A paradise resort in the Maldives

We wanted a beach vacation in paradise and the Maldives delivered. The seaplane to the Baa Atoll from Male offered views of many of the awesome resorts and azure waters the Maldives is famous for. Our stay was the stuff dreams are made of. We had a villa on stilts over a stunning lagoon. The villa itself was as nice as you could hope for and it was connected to a perfect garden island with the softest white sand. The pools were picture perfect. And the service…. wow. They referred to us by name during our entire stay and bent over backwards to make sure we were happy.

Leanne lounging at our villa

One night they organized a private dinner for us out on the best part of the beach. We dined barefoot and had an excellent meal. In fact all our meals here were delicious. They have three separate restaurants and an overwater lounge/bar. The spa was also amazing (voted best in the Maldives last year). We went snorkeling and I went diving while here. I even tried yoga for the first time as the sun rose.  We loved the bicycles they provided to get around and found all sorts of areas on the island to enjoy our time. I also managed to get a massive adrenaline rush by taking out a wave runner with a local guiding me and going full throttle through mixed ocean conditions around four other islands. I couldn’t stop smiling for hours after I returned. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Spa Island in the Maldives

We split our time in the Maldives between two resorts. Fortunately the first resort is where we spent most of the trip. The second resort was closer to Male and was chosen to make it easy for our morning flight out. This island could have been paradise for some, but just couldn’t live up to the perfection of the first place. Here we stayed on the beach instead and had a private plunge pool where we ended up spending most of our time. It was great watching the sunsets, and simply relaxing.

Our Maldives trip was incredible and ranks right up there with Bora Bora and the Seychelles as true places of paradise.


Burj Kahlifa, the tallest building in the world

Our first stay in Dubai was in the Jumeirah Beach neighborhood. This is a popular area home to many western expats. The main street is busy at night and is filled with foreigners eating out at the many (and mostly low quality) food chains along the street. There was construction blocking access to the beach on the other side and generally I wasn’t that impressed with the area. We did however venture out from here. We visited the mega malls Dubai is famous for. The elegant Mall of The Emirates was impressive with its famous indoor ski-area. I went inside, saw the emperor penguins and took the chair lift up to survey the skiing. As a novelty, this place is great for those from the desert, but as a ski choice it offers very little. We took the Dubai metro from there to the Dubai Mall which is the largest in the world. This one is also famous for its aquarium. Aquariums seem to be a big deal here with enormous impressive tanks at this mall, in the lobby of the Burj Al Arab, and at the Palm Atlantis Hotel.

Ski Dubai, indoor ski hill

The highlight of our first visit to Dubai was visiting the world’s tallest building, the Burj Kahlifa. This magnificent piece of architecture is flanked by fountains very reminiscent of the ones in Las Vegas at the Bellagio, although the ones in Dubai are supposedly bigger. We couldn’t get the advanced entry time we wanted and bit the bullet and paid for immediate access which bypasses the queue those with timed entries still need to endure. The view from the 124th floor only disappointed due to the sandy haze limiting the extent to how far we could see. It was still impressive and made the high-rises around Dubai look miniature. Following our visit to the top we watched the fountains below and ate at a nearby quality Thai restaurant.

Leanne in the Dubai Aquarium

When we returned to Dubai after the Maldives we stayed in a much better location. We stayed in a villa in the Madinat Jumeirah. This arabian resort provides an elegant manicured world. It is modern, clean and the architecture is impressive with a recreated souk (market), beautiful pools, the best beaches in Dubai and man-made canals connecting the sections of the resort together with complementary boats. It is connected with the iconic Burj Al Arab – considered the most luxurious hotel in the world, as well as the Wild Wadi Waterpark.

We took advantage of what the resort had to offer including spending part of the day in Wild Wadi. It was busy though and the lazy river was packed. They did a nice job with their steepest water slides and it is fun to do the tube rides that propel you up to the top with water jets before sliding back down to the pools.  We also splurged on an amazing dinner at the top of the Burj Al Arab. I packed a sports-jacket on our trip specifically for this occasion. This hotel became an obsession for me. I loved looking at it from every angle, loved going inside it and getting to eat on the top floor, and took a crazy amount of photos of it. Fortunately it was regularly in view all around the resort.

