I loved the theme suggested by Binny a few weeks ago for this month’s travel link-up so much that I started planning my post right away (this is unusual for me, as I am so pushed for time these days that I rarely get a chance to start thinking about it prior to the night before the post is due to go live). However, this one gave me a lot of food for thought (‘scuse the pun!). If travel was a menu, what place is your starter (short haul), main (long haul) and dessert (lasting impression)?
The answer, for me, was easy. There are three places I have visited that I believe are able to satisfy even the most insatiable wanderlust.
My starter (short haul)
From Qatar, the cities of the UAE are only a short 40-50 minute flight away, opening up a plethora of travel opportunities which are practically on my doorstep.
I have spoken before about the magnetic draw of Dubai. It’s a crazy 24-hour city, viewed by many as brash and vulgar, but if you resolve not to take it too seriously, it also offers its visitors a lot, without them having to dig too deep or to use too much imagination. Unlike most tourists heading to Dubai, the main draw for my desert-dwelling family is not the year-round sunshine, and we are no longer able to take full advantage of the nightlife on offer. Dubai, for us, is more about expanding our opportunities for entertainment, shopping, relaxation and most importantly, eating.
The UAE destination that I feel more passionate about is Abu Dhabi. With a few glimpses of the heady, cosmopolitan vibe of Dubai down the road, Abu Dhabi is, on the whole, a quieter, less congested, less polluted and far more laid back and family-friendly city. I was delighted to spot cycle lanes along the main routes through the city; the first time I have seen them in the Middle East. I was even more delighted to find that the Emirati culture of the UAE capital lives on, despite the influx of foreign labour from all over the world.
Look out for an upcoming post on: the Palace Hotel, Downtown Dubai
My main (long haul)
We decided to go slightly further afield for our latest travels, and headed to Norway to visit family in Oslo and spend some time in the Western fjords. Despite the cost of the trip (Norway is not a cheap country to visit!) it was a decision I will never regret, as it was the start of what I think might develop into a lifetime love affair with one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
6.5 hours away from our desert home, we found ourselves breathing in crisp air, immersed in nature, and surrounded by mountains. It was good for the soul.
We fell in love with Oslo and its Scandi sophistication. But that was nothing compared to how we felt when we drove out of Alesund airport in the west, and were confronted by historic settlements and the wild and dramatic glacial landscape of the western fjords.
Top hotel choices: Continental Hotel Oslo, Storfjord Hotel
Look out for upcoming blog posts on: Storfjord Hotel; 10 things you must do in the Western Fjords.
My dessert (lasting impression)
I remember rounding a bend in the road as the stunning Positano came into view in the middle of our honeymoon travels across Italy, and Mr Sunshine saying, “I already know that I’m going to love this place”. That’s just the feeling that the Amalfi Coast gives you as soon as you catch a glimpse of it for the first time. It’s a beguiling combination of breathtaking beauty and theatrical romance: steep cliffs which plunge into the sea; small, pastel-coloured settlements that cling to hillsides; cobbled walkways which take you back in time.
Of course, it helps that the region is well-known for its world class hotels and restaurants, with the kind of service and ambience which makes you feel instantly at home and at ease. It helps that there is so much to see and do in towns like bustling Positano, and that villages like Praiano have so many hidden gems.
It’s a place that lives on in your memory for a long time after you have left.
Not only was it our honeymoon destination, but it was also where I first started to realise that I might be pregnant with Baby Sunshine – and nothing leaves more of a lasting impression than that.
Look out for upcoming blog posts: Le Sirenuse, Belmond Caruso, what to do with two days in Ravello, 10 reasons to visit Capri