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:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SouthManchesterMuslimWalking

https://smmwgroup.wixsite.com/smmuslimwalkinggroup

Italy

Italy: 5 Cities in 5 days!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Milan

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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.

Malta

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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.

Accommodation

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:

https://www.booking.com/hotel/mt/radisson-sas-bay-point-resort.en-gb.html?label=gen173nr-1FCAEoggI46AdIM1gEaFCIAQGYAQm4AQfIAQzYAQHoAQH4AQuIAgGoAgO4ApPzmfcFwAIB0gIkZTg5YWM2NjUtY2Y5Ny00N2JhLWIxMzMtMzA3YzgzM2U2NjE12AIG4AIB;sid=0118ea4a027ee3bfd061db9a1ef139e6;dest_id=-19052;dest_type=city;dist=0;from_beach_non_key_ufi_sr=1;group_adults=2;group_children=0;hapos=1;hpos=1;no_rooms=1;room1=A%2CA;sb_price_type=total;sr_order=popularity;srepoch=1592162735;srpvid=b2a08897aaf6008e;type=total;ucfs=1&

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.

Day 1

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.

Rabat

 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.

Popeye village

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.

Mdina

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.

Day 2

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!

Valletta

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.

Marsaxlokk

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!

Peters Pool

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.

Day 3

Gozo

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.

Copenhagen

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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!

Day 1

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!

Rundetårn

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!

Rosenborg Castle

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.

Marble Church

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.

Day 2

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.

Nyvahn

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.

Christiana Freetown

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

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?!

Additional info:

Hotel: Copenhagen Admiral hotel

Flights: easyJet

Spending money: At least £150 per day

Tunisia

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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).

Old Hammamet

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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!

Tunis

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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

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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!

Relaxation!

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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!

Turkey: Cappadocia

Oh hello bucket list destination….!

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-08 at 16.37.46In August 2014 I saw a photo of a cave hotel posted by a traveller called ‘fameisficklefood’ and all I remember thinking is how I had never seen anything quite like it! At that point I had barely travelled and therefore my knowledge and understanding of ‘what’s out there’ was limited. Since the day I saw that photo, I researched the hell out of Cappadocia. I spent ages reading about it, looking at hotels in the area and dreaming of visiting one day. At the time I wasn’t really convinced it would happen but I made a list of places I would like to see and experience.

Our hotel Museum Hotel was an experience on it’s own. It is located in the Uchisar region and feature a terrace with panoramic valley views with a heated outdoor pool.  

It is by far one of the most amazing places I have ever had the pleasure to stay (a close second after our hotel in Thailand)!

Looking back at all the photos from the hotel makes me feel extremely grateful that we were in a position to experience something like it. The hotel was absolutely impeccable. From their service, cleanliness, communication, everything was perfect!

Day 1

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Of course the first thing you think of when you hear the word Cappadocia is ‘hot air balloons’. We started the day off by taking a ride on the hot air balloon. We woke up at crazy o’ clock (around 4am to be precise) as we were going to be picked up around 4.30am. The hot air balloon company collected us from our hotel and took us to a tiny little restaurant for breakfast… which wasn’t anything special.

After rallying at the restaurant, we continued our journey and headed towards the location where we were set to take off from. The experience was amazing, but there weren’t as many hot air balloons around. I think the unstable political situation in Turkey (2016 coup incident in Istanbul and Ankara) definitely had a massive impact on Turkey’s tourism around that time. The locals all commented on how it was unusual for their to be hardly any tourists around.

Roaming around Uchisar

After coming back from the ride, we had the most amazing breakfast ever! As we were the only guests for breakfast that day (absolutely no reflection on the hotel), we took up the option to being served breakfast out on the balcony rather than the dining area. The breakfast spread was such that we had to be served food on two tables in order to accommodate all the crockery!

Ahmed and I have the curse of restiveness when it comes to being on holidays and off we went to explore the local ‘things to do’.

Quad bike tour

Jumping on the quad bikes was never in our plans and actually we were thinking of staying in the hotel and making the most of it. But since neither of us know how to ‘relax’, we both agreed to experience the quad bikes! I am sooo glad we did. I can honestly say that exploring Cappadocia on the quad bikes was a bit of a highlight for me. I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. The adrenaline rush was so real!

Day 2

I woke up (and forced Ahmed to wake up) mega early to witness one of the most incredible sunrises covered by the hot air balloons. It felt magical being able to just sit there and take in the beautiful scenery. I think it would be fair to say that whoever visits Cappadocia wakes up early at least one morning to witness this?

Devrent Valley (Imagination Valley)

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We decided to hire the car and visit some local places throughout the day. Our first stop was Devrent Valley. For some reason we didn’t really stop here for too long as I think we may have got lost for a little while and ended up driving to our next destination. We it was worth a break and some photo opportunities!

