I've lived my whole life in Philadelphia. Daughter of a teacher, I later became one myself. When I heard about teaching overseas, I jumped feet first. Finally told yes, my two boys and I prepared for our new life abroad. Join us on our journey in Qatar!
The Coati jumped up and ripped the bag trying to get to the food and I caught it all on camera.
I spent my 45th birthday in Costa Rica and my husband came to help me celebrate. We booked a full day tour of adventure. If ever you’re in Costa Rica and looking for some fun, this post has ideas to consider.
We were picked up by our tour company pretty early in the morning and set out on explorations. One of the things I absolutely adore about Costa Rica is how you can find these large signs posted all over the country identifying where you are. They make for great pictures.
We received some history tidbits as we drove through different provinces too.
Our first official stop was to the Tres Generaciones Coffee Plantation, where we had the most amazing cup of coffee. Of course, we had to buy some. The plantation is also vast and beautiful.
Hey did you know that Starbucks has a coffee farm in Costa Rica? And they offer tours.
After coffee and sweets, we continued our drive to the Cinchona Waterfalls. This waterfall reminded Darryl and I of the Wailua Falls on the Road to Hana in Maui. There is a bridge in the front of the Cinchona waterfall that you can take pictures from just like Wailua. I recommend walking to the middle of the bridge to get some interesting pictures of the waterfall and on the other side of the bridge to get some more. Be careful on this bridge because it’s small, vehicles take turns going in either direction and they don’t really pay pedestrians any attention. The waterfall is beautiful and cool. I could spend a day right here.
We stopped at the Soda y Mirador Cinchona. Here you can enjoy typical Costa Rican food with the Hummingbirds while admiring the waterfall in the distant. The snack provided here, by the tour company, wasn’t anything I could eat so I can’t comment on the quality of the food. But being so close to the tiny birds was nice. I was also able to get a behind the scenes view of cooking happening in the kitchen and pick up some snacks.
The next part of our adventure was seeing some animals in the wild. Along the side of the road, we met up with a Coati. It’s a medium sized rodent that favors a raccoon. My husband had the fabulous idea to exit the van to get a closer look at the coati but he forgot he had a bag of food in his hand and the coati smelled it. The Coati jumped up and ripped the bag trying to get to the food and I caught it all on camera. Hahaha. Check it out…
Along with the coati, we were able to catch a glimpse of a sloth and some large iquanas in their natural habitat.
We had a Casada lunch (typical Costa Rica meal) during our travels. And the true adventure happened in the trees at “go.adventure” at the Arenal Park. It is here where we were able to see the amazing Arenal Volcano and what a beautiful site it is.
We got our adrenaline pumping by flying through the forest. We conquered 8 zip lines in total. Some were long and fast, while others were short and sweet. We zipped past some gorillas and through trees. It was exhilarating and fun.
I even repelled down a wall for the first time and I think I found a new hobby.
Before heading to dinner and back home, we stopped at one of the hot spring resorts in La Fortuna for a couple of hours. I can’t recall the name of the one we visited, but they have warm and cool spring pools that you can enjoy. Some are secluded and hidden behind trees. You can order drinks from the bar and enjoy spectacular views of the Arenal Volcano. The resort is nice but I was expecting natural hot springs not pools. The resort would be a nice place for a stay but if you’re only there for the day, they offer changing rooms for your convenience. We enjoyed this resort until the rain finally caught up with us.
Afterwards we stopped at a large souvenir shop with many handmade and authentic Costa Rican items to purchase. It was dark by the time we got dinner. Dinner was at a Soda (restaurant with typical Costa Rican food). The food was okay, but we weren’t impressed by the other patrons, dogs. The restaurant workers had to keep chasing them away. (Side Note) There are a lot of stray dogs in Costa Rica. You don’t really encounter them so much in the central valley though.
It was close to midnight when we got dropped off and we were beat. But it was a wonderful way to spend my birthday.
