Today we begin our Lawrence of Arabia desert style honeymoon adventure. We will be spending the second half of our 20 days in Jordan on a group horse riding trip. This trip represents our first foray into “adventure travel” and away from the traditional rest and relaxation beach honeymoon so it promises to be both challenging and fun. Our excitement however, is definitely balanced with some slight trepidation.
We are optimists and we plan to throw ourselves into this experience with enthusiasm and a smile. As the Irish would say it will be good craic, but this schedule is a little daunting to say the least:
Day 1 – Transfer from Amman to Petra and visit to the ancient city including horse ride through ruins and caves.
Having visited Petra before, at least we know what to expect here – beauty, history and heat. Hopefully this will be a good introduction to the rest of our group and to horses. We both have very very little horse riding experience – we rented horses for two hours on our honeymoon.
Day 2 – Horse riding departure from Petra to Wadi Rum
A few days ago we got to experience the Wadi Rum from our jeep, it is an expansive, imposing and beautiful place that goes on forever so it will be breathtaking and hard work trekking across it. The Wadi Rum is also about 100km from Petra – I hope we are not horse riding the whole way.
Day 3 – Horse riding in Wadi Rum and camping
I camped a lot as a scout when I was younger but we have never camped together. We have been told the camping can be pretty basic and an adventure so this should be good fun and very memorable
Day 4 – Horse riding in Wadi Rum and camping
This trip is advertised for ‘experienced riders’ so by now we should have either started to learn to ride or given up and retired to the camel or 4×4 back-up option – hopefully we are riding like the wind.
Day 5 – Horse riding in Wadi Rum and camping
If the pressure and excretions of horse riding are getting to us, at least we will have the rest of the group to get to know and mingle with. It will be nice to be with other people for a change, we will definitely interview some of the participants. I wonder if there will be any honeymoon couples?
Day 6 – Horse riding in Wadi Rum and camping
Yep, the adventure continues, we were told cycling shorts are good to protect your bum when doing a lot of riding, alas we could not find any before we left Ireland. Hopefully the riding is good exercise to work off our hotel buffet bellies.
Day 7 – Horse riding in Wadi Rum and camping
Final day on horses, last opportunity for those Lawrence of Arabia/cowboy photos and races.
Day 8 – Visit to Dead Sea on way from Wadi Rum to Amman
To relax and rejuvenate after going rogue in the desert we will stop at the lowest place on earth to bathe in healing mud and float in the salty sea – sounds heavenly.
Day 9 – Free day to explore Amman
We have spent a few nights in the Amman but have not explored it yet so it will be a nice to finish our time in Jordan by visiting the city’s sites such as the ancient Citadel ruins.
Day 10 – Leave Amman for Dublin
Bitter sweet. Will be sad to leave beautiful hot Jordan but exciting to head back to Ireland for more adventure and to find out about what RunawayBrideandGroom.com has planned for us next.
We feel really lucky to have this once in a lifetime opportunity for such an exciting and challenge adventure. If our time in Jordan so far is anything to go by then we know the desert will be full of incredible surprises and will be an amazing experience. We are nervous but will are definitely up for this as well (don’t worry parents and friends we will be careful – no broken hips thank you).
We will be out of contact and away from the internet for the majority of this trip. We have still set up a lot of interesting posts and videos on the blog over the next week and as soon as we are back online we will give you a full update of our desert diary.
Baraza is not only perfect for your destination wedding, but has such beautiful villas and impeccable service that you’re in danger of not wanting to leave. Our wedding ceremony here was a wonderful example of a personal ceremony with a drop dead stunning location.
The wedding was right on the beach, under a purpose built canopy decorated with local flowers and palm leaves. There was a hilarious moment when I forgot to walk through the archways and just headed to Mark, but I backtracked and did it properly!
We were literally metres from the sea and had Father Charles perform the sweet ceremony. Afterwards, photos on the beach require no photoshop, it’s literally that blue and perfect!