Zelve Open Air Museum

The next stop was probably my favourite part of the day and one that I will definitely not forget any time soon. This cave town was home to one of the largest cave-dwelling communities in the region. Christians and Muslims lived here harmoniously until the 1920’s when the Greek-Orthodox Christians were driven out of Turkey. Muslims continued to live in their Zelve cave homes until 1952 when they were deemed too dangerous to inhabit for structural reasons.

What we liked most about the Zelve Open Air Museum is how freely we were able to explore the different abandoned homes and churches. There were also very few people visiting Zelve at the time, so we were able to roam freely and really imagine what it might have been like to live in this extraordinary homes only a short 65 years ago.

  Pasabag Valley (Monks Valley)

The only memory I have of this place is seeing that lady in the photo on the right. She gave me the most gorgeous smile and waved as I was getting excited about being there. I then waved back and asked her if I could take a photo and she gave me a thumbs up. She seemed so excited that I was taking a photo of her, so I did. I even had a lovely selfie with her that she seemed to be impressed by!

Goreme Open Air Museum

This was another open air museum that we went to. If memory serves me right, we didn’t end up getting the tickets to visit the museum, instead we walked around and enjoyed our surroundings!

Kaymakali Underground City

Derinkuyu Underground City

We ended up visiting two underground cities in Cappadocia during our visit. It was the underground cities that took us by surprise. Even though these were a bit out of the way from Cappadocia, it was worth the visit to see how people had carved out dwellings underground. The concept left us awestruck and we ended up taking a silly amount of pictures. The best thing that we did when visiting them was to book a tour guide who talked us through the history and told us stories about them!

Day 3

Time to say goodbye… to Turkey and to each other.. Until next time!

Turkey: Istanbul

How to experience a coup in Istanbul….

So far I have taken you guys on so many trips with me. I have spoken about my wedding, followed by my honeymoon, my surprise birthday weekend in Dubai and my experience of performing Umrah. Most of which I had a part to play in.

But this is a strange blogpost for me to write as I literally had absolutely nothing to do with the itinerary or the planning. Plus at the time, my brain was so full of issues around the spouse visa, new job, and struggles of a long distance marriage that I didn’t necessarily think about the holiday much. Throughout this holiday I lived every second in the moment.

And actually, writing this blogpost has reminded me that we had initially planned and booked to go to Bali, but because of Ahmed not being able to get a visa from Qatar, we weren’t able to go. We ended up losing money for the holiday and Turkey was a very last minute plan!

To make matters somewhat more interesting, a series of very interesting events aka the attempted coup happened while we were in Turkey. It was described as “the bloodiest coup attempt in its political history”. On 15th July 2016 a section of the Turkish military launched a coordinated operation in several major cities to topple the government and unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Day 1

Arriving at the airport and seeing Ahmed there after three very long months felt magical. Ahmed had landed a few hours ahead of me and had his bearings sorted. When I landed, we took the train/tram to the hotel, dumped my luggage and off we went exploring the city. After what was supposed to be a brief walk (but wasn’t) around to some nearby historic sites, we found ourselves tucked away in a Turkish restaurant, noses buried behind a menu, trying to make the impossible decision of what food to order.

Needless to say the food was extremely flavoursome and well presented: splendid. Making nothing of the airplanes and helicopters flying overhead every now and then, we made our way to the hotel. At this point, neither of us had had any sleep in the last 36 odd hours (trying to complete work related milestones before the holiday and because of awkward flight times) so we crashed out as soon as we got the hotel.

We woke up in the morning to a gazillion missed called between us. Both our parents and friends had tried to get in contact with us, sent us several messages asking if we were okay.

Completely confused and disgruntled, we called back and were ‘requested’ to turn the telly on! Only to find that the entire country was under a state of emergency and that there had been a failed coup attempt while the pair of us were snoring away. There were helicopters flying over our hotel and tanks were seen at around the bosphorus region.

Despite being advised to stay indoors, we didn’t want to waste time staying in the hotel so we mutually agreed we’d go out and figure whether we should explore further.

Oh and another perk was that during our visit to Istanbul, the metros were free and we did not have to pay anything for the public transport while we were there.

Blue Mosque

We went straight to the ‘Blue Mosque’ which, to be fair, was only round the corner. Blue mosque is an iconic place in Istanbul and you often hear people wanting to visit Istanbul to see ‘the blue mosque’. It is located within the central district and easily reachable via train. From what I’ve heard other people say, it is usually extremely busy and crowded, however , due to the coupe saga our experience was quite the opposite.

There were hardly any people in sight and we found ourselves to be the only crazy ones surrounded by the gorgeous, breathtaking Blue Mosque.

