Incredible Iguazu

Shereen Shabnam

Before the pandemic, we ventured to Argentina to get up, close and personal with the famed Iguazu Falls and while there were some great hotels closer to the natural attractions, I spent my nights in Mercure Iguazu surrounded by nature.

The hotel is located in the middle of a natural reserve and built with natural wood and stone that blends in with nature and offers guests a warm ambience. The best part of my stay was a relaxing massage at the spa and relaxation time by the infinity pool surrounded by a forest after a long day at the Cataratas.

After a good nights rest, I spent a full day at the Iguazu National Park which is a total of 55,500 hectares. Surrounded by a lush subtropical rainforest, I enjoyed the majestic Iguazú Waterfalls, the most important and spectacular waterfalls which is also one of the seven wonders of the world.

It is taller than Niagara Falls, twice as wide with 275 cascades spread in a horseshoe shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River. It is the most dramatic waterfalls in the world with panoramic walkways.

Via different footbridges, we visited the heart of the waterfalls, appreciating them from different angles and refreshed ourselves with the waterfall drizzle at the bottom.

On the upper circuit, we enjoyed the different viewpoints until we reached the balcony at Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). Without doubt, this is the most amazing of all falls where water falls down from 80 meters. 

At the end of the excursion, we ventured to the border, which is a stone’s throw away from Brazil and Paraguay. It is incredible to be able to step foot into three countries in one day if adventurous visitors wanted to experience it.

After a long day of exploring nature, it was a delight to come back to the comfort of the hotel. The hotel is located at the heart of the Iryapú Jungle, just 20 minutes from Puerto Iguazu International Airport and close to the region’s main tourist attractions. All the rooms offer free WiFi, balconies, LCD TVs with satellite channels, minibar, room service and hair dryers to guests.

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Living by Design – Magical Milan

Shereen Shabnam

All roads lead to Milan – no matter which industry I write for, somehow, I end up in Milan each year.  As Italy’s city of the future, it is a fast-paced metropolis where creativity is big business and looking good is an art form with fashion, food, art and architecture being pillars of life.

I have driven luxury cars here, visited shipyards to look at yachts being conceptualised, attended art and fashion galas, learnt how technology helps motorcycle riders perform better on racetracks and even represented my company in a science centre congress one year.

Milan has an ancient and fascinating history and is an important industrial and cultural centre with its own art collections, an interesting literary heritage and a vibrant social and music scene. It is a city where natural wonders, old world romance and ancient art merge seamlessly with new age design trends, financial hubs and urban steel.

Milan is not just a fashion capital. It attracts as many artists, artisans, and architects as possible and the city boasts an impressive, sustainable architecture with a futuristic skyline modelled by Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and César Pelli. The city is also home to new start-ups and global companies like Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and Apple.

Architecture is what I appreciate most about Milan. Buildings range from the Renaissance-style Santa Maria delle Grazie church, a Unesco World Heritage Site, to the 19th-century shopping plaza, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The art-nouveau townhouses come with stained-glass windows, detailed floral motifs and ornate metalwork but what fascinates me most is Bosco Verticale (vertical forest), a metropolitan reforestation project devised to regenerate urban biodiversity with trees, shrubs and plants covering luxury apartment buildings.

Art enthusiasts go to Milan for the many museums and art galleries. It is home to one of the most famous Renaissance paintings in history, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper (1494-1498) with unrivalled collections of Italian modernism and one can see works of artists such as Umberto Boccioni and Lucio Fontana as well.

Food in Milan delights all your senses and are typically rich and hearty, with meat, risotto, pasta and pizza taking centre stage. My hosts always recommend dishes where I can sprinkle their famous local cheese on the dishes. When I am attending an event, we always start our evenings with a reception where local cheeses, freshly cut vegetables, crisps, cured meats, olives and local bread are served before dinner.

For travellers looking for great photo opportunities, the imposing gothic cathedral that took nearly six centuries to complete is the perfect backdrop. Visitors can climb up to the rooftop and have sweeping views of the city with close-up views of the menacing gargoyles and intricate spires on the building.

