A summer holiday in Italy – Part 1 in Rome! 

Hey girlies!!!!

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I did this. It’s been one crazy summer for me and boy has it just flown right in! The first three weeks of my summer was spent in the UK mainly celebrating my younger brother’s wedding. It was an absolutely amazing time but an extremely busy one also and the days just sort of blended into one another with us all busy running around for all the wedding events. I didn’t really get a chance to do normal things like sit in my PJs with my sister watching endless TV or lay down with my head in my mummy’s lap. That one I’m really gutted about to be perfectly honest. 

All in all it was an amazing three weeks with my husband joining me for the final week of my trip. After the wedding events were over we had one day to recover (it really wasn’t enough time whatsoever) before it was time to head off for a week’s holiday in Italy on the way back to Dubai.

Now, our summer holiday plan was something we had started working on months ago and the idea of going straight after the wedding was something we hummed and hawed about for weeks before we booked up. Sadly, Atteeq only gets a limited number of holidays from work a year and he had already used up the majority of this year’s holidays for two sibling weddings between us so we didn’t have many options in terms of the timing of our summer holiday. So, when we booked our flights to Glasgow we booked via KLM (they were actually a really good airline) which meant we stopped in Amsterdam on the way to Glasgow for a couple of hours but on the way back we changed the stopover to 8 days ahead instead. This actually cost the exact same as the two hour stopover and it meant that we were able to get very reasonable flights (also with KLM) from Amsterdam to Rome. Planning the trip in this way meant that rather than going back to Dubai and then going to Italy (much more expensive) we did the hour long flight from Glasgow to Amsterdam and then boarded another flight for Rome which was about 3 hours or so. This meant our flights to Italy and back to Amsterdam only cost us around 150GBP. The flights to Dubai and back were already booked anyway so because of this we saved a bit of money and booked better quality hotels for the entire trip.

Having said this, I must say I don’t know if I would do another holiday on the way back to Dubai again for two reasons. Firstly, we were absolutely shattered from the wedding period and at that point felt like we would have much rather have had another week with family. Secondly, when we got to Rome we were so homesick (this always happens after we leave family) for the first day or two and just in general felt a little down after the high that was Armaan and Saarah’s wedding! Nevertheless, by like day 3 we were absolutely loving our holiday and were glad that we did it.

Why have I just written such a long paragraph on the logistics of our flight bookings and timings? Well, a lot of people don’t seem to realise that if you book a flight that is a stopover flight anyway then you can extend the stopover for a week or even two weeks to explore there or onwards even. For example, the Emirates flight to Islamabad and Lahore from Glasgow isn’t a direct flight and stops off in Dubai anyway so say you wanted to fly into the Maldives (only 3 hours from Dubai) on the way back from a trip to Pakistan you could extend your stopover to a week instead of the usual few hours and book a flight from Dubai to Maldives or wherever else you wanted. It ends up working out very well financially, however, be aware these types of stopover holidays are a bit of a pain when you have a lot of luggage etc. and are kind of tiring but while you’re young you can do all these things eh! I know some people reading this might think this is common sense but a lot of girls were really surprised at the whole stopping in Amsterdam and going to Italy from there so thought I would share this little money saving tip. Would I do it again? I would definitely but instead of on the way back to Dubai I would do it on the way Glasgow or London so that at the end of the week long holiday we have our whole family to look forward to. This time that just wasn’t possible because of the dates of the wedding.

Right, how about I get to the actual Italy part? So, we decided that we would break up our week long trip in Italy in three parts with three nights in Rome, one night in Florence and two nights in Venice. We started off in Rome then took trains to Florence and Venice with a final flight from Venice back to Amsterdam to then head off to Dubai. This worked the best geographically because each place was between and hour and a half to two hours away from each other by train. More on the trains in my next post!

Where did we stay in Rome?

We used Booking.com for all of the hotels that we booked and honestly I really can’t fault them. I’ve been using them for years and there’s no other website I’d use for booking hotels to be honest! For Rome, we booked Hotel Degli Artisti which was just a short walk away from the Spanish Steps.

