The Unglamorous Girl

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Road trip to the South of France – Part 1: getting there…

On our way to the South of France

On our way to the South of France

We set off in our VW Passat at around 6pm on Friday night to get to Dover for our first overnight stop on our road trip to the South of France. We stayed in a Premier Inn near to the ferry terminal – but it was so busy and on a main road so didn’t get much sleep. Mentioned this on check-out and they gave us a refund on their ‘Good Night Guarantee’ which was a bonus!

Crossed over to Calais and made our way south to our first stop in Macon. I’d booked a Budget Ibis much to my husband’s dislike but for £30 it was a bargain! We arrived around 6pm, and sat outside at their restaurant and had dinner and (a fair few bottles of) wine. The food was incredible and was finished off by a crème brulee and a mint chocolate mousse (one each but we shared 🙂 ). It was a beautiful night and we sat outside and soaked up the atmosphere until around 11pm before retiring. We got up the next morning and added breakfast for a reasonable 6Euros each and we were good to go.

I took over the driving and we followed the road south through Lyon on to the south coast. We arrived at Grimaud around 2pm and checked in to our Eurocamp caravan.

We’ve stayed in Eurocamp before and the caravans are always clean and have everything you might need. We set off out again through Sainte-Maxime and found ourselves a Carre Four where we stocked up on wine, cheese and other essentials!

During our time there we visited Saint Tropez – on the windiest day I’ve ever known! – and on our way back got a text from my dad warning that there was an imminent strike in France meaning there would be a severe shortage of fuel. With a 1,000 mile drive home we pulled into a garage and filled the car to the top with diesel…just as well we did. The next garage we passed had queues of 20 or more cars and over the next day or so the strike really took hold and most garages were closed, those that we open were reduced to 20 Euros of fuel at a time!

Port Grimaud is amazing – like a little French Venice – and we spent some time here. Another day we rented sun beds on a tiny secluded beach and crossed the road to a pizza stop and had the most amazing pizzas.

Clearly, however, nothing – not even holidays – is a straightforward affair with me… find more of the story here

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Afternoon Tea at the Burj Al Arab

Sunset on Burj

We headed back to our hotel, got ourselves ready and got a car to…the Burj Al Arab! It was awesome! We had spoken to the concierge at reception about visiting there, and they told us about the afternoon tea options. We booked up earlier that day and now was the time to go! We crossed the private bridge and pulled up outside, greeted by the male and female attendants. It really was spectacular. We travelled up the escalators that were lined with marine fish tanks and got to the top where there was a really impressive fountain. We looked around for a while and then took our seats for the fantastic afternoon tea.

Burj Al Arab lobby 21

Afternoon tea seems a bit misleading…this was not sandwiches and scones. This was a seven-course feast for the senses and it was absolutely spectacular. We had opted for the alcohol-free option, so instead started the tea with the most amazing prune juice.

Afternoon Tea at the Burj 1 - Copy

After this followed a course of sandwiches, of scones, beef and pureed potato(!), sweetmeats – all were amazing! Not only this, you get a spectacular view. We opted for the lower down restaurant, overlooking the private bridge and over to the Jumeriah Beach Hotel. It was really beautiful, and the staff were so lovely.

Burj Al Arab Lobby

This was pretty pricey, the equivalent of around £95 each, but honestly – it was definitely worth it. The food and drink was exquisite, the surroundings amazing and really? When else are you going to go into a 7 star hotel in your life? Its such an iconic building, and I was so happy that I got to go in and see what it was like.

Burj Al Arab foyer

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Dubai

Dubai was never somewhere I had ever thought of visiting, until I met my now-husband. Growing up he’d spent up to 6 weeks of the year in Dubai where his dad often visited for work, and it became a bit of a family tradition for them. (Note, on my family holidays we went to visit my Gran in Scotland, or in our caravan to France, or to Center Parcs or bizarrely named holidays parks like Sandy Balls…yes, really!)

However, he was always keen to return and I, too, quite fancied seeing this place that is growing in popularity, and where a lot of people I had known from school had moved to and now lived and worked.

