It’s 42 degrees outside, as soon as I step out the front door my eyeballs start sweating, so I am officially on countdown mode to our UK Summer hols. This new blog post delves into how our family mini break to Abu Dhabi went (along with any helpful tips that I learnt when travelling with the babes), how I’ve managed to shed 12 inches from my body this year, a brief review of a date night Danny and I had at one of the Crowne Plaza’s theme nights and discovering one of the biggest downsides to being an expat.
The kids and I are four weeks away from travelling back to the UK for our summer holidays and although we will all miss Danny like mad for the first four weeks, I cannot wait to get out of the heat. It’s also tough on the kids as it’s way too hot for the park and beaches. Although we do try and get outside late afternoon before bedtime, but after 10 minutes we’re all rocking the ‘ever so sweaty’ look so activities are limited and boredom ensues, so I have a list as long as my arm of all the things I am going to do with the children when we return.
During the second week of Ramadan, we decided to venture out of Oman and to Abu Dhabi for a little mini break.
We booked our hotel via www.yasisland.com as this way our theme park access was included in the hotel booking for the three days, saving us a whopping 142.5 OMR (nearly £300).
The theme parks include Warner Brothers Studio, Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld (and they’ve also just opened Sea World). We chose to stay in the Crowne Plaza, which was a great hotel, good dining options (especially for kids too) and the breakfast buffet had a large variety of options, including pancakes for Emma, so winner winner.
When I was booking the holiday, I had these magical ideas of lying by the pool the first afternoon, cocktail in hand, kids playing, and then reality hit me, and I remembered I have two young children and when have I ever relaxed by a pool with the kids in tow. We did hit the pool on the first afternoon, but there was a cool breeze in the air, which I originally thought was lovely when the sun was out. I proceeded to slather sun cream on the children and throw them in the pool (jokes), but after 15 minutes of being in the water, the sun had decided to go behind a cloud and as soon as you stepped out the wind hit you and it was like being down the beach in Bognor on a chilly autumn day. It was when Teddy’s bottom lip started quivering that we gave up and decided to wrap the kids in warm towels and go grab a drink at the pool bar before heading to our room. I hadn’t even taken my second sip of beer before Emma went on parrot mode and repeated that she was ‘soooo cold’ (you are in for a shock when we go back to the UK then love).
It was at this moment Danny and I both looked at each other and said, ‘why did we decide to come on holiday again’.
We spent our first day at WB World. Aesthetically it looks incredible, and it is the largest indoor theme park in the world, so it is very impressive. If you are a rollercoaster loving thrill seeker then they do have some stomach-churning rides for you to try such as Scarecrow Scare Raid and The Riddler Revolution, but they also have some very family friendly rides such as The Flintstones Bedrock River Adventure and Green Lantern: Galactic Odyssey. To see the full list of rides, click here. For anyone interested they also have a Harry Potter themed land coming soon (I, for one, am excited!!)
I would say Emma is just at the perfect starting age for WB World, but unfortunately, she was a little too short to go on some of the more adventurous rides,
I did try to make her taller by putting her hair in a top knot bun, but the ride attendant looked at me as though I was an absolute plonker, and to be fair, she would have a point.
With Teddy being only one, there was literally nothing for him to do, but from a sensory perspective he was happy sitting in his push chair and watching everything (thank goodness). Queue sizes were relatively quick (15/20 minutes) apart from the odd ride, but there is the option to purchase a queue jump pass for 25 OMR (£50) per person in peak season. In terms of food outlets within the theme park it was your typical fast food offering i.e. burgers, pizzas etc, but it was all very reasonable priced. Danny and I both agreed that we would definitely go again, but maybe not until the kids are a little older so they can both enjoy it.
On our second day we had planned to go to the water park, but seeing as the weather was still a little cold and we didn’t want a repeat of the first afternoon, we opted to explore Yas Mall instead, which was absolutely mahoosive. I could have spent three days shopping in there (had I won the lottery). The variety of shops they had is more than we have in Oman, plus they had numerous places to take children to keep them entertained i.e. Kidzania, a huge soft play, airpark and the list goes on. I also got to experience The Cheesecake Factory and their cheeseburger was probably THE best I had ever tried. Although the cheeseburger was insane, the highlight of my day was taking the kids to the soft play, why, I hear you shout...
Mainly because this is probably the 3rd time, I’ve ever got Danny into a soft play, and he had a number of drinks the night before, so he obviously had the time of his life. Watching him contemplate his life choices whilst going down the slide for the 20th time was hilarious.
We managed to pay a visit to Yas Bay which is definitely worth it for the different restaurants to try and some also give you the perfect viewing point to watch the sunset too.
