Movenpick, Ain Sokhna

Going to the seaside in January may sound like a crazy idea but I assured myself that in Egypt it hardly ever rains so I went ahead and clicked ‘reserve room’. I was soon proven completely wrong……

Movenpick Ain Sokhna

Ain Sokhna is about a 90 minute drive east of Cairo and is a popular seaside destination for those wanting to escape the city. We had a long weekend and, after much research, opted for the Movenpick located right between the mountains and Red Sea.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna

We arrived after a pretty daunting journey (I’m sure we weren’t traveling on an official road for some it) at about 8pm and, after checking in, arrived at our room – except it wasn’t the room we booked. It didn’t have a sofa, bath or a double bed so after a quick call to reception, apparently they thought we’d like this room better, we were told we could move rooms after dinner. Not quite the relaxing start we’d hoped for. We booked our room on a half board basis so our rate included breakfast and dinner* with both served in the Cataplana restaurant. This is the hotels main restaurant and has several ‘overspill rooms’ a conservatory, terrace plus the primary dining area. Throughout our stay the restaurant was extremely busy, the staff were efficient at clearing spaces and replenishing cutlery but it was a bit of a scrum at times especially at breakfast. However, this was understandable due to the adverse weather which meant the outdoor terrace couldn’t be used.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna

After dinner we went to reception and we were allocated our new room, a deluxe double with garden views. The room was a decent size with lots of storage space, fridge, tea/coffee facilities, safe, large bathroom and a lovely balcony overlooking the grounds. It was fairly obvious the room wasn’t ready to be occupied. It was quite dusty, there was an empty water bottle in the drawer and the safe wasn’t working. However, we were tired and we decided to report these issues the next morning.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna room
Movenpick Ain Sokhna bathroom

We awoke to a stunning view of the mountains and sea, the landscaping of the hotel has been very well thought out; it was lovely. The less said about the weather the better!

About 9am we headed down for breakfast and it was packed! Each of the ‘overspill’ rooms were in use but the staff quickly found us a table and we enjoyed cooked to order omelette, fresh fruit, muesli and pastries. We then wandered through the grounds to check out the beach and other facilities.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna breakfast

Inside the main building there are a couple of shops selling clothes, jewelry and souvenirs and an ATM. Also, just across from reception, there is a bar with TV screens, pool table, comfy sofas and huge windows allowing in lots of natural light. Steps lead to lower ground floor which is where the spa well equipped Gym is located.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna Zen Lounge
Movenpick Ain Sokhna gym

My favourite part of the hotel were the grounds, credit to the staff for keeping them immaculate. The little river meanders from the hotel to the beach ending in a small lake and is cross-crossed with small bridges and a paved walkway. If you want direct access to the grounds I suggest you book a room on the ground floor with a terrace.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna gardens

Eventually you arrive at the sea-shore. The beach is to the right, a long strip of golden sand with sun beds and umbrellas. From here you can also book pedlos, kayaks and go on inflatable rides. The entertainment team were also organizing beach volley ball and yoga here. The water is a lovely turquoise, very clear and perfect for snorkeling and diving in warmer months.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna beach
Movenpick Ain Sokhna beach

The pool is also well designed, it’s a really good size and surrounded by sun beds and umbrellas. The pool is not heated though and it was freezing so we weren’t able to use it!

Movenpick Ain Sokhna pool
Movenpick Ain Sokhna pool

To the left there is a El Gezirah cafe with a large terrace overlooking the beach. Admittedly there is also a view of the industrial site from this side which isn’t quite so picturesque but growing up in Teesside it was a reminder of home! The cafe serves alcohol and non alcoholic drinks, food, shisha and ice cream. There’s also a couple of hammocks to lounge around in.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna grounds

We had a quick chat at reception to ask them to fix our safe and give the room a thorough clean. Within minutes maintenance arrived to reset the safe but unfortunately during our stay the room wasn’t particularly well cleaned. I know that tourism numbers are down and if hotels aren’t bringing in revenue then it’s difficult to upgrade items but small things can be fixed. For example the wardrobe door needed fixing, the hinge on the mini bar was broken, the bath needed a proper clean, the glass on the outside table wasn’t attached to the table – all of these little things could be addressed through a maintenance program. I wouldn’t say that these things particularly effected our stay but it just gives a general poor impression.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna deluxe room

