Andiamo, Heliopolis

Tucked away behind an unassuming garden gate on a busy road in Heliopolis, Andiamo is easily missed. Luckily Greg had been a couple of weeks ago and knew where to go or we’d have been wandering around for ages, something we seem to do quite often in Cairo!

Andiamo, Heliopolis

Stepping into Andiamo you feel like you’ve walked into someone’s back garden. The compact, cosy space, cleverly manages to accommodate a fully stocked bar, a handful of tables, TV and a pizza oven. It’s very cute!

Andiamo, Heliopolis
Andiamo, Heliopolis

There’s no chance of poor service here, it’s so small the staff only have to walk a few meters – in fact you can probably just call out your order! The food menu is simple; its pizza. There are several varieties to choose from, all are thin crust with crispy bases and topped with good quality, fresh ingredients. I think our food arrived after about 15 minutes cooked to order in the pizza oven. The drinks menu is more substantial, from soft drinks to beer and sangria, cocktails to spirits.

Andiamo, Heliopolis
Andiamo, Heliopolis

We ordered two pizzas to share, one with smoked ham and mushroom the other with merguez sausage. They were so delicious with generous toppings and a perfect ratio of tomato sauce to cheese, plenty for 2 hungry people. Washed down with a few Desperados, it made for a very relaxing Saturday afternoon.

Andiamo, Heliopolis
Andiamo, Heliopolis

If you like authentic pizza in a relaxing setting with good service Andiamo is the place to go. We both said how much it reminded us of the small pizza places we visited in Venice and Florence a few years ago. For me there is nothing better than a movie night with pjs and a chicken ranch pizza from Papa Johns, but, for a more refined pizza experience Andiamo is a must!

Andiamo, Heliopolis

We paid just over 900LE for 2 pizzas and 6 beers including taxes and service. When we arrived just after lunchtime it was fairly quiet but I would recommend you make a reservation for weekend evenings.

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.

 

From Qatar to Egypt – Highlights of 2017

If someone had told me in December 2016 the following year we’d be living in a new country, with new jobs I don’t think I’d have quite believed them. At that point we weren’t sure if we were leaving Qatar and Egypt wasn’t even on our radar. So, here we are December 2017 and I’m writing this sat in my little garden in New Cairo, proof that you should always expect the unexpected……Looking back 2017 has been a funny, challenging, exciting, crazy year. If you ever want any tips on how you should relocate to a new country feel free to DM me but I’ll give you some tips.

  1. Try not to move to a country which has cut diplomatic ties with the country you’re moving from. It means you, your husband, your dog and your shipping can’t get there directly!
  2. Try to avoid moving during Eid (especially when moving from and to a Muslim country).
  3. Make sure the Air B n B you’re going to stay in when you arrive actually exists.
  4. Don’t put your dog on a flight with a connecting flight – you may panic when you’re told he missed his flight in Jordan.
  5. Don’t cry in the car of an estate agent you’ve only just met.
  6. Don’t let your dog meet the ‘friendly’ cat which repeatedly will attack him until he’s so scratched you have to put him in a T-shirt as you still haven’t found a vet.

Now the dust has settled and I can just about laugh at how stressful the move was, here are 2017’s highlights.

Once we knew we were leaving Qatar we decided to spend the Easter holidays there completing our bucket list. One of our most memorable parts of the holiday was our stay at Regency Sealine Camp about 1hr south of Doha. A luxury camp right on the seashore we loved how relaxing it was, the tents were incredibly comfortable and the sea was wonderfully clear. If you read my post you’ll know our last morning was a bit of a let down, but I would have loved to go back and stay there again. I definitely recommend a visit here, it’s family friendly too.

The second hotel stay to mention was my solo staycation at the Kempinski Royal Maxim Palace, New Cairo. I’d had a tough couple of weeks and my stay here gave me some much-needed ‘me time’. I loved the sleek design of my room and the huge pool, plus it does a great staycation rate. I recently went back for a massage and made use of the indoor spa facilities which were very good.

One thing I miss desperately about Doha is having so many bars, restaurants and cafes on our doorstep. Cairo has been better for our waistlines and wallets, but I have found it hard to find consistently good places. I miss having the Marriott Marquis literally over the road for breakfast at Quickbites and sliders at Champions. On reflection, one of my most memorable meals of 2017 was at New York Steakhouse’s during their ‘chocolate menu experience’ with this venison dish. Their Ramadan tent was fabulous too.