View from our room

Not long after my husband lost his dad, and very soon after we got engaged (I unknowingly booked it the day before he proposed!), we booked to go on a dream trip. Two nights in Dubai, two nights in Bangkok and 10 nights in Koh Samui, an island off the coast of mainland Thailand.

Hotel

We booked to stay in the hotel in Dubai where my husband stayed as a child with his family, Le Royal Meridien on Jumeriah Beach. Before going, I decided to try my luck via twitter with Le Royal Meridien, to see whether we could get a room similar to those he used to stay in with his family, or even just an acknowledgement from the management in memory of his dad (he had visited this hotel more than 20 times as a child, staying for long periods at a time). They were great! I gave them my husband’s name and our arrival date and they said they’d see what they could do. On arrival, we were upgraded to a Royal Club room in a separate section of the hotel. It was huge and really plush.

Room upgrade

We did notice though that when we opened the balcony door, the heat was so intense all the glass and mirrors in the room steamed up. I found taking pictures a challenge too with the lens steaming up with the change in temperature from the cold air-conditioned room, to the humid outdoors that was hitting 40c by 11am!

We got ourselves ready and went downstairs to go to the pool and sunbathe for a little while. We found a spot and lay down…and got back up pretty sharpish. The heat was so intense and neither of us thought we’d be able to sit out for long. We got into the pool and swam around for a while (mostly cooling off!) and then went to the swim up bar and ordered some smoothies. We decided to give the beach a go, and thought we could perhaps do a little snorkelling off the beach…OH MY LIFE. The sand was absolutely excruciatingly hot. We both had flip flops and the sand was so fluffy that even with shoes on, the sand would scorch your feet. Since my husband last visited they had moved the beach (this is Dubai after all!) and made it a lot longer – so a much longer walk down from the path across the sand to the water. We ended up sprinting but we genuinely did both burn our feet.

We ran into the water…such a strange feeling…the water was hot! It was like lying in a bath. A lot of the time you get in the water to refresh but this felt really weird to be in the sea when its hot! Regardless of this, we swam around and enjoyed ourselves. We were sweeping the sea floor with our hands absent mindedly while chatting when my husband produced a dried starfish! He had scooped it up!

After a while we braved the run back to the walkway across the beach, and then went over to where the boat shack was. We saw that there was a tour of Dubai by water later that afternoon, something my husband had been really keen to do when we were there. We booked on and went back to the room to get ourselves ready.

Later that afternoon we wandered down with about 8 other people and set off on our boat trip. The boat trip was great as you got to see a lot but in the shade of the boat with the cool sea air on you. It travelled around the Palm and over to the Atlantis, then round to the Burj al Arab. We got some great shots of this and the Jumeriah Beach Hotel, and then we were taken past the Sheikh’s yacht parked on his private island – absolutely huge! We then glided through the marina and back to our hotel. The trip was great, and gave you a great perspective of Dubai from the water.

We relaxed and had dinner in the hotel that night – buffet style but absolutely incredible!

Atlantis, The Palm

The next morning we were up early and had breakfast at the hotel – again, absolutely delicious! We then got a cab to a local mall and wandered around for a while. The highlight was the macaroons we bought (divine!). We then got another taxi up to the Atlantis on the Palm.

DubaiThis hotel is incredible – featuring a full-size aquarium within it that you can visit, but throughout the hotel there are walls of glass where you can see the marine life passing by.

There are long shopping arcades and then a part closed off to the public for guests only. I wasn’t really paying attention but my husband led me towards it and the security guard let us through! We went out the poolside and had a quick look around, and up at the impressive building, then went back in.

Dubai

We head back to our hotel, got ourselves ready and got a car to…the Burj Al Arab for Afternoon Tea (see post). As the sun was setting, we came out of the Burj Al Arab and walked across the private bridge to the Jumeriah Beach Hotel (shaped like a wave). It was really nice inside, but for my husband who’d visited so many times before, he was a little disappointed – more about the lack of spectacle, which he felt it used to have.

DubaiWe went back to our hotel and packed our bags, ready for our next leg of our Far Eastern Adventure, Bangkok!

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