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Prague

Prague | October 3, 2019 | By

They say the city of romance is Paris but I believe it truly is Prague!  The capital and largest city of the Czech Republic, this sparkling city situated on the Vlatva river is a political, cultural and economic center of central Europe.  It is the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia.  You’ll find influence by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras in this charming city and will get lost wandering in its fairytale streets.  Your dollar will still go a long way in Prague so take advantage of this while you can (read: many Czech beers)!

Best time to visit…

Given Prague’s temperate oceanic climate with relatively warm summers and chilly winters, you’ll want to visit in early Fall in order to take advantage of the temperate climate while beating the summer crowds!  Prague is known for its extreme brutally cold winters to hot hot summers and the weather is pleasant in between in the spring and fall months.  Snow is rare in the city, but it can happen!

Getting there…

Vaclav Havel Prague Airport is the international airport of Prague, approximately 17 kilometres north of the city.  All international flights arrive at this airport and there are no other civil airports in Prague (although Prague ahs three smaller airports and several landing areas for helicopters).  An uber ride is approximately 25-30 minutes into the center of town and will run you around $30 USD.

Beautiful Prague

Where to stay…

Aria Hotel Prague is a charming hotel located in the Lesser Town neighborhood and walking distance of iconic attractions like St. Nichola Church and Prague Castle.  The property features a private entrance and its 51 rooms and suites are inspired by contemporary, classical, opera and jazz music.  The property offers the Music Box – an entertainment room with an LCD screen, Blu-ray player and video game console – and an atrium lounge with a grand piano.  CODA restaurant, the hotel’s Czech-influenced fine dining establishment serves delicious (but pricey) meals.

Aria Hotel Prague
Trziste 9, 118 00 Mala Strana, Czechia
+420 225 334 111

Alchymist Grand Hotel & Spa is a boutique hotel housed in a baroque-style building from the 16th century and is just steps from restaurants, shops and top Prague attractions like Prague Castle and Charles Bridge.  The romantic décor that is found throughout the hotel is encompassed by its gold-trimmed furniture, arched doorways and grand chandeliers.  With only 29 rooms and 19 suites, the hotel feels quaint although the walls are on the thinner side.

Alchymist Grand Hotel & Spa
Trziste 19/19, 110 00 Mala Strana, Czechia
+420 527 286 011

 

A weekend in….Prague, Czech Republic

Friday

Get settled and stroll into Old Town and peruse the cobbled streets filled with eclectic street performers and vendors.  Listen to the musicians play, marvel at the architecture and soak the city in!  You’ll want to make your way to the Prague Astronomical Clock which dates back to 1410 and anchors the center of the town and strikes every hour.  The clock contains three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; statues of various Catholic saints stand on either side of the clock; “The Walk of the Apostles” a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.  According to a local legend, the city will suffer if the clock is neglected and its good operation in placed in jeopardy; a ghost, mounted on the clock, was supposed to nod its head in confirmation.  According to the legend, the only hope was represented by a boy born on New Year’s night.  Be aware, the crowds can gather quickly so the best time to visit is early morning.  Look up or else you’ll miss the gorgeous statues on rooftops!

Prague Astronomical Clock

You won’t be able to walk the streets of Old Town without bumping into several Trdelnik stands.  A traditional Slovak rolled pastry originating from the Hungarian-speaking region of Transylvania, the trdelnik is usually served warm and topped with a dusting of sugar, nuts or cinnamon…or any topping of your choice!  This delectable treat is made by wrapping the pastry dough around a wooden or metal stick, roasting it over an open flame and coated with sugar or cinnamon.  Horice rolls can also be found all about town (wafer like tubes filled with fluffy cream and hot melted chocolate).  Delicious!

You will probably have worked up an appetite by now after the Trdelnik so head to the rooftop bar at the U Prince Hotel for a drink and dinner.  Situated in the heart of Old Town Square, this intimate rooftop bar and restaurant is the ideal place to watch the sunset and look over the bustling town below.  With views over the main square, Tyn Church, the Astronomical Clock and vistas over to Prague’s castle, this is a hot spot during the summer for evening cocktails and romantic dinners.  As part of a five star hotel, the menu is on the pricey side and due to its small rooftop location it does get extremely busy.  Reservations are a must!