Our one escape from all the resort had to offer was to take a sight-seeing helicopter flight from the Palm Atlantis. This hotel is modeled on the famous one in the Bahamas on Paradise Island. We took the monorail out the Palm Jumeirah and it really is hard to believe that this whole land section with its many beaches was made by people and engineering ingenuity. Not being a guest at the Atlantis limits what you have access to. We visited the aquarium there and the big tank is certainly impressive, but overall we did not like the Atlantis. Since our helicopter flight left from the opposite end of the facilities we were lucky enough to be allowed through the grounds and saw all that it offered from close up. It offers a lot, but it all felt tacky and paled in comparison to where we were staying.

The World (archipelago)

The helicopter flight itself offered a great perspective of what has been built in Dubai. We flew over the human-built archipelago called “The World” which after what must have an outrageous cost to construct only has a single building on it with no one willing to invest into it. The helicopter flight felt as though we were high in the air, but we were only as high as the observation deck at the Burj Kahlifa. It is incredible what has been built in Dubai.



Paris was both the start and the end of our little spring getaway. It really is an incredible city and there is so much to explore and enjoy here. We first visited it together in 2005, again in 2008 and now in 2013.

Leanne’s sister, Melissa, was in town with our niece and nephew while her boyfriend was in Frankfurt for work. Paris is a perfect city for young ones. You never have to go far to find a park with a playground and carousels are located nearby most major tourist attractions. We picked a hotel near the apartment Melissa was renting around Bastille. Our arrival day consisted of visiting, going to a playground close by, and having lunch in a café before Leanne and I retired to the hotel to recover from the overnight flight.

Quartier latin, Paris

The next day we went exploring and did reasonably well with a three and one year old in tow. To make life easy and to make it fun for the kids we relied on the open-top, hop-on hop-off, double-decker buses to get around. We visited the usual must-dos: Cathédrale de Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and La Tour Eiffel. We had lunch at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte for their steak with the magical green sauce that keeps people coming back. The staff was great with the kids and they in turn were excellent and ate well with this special treat.

The weather wasn’t cooperating at the Eiffel Tower and we decided to navigate the metro back to the neighborhood we were staying in.

Michael in the Palais Garnier

The following day we visited a different section of the city, driving past the Moulin Rouge and going to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur and wandering through the neighborhood of Montmartre. That evening Leanne and I went for dinner on our own at an excellent restaurant near where we stayed called L’Ebauchoir. A big highlight of visiting France is the incredible food and this non-touristy bistro did not disappoint.

The next day we made our way to the Latin Quarter and spent an afternoon in the Jardin du Luxembourg enjoying a café in the park and letting the kids play in the large playground there. The day after that we walked through le Marais neighborhood having some treats along the way. A really nice part of the walk was on the way back on top of the old city wall now turned into a gardened pathway. The weather was starting to turn and we made it to half-a-block away from our hotel when the rain started and came down in a torrential downpour that flooded the streets with rivers of water. We hid under shelter while it passed. We were amazed at the intensity of it. That evening Leanne and I flew to Dubai.

Leanne and Michael at le Musée Rodin

Two weeks later we returned to Paris. This time we were on our own and we stayed near the Parc Monceau. Having no urgency to see any touristy sights we took our time wandering through this part of the city and its many parks. We had two full days in town before flying back to North America. One of the highlights was visiting a couple of old mansions that house some of the original furniture and some amazing art collections. We wandered through the extravagant Palais Garnier. We had macarons from Pierre Herme. We also went to the Musée Rodin and Musée de l’Orangerie. We had a phenomenal lunch at Le 114 Faubourg where we had a view that let us look down to the kitchen below and watch the head chef, a true artist, plate everything to perfection. It was a true culinary delight and we finished the whole trip off with dinner on our final night at a Michelan Star restaurant Le Chiberta.

France, UAE and Maldives 2013

We are currently travelling and have spent the last while relaxing in the Maldives. To and from this Indian Ocean Paradise we stayed (and will be staying again) in both Dubai and Paris. I intend to journal our experiences by writing about them here on our blog in the near future.