Retail therapy in Milan is a must as the city is home to the biggest names in the fashion industry, such as Valentino, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani and my favourite brand Missoni. I almost cried when the Missoni shop in City Walk across my home closed and I had to venture into the bigger malls to get clothes that were accessible to the masses.

Shopping in Milan is not limited to just clothes, bags and shoes. Milan’s art deco and furniture brands are trendsetters in interior design. The city is a hub for designers, with showrooms, studios and outlets welcoming international buyers all year round.

Performing arts and theatre is a big deal in Italy and Milan is no different. The Teatro alla Scala, built in 1770s is a must visit. I come from a family of theatre buffs with my husband being an award-winning theatre actor and a daughter who studied drama all her life and has attended more theatre shows than movies so the first thing we check out on a holiday is theatre shows.  Teatro alla Scala is a spectacular performance hall with red velvet, brocade and gold elements giving it a lavish ambience.

To get around Milan, try out the yellow tram which is a famous symbol of Milan. Some of the trams running in Milan are versions of the original 19th- and 20th-century designs while some come with wooden interiors, long benches and glass lamps dotted along the ceiling. You can be transported to a bygone era while exploring Milan.

Post pandemic, Milan may just be the first city we will venture to for a dose of the best food, culture, art and of course cars. You can fly there directly with Emirates Airlines or to make up for the lost travel time to different cities during the pandemic, take Turkish Airlines, stop for a few days in Istanbul and get to Milan via Turkey. It is time to discover the world again, albeit safely.

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Delightful Dalaman

 By Shereen Shabnam

Some time ago I ventured to Dalaman, situated on the southwestern coast of Turkey, in the Mugla Province with fellow motoring enthusiasts. We were test driving one of the latest Volvo SUV’s and set off from the airport taking in the picturesque sights of beautiful Turkey.

Highlight of my trip was stopping for brunch at Yuvarlakcay. Yuvarlakcay is beautiful river located in the Topgozu Canyon between the provinces of Koycegiz and Ortaca and feeds off the snow waters of the mountain range. It was one of the most amazing dining experiences I have had anywhere in the world. The meal was served to the sound of birds singing and the gentle sound of the river flowing as we sat on majlis style tables afterwards, relaxing with steaming cups of Turkish coffee.

Soon after, I drove to the Golden Key Bördübet, a quaint hotel that was full of surprises after we entered the simple and understated gates. After check in, it was time to relax and enjoy the great weather, amazing beach and unique beauty and peace of the location.

Taking a boat to visit a nearby island for an evening drink and relaxing on the beach was memorable. Golden Key Bordubet sits where the creek meets the sea, snuggled amidst lush trees, with its own private island.  It has meticulously designed buildings and superb guest experiences to ensure that the wondrous nature around is respected and preserved.

The next day we drove to beautiful natural reserve sites in the south coast of Turkey. The area represented a hidden gem in Turkey with the beautiful bay and the unique species of animals and trees.

We stopped for lunch at Akyaka. This unspoilt village with a beautiful setting is one of the most luxurious retreats and destinations in the coastal province. As a coastal township with its own municipality in the Ula district of Muğla Province in southwestern Turkey, the town is a rising center for international tourism.

After a few more hours of driving along coasts, coffee break was at Sakar Hill as it is a tradition to have Turkish coffee after meals. Sakar Hill, a historic location prominent during the Ottoman Empire reign in the 1520s, was used by the army led by Kanuni Sultan Suleyman on their route to their Rhodes conquest.

From cabarets and mud spas to eerie ghost towns, there’s something to delight everyone taking a holiday in Turkey’s Dalaman district. My suggestion is to float in the clear waters of the Blue Lagoon, which reminded me of Fiji.

The Blue Lagoon at Ölüdeniz is among the most photographed places on the Turkish coast, close to forested hills and an idyllic place to take a dip in calm, crystal-clear waters.

You can also explore the ghost town of Kayaköy, a town abandoned since the 1920s or go for lunch after yachting at Göcek, the sailing capital of the Dalaman region where the quayside is lined with smart international and traditional restaurants.