U Prince Hotel Rooftop Bar – Prague Old Town Square
Staromestske namesti 460/29, 110 00 Praha 1
+420 224 213 807

View for rooftop drinks

Saturday

Wake up bright and early in order to take in the charm of the city without the hustle and bustle of the crowds.  Walk The Charles Bridge as the sun comes up in order to savor the tranquility and to obtain the best photos you will take all trip (otherwise the bridge fills with tourists and makes it all but impossible to take photos)!  The Charles Bridge, the most iconic place in all of Prague, is lined with a cobblestone path and giant Baroque saint statues guide you across the Vlatva River.

Early morning on the Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in the background

From the Charles Bridge, make your way up the hill to the Prague Castle, taking time to enjoy the sweeping views of the city and the river below.  You cannot visit Prague without visiting the castle, if not for its fascinating history and centuries-old architecture but for its pure beauty and magnificence.  Once the home of Bohemian monarchs and emperors, it is now the official residence of the Czech president.  The Prague Castle grounds are open daily from 6am to 10pm but the monuments don’t open until 9am.  There are 3 entrances to Prague Castle, all which have security checks.  Spread over 18 acres, there is much to explore at the castle.  The Old Royal Palace is one of the oldest structures in the Castle Quarter, dating al the way back from 1135.  Originally used by Czech princesses in the 12th centry, it eventually became the king’s palace from the 13th to 16th century.  Vladislav Hall, the largest hall in medieval Prague with late Gothic elements, is famous for its ribbed vaulted ceiling with five domes and Italian Renaissance windows.  In the 16th century, Vladislav Hall hosted all of the Bohemian court occasions, including tournaments, banquets and coronation ceremonies.  It still hosts various celebrations today.

The MUST-DO of all of Prague is visiting St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.  Towering over the castle grounds, its the most important church in the Czech Republic.  Despite being a predominantly Gothic structure, Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque influences are also represented.  Admire the detail in the carved doors, arches and gargoyles that decorate the massive exterior of the cathedral.

The stunning St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle

At the heart of the twin spire cathedral is St. Wenceslas Chapel, where you can find the tomb containing the relics of the iconic Czech patron saint.  Marvel at the Gothic frescoes, stained glass windows and walls decorated with Bohemian gemstones. 

Situated in the north-east corner of the Castle Quarter, Golden Lane is a charming cobblestone street lined with tiny 16-th century houses.  Make your way back to old town for a bite and a famous Czech beer!  Whether you enjoy beer or not, you must give one a try in Prague.  It’s as pure as the water from a mountain lake – and you don’t have to pay a pretty penny.  If you’d like to try a beer flight, head to the Prague Beer Museum (which is more a bar than an actual museum).  You are bound to find something delicious for everyone at Lokal, a local beer hall with authentic food and of course, beer!

About to indulge in bratwurst and a beer!

You would never expect it, but Prague is very well known for its Thai massages!  After walking all day, rest those tired muscles and let the relaxation set in.  If a Thai massage isn’t your thing, try a foot rub or shoulder rub instead.  Again, like the rest of Prague, the prices are very reasonable.

End your day with a romantic River Vlatva dinner cruise.  The landmarks of Prague, beautifully illuminated by night, will leave you in awe as you travel down the Vlatva River enjoying dinner and music in a romantic atmosphere.  Most cruises are about 2 hours and you’ll enjoy a wide selection of delicacies!

Sunday

If you didn’t make it out early the day before to enjoy Prague before the crowds invade, definitely to do today!  There is something to be said about capturing the pure beauty of the city when it is this calm.

Old Town at sunrise, where is everybody?

For an intriguing and historical experience, visit the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, the final resting place of more than 100,000 people despite having just 10,000 headstones.  When space ran out, more earth was added to make room for more people.  The burial site now serves as a peaceful, yet poignant reminder of the catastrophic history Jewish residents throughout Central and Eastern Europe suffered.  You’ll want to visit the Jewish Quarter (located between the Old Town Square and Vltava River).  Most significant historical buildings were saved from destruction and today they remain a testimony to the history of the Jews in Prague.

The Old Town Bridge Tower

Climb one of Prague’s several towers for one last breathtaking view of the city.  The Petrin Observation Tower was inspired by the Eiffel tower in Paris and stands on a large hill overlooking Prague, providing a birds eye view of the entire city as the entire city is laid out in front of you.  The Old Town Bridge Tower is one of the most impressive Gothic structures in the world with great view in all directions.  To the east is Old town and all the towers and historic domed buildings and Charles Bridge and Castle District to the west.  The Town Belfry by St. Nicholas’ Church is taller than the other towers and provides close up views of the Castle district and Strahov Monastery.

Missed Encounter – Lost Love!

