Barbara Whitten, Anywhere Travel Managing Director, and her husband Ray recently returned from an enriching journey through Europe, exploring Italy via Abu Dhabi and then a stand-out cruise with Avalon Waterways from Zagreb to Bucharest. Taking in much of the former Yugoslavia, including Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia, as well as Romania. In this three-part series, she shares with us her highlights and insights.
Travelling may still not be quite what it was pre-pandemic, but the world is opening again, and we are thrilled to be able to share these experiences with you in the hope that they inspire your own travel journeys.
There are new offers from hotels, cruise operators, and airlines every week but capacity remains very limited. To ensure that you secure your preferred options and the category of travel that we know you expect, you should contact your Anywhere Travel consultant without delay.
We decided to stay overnight in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, en route to Europe. Abu Dhabi is home to six of the world’s most luxurious hotels in the Virtuoso Travel network including our hotel, the Emirates Palace which is operated by the Mandarin Oriental Group.
Once built as a palace but now a hotel, it is a tourist attraction in itself – you can purchase gold bars from their ATM instead of the usual cash! The hotel was huge – I think it was 800 steps to our room from reception.
When staying here, you must try the hotel’s Arabic restaurant (Mezlai) as it was excellent. And for a different view of the Palace, head across the road to the Etihad Towers and go to Observation Deck at 300. Located on level 74 of the towers, it is the highest vantage point in Abu Dhabi at 300 metres above the UAE. The café is famous for its tea blends and incredible views.
Unfortunately, we were caught in a massive sandstorm during our stay where visibility was limited and being outside was uncomfortable, to say the least. We did make the best of our limited time though.
Arabian Adventures, the tour operator for much of the area provided a guide. We went to the Royal Palace Qasr Al Watan (not a palace but more a show place of local architecture and design). It was spectacular!
We then headed to the Louvre, which is not like its namesake in Paris. “The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s unique exhibition design explores the connections between civilisations and cultures that might at first seem to be far apart in time and geography. Visitors are guided through a chronological and theme-based display traversing different periods and civilisations.”
What else could we do when you couldn’t see the Corniche and it was not worth going to Yas Island with its many restaurants and bars? Instead, we saw the new fish market and sampled delicious dates from all over the Middle East at the date market.
We also took some time to visit the world-famous Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, which is one of the most spectacular buildings. No matter what your religious beliefs may be, you can’t help but feel a sense of serenity in this space. The cooled interior makes for a wonderful contrast to the heat outside. And if nothing else, the Arabic architecture inside will provide you with plenty of Instagram worthy photos!
In addition to the Virtuoso Travel hotels, there are plenty of different hotel choices at very reasonable prices, all with trademark Emirati hospitality.
As well as being a major hub to all of Europe, Abu Dhabi offers increasing traffic to Israel, and it is a shame not to stop in Abu Dhabi – but preferably outside the summer months.
There are beautiful beaches, warm people, lots of interesting architecture, and the desert experience is fun and not far from the city.
Join me on the next instalment of this series when we venture from the UAE and on to Italy!