Sarigerme where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean, is great for watersports with waves that appeal to windsurfers, kite-boarders and dinghy sailors. I preferred the mud spa experience at Sultaniye, a spa resort that has been attracting visitors since Roman times.

If you can time it right, I recommend going to Fethiye’s Tuesday market with stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and exotic spices to textiles, jewellery and more. Next stop was Marmaris, a place I loved so much, I have been there twice and the vibe is just incredible, especially with different types of music.

Turkey is indeed a diverse country with stunning beaches, great food, spectacular scenery, ancient history and nightlife to suit all tastes and Dalaman region is as enchanting as the popular destinations like Istanbul and Bodrum. Dalaman is easy to get to with Turkish Airlines from GCC countries, with a stopover in Istanbul.

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Salties: The Magic of Food, Music and Good Vibes

Salties Beach Bar and Grill by Grenada Launches its First Indoor Beach Bar Showcasing Sustainability, Accessibility, and the World’s Best Culture of Caribbean Entertainment

Inside the Grenada country pavilion extension, Salties Beach Bar and Grill opens its “lift doors” for the very first time exclusively to Expo 2020 visitors and staff from the first of October 2021.

The indoor Beach Bar & Grill is located on the first floor at the Opportunity District – Caribbean Lounge OS06, in front of Visitor Centre 1 and will be open from 11 am to 2 am on Thursday and Friday and until midnight the rest of the week.
Salties is a Caribbean beach bar, made in Dubai by a new generation of Dubai expats with an international flair, featuring a fresh juice bar and DJ playing music all day long for that notorious Grenada island vibe.

The refreshment prices are affordable with appetizers starting from 25 AED +++ and drinks from 16 AED +++. Everyone in Dubai, whether visiting or working at Expo, can appreciate the event and at the same time be able to enjoy a meal without spending too much.

It is the perfect place for the staff who are living on-site as it provides them with a relaxed ambience where they can listen to music and socialize with their friends and collegues without needing to go into town.
Co-Owner Pietro said, “We are inspired by Dubai’s multicultural Caribbean cuisine, Arab, Greek, Italian, Oriental, and Mexican where you get many appetizers to share collectively at the table. Our portions are enough to taste and appreciate the food, but also enough to try different dishes.”

Pietro built together with a few friends and collaborators a place with sand, sunshine, and shisha. Two terraces with private booths overlook the world within Expo – there’s no better place to relax and call home. Inside is a huge sandbox boasting colourful tables and chairs, sustainably sourced and given a fresh new look and even new names.

Starting from the idea that Dubai is on the beach, a symbol of freedom, guests can take their shoes off and feel the sand through their toes.  The Salties team sourced beautiful furniture which had been abandoned by other people in the past with its own history, modified and transformed them through colours, writings, and repairs and given them a new life naming every piece of furniture with famous places and beaches of Grenada, like Saint George and Castle Hill.

There are little islands within the restaurant that brings pieces of the world together, just like the country of Grenada, famously known as “The Spice Isle”, consisting of the main island of Grenada and 8 satellite islands.

As music is the joy of life that brings people together, every day from 10 am, Salties will be featuring live DJ sets and musical performances playing all kinds of music – from Reggaeton to Latin to Pop. Salties will have different evenings paying a special tribute to every country on their National Day celebrations after 9 pm, so that they can feel at home at Salties and citizens of that country can enjoy special discounts off the total bill.

Salties aims to be the Dubai home away from home for people coming over for the 6-month duration of Expo 2020 whilst at the same time shining the spotlight on sustainability.

