Mama of Two
Hey people across the screen! It’s been a little while right? Since I last posted (which was over TWO years ago), I got pregnant and had another baby. It’s true what they say. You lose a little bit of yourself after becoming a mother. Of course, this is not always the case and you don’t lose yourself entirely. But for me it was most definitely true. I lost a bit of me, not even in a negative or a bad way. I lost a bit of me but I gained a whole lot of me. A little more patient, a whole lot more grateful.
Since lockdown and having my second baby, we haven’t been able to travel as much due to life commitments and financial reasons. This blog page was never meant for any financial gain, or for fame or whatever. It was always about my own memories and memoir of stories along the way. Although I have always hoped that maybe one day someone would benefit from the itineraries and travel routes that we were lucky enough to take once upon a time. I sometimes also love looking at all the wonderful moments we captured over the years!
As I touch the keyboards and type without much thought, one thing is for sure. I have truly missed writing and putting my thoughts to a keyboard. This feels like therapy, this feels like my happy place, so here I am. Since motherhood has consumed all five of my senses, that is exactly what I will share. My thoughts, my feelings and all that I feel about becoming a mum.
Motherhood is waking up several times through the night. Sometimes because your child is uneasy or unsettled. But other times just because you want an excuse to check up on them.
Motherhood is craving Nutella on toast but not being able to eat it because your child is allergic to nuts.
Motherhood is sitting down to have a hot mug of tea but just as you take a sip, you hear a little voice saying “poo mummy”. The tea can wait, you don’t want your baby to have a sore bottom. So when you return you drink cold tea, still satisfied and happy your child isn’t constipated.
Mum guilt is the kind of guilt that is unimaginable, unexplainable and quite frankly unbelievable. To me, it’s a bit like grief. It’s the kind of pain that is overwhelming and takes over all aspects of your life. It doesn’t necessarily get any easier, but you grow around it and each stage teaches you a lesson you didn’t know you needed in life.
There are days, when you are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and you have nothing else to give. But as a mum, you have no choice but to give. Give and give again. Give every bit of what you have, what you can and even what you don’t have it, you give. And what you get back in return is priceless. The cheeky smiles, twinkling eyes. Those infectious giggles and those loud stomps.
Those are the moments that I cherish and look forward to.
I wear my stretch marks with pride and I want to show off my cellulites as they remind me of how I spent 18 months growing two humans. I don’t want to hide away from my greying hair. I want to show my children that you can love your body, just the way it is. I want them to know that their body is perfect, no matter how it looks. I want them to look after it, care for it but never be ashamed of it.
What a turbulent journey it has been so far. But here we are. A 4 year old and a 1 year old later, I feel so much stronger and happier. I pray to always cherish these moments of gratitude. As I type this, I can already feel my past wounds finally healing, those painful memories fading and the scars becoming a part of my skin. Engraved gracefully in different parts of my body.
Your presence is making me hold onto optimism. I am embracing my strength.
Why I have loved the Lockdowns
Whilst we have all been fighting and battling with our demons over the last 12 months, I have found freedom, solace and comfort amidst the chaos.
I have been reflecting on how the world around us has changed over the last 12 months, and not in a million years could I have imagined or envisaged that the whole world would come to a standstill. To think that we would be told not to leave our houses or interact with others, not even family! We were told not to see our our friends or our colleagues. In fact the only people we have seen have been strangers, strangers in the park, strangers in the supermarkets. Never did I anticipate that we would be told not to travel, be it national or international. Who would have thought that all the restaurants would be shut around us, for weeks, for months, for almost a year. To be told that we can only leave the house for a maximum of one hour a day. To try and comprehend what has been happening around has truly been incomprehensible.
I have had tough times and this year, trust me. I have had my down days, day where I have spent most of the time crying. I spent five months caring for my now 22 month old toddler whilst working from home. Trying to juggle a toddler, house work and most importantly my sanity. Let’s not forget my marriage too. My husband and I were suddenly in each others pockets, contained within our walls with nowhere to go. Just as we overcame some of those difficulties, my auntie, one of the the closest family I have was taken into hospital. I watched health her deteriorate right in front of my eyes. Oh wait, because of lockdown I could only ‘watch her’ through a screen. I couldn’t visit her, I couldn’t hold her hand. And just like that her battles continued. The only time I got to hold her hand again was when she was taking her last breath. I watched her life slip through my fingers, I could feel her body getting colder within minutes of her soul departing. She fought hard, she fought through three major operations, 21 days of being on a ventilator, but in the end Covid took her life. Covid was the cause of death on her death certificate. And just like that, our beloved Sheena was one of the two million people who lost their lives to this horrific virus. I grieved alone, in a house where I saw my parents locked in their individual bedrooms. I cried alone, as my husband and son were 140 miles away. I wept because I could not hug my grandmother, I was hurt that in auntie Sheena’s last few months I couldn’t be there. To make matters worse, I watched my father go inside an ambulance and waited for days and weeks for him to be discharged. So yes, by all means I know it been difficult.
However, I am not writing this to discuss my sadness. I am sharing this because despite all of the above, the last 12 months were not the toughest months of my life. In fact they were probably one of my most memorable ones, believe it or not. The year after Nael was born was probably the shittiest year for me, yet I’m not allowed to talk about that. I feel nowadays society wants us to fit into boxes and you’re not allowed to share your true feelings or be honest. I had a child and it should have been an amazing time but you know what? It wasn’t. It wasn’t because I found it to be the most difficult time of my life.
I reflect and I realise that 12 months of postpartum prepared me for this pandemic. After giving birth to Nael, I lost myself. I lost who I was, I lost my confidence and felt isolated even when I was around people. My life changed in ways I wasn’t prepared for. (At some point, I will share my feelings and experiences of PND, but not just now. I am still healing and finding myself).
So the lockdowns and the pandemic has given me the opportunity to find myself again. A new me who has grown, developed and taken ownership of my space. I have learnt I enjoy my own company more than anyone else’s and that’s okay. I have learnt to take a step back and enjoy all the little things in life that I took for granted. It has allowed me to be more grateful than ever before. I take gratitude very seriously and make a point of it every single day. The sips of warm tea, my cosy home, the miss match pyjamas and my messy bun.
What I have loved the most has been spending time with Nael. We spent every minute of every day together from March 2020 until July 2020. It helped me overcome my fear that I can’t cope with Nael on my own for the full day. I realised that I don’t NEED to go out to maintain my sanity. It taught me that my sanity can remain intact even in my own home, especially in my own home… that I didn’t need to have several playdates to stimulate him. I finally had to face my fears. I faced them every single day, and slowly I began to realise just how much I enjoy his company and there is nothing to be afraid of anymore. In the end I thrived in spending quality time with him every day (most days). I learnt to be more relaxed. I ‘chilled’ my obsession that he can’t have screen time. I cut myself some slack and even started to give him chocolate without feeling guilty.
The opportunity, allowed me think of so many activities that I could do in the comfort of my own home. From painting to playdoh to puzzles. We played with whatever was around us and sometimes we didn’t even need anything to play with. Our company was enough. No pressure, just pure fun!
I cooked much more during the pandemic. When I missed a cheeky Nandos, or a creamy pasta from Zizzi’s or a spicy firecrackers from Wagamamas, I cooked it. It tasted darn good and it probably cost me half the price if not less. It got me into the habit of cooking fresh food every Sunday. I found it therapeutic, productive and organised. It made me experiment with different foods and took away the stress of ‘what should we eat tonight’ and ending up ordering a take away situations. I batch cooked and froze some food. Sometimes I even gave food to friends.
