A Staycation at City Centre Rotana Doha (Eid Competition: WIN a Night's Stay!)

Monday, 28 August 2017

Rising up from the skyscrapers of West Bay, nestled in amongst the bright lights of Doha, is a newly opened, yet formidable hotel which is rapidly making its mark on Qatar's tourist map and foodie scene. City Centre Rotana Doha has the dual benefits of being both conveniently placed and perfectly appointed, making it an ideal location for a short stay.

After enjoying a memorable high tea at this hotel earlier this year, and a very special staycation with my family recently, I couldn't be more excited to be collaborating with City Centre Rotana to say a huge thanks to those of you that have stuck around to follow our adventures over the years, with a competition to give one of my readers a chance to win a night's stay. Don't forget to scroll down to the end of the post for details on how to enter!
For now, grab a cuppa, settle back in a comfy chair and let me transport you back to last Thursday when our staycation at City Centre Rotana began...

Much like any other Thursday, I was exhausted after a busy working week and far too many nights of disrupted sleep. Luckily, my week was about to get a whole lot better. Following a swift check-in at the front desk (which is always appreciated when half of your mind is on your tired and hungry toddler), we were whisked up to the 23rd floor, and shown into the suite which would be our home for the next two days.

The Room

The suite was the kind of space which you could immediately relax into. The cleverly thought-out dining room-come-living room had the advantage of being both large and cosy at the same time, with a huge dining room table which could comfortably sit six, as well as a separate seating area of sofas and foot rests, plus a desk.

One of the perks of the room was the ample storage space, which happily accommodated all three of our sets of clothing and possessions, car seat, push chair and then some.

In the bedroom, a gigantic bed dominated the space, with a cosy love seat over in one corner; a prime vantage point from which to soak up the panoramic views over the city.

It was these floor to ceiling windows which were my favourite feature of this dual aspect suite, situated at just the right angle to take in both the towers of West Bay and the iconic Sheraton with the Persian Gulf beyond.

In the bathroom, I loved the fact that a full range of luxurious L'Occitane goodies were at our disposal for the next couple of days. I already had an inkling it was going to be a rather good weekend.

The pool and children's play area

The pool area at City Centre Rotana was a pleasantly surprising discovery. Set against an impressive backdrop of the Doha skyline, the scalloped pool has two depth levels and a separate kids pool and jacuzzi.

All three of us spent several hours dipping in and out of the water to cool off from the 45 degree heat outside, in between cat naps in the shade of our curtained cabana.

Next to the pools is a fun children's play area, with swings, slides, tables and chairs, wendy houses and a tunnel. Now that Sophia is at an age where she's constantly looking for something new to explore, this was a very welcome sight. The first time she saw it, she ran around in glee, trying everything out one by one, and then returning for more. She enjoyed the swing so much in fact, that Mr Sunshine and I almost broke our backs from bending over to push her for so long!

The Spa

City Centre Rotana's spa is rather understated in comparison to some of the other hotels in Doha. It may not have the extensive facilities of the Four Seasons, or the relaxing vibe of the Grand Hyatt but what it lacks in stature, it makes up for in quality. Mr Sunshine and I both received a much-needed and very relaxing massage during our stay.

The Food

It wasn't the pool or the rooms which first brought City Centre Rotana to my attention, but the food. As mentioned previously, the High Tea in Caramel Lounge remains one of my favourite places for afternoon tea in Doha, and I had attended the opening of the hotel's international restaurant, Teatro, and had nothing but good things to say about it. I was excited to find out what other hidden gems I might discover.

Theme nights at Olive Oil

Olive Oil hosts a range of theme nights and when we heard that Thursday evenings were 'La Noche EspaƱola', as tapas and sangria lovers, we had to give it a try.

The open kitchen, headed up by Valencia born Adriana Toledo, was a flurry of activity when we arrived, and the buffet selection looked colourful and appetising.

The Tapas bites lived up to expectations and were moreish and delicious. Of partcular note was the salty Manchego cheese with Cecina Beef, and the deliciously fruity Catalan Salad.