…and that’s just what I’ve done. This is the cleanest these shoes have been in the last 3 months. I purchased these Merrill’s for $100+ before I came here at the recommendation of many, to buy hiking shoes for the move. I never imagined I’d get so much use of them. One of the things I have done in this country more than any other is- hike. I never thought I’d be into it, but it’s so beautiful here that I absolutely love it! I can’t get enough of the colorful flowers, large leaves, variety of trees and plants and bird songs. The insects and animals are, and I never thought I’d say this, but, pleasantly abundant.
So far, I’ve completed three official hikes but I’ve also walked miles in national parks and around the city. The Senderos Hike was my first on July 23. It’s located in Ciudad Colon near the University of Peace. It has nice trails for biking and hiking. Pets are allowed too. You do have to pay a small fee for this hike, but I can’t remember the price. It’s a fairly easy hike but can be a little slippery after rain. There are ropes along the slippery paths. I went on this hike with a family and their two children so we didn’t go too far. We saw birds, butterflies, a toad, plants, trees, flowers, a river and insects of course. After our hike, we stopped for lunch at this yummy Vegan restaurant called Tulsi, which is pretty close by. It was a good place to refuel. Enjoy the video and food from Tulsi…
The next hike was Las Eolicas de Santa Ana on August 2. It’s basically a walk to the wind turbines and it’s a free hike. Here is the view of the windmills from my apartment.
I thought it would be cool to see them up close and personal since I see them everyday from afar. My friend Shanny and I took this hike together. Neither of us did much research on it, but Shanny suggested we take an uber up and walk back down and that’s what we did. The ride up was pretty steep so we were happy about this decision but you can imagine what the walk down was like. From the top we were expecting to see the windmills unfortunately, we were met with clouds and fog. It looked like we were in a scary movie. Visibility was very low. At least we caught a glimpse of the windmills. The fog hindered the promising views of Santa Ana below too. So we began our descent. Visibility got progressively better as we made our way down. It was a long and very steep hike back down. I think it took us well over 2 hours. Our knees, calves and toes were aching by the time we reached the bottom but the views we caught on the way down were wonderful. The hike was on a car path unlike Senderos which was a nature path. I’ve heard there are several trails to Las Eolicas. (Note: It’s not the safest hike as there have been reports of robberies at the top. We found out about this afterwards but felt completely safe during the hike. I recommend going with a group.) After we made it back to the bottom of the mountain, we walked another 2 hours back into town while stopping and checking out some local shops. Finally I purchased a Casado- a typical Costa Rican meal consisting of rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and an optional protein before heading home. Check out the slideshow.
The third hike, and most commercialized so far was Hacienda La Chimba but it was also my favorite thus far. The school principal brought my husband and I here, when we first arrived, for a coffee tour and lunch. We didn’t do the hike that day but I knew I would return to do it, because of all the Instagram photo, worthy stops on this hike. Along with food and coffee tours, this place also has canopy, zipline, and hiking trails. There is a fee for the activities. The fee for the hike is $12.00 or $8.00 if you have a local ID. It’s a very safe location and monitored, for that reason, I would recommend this trail out of the all three to do alone. However, doing it alone means no company to take those amazing shots of you. The hike is a nature trail with hills and dips, soil and rocks. I don’t think the trail is very hard but it can be a little demanding. I assume that is why children under 7 years old are not allowed. The longest trail spans 9km with several stops and short cuts along the way. Shanny and I made this trek on September 3. We almost opted out because we thought we were going to get rained on, but we went anyway. Pura Vida! We completed a little more than the 5K. You can see from the video how wonderful this hike is…
While hiking, I recommend carrying a backpack with water, snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent, sunglasses, a hat and rain gear. Wear comfortable closed toe shoes or hiking sneaks/boots. I prefer long pants over shorts so I don’t itch from plants or insects touching my legs. Don’t forget your phone and smart/fitness watch to keep track of your steps because everyone knows it doesn’t count unless it’s recorded. A smart watch is also helpful in the case of an emergency. My Garmin has detected an emergency and alerted my husband on his phone on two different occasions while I was hiking. My heart rate suddenly spiked due to running or jumping and took the signs as an emergency. Thankfully they were not, but it was super to know that this feature worked if I ever needed it. Also for the public walks, exercise caution. Check the weather before any hikes. Morning hikes are often better in the rainy season, which is most of the year, because the rain tends to hold off until the afternoon. Also, if you reach the summit and its cloudy, wait a few minutes, the clouds usually pass with time.