We managed to get so many things sorted for the house over the last 12 months. We moved to our home in December 2018 and up until March 2019, it pretty much remained a blank canvas. Between December 2018 and March 2019, I was always so occupied, sometimes with my own thoughts and other times feeling obliged in seeing people, entertaining people. But from March 2019 until now, we managed to put up things here and there. We slowly turned our house into a home, personalising it to our likes and taste. We tidied our garage, we got our loft boarded and we turned many flatpacks into shelves and storage. When I say we, I really mean Ahmed. I have never in my life put anything together other than a sentence. I thought about it, and he made it happen.
I enjoyed staying in my pyjamas and reading books. I hadn’t read books in years but it made me fall in love with reading. I looked forward to a new book arriving in the post and opening the packaging. I fell in love with the story of fictional characters that I could relate to. It also connected me to an online book club. Something I have avoided for months as I wasn’t confident that I could contribute anything to a book club.
I have always enjoyed being outdoors, surrounded by nature but during lockdown I realised just how lucky and blessed we were to have so many places near us. We explored so many new places that it didn’t make us feel left out. Our explorations meant lots of picnics, drive thru’s and connecting with strangers. The hellos and good mornings, the smiles from strangers and even conversations about the most random things. Things that make us human. Our love for walking enabled us to connect with a local Muslim walking group. We went to Dunham Massey and Tegg’s Nose. It helped us feel like a part of a wider community. This group also got Ahmed in touch with a cycling group. His love and passion for cycling returned and he now cycles at least once a week for up to 50 miles.
I didn’t see many of my friends. In fact it has probably been over a year since I have met some of my friends. But that’s okay, because we remained in contact. We text. We called. And yes, I even FaceTimed people. And anyone that I haven’t stayed in touch with, well what can I say about that. Everything happens for a reason and some people aren’t meant to stay in our lives forever.
All these things that I am sharing with you all are nothing out of the ordinary, right? They are things we do anyway, but the Lockdowns have made me appreciate these things so much more. I have not come out of the lockdown with a new skill, or some life changing cure to something. And you don’t have to pretend to have all your shit together, no one does. But I guess it has allowed me to be humble, to appreciate the little things in life and most importantly revitalised my spiritually.
I learnt a lot about myself over the last 12 months. The main thing being that I truly enjoy the slow pace of life and what people refer to as ‘slow living’. I enjoy being at home, watering my flowers, drinking tea, reading a book, kissing Nael all day long and making the most of the most simplest things in life. Including washing dishes!
Covid has made me realise how privileged we are in so many ways. I feel like we have become a society and live in a world where we have so many privileges that we take for granted. We take lots of things for granted, our health being the main one. We’re also so fortunate for all the little things, for instance having online delivery with a mere click of a button. Being able to order almost anything, from food to tools to clothes. We are fortunate enough to have these luxuries. Many in the world are not. We’re healthy, we’re warm and we have every thing we need.
We have found ways to adapt. We have used technology to our advantage. We have been kinder to one another. And we have appreciated all those hard working professionals who never got the recognition before.
I was scared to share this post as I didn’t want to rub my happiness in peoples faces. I did not want to come across as being insensitive and not realising just how difficult this time has been. Those parents juggling school work and working from home. Those people who have not seen their friends, their families. The ones who had to cancel their wedding, their parties. The list goes on and I truly empathise with you all. Like you, I have also had my own battles, including the loss of a loved one and parents poor health. So please, don’t think or feel that I am not acknowledging your battles. I am, but I would also love for you to find the positive for you too.
I look back at the 12 months and despite the difficulties, we have actually done so much more than I thought. We attended Zoom weddings, we celebrated Nael’s birthday, we enjoyed a staycation in Wales, we had a photo shoot (no occasion whatsoever, just something fun), plenty of playdates in the parks, a barbecue in the garden for Eid and we even attended an outdoor birthday party.
So, I wanted to share the many positives too. Maybe at least one person reading this will be able to relate. Maybe at least one of you will feel inspired and notice the little things we take for granted. Perhaps we will focus our energy on the more positive things, even if it is just watering the plants.
I want to begin by sharing a little back story around this city break to Barcelona.
When it came to writing about Barcelona, as soon as I started to put pen to paper, or shall we say fingers to the keyboard, I realised how special the trip to Barcelona was for me and always will be. My mum and I had planned to go to Barcelona with our friends to celebrate their new beginnings, but sadly they could not join us. Devastated by this news, we suddenly found ourselves being unsure about whether we should still go ahead with the trip. It wouldn’t have been the same without our friends as we were used to spending at least one weekend together every year. After much contemplation, we decided to go ahead with the trip as everything was already paid for and we knew we would make up for the lost time.
The trip to Barcelona took place in September 2017. This was a time where my life truly was a little ‘all over the place’. I had just left my job and family home in Newcastle as I was moving to Manchester to be with Ahmed. My Mum and I flew out on a Thursday evening and returned on the Sunday. The following Monday I started a new job, a new role, in a new city! At the time Ahmed and I did not have an accommodation secured in Manchester so it meant living in a hotel for a few days when I got back. In some ways the trip to Barcelona was the perfect ice breaker with my new colleagues. As well as an insane plan!
Since our friends were unable to come with us, it meant that this was the first time me and my Mum travelled anywhere on our own! I was petrified to say the least to be honest as we both have zero sense of direction when it comes to travelling as I usually have Ahmed to rely on.
However, at the same time the trip felt like a lot of new beginnings. A trip on my own with my Mum, moving to a new city and starting a new job. So much to look forward to despite the unknown.
When we went to Barcelona I had no idea I would start a blog in time to come. But I have put together a brief itinerary of the places we visited while we were there. But most importantly sharing this precious journey with anyone reading this 🙂
Flights: £109.98 return flights for two people with Ryanair. Absolute BARGAIN!
Please see Link above for our accommodation. We split the cost between four people so it worked out okay for us. The place was really quirky and spotless. They provided us with milk, bottled water, juice tea etc.
This was an amazing location as we walked down the street to get the tram into the city centre! Super quick and easy 🙂
La Rambla: We woke up super fresh and went straight out for some breakfast. Walking down the La Rambla, absorbing our surroundings. La Rambla is a street in central Barcelona and was completely heaving with tourists and most likely locals too. We found it to be an easy stroll that can be done at any time of day. Unfortunately, you do need to be on your guard against pickpockets on this popular stretch though! There are tonnes of restaurants and cafes located in this area. We tried out a couple of them during or visit and were impressed about the affordability and service.
La Sagrada Familia: After exploring La Rambla we decided to head over to the see the awe-inspiring La Sagrada Famila, a large unfinished Roman Catholic cathedral. This beautiful building was designed by Antoni Gaudi (the renowned Catalan architect) and it ended becoming his biggest obsession.
Can you believe this beautiful cathedral has been under construction for more than 100 years and attracts over 2.5 million visitors per year?
Park Guell: Park Guell is an enormous garden with gorgeous and distinct architectural elements designed by Gaudi. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is a place that is definitely worth all the hype that it receives.
It was easy enough to get there, however, it was a fairly steep walk, uphill all the way and took at least 15 mins (probably more). So it might be worth considering getting a taxi there.
Point to note: We made a huge mistakes: we didn’t pre-purchase tickets. Tickets have timed slots and limited numbers so it was completely sold out by the time we got there. So we only go to explore the outside of the park. I still thought it was worth the journey as the park was like no other that I have been to!
Casa Batllo: I thought I had seen it all in terms of architecture, but I was so wrong! Casa Batlló is a building in the centre of Barcelona. It was designed by Antoni Gaudí, and is considered one of his masterpieces. As soon as we arrived at Casa Batllo, we were immediately reminded of what a genius Gaudi was. His work and imagination was truly unique in every way, shape and form. I have not seen architecture or buildings like it anywhere in the world.