Blog | February 13, 2019 | By

Does anyone know who this sweet little girl is? Looking for Jaxon’s long lost love and first kiss! Jaxon fell in love at story time at the Encinitas Library in October and has been looking for her every week since then but she is nowhere to be found! He is heartbroken! 

EASIEST Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Turkey | February 7, 2019 | By

This slow cooker turkey chili recipe could not be any easier, or more delicious! It’s so quick and easy to make it almost feels like cheating – what’s the secret? Tomato soup as the base to save on time! Only minutes of prep for a tasty and comforting meal that is oh so satisfying and full of flavor.

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EASIEST Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
The quickest turkey chili to date - save on time without skimping on flavor!
Easiest Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
Easiest Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
Instructions
  1. Heat ground turkey in a skillet with olive oil over medium heat and cook until brown.
  2. Combine turkey, tomato soup, onion, chili powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, ground cumin, salt and pepper in slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours (after 1 hour, mix in black beans and corn).
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Antigua

Antigua

Antigua, Travel | October 3, 2018 | By

Antigua, also knows as Waladli by the native population, is a breathtaking Caribbean island in the West Indies and the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda.  The island is relatively small with a circumference of roughly 54 miles which can easily be explored in a day.  Beyond its breathtaking white sand beaches, Antigua’s English Harbour and its neighbouring village of Falmouth are internationally famous as a yachting and sailing destination center and hosts the annual world-class regatta during Antigua Sailing week at the end of April and beginning of May.

Best time to visit…

The best time to visit Antigua is May to November, the island’s off-season.  You’ll find lower than usual rates and although there is a slight threat of hurricanes, the weather is more than likely always above 80 degrees.  There is less chance of rain between December and April but rates are expensive and the crowds abundant.  A little fleeting tropical rain never hurt anyone…especially your wallet!

Getting there…

You’ll want to fly into VC Bird International Airport (ANU), approximately 5 miles east of St. John’s.  1,325 miles southeast of Miami, many US airlines offer connections to VC Bird from the continental United States.  Americans arriving in Antigua receive a six-month tourist stamp so visas are not required.  However, immigration officials may verify a return ticket or ticket of onward travel along with sufficient funds for the entire period of stay.

Where to stay…

Our balcony view at Galley Bay

Our balcony view at Galley Bay

We stayed at the amazing all-inclusive Galley Bay resort overlooking the beautiful Galley Bay surrounded by tropical greenery.  The Galley Bay resort is located directly on the beach with airy and colorful rooms that look out onto the crystal clear Caribbbean water.  If you want a change of pace from the breathtaking beach (although not sure how you could), the resort also has a lagoon-style pool surrounded by palm trees and hammock, a chic spa, tennis court and an exercise room.  With 4 restaurants and 4 bars, all with sea views, you definitely will not go hungry or thirsty here!  We devoured the finger licking good glazed barbecue chicken and roasted corn on the cob for lunch at the Gauguin beach restaurant every day we stayed there – pure heaven!

Galley Bay Resort (4- star)
Five Islands Village, St. John’s, Antigua & Barbuda
(954) 949-2142

All day every day!

All day every day!

A weekend in…Antigua

Friday

For adventure seekers and nature lovers, Antigua won’t be complete without making a trip to Stingray City! Antigua’s Southern Rays are without doubt the brightest rays in the Caribbean, friendly and gentle.  Touch and feed a Stingray while you swim and snorkel amongst them above magnificent coral reefs and colorful tropical fish.  Stingray City is on Mercer’s Creek Bay in Seatons in eastern Antigua, off the road to Long Bay.  Numerous tour packages are offered and a swim with the Stingrays will cost you around USD $50.

Beautiful clear blue water

Beautiful clear blue water

We found a buddy

We found a buddy

Saturday

If you forget that SPF and get a little suburn that requires a break from the sun, head to the beautifully restored naval dockyard that was once the home of the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars.  Nelson’s Dockyard is a site to see and also part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park which also contains Clarence House and Shirley Heights.  A cultural heritage site and marina in Englkyardish Harbour, Nelson’s Dockyard is home to Antigua’s sailing and yachting events.  In 1889, the Royal Navy abandoned the Dockyard and it fell into decay.  The Society of the Friends of English Harbour began restoration in 1951 and a decade later, it was opened to the public.  Among the original buildings are two hotels, a museum, craft and food shops, restaurants, and a large marina.  Hiking trails radiate across the surrounding national park. Nelson’s Dockyard is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.  The cost of admission is $8 USD and includes a guided tour as well as entry to all sites including Shirley Heights and Dow’s Hill.  Tours do not run on Sundays.