A few top tips I found on this trip are:
Go for connecting rooms.
A friend recommended this to me, and I am so glad she did as it meant for an extra 30 OMR (£60) per night I didn’t have to be silent in the evening when the kids were asleep, and Danny and I could actually have a conversation and watch a movie whilst the children were in the connecting room.
See below image but I just found this super helpful to carry around for Teddy’s food as it meant it stuck to the table/highchair, and he couldn’t throw it on the floor. You can just roll it up and stick it in the baby bag when you're finished too, so super convenient.
Bag of toys
I take this everywhere as it keeps Teddy entertained for 5/10 mins whilst we’re waiting for food/getting ready/generally just trying to keep him occupied.
Whoosh by Rockit a.k.a portable white noise device (image below)
We bought this in the UK last year and it has been one of our best 'baby' purchases to date. It’s a small device that has 8 soothing white noises that can be played on 4 different levels and is USB rechargeable. We just clip it to the push chair or near the cot and it can be played on a 1 hour mode or 8 hours.
Now when these first came out (think of YOYO) they were incredibly pricy, but there are a lot of copies now which are reasonably priced and great when you’re flying as you can take them straight on to the plane and then you have them as soon as you land to put your little one in rather than waiting until it comes through in the baggage hall. I am especially excited about having it for when I travel solo to Heathrow this summer!
My ‘Fit for 40’ mission is moving along, and I have now lost 12 inches and 7.5kg in total, but more importantly I can feel myself getting stronger and my overall fitness has improved a lot.
I have consistently been going to Muay Thai 3 times a week and from the beginning of May I upped the ante by also throwing a PT Muay Thai session in too, which is brutal FYI. I haven’t cut anything from my diet, I still eat chocolate, I still enjoy margaritas, I am just more mindful about what I eat and when i.e. on our recent date night (which I talk about below) I decided not to drink alcohol (I actually surprised myself)! Emma has even got involved and started weekly Muay Thai classes too which is brilliant as for young children I think they are great for improving communication, coordination and discipline.
Danny and I chose to experience one of the Crowne Plazas new theme nights which was Latin American night and knowing how good the food is already the evening certainly did not disappoint. There was a great selection of salads, meat cooked to order, the most succulent BBQ beef brisket, quesadillas, mouth-watering desserts, and the list goes on. It’s not too dissimilar to a brunch, but on a smaller scale and obviously with a Latin American twist, but the buffet was 15 OMR (£30) which includes soft drinks and for an extra 8 OMR (£16) you could choose the drinks package.
As an expat there are so many amazing experiences to discover when moving to a new country and because of the pandemic I feel like we have so much of Oman to discover still, but there are also some downsides to the expat way of life. The obvious one is you are away from close family and friends who you miss without question, but the other brutal downside is losing the friends you make in your new home country.
I am a fairly outgoing person, and I can make small talk with the best of them, but when you move to a new country/or become a new mum and go to a new playgroup, it’s like that first day of school or a job and you have to put yourself out there and make the effort and it’s bloody hard sometimes.
However, there is the rare occasion that when you put yourself out there, you meet someone who you naturally get along with, you have similar interests, you feel like you can tell them anything without judgement, you have kids the same ages and you are in the same location and that is known as meeting a unicorn mum mate and you have hit the mum mate jackpot.
I recently heard this phrase, and it rang so true as it’s very rare to find people that have all the above factors combined. Weeks into arriving to Muscat, over a soft play ball pit, I met Stacey. We instantly clicked and it helped that our daughters were the same age. Stacey was one of my 'unicorn mum mates' in Muscat and when I found out she was moving to what seemed like another planet (Australia), I was gutted. I think this goodbye hit me quite hard mainly because with other goodbyes I tend to know when I will next see my friend's/family again but with Stacey it's a little different and I just have to hope that our travels take us on a little visit to Australia in the not-too-distant future.
I am so so lucky to have a few of these ‘unicorn mates’ in my life, but Stacey was one of them and I miss her bucket loads (although we still voice note on a weekly basis).
The best advice I can offer anyone who is moving to a new country, or having a baby, is just say ‘YES’ to any mum meet ups or new social occasions, even if you really can't be bothered with the effort, as it just might be that one time that you're lucky enough to meet a new Unicorn mum mate.
The next blog post will likely be post summer talking about our UK summer adventures and you can also find out about how the kids, and I get on, on our solo travelling a.k.a being trapped on a plane with an 18-month-old and a 5-year-old for nearly 9 hours, even as I type it gives me anxiety…wish us luck!