Top tip: Book the tickets in advance! Once again we made the mistake of not booking the tickets earlier and by the time we arrived, the queues were so long it put us off from waiting to purchase them. We wanted to explore some more of Barcelona so ended up getting some cold drinks and wandering in the gorgeous streets of Barcelona for an hour or so!
We never got to see the inside of this amazing building. Perhaps a reason to return to Barcelona?!
Palau de la musica catalana (Palace of Catalan Music): The most beautiful concert hall in the world! I kid you not. In a city filled with incredible architectural masterpieces by Gaudi, I would not be surprised if people have not heard of this stunning piece of architecture. This beautiful concert hall was built in the early 1900s and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
We paid for a guided tour of this beautiful building and were so impressed by the experience. The tour was well presented and well priced! We would highly recommend seeing this place for yourself!
Caterdral de Barcelona: From Palau de la Musica, we made our way to the Cathedral of Barcelona. We entered the Gothic Quarter district which is one of the oldest and most beautiful districts in Barcelona. It is home to lots of little restaurants and shops.
We ended the trip with some delicious Paella and discussing my crazy plan to live in a hotel for a few days and starting a new job! I could not have asked for better company and weekend before starting a new chapter in my life.
Barcelona was the perfect getaway! It offered great public transport, stunning architecture, city life, and the best part: delicious food. A city trip of about 3-4 days would be enough to cover most of the highlights. I have only shared some of the things you can do during a Barcelona city trip.
South Manchester Muslim walking group
The absence of seeing Muslim travellers around the world was initially one of the reasons for starting my blog and sharing my tales online. Since starting the blog my life has changed so much and I have experienced many different things and challenges. From climbing the highest three peaks in the UK, to moving to Manchester to having a baby… you name it!
Three years ago, moving to the North West was one of the big life changing events. In these three years I have always been eager to explore the North West and call it “home”. So I made a list of “places to see” and we explored lots of different parks around the north west as a couple and as a family when Nael came along.
We came across the Muslim walking group on WhatsApp recently and I feel like it was such a blessing for us as a family. The group is run by the lovely Dr Amir Hannan who is an organised, kind and approachable leader. His strong leadership skills means that the walks are well organised and the participants well informed.
The details of the walk and the link to the groups website (for the purpose of registering for walks) were shared on the WhatsApp group in order to sign up for the walk the day before. The chosen place for last weekend was Dunham Massey with the walk scheduled to start at 2pm.
As Ahmed has recently really got into riding his bike, he decided to ride his bike to Dunham Massey which would have taken him about an hour. It worked out well for me because while he headed off for his adrenalin fix, I got to stay back home and get organised before driving down with (our almost two year old son) in time for the walk.
Due to Nael not lasting very long in his pushchair we decided to take our toddler carrier with us which was brilliant as Nael got to enjoy all the gorgeous views and we didn’t have to keep stopping. Dr Amir also offered to carry Nael which was a bonus as it’s always nice to know there’s an extra pair of hands/shoulders to carry him if it gets too much!
We have always enjoyed walking as a family but recently we have been slacking and getting lazy about going outdoors, so this group encouraged us to take part to get some fresh air last weekend. We even managed to actually walk almost 10,000 steps which is something we haven’t done in quite some time.
The group is diverse bunch of individuals who are welcoming towards people of all abilities, ages, genders and backgrounds. Although it targets Muslims, it is not exclusively for Muslims only. Anyone is welcome to join in and enjoy some time being outdoors. Even though it was only our first time, we instantly felt included and accepted.
After a very long time it felt amazing to feel part of a community that gave you a sense of belonging. Chatting and engaging with like minded people whilst enjoying our surroundings felt truly refreshing!
Ps. Dr Amir is also a fabulous photographer which means that you’ll have long lasting memories with picturesque views. You can’t really go wrong with that!
There’s even a story behind this photo…. we all kinda freaked out seeing the huge puddle, so we all tried to figured out the best way to go across without getting our shoes completely covered in the muddy water. Some of the walkers decided to venture straight through while others crossed as best they could by stepping over a half-submerged branch to the side of the track… meanwhile, I decided to show off my physical ability and climbed on to the fence… using it to bypass the puddle I really didn’t have appropriate footwear (lesson learnt for next time). We all had a little giggle and a joke about it but actually what it highlighted was the importance of having appropriate footwear.
We headed back to the starting point soon after and headed straight to the cafe for some well deserved cake and tea… some would say all the good work that we had put in walking was undone… to all these naysayers I say this with a huge smile on my face: ‘Live a little!’
After having a splendid day with the group, we can’t to join them again next weekend for yet another exciting walk!
If you would like to find out more about this group or are interested in joining it please see the details at any one of the links below:
(+) The location was around 10 mins away from the Milan Central station which made it extremely convenient. The hotel was surrounded by that of restaurants and cafes, not to mention a rather decent restaurant almost next to the hotel. The breakfast was included with the room and had a variety of things such as eggs, pastry, fruit, yogurt and cake.
(-) The property was old fashioned and out dated and over priced for what it was. No doubt the facilities were clean, but just needed modernisation. The minibar was extremely overpriced, as we ended up paying 12,50 euros for a small bottle of water! Talk about Daylight robbery!
Maison Bianca B&B
(+) You couldn’t go wrong with the location and the hospitality was amazing. It is just round the corner from Santa Lucia station, it took us 10 mins to get to the bed and breakfast. Even though it was considerably late in the evening, Giorgio was waiting for us at the entrance (even though the reception closed at 5 pm). Exceptional customer service. The breakfast spread was decent with a variety of cakes and tarts, and tea/coffee. The property was We had asked for the taxi to be booked for an early train and Giorgio made of point of personally being present early to make sure we got a taxi.
(-) We didn’t expect the property to be in a building (on the 5th floor of an apartment building). To be fair there were other B&Bs in the building as well.
Scorci Di Mare
(+) Firstly, the customer service was amazing. Not only were we able to check in earlier than we were expected to, we were given a brief about Cinque Terre, with print outs of train and bus schedules, and maps of the village and the region. The location couldn’t have been better – we were right at the harbour area and the views from the room window were breathtaking. It was a pleasant surprise that we have tea and coffee (and a kettle!) in the room. A couple of bottles of water and juice (and biscuits) were also provided free of charge. The bed was comfortable and facing the windows, which was great. Ample towels were provided and the cleanliness was immaculate. The rooms and bathroom was heated (and we didn’t expect a washing machine!)
(-) The room that we had booked was the sea view double – but we strongly recommend that you book the higher room with the terrace: reason being, because of the wooden floors and the stairs outside, it got noisy when guests in the higher room even moved around or used the stairs. There was a frosted window in the room (over the stairs) which lit up the room when someone lit the lights in stairs.
Pregnancy – 9 months of roller coaster
Pregnancy is a taboo topic in many societies, especially in the South Asian culture. But let’s break barriers and speak about the one thing that everyone should openly talk about. After all, it is something that humankind has known about and experienced since the beginning of time!
Fair enough, some people do talk about conception and pregnancy… but not in the context that the discussion should be led. I am not sure if you have ever had the distinct displeasure of being acquainted with one of those annoying ‘aunties’ who blatantly ask for a ‘good news’ (very) shortly after someone gets married? Yeah… that is not cool!
Folks take it for granted and assume it is so easy to conceive, or that people want to start a family straight after their marriage. They are happy to ask you about your ‘good news’ yet expect you to hide your bump and don’t want you to speak about your pregnancy openly.