In Cairo I’m so happy to have found Kazoku. Offering modern Asian food we’ve been several times on a Friday afternoon and never been disappointed with the service or the food. If you haven’t been you’re definitely missing out!

We also found Casper & Gambini’s is consistent and offers a wide-ranging menu. We often pop into the one at Cairo Festival City for brunch.

Pub wise we like to go to the Tap East in New Cairo for food and drinks. I think we’ll make more of an effort to go and listen to some live music here next year.

My New Year resolution for 2017 was to get more exercise and I started by walking 10,000 steps every day. This was mostly done walking along the corniche every afternoon with my headphones in listening to podcasts. I love being by the water and every day I noticed something different and enjoyed watching the weather and landscape change. Since moving to Cairo I’ve joined Fibers Gym but some of the classes have been a bit disappointing, hopefully they’ll improve in 2018.

I have loved having a garden and seeing Dyson playing on the green spaces that we have where we live, it’s so pretty. He’s such a good dog and manages so well moving from country to country. After saying goodbye to his Doha dog friends he’s made a new friend, our neighbors dog Zoe!

One thing I will never forget was the first time we saw the pyramids. A couple of weeks after moving we were driving around on a mission and trying to work out which direction the pyramids were in. We thought they were miles away but, literally seconds after discussing it, we drove up a flyover and, as we turned a corner, they were there in front of us. I nearly crashed! On our official tour there recently we were blown away by how big the pyramids actually are and the skill and ingenuity that went into building them. I think what I love even more is that there are still so many unknowns and so much still to be discovered.

I enjoy being by the water and one evening I went on a boat trip along the Nile. It was so special sailing along, listening to the call to prayer, watching the sunset and the realization I live in Cairo! It’s a lovely way to spend an evening.

It’s strange looking back at 2017, it feels like we’ve lived two separate lives this year – the familiarity of Qatar and the brand new experiences of Egypt. For us 2018 is going to be an exciting year. I turn the big 40, we have an epic summer trip planned and we are looking forward to exploring more of Egypt and Africa. Thank you to everyone who had read my blog, followed me on social media, messaged me with advice and tips – it really is appreciated. I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and family and friends.

See you in 2018!

Kazoku, Cairo

I think it’s fair to say I’ve sometimes been underwhelmed by the restaurant offerings close to where we live in New Cairo. I do like Beirut and Sakura in City Square and enjoy the food at Casper & Gambinis but other places have been pretty average, nowhere I’d rush back to. This changed with our visit to Kazoku. I had planned to visit this restaurant when we first arrived in Cairo, but life got in the way and we finally only managed a visit a couple of weeks ago. At Kazoku everything comes together; the ambiance, the service and most importantly the food…….

The ambiance

Tucked away in Swan Lake compound the contemporary design of the restaurant allows huge amounts of natural light into the room and the space has been well thought out. It has a very welcoming feel with various seating options, cute art features and a laid back vibe. When we first arrived it was quiet with only a few tables occupied, but it slowly started to get busier and there was a lively buzz. Most of the seating is indoors but there are a few tables on the terrace overlooking the pool. This makes me sound really old, but I liked the fact the music isn’t intrusive -you can still have proper conversation without shouting! However, I have seen footage of the Saturday brunch which seems to have much more of a party atmosphere. The restaurant is the type of place you can go to as a couple, with family and friends in larger groups – it is great for any occasion.

The service

On both of our visits the service has been spot on. Friendly but not over the top, efficient but not hovering and they seem genuinely interested in providing guests with a good, all round experience which is refreshing to see. On our first visit it took about 15 minutes for our drinks to materialise but Greg commented that this was probably as good thing as it stopped us drinking too much before eating! On our next visit the drinks were served a lot faster.

The food 

Offering a comtemporary, Asian inspired menu, we were spoilt for choice. On our visits we have enjoyed the slightly spicy tempura shrimp, salt and pepper squid, various gyoza, sushi rolls and sushi temaki as appetisers. I think the best thing to do is try different dishes by ordering several and sharing tapas style.

My favourite main course (and one of the most expensive dishes on the menu) is the miso black cod which was cooked to perfection. I also really enjoyed the beef tenderloin which was served meduim rare. Two main courses with a complimentary side dish each are enough for 2/3 people. Our friends enjoyed the Thai curry and roast duck, however I found the duck a little dry, as I prefer it a pink and this was well done.