The location of this hotel was absolutely amazing and I would really recommend staying here if you are in Rome.

Some positives to note about this hotel:

-Super bright and airy, very modern and new with a nice lift. I say this because many hotels in Rome have very old, rickety and tiny lifts that you do not want to be in.

-The hotel had 3 pin socket points! A small point but very handy if you forget your two pin plugs. Don’t forget them though because our other two hotels were the European plugs and it was a constant battle between charging phones and wanting to plug in straighteners, the camera charger…you get the drift.

-The location was just everything. Most of the main sights are walking distance other than the Colosseum and the Vatican but there is a metro stop just a short walk away. The local Sephora is maybe a 4 minute walk away. You’re welcome.

-There’s an amazing rooftop that we sat on our second evening with a great view.

The breakfast is pretty basic and seems even more basic when you compare it to the breakfasts in the UAE with live omelette stations and what have you. Expect some fruit, some random pieces of bread and some cereal. That’s your lot! If your hotel doesn’t include breakfast then it might be an idea to just eat breakfast out before you begin your day. We added it on thinking it would be useful eating in the hotel each day and then starting the day but in hindsight I can’t remember how much extra we paid for the breakfast but it was so not worth it! It was the same in all of the hotels that we stayed in even though they were 5* so we realised it was just the standard in Italy. 

Anyhow.

On our first evening we just explored as we got into Rome around 6pm, had some dinner and went to bed so we would be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the next day. We were still cream crackered from the wedding so had a good number of zzzzzzz’s that night!

A massive FYI by the way!

According to Italian law you are not allowed an iron in your hotel room. LIKE WHAT?! We thought reception were joking at first when we asked them to give us an iron and were told sorry we aren’t allowed to give you one because it’s the law. So, if like me you are OCD about wearing ironed clothes then please take your own small iron with you if you’re heading to Italy because it was a pain having to give things in and then waiting for them to be ironed by the hotel staff. I ended up using my GHD’s the majority of the time to iron my tops and stuff. Desperate times! I also ended up not wearing a lot of the outfits I had bought for this holiday because they were so creased that the GHD was no good and I’d realise I wanted to wear the super creased item in the evening when the ironing facilities weren’t available. Euch. 

Day 2

We spent most of the day visiting the Colosseum which is arguably one of the most famous attractions in Roma! After this you can walk over to the Palatino Hill and the Roman Forum where you will see landmarks such as the Arch of Constantine and also a bird’s eye view of the Colosseum from the top of the hill. We spent most of the day in this area. You could do more but we were super tired and ended up going back to the hotel to relax, shower and head out again for our two year wedding anniversary dinner! J Yes, we spent our two year wedding anniversary in Rome and it was amazing! Pictures coming up soon, I promise. This blog post is so long…

Just thought I’d stick a selfie in here…

Rome is absolutely heaving in the summer, is VERY hot and the queues for the Colosseum were insanely long. My advice is go for opening time but even then the lines are so long. Thankfully I had a special QR code through Booking.com which meant I could go to a much smaller queue and get tickets there using my special QR code. You can also book your tickets online before you head. My advice is if you’re going to the Colosseum and the Vatican then definitely book in advance. The Colosseum you will get into if you haven’t booked but prepare to stand in the scorching heat for hours on end. The Vatican genuinely gets booked up in advance and we tried booking the night before and couldn’t get anything so we ended up missing that out this trip. You can of course go with a tour guide but prepare to pay A LOT more if you go for this option.

Right, enough chatter! I think I have covered most of the main practical things I wanted to cover about heading to Rome.

Day 2 outfit:Dress – Asos Tall

LOVE this from ASOS! http://www.asos.com/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=7033547
They only seem to have a size 10 left girls!

