Dubai, Florence, and Cairo were our favorite cities in 2021 – and they should be yours next year.
Let’s begin by saying that Laurie and I were EXTREMELY privileged to have traveled to multiple countries in 2021. The COVID pandemic was (unfortunately) still with us, and the constant changes to travel rules and restrictions made viajando por el mundo a challenge to say the least. That is why being vaccinated was important and having tons of patience to navigate the world during a pandemic. With that out of the way, let us share with you the three cities that we absolutely enjoyed in 2021, and why these cities should be on your travel bucket list in 2022.
Florence – Finding Amor in Renaissance Italy
I had planned to take Laurie to Florence in 2020 for our first-year anniversary, but unfortunately the pandemic ruined those plans. We tried again for 2021 and we were happy that we did! For five nights in late July, we enjoyed all the pasta, gelato, and historical sites that we could. We stayed at the Sina Villa Medici hotel (Autograph Collection – Marriott), which placed us at 15 minutes walk to the center of the historic district. Although there were crowds at some of the city’s famous sites, locals told us that before the pandemic, there were many more tourists. Check out Firenze before the tourists come back!
How to Get There: Fly into Milan (MXP) or Rome (FCO) and then take one of the trains to Florence. We flew into Rome from Dubai on Emirates Economy class, paying the cash fare. There are plenty of miles options to get to Milan or Rome from the USA. We booked our train tickets using Rail Europe, and the train ride was about 1 1/2 hours long from Rome.
Where We Stayed: We stayed at the Sina Villa Medici hotel, which is about a 15-minute walk from the historic center. We ended up paying a negotiated last-minute cash rate, so be mindful of the luxury rates they offer. If you have Marriott points, now is the time to use them before their devaluation begins to kick in later in March 2022.
Favorite Restaurant: Ristorante Hostaria Il Desco – don’t walk too fast or you might miss it! Simply some of the best pasta, roasted potatoes, and Florentine steak we had! For gelato, swing by Gelateria dei Neri and you won’t be disappointed.
Cairo – Thousand of Years of Culture in an Ancient City
Inspired by our friend Lays (@skywardsfreak on IG), we decided to visit Cairo to visit the Pyramids of Giza, the last remaining Ancient Wonder of the World. What we didn’t expect was to visit the numerous Christian, Islamic, and Jewish religious sites within Cairo itself. We were especially surprised to have visited the Cavern Church, where the Holy Family sought refuge during their exile from Palestine. Of course, we couldn’t miss out on checking out the Egyptian Museum and seeing some of King Tut’s famous treasure. We booked our tour of Cairo (and of Luxor) with Egypt United Tours, and our guide Amal was simply amazing- make sure to ask for her!
How to Get There: Fly into Cairo International Airport (CAI). We flew into Cairo from Casablanca, Morocco on EgpytAir, but there are direct options from Washington, D.C. (IAD) and from New York City (JFK). Our recommendation is to use Air Canada miles to book EgyptAir business class, or book a 1-stop layover in Europe.
Where We Stayed: We stayed at the Cairo Mena House hotel, which has amazing views of the Pyramids! We used 65,000 Marriott points to book our 3-night stay. Keep in mind the hotel is about a 1-hour drive from Cairo International
Favorite Restaurant: We decided to dine-in at the hotel club lounge and order room service. We had plans to visit one restaurant in the city, but had closed its doors due to COVID only days before. The food at the hotel was delicious!
Dubai – The City of the Future
What can we say? We absolutely love Dubai! We visited the City of Gold twice in July and November 2021, and we kept finding new things to love! Of all the destinations we visited, Dubai was the most serious regarding public safety with COVID. Vaccinations and mask-wearing are mandatory, cases were low when we visited, and folks do follow the rules. In July, we enjoyed the hotel pool and kept to indoor activities at the Dubai Mall as the weather is really hot! In November, we visited the World Expo 2020 Dubai, an amazing cultural showcase that you have until March 2022 to visit. We also spent time at the Al Maha Desert Resort to enjoy some much needed R&R and at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi to visit the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. Safe to say, we will be coming back to the Emirates to keep exploring this beautiful country.
How to Get There: Emirates and Etihad have multiple routes from the United States. Use American Airlines or Air Canada miles to book Etihad flights, while you can use Emirates Skywards miles to book Emirates.
Where We Stayed: Apart from the Al Maha and Ritz-Carlton, we also stayed at the La Ville City Walk Dubai and Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers. We negotiated our rates to La Ville since it was our honeymoon hotel from 2019. We paid the cash rate for the Ritz-Carlton and Sheraton hotels, and we used 180,000 Marriott points to pay for our 2-night stay at the Al Maha. If you have the points, definitely use them for the Al Maha as nightly rates go for about $2,000 USD per night!
Favorite Restaurant: There are many delicious food options in this multicultural city. Rather than giving you one spot, how about give our friends @mydxbelly a follow on Instagram? They go around and review food spots all throughout Dubai.
Vamos viajando. The world needs to see us!