Once you’re finished at the Dockyard head up to check out the incredible view from Shirley Heights (490 feet above the ground) that overlooks the English and Falmouth Harbours and boasts the best view in Antigua!  The view is especially spectacular at sunset when the English Harbour is all lit up.  Shirley Heights Lookout also hosts a Sunday Barbecue party that starts at 4:00 pm with reggae music and a mouth watering barbecue that goes until 10:00 pm.  Get your groove on while overlooking beautiful Antigua and experiencing some of the island’s finest bands.

The gang

The gang

Sunday

While the actual town of St. John is probably not where you’ll want to spend most of your time, it’s worth seeing if you are renting a car and driving around the island.  A few other notable stops you must make are to Valley Church Beach with it’s quiet white sand just south of Jolly Harbour, the Devil’s Bridge to see the dramatic natural limestone arch, and Half Moon Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in Antigua!  The island is known for its collection of 365 sugar-white sand beaches so you will not run out of beautiful beaches to explore!

Never wanting to leave paradise!

Never wanting to leave paradise!

“This article is now featured on GPSmyCity. To download this article for offline reading or travel directions to the attractions highlighted in this article, go to Walking Tours in Dubai on GPSmyCity

Ground Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry

Chicken, Recipes | August 2, 2017 | By

I love Chinese stir-fry but I can’t afford the grease, sodium and fat that can come along with it (and nor do I want to)! If you’re not a big fan of broccoli or just a veggie lover in general, add other vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots…the more the merrier when it comes to stir fry. Whenever the urge strikes, I reach for this recipe and am instantly satisfied. If you’d like to deviate slightly from paleo while still remaining uber healthy, try this over brown rice or quinoa. Add some red pepper flakes for some spice!

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Ground Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry
A healthy and delicious stir-fry!
Ground Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Prep Time 5
Cook Time 15
Servings
Prep Time 5
Cook Time 15
Servings
Ground Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Instructions
  1. Combine soy sauce, rice wine, honey, five spice powder and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat and add olive oil.
  3. Add ginger and garlic and stir.
  4. Add ground chicken with half of the sauce mixture and stir until lightly browned.
  5. Add in broccoli florets and the remainder of the sauce and simmer on low for 10 minutes.
Recipe Notes

[recipe]

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Paleo Chocolate Soufflés

Dessert, Recipes | June 12, 2017 | By

What’s better than an ooey gooey chocolate soufflé with a warm dark chocolaty center? An ooey gooey chocolate soufflé with a warm dark chocolaty center that’s paleo! Chocolate soufflés used to be one of my favorite guilty indulgences with a capital “G”…now I can enjoy these sinful treats without feeling the need to repent. You can cut the recipe down to 1 if you don’t have the self-control…or make the batter up to 1 day ahead (store in the refrigerator) if you’re wanting to make batch after batch! Serve these hot and piping out of the oven and try them with a dollop of my paleo whipped cream!

Paleo Chocolate Soufflés
Serves 4
Guiltless dark chocolate paleo soufflés baked right in the oven!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  2. 6 oz dark chocolate
  3. 4 tbsp coconut oil
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 2 tbsp coconut milk
  6. 2 tbsp honey
  7. 4 egg yolks
  8. 4 egg whites
  9. pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease 4 ramekins with additional coconut oil and cocoa powder.
  3. Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together in the microwave, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove the dark chocolate and coconut oil mixture and add the vanilla extract, coconut milk and honey.
  5. Whisk in the yoks one by one until smooth.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt together until peaks form.
  7. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate.
  8. Spoon into the ramekins.
  9. Bake 15 minutes until set and serve immediately.
The Paleo Panda https://thepaleopanda.com/

Paleo English Muffins

Breakfast | April 13, 2017 | By

I’m a big fan of using almond flour to make things taste like carbs! I’ve been on a kick making breakfast sandwiches for breakfast and/or lunch and these little English muffins are perfect when sliced in half and toasted. I also like to toast and spread a little grass-fed butter or almond butter on them for a sweet treat! There is hardly any prep or clean up involved and you can’t beat a 2 minute cooking time. If you still can’t afford the 5 minutes, make a bunch ahead of time and store them in the freezer then defrost/reheat as you consume

