• Travel Stories
  • Alila Jabal Akdhar: Your Relaxing Escape in Oman

    Are you craving for a relaxing staycation for the weekend in Oman? Then why not reserve a room at Alila Hotel in Jabal Akdhar. Alila Hotel located in the central section of the Al Hajar Mountains that offers guests a gateway to the area’s incredible culture, traditions and nature. This rugged mountainous region is one of Oman’s most visited tourist spot due to it its impressive landscape.

    The hotel offers a modern and luxurious stay overlooking the exotic mountain.With an altitude of 2000meters, it is a perfect place to relax and retreat away from the city.

    Exotic look of the hotel

     

    Lobby area with a big fireplace

     

    Decor in touch with Arabic culture

     

    Dates and coffee to welcome the guests at the lobby

     

    Pool area with a great view of the mountain and canyon

     

     

     

    THE ROOM.  I stayed in the Horizon View Suite. What first struck me is the glass doors leading to the balcony where the view of the cliff and mountain is spectacular.

    The Horizon View Suite

     

    Interior of Horizon View Suite

     

    Welcomed with fruits and desserts!

     

    The interiors are classy and elegant made of local accents and modern amenities including a freestanding bathtub, WIFI, and a flatscreen TV. The room is made of local stones to showcase the traditional Omani architecture.

     

     

     

    The view from the terrace

     

    A perfect place to have your sip of tea

    THE FOOD. The Juniper Restaurant serves sumptuous international and Middle Eastern food. I only ate at Juniper Restaurant, and the meals are delicious.The breakfast is also served here.The Rose Lounge also serves drinks and snacks. But let me remind you, it is not cheap. All food is subject to 17% government tax and service charge.

     

    Who doesn’t want to have their breakfast with this view?
    My all-time favorite- avocado toast!
    Mezze Plate

     

     

     

    Traditional Omani food for dinner

    THE SERVICE and FACILITIES.  During my stay in the hotel, I found that there was always someone from the staff nearby in case you need assistance. The staff is approachable. From the time, I arrived at the hotel, someone helped carry my bags, and while waiting for the room to be ready, staff welcomed us with their traditional coffee and dates.

    If you opt for some adventure,  the hotel has activities catered for all types of travelers. There is an activity if you want to learn how rosewater is made, but unfortunately, it is only available in April and May when the roses are in full bloom.

    The hotel has an infinity pool, an indoor pool, fitness center and a spa that offers Asian style therapies.

     

    Indoor pool at the hotel

    Alila Jabal Akdhar is recommended for leisure tourists who want to enjoy a luxurious stay in Oman. It is 2.5 hours away from Muscat and it is only accessible by 4WD.

     

     

    Have you been to Alila Jabal Akdhar? How was your experience? Share in the comments below. 

     

  • Travel Stories
  • Colmar: A Fairytale Village in France

    Part of my European trip was visiting the little town of Colmar. It is a small town located in France Alsace region. It is very close to Germany and Switzerland. A 2 hours car drive from Zurich is all it takes. That time I went there, the day was drizzly and grey but it didn’t stop me and my sister with my brother in law from wandering around the town. I personally don’t know a lot about this place, but I was wholly awed by how pretty it is. I felt I was into the pages of a fairytale!

    Streets are dominated by half-timbered houses!

     

    It’s like a picture postcard moment in every corner!

    The small French town looks like a preserved medieval village with the traditional half-timbered houses, overflowing flower pots and little canals. It has a blend of German and French architecture. This town that was founded in the 9th century has a sunny microclimate, and it is one of the driest cities in France., making ideal for Alsace wine and of course a setting for a perfect getaway.

    Colorful Colmar, isn’t?

     

     

    Colorful pots!

    Getting Around:

    The small town is best explored by foot.  All of Colmar’s attractions are concentrated in its old town. You can also take the green train if you don’t want to walk.

    Top Sights and Things to Do:

    Little Venice

    The little corner of the city with small canals reminiscent of Venice, Italy. It is the most picturesque area in Colmar. You will also find lots of great restaurants around this area.

    St. Martin’s Church

    It is a Roman Catholic church built in 1365 and it contains gothic architecture.