Hiking seems to be the most exercise I’m getting in Costa Rica, due to my work schedule, and I am very much enjoying it. I guess Costa Rica has made me into a nature girl. These Merrills have been great hiking shoes for traction but don’t do much for keeping my feet dry. I guess it’s time to invest in some waterproof hiking boots because I see many more hikes in my future here.
It was about 9 pm when I started falling asleep Friday night. It was early but I had a long week and after one glass of Seville and tonic, I was done. I told my hubby, whom I’d been video-chatting with, I love you and called it a night. I’m a light sleeper and any light or sounds awaken me, so I put in one ear plug and covered my eyes with my blinders.
About 4 hours later, something scared me half to death. I was awakened to my bed being shaken. I felt it once and thought I was dreaming until, it happened again. This time I jumped up because I thought a monster was under my bed. Half asleep, I looked over at my vanity to see if anything had fallen over. Perhaps it was an earthquake, but I couldn’t see anything. The dogs outside were barking and then suddenly stopped. I checked under my bed, no demons there. I called Darryl and left him a message. Of course he didn’t answer, he was asleep. It was 1am here which meant 3am there. My heart was beating out of my chest and it took me 2 full hours, and 2 episodes of Making the Cut, to finally fall back to sleep.
Later that day, Darryl checked google for any record of Earthquakes in Costa Rica and there it was. At 12:53am, a 5.0 Magnitude Earthquake occurred in the North Pacific Ocean, 44 km South of San Isidro, Costa Rica. That was the monster that shook my bed side to side, woke me from my slumber and scared the shit out of me. The website www.volcanodiscovery.com provides alot of information on Earthquakes around the world. Check out this reporting from that website on earthquake occurrences in Costa Rica:
The ironic thing is, we had an earthquake drill at my school just this week and my Director and I were just discussing our experiences with earthquakes on Friday morning. The only other earthquake I had ever experienced was in Philadelphia 11 years ago. I remember that earthquake clearly because I was in training at the first school I ever worked at. It was a 5.8 Mag earthquake that struck in Virginia and was felt pretty far up the East Coast.
I guess now is as good a time as ever to prepare an emergency bag. I had one prepared in Qatar when the Embargo occurred against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and talks of war were everywhere. No matter where you are in the world, it is always better to be prepared. Thankfully, I am ok and this was just an interesting, surprise experience in my new country. I just love my life!
I’m so excited that I am now mobile in Costa Rica. It didn’t take long for me to realize that having a car here would be very helpful. The area around Santa Ana, where I live, is walkable however, in the rainy season, walking is not the best option. Also I really want to explore the country.
Skittles is the brightest colored car I have ever owned and it all started one day when I arrived at work. In the parking lot, I saw the cutest, small, lime green car and it instantly brought a smile to my face. It was at that moment that I decided I wanted a car that made me smile too. I wanted a car with personality, a bright colored car that would stand out.
Buying a car in a new country can seem daunting so here’s my experience and I hope it helps someone. The most common ways of finding a car here include: Facebook Marketplace, traveling to Grecia (an area filled with lots of car dealerships, reminds me of Passyunk avenue in Philadelphia, or a car mall), visiting local auto dealers and 2 popular websites: encuentra24 and crautos . Two of my coworkers went to Grecia and said they were overwhelmed. I had success using crautos.com.
