Mauritius; The star and key of the Indian Ocean

 

Mauritius is one of those once in a lifetime destinations. A honeymoon spot for many or just an extraordinarily luxurious holiday that creates memories to last a lifetime. We were lucky enough to win a trip to the star and key of the Indian Ocean through the #BeachLife photo competition with Stylist Magazine and Veranda Resorts. If this blog teaches you anything please let it be that yes, people really do win those incredible holiday competitions you see on the TV and in magazines, just give it a go!

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Flying with Air France we were not looking forward to the 12-hour flight that awaited us but it turned out to be one of our most comfortable flights ever with a whole row to ourselves… each! We were able to sleep the full journey and arrive in the country we had been dreaming about ever since we got THAT tweet from Stylist Magazine.

We had never been to Africa before and although this wasn’t mainland Africa, we still didn’t know what to expect. Arriving in September it was pleasantly warm and we set off on our journey to the very north of the island. With the island being a mere 2040km² we drove the full length of the island within an hour, picking up some insightful information from our driver with the usual taxi chat. Did you know Mauritius’ biggest export is Prince’s tuna? Neither did we but we were more interested in the local rum which was to come later!

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Veranda Pointe Aux Biches was absolutely incredible. We have had a number of discussions since returning whether this was our best holiday ever and the hotel was definitely a major factor. The reception immediately set the tone with a sand and wooden theme almost forcing you to relax. Upon arriving the first thing you are asked to do is take your shoes off and immerse your feet under three water spouts representing peace, love and happiness. This might be a bit cringe for some but what a fantastic change to arriving and being asked for your booking details and credit card before so much as a hello!

We were toured through the hotel which was the most wonderful and peaceful setting we have ever encountered on holiday. The hotel has two pools, bars, restaurants , a spa, plenty of activities to get involved in, a private beach and the most welcoming staff you will ever meet. Being based in the Privilege room, we were free to eat at either of the two restaurants which offered very different but equally delicious food and impeccable service. The Sandy Lane village bar, pool and restaurant were for adults only, all-inclusive customers but really, you would have the holiday of a lifetime in any room in. We were free to roam to any part of resort and that’s exactly what we did, spreading our time between the Sandy Lane and Foot-Loose areas.

Our room was filled with complementary coffee, tea, fruit, snacks, coke and beer which were all replenished everyday. The towels were shaped into different animals each time you went back to your room and the view of the balcony was so perfect you could have a good time without even leaving the room.

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Although it wasn’t the height of summer, we couldn’t resist swimming in the pools and sea. We also made the effort to take out some of the free to use water sport equipment laid on by the hotel such as windsurf boards and kayaks. The Pina Coladas flowed all day, everyday and we soon found the coconut rum to be our drink of choice. A few nights ended with us being slightly more flamboyant that usual thanks to a few too many cocktails but if you can’t get carried away on holiday you may as well stay at home!

The Senses restaurant was a buffet style setup with fresh grilled steak, fish and chicken with an everlasting spread of supplements to go with it. The vegetable gratin was one of the most heavenly things we have ever had and for us to pick out the vegetable as our favourite item you know it was good! The all-you-can-eat style meant you could spend hours eating and chatting as the night wore on with the the cocktails still flowing freely.

Although we loved the buffet area, the Sandy Lane restaurant was on another level. Michelin style service was matched by scenic views made for memorable moments. The restaurant continued with the sand theme as you felt your toes settle into the sand as your listen to the waves crashing beneath the stars of the sky.

The food was impeccable with a different five course meal served up each night. From succulent steak to freshly caught fish brought in from the sea just a few metres away, this was a real fine dining experience. Deserts ranged from coconut emblazoned crème brulee to hand made profiteroles fit for a king. The food at Veranda Resorts was something we are sure we will never experience again, and that is a very upsetting thought!

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Wanting to see more of the country, we did venture out of the resort as we visited the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden and L’ Aventure du Sucre. The botanical gardens were a beauty and we recommend taking a picnic with you as it is a great place to explore where you can spend hours losing yourself within the exotic plants and giant tortoises. The sugar cane factory is great if you are keen on finding out more about the heritage of this incredible little island. It is more than just a sugar factory and explanation of processes, it also tells you about the people of the country, their customs, values and their beliefs.

We visited Trou aux Biches on a few occasions and thoroughly enjoyed taking some time away from the resort to see the real Mauritian people as we walked through small villages and chatted with the locals. The beach itself was yet another breathtaking setting but the same could be said about most of Mauritius. We also took a Veranda catamaran cruise to Bernaches Islet where we enjoyed a BBQ to conquer all BBQ’s, and spent a few hours taking in the perfection of Mauritius.