Salties USP’s

  • Fresh juice bar boasting 20+ fruit options for unique juice mixes  some of them known by few like Lulo ,  and Curuba coming from our friend partner Cooyuba ,and cocktail options. Alecchino  homemade gelato freshly made every day from an Italian master ‘gelatiere’ made with a specialized machine by fabbri  from Emilia-Romagna, Italy – manufacturers of the best gelato machines in the world. Different flavours of the day featuring both sweet and savoury creations by Fabbri a leader in the gelato worldwide  ”.
  • One of the best coffees available in Dubai made by Attibassi winner of many quality coffee competition specially for Salties with the latest model of the best coffee machine “La Spaziale“
  • Internationally famous Shisha for guests by Narghita paying a tribute to the local culture past time which includes tranquillity and sociality.”
  • Message in a Bottle:  guests who purchase wine bottles will be given the opportunity to write a message of positivity and humanity from Dubai Expo for the next generation to read.
  • Ladies’ night is every Monday where women get 1 drink free
  • Salties is directly opposite the Visitor Center 1.

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Natural Sense of Place: Huus Gstaad

By Shereen Shabnam

Someone once said that to get a true feel of Switzerland, you need to visit Gstaad. Having been all over Switzerland in the last few years, we continued our search of unique Alpine experiences and had the most memorable holiday at HUUS Gstaad, a warm homely hotel nestled among the rolling peaks of the Bernese Alps with the best views in all of Gstaad.

I travelled with my family and we loved the friendly and down to earth staff who went above and beyond to make us feel at home the minute we arrived at the hotel with some value-added experiences that got my daughter realise her dream of river rafting.  

The hotel encourages us to go outdoors and explore the beautiful region in as many ways as possible. My daughter was given other host of professionally-led activities like trekking, climbing and rope courses to choose from.

We visited well-known world-class ski resorts, saw stunning scenery from cable cars, met friendly locals and met other global jet-setters and families in the evenings in the cosy lobby of the hotel while playing board games and sipping the best hot chocolate one can get in Switzerland.

The hotel has views of soaring mountain ranges and cloud-free blue skies set in a landscape that’s as rich in natural beauty as it is adventure. When inside, the hotel’s architectural and interior design is characterised by the Alpine traditions, using locally sourced woods and stones to create the authentically rustic, Alpine style

After a week of work travel, my favourite part of the hotel was the sauna and pool at HUUSspa for some relaxation and wellbeing.  There are more than 2,000 square meters of wellness facilities spread across three floors for guests to enjoy at Huus Gstaad.

At the hotel’s restaurant, we enjoyed the flavours of the Alpine world trying out oozy cheese fondue, seafood dishes and some contemporary cuisine while enjoying the views through the restaurant’s panoramic windows and the expansive terrace. Breakfast offers over 200 choices of staples, organic and health foods and my daughter learned how to press fresh orange.

My favourite memory of the stay at Huus Gstaad is the unparalleled views of the great outdoors from both the lounge and the lounge terrace, the crackle of the log fire and the many cosy corners around the HUUS library and the live music in the lobby.

Every moment at Huus Gstaad left an imprint on our hearts and it is a place that beckons you back to the alpines. Personally I look forward to my next Gstaad experience with warm memories of mountain adventures and hot chocolate by the Huus Gstaad library and fireplace.

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Sanctuary for the Senses: Corinthia Hotel London

By Shereen Shabnam

Going back to London and stopping in the city before seeing family is always a good idea … and the place you stay in makes the London experience that much better. In my case, there are three hotels that I select each time, one of which is the Corinthia Hotel London, rated amongst London’s finest 5-star luxury hotels.

The palatial property combines traditional grandeur with modern freshness and the luxuriously redesigned Victorian destination is ideally located in the heart of London, a short walk from many of the city’s major attractions.

The primary reason I selected this property was to experience a day at ESPA Life at the Corinthia, which is a new generation of spa designed for those seeking an exclusive haven dedicated to relaxation, health and fitness.

Spread over four floors and covering 3,300 square metres in the heart of London, ESPA Life at Corinthia offers revolutionary lifestyle programmes, incorporating complementary and alternative medicine and targeted fitness and rehabilitation services that focus on sports training, detox, sleep, weight loss and general vitality.

After a rejuvenating facial and massage, I rested in a tranquil lounge.

