A rustic trullo in Puglia, a colourful Mexican casita in San Miguel de Allende, a snug studio in Buenos Aires, and a beach house in Costa Rica… this year is going to see us settling into a wide variety of HomeAway rental properties around the world, from compact budget places to luxurious sprawling homes.
It was apt that our first home in Dubai, a destination synonymous with sumptuous hotels and sun, sand and shopping holidays, should be a big beautiful villa on The Palm, one of the city’s most elite addresses.
Because for most visitors to Dubai (i.e. those not on a 24-hour stopover and checking into the Ibis), a typical stay will involve a week at a five-star resort doing little else but lying on the beach, shopping the souqs and malls, going out to restaurants and bars, and doing a desert safari.
It’s within this context we’ve been assessing our first Grantourismo digs this week. It’s here we should also disclose the fact we’ve been based in the UAE since 1998, have written around a dozen guidebooks and scores of stories on Dubai, and have reviewed most of the city’s hotels. We’re tough critics when it comes to Dubai. However, Villa Talida and The Palm exceeded our expectations.
Our pre-conceived idea of The Palm was that it was a soulless cookie-cutter development of the Arabian Ranches/The Gardens/The Greens mould, but we were proven wrong our first day. See yesterday’s post.
Villa Talida is a colossal house of the kind that’s typical in the UAE where it’s not unusual to have three floors and a rooftop terrace, kitchens so huge you can throw a party in them, and half a dozen bedrooms with private bathrooms. The apartment we once had in Bur Dubai had three bedrooms and three bathrooms and it was considered modest, while our friends in Abu Dhabi have a place so monumental they’ve named it Falcon Crest. You get the picture.
Villa Talida has five spacious bedrooms, some with balconies, and all with bathrooms (of varying size – ours is enormous, but a couple are compact, so if you’re in a group you need to be the first through the door and bag your room first); a comfy entertainment room with a big flatscreen TV, stereo, DVD player, movies, and Playstation and a games; a light-filled formal dining and living area; and a good-sized kitchen with an excellent stove, large fridge, all mod cons, and enough crockery, cutlery and glassware to throw a party – which we’ll be doing tomorrow of course!
The décor is very glam, occasionally flamboyant, and very Dubai. We love the chic, sleek, white, minimalist style of the living and dining areas, but the chandelier in the entranceway and a couple of rooms are a tad ostentatious for us. But, hey, this is Dubai. There’s also a wide range of villas in all styles to choose from (see here), and if we were staying in one again, we’d probably pick this funky place.
Outside, there’s an infinity pool, which is more of a plunge pool, not big enough to do laps in but large enough for everyone to cool off in (and it’s heated in winter!), and a few steps below is a sandy beach where the local residents love to walk, jog, fish, swim, kayak, and row. There are plenty of sun beds, and tables and chairs on a wooden deck overlooking the water and near the barbecue at the side of the house, and there’s enough lawn for the kids to play on. All of which makes the home ideal for a family, group of friends, or several couples holidaying together.
The property even comes with a housekeeper, Azem, who woke early to welcome us, took our luggage upstairs, and discretely does the dishes, makes our bed, and potters about in the garden during the day. I imagine honeymooning couples might not like anyone else around, but Azem must be a godsend for groups. If you can’t tear yourself away from the people, Azem will happily go shopping for you.
So in terms of amenities and quality of fittings – we’re talking marble floors, plush furnishings, mood lighting, big fluffy towels etc – Villa Talida is easily on par with Dubai’s luxury beach resorts. The price per night* is also on par with the city’s five-star hotels – however, you couldn’t comfortably fit ten people into a room, nor would you have your own beach and plunge pool.
You can make savings by cooking your own food and hiring a car, although a taxi from Villa Talida to Dubai Mall is only AED21 or £3 and from there you can catch the Dubai Metro for £1 a ride.
The only thing missing is a concierge, but there’s a very helpful information folder (include resto, bar and shopping tips), a complimentary mobile phone, Atlantis is a ten minute-walk up the road – and you can always buy one of our guidebooks of course.
* The villa sleeps ten, so the rate works out to UK£136/US$220 per couple per night if there’s a full house – in Dubai at the moment this would get you an average room at a low-end five star hotel.