ras al kaimah
As suggested in the desert safari travel blog, the personal intrigue of a trip to Ras al Khaimah churned in the thrill of undiscovered territory.

If anything, the Emirate is renowned for both its proximity to Dubai and its luxury resorts. Neither are qualities I rate with personal importance.

Somehow still, Ras al Kaimah charmed me.

Having spent a few frenzied months in climates that will shiver anyone’s timbers, exiting my final night flight to a warm breeze and a one-terminal airport took a weight off my shoulders I didn’t l realise I was buried under.

As a culture junkie, I would never have built an itinerary around it, yet spent the majority of the following three days swapping between robe and bikini around the grounds of the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa: Marjan Island.

Not even the bolshiest traveller can refuse paradise when it’s on their doorstep.

From the warm cookie on arrival to the caring send-off from our genuinely lovely airport transfer driver, DoubleTree ticked every available box.

The resort, in fact, felt like an expansive microcosm of the unusual city around it.

An accidental ghost town with soft flashes of Arabian influence amidst white sandy beaches and long stretches of motorway, Ras al Khaimah proved to be very untouched, indeed. Consistent with the rest of the UAE, the culture revolves around the religion of Islam and Arabian architecture, influence, and – most enjoyably – food.

From September to March, Ras al Kaimah is an idyllic host for the traveller in search or R ‘n’ R (less so in the Summer months, where record highs of up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit sus​t​ain the Emirate’s farming infertility).

Personally, Ras al Khaimah made me feel incredibly thankful. As much for the translucent azure waters as the death-defying desert dunes. The adjacency and availability of such conflicting experiences – almost around the corner from each other – is an unusual gift.

With Qatar Airways launching direct flights from Doha to the city, Ras al Khaimah is a Londoner’s long weekend hotspot I never imagined I would so joyfully recommend.

What I Wore:
St Thomas ring bandeau bikini – Heidi Klein (similar here)
Silk kaftan – Jage Jagger (similar here)

ras al kaimah
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overnight oats
Health food is not a term many of us find synonymous with pleasure. Chocolate? Sweets? Chips? Sure. Quinoa? Linseed? Guarana? Not so much.

Fortunately, the former can be manipulated by the latter and I take real pleasure finding healthy dupes and food swaps for naughty eats and treats.

Having recently received a titanic Holland and Barrett food haul, I figured it would be the perfect time to share my healthy dupe snacking expertise alongside a few all-time favourite kitchen cupboard essentials:

CocoPro High Protein Coconut Water – This coconut water is thicker, creamier, and more protein-packed than its pure alternative yet offers all the same natural benefits alongside 20g of gold standard of protein and vitamin C (with no added sugar!). A health and hydration hero.

Cashews – Natural, unsalted cashews are the perfect snack for food grazers. They are packed with magnesium, calcium, and monounsaturated fats (which reduce high triglyceride levels associated with heart disease) and are one of very few nuts that will fill you up after a small handful.

Oat-ly Milk – My body is not a huge fan of traditional dairy, so I combine the ‘Milk’ with organic oats, golden linseed and chia seeds each evening for perfect overnight oats (you simply top with fruit/nuts to serve). In y opinion, Oat-ly is the tastiest plant-based ‘milk’ and also contains healthy oat fibre.

RJs Natural Licorice (Raspberry) – I have a horrible love affair with Twizzlers (which are packed with chemicals and are altogether absolutely terrible for you), but find one piece of all-natural RJs kicks the craving. They are addictive but the bag lasts forever.

Grenade Carb Killa & Beyond Dark 70 Dark Chocolate Drops – Chocolate lovers, rejoice. Of these two terrific treats, the ‘drops’ are a purist’s dream while the unprocessed and fibre-heavy Carb Killa protein bar manages to rack up only 1.5 grams of sugar and 214 calories with chocolate and caramel.

