Hotel/Accommodation, Qatar, Travel

Staycation in the Sky: InterContinental Doha the City

December 5, 2016

InterContinental Doha the City

Over the weekend, I was invited by the InterContinental Doha the City to enjoy a staycation with them. The end of a semester is always stressful at my day job. Having a staycation is a way for me to relax and wind down without having to make travel plans or get on a plane.

The warm welcome from the InterContinental Doha the City started even before I arrived when I received an email welcoming me to the Club InterContinental. The benefits of staying there as a Club InterContinental member is that you get to check-in at the Club InterContinental on the 45th Floor, late check-out, afternoon tea, evening drinks and snacks. You are also able to use the club anytime. At the InterContinental you get the added best benefit of stunning views of West Bay!

InterContinental Doha the City

The Room

Light flooded the room from the floor to ceiling windows in the room. The views were just as incredible from the 42nd floor where my room was located. Besides the view, the next best thing was that when I shut the door, it was quiet. The noisy streets of Doha disappeared when I closed the door.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

The living room area of the suite felt like walking into someone’s apartment and not a hotel room. There were a small couch and a chaise lounge. The tv was across from these but not the focal point of the room, which I prefer. Next to this was a good-sized desk where there was both a Nespresso coffee machine and a tea kettle. The best part about the desk the plugs were built into the desk, and a universal plug was included!InterContinental Doha the City

More windows greeted me as I entered the bedroom. The king-sized bed was facing another tv and another view of downtown Doha. There is also a plush chair to sit in. Off the bedroom was the bathroom with, you guessed it, more windows! You can have a bubble bath and watch the traffic go by. The view extends into the shower, which is large with a rainfall option.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

Overall, I loved the room. The carpet was plush, the bed comfortable, plugs beside the beds, coffee maker and blackout curtains are all things I love about a hotel room. There could always be more plugs and the windows provided great views but did give glare off the tv. I wouldn’t trade the views for the tv, though!

The Food

If you are going to a hotel for a staycation, then you probably don’t want to leave the hotel and to do that you need great food options. The InterContinental Doha the City does not disappoint. Since I was there on Friday, I was invited to have brunch at Hwang. Brunch is a traditional activity here on Friday. Hwang is Pan Asian, and the brunch is their take on Yum Cha brunch. Unlike the traditional buffet brunch, Hwang is a tasting menu that you order from, and they bring you as much as you like.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

Having only been to Hwang once before, I was eager to have the things I know I liked and to try new dishes as well. Not only was the food superb the service was excellent. The waitresses suggested items to try and made me feel like I was eating with friends. My favorite dishes were the Crispy Prawns with Wasabi Mayo and the Crispy Wok Friend Duck with Long Beans and Thai Basil. The brunch is reasonably priced at QR 228 with soft beverages, QR 328 with wine and beer and QR 428 with wine, sparkling wine, beer, spirits and cocktails.

InterContinental Doha the City

That evening I had dinner at Al Jalsa Garden Lounge. Now that the weather has cooled down in Qatar, this is an excellent option as it is outside. The offerings are mainly Arabic food and shisha is an option. The muttabel I had there is the best I have had in Doha and I have had tons of muttabel.

InterContinental Doha the City

You can’t stay in a hotel without enjoying the buffet breakfast. The wonderful service continued at The Square where upon entering they took my coffee and omelet order! Kids will enjoy this breakfast as much of it would be visible to them. In fact, I saw one little boy jump from his stroller when he saw strawberry milk.

There are several more options in the hotel including Prime, the steakhouse, the lobby lounge for tea, Strata lounge and restaurant and Hive restaurant and lounge. You will never go hungry at the InterContinental Doha the City.

Upcoming Events and Specials

December is a busy month in Qatar with Qatar National Day happening on December 18th and Christmas then New Year’s Eve. The InterContinental Doha the City has tons of things happening over the next few weeks that you can enjoy.

National Day Offer – Book a stay for two that includes breakfast, a 30% discount on food and early check-in and late check-out! There will be National Day celebrations in the lobby lounge from 7 AM to 12 AM.

Take Away Turkey – Want a turkey for Christmas day, but don’t want to do dishes?! Let the Intercontinental Doha the City do the work for you by ordering a turkey to take away. You can order it for anytime from now through January 7, 2017.

Christmas – On Christmas Eve, the Square will offer a holiday buffet including roast beef and turkey. There will be children’s activities. The cost is QR 255 with soft beverages and QR355 with house beverages.