Dinner each night was fairly good. A selection of hot and cold buffet items, an outside barbecue, desserts and cheeses. The roast on the last night was particularly tasty and the staff were helpful and friendly.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna restaurant
Movenpick Ain Sokhna buffet

The hotel is definitely family friendly with an entertainment team putting on activities and shows. There is also a children’s playground and outdoor table tennis.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna childrens area

On an evening the children’s entertainment took place in the bar, so unfortunately there was nowhere for us to relax after dinner and have a couple of drinks although I guess normally these activities would be outside. The ‘over 18’ rule was not applied to the bar. Throughout the day there were children in there unsupervised which was a bit frustrating, but I guess if you have children and you want a drink it would be fine. It was also, like many places in Egypt, very smoky. Nevertheless we enjoyed sitting here, playing pool and cards with friends.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna bar
Movenpick Ain Sokhna Zen lounge
Movenpick Ain Sokhna bar

The room service we ordered was fast and sensibly priced, the burger came within about 20 minutes and was priced at 90LE. I was hugely impressed that they brought me fresh milk for tea with no fuss and no charge, small things that matter but which are overlooked! The food in Zen bar again was good although the menu is quite limited. I felt the pricing of drinks and shisha was very reasonable for a hotel with soft drinks costing about 25LE and beer about 70LE. I also liked the fact that all priced included tax so what you saw was what you paid.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna bar food
Movenpick Ain Sokhna room service

On our last day the sun eventually shone, it was beautiful. We managed to go for a paddle and have one last drink before heading back to Cairo.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna beach

So overall I’d go to the Movenpick for;

  • Beautiful scenery and lovely grounds
  • Spacious, well equipped room
  • Range of activities especially for families
  • Clear sea water and large pool / beach
  • Friendly, helpful staff

I think our stay could be even better if;

  • Rooms were maintained better
  • The over 18 policy was enforced in Zen bar

Would we go back? To Sokhna – Yes! To the Movenpick- probably! We know what to expect and it would be even more enjoyable in nice weather. If you book this thinking of a usual seaside hotel property in Egypt / Turkey you won’t be disappointed.

Have you been to Sokhna or the Movenpick? What did you think?

*no drinks at all are included at dinner, only food. Tea/coffee and juice is included at breakfast*

An A-Z of Christmas in London

A is for Author A.A Milne and his famous creation, Winnie the Pooh. We loved the special exhibition celebrating his work, it brought back some great childhood memories and gave us the chance to play ‘Pooh sticks’.

B is for Borough Market, a great place to explore on a cold, wet Tuesday morning. Located south of the river the market runs everyday and you can wander around eating and drinking. Many stalls have free samples and we demolished pulled pork sandwiches, crab tortellini and a venison burger in about an hour! It’s only a few minutes walk from the river so you can pick up food to go and have a picnic.

C is for Covent Garden and Seven Dials, an area full of cute, independent boutiques, cafes and shops. It looked so festive on an evening and it’s a great place to stroll along and window shop.

D is for Duck and was firmly on our ‘must eat’ list. The Beijing duck at Min Jiang did not disappoint, it was superb. We pre ordered a whole duck which was carved at our table alongside pancakes, vegetables and sauces then the ‘left overs’ were served as a second course with noodles. With amazing views across Hyde Park this was a memorable meal and somewhere we’d return back to. You can’t watch this video and not dribble a little!

 

E is for Egypt in London. Along the banks of the Thames we saw the Cleopatra’s Needle and statues of the Sphinx which bare the scars from being hit by shrapnel in WWII.

F is for Full English breakfast and was another one of our food cravings, we had one pretty much every morning. On the odd occasion the full English *may* have been followed by a bacon sandwich with lashing of salted butter.

G is for the Globe theatre, a place that made me see Shakespeare in a new light. I hated Shakespeare at school but, on a tour of the Globe, his plays were put into context which made me appreciate them more. I’d love to go and see a live performance here.

H is for Holborn Dining Room where we went for Christmas Day lunch. The atmosphere was lovely with a live band and it was fully booked so there was a real buzz. Not cheap but the food and service was good and we really enjoyed it.