The seafood paella was huge, and looked amazing, but on this occasion it didn't match up to the standard of some of the other paellas I've had in Doha. Nevertheless, it was still enjoyable.

Some of the dessert items, including my favourite, the crunchy Churros which come dipped in one of three different condiments of your choice, were delicious.

Breakfast options

For breakfast on Friday, in order to maximise our chill time, we opted for breakfast in bed, and I was so glad that we did! While Mr Sunshine got ready and rushed off to work, Sophia and I spent a few hours eating our way through the mountain of breakfast items I had (over)ordered, and started the day the way I wish I could every day: slowly!

On the Saturday, it was back to Olive Oil for their breakfast buffet, where our top picks were the granola and delicious cinnamon ring doughnuts (naughty I know, but technically we were on holiday!).



Let's Do Brunch is a fun and relaxed Friday brunch, which is spread out amongst the hotel's restaurants Olive Oil, Misk, and the lobby in between. A distinctly Mediterranean vibe, with a few Asian, Mexican and Arabic flavours thrown in for good measure, this isn't as extensive as some of the other spreads that you might find around Doha, but if laid back is your vibe then I think you'll enjoy it.

Sophia and I spent Friday afternoon here catching up with two of my best friends, as we sipped on bubbles and enjoyed the services of the personal somelier with his drinks trolley as he made his rounds.

Once again, I was grateful to City Centre Rotana for thinking about the needs of young children, who often get bored during brunch. Sophia was delighted to discover the children's corner which included a children's buffet, play house, table and chairs and a TV showing Disney classics.

She spent some time playing in here, when she wasn't running circles around the restaurant, continually trying to escape my clutches.

Dinner at Teatro

On our final evening, we made a rare effort to get dressed up, and headed down to my favourite restaurant in the hotel, Teatro.

This atmospheric restaurant, which offers a range of Eastern delicacies along with some Western favourites, has a lot going for it. It is a special occasion restaurant with none of the stuffiness that you occasionally find in other five star hotels around the world. Instead, the staff are absolutely wonderful - welcoming, friendly and kind. They loved Sophia and let her grab their hands and drag them around the restaurant. They even seemed to enjoy it!

With mood lighting and a long, well-stocked bar, this is not your usual baby-friendly haunt, rather somewhere to take someone that you would like to impress. And I'm reliably informed that on most weekends, the live music is some of the best in town (unfortunately we missed out on this on this occasion, due to it being the weekend before Eid).

There are some real stand-out dishes here. Mr Sunshine loved his steak which he said was tender and cooked to perfection (and he's hard to please!). The duck dim sum was meaty, melt in the mouth and delicious. The tempura prawn rolls contained the perfect balance of flavours and were incredibly moreish...I could go on.

Unfortunately, it was late and Sophia was tired, so we had a rather rushed dinner before heading up to bed.

Mr Sunshine and I are just going to have to come back alone so that we get a chance to sample the desserts and a few more items on the cocktail list.


The Club Rotana Lounge

One floor above our suite, sits Club Rotana, offering guests who want to upgrade their stay a very personal and special hospitality service. Afternoon tea, drinks and canapes are served here at certain times of the day, with tea and coffee on offer all day round.

I know that not all guests have the funds (or the inclination) to bump themselves up to a club room, but in my personal opinion, it's worth it here for the views alone.

After returning to Doha from the stunning rice terraces and dreamy coastal sunsets of Bali not so very long ago, it was going to take a pretty special sight to make me stop in my tracks, and say "wow', but the incredible view of Doha from above did it. Baby Sunshine pressed her nose up against the glass and let out a long "wooooow!" too. 

Not only was the view exceptional, but enjoying it side by side with my husband, from our comfortable chairs, mugs of coffee in hand while our toddler roamed about trying to spot birds and pointing out the tiny cars racing along below us was something very special indeed.

The Eid Offers

Enjoy an Eid staycation package from QAR 550, inclusive of breakfast for two and a dining discount of 20%

Enjoy the Eid Al Adha Brunch from QAR 249 per person, featuring a generous buffet featuring Arabic and international cuisine, plus a special kids' corner buffet.