Trying out one of ESPA Life’s 17 oval treatment pods was the highlight. Each treatment uses the highly efficacious and natural ESPA product range and combines both new and indigenous techniques of the world’s most renowned therapies to deliver a unique treatment offering.

An extensive thermal floor area provides a dedicated space in which guests can completely relax and unwind. Alongside a swimming pool, there is a vitality pool, glass amphitheatre sauna, steam room and heated marble loungers. ESPA Life at Corinthia is also a destination for grooming and fitness needs with a salon and a state-of-the-art gym.

The enormity and grandeur of the spa is simply breathtaking and after a relaxed time there, the best place to head for a meal is the Massimo Restaurant & Oyster, offering modern Italian cuisine, and the musically inspired Bassoon Bar.

The Northall restaurant, serves the best in British produce throughout the day and having breakfast there in the mornings every day was a delight. The new Garden Lounge offers all-day dining options in an al fresco David Collins Studio designed garden landscape.

Housed within a Victorian building, Corinthia Hotel London features 294 rooms, including 40 suites and 7 penthouses, offering sweeping views across London’s most popular landmarks.

Cutting-edge technology in rooms was handy considering the beautiful ambience motivated me to write a few creative articles while staying there. The meeting rooms allow for recording, mixing and broadcasting from dedicated media rooms.

Corinthia London is a great place to stay in the heart of London and I particularly took advantage of its location to walk and watch popular theatre productions and spend quality time in the bookshops in between sampling lovely tea offerings at Fortnum & Masons.

It is a great point from where every part of London with attractions is within easy reach and the staff are helpful in terms of directing you to places that interest you most. It is definitely a spa destination I would go back to as well for rest and relaxation.

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Land of Growth: Sri Lanka

By Shereen Shabnam

My first visit to Sri Lanka was when I was working as the Head of PR for Air Arabia, and we decided to take a family trip to get to know the latest destination for the airline that became part of my life when I lived in Sharjah.

Thanks to the extensive research I did for the destination before the maiden flight, we came prepared to enjoy the tropical climate, endless beaches, famous tea, trendy fashion boutiques, best seafood and fresh flavorful dishes that makes Sri Lanka irresistible.

We had a week to discover Sri Lanka’s myriad of charms through its history, culture and natural beauty that are undeniably alluring. It is a country that has beautiful beaches, high mountains, tropical forests and lots of wild animals like elephants, leopards, sea turtles, dolphins and whales.

To keep my daughter entertained, we stayed on a beach resort at the Mount Lavinia Hotel that had amazing staff and the best food one can have in a hotel. The evenings were memorable as we dined under the stars each night on the beach, sand between our toes as we selected our fresh sea food from the day’s catch and the chef cooked our meal according to our preference. the hotel had live performances in the weekend as well.

The beaches in Colombo have sports activities like flying kites, diving, snorkelling, hiking, sailing and much more.  The best thing to do in Sri Lanka is to escape the tropical climate of the coast and head for the hills to explore the tea plantations and rainforests. But the capital city of Colombo is just as intriguing as it combines the incredible culture and history of the island with modern attractions and amenities.

The city’s unique colonial history (Portuguese, Dutch, and British) is evident in the buildings, the food and the museums that illustrate the country’s rich history. Our host took us to a Portuguese fort, which guarded the harbor area and we went past the Galle Face Green, a large oceanfront park.

The National Museum of Colombo is also a must visit as it takes you on a journey over the thousands of years of Sri Lankan culture through artifacts such as jewellery, clothes, coins, arms, and craftwork. The displays showcase both the cultural and natural heritage of the country. Nearby is the Viharamahadevi Park which is home to a large, 15-foot-tall Buddha statue. There are also other museums and temples worth a visit.

Animal lovers will be thrilled at the Colombo Zoo which hosts almost 3,000 different animals of all shapes and sizes and has daily demonstrations with keepers of various animals. There is one for the zoo’s friendly sea lion, one in front of the elephant enclosure, a bird presentation, and one on snakes.

If you are a culture enthusiast, head to Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, a modern performing arts complex that has music, dance, and cultural performances and modern pop concerts. Performances are held in the main auditorium or in the open-air amphitheater.