Checking out a few cars and then taking a mechanic along with you when you find a car that you are very interested in, seems like the best choice. Thankfully, my schools H.R. department has connections and hooked me up with a mechanic. Skittles came from a private owner. The couple were/is super nice and bought the car to my condo for me to view and test drive. The mechanic also met at my condo. He charges a fee of 50,000₡ ($80) each time. Thankfully, I only needed to use him once. He completed a diagnostic check right there, took the car for a spin and then gave me his approval. I told the couple I wanted the car, negotiated a little and gave my verbal agreement of purchase. That was on Saturday. By Tuesday, my H.R. rep had arranged for our school lawyer to meet at the school, with the couple and myself to sign over the papers. The lawyer’s fee was 400,000₡ ($633). This seems expensive but it included everything needed for me to drive my new car home that same day.
So for the purchase of my used, 4×4, Hyundai Tucson Limited, mechanic check, change over and all paperwork, I spent approx $15,400. This does not include the car insurance, that I was not required to purchase straight away. I have been quoted 303,000₡ ($480) for the year, for full car insurance. This is insanely inexpensive compared to the U.S. I thought car insurance was cheap in Qatar, at approx $1100/year, but this is amazing. Full car insurance in Philadelphia is about $250/mth.
The most difficult part of the entire process was two-fold. 1) Finding a car, 2) Finding a way to pay for it, when the majority of my money is not here. My job was super helpful with the whole process and made it easier. So far, I am pretty happy with my choice. Let the adventures begin…
July 9 was move day. With all the negative experiences people have been sharing about the airlines lately, it was a big concern. My flight had been changed prior from a PHL departure and short layover in Miami to a layover in Boston, then a longer layover in Miami with a next day arrival. This was not acceptable so I cancelled that flight on Jet Blue and rebooked another on United, non-stop to SJO from Newark Airport. There were some discrepancies on the weight and size limits of the baggage that I could take but in the end I used the information given to me over the phone by a representative. We were allowed a max of 2 checked bags, that we had to pay for, and 1 carry-on and personal item for free. At the advice of some other expats in a FB group I joined, I purchased some totes for odd shaped items. In total, I packed 2-62.4 dimensional containers, purchased from Lowes, 2 large suitcases, 2 medium suitcases, 2 small suitcases for carry-on and 2 backpacks as personal items. Darryl and I left with 10 total pieces of luggage, 8 which were mine. I paid $440 in total but I didn’t mind because I would be reimbursed by my job for relocation costs. A very nice United Airlines attendant helped us at the airport with rearranging our seats so that we were sitting together and in spacious seats. (Advice: wait to get to the airport and ask for seat changes rather than paying for them online)
We had to present proof of return flight, within 90 days, since we were going on a visit visa, which we would obtain on arrival. This is a Costa Rican rule. I cannot obtain my work visa until my FBI apostille comes back from Washington. The only two documents I was required to get authenticated for work in Costa Rica was my birth certificate and FBI background check. The Birth Certificate authentication is completed at the state office building, Harrisburg in my case. That was a simple task of simply driving up there, walking in and paying a small cash fee of $15.00. The FBI authentication is completed through the national office in D.C. and walk-ins are not accepted. I used the third party company ProEx again; the same one I used to get my documents authenticated for Qatar. Their services cost me $150 and takes approximately 4 weeks. I still plan on flying back home for the October break rather I have the document within 90 days or not.
Our flight departed only a few minutes late and was rather pleasant. Five hours is a whole lot less than the 12.5 hour flight I was used to taking to get to Qatar. Getting through immigration was easy. They simply asked where we were staying, stamped our passport and whisked us through. There are nice gentlemen in green shirts at baggage retrieval that can help you with your bags for $20. Containers like totes come out of the area marked with the number 1 all other baggage comes out of different baggage carousels. Minus 1 missing tote handle, all of our things arrived safely. Thankfully Darryl had the bright idea to zip tie the totes as extra security. The lines for customs was disheartening, however they moved quickly and we were out of the airport in under 30 minutes.