Dinner was a romantic private table by the beautifully lit swimming pool and the midnight sky and stars above us. With the attentive service and the grounds stretching out in the background, it feels like you’re the luckiest couple in the world.
After living in London for so long, it’s a glorious occasion to eat outdoors with a warm breeze blowing, and it’s certainly a romantic atmosphere.
Of course, the love continued the next day. Breakfast in bed (whatever you want, but we opted for the fruit plate and fresh juice) and then a private yoga class, followed by a visit to the Frangipani Spa for an hour long aroma-soul massage, which almost put us in a relaxation coma and then another swim in the pool.
Lunch overlooking the beach and then some sun-bathing while I read a book I picked up in the gorgeous library. I would have loved to stay reading in there, but seriously – I have to enjoy the sun whenever it’s out.
I also had a browse around the beautiful Baraza Bazaar, the in-house shop which has an exquisite boutique of up-market clothes (think jewelled caftans and beautiful gypsy skirts), glasses and bowls, place settings and home decorations like photo frames, and my favourite – gorgeous jewellery, both brightly coloured beads and sterling silver pieces. Perfect for either a really nice present or a reminder of your honeymoon to keep forever.
All in all, a beautiful and memorable renewal, and definitely one that we would have enjoyed for our “real” wedding. We’re so sad to leave!
I remember Zanzibar as a magical place. Fresh, alive and radiant with aromas. I managed to stay in two places on the island, to get a taste of both worlds; the island’s main hub of Stone Town, and an isolated resort on the north coast. Stone Town has an old world colonial feel to it, whilst bringing a myriad flavours, spices and exotic twists.
Lying in bed of an early morning, I remember it being still, quiet and cool, the sun just tipping the horizon, the tic tic of the ceiling fan, and the call to prayer echoing out, far enough away to feel like an early morning lullaby. If you get the chance, do stay here.
For me, Zanzibar’s allure lay in its complex blend of sensations, like its spices; the mildly fruity, the piquant and the fiery. The hidden smiles, the open laughs. Young artisans and old architecture. You feel the familiar chilled ambience so universal to island life, yet you know that this version is like nothing you’ve quite experienced before.
The coastal beaches are fresh. Think gouging the pulp out of a coconut shell once you’ve finished its juice, devouring whole skinned pineapple, watching fishermen drag in the day’s catch onto the beach, straight from longboats and dhows you watched float by hours before.
Produce fresh from the sea or the treetop, combined with island spices makes for beautifully diverse food.
There are also a few really lovely chilled out bars that have a perfect ambience at sunset. Zanzibar isn’t big on bars, so the ones that are there are more about ambience than drink.
There I was, sprawled across my aged leather armchair, strategically placed outside on the deck, book in hand, cocktail in the other, both framing the orange blaze of sunset. Foot lazily draped over the arm. Indulgently sipping my cocktail and juice as the sun disappeared over the horizon. Decadence simplified.
Photos by Jacqui Evans. Jacqui is a writer, traveller and business woman who has lived in Austria, UK, France and currently resides in Perth, Australia.
If you’re in Zanzibar, it’s well worth a trip to the spice plantation, a lush forest of fruit trees, grasses and herbs and a total eye-opener about how far removed we are in the Western world about where our food, spices and in some cases our every day medicinal remedies come from.
Our tour guide, Isaac walked us through the dense vegetation and at each point asked us to identify various trees and fruit. We eat a LOT of fruit at home, but even we struggled at some. Isaac was impressed that we identified durian, jackfruit and passionfruit but it was hard to identify really exotic fruits like paw paw (papaya), custard apple and breadfruit.
Once we had smelled various things like cinnamon bark, curry leaves, cloves, ginger and tumeric, we could instantly tell what it was, but I had no idea really how they were grown nor would be able to identify them in the wild.