Paleo English Muffins
An easy breakfast treat!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 tbsp almond flour
  2. ½ tbsp coconut flour
  3. 1 tbsp grass-fed butter
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1 pinch sea salt
  6. ½ tsp baking powder
Instructions
  1. Microwave grass-fed butter in a 4” ramekin for 30 seconds.
  2. Combine almond flour, coconut flour, egg, sea salt and baking powder in ramekin and stir.
  3. Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes.
  4. Microwave for a minute and a half then run a knife along the edge to loosen from the ramekin.
  5. Slice, toast and enjoy!
The Paleo Panda https://thepaleopanda.com/

Camarones A La Diabla

Recipes, Seafood | March 2, 2017 | By

I am a shrimp fanatic and this is my favorite recipe on the blog to date! I always order camarones a la diabla at my favorite Mexican restaurant then instantly regret it after I’m filled with grease and sodium…I’d much rather get all of the taste combined with the ability to control what goes into my dish and therefore my body.  I love the garlic, butter and spice combination in this dish but beware of the habanero and feel free to leave it out if you have a spice aversion!

Whether grass-fed butter is paleo or not is slightly controversial but the benefits of grass-fed butter far outweigh any perceived “rule breaking” in my book. Not only is grass-fed butter rich in nutrients like vitamins A, E and K2, it is also a source of butyric acid and conjugated linoleic acid which actually may prevent weight gain or even cause modest fat loss (not to mention it’s absolutely delicious)! Win, win win.  Use as much or as little as you’d like with this recipe – the more you use, the richer!

Try these camarones with my paleo tortillas!  Enjoy!

Camarones A La Diabla
Serves 2
A deliciously garlicky, buttery & spicy shrimp dish.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  2. 2 guajillo chiles
  3. 4 chiles de arbol
  4. 1 habanero pepper (with all or half of the seeds removed based on spice tolerance)
  5. 1 roma tomato
  6. 4 garlic cloves, minced
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  9. ½ tsp black pepper
  10. 2 tbsp grass-fed butter
Instructions
  1. Peel & devein shrimp then marinate with a small amount of minced garlic and a sprinkle of salt then set aside.
  2. Toast the guajillo and arbol chiles in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant.
  3. Add water until chiles are submerged and simmer for a few minutes until softened.
  4. Remove stems and seeds from guajillo peppers.
  5. Place guajillo & arbol chilese in a processor with chopped tomato, habanero, garlic, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper and pulse until smooth.
  6. Melt butter in a large skillet and add the sauce mixture then bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  7. Add shrimp to the skillet and cook for 60 seconds. Turn and cook for an additional 60 seconds, simmering until shrimp reaches desired firmness.
The Paleo Panda https://thepaleopanda.com/

The Paleo Panda + GPSMyCity Apps

Live. | January 30, 2017 | By

Imagine reading a great travel article and thinking to yourself, “I wish I could use this article as a guide while I’m traveling…”

If you have access to the internet, you could always bookmark the article and go to the website again. But more often than not, you’d rather not use up data to access the internet. And you might not even have a cell phone plan for the country you are visiting.  Besides, just reading through the article again will remind you of the places you wanted to visit — that well-reviewed restaurant or that popular beach — but you’d still have to stop and look up the directions to find it.

There’s a much better way! Use a GPS-guided travel article. This is a travel article that has GPS coordinates embedded in the article and a map of the route the author described in his/her article.  Once this app is downloaded to your phone, you will not need any internet to use the article as a guide. It will show you right where you are on the map and guide you to each subsequent location!

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve partnered with GPSmyCity to convert my travel posts into apps.  You can download these apps for free, or pay for an upgrade to guide you wherever you are in the world!

What Are GPSMyCity Article Apps?

GPSMyCity produces city walk apps for over 750 cities across the world. The walks may be general (like “San Francisco’s Highlights”), or thematic (such as the “Murray Hill Architecture Walk” in New York). They use GPS tracking on your iPhone to chart your progress around the route and to make sure you don’t get lost. Many of the city apps now have links to articles covering different aspects of the area, including places of interest, restaurants and shops.

Each article is an individual app which you can download for free. This allows you to access the article offline, meaning that you can read it on the airplane, or while following a walk, even if you don’t have internet access. There is also the option to upgrade for a small fee ($1.99). This assists with your travel planning by providing an offline map showing the points of interest. And it links the app to GPS, so that when you are actually in the city you can get a route to the places mentioned in the article.