     

     

    As for gastronomy, Colmar has lots of restaurants. Alsace is known for its pastries.

    Let yourself be drawn to the beautiful atmosphere.

     

    When I went there, I tried the most famous Alsatian dish- Tarte Flambee! It is called  Flammekueche in Alsatian or Flammkuchen in German which is the Alsatian equivalent of pizza. It is made up of a thin layer of dough covered with cheese, onions, crème Fraiche (rich sour cream) and bacon. The crust is crispy.

     

    Tarte Flambee. I love it!

    By the way, if your goal is to visit as many countries, I recommend visiting Colmar. It is a good place to add to your list if you are visiting Germany and Switzerland.

    My time was not enough. I would love to come back to Alsace and explore more in depth! For now, this is it!

     

    What can you say about Colmar? Share in the comments below. 

     

     

  • Travel Stories
  • Layover Guide: Brussels, Belgium

    On my way from Barcelona to Zurich during my Europe Trip, I had a short 10-hour layover in Brussels, Belgium. There’s a lot of things to do at the airport. There’s a lot of shops and restaurants around. Wifi access is available at the airport in all waiting and most public areas, but if it is more than 4 hours, then I suggest to get out and explore the city. The city is quite easy to navigate, and the major sights are accessible. Just make sure to allow yourself enough time to get through customs and security on the way back to the airport.

    When I arrived in the city from Barcelona, I took a train directly from Brussels airport into the city center (Brussels Central Station) in under 30 minutes. It cost 15.2 EURO/ 6.9OMR/ 913 PHP/ 18 USD.

     

     

     

     

    Things to Do:

    Visit Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

    You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beautiful art and architecture of Brussel’s churches. Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is on Rue de Bois Sauvage 15, just in the heart of the city. It is free to enter the church and 1 euro for the archeological site.

    Eat Belgian Chocolate and Fries

    A trip to Brussels would not be complete without trying the chocolate. The country is very well known for chocolates. I tried Pierre Marcolini which is one of the top shops in Brussels for chocolates, macaroons, and eclairs. One of the best chocolates I have tried. It is expensive but worth every cent.

    Belgium is famed for its frites (fries), and you can grab a bag anywhere on the streets. Belgian fries are fried twice which makes it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

     

     

    Stroll across the Grand Palace

    A UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is the main attraction in the city. It is surrounded by a maze of winding streets dominated by the Gothic splendor of the town hall which dates back to 15th century. Grand Palace is Brussel’s main market square which is a great place to hang out.

    Visit Royal Palace

    The Royal Palace is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the center of Brussels. It is open to the public every summer. From July till September the palace can be visited free of charge. The visitors can have access to certain rooms like the Mirror Room.

    Watch the Manekin Pis

    Not far from the Grand Palace, you can find the Manefin Pis fountain which is another popular attraction in Brussels. It is a tiny statue a kid having a piss, and a lot flock on it as it is a symbol of the national humor. Jerome Duquesnoy designed him and usually statue is naked, but sometimes he gets dressed.

    Bargain Hunt at Place De Jue Balle in the Marolles

    If you are in awe of antiques, kitchenware, paintings, and props, this is the spot to go. The market takes place every day, and there are a lot of items to see. It is where people sell their old stuff, and it might be the best way to find a unique souvenir for your friends back in your country.

     

     

     

    Have you ever been to Brussels? What did you do?

     

  • Travel Stories
  • The Resorts To Aim For In Las Vegas

    One of the really cool things about visiting Las Vegas is that you can experience the best that the different resorts have to offer whether or not you’re staying at them. Okay, that’s not entirely true. There are instances when a certain amenity is only available to a patron, or when you might have to pay to use a given facility. In general, though, the city’s reputation as “America’s Playground” (a phrase memorably used in Ocean’s 11) is apt: it’s like each resort is a different playset you can go experience for a few hours at a time.

    All of that said, however, it still matters where you stay! I’ve heard from friends who have spent more time in Vegas than I have that it’s fairly common to wind up spending at least the majority of your time at the resort you’re staying at, which of course makes perfect sense. So knowing that I’ve done a little research – some via my observation and some online – to write up a general idea of some of the best resorts to aim for (and why) if you make it to Vegas.