The Eid Competition

Now for the bit that you all came here for!

This is your chance to win a night's stay for two adults (plus a little one if applicable!) in a standard room at City Centre Rotana, inclusive of breakfast at Olive Oil.

How to enter:

1. Like Follow Your Sunshine on Facebook here OR follow on Instagram here.

2. Like City Centre Rotana on Facebook here OR follow on Instagram here.

3. Comment on any of Follow Your Sunshine's Facebook or Instagram posts on City Centre Rotana with the name of someone who you think deserves a staycation.

4. Double your chances of winning by adding more names or sharing these posts on your own page.


The competition will run for a week, and will closing at 11.59pm on Monday 4th September. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 5th September.

Terms and Conditions:
  1. The prize is valid for three months from 1st September 2017.
  2. Winner and guest must be over 18.
  3. Booking is subject to availability.
  4. The prize is not valid on public holidays or in conjunction with other offers.
Good luck!

My stay with City Centre Rotana was complimentary.

8 Things You Shouldn't Fear When Travelling With Children

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

I'm typing this post from a spot on a lounger next to our private pool in the pretty courtyard of our villa in the most beautiful of hotels (more on this in due course). We are a week into a holiday in Bali with my husband and sixteen month old toddler, and against all odds (aside from the fact the sun has gone down and I'm being bitten to death by mosquitoes), I'm feeling ridiculously chilled.

I say against all odds, because well, I'm travelling with a small child and we all know what a pain in the how difficult that can be. Plus the holiday didn't start too well.

"You'll find it difficult in Bali with your baby," stated the lady at the check-in desk rather tactlessly as we loaded our bags onto the belt.

"All of the tourist sites are so spread out and it's so hard to get around. I don't think she'll like it much."

I felt like reaching across the check-in desk and messing up her perfectly coiffured bun.

The truth is, I was already pretty nervous about what could go wrong on this holiday. It's not as though Sophia hasn't traveled before, with family trips to the UAE (more than once), Norway and home to the UK under our belts already, but Bali was a different kettle of fish: a culture I wasn't yet accustomed to; an unknown entity when it came to navigating the rocky road of life with a toddler while simultaneously trying to maintain some semblance of a holiday.

However, eight days later and I'm rapidly learning that my concerns were unjustified, and that I could have saved myself a lot of stress if I'd just relaxed and gone with the flow.

So, to save you from experiencing the same pre-holiday rollercoaster, here are ten things that you probably fear, but definitely shouldn't when travelling with babies and small children.

1. That everyone will hate you on the plane

OK, when your child's been crying non-stop for over two hours on an overnight flight, some people might. But the majority will look over at you with sympathetic eyes and will genuinely empathise with your situation. Others will offer help, or provide a welcome distraction by playing peek-a-boo from behind your chair. Remember that many other people have been in the same situation as you at some point in their lives.

And don't forget, that as with everything with babies and children, the dire situation that you've dreamed up in your head never turns out to be as bad as you'd imagined.

2. That their routine will be disrupted

A little bit of disruption is inevitable, but if you're strict with yourselves, you can make your activities and excursions work around nap and mealtimes. If you absolutely HAVE to be out and about during their usual nap spot, then try to have some quiet time (on the road, driving between destinations is always a good idea) where they can hunker down for a little sleep when required.

If they have to sleep, they will - even if it's on your shoulder/in their high chair/draped across a sibling!

Be prepared for a couple of sleepless nights if you're in a time zone which is far removed from your own, but you'll be surprised at how adaptable young children are (far more flexible than us adults I swear!) and you'll soon find that they have adjusted and are snoozing away without a care in the world.

3. That you won't be able to find anything you need

I've spoken before about the fear of not being able to find vital baby supplies in foreign supermarkets, but the truth is that every country will have something you require to address your child's vital life requirements, even if it's not exactly what you would use back home.