As a bonus (and to introduce you to how great this concept is), GPSMyCity is offering free upgrades of my most popular travel articles in the GPSmyCity directory for 1 week starting Monday, January 30th until Sunday, February 5th.  You can access GPS-guided travel articles two different ways:

  1. Click on a link below for the article you are interested in (if you haven’t already downloaded the free GPSmyCity app, you will see a prompt to do so). After downloading the app, you will be directed to the article, where you can choose UPGRADE to get the GPS-guided version.
  2. From the GPSmyCity app, you can browse by city to see which articles are available.

A Weekend in Phuket

A Weekend in Capri

A Weekend in Panama City

You can download any article for free or upgrade for offline GPS-guided use.  Happy travels!

Dubai

The Burj Khalifa

Dubai | January 24, 2017 | By

Dubai, the glittering gem of the Middle East, is located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf and is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates.  In 2012, Dubai was proclaimed the 22nd most expensive city in the world and the most expensive city in the Middle East.  Known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture and lively nightscene, the opulence and extravagance of the city is apparent everywhere you go and begins from the moment you step foot in the magnificent Dubai airport.  Endless skyscraper and development projects are continually ongoing and constantly transforming the Dubai skyline.  The city hosts the Dubai Shopping Festival every year as well as the annual Dubai International Film Festival and Dubai Food Festival. 

Best time to visit…

The best time to visit Dubai is between November and March, although Dubai is ALWAYS scorching so it’s either hot or hotter!  The weather is beautiful with blue skies in the winter but these are also the peak months which means greater crowds and higher prices.

Getting there…

Situated midway between the Far East and Europe and an equal distance from Londong and Beijing, Dubai is a trek.  It’s well worth the trip but be prepare for a lengthy travel day!  Less than an eight-hour flight away from most major  destinations in Asia, Africa, Europe and Russia and with a superb network of roads and highways, Dubai is easily accessible by air, land and sea.  Emirates Airlines has a great direct 16-hour flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Dubai International Airport.  Be sure to take advantage of the extended Dubai layover deal that Emirates Airlines offers – a great (and FREE) way to see Dubai if you’re traveling to the Middle East.  Upon arrival at Dubai International Airport, Downtown Dubai is merely a 20 minute taxi ride away!

Where to stay…

There are a multitude of options as it relates to lodging Dubai that stretch from Jumeriah Beach to Downtown Dubai and all around and in between.  On artificial islands just offshore is Atlantis & The Palm, a resort with water and marine-animal parks.  My favorite place to stay is the luxuriously modern Nassima Royal Hotel in the heart of Downtown Dubai with its stunning views over Dubai and more than reasonable prices.  Located on Sheikh Zayed Road, the 51-story hotel offers a great pool outdoor rooftop pool, kids center and fabulous restaurants, bars and nightclub.  Ask for a room with a view of Dubai’s iconic skyscraper, Burj Khalifa!

Nassima Royal (5-Star, Downtown Dubai)
Plot 49 Sheikh Zayed Road, Trade Centre District
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 4 3080000
$$

View of the Burj from our room at the Nassima Royal

View of the Burj from our room at the Nassima Royal

For the ultimate in luxury, the Armani Hotel Dubai, envisioned by fashion icon Girogio Armani, occupies 11 floors of Burj Khalifa and has a private entrance, direct access to the Dubai Mall and 7 restaurants to choose from!

Armani Hotel Dubai (5-Star, Downtown Dubai)
Lobby Level, Burj Khalifa
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 4 888 3888
$$$$

If you’re looking to stay near the water and to pay a pretty penny, you’ll recognize the famous Burj Al Arab hotel with its striking sail-shaped building set on an island…arguably the most luxurious hotel in the world. The hotel offers suite-only accommodation, 9 world-class restaurants and bars, 5 swimming pools (3 outdoor and 2 indoor), a private beach, free breakfast buffet, complimentary access to Wild Wadi Waterpark and a private reception on every floor.

Burj Al Arab (7-Star, Jumeriah Beach)
 3 شارع جميرة 
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 4 301 7777
$$$$$ ($$$$$$)

In front of Burj Al Arab, the most luxurious hotel in the world!

In front of Burj Al Arab, the most luxurious hotel in the world!

A weekend in….Dubai

Friday

Once you’ve settled into your hotel, head over to check out the Bur Khalifa…the tallest building in the world standing at 2,722 feet!  Aside from being one of the most spectacular sights in the world, the Burj Khalifa also features two observation decks (one of which is the highest in the world), sky lobbies, swimming pools, the world’s highest nightclub and the world’s highest restaurant.  The first 15 floors of the structure are the luxurious Armani hotel and further up the tower are apartments, corporate offices and observatories. 

