Bustling Bursa

By Shereen Shabnam

My first ever introduction to Bursa came when we were installing a travelling exhibition in the local science centre and my colleagues mentioned how cold it was there. It was then we realised that Turkey had it’s very own winter wonderland and months later I set out to experience the snow myself with Turkish Airlines.

Together with a group of tour operators from the UAE, we ventured to Mount Uludağ, Turkish for ‘Great Mountain’ which revealed a breath-taking panoramic vista, challenging ski slopes and magnificent views from the top – we even had some fun snowball fights up in the mountains after a scenic cable car ride.

One of the stops we made revealed chic alpine chalets, restaurants, hotels as well as traditional thermal hamams and modern spa facilities. Uludağ is also home to a few national parks and beautiful gardens, which makes it an ideal tourist destination.

Bursa is immersed with history and is awarded the UNESCO World Heritage status for being the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire. The modern buildings are hence built around the mosques, mausoleums and heritage areas.

Situated on the Silk Road, which was the main trade destination that linked the East to the West, the city is also at the core of the silk industry. We also were lucky to visit the Grand Mosque, Yesil Mosque, Emir Sultan Mosque, Yildirim Bazaar, Bursa castle, archaeology museum, the Islamic works museum and the new science centre.

Bursa is known for its food and the Bursa İskender, which is a platter lined with diced Turkish bread and topped with finely sliced doner kebab prepared from lamb meat layered on top with butter and tomatoes did not disappoint. We asked for some garlic sauce that made the dish even more delicious.

We also passed by the seaside town of Mudanya with well-preserved historical houses, a Medikion Monastary and the town’s old train station and ferryboat that now serve as charming hotels.

Highlight of our short trip was visiting the Cumalıkızık village, which was founded 700 years ago and is one of the best examples of Ottoman architecture.The houses are made out of adobe, rubble stones and wood.

Our group had a lovely afternoon at Saitabat, a three-feet waterfall with water sports. When in Turkey, freshly prepared seafood is a delicacy not to be missed. I even had the opportunity to meet some locals here who were passionate about food as they described their local cuisine and helped us sample some of the best delicacies from the region.

To get to Bursa, we flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul and travelled to Bursa by bus with a ferry ride thrown in for some additional adventure. Bursa is a destination that has a lot to offer so doing some research ahead and planning daily activities ahead of the trip is advisable.

Pure Indulgence – DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Reserva del Higuerón

By Shereen Shabnam

This has been a year of exploring my adopted country Spain and during a road trip, we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Reserva del Higueron, belonging to the Hilton brandfamily.

The first thing that greeted me at the hotel was the most beautiful classic car in the lobby and being a motoring enthusiast, I was in love. The hotel is a unique, modern, comfortable, spacious and airy complex. The Hotel is leader in design, leisure and services, with a combination of entertainment, health, sports, relaxation, culinary and activities.

Ideally located in one of the most exciting destinations in Europe, “Costa del Sol” between Malaga and Marbella, is known for its sandy beaches, golf courses and subtropical climate with 320 days of sunshine a year. The Resort combines the quietness and the proximity to the best beaches. It is easy to reach from the international airport, and Málaga town center, 10 minutes by car or 30 minutes by train from the station just 200 meters distance from Resort entrance.

The beautiful city of Malaga, one of the oldest in the world and known as the capital of the Costa del Sol. Through the combination of magical and monumental surroundings, this city offers visitors a cultural and cosmopolitan appeal with several major European museums (Picasso Museum, Pompidou and Thyssen) among others. Also just minutes away you can visit Marbella and Puerto Banus to enjoy a luxurious and exclusive shopping.

The Resort has 177 rooms, including 24 junior suites, all with spectacular views of the Bay of Fuengirola, areas with permanent artworks,9 meeting rooms for up to 500 people, 5 restaurants. All in accordance with the standards and services of the Hilton brand.

Sport Club and Spa Nagomi

Within the complex you can find Sport Club, a sports entertainment center with fitness facilities, monitored activities (Pilates, Yoga, TRX), 11 paddle courts, 2 tennis courts, an exclusive area of sand of 4,000 m2, two heated indoor swimming pools and 3 outdoor pools.

Learn a new concept of wellness through Nagomi SPA experience with dynamic jet pool, massage, waterfalls, contrast pools, sauna, steam room and relaxation area. And a wide range of treatments for health, welfare, beauty and nutrition, with the help of the best professionals, also having hairdressing, manicure and pedicure.

Infinity pool and terrace

The Infinity top roof terrace, is one of the most impressive areas of the hotel, an infinity pool waterfall in south side that blends in harmony with the vision of the Mediterranean Sea. Impressive, pool accompanied by Balinese beds with stunning views of the Mediterranean where you can enjoy the best cocktails, drinks and snacks.