    For Modern Appeal: The ARIA

    The ARIA opened in 2009, which actually makes it one of the newer high profile resorts on the Vegas Strip. And, fittingly, it feels like arguably the most modern of the bunch. The ARIA was designed without a spare detail missed such that its every corner seems polished and beautiful. The rooms and suites are already somewhat legendary even by Vegas standards, and as one write-up put it, you may not want to leave the property because the amenities are top-notch. It’s not a cheap place to stay, mind you, but if you’re looking for the most modern Vegas hotel – and perhaps the most complete – the ARIA may be the one for you.

    Aria Hotel

    For Spa Treatments: The Mandarin Oriental

    Being honest, I’m not sure I could tell the difference between one Vegas spa and the next when it comes to quality. Of course, there are different styles and different treatment options, but it’s hard to say one excellent spa is definitively better than another. That said, the Mandarin Oriental (also one of the newer and generally best resorts) has gained a reputation for, particularly excellent spa treatments. The resort’s own website claims its spa is one of few in the world to earn a Forbes Five-Star award.

    For Pure Fun: Caesars Palace

    I know some people think Caesars Palace is a little bit goofy with its towering imitations of classical Roman structures. But I for one think it’s all a great deal of fun. The resort is pretty, the casino offerings are all over the place, there are numerous pools and fountains… it all just looks like a blast. One article also called Caesars the best for partying among Vegas resorts, singling out its Omnia nightclub, which has become iconic already since opening in 2015. So basically, whether you’re in it for pool time, gaming, or clubbing, Caesars is the fun one.

    Caesar’s Palace

    For Casino Activity: The MGM Grand

    This might be the hardest category to narrow down because most Vegas resorts have major casinos within them (the Mandarin Oriental being a rare exception). You can pull a slot lever or sit down at a card table at any of the major venues, and for that matter at several smaller hotels as well. But the best combination of size and accessibility probably goes to the MGM Grand. Unlike, say, the Bellagio, it has affordable card tables for beginners or casual visitors, and naturally, it has a massive array of slots and other games as well.

    For Dining: The Venetian

    There’s fine dining at every Vegas resort. I mentioned already that some guests might not want to leave the ARIA, and one reason is that it houses well over ten excellent eateries. But if there’s one resort that stands above the rest, it’s probably the Venetian. This resort is best known for its miniature version of the Venice canals from Italy, but its selection of restaurants includes some of the best on the entire Strip. A few names to know are Tao, Bouchon, and Morels Steakhouse.

    Above Article Written by Angela Swanigan

    Rio Suite Hotel and Casino

    Owned and operated by the Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Rio Las Vegas is a hotel and casino near the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Would you believe it’s the first all-suite resort in the area? Its name goes after the city of Rio de Janeiro.

    At the Rio, you will find the satisfaction of having all the amenities that you need, as you would expect from a hotel establishment in Las Vegas. It boasts of several private villas for high rollers, two exciting nightclubs, a large shopping area, four pools, a spa that’s among the best, a sand beach, and a lagoon. Aside from award-winning restaurants, Rio also provides for its customers’ enjoyment and relaxation through its full-service salon and spa, a fully equipped fitness center, a meeting and convention space, as well as chapels.

    Thrill-seekers will find Rio’s Voodoo Zipline a wonderful sight and experience, too! The VooDoo Beach, on the other hand, takes pride in its five Jacuzzi-style spas and pool-side massages!

    The Brazilian-themed hotel and casino is also the home for one-of-a-kind casino shows that offer a distinctive mix of comedy and magic. The hotel also extends free shuttle service that leaves several times in a day. The areas provide ample space as well as adequate restrooms, making it perfect for a variety of activities. Each room features a mini-bar, in-room safe, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, a separate vanity and dressing area, among many others. Not only that, but you can also take a glimpse of a sweeping, panoramic view of the city through its floor-to-ceiling windows, especially at night.

    At Rio Suite Hotel and Casino

    If you want to take a glimpse of the sumptuous buffets and restaurants in Las Vegas, you shouldn’t think twice about booking a hotel room at the Rio as it has been voted as one of the best in the strip. Travellers and tourists make sure to have a taste and experience of the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio, which prepares eleven distinct dining experiences from across the globe or nearly 500 dishes on a daily basis!