My new VP picked us up from the airport and she had a vehicle big enough for all of our stuff. She drove us to the Aloft hotel, where we would be staying until we found housing. In our room was a small gift bag with coffee, cookies and snacks from Costa Rica, cash of ¢150,000 ($215 approx.) and a prepaid phone with ¢30,000 ($43 approx.) credit for our use for the first few days.
After dropping off our baggage, Mrs. VP and family took us around the neighborhood and then to get something to eat. The restaurant is where I learned my first lesson about Costa Rica: I need to learn Spanish and fast…
Within a few days, I will be off to my new adventure. This summer was super short. I literally had 3 weeks off. I spent most of this time preparing for the move. In between, I did get in a 5 day trip to Panama (more on that coming up in a future post), some quality time with family and a little down time to do some research. So, here are 10 facts about my soon to be new host country.
A lot of people think Costa Rica is an island but actually it is not. It is a part of Central America and borders Nicaragua on the north and Panama on the south. However, it does have several uninhabited islands. Can’t wait to explore them. (costarica.org)
Costa Rica does not have a military. The Military was abolished in 1948, and money was reinvested in education, social security and health care. The standard of living has been steadily on the rise since then, the country’s literacy rate is 98%, and the infant mortality rate is the second lowest in the region. (ticotravel.com)
It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with 5% of the world’s biodiversity and 500,000 species of wildlife. (trafalgar.com)
Costa Rica has a high life expectancy and is home to one of the 5 blue zones in the world, Nicoya. (asuaire.com)
You can see the sunrise on the Caribbean side and sunset on the Pacific side in the same day (visitcostarica.com). It is possible to drive across the entire country and catch them both.
There are about 750,000 species of insects that live here, including 20,000 different spiders, and 10% of the worlds butterflies. (bahiaaventuras.com) I almost declined the offer to move here because of this fact .
There are more than 121 volcanic formations and seven active volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes are in the northern part of the country. (bahiaaventuras.com) Costa Rica’s soil is rich in minerals due to many eruptions over the past millennia.
The country is about the size of West Virginia or slightly smaller than Lake Michigan (puravidamoms.com)
It is the most visited country in Central America due to its rich biodiversity and ecotourism. (worldstrides.com)
Costa Rica was ranked one of the happiest country in the world in 2012. (hidden lemur.com)
Hopefully you enjoyed reading some facts about Costa Rica and learned something new. Do these facts motivate you to visit this country?
If you never try, then you’re always left wondering…
Just because I left Qatar doesn’t mean I’m done. And now that I’ve closed that chapter of my book, it’s time to start a new one. So where is the setting of chapter 2? That is the question. Well it begins in another country, a little closer to my original home. But before I get into that, I have to tell you where and how it began so that if you’re considering being adventurous like me, you will have an idea of where to begin.
When I resigned from my job in Qatar, I actually had no idea where I was going. I knew I didn’t want to stay in that country and apply to another school. I just knew I wanted a change of scenery and a change in my position.
So I created a profile on Search Associates and was prepared to pay a fee for this but I lucked up with going through the UK division because it was free. Creating a profile through them is relatively easy and you’re assigned a contact person. Through Search Associates, I was able to see postings from schools all over the world. For some I could apply directly through the website with just a cover letter and directing the hiring representative from the schools to my profile. For others, I was directed to apply straight through the schools website. I knew that finding a position in leadership would be more difficult than a typical teaching position and it proved to be very competitive. Apparently a lot of teachers were displaced during Covid and were now seeking new opportunities. Sure, I have a pretty good resumé with a competitive educational background but I lack in leadership experience within a school setting. Most schools, I didn’t even hear back from. I was only invited to a couple of interviews in leadership and wasn’t offered a position. I even interviewed for a classroom position in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, if you call a virtual interview where you answer 3 questions and are recorded, an actual interview. Needless to say, that didn’t pan out and it was probably for the best, as it wasn’t what I really wanted. I only interviewed there because the pay was impressive and I have friends there. Feeling defeated, I had resolved to go back home and take some time off. I had been out of the interviewing game for a while, was making mistakes and was not used to hearing no.