So why is it that women are made to cover their gorgeous blooming bumps? Why is it that women can’t and don’t openly discuss the little things that change from the very moment you conceive?
Some of you may not be able to resonate with my experiences, but I wanted to write and share my pregnancy experiences as it may help someone feel like they were or aren’t in it alone.
It is okay to speak about it and it is okay to be negative.
You are not an awful mother or human to have YOUR feelings. Own it girls!
I am writing this at 22 weeks pregnant. I feel like right now I am in a frame of mind where I can write about my first and second trimester. All these hurdles and changes that you experience can take over your life.
I intend on giving you a brief snapshot of how pregnancy has been for me and what I learnt from it.
Everyone talking about pregnancy only tells you about how amazing it is. Is it really amazing? Well, yes of course, it’s the most beautiful process a woman can go through, SubhanAllah; BUT it doesn’t come without the compromises, sacrifices, emotions and the biggest changes physically. So yes, I am going to share my experiences and they are not necessarily very positive. They will be raw and they might be ‘TMI’ (Too much information) for some. But thats okay. As long as someone, even one person gets to read the post and is able to relate to my words or even better, in some way is able to prepare for what is to come, the blogspot will be worth sharing.
Another thing, pregnancies don’t just happen. Not everyone can conceive easily so please, don’t give people a hard time. Don’t interfere and ask them about their family planning.
It has nothing to do with you.
LET PEOPLE BE AND LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!
So, all pregnancies consist of ‘Three Trimesters’. I will go through each trimester and list the things that impacted me the most on a daily basis.
Trimester one: 0-12 weeks
I was always told that the first trimester was the hardest. And boy oh boy was it hard. I could start feeling the changes in my body and mind from the word go.
Nausea – HATE THE TERM MORNING SICKNESS.
It is far from reality. In fact I find it extremely offensive when people refer to pregnancy nausea and sickness as ‘morning sickness’ because let me tell you one thing, it does NOT just happen on a morning. For me it happened all day, every day. Anything and everything could trigger it. People advised that I try different things: sucking on ice cubes, eating biscuits first thing in the morning, drinking peppermint tea and so many others recommendations.
It is safe to say that none of these things worked. It was something that I just needed to get on with. So yes, don’t be fooled when people tell you that you might go through ‘morning sickness’. I recall having to pull over the car to be sick, I even had to ask to use people’s toilets because I needed to be sick, I was sick in the middle of the night a couple of times too.
My advice would be to just take your time. Take however long it is that you need to throw up and don’t feel embarrassed. It is not ugly. It is your body doing amazing things and creating something so beautiful. Do try the things that people advise as theres nothing wrong with that but if it gets too much like it did for me, go and speak to your GP who can prescribe some anti-sickness medication.
Remember to stay hydrated. That is the most important thing for you at the time. Drink plenty of fluids even if you can’t hack it. Oh and if you can, try to sit down and be sick in a bucket or some sort of sick bowl as you can really hurt your back bending over the loo. I learnt this the hard way as I had a sore back for weeks.
Who do I tell?
This was a tricky one. Although I had always believed and been told that I shouldn’t tell anyone before the first 12 week scan, I didn’t quite follow the advice. I told my parents, my husbands parents and some friends pretty much straight away. At a time like this, you want to be able to share and talk to your nearest and dearest about the biggest changes happening in your life. God forbid, if something was to go wrong, they would already be aware and be able to support you.
My advice would be to listen to your heart. Follow your instinct and do what makes you happy and feels right. Don’t let others dictate who to tell and who not to.
Loss of appetite
Uh Oh. This one killed me. I love my food. I mean those who know me know that I absolutely love my food. I genuinely wasn’t aware that it was a thing to lose your entire appetite. I couldn’t even look at food on some days. I had completely gone off meat and spices which was a real struggle and I even cried at times because I wanted to eat but I couldn’t. So mum’s handmade curries and chicken burgers were out of the equation for the foreseeable future. THAT WAS HARD.
My advice would be to eat little and often if that is the case. It doesn’t matter what you eat at the time, as long as you eat something. Again, don’t be listening to people telling you you’re causing harm to your body/baby because you’re not. Of course it’s better and more nutritious to eat healthy, but if you’re physically unable to eat and mentally exhausted then do what is best for your mental health at the time.
Sensitivity to smell
Oh yes! This was something else. I felt that all of a sudden I was given some incredible powers to be able to smell anything and everything. There was a particular smell in our new flat (we moved into our new flat when I was only 4 weeks pregnant!!). But the smell was so horrendous for me that every time I entered the house it made me vomit. My first reaction was to always run to the loo. So be prepared and aware that this is something that could also happen to you.
I don’t have any advice for this I’m afraid. This is something ya’ll are going to have to deal with and maybe let me know what worked for you?
THE FIRST SCAN!
YES! inshAllah if all goes well during the first trimester and you get to your 12th week of pregnancy, it means that you have your very first baby scan. You can pay privately and get one before that. But we didn’t as we wanted to cross this big bench mark and do it through the NHS in case God forbid something was wrong.
Now in this scan you get to see your baby for real. The feature are somewhat prominent, you get to hear baby’s heart beating. It is truly emotional, or at least it was for me!
My advice would always be that your partner is there with you to witness this amazing moment. I feel that sometimes fathers can be a little left out and can’t quite grasp how much your body is changing on a daily basis. So this is the first time they get to see it for real.
Trimester two: 13-28 weeks
Many will tell you ‘oh it will go away once you enter the second trimester’. WRONG. It will go away when it will. Not one person has the same experience when it comes to sickness. Some people don’t go through it at all and some poor sods experience it for the entire 9 months. I am the kind of in-between type. I was sick non stop from 0-18 weeks, however, every now and then I was still sick. So don’t assume it will definitely happen or finish after the first trimester or worry yourself sick by waiting for it to happen. People will also tell you all sorts of things like ‘its a boy if you’re being sick so much…’ I don’t think any of that is true!
EUGH. This. If you haven’t experienced heartburn before, then this is something, another thing that may or may not happen. Heart burn can and does happen. It can happen at any time or a particular time, especially if you’re eating fried foods, fatty foods, spicy foods. Basically my entire diet.
I would say try to eat a healthy diet, although I struggled with that. Apparently eating salads, fruits and veg doesn’t give you heartburn as much. So I’d suggest eating better. Or if you’re like me and would rather eat what you fancy, then always, ALWAYS carry water and Rennies with you.
Also I bought soo many bottles of Gaviscon and it wasn’t until the end of my pregnancy that someone told me I could have got it from the doctors on prescription. So mention it to your midwife and try to get free prescriptions for it!
Awkward/odd stomach pains
Your baby is growing and therefore your stomach is making room for baby’s growth and development. So all the little aches, pains and feelings are completely normal, don’t panic. Although if the pains are excruciating, then seek medical assistance ASAP. But there is always is constant sense of something in the lower area of your stomach that feels kind of tight at times.
Yep. Second trimester means that your leg might go into a spasm and cause horrible cramps. But the only thing you can do is try to move your foot around to ease the pain. It hurts, God it hurts, but it does get better.
My absolutely one and only favourite thing about being pregnant so far. The flutters what felt like wind to begin with. This started to happen when the sickness subsided and I was around 18 weeks. I remember being sat in some very boring training and feeling this odd sensation in my stomach. ‘Is it wind I wonder?’. It wasn’t. As days went on, the feeling got stronger and more regular. As time goes on, the feeling becomes very familiar and gives you lots of reassurance that your little baby is growing and moving. Alhamdulillah.
Finding out the gender
Another gorgeous experience in the second trimester and you don’t have to wait as long as 12 weeks! At 20 weeks, you get to go for another scan to make sure that your baby is okay. They carry out lots of measurements for the baby to ensure that your baby’s growth and development is okay. This is also your time to find out if you’re having a male or female child!
