Chasing The Winter Sun in Abu Dhabi
Just a 7-hour plan ride from London, sits Abu Dhabi the capital of the United Arab Emirates, one of seven states that makes up the UAE. This incredible city has a population of around 1.2 million and boasts some truly magical places to discover.
As Abu Dhabi sits off the mainland on an island in the Persian Gulf it offers the perfect weather for those seeking some Winter sunshine during the cold English months.
December 2018 saw my eager return Abu Dhabi plus a 2-night stay in Dubai which is just an hour’s drive from the City.
Ever since my first holiday back in December 2017 I’d hankered after the blazing desert sun, the sense of profound peacefulness and the incredible and notorious Arabic hospitality.
As a nervous flyer, I’ve found that it helps if I am super organised in the days leading up to my flight as this helps to keep my anxiety levels somewhat in check and ensure I get on the plane. I have been known over the years to have a fair number of melt downs both in the air and on the ground, so an organised travel schedule is key for me when trying to remain calm and to avoid freaking out other passengers.
I don’t usually check my baggage in as I like to travel light but as it was coming up to Christmas, I was on strict orders to lug two humongous boxes of Harry Potter Lego over for my friend’s daughters so for the first time ever, needed a handbag big enough to fit lots of things in.
I’ve always loved metallic fashion and am not ashamed to say I own a pair of gold patent Clark’s brogues so was delighted when the fabulous team over at Mia Tui sent me a gorgeous Zoe handbag for my travels and it fit perfectly over the handle of my super-sized case and even had inner pouches and compartments to keep me super-duper organised and hassle free.
December is a fun-filled month to visit Abu Dhabi as the City is in full swing of the Christmas spirit and there is lots to see and do. The Emirates palace puts on a spectacular ‘turning on of the Christmas tree lights’ and the The Grand Dome is filled with carol singers, candlelight, guests and has an incredible atmosphere.
My trip kicked off with a stay at the Novotel T123 hotel located just 0.8 miles from terminals 1, 2 and 3 a short 15-minute drive to the airport. A funky hotel (part of the Accor Hotel Group) which has a contemporary feel with its use of clever lighting and interiors.
The hotel has a total of 166 rooms, a gym, restaurant and a dedicated family and business corner. It’s an extremely comfortable and stylish hotel and is excellent value for money.
The bedrooms are immaculate, and a generous size, I had a very comfortable nights sleep and woke up feeling refreshed at 5am ready for my flight. A nice touch by the hotel, a cute little desert waiting for me in the room.
In the morning the check-out process was streamlined and efficient and there is tea and coffee as you check out which I was very grateful for at 5.30am.
I’ve never used airport parking for an entire week before and I have to say the Maple Parking provided by Holiday Extra’s was an absolute dream. I simply parked in the specified bays in the short-stay carpark, handed over my key and was given a ticket, so simple and hassle free and literally a three-minute walk to check-in.
Once checked in and bags all dropped off I headed to the Plaza Premium Lounge which is also organised through Holiday Extra’s – all food and drinks are part of the package and there is plenty of space to relax before boarding. Staff are helpful and ensure you have a relaxed experience whilst in the lounge.
The lounge at Terminal 4 costs around £55 for 6 hours and has showers, a nap area, entertainment lounge and children age two and under can go in for free. All food and drinks are included, prices do vary between the lounges and terminals so booking in advance can save up to 70% so it’s worth doing.
Two bloody Mary’s and beans on toast down and I was ready to tackle the plane journey.
5 Reasons Why Abu Dhabu Is A Winning Destination
1.The Safest City In The World
It’s official! Abu Dhabi has been rated the safest city in the world for the second year running, according to Numbeo and website that collated crime statistics from cities around the world. Abu Dhabi was hailed first place when ranked against another 300 cities. Taking your family to Abu Dhabi confident that safety is one of the country’s top priorities really helps to make the holiday more enjoyable.