Eat Real Quinoa Chips (Sour Cream & Chives) – Healthy crisps and chips are often ruled by veggie varieties, but these quinoa chips are so tasty they could convert the inconvertable. As well as offering quinoa’s natural benefits (protein and all nine essential amino acids), they are also vegan friendly and gluten-free.

Whole Earth Wake Up Coffee – I drink a lot of herbal tea (easy/tasty/healthy) but go weak at the knees for a great cup of coffee. Unfortunately, I have zero barista skills and a strong dislike for all things “instant coffee”. This natural coffee alternative, however, features guarana extract for a natural pick-me-up and tastes like rich Italian espresso.

holland and barrett

desert safari ras al kaimah
Never heard of Ras al Khaimah? Don’t worry. Neither had I.

As travel blogger luck would have it, I found myself invited to spend the weekend in the UAE’s most Northern Emirate and couldn’t turn down the opportunity to explore a land uncharted by anyone I knew.

With all three days offering up something a little different (you’ll get the full run-down in tomorrow’s blog), the irrefutable highlight was an afternoon and evening spent in the desert.

Over five hours, my travel companion and I Carmen Sandiego-ed our way through a desert safari like no other. Starting with short trips to feed our hump-backed friends at camel farms, we entered the desert and paused to let the air out of our tyres (a safety must) before buckling every possible part of our bodies into the Land Rover and undertaking numerous madcap leaps over skyscraper-height sand dunes.

Adrenaline well and truly pumping, we took a moment to collect ourselves at the highest point in the desert and let our heartbeats recline as the sand danced around us and rippled the floor beneath our toes.

Neither words nor photos can describe the halcyon that lives at the top of a desert.

Having regained composure, we then set off for a remote desert camp to watch the sun set, get twinning henna tattoos (natch), help the locals make sand bottles for tourism, and enjoy an enormous Arabian-Indian hybrid barbecue alongside belly dancing and the most impressive fire dancing I could ever fathom.

With the option of shisha available as a night cap (not all that boat-floating for the both of us), we chose to chat with the camp owner’s very lovely sister before hopping back into the trusted ‘Rover with warm bellies and even warmer hearts.

A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

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surprise romantic break
As the wise words of Germaine Greer made very clear, the essence of pleasure is spontaneity. Last-minute holidays and romantic getaways go hand-in-hand but can be exceptionally difficult to navigate.

Having just booked a last-minute trip to Italy (Venice and Florence!) for the end of the month with a very handsome man, I have partnered up with Expedia.com to compile a little surprise romantic trip how-to

1. Pick the Location
This is everything. Is there somewhere your partner has been dying to visit? A place they feel they’ll never get the chance to return to? Do your research (time of year and weather is important!), then do the magic. For our upcoming trip, we chose Venice and Florence (romance on romance) because we found two stunning hotels at unbeatable prices with a short train journey in between (with the option to stop by Pisa on our final day, if we chose to do so!).

2. Clear Their Schedule
Before you book, check their schedule. Long weekends work best for surprise trips as they are easy to veil under a “Can we plan to spend the weekend together? I want to take you out”. For any work conflicts, ask one of your bae’s work friends or supervisors to assist with secret time off scheduling.

3. Plan Your Activities
Planning is key! Though the idea of a romantic location might seem like enough, the devil will always be in the details. Be it a unique tour, special meal, pre-purchased attraction tickets, beach-side massages or an aphrodisiac in between, the effort you put into designing your love’s dream getaway will not be taken for granted.

4. Get Them To The Airport (optional)
You can choose to tell them that they are going somewhere one day in advance and give them time to pack, but the uber-romantics should take this as an opportunity to give them the surprise of their life and pick them up on your way to the airport. You will need to pack their bags (making sure to pack weather-appropriate things they love to wear!), toiletries (abiding by flight safety rules), chargers, and passport beforehand, so an evening flight (“I’ll pick you up from work tonight…”) is highly recommended.

Be it for Valentine’s Day or just because, let the spontaneity guide you (and me sure to let me know how it goes)!