My advice would again be to do what you feel is right about finding the gender. Don’t be pressurised by friends or family whether or not to find out. It is something between you and your partner, so you do what makes you happy.
As a couple we decided to find out the gender but agreed not to disclose it to anyone. So we stuck to that and enjoyed spending quality time discussing names, clothes and nursery decor. Not disclosing the gender was exactly what we wanted. Alhamdulillah.
So yeah. You do you. If you want to go ALL OUT and have a big gender reveal party then go for it. There isn’t really a right or wrong. And if you don’t want to find out the gender. Then wow, you’re strong willed. But that in itself must be truly amazing too!
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) – What it does to you
I remember asking a couple of friends if it hurt in the lower abdomen when they walked, climbed stairs or even got changed. They both said they encountered difficulties and pain but they didn’t ask for medical advice. But for me, the pain was too excruciating. Yes I have a low pain threshold, yes I am a drama queen, but this was impacting me on a daily basis. So I didn’t want to take any chances and spoke to my midwife about it. She advised wearing a support belt to take the weight off my pelvis and if that didn’t work they would refer me to see a physiotherapist or recommend going for acupunture.
Trimester three: week 29-40
I made it. I made it to the third trimester. I don’t know how, but I’m here now. The most excruciating few months of my life… emotionally & physically.
The last few weeks were just about survival. I had to make lots of changes to my lifestyle to suit my needs. I stopped going out very much and tried to walk a lot less. Darn it, I even started to pay £3.50 per day for a car park space at work as I couldn’t walk too far due to the pains.
I spent the majority of time in the last trimester preparing for the baby’s arrival. This included packing the hospital bag, and drafting a birth plan, the details of which I will be sharing in a separate blog post.
Also, I will be sharing the essentials for the baby (including nursery furniture, pram and car seat) in a separate blog post.
Little did I know that my friends had arranged a surprise baby shower and invited my nearest and dearest. Even though I was impartial and not decided on whether I would have wanted to have a baby shower, it was a very pleasant surprise and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
As I had decided to go back up North for childbirth, I had planned the logistics of it over and over again in my head.
Having a maternity shoot was never on my radar and not something I had ever considered. But when a friend insisted on me having a maternity shoot as a present, I ended up researching it and falling in love with Mini Bee Photography
Though sharing my own experience of pregnancy, I wanted to emphasise on not letting anyone else interfere in this special time. But also to highlight that it is okay to feel a bit shit and a bit fed up; pregnancy is not all rainbows and roses as it might be depicted.
Mental health is your priority and if you are not feeling okay, just know that it is complete alright to not be okay!
My email and DM (on Instagram) are always open for anyone who wants to have a private conversation on pregnancy.
Italy: 5 Cities in 5 days!
After applying for Ahmed’s spouse visa and waiting for months on end, 2017 (technically the tail end of 2016) was finally the year where we were together again.
Italy was forever on my list of top 5 places to visit. I had always dreamt of eating pasta in Venice and getting a slice of pizza as a take out in the streets of Italy whilst being surrounded by the beautiful Italian landscape (and Italian men *wink wink*). But there was so much happening in our lives at the time that I didn’t think it was possible to visit another country on holiday.
We had just moved into a new city, were renting a stupidly priced apartment, I had started a new job and we were saving to buy a house. I never thought we would be going anywhere for quite some time… Until I found some super cheap flights to Milan flying out on Boxing day. So without hesitating I booked the flights and hoped I could persuade Ahmed to apply for his Visa. Luckily I managed to do just that and I started to plan our route.
We had FIVE full days to explore so I wanted to make the most of it. I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to visit again for some time so wanted to soak in as much as we could. I wanted a packed holiday and that is exactly what happened!
Day 1: Venice
After landing in Milan late evening, have food at a rather posh restaurant, and getting some shut-eye, we left Milan early next morning and got the train to Venice. As you know, we travelled to Italy in the winter which meant everywhere was FREEZING cold! I wasn’t sure what to expect when we went to Venice but there was something so romantic and magical about visiting Venice- even in the winter months.
The constant raindrops, silent alleyways surrounded by charming architecture. What was there not to love?
Before this trip so many people said that they didn’t like Venice and that it was underwhelming, but I wanted to see it for myself and make a judgement. I get what they mean in terms of the fact that you can’t spend more than 3 days I would say, but for me it was an amazing experience and we spent an amazing day there! Due to it being over the Christmas holidays, most places were shut and it was incredibly quiet. We didn’t necessarily have an itinerary for Venice and just enjoyed walking around and getting lost in the small narrow alleyways.
Places we saw:
- Saint Mark’s Basilica
- Rialto Bridge
- Gallerie dell’Accademia
- Libreria Acqua Alta
Things to note:
- If you are travelling with children just bear in mind that there are soo many steps and bridges. Especially with push chairs and suitcases it can get a bit tedious. If your baby is small, I would suggest you use a baby carrier.
- Accommodation wise, it’s so darn expensive and you don’t get much for what you pay. We were quite lucky that we went at an off peak season and found a bit of a gem. It was brilliant for one night, perfect location, price and great reviews. We stayed at Foresteria Levi.
Day 2: Murano & Burano
The second day we decided to take the ferry and head out to visit Burano and Murano. I think the cost was around £15. Murano and Burano are Islands near Venice. Murano is around 1.5km from Venice and is known for glass blowing. Due to the poor weather and time restrictions, we decided to skip visiting Murano.
A further 30 mins on the ferry and you arrive at Burano. Burano is known for its lace, good fish restaurants and pretty painted cottages. Due to the time of the year that we visited, most shops and restaurants were closed so we didn’t get to see many shops. Contrary to how I had imagined this island to be, Burano was FULL of different coloured houses. Prior to going there, I had assumed that there were only one or two streets that were so bright and beautiful. But as we walked around the island we came to know that all the houses were different shades of blue, pink, yellow, green and so on!
We spent a few hours walking around and exploring despite it raining pretty much att of our time on the island. The few hours that we did spend in Burano were enough to see the whole island. We even managed to have food at a pretty decent restaurant.
I would suggest that if you are visiting these islands, do take some time out to visit Murano. I am gutted we didn’t make a quick stop.
Also, there are some halal food places in Venice! Who would have thought!
We caught the train in the evening to Florence and spent the night there.
Day 3: Florence
We woke up bright and early to explore Florence. Oh what an absolute beauty Florence is! I think it is fair to say that it was probably one of the most beautiful cities we have been to. It is full of Renaissance architecture, art and history, and romantic cobblestone streets. As the capital of the Tuscany region, you can find amazing food, along with world-class museums.
As you know, unfortunately we only had one day per city as I wanted to experience and see as much as possible. Due to the huge queues everywhere in Florence, we decided to skip the museums and to go with the flow. We just walked around aimlessly to soak it all in!
Here are all the places we saw:
- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the queues to go inside were ridiculous, honestly! I’d suggest trying to book online if its possible)
- Ponte Vecchio – A medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy. It is known for its shops built along it! I have never seen anything like it.
- Piazzale Michelangelo – A square with a panoramic view of Florence, Italy, located in the Oltrarno district of the city. It’s quite nice
You can take the girl out of Mirpur, but you can’t take the Mirpur out of the girl, lol. After being full of cold for days now, it saddens me to say this but I couldn’t really enjoy the gorgeous Italian cuisine anymore. All I wanted was a spicy curry that I could actually taste. Clearly my taste buds are so accustomed to a spicy curry that nothing else can quite get there. So we found a Pakistani restaurant in Florence and WOW, thinking about that chicken karahi still makes my mouth water. It was absolutely divine and reminded me of a childhood memory of eating a curry in the mountains near Murree. We literally asked the waiter to say a massive thank you and compliments to the chef who later came out to speak to us. He was from Lahore, Pakistan!
