too many tenticle-y bits for me to enjoy it fully...but yummy all the same.
Softly baked by the desert sun and full of food, we were ready for a nap. Luckily for us, a little lie down had been organised for us.
Juala Spa (meaning 'journey' in Arabic) is located in a separate wing of the hotel, and features eight spa suites, a VIP suite, a couples suite, two separate relaxation areas for men and women...
And a couple's VIP suite, complete with communal pool and separate dressing rooms.
Now having lived in Doha for over a year now, I have experienced the spa facilities at quite a few five star hotels (it's what us expats do with our spare time, in between Michelin-standard meals doncha know?!). But this one was my favourite to date. A calming ambience and great service combined with the perfect massage (my masseuse literally climbed onto the table next to me to get the right angles and the perfect amount of pressure!) made for a beautiful hour.
As we sipped on our mint tea and cleansing juice, we both agreed that we weren't quite ready for our staycation to end.
This weekend served to teach us that a holiday doesn't have to be far away; travel doesn't have to involve a journey. I can't wait to decide where in Doha to 'staycation' next!
Have you ever been on a staycation? Where did you go and what did you do?
My rating: *****
We were guests of the Grand Hyatt this time.