Who knew that vanilla grew on vines and looks like string beans? Or that they take 7 years until they start to grow the valuable vanilla pods? I only see these things when they are either completely dried out or flown half way across the world while still unripe.
It was really informative learning about how each spice is harvested. Cloves, for example are Tanzania’s biggest cash crop (and second highest national earner after tourism). Each bunch of green cloves grow high up in massive, tall green trees. They must be harvested by hand and then sold to the government who have monopoly over the export of the dried cloves.
We tried a bit of everything, either sniffing crushed leaves or nibbling at green shoots and pods. It would be so cool to have a forest like this in your backyard. Crush up some tumeric to get rid of pimples, chew on a clove pod for toothache or bad breath, boil some of the cinnamon root to clear your sinuses (it’s the main ingredient in Vicks vapor rub) or even the “Lipstick” fruit for a natural red stain for lips and cheeks. Pretty fascinating stuff.
At the end of our tour we got a taste test. Someone climbed a tree to retrieve a fresh green coconut for us (watch the video to see how incredibly high it was) and just used a machete to open it right there. Really cold, fresh and delicious, better than anything in a bottle. Then a huge array of freshly picked fruit sliced in front of us – papaya, bitter lemon, grapefruit, passion fruit, mini bananas, tangerine, cucumber and more. Probably the freshest and healthiest fruit we’ve ever had and it looked completely different to the too-perfect and improbably coloured fruit we get at home.
There’s a shop to buy all the dried spices made from the plantation, as well as millions of types of flavoured teas and coffees, so we got some to drink on the road (no point buying spices if we won’t be cooking for six months). They also make their own oils, such as jasmine and lemongrass (wards off mosquitos) and soaps too.
Lastly, we got some personally woven souvenirs, bags, earrings, necklaces and crowns made from woven palm leaves.
It’s free to get into the plantation and get a guided a tour, but you will be expected to tip virtually everyone there, your guide obviously, but also the fruit guy and the coconut climber (fair enough, you wouldn’t expect this to be free) and then the weaver guy too, so make sure you come with enough small notes for everyone, and then some extra if you want to purchase anything.
If you’re staying at Breezes, Baraza or the Palms, it’s about a 30 minute ride away and can be organised through reception as part of the city tour.
Breezes is based on the South East coast of Zanzibar and during the one hour drive from the airport our very friendly and knowledgeable taxi driver Abdul gave us the low down on the island. We were quite surprised to learn that Zanzibar has strong heritage and links to the Middle East and is actually 90% Muslim. This is because of a history of exporting spices to the region (hence the nickname the Spice Island).
The tropical location makes Zanzibar a moderate muslim country which is peaceful (the whole country speaks one language unlike most of Africa) and welcoming of tourists.
Although part of Tanzania, Abdul explained, that there is a growing wish for independence to try and develop the island which aspires to follow in the footsteps of other Indian Ocean Islands like Mauritius. This is needed because Zanzibar is quite a poor country where spice exports and agriculture are the major revenue sources.
Outside of tourism, jobs are limited due to lots of immigration from East Africa and mainland Tanzania. This is one of the reasons for the Tanzanian government’s has high visa fees for arriving tourists (that must be paid in USD at the airport) – $50 per person for Commonwealth countries and $100 for Irish and US citizens.
At Breezes we were met by Esther (British), Lars (Swedish) and Ali (Tanzanian) as well as other local members of staff and the lovely Resort Manager Jacobs. We were surprised to see European staff, but it was nice and would be reassuring and welcoming for new travelers and honeymoon couples.
We spent the afternoon exploring. The weather is scorching, about 28 degrees and very direct and bright sunlight – much hotter than in Mauritius and Kenya. I think you would have to consider the right time to come to Zanzibar as the European winter may be too hot (35 degrees plus) for some people, but this seems to be a great time to visit.