Pettah Floating Market is the best for retail therapy. It has so many vendors selling their wares along a canal, lined with sidewalks and wooden boardwalks. It is a fun area for shopping, strolling, and people watching with great street food, clothes, handicrafts and lovely costume jewellery.

Sri Lanka is spectacular, affordable and still untouched by large crowds of tourists. Now is the best time to discover this incredible land.

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Shores of Serenity: Sun Siyam Iru Fushi – Maldives

By Shereen Shabnam

Holidays in this pandemic affected times seem like a dream but Maldives is one country that has ensured we can still have an island holiday safely and has kpt thousands of GCC residents sane.

Although my recent visit to Maldives saw me island hopping to new resorts, I fondly remember my visit to Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, a paradise resort known for luxury, romance, water sports, picturesque clear blue sea and tropical bliss when the travel industry was booming.

Meeting the team recently from Sun Siyam Resorts brought back a lot of beautiful memories of lounging by the beach, good food and sailing into the sunset before dinner.

Being an islander, I love the sun, sand and sea when on holiday and the marine world in Maldives is known for its beauty, especially the coral reefs that are home to a variety of marine ecosystems. During my first two days at the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, I explored the cool and contemporary spaces, stylish interiors, and beautiful gardens around the island.

The island offered water based activities such as scuba diving, fishing, swimming, water skiing, wind surfing and snorkeling but my favourite was the sting ray feeding experience and a boat ride to spot dolphins at play – these two experiences were magical.

Guests at Iru Fushi can enjoy the unspoilt islands of Noonu Atoll, where Maldivian past life is reflected with boat builders working meticulously sanding wood to reveal a silken finish, children being educated about local marine species and farming of fruits and organic vegetables.

My room was a water villa on stilts with a small glass on the floor that gave me a view of the area below serving as personal coral garden and natural aquarium. The area felt like having a large natural swimming pool that protected me from the ocean waves and strong tidal currents beyond the villas. Close by, other guests enjoyed walking on the soft sand and sun bathing before jumping into the crystal clear waters.

Spas are my weakness and the resort offers a 20-room tropical spa with an enormous range of treatments, including massages, relaxation therapies and facials set in a tranquil environment. It is the perfect place for a beauty break. I enjoyed walking barefoot along the cobbled paths; the white sands and watched the palm trees as they gently leaned into the breeze after my massage session.

While waiting for my flight, I waited at the hotel’s private lounge near the airport where I tried a refreshing welcome drink, a quick snack and a short shoulder massage. Designed to be the one of the best airport lounges in the Maldives, the spacious private lounge is used by guests arriving to The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi.  The lounge also has a children’s play room, outdoor balcony, free WiFi, computer stations as well as showers and changing facilities.

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi’s Deluxe Beach has Villas with Pool, Pool Beach Villas, Sunset Horizon Water Villas or Infinity Water Villas. It is 45 minutes seaplane journey from the capital, Malé, where Velana International Airport is located. At Sun Siyam Iru Fushi you can expect relaxing days that are long and sun-filled and nights that are exciting and energetic. Island experiences at this mesmerizing award-winning resort has to be on everyone’s bucket list.

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Enticing Thailand

The land of beautiful beaches, great viewpoints, temples, nightlife and countless excursions

Shereen Shabnam

While Thailand is popular as a holiday destination to many, it was more of a wedding destination for me during my first visit when I tied the knot in Hat Yai and felt grateful for the many memorable experiences as we headed to Krabi soon after for some sand, sea and beach life. The Krabi region is one of the most beautiful areas in southern Thailand.

Our trip was full of countless surprises, from meeting friendly people who married us, to becoming food-obsessed with the countless choice of food all around while losing count of the country’s many glittering temples and the lazy days spent on tropical beaches.

Visiting Thailand a number of times since that first trip, we came across bustling cities and tropical forests dramatically different from the turquoise sea we initially went in search of. The foodie experience of course is the best in Nakhon Sawan where seafood is in abundance.