Shoes – Charles & Keith

Watch – Daniel Wellington

Sunglasses – Quay Australia

I mentioned on Instagram how I have been buying midi dresses from the Asos Tall section and they literally end up being ankle length on me which is perfect if you’re wanting longer dresses without the hassle of having to wear tights. Such a simple idea but wish I had thought of it sooner!

Day 2 evening outfitA random one put together because of the no irons in your room situation but it turned out pretty cute eh!

Top – Boohoo

LOVE this from ASOS! http://www.asos.com/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=7588397

Jeans – Forever 21

Slides – A random shop from Deira (total Miu Miu rip offs but quite good ones I’d say!)

Bag – Tory Burch

Choker – AldoThe street vendors selling roses at the Spanish Steps do totally hound you and it can get a little annoying but of course when the husband said yeah okay I will take one I was beyond delighted and chose a white one since it matched my outfit better.We watched the sun set on the Spanish Steps which is absolutely amazing and just sat on the steps for a good hour people watching. I’d really recommend this! We finished off with dinner and then went for a walk to the Trevi Fountain which again is a must and I think we went there nearly every day because again it was walking distance!

Be prepared for A LOT of walking in Rome. Wear sensible shoes! The roads and streets are cobbled and there is just endless walking everywhere so your feet do end up wrecked. I had sensible shoes on most of the day but changed for photos. I was also carrying a floral backpack most of the day which didn’t go with my outfit whatsoever but it was handy for my camera etc. and again I just took it off for photos. I’m a pro style blogger/traveller now I tell you!

Day 3

I’m going to keep this short and sweet and show you my outfit. We literally went to 6 different landmarks on this day using our trusty map including the Pantheon and the Vittoriano building. I know I haven’t gone into detail about every single thing that we did but genuinely you will get a map in your hotel reception which will have 3 day itineraries all planned out on there for you. It’s one of those cities you can just get lost in and can decide each morning what you want to see next but just be prepared by booking the Colosseum and the Vatican tours in advance as I said previously. The rest you can figure out yourself because that’s the whole fun of Rome!

Day 3 outfit:Top – Asos Maternity (yes I buy things from Maternity by just going down a size when they are super cheap like this top which was like 4 quid?!…I am on it with the Asos tips tonight I tell you!)

LOVE this from ASOS! http://www.asos.com/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=7123772
Sorry, this one seems to be out of stock 😞

Trousers – Zara

Shoes – Primark

Watch – Daniel WellingtonOverall, Rome was absolutely amazing and definitely our favourite city out of the three that we went to! We definitely would have liked more time there. I would recommend between 4-5 days in Rome as there is enough to see. It’s very busy this time of year so maybe choose a time that isn’t so busy. One other thing to note is that halal food is very difficult to come across in Rome and is virtually non-existent other than dodgy kebab shops. No halal fine dining Italian places sadly but the food in Italy is AMAZING. The best pasta and pizza you will ever eat but you would expect that in Italy. Wouldn’t you?

Arrivederci for now ladies! In my next post I will talk about getting the train from Rome to Florence and how you can cover Florence in one day.

Hope you enjoyed this one!

P.S. it’s my sister Madiha’s birthday today so so wish her a happy birthday and tell her I sent you! 

Love,

Miss Mulberry 

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Travel Diary – Istanbul Part 1

Hey guys!

So, last week I went to Turkey for the first time with my mum, one of my closest friend Ash (who also happens to be my husband’s sister!) and Ash’s mamma (aka my mummy in law!). I still find it weird calling them that so  Ash is Ash and Aunty is Aunty. I hate the term SISTER IN LAW. It sounds so LEGAL.

Anyway, I thought I would do a little travel diary about how I found Istanbul and of course what I wore out there. Of course.