Dining options

The Resort offers a comprehensive food and beverage concept where 5 restaurants including SOLLO´S, quality restaurant awarded Chef Diego Gallegos with Michelin Star 2016, specializes in river fish and caviar. ARARA BISTRO BAR by Diego Gallegos with the best options of Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. PALMERAL BUFFET is an open and modern restaurant in the heart of the hotel offering breakfast buffet, a la carte lunch and dinner buffet, INFINITY BAR with fresh choices of meals and snacks, and Snack Bar LA HIGUERITA completes the offer healthy foods for sport people.

 

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Natural Sanctuary – Bled in Slovenia

By Shereen Shabnam

One of my most memorable travel destinations recently was to Slovenia with Turkish Airlines. The first stop was at a lake town called Bled,a popular tourist destination in Slovenia known for its emerald green lake, a wonderful restaurant on top of a mountain with picturesque views and a medieval castle.

On arrival, we had an enchanting boat ride across the lake, which is the highlight of a visit to Bled. It is best to take some time to take in the ambience, watch the swans and ducks on the lakes and enjoy the lush green mountains in the distance.

A hike up a hill followed the boat ride as we climbed a stone staircase with 99 steps to have lunch with panoramic views and a visit to take pictures of the waterfront, the church of assumption andthe castle of Bled.

The Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia. There is also a museum at the top with the history of the castle, some interesting fossils and archaeological findings and a tempting gift shop selling food and the arts and crafts of Bled.

Being a food lover, I stopped to taste the famous Kremsnita cake, which was as delectable as the locals claimed and better than any cream cake I have ever sampled during my travels.

Adventure tourists will enjoy the famous hiking trails that start from Bled. They are called Pokljika, Mount Stol and Triglav. For those on the look out for picturesque views, The Vintgar Gorge has a scenic route that is serene with a lovely waterfall.

Some sites I wanted to visit but missed out on is the Postojna Cave Predjama Castle and the Lipica Stud Farm that produces horses for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Visitors from the Middle East who love equestrian sports can enjoy tours, rides and lessons that cover dressage and how to control horses.

Lake Bled is an ideal destination for a perfect summers day. Dress casual and comfortable to make the most of the visit as the activities involve rowing, hiking, exploring and enjoy the photography opportunities.

 

 

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Classic Elegance – Luxury at every turn at Villa Magna, Madrid

By Shereen Shabnam

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On the way to my Spanish home recently, a stop in Madrid led me and my family to discover the luxury Villa Magna in Madrid where the ambience celebrates the old and new in a space that only be described as classically elegant.

In the last century, where this modern building stands today on the Paseo de la Castellana, was the Palace of Anglada which was demolished in the 1960`s. The hotel on the same site shows the same sophistication and after an extensive renovation, the luxury hotel has become a home to regular visitors who love the Bauhaus concepts and Chinese screens that combine to create a welcoming and luxurious atmosphere.

From the moment we were picked at the airport by a private chauffeur to the moment we left, the experience we had was more than amazing. The Concierge led us to the most interesting exhibitions and fashionable boutiques in Madrid but the highlight of the excursions was our teenage daughter experiencing the VIP shopper experience at El Corte Ingles…a must for all GCC visitors.

The hotel lobby is warm and welcoming with a large window offering a marvelous view to the Magnum Patio. To add a sophisticated touch the walls were adorned with Bauhaus and Vienna Secession designs. Different styles also combine among the furnishings: Louis XVI rosewood consoles, exotic screens and rugs with their geometric shapes give warmth to the marble floors.

The Restaurante Villa Magna has beautiful natural light, complimented by the choice of light colours and a large framed mirror that reflects the space as a painting. The beauty of the carpentry work and the relaxing upholstery combine to make a perfect ambience relaxing.

The Lounge, off the Lobby of the Villa Magna, is the ideal setting to meet friends, discuss business or enjoy a relaxing meal at any time of the day. We spent our lunchtime mainly there with a selection of snacks, light lunch dishes whilst enjoying views onto the Lounge Terrace and Paseo de la Castellana beyond.

The room we stayed in was spacious, comfortable and washed with soft lighting, bright colours and warm fabrics. It was tastefully done and every detail was taken care of…from attending to my love for chocolates to the availability of prayer mats in the cupboard.

 Our day excursions meant revisiting our favourite Madrid attractions starting from the “Art Triangle” the Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, the Mercado and the Reina Sofia Museum to walking through Plaza Mayor and retail streets dotted with local and international brands.

The Villa Magna´s Fitness Club is equipped with the latest Technogym equipment and a team of fitness experts to provide a personalized fitness programme. The Wellness Club is a quiet area to be pampered with luxurious body treatments and skincare in a retreat of tranquility and naturally I opted for a massage on arrival.

Withthe city’s main shopping streets and attractions at the doorstep, the Villa Magna offers the most exclusive and ideal place to stay while visiting Madrid.

 

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