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On our last day we rented out some bikes to ride out to the sugar cane fields. Cycling through the winding roads and listening to the roar of the waves beside us, we made it to the fields which were a bit further out the way than they had seemed in the car! The long ride was well worth it though as we settled down and explored the fields that could have lasted forever if we only had our eyes to judge it by.

Mauritius has become that holiday that will never be beaten. That luxury break that cannot be topped and that memory that will never be lost.

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When not to Goa!

Goa was the perfect ending to our year travelling the world in 2015 so we thought what better pick-me-up after leaving the kids at Our Home than a few weeks of luxury back there. Unfortunately, it was a far cry from the seaside paradise we remembered from last time we visited.

Cavelossim

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Carrying on from where we left off last time we returned to Cavelossim to stay at Veeniola Guest House. Upon our arrival it all seemed a bit quiet as this place was full of travellers last time we visited but there was a spark missing this time around as we soon found out it was low season.

We never thought being in Goa during low season would be particularly bad as we quite enjoyed the thought of quiet evenings sipping pinocoladas on the beach front. What we didn’t expect that there would be nowhere left to get a pinocalada from! All the shops that were thriving from our last visit had been closed for weeks and the many beach shacks had been reduced down to one.

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Instead of relying on the local beach we hired a scooter and in the evenings rode into the local town for dinner and drinks with Mike’s Place being a particular favourite. We spent the days relaxing on the beach and going for long walks, but to be honest we were pretty bored and hoped we could find better elsewhere!

Agonda

Moving to Agonda we decided to treat ourselves to some nice accommodation as despite the friendly staff at Veeniola it didn’t exactly trigger that holiday feeling you hope for.

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We stayed in a beach shack at Jojolapap’s and it was a stark improvement. You get what you pay for and Veeniola was considerably cheaper but Jojolapa’s beach front setting enabled us to relax as we wanted to when first heading to Goa. Oh, they also have the cutest puppy pug you’ll ever meet, just don’t grow too attached as you can’t keep him.

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The beach was lovely and significantly better than Cavelossim which had deteriorated in the two years from our previous visit with a lot more litter scattered in the sand. The sea at Agonda was very wavy just as we like it, the beach was clean and we enjoyed walks up to the rocky area to watch the sunset over the cove.

If you’re in Agonda beach you have to visit Fatima’s for some of the best food you’ll encounter in India! Everything on the menu was exquisite and it costs between £3-£5 a meal! Although it was still very quiet and a lot of the little shops were closed, it still had a good atmosphere which is what we needed!

Cola Beach

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We hired a scooter at 300 rupees for the day and decided to visit Cola Beach. We had read reviews saying it was a hidden gem of a beach and when asking for directions we were told the journey is “a little rough” but how rough could it be?

After 20 minutes of smooth riding we came to a cross roads that directed us to a side road to Cola Beach. The problem was that this was no road it was just sand and boulders which has been slightly flattened. We muddled our way down the route and H got flung off the back of the bike one too many times but when reaching our destination we soon found it was all worth it.

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Climbing down the steps of a steep cliff we found the most incredible secluded beach with a fresh water lake to one side and 5 metre waves of sea on the other! This was something we’ve never experienced before and if you are ever in a position to visit Cola Beach this is one place you don’t want to miss! Make sure you pack yourself enough water to last however as you won’t find any beach shacks here!

The North

All good things come to an end and as we left Jojolapa we had hope that the north of Goa would be livelier than the south and having never visited the north before we were excited for what it had to offer. As we reached our next destination in Mandrem we were delighted to see that Fab Hotel actually reflected the pictures when booking the accommodation! The hotel had nice large, airy rooms, an on site bar and restaurant and swimming pool enclosed by arched palm trees! This bar was also where we were introduced to Bira beer which had now become K’s favourite Indian beer!

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Sadly the hotel was as good as it got in Mandrem and for the rest of north goa. We explored several of the local beaches and we were disappointed to see that they were full of rubbish, dog poo and just not a nice place to be. You could tell we were out of season as the whole area felt like no one cared anymore which is not how any environment should be treated. Overall we are certain that if we return to Goa we will be sticking to the south and avoiding the landfill like north.

We left Mandrem with the knowledge that the only good thing about the area was Fab Hotel and were by now just looking forward to our next trip to Sri Lanka. We thought four nights in Panjim would be too much before our flight so we booked at apartment for two nights in Arpora.

We booked to stay at Zeebo Suites and as soon as we pulled up to the hotel we felt like we had been let down again. However, you should never judge a book by its cover and this was exactly the case here! We were led to our top floor apartment overlooking the huge swimming pool and were absolutely delighted. We had a full private kitchen complete with gas stove and washing machine, a living room with premium HD which was replicated in the bedroom. We had sofas, two balconies, a huge fridge and it even had great wifi! This apartment was less than £20 a night for two people and we were debating moving in permanently!