I is for the ice bar where we went for drinks. Located just off Piccadilly Circus, you are given a cap, gloves and advice to up warm before entering the – 5 degree bar for a drink. Unsurprisingly it was freezing, to the point where our shoes stuck to the floor. We enjoyed drinking cocktails from an ice glass and messing about with the ice sculptures. A lovely gift from my sister x

J is for Joy King Lau where we went for lunch after seeing Star Wars at the IMAX on New Year’s Day. Located just off Leicester Square it was cheap and cheerful and a throw back to when we were in China for Christmas a few years ago.

K is for Kilos……far too many kilos. We brought back 6 extra suitcases with us as excess baggage! It was such a relief to see them all on the luggage carousel at Cairo Airport. I’m much happier now I have more ‘stuff’ around me, some home comforts. It was definitely cheaper than shipping it here!

L is for life admin had got to be done. Things that are so much easier to do face to face, such as going to the bank and the post office. I was relieved to get my International Driving License although at the time I thought they’d mistakenly given me a ration book from the 1940’s it looked so retro!

M is for Mousetrap, a play my Mam used to want to go and see but she never did. So with her in mind we booked tickets. Renowned for being the longest running show in the world, the tickets are cheaper than a musical and the St Martin’s theatre is cute and cosy. The play was fun, we spent the interval trying to work out ‘who dunnit’ and we were right.

N is for Neal’s yard, a small courtyard in Covent Garden. It is so picturesque and has some cafes and shops, its also home to the famous ‘Neal’s Yard Remedies’ products.

O is for Oink oink – we ate so much pork!

P is for Plane food, Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at Heathrow T5 and our final meal before we flew back to Cairo. I liked that the restaurant is designed so you don’t feel like you’re in an airport which is great for those who don’t like flying. The food is predominately ‘ British classics’ and I enjoyed my sausage and mash.

Q is for the Qatar airways office in Harrods, another life admin task. We built up quite a lot of miles when we lived in Qatar and now, because of the blockade, we can’t fly QR from Egypt. The staff were really helpful in explaining how I can used my points this summer rather than lose them all!

R is for river walks, I love being near water and even though it was freezing we were happy to wrap up and walk along the Thames imagining what it must be like to live in an apartment with river view.

S is for sales, sales, sales – and the reason for our excess baggage. I never thought I’d be one of those crazy people on Oxford Street on Boxing Day but I was – and it wasn’t as mental as I thought.

T is for the Travelodge in Covent Garden where we stayed. It was the perfect location, in fact we didn’t take the tube at all as we walked everywhere or, on a couple of occasions, took an Uber. It isn’t the prettiest building or the height of luxury but it was warm, spacious, the staff were friendly and it was close to everything we needed (including a fish n chip shop).

U is for umbrella, it rained. It rained a lot. I had forgotten how grey and dreary British weather can be. I picked up an umbrella in the Ted Baker sale and it got a lot of use!

V is for the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is such a beautiful building but often over shadowed by the (usually busier) British Museum and Natural History Museum. The V&A was fairly quiet, we spent a few hours here exploring the special exhibitions and my favourites – the jewelry and ‘rapid response’ exhibits.

W is for the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, it allowed us to really get into the festive spirit. It was a cold, crisp day when we went and we loved wandering with a glass of mulled wine, eating food from the stalls and going on the dodgems. My experience of driving in Qatar and Egypt definitely helped!

X is for Xmas day, it was so relaxing. We woke up late, went for a lovely lunch then walked around the city (slightly tipsy) until it got dark. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel, change into our pjs, drank tea, ate an M&S picnic and watched Christmas Telly. Perfect.

Y is for yum yums and Greggs. No visit back to the UK is complete without them. I don’t think the staff quite understood our excitement at buying sausage rolls and yum yums but we didn’t care.

Z is for Zelman meats in Soho and it’s where we spent New Year’s Eve. We’ve been before and the second time was just as good. It’s a ‘meat place’ where you order meat by the 100g and side dishes. It’s awesome. Unfortunately the weather was pretty grim so we headed back to the Travelodge to watch the fireworks from the 10th floor; it was a surprisingly good view.

It’s quite a strange feeling being a tourist in your home country, everything is similar yet so different. It was such a magical time of year to be in London and we thoroughly loved our trip. We can’t wait to do it all again next year!

Thank you for reading, I hope you had a lovely Christmas and best wishes for 2018.