    Another pro for Rio is how all its excitement and extravaganza come at an affordable price range. Although it is not a five-star hotel, you can have great accommodation, dining and entertainment experience at the Rio at such a great value. If you’re someone who wants to enjoy but needs to stick to a budget, the Rio is the place for you.

    Have you been to Las Vegas? Where did you stay? Share in the comments below. 

  • Travel Stories
  • A Day Trip to Montserrat from Barcelona

    When I had my trip to Barcelona, my sister suggested a day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat. I was not familiar with Montserrat, but once I arrived in Barcelona, it is well advertised. Going to Montserrat is one of the most popular day trips from Barcelona, Spain.

     

    Montserrat is a rocky mountain in Catalonia, Spain and just 50 km away from Barcelona. Sitting atop the mountain range is Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery. Within the monastery is “Our Lady of Montserrat aka the Virgin of Montserrat.” The monastery itself has been in place since 1025. It is not only a popular place for retreats and pilgrimages but also for nature lovers and hikers. It is a stunning mountain with a natural park on it.

     

     

     

    How to Get There:

    Getting from Barcelona to Montserrat is easy by public transport. There are two options. First is, you can go by train and cable car. From Placa Espanya in Barcelona, take the R5 line to Aeri de Montserrat. The trip is approximately one and a half hours. From Aeri de Montserrat, take the cable car to the top. The ride is only a 5-minute ride. The view is breathtaking however you will need to stand for the journey. The tickets can be bought at the Placa Espanya Station.

    Aeri Montserrat

     

     

     

    View from the cable car

    Another option is train and rack railway. From Placa Espanya in Barcelona, take R5 line farther to Monistrol de Montserrat. Change to Cremallera, a green railway that runs to the top of the mountain. The funicular ride will take 15 minutes to the monastery. The combined tickets can be purchased at the Placa Espanya station. Other options are by bus or private transportation, but these options are less popular and time-consuming.  I bought the Tot Montserrat that costs 42.65 EURO / 19.4 OMR/ 2,500 PHP that includes the entrance to the museum and buffet lunch at the restaurant.

     

    Things to Do:

    1. Ride the Funicular. The Funicular de Sant Joan will take you to the top of the mountain. The climb is steep and not for those with a fear of height. You will find hiking routes once you reach the top which leads to the tallest mountain peaks like Sant Jeroni and a tourist walk to the chapel of Sant Joan. I was not able to do the long hike but hopefully when I get back.

     

     

     

    2. View the Benedictine Abbey and the Basilica. The Black Virgin of Montserrat is located inside the basilica. It is said to have a healing power. It is one of the highlights of the church so be prepared to wait in line.

     

     

     

    3.Visit Art Museum of Montserrat. The museum has a huge collection of artistic masterpieces from the 13th to the 20th century. 

     

    Souvenirs

    4. Walk and Hike in Montserrat. It is a huge natural park where you can find numerous routes of different complexity. You can just go for a picnic, walk around having an amazing view.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    5. Watch a performance by the boys’ choir. L’Esconia de Montserrat is the boys’ choir at the abbey. They didn’t perform when I went there, but it is said to be one of the charms of Montserrat. It is one of the oldest choirs in Europe and usually performs daily in the Basilica. Historical records show there was a choir in Montserrat as far back as the 13th. 

    Tips:

    1. Don’t arrive too late but leave early from Barcelona and calculate whole day to explore the place.
    2. Research the train schedule from Barcelona to Montserrat.
    3. There are good food and drink in Montserrat but can be pricey. If you are on a budget, pack some snacks with you.
    4. Take the rack railway instead of the cable car from Montserrat to Barcelona. You will get off earlier, but you will board the train to Barcelona last on your way back. Most of the time, the train is full, and if you board last, you will end up standing for hours back to Barcelona.

    If you want to do something unique for your Barcelona experience, this trip is the perfect thing to do. The best month to visit Montserrat are from March to May and from September to November.

     

    Planning to visit Montserrat? Share in the comment below.