New Year’s Eve – Live music at Prime including a ticket to the Bridge after party for QR 390. Drinks and the view at Strata for QR 250. And more!

I could go on and on they have so much to do over the next month. This is in addition to the pool, health club and sauna available to all guests staying at the hotel.

The InterContinental Doha the City is an excellent choice for a staycation or a weekend in Qatar. Even if you decided to venture out from the hotel you are close to two malls, Katara, the Corniche and the amazing Souq Waqif.

 

Italy, Travel

Florence, Italy: A Photo Essay

November 28, 2016

FlorenceFlorence is my favorite city in Italy. The whole city is a museum and as you all know I am a museum nut! I have been to Florence three times this year, so here are some of my favorite photos from my visits.

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence

 

Hotel/Accommodation, Italy, Travel

A Room with a View: Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum Hotel

November 21, 2016

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Nothing will catch my attention faster than the word museum being in the name of a hotel. Sitting in Gubbio, Italy, I was planning where to sleep for the night. I was having a tough time deciding between staying Gubbio or heading to Assisi, Italy. In an unusual manner, I had not booked a hotel for the night or even decided if I was going to stay away from my apartment in Umbria. After searching for hotels in Gubbio and deciding that the one I wanted wasn’t available, I moved on to Assisi.

Choosing to sleep in Assisi might have been the best hotel choice I have ever made in my life! As I said, I was caught by the word museum in the name of the hotel and the gorgeous photos of the spa. To be honest, I don’t think I looked at pictures of the rooms at all. And normally I do some kind of research on the hotel, but I only read the TripAdvisor reviews and booked the Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum! The hotel looked stunning on my tiny iPhone 5, and that was enough for me. Only later did I discover it was a 13th-century monastery for Benedictine nuns.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

When I arrived, I did not think my room would be ready as I had only booked the room about two hours before. However, my room was ready, and they never let on if my last minute reservation was stressful. I had gone in the wrong entrance when I arrived, and my bag had been left at the spa entrance. While I was waiting for my bag to be brought up, I was offered a drink while I waited. During that time, they took my bag directly to my room, which was great since there is no elevator in the Nun Assisi Relais.

The Room

My room was room 12. Each room is different, and there are only 18 in total. Entering through a small double door, I walked into a small sitting area with the television. The seating options were a bench area and one lounge chair with a footstool. From the lounge area, you walk down a hallway to the bedroom. Along the way, you pass the closet and bathroom. The closet is a walk-in and is larger than almost every closet I have ever had! The bathroom is not large but has a wonderful rainfall shower and shower gel that smelled so good I brought it back to Doha with me. My only complaint about the bathroom was the mirror was up so high that I could only see my forehead.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

The bedroom contained a large and very comfortable bed. There was also a television in there. Once I laid down on the bed, I realized I had a stunning view of the Rocca Maggiore. The view was even better as the sunset. The room had air conditioning, but it was not what most Americans are used to, but I wasn’t hot through the night as I thought I would be. I discovered the reason why in the morning, linen sheets! I wanted to take them off the bed and bring them home with me.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

The Spa

Once I arrived, I decided that I was in need of a massage from all the walking I had been doing all over Italy. I booked a massage for later in the day so I could still sightsee during the day. I was told to put on the robe in my room and go down to the spa a few minutes before my appointment.  Since I was going for a massage, I didn’t take my camera, which was a mistake. This is also where the museum portion comes into play. The spa is in the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. The space is gorgeous and immediately calming. Despite my wanting to explore the whole space, I had to go directly to my treatment.

The massage is one of the best I have had in my life. Unlike in the US, you lay on the table without a towel. I am assuming it is because Italians are less concerned about nudity than us Americans. It didn’t matter though as the table was heated and the massage therapist made me feel comfortable. It was a rough massage, but I felt so relaxed, I almost fell asleep. What I also liked is that the room was dark, there was relaxing music playing, and the massage therapist did not talk much.

There is also the option to do the Nun Circuit, which is entering several different rooms of different temperatures. It is supposed to bring immediate purifying and regenerating effects. There is also a multi-massage pool. All of this is just an excuse to go back since I wasn’t able to do any of this because I had a reservation at the restaurant.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

The Food

The hotel has a restaurant on the property. I found it amusing that the restaurant is called “Eat Out” since if you are staying at the hotel, you could consider it eating in. Anyway, the view of Assisi from the restaurant’s terrace is worth a visit alone. You can see most of Assisi from there, and it is especially popular when the sun is setting.