We actually chose to visit Arpora for the night market but as with most of Goa it was closed but that didn’t bother us as it meant we could make the most of our new pad! (You can see how disappointed with Goa we must have been to be excited to stay in the apartment!)

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The best part was yet to come however as almost all the restaurants were closed we were wondering what we were going to eat. Then miraculously a leaflet was slipped under our door advertising The Pink Chilli. We don’t believe in religion but this was a sign from God to say “treat yourself, you deserve it!”

Pink Chilli was a 20 minute walk from the apartment but it was so worth it. Arriving at the restaurant you’re greeted with a pink tuc tuc and enter into a world of quirky Indian imagination. Bollywood posters from all eras are plastered on the walls, you’ll find the Indian version of the Mona Lisa and Michael Jackson in a turban! The food was fabulous as well, not the cheapest place to eat but it was worth every penny and you have to try the pulled chicken tikka burger!

After much deliberation we decided staying in our apartment was not better than flying to Sri Lanka so we moved to Panjim for two nights before our flight.

We stayed at Hospedaria homestay which is extremely highly rated on TripAdvisor. The accommodation was lovely and the room was one of the biggest we’ve seen at a homestay but we couldn’t justify exactly why it was so highly rated as we thought it was just a nice place to stay.

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We visited Panjim Church which was a nice building but we wouldn’t say you’d be missing out if you didn’t visit during your stay in Panjim. What we do recommend you do is find yourself a good local restaurant as try the fish thali! A mixture of battered, fried, grilled fish complete with clams and rice for under £2 means you can’t go wrong! We’d suggest you look for the busier ones to avoid a case of the Delhi belly but it’s definitely something you should try if you’re in Panjim.

If you’re after something more western then Route 66 is the place for you. This American diner is tucked away upstairs on the main street, near Panjim post office.

We can honestly say we have never had a better burger in India from a standalone restaurant! They also offer up some mean cocktails and do that wondrous Bira beer. Lionel is the manager there and he offers great hospitality, our #1 place to eat in Panjim.

Overall our experience of Goa was saved by Jojolapa, the Zeebo Suites apartments and some of the best food we’ve had in India at the Pink Chilli and Route 66. Not really what you expect from a blog on Goa where you imagine a beach paradise but that just wasn’t the case for us. Sri Lanka however, was a different story…

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Goa … The perfect ending.

After an incredible journey starting on 4th February 2015 from London Heathrow we had reached the final destination of our yearlong travelling adventure. It’s impossible to sum up a million memories into a few words but Goa was perhaps the perfect way to complete our voyage of discovery.

The beach

goa-2Arriving in Goa we stayed at Veeniola Holiday Home, an idyllic setting offering exactly what you want as a backpacker. The rooms were clean and well furnished, the staff were great, especially the manager Charlie who helpfully answered all of our questions, and most importantly the wifi worked! We kept extending our stay at Veeniola which totalled around two weeks and although it wasn’t the fanciest of places or the most lavish, it gave you everything you needed and made us feel at home.

Most of our time in Goa was spent reflecting and relaxing as we prepared ourselves for the big return to the UK. We were a 10-minute walk from a dreamy white sand, clear blue sea beach and spent our days kicking back with beers, diving through the waves and walking for miles through the sands under a perfect cloud free sky.

We have been to many destinations where there are so many things to do that you never have enough time to do them all but Goa was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. Cavelossim beach had the perfect balance of beach hut restaurants and natural beauty. Alex’s Beach Shack is a must if you’re in town but you won’t be disappointed in any of the shacks along the beach, each with something different to offer, from fresh fish nights to Karaoke parties.

FC Goa

goa-9Being without football for most of the year, K was desperate to see a live game so we bought tickets for FC Goa vs Northeast United. The Indian super league was in its second season and included some global stars including Roberto Carlos and Robert Pires. On show in our game was World Cup winner and Brazil legend Lucio as well as former Portugal international Simao Sabrosa.

In terms of footballing quality, the game was lacking although it was scattered with some elements of class, including Reinaldo’s equaliser, but the most incredible part were the fans. As with anything in India, people want to be entertained and everyone was in party mood. The football was like the music at a house party, you know it’s there and without it you wouldn’t have a party but you don’t really pay attention to it. The infamous vuvuzelas from the 2010 World Cup were handed out before the game as well as FC Goa flags and everyone was in high spirits. The match ended 1-1 but we doubt the majority of the fans knew or even cared about the score. Fireworks were set off and the stadium was over-crowded but like everything in India, it was so wrong it worked just right.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2898.Without a doubt Goa was our most relaxing stint in India despite the craziness of the Indian Super League! Our next biggest trip was going to the cinema to watch Spectre, as we’ve mentioned before we adored the cinemas in India, superb quality, cheap tickets and fab range of drinks and snacks, the ultimate movie experience!