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world!

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world!

The Burj is a towering symbol of Dubai’s opulence with its Neo-futurist design and that’s evident in the hefty price tag to visit the building.  You must have a ticket or a reservation to enter and visit the Burj.  If you’d like to make a reservation at Al Mahara, the iconic seafood restaurant within the Burj with a floor-to-ceiling aquarium, be prepared to pay a pretty penny as the average price for two with a bottle of wine is approximately $600!  Another alternative (still not cheap but slightly better) is to make a reservation for afternoon tea at At.mosphere on the 123rd floor and enjoy high tea with bird’s-eye views.  There are two observation decks (lower outdoor observation deck At The Top on the 124th floor and indoor deck At The Top Sky on the 148th floor) and ticket prices will vary depending on which deck you choose and the time of day.  The best time to visit the Burj Khalifa is just before sunset.  If you arrive early enough, you can take pictures from the top during the daylight hours, through sunset and dusk then into the evening.  Tickets for the sunset hours (5:30 pm to 6:30 pm) increase by AED 75 or around $20 so it’s recommended that you purchase a 5:00 pm ticket if you just plan on spending a couple hours at the top.  Sunrise tickets are available from 5:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays only.  Make sure to make arrangements in advance as tickets for the Burj purchased on the spot can cost 75% more!

Burj Khalifa (Downtown Dubai)
1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 4 888 8124

In front of the Burj awaiting the Dubai Fountain show!

In front of the Burj awaiting the Dubai Fountain show!

After visiting the Burj, skip on next door to The Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world (by total area) with 1,200 shops and over 13 million square feet!  It also has a 250-room luxury hotel, 22 cinema screens along with 120 restaurants and cafes. You cannot miss the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and its 300+ species of marine animals, including sharks and rays while you are at the mall.  Wander through the aquarium’s 270-degree acrylic walk-through tunnel where you can see the underwater animals up close.  The Underwater Zoo is located above the aquarium and features penguins, crocodiles, piranhas, giant spider crabs, water rats, sea horses, jellyfish and more!  If you’re feeling active, take a spin at the olympic-size Dubai Ice Rink…the go-to place for ice skating in Dubai.  The rink offers professional ice skating lessons as well as lessons for figure skating, ice hockey, Disco and Mega Skate sessions.  Kids will also find hours of entertainment at SEGA Republic, a 76,000 square foot indoor theme park dedicated to SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog, and KidZania, an award-winning children’s ‘edutainment’ concept that features an 80,000 square foot mini-city that combines play with learning!  To check out Ski Dubai, the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort and snow park), head over to the nearby Mall of the Emirates with its 630+ retail outlets and 500-seat capacity Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre and Magic planet (one of the largest indoor family entertainment centers in Dubai).

The Dubai Mall (Downtown Dubai)
Financial Centre Road
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+800 38224 6255

Mall of the Emirates (Downtown Dubai)
Sheikh Zayed Road
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 4 409 9000

So much shopping, so little time!

So much shopping, so little time!

Great white sharks at the Dubai Aquarium

Great white sharks at the Dubai Aquarium

Here fishy fishy!

Here fishy fishy!

Upon leaving the Dubai Mall, you can’t miss The Dubai Fountain Show, the world’s largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake at the center of the Downtown Dubai development.  Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 colored projectors, it is 275 meters long and shoots water up to 500 feet into the air accompanied by a range of world music.  It’s truly a magnificent sight to see!  Performances take place at 1:00 pm and at 1:30 pm as well as every 30 minutes from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm on weekdays and until 11:00 pm on the weekends (Thursday, Friday and Saturday).  

The Dubai Fountain Show

The Dubai Fountain Show

For the freshest fish and an experience in itself, try the seafood at Bu Qtar Fish Restaurant for dinner after a long day.  Featured in CNN Travel and shortlisted by Foodie Hub as one of Dubai’s Essential Eats, this restaurant requires more than an hour longwait to even place an order!  The menu consists of 5 menu items and is definitely a no frills joint with plastic stools and plastic tables out front of the restaurant.  Crispy fried fish, spicy shrimp, Malabari fish curry …whatever you order will be marinated in a mildly-spicy seasoning before being friend and served rice or paratha and curry sauce!