We also hosted an exhibition in Bangkok not long ago. As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok can be overwhelming the first time but there is so much to do that you wish you had more time. The best option is to plan ahead what you would like to experience as there is so much on offer from food experiences, cultural sites, river tours and the best shopping if you like retail therapy.

If you like monuments of the past, I suggest heading to the historic town of Sukhothai and the UNESCO World Heritage site and discover lost history and ancient treasures. Another popular destination is Chiang Mai that offers the best of nature in from of jungle treks, hot springs, waterfalls, old town visits, festivals and vibrant markets.

No visit to Thailand is complete without going to Phuket which is Thailand’s largest island and a popular holiday destination. It has a great nightlife, plenty of restaurants and good base to do island hopping across to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Yao Yai and Kon Bon,

My husband is a big fan of Koh Samui as well. This is the third largest tropical island in Thailand with beautiful beaches and it had less tourists in the past when he ventured there a number of times. Today, Koh Samui is full of life and caters to tourists looking for an idyllic island holiday with various water activities but that old island charm still remains.

Synonymous with the exceptional service and authentic hospitality, Thailand has always offered us an experience that will remains memorable forever. For me, being married there at short notice with the hospitable locals is one memory I will always cherish.

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Journey of Discovery: Barcelona

 

By Shereen Shabnam

Every time we go to our Spanish home, we try and explore a different city and Barcelona, the second-largest city in Spain has been delight for all senses from visiting cultural sites, city attractions, art venues, trying out Catalan dishes and evening tapas experiences as well as taking a cruise ship that saw us visiting a number of nearby countries.

It is a city steeped in history with so much to see, especially in the Gothic Quarter which is the oldest neighborhood of Barcelona. Here you will find medieval structures, Gaudi’s architecture from the 19th and 20th centuries, winding alleys, the Cathedral of Barcelona, plazas and Roman ruins.

After a week on a cruise ship, we spent a lot of time in Las Ramblas, a pedestrian only street lined with cafes with the best tapas and drinks, shops and a bustling vibe. We also went to the La Boqueria nearby which had some beautiful Spanish gift items and then stopped at Placa Reial, a beautiful square perfect for people watching.

One late afternoon we drove to El Born which is the most trendy and artistic part of the city and explored a few avant-garde galleries, indulged in vintage shops vintage shops and took a stroll with our daughter who loved the idea of sampling little plates of dishes at tapas outlets. Our favourite dishes were laced with olive oil and include seafood dishes, fried potatoes and Spanish omelettes stuffed in baguettes.

Spain is famous for their tapas that are meant to be snacked on but we ordered a wide range of dishes and made a meal out of it. Seafood paella in Barcelona is an absolute must try dish and so is seafood done in different styles. I always enjoyed the cold sweet Spanish coffees that seem to inject life and energy into me in between the tours.

After fuelling up on food and drinks, head to L’Eixample for some famous architectural highlights such as the La Sagrada Familia and to El Raval which has some interesting boutiques and restaurants. We were on a trail to see as many of Gaudi’s work so we explored the area of Gràcia which has great views of the city and home to Gaudí’s famous hilltop park, Parc Güell. Gaudi is Barcelona’s most famous architect whose Gothic and Art Nouveau styles made him legendary around the world. We also loved Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà.

If you are into art, head to the Picasso museum to learn about the life of one of the most influential artists in the 20th century. There are over 3,000 pieces of art and one of the biggest Picasso museums in the world.

If you have a lot of time, head to Barcelona History Museum. There are4,000 square meters of Roman ruins located beneath the city that you can walk through and learn more with an audio guide explaining the mosaics, wall frescoes and ancient documents.

Barcelona is one of those cities where you can easily spend weeks exploring. We rented a car and drove up to Cadaques to see Dali’s House – this remains of the best experiences ever even though it took a full day to get there with multiple coffee stops, tapas breaks and winding roads but it was well worth the journey.

It is best to stay the night there, get rested and explore the many attractions on the way back. It is a beautiful city with impressive architecture, charming medieval streets, amazing beaches and has something for everyone.

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