In the evening we headed back to the train station once again, heading towards Riamaggiore.
Day 4: Cinque Terre
We stayed in another lovely place during this trip called Scorci Di Mare.
The accommodation was an absolute STEAL. With gorgeous views, clean rooms and beautiful decor, I’m so pleased we decided to stay here. This property was located in Riomaggiore’s rocky coast so this is where we started exploring Cinque Terre.
Just give me a minute while I reminisce about what a beautiful, unreal this place was!! Cinque Terre is a string of seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colourful houses and vineyards are scattered all over, harbours are filled with fishing boats and all villages offer gorgeous seafood & of course Pizza!
Before visiting this beautiful places, lots of people said it wasn’t possible to see ALL 5 towns in one day but I wanted to give it a go anyway! We woke up SUPER early to get the earliest train to the other little villages. The trains are extremely efficient and reasonable in terms of their price. We bought the day tickets and went from Riomaggiore – Manarola – Vernazza – Monterosso al Mare. If you have more time at your hands, you can trek to all the villages if you don’t want to take the train. Based on what we saw from the train, it is needless to say the walking tracks would be picturesque.
We managed to see 4 out of the 5 villages and had a walk around the villages as well! I think it was really quiet because we travelled during off peak season, and everything was easily accessible. I can only imagine how crazy busy all these places must be in the summer; so if you are travelling in the summer, I would imagine you would need at least half a day to explore each village properly!
Day 5: Levanto
On the last day we decided to head out early to make a quick stop at ‘Levanto’ before reaching Milan. After spending a full day hoping from village to village, it was a nice change to be on a long sandy beach, with lots of shops and good restaurants. This popular sea resort is surrounded by a green valley of pine forests, olive groves, vineyards and small medieval villages.
It was so apparent that we were traveling in an off-peak season as the beaches, streets, hotels and restaurants were completed deserted. Most touristy places were shut when we went so we didn’t get to see many places.
We went for a slow stroll by the beach and I asked a group of friends to take a photo of me and Ahmed (I got a bit fed up of using our selfie stick by this point). One guy immediately ran to us and volunteered to take the photo. He was so cheeky he quickly ran next to me and took a selfie with me and Ahmed!! It’s memories like these that make me travel more and more!
We got to Milan later on in the evening and went straight to our AirbnB. Towards the end of our journey, I was really quite poorly. I think may have even had a chest infection and a very high temperature, but I was adamant I didn’t want to spend the New Year indoors so after some bickering, we left our AirBnB to make our way towards the town centre. I managed to persuade Ahmed as I told him there were going to be all these amazing fireworks.
As we arrived at the Cathedral it truly did look so beautiful. But as soon as we got there, the entire place was surrounded with Police presence. Most food places were either closed or had massive queues outside.
We managed to find a somewhat quiet and less rowdy place opposite the Cathedral and watched a little concert where they played Italian music. It was quite pleasant and the atmosphere was pretty good! Anyways this local concert thing outside the cathedral ended just after midnight and there were NO fireworks.
Total anti climax.
It was now after 12am, we were both exhausted and I genuinely felt so so unwell. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, it started to absolutely CHUCK it down and we didn’t have an umbrella. Our phone batteries were also low as we had been taking photos and making videos of this concert that we couldn’t understand a word of.
We walked in the crazy rain to the nearest tram station along with a tonne of people. We waited and waited and waited for bus/tram for over an hour whilst getting drenched but it seemed that nothing was going to happen (we were a bit too far and too tired to walk back). Just to put things into perspective, we couldn’t find a taxi either. We were mindful that our batteries were really low too and we had very little options left. In the end we decided to WALK to our Airbnb – Ahmed in an awful mood with me and walking in front of me and me coughing behind him trying to catch up! I honestly thought we would never get there!!! As we walked a bit further, guess what happened?! The tram that we had been waiting for started to go past us. I swear in that moment in time I felt like I found my inner Mo Farah. I ran like I’ve never ran before whilst choking on my cough. We (just about) managed to jump on the tram (like they do in Bollywood films lol). We eventually got to our Airbnb, thanks heavens!
Good job we were going home the following day!
Little did I know that Italy was going to be our last holiday for the next 6 months 🙂 I will be sharing our itinerary on Portugal, where we went for our ‘baby-moon’. Be sure to check it out and do subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out new blogposts.
As you know we have only been traveling to countries where applying for a visa for Ahmed is straight forward. The application was really quick and easy from what I recall. We applied by filling in an application form and sending it to the embassy in London. It came back within a few weeks. Obviously thanks to Corona, I don’t know where things stand at present.
To be honest, I didn’t really think about how it would be to travel with a 4 month old Nael at the time. I was just too excited to get on a plane and out of the country after almost a year. I didn’t really think about the weather or the obstacles of travelling with a small baby. And in hindsight I think it was a good thing as I just took it in my stride.
The plane journey itself was absolutely fine Alhamdulillah. Nael either sept or fed throughout so it was a breeze, contrary to how he was throughout the trip. He screamed and cried all night, waking up every 30 mins or so wanting a feed. I think he was going through some crazy sleep regression. On top of that he was going through a phase where he refused to drink from a bottle which meant Ahmed couldn’t help. According to Ahmed, Nael was perfectly fine during the trip…. isn’t it amazing how deluded they can be when they don’t do the feeding!!
But we got through it and we now have these amazing memories and stories we can look back on and that is exactly why I love to travel and want to show Nael as much as we can.
We stayed in Radisson Blu Resort which was basic but met all our needs and had a really nice breakfast. Due high winds and rain, their pool areas were flooded, but that didnt really affect our trip as we didn’t intend on going anyway. Heres the link for those of you who may be interested:
We also hired a car for three days through the hotel. It was reasonably priced and hassle free! They even provided a car seat for Nael.
As always I had an itinerary ready! I knew roughly where we would be going each day and had saved the route in my google maps. But for the first time in our travels, we had to make major alterations to our itinerary. Nael was only 4 months but he HATED the car seat and screamed like never before. It was HORRENDOUS. To the point where Ahmed and I were really perplexed as to what we should do and considered going back to the hotel.
We had intended on going to Valetta, the main city in Malta. But the parking situation, WOW, just WOW. It was intense. So instead of spending a lifetime trying to fit into a 2 metre parking space, we decided to scrap our itinerary and go to the cities we intended on going on the second day.
This place reminded me so so much of Qatar, I almost felt homesick!
With a number of interesting attractions, lovely architecture, and a wonderful cafe culture, one can easily spend a leisurely day exploring this unique place. But because of its small size, there aren’t a lot of things to do in Rabat and it can easily be combined with its neighbouring town of Mdina.
We spent some time roaming around and just admiring the architecture that felt so familiar.
I was SO excited to go to the Popeye Village that I didn’t really realise that Mdina is right opposite Rabat… oooops. To be honest I have no regrets as when we went to the Popeye village it was crazy windy and there were hardly any people around.
Popeye village, as you can tell by the name was a film set built in the 1980’s. Those of you who are old enough to remember the film Popeye, Robin Williams played the hilarious character of Popeye.
Enter a world where fantasy meets reality: 20 structures that make up this authentic wooden village.
We strolled around this gorgeous set completely mesmerised as our inner child was desperate to come out. Due to the weather and the time of the year, there were hardly any tourists and most of the places were shut. I can only imagine how lively and fun this place would have been if it was peak season.
