In December we found out that we’re having a baby, due in August, and we always knew we’d want to squeeze in at least one trip away before the newborn’s arrival.
However, the outbreak of Zika virus in January just a week after we’d booked our ‘babymoon’ meant we had to cancel all plans for a food fiesta in Mexico City and beach time in Tulum and look again at our new, narrower options for a last holiday as a twosome.
We wanted to go away somewhere hot, not 21/22C hot but lying on the beach doing nothing, reading books and hiding in the shade, hot.
Dubai has never appealed to us. I went around 15 years ago but now it just seems too flashy, fake and pricey so we looked elsewhere in the Middle East and that’s when we decided on Oman.
The Chedi in Muscat came highly recommended by some friends and family who have stayed there and it looked perfect for our horizontal ambitions.
We don’t usually stay in 5-star places but there was an irresistable deal going for the first week of May which made it affordable for us.
The hotel has three swimming pools, two very smart restaurants, plus pool bars and stunning grounds.
We booked in for 7 nights and then proceeded to do the very British thing of panic about the weather and if we’d made a huge, roasting mistake.
Yes, it was baking, the temperature for the week ranged from 35-44C but it was more than bearable given the amount of shade and water there is in hide in.
The week was the perfect holiday. Matt had run the London Marathon the week before and needed a rest and I wanted to be able to lie in a bikini before the bump became too bulky and uncomfortable.
We read books, swam, played cards and slept for nine hours a night. All things which will seem like distant memories in two months’ time!
The prices for food and drink were skyhigh in the hotel so we made sure we made the most of our included breakfasts. The spread, as you’d expect from this type of hotel, covered everything from fruit and pastries, to omelettes and traditional Middle Eastern food.
Of the six nights we had to make dinner decisions, we ate out of the hotel three times. It was cheaper to get taxis to local restaurants than to eat in the hotel.
While many of the restaurants are targeted at expats who might want a taste of home, we wanted to seek out local food if we could. Omani food seemed to be a mixture of Middle Eastern and Indian influences.
We had delicious and very cheap biryanis at Begum’s in the city. While some biryanis can be dry, these were moist and spicy and perfect washed down with a mango lassi and lime juice.
Kargeen also served authentic food in a calm, if quirky, outdoor setting. (The music was terrible – imagine the kind you have during a massage but over and over again as you’e eating…!)
Again it was very cheap and we stuffed ourselves with hummus, falafel and shawarma and enjoyed more refreshing juices.
Ubhar, near the Royal Operas House, was a smarter Omani restaurant which appeared to pride itself on having camel on the menu. While we avoided the camel, we did enjoy some mixed meze and then two tasty beef and chicken dishes with rice.
The service was really attentive, and one waiter even walked us through the streets to help us find a taxi and negotiate the fare back to the Chedi.
The Chedi has two of the nicest restaurants in Muscat so we knew we had to try them. The menus cover all types of cuisine but The Beach specialised in seafood with king prawns and lobster on the menu and is the most upmarket.
We tried to eat Middle Eastern food where we could, enjoying more hummus and kebabs. Plus they were the cheaper options on the menus.
Matt was especially keen on the watermelon, halloumi and rocket salad.
While the service was formal but personal, I think we both agreed that it was the nights out of the hotel that we preferred.
After one nigh out, we finally gave in and sampled the amazing-looking macarons which had been tempting us day after day. I think they thought we were crazy when we said we wanted to take a selection to our room to nibble on during an especially competitive game of cards.
This holiday was always going to be memorable but it really was the ideal break with all of the right ingredients.
We’ll treasure these memories as we know we’re not going to be going on trips like this again any time soon!