It’s evident to see that both the expats and locals work hard to create a peaceful community where cultures are shared and respected. This is my second visit to Abu Dhabi and both times I have felt completely safe and each time I leave, I feel a genuine sadness due to the richness of the people and the way of life there.
2. Food & Drink
Despite hitting the gym every day, this tummy came back full, happy and ever so slightly bigger. So many incredible places to eat from full on brunches at top hotels to street food vans and good quality restaurants dotted around the City. The food is of excellent quality, although mostly imported. It’s important to remember that non-Muslims are permitted to drink alcohol only in designated areas such as bars that are attached to hotels and it’s very important to remain respectful to the local laws and culture.
It’s easy to be spoiled for choice as there really is everything from Sashimi to Italian and every dish in between. I can’t recommend the Emirati cuisine enough which boasts such beautiful and intense flavours with dishes such as Hummus, Tabbouleh, Shawarma (spit cooked meat in pitta) and more general dishes of lamb, goat and fish.
Eateries I munched at: Jones the Grocer for an intense Waygu burger with truffle melted brie and turkey bacon, The Circle Cafe for a Cesaer salad with prawns, Filini’s for mushroom ravioli, Viceroy Hotel for brunch (all you can eat and drink) and Caramel Bar for Penne Pasta with truffle cream and Parmesan.
My jeans feel tight just remembering the sheer volume of food I consumed and the tastiness. Need.the.gym!
3. Incredible Places Of Interest
There are so many eye-opening experiences to mention that they really warrant a separate post to give them justice, which I will write and link to shortly. The places and activities I can highly recommend are:
- The Louvre Abu Dhabi
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (FREE)
- Yas Marina F1 Circuit (FREE)
- Emirates Palace (FREE)
- Saadiyat Beach (FREE)
- Yas Mall (FREE)
- Desert Dune Bashing
- Desert safari
4. Arabian Hospitality
Generous hospitality is sacred to Arabs and they pride themselves on being incredibly generous and really make a huge effort to ensure you are comfortable. You really feel as though you don’t want to leave. Such a warm culture with its roots in Arabia’s Islamic traditions.
You will be bowled over by their bright smiles and infectious friendliness. Its impossible not to be completely and utterly charmed. The most wonderful sight for me was watching the Emirati fathers doting on their children, scooping them up into their arms and showering them with love. It’s truly a sight to behold.
5. The Weather
What better way to gain some motivation to get through the cold, drizzly English Winter than to jet off for a Vitamin D boosting trip. Abu Dhabi has gorgeous weather during our cold spell with temperatures around 21 – 26 degrees. There are no distinguishable seasons in the Abu Dhabi although during the Summer the temperature soars to up to 40 degrees. It’s not uncommon to see bathers in the sea and hotel pools in December, topping up tans and sipping cocktails.
Towards the end of my trip, I had the opportunity to visit Dubai and stay in the infamous Five Palm Jumeirah, a luxury 5-star hotel that is like something straight out of a Hollywood movie. Dubai is just an hour drive from Abu Dhabi and it opens up a whole new plethora of experiences to discover.
It doesn’t seem to matter how long the holiday is, the time just flies by as there really is so much to do in Abu Dhabi, the days are so relaxed in the sun that before you know it, it’s time to go home. As I sat on the plane homeward bound, I scribbled down in my planner that not only will I be returning in December 2019 but will also look to make a special trip to Oman, as I’ve heard it’s a truly unforgettable experience and the wild dolphins are a once in a lifetime must-see.
Novotel Hotel T123 (4 star)
Prices from: A standard room for two people costs from £77.00 (prices subject to change)
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Holiday Extras – Maple Parking Meet & Greet
Prices from: Parking from £5.25 per day (prices subject to change)
Holiday Extras – Plaza Premium Lounge
Prices from: For 1 person for 6 hours from £55.00 (prices subject to change)
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Mia Tui – Vegan Friendly Handbags
Prices from: Zoe handbag costs £45.00 (price correct at time of publishing)
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