Popeye Village is a reason alone to visit Malta as it is something i have never seen anywhere else before. From the scenic views, the architecture and most importantly the fun element is immersed in all corners of this small village tucked by the sea.
The main attraction in this area of Malta is medieval Mdina. Mdina, or The Silent City, is one of the most popular day trip spots in Malta and it’s easy to see why. This majestic walled city was the capital of Malta for thousands of years. By the time we got to Mdina, everything was closed and the alleyways were completely deserted.
We managed to see so much on day two, it was almost as though we were beginning to get a hang of travelling with a baby. I was no longer paranoid, anxious and nervous about feeding Nael. I’d wait for him to give me some cues and we would take a break to relax and feed him. Perks of breastfeeding meant we didn’t have to worry about bottles. I was always there to feed him!
We started off by visiting Valletta, Malta’s capital city! It is a city like no other. The whole city of Valletta has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status and it’s easy to see why. Located on a steep hill, just getting a parking space felt like a complete exam! Luckily I wasn’t the one driving, Ahmed was. lol!
Valletta is known for museums, palaces and grand churches. The Baroque landmarks include St. John’s Co-Cathedral; painted in gold and covered in gorgeous marble, it was gorgeous! Luckily for me Nael was asleep in the baby carrier so I really was able to take it all in.
A stone’s throw away is the Upper Barrakka Gardens, perched on the bastions overlooking the sparkling expanse of the Grand Harbour, one of the world’s great maritime sanctuaries and the heart of Maltese history.
After spending a good few hours of exploring Valletta, we decided to head over to Marsaxlokk. Not going to lie, i knew nothing about this place, except from seeing really pretty photos! But I started to research and found that Marsaxlokk is a small, traditional fishing village in the South Eastern Region of Malta. It has a harbour, and is a tourist attraction known for its views, fishermen and history.
When we went it was completely quiet with hardly any tourists and most of the restaurants were also closed. But one of my favourite memories from this place was going into the only restaurant that was open. I was nursing Nael in a little corner and when I looked up, another mama was sat across the room nursing her little one too. We got chatting and they said they were visiting from the Netherlands and had been in Malta for a few days now. We made a small talk, but that moment felt really quite special, especially since we had babies the same age and were finding some space for nursing our little ones while our partners were fussing over us!
Straight from Marsaxlokk, we quickly headed over the Peters Pool as I had heard/read about how gorgeous this ‘natural swimming pool’ was. It sure didn’t let us down! Located not too far from Marsaxlokk, there is no public transport to take you there so the only options are to hire a car like we did, taking a taxi or walking!
We went back to the St Julian’s area for some foodcompletely and utterly knackered but fulfilled. We could not find any halal places at the time, but it wasn’t until i came back someone said there are tonnes of halal food places. It’s something you’d have to look into as I personally am always happy to have Veggie and Seafood when I am on holiday.
Lets be real, whoever hears about Malta immediately starts to visualise the clear blue waters and pretty landscapes! Well this is it. A short Ferry ride away from Malta gets you to the picturesque Gozo Island. As we had hired a car, we just took the car onto the Ferry! Nael’s first Ferry trip too. Woop!
I didn’t necessarily have much of a plan for Gozo, except from Azure Window, also known as the Dwejra Window, was a 28-metre-tall natural arch. Sadly just a couple of years before our visit, the natural ‘window’ collapsed due to severe weather conditions. Nonetheless, so many of us went to see this beautiful place and I am glad we did.
We also randomly found the following places that came up on google maps! These are the places we found and took a little break to see:
Tal-Mixta Cave, See Ta’Pinu Basilica & Wied il-Ghasri.
We then went to the Cathedral of Gozo towards the end of the day. The Cittadella has a breathtaking 360-degree panorama of Gozo’s hills, valleys, villages and Churches as well as the views accross to Malta. As soon as we arrived we realised why there was so much mayhem and so many people all over the city. We found out that the entire place will be lit up for the evening for a festival of lights called ‘Lejl Imkebbes (Mediterranean Diwali). There was a wonderful, magical atmosphere and the quaint narrow streets were illuminated by more than 30,000 candles of all forms.
Overall I think Malta was the perfect holiday get away as a family of three and new parents. The country is small, accessible and the people were super friendly. If you have any questions, let me know and I would love to answer.
How to spend 48 hours in Copenhagen
Sometimes a change of scenery and routine is all that the mind and body needs. Not having to think about making the bed, cooking meals, planning and organising the days and even having to replace the loo rolls (you know what I mean, right?) are just the mundane things about day to day life that I LOVE to escape.
Copenhagen came at the perfect time for us. I initially booked the weekend trip for our 5 year wedding anniversary but the tickets were too expensive for that time of the year (April). It didn’t really matter when we went I guess as long as we did something to mark our half a decade long relationship. Sounds insane even typing that as it feels like yesterday when we got married! Almost feel like Ahmed deserves an award for the occasion. Or two…Lol.
Anyways, end of February was the cheapest in terms of the flight prices. We paid around £150 for the three of us to jet off together for a weekend. We flew out on Friday evening and returned on Monday night which meant we had THREE FULL days abroad (yey)!
As it happened, the week before our departure date, Ahmed had to fly over to Pakistan which meant I wasn’t able to plan or organise AT ALL in terms of packing, buying last min bits & bobs. Solo parenting ain’t fun ya’all. I just about managed to keep me and Nael alive.
Planning an itinerary
Luckily I had already preplanned our itinerary one day randomly while on my lunch at work so I wasn’t panicking about where to go, what to eat etc. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am ridiculous when it comes to planning and making an itinerary for a trip. I like to know exactly where we’re going, what the most popular places and landmarks are. Of course who am I kidding. I want to know where the grammable places are!
As anyone with children can appreciate, travelling with a 15 month old toddler means that we have to alter our itinerary somewhat to suit his needs. Nothing ever really goes according to plan and the dream of taking the most grammable photos goes down the drain (true story). Especially when your child is having a meltdown because they do not want the rain cover over on their pram even though it’s absolutely lashing it down with rain. You then opt for Plan B which is to find somewhere indoors (toy shop…??) and give them snacks to calm the situation down.
And we’re okay with that. We’re okay with not seeing EVERYTHING on the list as long as what we do see is fun and memorable for us all. This mindset really helps us to enjoy our holiday as we are much more flexible!
We started the day by having brunch in a gorgeous little cafe called Daizy. In Copenhagen they have a pretty awesome concept of having a platter with different options including eggs, croissant, cheese, and yogurt.
We then headed off to the city’s main street called Stroget which was really busy despite the rainy weather and strong winds. We instantly thought that the city was truly full of charm and had an element of class in terms of the buildings, and even the locals who were dressed immaculately. There were lots of colourful buildings all around the different streets that looked like a painting!
Our first visit was to Rundetarn (The Round Tower) located in the town centre. What I loved the most about the round tower was how accessible, pram and wheelchair friendly it was. We were able to easily stroll almost to the top of the tower by just pushing Nael in his pram. Towards the top we managed to park his his pram and walk up some steps to get the roof stop views. This is not something we have come across when visiting places with panoramic views of the city. What I also loved was that they had a huge hall aimed towards children, with lots of activities like colouring and crafts, huge soft toys scattered around and a seating area where we chose to give Nael his lunch. And as you can see in the middle photo, he even got to sit on a fake horse!
This Castle is super gorgeous! As you begin approaching the castle you find yourself stood in large, perfectly maintained gardens, full of different statues and a long row of trees. I could really feel the Danish history walking through the gardens and approaching the castle. There was a long wait to get into the castle but we didn’t mind as it was pouring it down and we were under a shade for most of it! Once we entered the castle, we found ourselves in rooms that are kept in the style from that time, and beautiful art. As you leave the castle you enter the amazing treasury full of crowns and jewels belonging to the kings and queens.