The resort itself is beautiful, right on the beach and we have a well appointed and luxurious room. There is a chilled vibe about the resort and couples mingle and chat at lunch and in the bar. The Arab connection is evident in the decor with the comfortable cushions, loungers and bright colours, again this helps with the relaxed atmosphere.
We had lunch in the beach side restaurant and we have welcome cocktails with other new guests booked tonight (nice touch – good to get people talking). I think we are going to have a great time at this resort, the staff are very friendly and I can not wait to get back to the beach and pool – we even have a massage booked for tomorrow morning to make sure we are fully relaxed.
Wanted: Adventurous, experienced horse riders to enjoy stunning beach and national park trails by day, immaculate beaches every afternoon and relaxed Spanish hospitality every night.
Horse-riding holidays are a dream come true for the horse mad, and adventure company Zara’s Planet has sent us on a gorgeous horse and beach holiday, conveniently located in southern Spain.
We’ve just spent two sun-soaked days in Barbate, an incredibly gorgeous sea-side town on the Costa de la Luz with our hosts Steve and Caroline, owners of Fantasia horse riding holiday company. This kind of holiday is unique and is really two holidays in one.
Experienced riders get the chance to canter through incredible landscapes, but there’s also ample time and space to enjoy the best holiday atmosphere that Spain has to offer. It’s also full-board package, so you can experience the best of Spanish food and drink, in a relaxing and hassle free week.
Groups are limited to about 7 riders, all with good experience, so you know the pace will be fun and exciting. The horses are Hispano or Anglo Arabs, reschooled by Steve and Caroline to suit a more English style of riding, and are all of a calm temperament.
The group stays together at a hotel just one minute stroll away from the beach. It’s only a few years old, and I was impressed with the standard of the rooms for a 3 star. Spacious, very clean and new, well appointed with modern flat-screens and all with terraces.
Breakfast in the hotel is simple; toast, tea and coffee etc. I asked for a fruit plate, which was quite generous; a large nectarine, pear, orange and banana. A mini-bus pick up every morning takes the group straight into the stables, where horses are groomed and ready to go.
Some people like to get involved in the grooming and mucking out of the horses, but if you’ve got a horse at home, you’ll really appreciate the extra time to feel like you’re on a real holiday.
Every day the ride will offer something new. Cantering through the national parks, two beach rides along the gorgeous white sands, galloping along fire-breaks in the forest and plenty of opportunity to try out different horses to find the right temperament for you.Watching the horses gallop along the beach, and wade in the shallow water along the shore is not a sight easily forgotten. The whole group was laughing and splashing, as the horses pawed the ground, soaking each other with the sparkling water. This being Spain, it’s common for some nudity on the beaches, so we did our best not to get any rude bits on camera!
After lunch in a local tapas bar for traditional food, everyone is free to enjoy their afternoon. Some people spend it at the beach, shopping or sightseeing. The town is quite busy, but easy to walk around. The beach is absolutely gorgeous, and there’s a busy promenade with lots of Spanish families (it’s not full of English tourists) and activities every night, like a hilarious aerobics display, break dancing competition and musicians.
The group meets up for drinks and dinner together every night on the promenade for paella, chats about the day and to make new friends. Dinner is organised and paid for by the company, so it’s really stress free. After dinner, we wandered around in the balmy night for some more drinks (less than €2 for a bottle of beer), ice-cream or to check out the beach side shopping stalls.
Fantasia riding are a really fantastic experience, and everyone in the group raved about how much fun they had. The way the holiday is structured also makes it easy for non-riding spouses or parents to join and not feel left out or being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
One young girl, Bryony had her parents join and they had their Spanish sea side holiday while she got to fulfil her passion for riding. Everyone’s a winner!With easy flights, this sunshine filled, relaxing yet exciting horse riding holiday is just hours away, so go ahead and make your dream a reality.
Thank you to Steve and Caroline for hosting us. Our trip to Barbate was organised by horse riding and adventure company Zara’s Planet and supported by Argus Car Rental.