We arrived in Istanbul around 1pm on last Thursday afternoon. By the time we got our bags and taxi to the hotel it was almost 2 o’clock. Having only slept for an hour the night before and not a wink on the plane, I was SHATTERED. We reached Best Western Premier Suites Spa Hotel and were taken to our rooms. Ash and I were in one room and our mothers were in next door. We wanted a room on a different floor from them so we could sneak out at night but it didn’t happen. Just kidding, I just wanted to sneak into bed each night as the days were that tiring!
Quick shower and change of clothes and off we went! The hotel was in a great location just minutes away from The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and other tourist attractions. We walked along the Sultan Ahmet square and entered the Blue Mosque courtyard. Words cannot describe how breath taking it is. We just sat in the courtyard and took it all in. We didn’t go inside at this point as we were tired and hungry and decided to go in the next day. We searched on TripAdvisor and found lots of recommendations for Bukhara Kebab House. After getting lost a couple of times, we found it and realised it was only a ten minute walk from our hotel.

The staff were friendly but not overly friendly like so many others that we met (more on that later). The mothers and Ash ordered chicken shish kebabs and they were lovely. They came with rice and salad. We also ordered hummus and spicy salad which was amazing! I ordered a lamb adena kebab and it was not great. It smelt weird and made me feel sick afterwards. The chicken was really good but the lamb, not so good. I wouldn’t recommend getting lamb out there because it just had a weird smell and it wasn’t for me. I think I will just stick to chicken dishes when abroad! I would definitely recommend the restaurant though because the staff all spoke English and were super friendly. After dinner we walked along the Sultan Ahmet square where we could get a better view of The Blue Mosque.
Yes, I am wearing the shirt that the world and it's gran owns.

Yes, I am wearing the shirt that the world and it’s gran owns.

No full outfit pictures here because we were too busy being in awe of the beauty around us. A first for me to put the camera away. At this point we heard the Maghrib prayer call and it was AMAZING. There are mosques in every corner of Istanbul and it was so cool to hear all the different prayer calls happening at the same time. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip. One thing I will say though is that there aren’t great facilities for women to do wuzu (ablution). There seem to be designated wash areas for men in the courtyards of the mosques but nothing for women. There are toilets but they are usually a walk away from the mosque and are quite dirty. You have to pay 1 Turkish Lira each to get into them and they stink. That’s the nicest way of putting it really. If possible I would suggest you wash up before leaving the hotel because we found it to be quite a problem trying to find decent areas for washing. As we were travelling, our prayers were so short and we loved that there were mosques wherever we went. I just wish the doing wuzu part hadn’t been as difficult as it was. That night we slept like logs and woke up to the sound of the Azaan (prayer call).
After Fajr prayers I felt well rested and started to get ready for the day ahead! After breakfast (quite a good buffet and you could get hot food too on request) we headed out and walked towards Topkapi palace. This was the most wonderful experience.
The palace is adjacent to Hagia Sophia and we decided to head to the palace first. The tickets cost 30 Lira each (around £10) and we paid 15 Lira each (around £5) to go into Sultan Rooms which were all the private rooms belonging to the King that lived there. The actual buildings were beautiful beyond words with mosaic tiles, calligraphy on every wall and high ceilings. I just found it amazing that this building that was hundreds of years old was built with such grandeur back when there no modern machines and fork lifts, just manual labour. We walked through all the rooms, each one more beautiful than the last.
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My favourite part of this day was visiting the rooms which had the belongings of various Prophets. It was overwhelming seeing Prophet Mohammed PBUH’s personal items. Amongst the most important holy relics within the rooms were the Holy Mantle of the Prophet; the hair from the Prophet’s beard; the reliquary in which was kept the Prophet’s tooth, broken during the Battle of Uhud and the footprints, letters, bow, and sword of the Prophet. There were also holy relics attributed to other prophets and to the companions of the Prophet Mohammad: the tray used by Abraham; the staff of Moses; the sword of David; the robe of Joseph; the swords of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions; and the shirt, mantle, praying mat, and chest of Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah.
There was an eerie silence in the sacred relics rooms as we looked at each item. There were people from around the world there from all different backgrounds and religions but everyone was so respectful of the place. My mum thoroughly enjoyed seeing the relics and I think this was her favourite part of the trip too. Understandably photography was not permitted here and to be honest we didn’t really take many either because we were so enthralled by every place we went to. A first for me to not whip the camera out every 2 seconds.
After this we walked around the grounds and just took in all the various parts of the palace. You could sit all day in the grounds alone because there is such a peaceful atmosphere there.
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After a couple of hours there we walked towards Sultan Ahmed Mosque (The Blue Mosque!) as we wanted to pray Jummah prayers (Friday afternoon prayers) there. We walked through the Sultan Ahmet Square allowing us to see the full exterior of the mosque. At this point we stopped for some #ootd photos. Of course.
I've basically contradicted myself from my previous claim of not whipping out the camera every two seconds haven't I?