I was tired of applying and I was excited about going home for some respite and quality time with loved ones.
But then, I saw this position with a significant lower pay than what I was used to but in a country that I’d considered retiring. I didn’t know much about this country and still don’t really but I’ve heard some wonderful things. I also did not know much about Qatar but that didn’t stop me and look how that turned out. Not feeling very optimistic, I decided to apply. Within a few days, I received a response from the Director of this school and I instantly had a good feeling. We met on Google Meet and talked about the position, school, country, pay, etc… Next I interviewed with the Principal and Vice Principal. The Vice Principal who happened to work in Qatar just a year prior. Following this interview, I also interviewed with a panel of teachers. This impressed me. An organization that values the opinions of all, even those not in leadership, I wondered if this was real or just a facade. Within a few weeks, I was offered the position of ECE Coordinator- Early Childhood Education Coordinator. I went back and forth with my decision to just go home and take some time off or accept the position. In the end I decided to accept. This position may not come back around for me again, and if it doesn’t work out, then I can go home. If you never try, then you’re always left wondering.
The pay was an issue too, but during my time in Qatar, where I was making significantly more, I spent most of that money on paying off bills which put me in a good position. A position where I can accept a lower pay. A position that I desire and can possibly catapult my career in different directions where I will be able to make more money later, if I desire. Besides, this almost felt fate-like. I was ready to give up and it showed up out of nowhere. The process was quick and I got a good feeling in my gut. I love this part of the world and now I will live in it.
I cannot believe that it has almost been 1 year to the date that I last blogged. This past year has been filled with ups and downs, mostly ups and as I have slipped into other social media platforms as a low-key beauty influencer, I have neglected my page. However, we always come home. And sometimes we move.
Since it is official now, I can finally make the announcement public that after 6 years in Qatar, I resigned. This will be my final school year here in this country. My intent was never to stay here forever nor was it my intent to stay for 6 years but here I am.
I have chosen to leave because my conscious has strongly suggested I do. My inner voice has been telling me for some time that it is time to move on and listening to it, thus far in my life, has proven fruitful. I listened to it when it told me to go back to school. I listened to it when it told me to leave my previous job in Philadelphia. I listened to it when it gave me the confidence to move to an Arabic country, despite “neigh-sayers”. And I will listen to it now.
It has been an amazing 6 years of self-growth, exploring, learning, partying, traveling, teaching and so much more. Just to clarify, leaving is a choice just as coming was. Coming here was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. I have made friends that will be a part of my life forever. I have had experiences that no one else in my Philly circle or family have. I will not go into details about all the things I have done here, you can read my past and future posts for that. But I would advise anyone reading this, contemplating moving overseas to a foreign country, to “DO IT!”.
Where am I off to next? Well, that’s a good question. Let’s just say, I am not a tree. I don’t have roots and my branches sway in the direction of the wind and it’s pretty windy out right now!
Thank you for following my adventures in Qatar. It is time to move on to the next chapter. Am I nervous about this next chapter? YES! Will it stop me? HELL NAH!
It has only been a month since my last post but it feels like way longer. Honestly, I haven’t had many ideas to blog about lately and I’ve been pretty busy between work, work, and well being lazy. But life is good. I am beyond grateful for where I am in my life right now. I am alive, healthy; my family is strong and healthy. You know how they say, your body tells you when it needs a rest, I think life showed us that we needed a rest. Sometimes our lives are so fast paced that we forget to take a moment and be grateful. I have a good job, with minimal stress. My bills are paid. My retirement fund is growing as is my savings. These past months, I’ve been spending time on the phone with my family and at home with my husband. My mother and I reconnected. I even treated her to a hotel stay back home. Some people that I am close to have suffered some real hardships this past year and I am grateful that I have been able to be there for them in some way. Life is so precious and I believe that once Covid-19’s death wish slows some, people will appreciate some things a little bit more. At least I hope they will. I don’t believe that life will ever quite be the same though. Most of us will look at things differently and choose differently. I can’t even watch a food tv show without cringing about something or look at past pictures. Like how my husband and I went to Sri Lanka 2 years ago and ate street food from street vendors. It’s a miracle that Covid-19 didn’t come sooner.