While Assisi is awash with ancient structures, Eat Out is thoroughly modern inside. The interior is clean and simple with neutral tones and dark wood. Some of the kitchen is open plan, so you can see the chefs working.

The menu changes with the season. Much of the ingredients are sourced locally and are organic. The portions are not large; the food is not complex but flavorful. The wine list was carefully selected and paired well with the menu choices. I ordered linguine with pork. I tend to order lots of pork when not in Qatar! The desert was a kind of cake covered in chocolate. Given my lack of enthusiasm for chocolate, I should have ordered something else. Overall, I loved the food and the experience and only wish I had been there longer to have a chance to taste more of the menu.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Location

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum is located in Assisi just inside the historic gates of Assisi. Look for the white church across from the parking lot next to the bus stop. The exterior is plain white stone, so it blends in, and the sign is not obvious. The entrance is actually through the garden as I discovered after I entered through the spa. The hotel does offer parking, but I am not sure of the price as I parked in the public parking lot, which was not expensive for the 24 hours I was there.

Middle East, Oman, Travel

Unexpected Salalah, Oman: The Jewel of the Middle East

November 14, 2016

Salalah, OmanGreen is not what you expect to hear when you hear someone talk about a country in the Middle East, but it is when you speak about Oman. Especially, if you are talking about Salalah, Oman during monsoon season. Yes, I said monsoon season! You may even be wondering where Salalah is at this point. Located in the southern part of Oman, Salalah is about 200 kilometers from the Yemen border. It is perfectly safe to visit, as the border with Yemen is far from anything that is happening there.

Salalah, Oman

Even though I had seen pictures, I wasn’t quite convinced that this lush green oasis existed in the harsh Middle Eastern landscape. Since it is a short two-hour flight from Doha, I decided to visit right at the beginning of Khareef (monsoon, but literally autumn) season. In the city of Salalah, it is greener than Doha and Dubai, but not lush. There are more trees and many banana plantations. Once you leave the city, it gets greener and greener as you head into the mountains.

Salalah, Oman

Mountains are the other feature that astonished me. Most of Qatar is quite flat, and I know that mountains exist in the Middle East, but I always thought they would be small and not very impressive. I was wrong! The mountains are part of the reason that Salalah is so green as they catch the moisture and increase the rainfall in the mountains. As you can see from the pictures, it was misty and raining most of the time. So green, mountains and camels mixed together make for an unexpected trip to the Middle East.

Salalah, Oman

What to do in Salalah

Frankincense Museum and Al Baleed Archaeological Park – These two sites are next to each other. You pay one fee per car, and it gets you into both. The Archaeological Park is an excavation of a settlement that dates back to 2000 BC, and they have done an impressive amount of work to uncover the village. The museum covers the history of Oman and the region with a focus on shipping.

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Al Mughasayl Beach and Marneef Cave – While you can’t swim at this beach during monsoon season as the waves are too rough; you can visit the blowholes. The mountains meet the ocean here, and small blowholes have developed. Stand on the grates covering the blowholes and get soaked. Go very early in the morning before the huge crowds show up!

Salalah, Oman

Wadi Darbat – One of the most spectacular sites in the Middle East. First, you head up the Dhofar Mountains and drive through winding roads at about 20 kph because of the thick mist. Follow the signs for Wadi Darbat, and you suddenly head down into a valley. The valley opens up to what at some times is a flowing river. You can walk through the Wadi, but be careful you don’t slip and fall, like me! I am still paying for that fall. (Hint: wear appropriate shoes!) You might want an umbrella.

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Go north to Mirbat – Yes, this is not Salalah, but you should see the abandoned house here. These houses are built in the traditional Yemeni style but are in disrepair. It is a great place for photography. The houses are built right on the natural bay and have calmer seas than at Al Mughasayl Beach. The nearby castle might be worth checking out but don’t go on a Friday as it is closed. (You would think I would know this by now!)

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Meet Friendly Camels – There were more camels in Oman than I have ever seen in Qatar. This camel was very interested in us and wanted to get really close. I, on the other hand, was hoping to keep a safer distance.

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

How to get there

Fly to Salalah! From Qatar, there is a two-hour direct flight. If you aren’t coming from Qatar, you will probably have to layover in Muscat or Dubai. However, the flights from these places are very short. You can drive from Muscat, but the drive is very long. Once in Salalah, I recommend renting a car to explore the area. Everything was an easy drive, and most things had good signage.

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