I’ve basically contradicted myself from my previous claim of not whipping out the camera every two seconds haven’t I?

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Dress: Diane Von Furstenberg
Sandals: Monsoon
Bag: New Look
Necklace: Topshop
Bracelets: Cuff – Miss Selfridge, Multicoloured Bracelet – Topshop, Diamante Bracelet – Boutique of Belle
I was very aware of what I was wearing in Istanbul because I knew we would be visiting lots of mosques so I didn’t want to wear anything inappropriate. I went for this DVF dress because of the length and how loose it was. I actually had the bottom of the dress altered because it came with this weird hem like the type you get at the bottom of jogger bottoms? I had my tailor cut that off and just sew the hem again. The dress didn’t have much of a shape but I liked that it wasn’t clinging to my body. It meant that I could pray in it without having to wear looser clothing on top. I picked this lime green bag up in New Look a couple of weeks ago for the bargain price of around £15. It was great for being on holiday because I could fit so much into it and it added some colour to my very cream outfit! I didn’t want the toga style dress to wash me out so of course I went for my standard MAC ‘So Chaud’ lips!
Offering Jummah prayers in the Blue Mosque was just the most amazing experience. I could have just sat there all day listening to the beautiful sermon and watching the intricate calligraphy on every part of the high ceilings. The mosque is closed off for tourists during prayer times and only those wishing to pray are allowed in. Soon as the prayers were over there was much hustle and bustle as people left the mosque. At the same time, many non Muslim tourists came into see the inside of the mosque and were just amazed by the grandeur of the place. There is a certain cut off point in the main hall of the mosque where non Muslims are not allowed to go further but they are still able to see the full hall from where the cut off point is. If you have not been to Istanbul before then I would recommend it just to see this mosque alone. Yes, it’s a tourist hotspot but for all the right reasons. You will leave feeling at peace and almost calm if that makes sense?

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Here is me after Jummah namaz.

After Jummah we headed to have lunch. After a big drama with our mothers refusing to eat at this place that we chose we settled on a place that did pizza, pasta and had FREE WIFI. Sold to the girl in the toga!

Okay so the food was horrendous. NEVER get pizza/pasta in Istanbul – the cheese over there is totally different to what we call cheese and the less said on this eating experience the better. Our waiter walked over and bless him he had such bad BO that I just about fell off my chair. My mother, (not the most PC of women) went and sighed and let out an “ufffffffff, he smells so bad” and then proceeded to SHAKE HER HEAD. Of course, I was all mum for heavens sake could you be any more obvious?! She claimed he wouldn’t understand what she said in Mirpuri but alas the poor Turkish man came back with our food wearing a different t-shirt. Seriously, I can’t take my mum anywhere without her making a sarcastic comment that leads to young waiters having a quick change of clothes.
Anyway, the food was awful and off we went feeling worse off than when we did before the food. At this point, our mum whipped out little packages of tissue and opened them to reveal walnuts and other such delicacies inside them. They had taken them from the breakfast buffet in case we all got peckish during the day. I declined the walnuts but I did laugh.Next stop :  GRAND BAZAAR.IMG_20141025_200729

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With over 2000 shops this is of course, is a must. Things are very pricey here and you will be able to get them cheaper from a local bazaar just outside. The problem here is that the men are INSANE. That’s the only word for it. They literally HOLLER at you and shout all sorts. Overall our experience with men in Istanbul was not a pleasant one. I have visited many countries around Europe by myself and never felt uncomfortable but on this trip I did. This was the first time ever abroad that I felt like I needed a man there with me. I wished my dad was there because even though our mums were with us the entire time it didn’t stop the creepy men being creeps.

