I hate to be a cliché and to fall into an unoriginal, predictable mould but whenever I am asked which of my world ventures I have found the most spine-tingling and which journey cast the greatest “was I really there” shadow, I have never needed more than a moment’s reflection.
I once thought there could be no answer other than the first time I stepped off the train in Manhattan, armed with my first pay packet, sandwiched between skyscrapers, knowing I had finally arrived in New York City, a destination I had always dreamed of.
The Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, in all its lucent splendour will always remain a serious contender for the title. And more recently, the confetti-like layers of fragrant cherry blossoms, as they retired for the season, harmoniously layered on the soils of Tokyo’s tranquil gardens left a genuine and un-exaggerated longing to return to a country within just moments of arriving home.
It was our honeymoon though, our off the beaten track luxury safari in Tanzania followed by a week of proud and unashamed laziness on the beaches of Zanzibar, that harbours the most treasured and intangible memories of all. The details are crisp in my mind and yet a tiny corner of me still struggles to truly believe we were there.
Did we really have to crouch to get into a miniscule plane that landed in a dirt track somewhere in the vast expanses of Selous Game Reserve? Did we genuinely come face to face with a giant hippo on land that had seemingly just been in a fight? Was the sand genuinely so white? Did I really stack my breakfast plate with passion fruit halves that were larger the size of my fist and play Scrabble on a sun lounger with my new husband whilst listening to the soothing sound of the waves?
Evidence suggests I did. I would love to surprise you with an answer that seems less staged than saying my honeymoon was my most enchanting travel experience – but it was. And as much as I love Pumpkin, those fond sentiments are about more than exchanged lovey dovey glances.
It was about the wonderment of a maiden visit to Africa with a man who already loved it; it was the exhilarating feeling of seeing animals, some that I hadn’t even known the names of, running freely in the wild across our fields of vision; and it was all the little touches that made our week-long retreat in Zanzibar so thoughtful.
Perhaps it was the fact that it was before I blogged when I didn’t give two hoots about how photogenic a plate of fruit was. It was a dreamy adventure that I am secretly relieved was before my Why Waste Annual Leave days so that I could enjoy it in all its glory as a newlywed and not through the obsessive eyes of a blogger. (I have made a commitment to try and stop ignoring Pumpkin so much on my future trips. I love Instagram but it ain’t worth a divorce.) 😀
And in tribute to my ever-patient husband, each year on the blog, around the time of our anniversary, I take a stroll down honeymoon lane and whilst I’m a week or so late this time, 2016’s memory jog takes me back to the Breezes Beach Club and Spa in Zanzibar.
We left for our honeymoon just a few days after our wedding day. If you’ve ever been to a Big Fat Indian Wedding, you’ll know exactly why some silent, beach side snoozing was in order.
This luxurious resort, a popular choice for loved up couples, pulls out all the stops when it comes to spoiling its honeymooners with a whole range of complimentary and payable treats on offer.
Being June, we found ourselves in the company of so many other honeymooners that I felt a little sorry for one couple who were there on a normal holiday, whilst the rest of us were exchanging wedding stories and some us even shared exact wedding dates!
We had loved every moment of our safari but the staff at Breezes soon showed us how much pampering we still had in store.
There was the complimentary private yoga lesson for starters and I’m saving the best till last, since Pumpkin grimaced his way through it. He isn’t really the meditation type but more pertinently, his stiff hip joints found the enforced lotus position to be a merciless trick for a man trying to kick back with a beer on the beach on his honeymoon.
Lame as it might sound, we also turned down the free hobie cat sailing lesson they offered us. We are just about confident enough in sea water to swim in shallow spaces and snorkel with a life jacket on but we certainly wouldn’t trust ourselves to sail a boat without capsizing.
Pumpkin’s first attempt (and only my second) at snorkelling was a far greater success and whilst the snorkelling in Zanzibar didn’t compare to the Maldives or the Caribbean, there was nothing like the feeling of being out at sea for the first time, admiring the underwater world, hand in hand.
There was a serene simplicity of sunset evenings on the terrace of our spacious hotel room balcony with the unexpected surprise of the hotel staff arriving one day to greet us with sundowners and bubbles.
And the gleeful sense of fun we found on arriving back after turndown one evening to find a bed shielded by a mosquito net had been covered in rose petals and arranged outdoors on the balcony offering us a chance to sleep under the stars for a night (with all of the creature comforts still at our disposal on the other side of the door.)
It was the fact that even thousands of miles away from home, in a new continent, on this mysterious island, I still found myself eating cake and sipping aromatic cups of tea in the Chai Tea Lounge at Breezes.
It was the scent of exotic spices diffusing through the hotel grounds so aptly for an island commonly known throughout the world as the Spice Island.
And who could forget the hues of the blues. From the salty turquoise seawater entangled in my hair to the canopies of seamless skies above us, we came to rely on the lenient ocean breeze, the retro banana splits and she shady palm leaves to shelter us from the afternoon sun.
But when all else failed, we found a simpler way to cool off. They say you can’t walk on water but there was nothing to stop us going for a leisurely long stroll in it with the shallow, benign waters floating above a bed of sand softer than our own rugs at home.
There were the sights we could not have left Zanzibar without seeing with its historical capital, Stonetown and a tour of a local spice farm but I won’t give away everything in this post. After all, what will be left for next anniversary’s honeymoon throwback?!
The Sultan’s Bath Couple’s Spa Experience at the Frangipani Spa was and still is the most decadent and uplifting spa experience either of us have ever had. Put aside images of a private couple’s spa treatment room, guests opting for the Sultan’s Bath experience are welcomed into an entirely separate building.
Donning long, traditional white robes, we were led into the room where we would find earthy, potent and seductive fragrances, candle-lit corners and a bath area flooded with fuchsia flowers.
After we enjoyed a dip in the relaxing warm water with mellow music humming in the backdrop, we were led to our massage beds, decorated with regal golden cushions.
I can only speak of the first half of the massage, which was so intensely relaxing that I am fairly certain I nodded off!
I’ve waffled on for over a thousand words and am only just getting to my favourite moment of this stay. Just when we thought nothing at the resort could exceed the blissful serenity of the spa experience, we discovered the private beach lunch at Breezes, which I have written about before here.
But this is not an ordinary restaurant where you get the hottest seat in the house. This is a lunch spot conceived for the occasion with staff assembling a structure not dissimilar to a gazebo, woven together with branches, fresh palm leaves and seasonal blossoms and a table for two laid out underneath.
With a choice of three feasts, a seafood and lobster one, meat based and veggie based, we selected a vegetarian option and a lobster option and celebrated the start of married life with satiated stomachs and our toes in the sand.
And in case you’re wondering just how romantic and serene the experience could actually have been given that it was lunchtime on a beach where other guests are free to roam, perhaps this photo will convince you!
The staff made such a special effort with the set up to endeavour to keep us cocooned within our own honeymoon bubble over lunch and tried to force feed us more and more food with the same warmth and affection that both my Grandmothers used to.
Years may have passed but the allure and connection never fade, only become stronger and indeed, that applies as much to married life with Pumpkin as it does to my memories of our time in Zanzibar.
Which travel experience have you found most enchanting?