Bu Qtair Fish Resaurant (Jumeirah Road)
4 D Street Al Sufouh
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 55 705 2130
$

Saturday

Beach day!  Set out to discover the glorious Jumeriah Beach with its stretches of soft white sand and crystal clear blue waters. Jumeriah Beach islocated and named after the Jumeriah district of Dubai, on the coast of the Persian Gulf.  If you’re lucky enough to stay at one of Jumeriah’s hotels like the opulent seven-star Burj Al Arab, you’ll have private beaches with waters sports.  Otherwise, you’ll be able to enjoy Jumeriah Beach Park, the public portion of the beach buzzing with action with people playing beach games, jet-skiing, picknicking, jogging, sunbathing and swimming in the warm Gulf waters.

Fun at Jumeirah Beach

Fun at Jumeirah Beach

After spending the day in the hot Dubai sun, get ready to explore the Dubai desert at sunset.  After researching countless tour companies and itineraries we decided that the evening night safari with Desert Safari Dubai was the best bang for our buck and incorporated everything we wanted to do in the desert!  They pick you up at your hotel around 4pm and take you on the 40 minute drive out to the desert.  Upon arriving in the desert, the driver releases the air out of the tires of your vehicle and takes you on the thrilling experience of dune bashing up and down the miles of mountainous sand dunes.  Your stomach will drop and you’re unsure whether you’re in a vehicle or a roller coaster…an experience of a lifetime! 

The crew! Dune bashing with our new friends from India!

The crew! Dune bashing with our new friends from India!

After dune bashing, you’ll head to camp where you’ll be able to take a short ride on a camel (great photo opportunity) and ride quad bikes or sand boards for an additional charge.  They also offer henna painting, shisha smoking, and traditional attire for you to wear for pictures.  The highlight of the night is the belly dancing and fire dancing show performed while you enjoy a buffet dinner and BBQ underneath the stars!  You’ll head back at your hotel once the evening concludes around 9:00 pm.

Desert Safari Dubai
+971-50-2768-111
www.desertsafaridubai.com

Camel riding in the Dubai desert

Camel riding in the Dubai desert

Embracing the traditional attire

Embracing the traditional attire

Sunday

Wake up and stroll around the Dubai Marina, the famous artificial canal city built along a two-mile stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline.  When the entire development is complete, it will be the world’s largest man-made marina and will accommodate more than 120,000 people in residential towers and villas.  The Dubai Marina walk is a 7 km long pedestrian walkway that runs around from the start of Dubai Marina until the end of Dubai Marina with cafes and restaurants along the waterfront.  Phase I has already been completed and Phase II will consist of high rise buildings, which are mainly clustered into a block, known as “Tallest Block in the world”.  The Dubai Marina Mall, the shopping mall located in the center of Dubai Marina, features 140 retail outlets spread over 390,000 square feet of gross leasable space consisting of shops, a supermarket, an entertainment area for children and a six-screen Reel Cinemas.

The beautiful marina

The beautiful marina

If you’re a shopper and in the market for amazing knock-offs, be sure to stop by The Karama Market…Dubai’s number one market for replicas.  For the good stuff, you’ll be taken into a secret room or upstairs.  Make sure you do your research what kind of items you want beforehand and be sure to bargain, bargain and BARGAIN!

The Karama Market (Downtown)
18B Street
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 50 000 0000

Before you leave Dubai, experience excellent and genuine Pakistani food in a local neighborhood restaurant.  Although small, Ravi’s has garnered quite a gobal reputation and is well-known to be Craig David’s favorite restaurant in Dubai.  The curry here is out of the world!  The staff doesn’t speak much English, but they will tell you what menu items are good to order.  Try the Chicken Jalfrezi, Lamb Green Masala and Paneer Butter, yum!

Ravi Restaurant (Al Satwa Rd)
Shop 245, Al Dhiyafa Rd, Satwa
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 4 331 5353
$

Panda’s Tips for Dubai:

  • Dubai’s laws concerning sexuality morality restrict public and private acts and kissing in certain places is illegal and can result in deportation.
  • Adult non-Muslims are allowed to consume alcohol in licensed venues but restaurants outside of hotels in Dubai are typically not permitted to sell alcohol so alcohol is hard to come by (your best bet is a hotel bar) and therefore pricey!
  • Women typically wear the “Abaya”, a long black robe with a hijab (head-scarf which covers the neck and part of the head) and men can be seen wearing the “Kandurah” (long white robe) and headscarf but the dress code is not compulsory and many people wear western clothing wihout any problems as long as clothing is not indecent.

“This article is now featured on GPSmyCity. To download this article for offline reading or travel directions to the attractions highlighted in this article, go to Walking Tours in Dubai on GPSmyCity

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