This gorgeous church has the 4th largest dome in Europe. Whi wudda thought, right? You can’t miss the church’s copper green dome when walking down the street. Oddly enough the church is not marble, but limestone. It’s named the marble church because they longed to have one, but the construction was slow and budgets were cut. The church, also known as Frederik’s Church, is immaculately decorated inside with statues and rococo architecture.
We woke up and had a bit of a chilled morning. Because of Nael’s allergies we brought some cereal and fruit with us and he had his breakfast in the hotel room. I didn’t want to risk anything while we were away so I packed and organised all his meals beforehand. We had a good look on the internet to see what other breakfast places were around but they all seemed a lot more expensive so we decided to return to Daizy’s.
We then headed to the famous area in Copenhagen called Nyhavn which was around the corner from our hotel. The gorgeous colourful buildings and canal reminded me a bit of Amsterdam for some odd reason! There are many ways to see the city of Copenhagen, but we chose to walk for all of it. But if you wanted and the weather permitted, you could board a boat near Nyhavn harbour area and discover a whole new perspective of Copenhagen.
Without a doubt, one of the most interesting parts of Copenhagen is Christiania and the most fascinating strolls of my travels so far. It’s a community for alternative thinking where anything goes. It’s a true independent anarchist community with their own set of rules. You can freely buy weed in former military barracks. There’s also small shops, food, and a skate park. Almost 1000 people live in Christiania, technically as squatters in a former military base. My favourite thing about the visit was the wall art and the different murals around the town.
Tivoli Gardens is one of the most well known places in Copenhagen. It is the world’s second oldest amusement park, and it’s amazing that it’s still thriving after all these years. This is Europe’s most famous theme park and it’s easy to stick around for a few hours for rides, to eat the diverse foods in the food courts or do what we did: just walked around. Every few hours they offer a free show but we didn’t get to see one as we wanted to head back in time for Nael’s bed time. It’s said that this quaint theme park inspired Disney Land!
Overall Copenhagen was just such a lovely break and we really enjoyed our slow, yet satisfying weekend there. On the third day we headed over to Malmo in Sweden as it is only 35 minutes on the train and why not?!
Hotel: Copenhagen Admiral hotel
Spending money: At least £150 per day
Let’s have some real talk. I had zero intentions of visiting this part of the world. I know a cousin of mine visited a few years ago and she didn’t speak very highly of it. That was about as much as i knew about the country…. UNTIL RECENTLY.
After following the very amazing “Expat Panda’ for some time, I followed her stories, posts and blogpost about Tunisia and I instantly knew that I wanted to visit. As it happened my maternity leave was coming to an end and I had hit a massive big wall of low moods and wanting an escape. I looked into whether it would be easy for Ahmed to apply for a visa and actually it was probably the easiest visas to apply for. We literally just sent the passport, a copy of his residence card and an application form to the embassy, and within a couple of weeks we got the visa. Alhamdulillah it all worked out quite well and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
We booked our first all inclusive holiday with TUI and stayed in an okay’ish hotel but the staff were absolutely amazing. We stayed in Hammamet and before even getting to Tunisia we agreed that this was going to be a fairly chilled out holiday as we needed to unwind and enjoy each others company as a family. Hammamet is a popular tourist destination with tonnes of hotels, beaches and particularly known for Jasmine (the flower).
But of course as you know me, I can’t just chill! I want to see, feel and experience everything! So on our first day we decided to get the taxi into the Hammamet, Old Medina. As soon as we stepped out of the taxi we met someone who said he worked at our hotel in the kitchen & he would take us & show us around (clever people these guys, they read your wristband which has your hotel name on then try to befriend you). Of course, my advice would be not to fall for it and tell them you’re not interested!
The Old medina holds historic features but we didn’t see too much as we had the pram and it was particularly hot so we didn’t know how Nael would be as it was his first time in such a hot country. Locals there are not too pushy but you just have to be polite and refuse! Yes they will try and persuade you into every shop and try to get you to buy everything but we never felt unsafe or really ‘hassled’. If you said no and walked away they left you to it!
We then went to the new Hamammet, however, not much to report as everything was closed. We walked around aimlessly in the heat and didn’t really enjoy it as there was literally nothing to do. However, we heard that during peak season, there are lots of activities and rides for children!
We alternated the days and ended up chilling for a day… but of course that got a bit boring for me so I encouraged Ahmed to agree with me and we hired a taxi and drove to Tunis. Tunis is the Capital city of Tunisia and we LOVED Tunis! Although there were elections going on when we visited and most things were closed. It kind of worked in our favour as we wandered around aimlessly and got lost in the quiet souqs of Tunis.
We didn’t stay there for very long, but what limited time we did have there was positive. I do wish we had gone for longer and also spent more time exploring the local sites, such as Carthage and The National Bardo Museum. But perhaps you can check them out and let me know how they were?!
Sidi Bou Said
The reason why we didn’t spend a full day in Tunis was because we also wanted to take the opportunity and visit the famous Sidi Bou Said. You could easily have mistaken this place for Santorini… I mean not that I have been to Santorini, but I would imagine it’s very comparable in terms of the white and blue buildings and structures.
As much as I did think Sidi Bou Said was gorgeous, I also thought it was SO BUSY, and when you’re pushing a pram uphill under the scorching heat, things aren’t always as pretty as they probably are!
We ate at a gorgeous cafe called, Cafe Des Delices where we ordered a pretty tasty pizza and fries…. but check this out… They didn’t serve COKE! I know??! We also discovered a gorgeous Museum called Dar El Annabi. If you do visit Sidi Bou Said, you must check it out as its so gorgeous! Another thing that you cannot miss is the Bambalouni; They are made with flour, hot water, yeast, and salt. After the dough has been prepared, it is fried in hot oil until golden brown, and the doughnuts are then sprinkled with sugar on top. DIVINE!!!
Monastir, El Kantaoui and Sousse
During our last couple of days at the hotel we decided to take a tour with the hotel tour guide and went on a three city tour which covered Monastir, Sousse and El Kantaoui. As I write about this trip, I am quite sad as it didn’t live up to the expectations. The entire tour was very rushed and we barely got to see anything.
Also believe it or not, it was absolutely chucking it down during our journey to Monastir. A lot of people decided to stay in the coach but we decided to brave it. We chucked Nael on a sling, put our coats on and ran to see The Bourguiba mausoleum This landmark is a monumental grave in Monastir, Tunisia, containing the remains of former president Habib Bourguiba, the father of Tunisian independence. Due to the rain, we didn’t see much else and drove straight to Sousse.
We went to Sousse straight after and luckily for us the rain finally stopped and we managed to have a very quick walk around the Souqs. The tour guide did suggest looking at the shops but we opted to check out the Madina of Sousse, a historic architecture with beautiful views of the city! I think there was probably so much more of Sousse that we didn’t get to see because our trip was guided by the tour guide.
We then headed off to El Kantanoiu, If you’re reading this, don’t bother. IT was a complete waste of time!
This was probably the first holiday that Ahmed and I actually managed to do quite a bit of relaxation. We just wanted to enjoy the nice weather and have some chilled out days with Nael. I’m so glad we did as we both came back refreshed for a change. Usually we go on holiday and need another holiday after! lol!
It’s amazing how much your holidays and wish lists change once you’ve had a baby. And that’s okay because we have to be flexible and willing to adapt accordingly!
If you want a holiday that is relaxed, nice beaches and amazing hospitality, then get booked on ASAP!