Goa was complete and utter paradise, the longer we stayed the more we loved it. We’re intending on heading back in 2017 and perhaps this time we will see more of what this beautiful state has to offer. It might not be as traditional as the rest of India but sometimes we can all have a bit too much Indian, and to end a year of craziness, sleepless nights, long journeys and living out of a backpack, to do absolutely nothing was bliss!

 

Arafwch – Slow down!

wales 7After spending a year of our lives travelling through exotic locations, eating strange foods and absorbing the world’s different cultures, we almost forgot what made the UK so special. Living on the outskirts of London we overlooked all that this incredible city had to offer but worse, we forgot just how awesome the rest of the United Kingdom could be.

Saving for our next adventure, our UK break was less Angkor Wat and more Aberystwyth, specifically Tregaron. Staying at a wonderful little cottage in a village made up of ‘ones’ was just what the doctor ordered! One pub, one post office, one local shop … you get the picture. There was just enough in this village to make it inhabitable but just enough was perfect. Taking a break from the world we were left without phone signal and without worry as we allowed ourselves to take a break from the social strains of today’s society.

Y Talbot was first up and it was a fantastic mix of tradition and comfort. An ideal beer garden enclosing a beautiful pub which also happens to be a 4.5 star rated hotel on TripAdvisor. The food was absolutely gorgeous, succulent beef/fish and fresh vegetables which were locally sourced and a rare example of actually building from within your own community. A little known fact is that the head chef at the Y Talbot Dafydd trained with Marco Pierre White and was a previous Sous Chef at The Ritz! Certainly a claim to fame in this small village!

wales 4But food isn’t what we came to Wales for, it was something far simpler. We wanted to take a break from ourselves. We trekked through the hills, had packed lunch in the mountains and walked along mile after mile of secluded coastline, with plenty of afternoon naps! The most human interaction we had was when buying a bottle of milk from the local store. Small talk doesn’t exist in places like Tregaron, people actually care about what you have to say. A wonderful change from meaninglessly nattering about traffic, the tube or worst of all… the weather!

When heading into Aberystwyth we did manage to get phone signal and being the summer of 2016 and in a new destination, there was only one thing to do. Pokémon Go! We found so many awesome Pokémon in town from Tangela to Chancey but sadly the place was still crawling with those pesky Rattata!

Aside from the Pokémon haul, Aberystwyth was a lively seaside town, with plenty to keep you busy. A host of bespoke eateries and coffee shops, castles that outlasted the dark ages and people with smiles on their faces. H visited her childhood favourite shop named “Stars” which is home to lots of little quirky trinkets, incense sticks and jewellery, a lovely little place for a rummage!

wales 2As we drove through the hills along the country lanes, passing horses, sheep and cows all roaming the lands we felt settled. It was as though we had finally been able to take a real break from everything. Personally, we couldn’t live in a place like this, we can’t function without the hustle and bustle but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and breathe, and Wales certainly allowed us to do just that.

 

<<<Brighton The UK>>>

Brighton

Brighton 4Whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic getaway, a family in need of some seaside fun or a group friends wanting to party the night away, Brighton is the place for you. Located just an hour south of London this easy to reach seaside town is great for a day trip or a mini getaway. Having been several times before we know how fun it is and exactly what Brighton has to offer.
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If yoBrightonu’re a lover of all things food you are not short of options! Classic fish and chips along the beach, or strolling through the lanes you will stumble across as series of little eateries, each one offering something different but all with a beautiful atmosphere and a great selection. A couple of our favourites include the famous Choccywoccydoodah which any chocolate lover would be mad to miss indulging in! Dos Sombreros is another favourite, a fantastic Mexican with a wide selection of delicious food and cocktails galore, perfect to spend the night nattering away in the heart of this quaint town.
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The lanes are a collection of tiny fairy-like cobbled streets famous for their ornate shops and restaurants. Be prepared for them to be busy on a weekend but they are lovely to wander around taking in the Brighton culture and full of quirkiness.
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Brighton 1Brighton Pier
was built in 1899 and has an assortment of arcades, rides and other novelty fun whilst still keeping its historic ambience. We enjoyed ordering a cider to kick back and relax with the view of Brighton’s picturesque, colourful seafront bursting with beach huts and beautiful regency architecture.
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You are spoiBrighton 2lt with choice when it comes down to booking accommodation from boutique B&Bs, modern apartments and classic hotels. We stayed in Queens hotel situated on the seafront which was great for a bit of luxury and a spa treatment during our visit. Sussex house was good for a self-catering trip and close to the town centre for easy access to Brighton’s famed nightlife. It was conveniently located with a modern interior, a good place to settle down in for a few nights.
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Brighton has to be one of our favourite seaside resorts in the UK. With so much to explore and something different going on every time we visit, It really is an ideal UK getaway.