I loved the concept of bento box desserts and they were reasonably priced at 150LE. We shared the peanut butter rice pudding, white chocolate mousse, match creme brulee, chocolate fondant and the chocolate semifredo. However, the firm favourite was the tangy, sharp, yuzu lemon cud which was very refreshing.

Kazoku also has an extensive cocktail menu, there are pages of classics such as a Moscow Mule through to the Serenity which features sesame oil. The wine list showcases local wine as well as imports. I am speaking from experience when I say is easy to spend as much (if not more) on drink than food so be warned!

I am really pleased we have discovered Kazoku, it is a gem of a restaurant and a place we will return to again and again. No, it’s not cheap in comparsion to other restaurants I have reviewed,  but here you definitely get what you pay for….

On a side note I have found it quite difficult to use their website, it doesn’t seem to load very well. I also found the menu on there isn’t the same as the menu we were given at the restaurant, so you may want to double check with them. From what I can gather there are 3 ‘sittings’ 2-7pm 7-10pm and 10-1am and reservations are advised.

Four Seasons at San Stefano, Alexandria 

You may have read in my previous post that on our recent trip to Alexandria we stayed at the Four Seasons. I feel that the hotel was partly the reason why we enjoyed our holiday in Alexandria so much, as it brought a bit of luxury to our trip. So, here’s my write-up of our *almost* perfect stay.

The Good

As the saying goes location, location, location. Usually when I book a hotel  – because lets face it Greg doesn’t get too much of a say – my choice is based on the location. If it’s somewhere we haven’t been before I try to choose a central location close to the main sites, if it’s a place we’ve been several times I’ll book based on different factors. As this was our first visit I wanted to be close to the historic / tourist sites such as the catacombs, amphitheater and Citadel as I’d heard horror stories about the traffic and didn’t want to waste time sitting in jams. It turned out that the location was ideal, in normal traffic it took about 20 minutes to the main sites and just over that to the Citadel. The hotel is located right on the corniche and has fabulous views over the Mediterranean Sea.


On this occasion we didn’t book a sea view room but I would probably upgrade when we go again. I bet watching the sunset from one of the balconies is just wonderful!


I wasn’t expecting too much from the room as it is their cheapest basic room. However, on arrival I was pleasantly surprised. Our city view room was very spacious, I liked the how light and airy it was and the classic design. There was lots of storage space, mini bar, complimentary water, kettle, coffee machine ( pods were extra) hairdryer, robes, slippers and a safe. I thought the in-room plug adapters were a thoughtful touch especially for international travelers. The best part of the room was the extremely comfortable bed with down pillows; it was difficult to get up on a morning after such a good nights sleep!

 


The roman style marble bathroom was a lovely place to relax after a busy day with a very deep bath and separate powerful shower. I loved the double doors that folded back to reveal full length mirrors and the mosaic feature tiles; which resulted in a really luxurious feel.

 


We didn’t make use of the balcony other than to dry our swimsuits as it was overlooked by the rooms directly opposite and wasn’t very private. To be fair, the view from the balcony wasn’t great as we could only really see the roof of the mall and a tiny glimpse of the sea. If you want a room with a pretty view I would recommend the sea view rooms at an extra cost.

 

Food 

We had breakfast included in our room rate and it helped set us up for the day. Each morning the staff greeted us and gave us a table with a wonderful view. Breakfast is served buffet style and there was the usual selection of pastries, fruit, deli items, hot dishes, waffles, pancakes and an egg station. Kala restaurant is nicely designed using a fresh blue and white theme and has lots of natural light,  it was lovely to start the day people watching and gazing at the sea.

One evening we ate at Stefano’s, the Italian restaurant within the hotel. We thought the food was very good and the service from Mina was exceptional – he really is a credit to the hotel. It was a shame that the restaurant was so quiet but the food was of a good standard and reasonably priced.


We also tried room service one evening when we were felt like a night in. Once again the food was very tasty and arrived within about 30 minutes.

Pool / Beach

The amenities within the hotel were also good and made for a relaxing stay. Despite the outdoor pool being a little chilly it was a great place to go back to after a busy morning sight-seeing. There were plenty of loungers and, by early afternoon, the terrace caught the sun.

In addition to the main pool there was also a Jacuzzi and a shaded kids pool.

Occasionally we were brought complimentary ice cream and fruit, which was a lovely touch.