Hagia Sophia

Just a stone throw away from the Blue Mosque, we wandered over to the stunning Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is a huge museum. It was originally a church built in 537 AD, became a mosque in 1453 until 1931. Then later opened as a museum in 1935. It is a huge building with an impressive dome and beautiful chandeliers.

I found this to be a gorgeous site with rich history of both Islam and Christianity. The building itself is amazing, and the remaining mosaics are absolutely beautiful. Just the size of of the interior, the high arches and the  will blow you away.

Topkapi palace

The Topkapi is an enormous palace which was the Imperial residence of Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. Although much of the palace is not accessible, the daily tours of the Harem are definitely worth it!

I would say you can easily spend over two hours to visit the site. The best way to visit the palace is to purchase a museum pass. There are two entrances to the palace. One is near the archeological museum and the other is beside Hagia Sofia (opposite to Blue Mosque).

The Holy relics area was particularly interesting for both Ahmed and myself. There were  relics from the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) including his beard, tooth and sword as well as those from other notable prophets including the sword of Hazrat Ali.

The Bazaars

Nope, we are still not quite done! You can tell Ahmed planned the itinerary!

Despite being exhausted he said ‘we can’t miss the bazaars’, so off  we went in search for the bazaars. Apparently there are two kinds of bazaars, the spice bazaar and the golden bazaar. Sadly all the bazaars were shut due to the coup. The streets were empty and silent with only a handful of locals being around. Perhaps one of the most peculiar experiences!

In hindsight I think this may have been a complete blessing as I was completely knackered and not sure how I would have dealt with the hustle and bustle of how the bazaars usually are.

Day 2

It’s fair to say I woke up feeling extremely knackered and my legs were aching, but Ahmed had another day of lots of walking and exploring planned! So here we go!

Bosphorus Cruise

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We started our day by taking the metro down to the cruise tours of the Bosphorus. Bosphorus forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, and separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey. Fascinating, I know!

We didn’t really do much research before going on a cruise and hopped onto the first boat that was departing. I LOVED this tour and would highly recommend this to anyone… I mean maybe its because my legs ached and the cruise meant that I could sit for a couple of hours! The bosphorous cruise takes you from the European side to the Asian and back, via ferry. The entire trip takes about 1.5-2 hours and we were able to appreciate the beautiful houses, mosques and palaces that dot the shore line.

Galata Tower

All cities do or at least should have a ‘view point’, right? Well Galata Tower is Istanbul’s view point! Built in 500 A.D., Galata Tower is one of the dominating landmarks of Istanbul and was used as a watchtower to help defend the city.

You pay a fee at the bottom of the tower, the wait and the queues can be quite annoying, but I think its worth the wait and sweat! If waiting isn’t really your thing or you’re afraid of heights, I wouldn’t recommend going up. However, I still think that the location is worth a visit. It’s surrounded by some gorgeous narrow streets and tasty turkish food!

Taskim Square

This wasn’t really my cup of tea if I am honest. When I travel, I prefer not to be surrounded by shops and high street brands. However, people who love shopping and  enjoy the ‘city feel’. This would be completely up your street because you can shop till you drop!

Day 3

Ahmed and I thought we had covered most of the ‘must see’s’ in Istanbul. So a friend of mine who had visited earlier in the year told me to visit two places. So we decided to take her advice and go on another day of exploring.

Eyup Sultan Mosque

This mosque complex is built adjacent to the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. A companion of Prophet Muhammad SAW that hosted him after his arrival in Madinah. He was buried outside the walls of Constantinople and was over 80 years old.

Cafe pierre loti

The area is located near Eyup Sultan Mosque and you can take a cable car ride to the top  of the hill to a place called ‘Cafe Pierre Loti’. The cable ride itself it rather underwhelming and takes around 2 minutes or so to reach the top. Once you get to the top, the views are great to take pictures. However, the café is crowded and you may find it difficult to get table. The prices at the cafe are also above average, so we chose just to have some cold drinks before heading back to the centre of Istanbul and stuffing our  faces with some delicious turkish food!

Walking around aimlessly around Istanbul’s streets & taking photos…

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After coming back from the Eyüp district of Istanbul we headed back towards the Blue Mosque. We spent a couple of hours wandering around and absorbing the surroundings! There was something really quite special about Istanbul and the ambiance in the area despite the fact that the country had suffered from a coup during our visit.

Day 4

Cappadocia…… YES!!!

On day 4 we took a flight to the ‘bucket list’ kinda place, Cappadocia. I am writing another blogpost with our Cappadocia itinerary for those that may be interested or planning a visit!

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A sneak peak of our cave hotel in Cappadocia to make you come back for the blogpost 😉