What a shame because Turkey is seemingly a Muslim country? I’m not putting a label on all Turkish men but apart from one nice man we met in a shop, the rest all behaved like neanderthals towards us. As we walked through the local market (bearing in mind I was walking with my mother who wears a hijab and covers up fully with an abaya) men shouted things like “hey sexy lady you want perfume”…one young chap tried to lure me into buying ‘Chanel’ perfume by saying ITS BLACK MARKET, YOU UNDERSTAND BLACK MARKET? Erm yes I do and why are you  using that as your USP?! There’s hundreds of young boys selling fake perfume and the likes. What we found was that even if we stopped to LOOK at something in the markets, a team of shop keepers would run over to us and try and sell us everything from jeans to Nike ankle socks. My mum bought two multipacks of ankle socks for my dad. I genuinely had lost the will to live at this point and didn’t bother to say that she could buy them in Sports Direct at home without lugging these home back to Scotland. The sleazy factor was so intense that I couldn’t help but laugh?! The comments were so ridiculous that even though I knew these men were attention seeking and I shouldn’t give them the time of day I was stifling laughter every two minutes. Ash and I just had to look at one another to burst out laughing. Our mother’s sarcastic comments didn’t help every two minutes either. The most bizarre anecdote from this day had to be when as we walked through Grand Bazaar I heard the Azaan. As I turned to see where it was coming from I saw a young guy saying the Azaan out loud whilst standing next to a group of boys. He was staring at Ash and then all I could say was “and why is this boy reading the Azaan at 10am for Ash?”. I know we shouldn’t laugh but it genuinely had to be the most ridiculous thing that could ever have happened. Never mind the comments that were thrown at us for heavens sake but to have the AZAAN read out by someone who is perving on you? Astaghfirullah, may Allah help these people.

Usually my mum would have given the typical comment of ‘you only encourage them by wearing tight clothes’ but on that day I genuinely was wearing a toga and she finally admitted that you will get people with bad intentions everywhere. Those who want to look at you with bad intentions will do so no matter how you are dressed. Ash and I were testimony to that because we tried to dress as modestly as possible and were still treated as though we were parading around naked.

My advice ladies is that if you are visiting Istanbul – please cover up as much as you can. We were super covered up and still felt so horrible by all the comments and the leering so imagine heaven forbid if I’d been in a tight t-shirt with my usual wedges on?! I’m always in ridiculous heels on holiday but I knew we would be walking lots so I only took flats and I’m so glad I did!

Oh and one other tip! Everywhere we went we would be quoted ridiculous prices for everything. We would be asked where we were from in every shop and of course we automatically said the UK. In one shop a man asked the same and Ash said no we are from Pakistan and the shop keeper literally halved the price the moment we said that?! I was actually in shock.

So, word of advice – if you go Istanbul, DO NOT admit to being from the UK. He basically said to us that they just loot the British and Americans. Just shows how dumb they must think we are. Wait, we are dumb because we pay them whatever they want. I was getting quite good at haggling actually because in that local market one wee guy chased after me and gave me the thing I wanted at the price that I had asked for! Score!

After several bad experiences with food since the first night we decided to play safe on this night and got a McDonalds. They didn’t even have fillet o fish?! Their menu was very limited compared to here but the plus point is everything is halal! After our fast food dinner (I feel sick even thinking about it) we walked through Sultan Ahmed square again and watching the fountain with the changing lights. Ash and I would have sat here for longer but our mum’s had just about had enough.

Thus, our first two days in Turkey had come to an end. We went to our hotel that night with sore feet and didn’t even have the energy to laugh.

I still tried though.

 

Me and Mr Team GB.

Me and Mr Team GB.

@missmulberry

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