The hotels wonderful, private beach can be safely and conveniently accessed via a corridor which goes from the hotel under the main road. At the beach there is a restaurant serving food, drinks and shisha which is perfect when you want a break from the beach but you don’t want to walk back up to the hotel.

There is a washroom with toilets and showers which were very clean and perfect for getting changed or for freshening up. The beach itself is well maintained and has sunbeds, chairs and umbrellas. We spent a few hours here catching a bit of sun, dipping our feet into the clear water and listening to the waves!


Why ‘almost’ perfect?

There were a couple of things that we felt could have been better and these were mostly down to communication. On our first day we had a lovely lunch by the pool however, there was a price discrepancy between the menu we ordered food from and the bill. It transpired that the outlet had 3 different menus showing completely different prices. We had been given the menu with the cheapest prices to order from but the bill had been calculated using the most expensive menu. We felt that this was unfair as we were charged the higher prices and we explained that we should have paid the price from the menu that we ordered from. The staff were very apologetic but we did have to pay the higher bill as they said it was an error on the menu. To be fair it was only about 150LE difference but for us it was the principal. Later when we went to the pool we were given a complimentary coffee but it didn’t leave a good impression.


Another disappointment was the closure of the indoor pool which we were not informed about on check in. The staff at the spa told us the steam room was still available but these were segregated and therefore we couldn’t use the indoor facilities as a couple, which was disappointing – especially as the outdoor pool was not heated.

So, being picky, our stay wasn’t 100% perfect but on the whole it was relaxing and we loved the location, our room, the pool and private beach. There was some inconsistent service and the indoor facilities weren’t fully functioning but this wasn’t too much of an issue overall. My plan is to return in a couple of months, book a sea view room and enjoy a winter break Alexandria style!

5 Delicious Dishes at Casper & Gambini’s

I sometimes feel that people look down on chain restaurants under the belief that they offer mass-produced, substandard food. For me, as long as the food is good, I don’t mind the name above the door. For people who are new to a town, city or even a country, a chain restaurant can provide some familiarity and comfort. I remember when I traveled to India several years ago almost 3 weeks into my trip, I snuck off to McDonald’s as I just wanted a break from Indian food! Also, in countries where there is a language barrier, such as when we went to China, a universal menu at a chain restaurant is sometimes a good idea!

Chinese Street Food, Beijing


A week or so after we moved to Cairo we needed to have the dreaded trip to Ikea, so we thought we’d fuel ourselves up before buying half of the store. I looked on El Menus and Cairo 360 for decent places to eat at CFC and the chain restaurant Casper and Gambini’s was recommended. The chain started Northern Italy just after WWII and it now has restaurants in 10 cities across the Middle East and Africa – for us it was our first visit.

Casper & Gambini’s Cairo Festival City


Since that first visit we’ve been back several times for the following reasons;

* We usually go on a Friday morning and it’s really easy to get a table. We have been sitting indoors but now the weather is cooler there’s a large outside terrace.

Casper & Gambini’s Cairo Festival City


* The staff are very friendly and the service is consistently good. On one occasion I poured half the salt-cellar over my food and, without any fuss, it was quickly replaced.

* The menu has lots of choice. They serve breakfast, light lunches, main meals and desserts – there’s something for everyone.

* The prices are reasonable for example Pancakes are 62LE, Lasagna is 91LE the House Burger is 85LE and Chocolate Fondant 49LE.

* You get a delicious basket of focaccia with dip to nibble on whilst waiting for your food to arrive.

Bread at Casper and Gambini’s


* They serve really nice iced tea, but my favourite drink is ‘sweet roots’ with fresh pomegranate, beetroot and orange.

Casper and Gambini’s Cairo


The 5 dishes I would recommend to try here are;

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich (96LE)

Philly Cheesesteak, Casper &Gambini’s


Poached eggs with avocado on pumpernickel (44LE)

Poached eggs, Casper & Gambini’s


Terriyaki salmon with squid ink pasta (159LE)

Terriyaki Salmon, Casper & Gambini’s


Cobb Salad (86LE)

Cobb Salad, Casper & Gambini’s


Salmon with basmati rice and aubergine (185LE)

Salmon with aubergine, Casper & Gambini’s


So, next time you’re at CFC and you get hungry I’d recommend you try Casper and Gambini’s. They also have branches at the Mall of Arabia, Towers Mall, Point 90 Mall, Maadi and City Stars.