Yesterday, I received the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It’s free in my host country. I feel okay, minus the sore arm. I have to go back for my second dose in 3 weeks. I was nervous about getting this vaccine however, I want to get back to traveling. Most importantly, I want to go home to see my sons and the rest of my family. I miss them dearly. If getting the vaccine will make that easier, it’s a risk worth taking.
Today is a good day to be alive and to be grateful.
Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.
It is winter break over here in Doha for teachers and children and in light of Covid-19, I’m sure it does not come as a surprise that I opted out of traveling. I did, however, choose to do a short staycation to see different walls than the ones in my flat. My friend Jennifer and I decided to book a room at Al Messila Resort.
Al Messila is located in the Al Rayyan area of Doha. It’s nestled right off Doha expressway and across the street from the U.S. Embassy. We got a great rate as Qatar Foundation employees and I had heard good things about the resort. Jenn and I were really looking forward to some rest and relaxation.
Although the front desk consists of a few podium desks behind plexi/glass shields, the lobby is beautiful. The high ceiling is grand and the chandeliers majestic. There are several areas to sit surrounded by gold and beige decor. Your bags are checked by security and your temperature and etheraz apps are checked upon entry.
Although we requested two beds, the confirmation did say 1 King (which I should have checked prior) and changing to 2 beds would include at least an hour wait. We didn’t feel like adding an additional hour to our already rather late check in time of 4pm. Since we have traveled together before and are pretty good friends, we decided to share the bed.
We stayed in a deluxe room which was very spacious. I really appreciated the 6 piece bathroom including a separate shower and tub behind the same glass door within the bathroom, the rain shower head and double vanity. The room had a rather long hallway from the door to the bedroom, a wall mounted television, coffee maker, mugs, tea, King bed with 4 rather flat pillows, a table, 2 chairs and a chaise. Our room had a balcony facing the front of the hotel and highway. Next time, I’ll be sure to request a different view. The room was very clean with the exception of a nectarine which was under a chair on our balcony, upon check-in, and remained there throughout the duration of our stay. There were stains on our carpet and the bed was not very comfortable. In fact, my side felt very slept on and I had to move closer to the center of the bed to feel like I wasn’t sleeping on a slope. The Wifi was free though and it worked well. I am awarding the room 3 stars, for the great wifi, space, and wonderful bathroom; unfortunately, 2 stars were sacrificed due the bed, carpet stains and forgotten nectarine.
The hotel grounds are beautiful, with lots of greenery and a large pool. There is a pool bar as well and all of the bartenders and pool staff are nice. Happy hour starts late around 7pm. The cigar lounge was clean and Daniel makes very good drinks. The star of the resort, though, is the Spa. As a hotel guest we were able to enjoy the spa amenities free of charge. You can even catch a golf cart over to the spa. If you are not a guest of the hotel, you can still access the spa for 15o QR. Jennifer and I spent about 2 hours at the spa going from room to room. We took part in the hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam rooms, relaxation beds and rooms and even pole dancing and trampoline jumping in a pool. During our spa visit, we only saw 3 other guest, so we basically had it to ourselves. You can pay for other services as well, like facials and massages. I really wanted to experience a Turkish Hamam but due to covid, those weren’t on offer. Al Messila gets 4 stars for amenities. The only reason I deducted a star is because of the lack of dining options which unfortunately hits this resort in 2 areas. Let’s talk food and service.