Sophia lived out her final two days in Bali in Indonesian nappies which smelt like ammonia and were so chunky that they made her waddle (which, let's face it, is actually quite cute!), but they did the job.

Most popular tourist destinations are only a matter of minutes away from a good pharmacy if medicines are required, and many hotels stock child-friendly paracetamol and plasters. If you happen to be miles away from the nearest settlement and require something urgently, don't be afraid to ask another hotel guest or family with young children for assistance; chances are they might have something you can borrow.

4. That 'getting around will be difficult' (I included this one just for you, Miss Qatar Airways)

Before we left, we invested in two key pieces of kit which I will be reviewing in due course: the Urban Kanga car seat, and the Mamas & Papas Acro Buggy. Both of these items are lightweight, fold up small enough to go in the overhead lockers on a plane, and come with their own travel bags. Now, after traipsing through airports, travelling long distances in taxis and crossing rugged terrain with our toddler, I am absolutely convinced that travel is a doddle - just so long as you have the correct kit.

5. That they won't be able to eat any of the food

In my experience, the assertion that you need to offer a child a new food fifteen to twenty times before they like it is a fallacy. Most (with a little coaxing, and maybe a few lies such as "Upsy Daisy eats this for breakfast!"  thrown in for good measure) will at least attempt to try it, and even if a lot of it ends up on the floor, you can be sure that your child will still be getting most of the nutrients they require when they are trying foreign food.

Try to be a little flexible, and order items from the menu that include ingredients your child usually likes, and bear in mind that if there's any time to relax your rigid rules about sticking to a limit on their daily salt and sugar intake, out of necessity, now is the time to do it.

(If all else fails, there is always Ella's Kitchen and granola bars. No child ever starved while living on these staples*).

*May or may not be an actual, bona fide fact.

6. That you won't be able to do anything adventurous

I'd like to offer the proverbial middle finger to anyone that's ever said you can't go on adventurous holidays with young children in tow (and an even bigger one to people like this guy who say that you shouldn't).

Yes, your child's safety and happiness is paramount, but if you're intent on wrapping them in cotton wool to the detriment of allowing them to explore and experience the world, then in my opinion you might as well stay at home every day and not do anything at all.

In Bali we've traversed rivers, climbed rice terraces, visited monkey forests, swum in the ocean, explored temples and had a lot of fun in the process. I've seen Sophia flourish so much since we've been away (more on this shortly) and I am certain that these new and exciting experiences are the cause.

7. That something terrible might happen

I have to admit that this unjustified worry is the one which plagued me the most of all. I had a recurring dream that Sophia was abducted while we were in Bali, and the police couldn't find any leads, so I ended up spending the rest of my life there trying to track her down. It sounds silly recounting this dream now, but at the time, it was a very real fear, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't been looking over my shoulder a little more than I would normally since we've been here.

But let's put this in perspective. The chance of something drastic happening while you're travelling really is just as slim as it is when you are at home. Just so long as your child is vaccinated, and you're cautious around strange people and dangerous animals, just as you would be when you're not travelling, everything will be absolutely fine.

**looks over shoulder one last time before continuing with the post...

8. That they won't have fun

And finally, we come to the most absurd of all of the worries on this list. If one thing's a certainty in life, then it's that new experiences and adventures are like discovering hidden treasure to a child.

In the UAE, Sophia's first dip in the pool made for a magical experience. In Norway, while we complained about the cold, Sophia embraced it with curiosity. In Bali, she's just been delirious.

Travel satisfies the insatiable curiosity that all children are born with. It helps them connect those million neural pathways per second that their incredible brains are busy building. It helps them to grow and develop in ways that they could never achieve if they stayed in the same environment throughout their life.

It's safe to say, travelling as a family has given us all a lot of fun memories to take away with us. And as for the fears, well on our type of holidays, we're usually not too far from a poolside cocktail to help calm the nerves.

What fears do you have about travelling with children?

For extra tips on how to travel with a baby, head here.

For some useful products that you should invest in before travelling with a young child, head here.

For all of my posts about our family travel adventures, head here