Let’s get right to the point, in this large beautiful hotel, why is there only 1 restaurant? Firstly, breakfast was not included (*correction, breakfast was included, we were not charged) but the buffet is very reasonably priced at only 38 QR and even though breakfast is buffet style, you can not go up and get your own food, precautions put into place due to Covid. This is fine, however, no one informed us about this even after we were sat at a table and left alone for some time. Eventually we called someone over and they explained that everything would be bought over to our table. They were informed about my vegan and Jennifer’s vegetarian diet prior. It took a while to receive our food but I was able to ask for specifics like potato wedges and sauteed veggies. A menu of what’s available would have been helpful, saved time and cut down on waste. Nevertheless we walked away full and satisfied. For lunch we ate outdoors. The chef prepared some vegetable dumplings and french fries for me. The dumplings and several sauces were tasty. That was on our first full day. But the second day was a disaster. We made breakfast reservations for between 9:30-10 and arrived around 9:45. We were told to wait in the lobby as there was already a queue of people waiting. No one took our names down or gave us a number to be called. We waited about 30 minutes before Jennifer said something to the host and we were finally seated. The host seemed to have no idea about our reservation. The restaurant was getting hammered hard and it showed. We requested to just order specific items from the buffet so that everything did not have to be bought over. I ordered simple potatoes and grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, Jennifer ordered avocado toast, and eggs benedict but forgot to tell them no meat, and they obviously forgot our dietary restrictions. They bought over eggs benedict on turkey and a side of meat. She re-ordered and I waited, and waited and waited. Then her fixed order came minus the toast, and I waited and waited. Then she finished and I still sat waiting. We pulled over someone who appeared to be a manager and told him the problem, that we were leaving and I was not paying, as I didn’t eat anything other than a piece of fruit. By this time, I am very upset. He apologized and insisted bringing over the food anyway. A few minutes later, he bought over a plate of mushrooms, sliced avocado and pre-packaged hash browns. The sight of this plate made me angry. It was not what I had ordered. It was not avocado toast. It was not cooked potatoes and the mushrooms were cold. By this time I am furious with the service and I didn’t hesitate in letting the hostess know. There were many complaining guest that day. The service and the food was awful. Knowing that it is winter break, people are not traveling outside of Doha like they used to, due to Covid, this hotel restaurant should have been better prepared. I left out of that restaurant very HANGRY and ready to leave the hotel altogether. I am awarding the restaurant/food and service, 2 stars due to everything mentioned. When I travel, food is high on my priority list especially because of the way I eat. If the food is not right, I usually don’t return.
Things worth mentioning: On our check in day, we received fruit and truffles delivered to our room. This was a nice touch. Later that evening, tea was also delivered. Unfortunately for every good thing, something not so good happened. For instance, after we enjoyed in-room dining on the first night, we called for the tray and dishes to be collected but no one ever came to get them and the room started to smell. On day 2, we saw housekeeping in the hall when we left our room but they never cleaned our room. We had to call down to have our room serviced.
Final thoughts and message to the manager of the Al Messila: This review is based on my experience alone. Everything is true. I travel a lot and write many reviews. Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.
Provide a menu for the breakfast buffet so that people can make choices
Have a vegan menu available. The world is changing; more and more people are going green
Prepare for busier seasons with more experienced staff and write down reservations
Don’t bring people cold food- ever, unless it is supposed to be cold and make sure that everyone at the table gets their food
Keep customers informed. A customer should not have to call downstairs to find out why their room was not serviced
Ensure that room service collects in-room dining dishes or at least checks with the guest within an hour
Remove the nectarine off the balcony of room 3012 and get rid of the carpet stains
Move up the check-in time. Half the day is gone at 4pm and with a noon check-out time that isn’t even a 24 hour stay.
Al Messila receives 3 stars from me- Beautiful but below basic in food and service.
***Update: After contacting the hotel manager, Mr. Mallah, he arranged for me to return to try out Al Mesilla restaurant again. There were some major changes made and the brunch is very good. They had a whole section dedicated to just vegans. And it made me wonder, if that will always be there or was that just for me. The service was much, much better. The drinks were good too and so was the food. After this new visit and changes, I may be inclined to stay there again. I appreciate that the manager invited me back to have a better experience. I kind of wish he had covered a night’s stay along with the restaurant visit.