THE EASE of a trip from Stafford to Sharm El Sheikh is truly a wonder of the modern world.
Trains run regularly and directly to Birmingham International — or there are swift transfers from New Street to International, meaning you can make it to the airport from Stafford in less than an hour.
Once at Birmingham International, you’re just a short walk away from check in. It’s not costly either, Monarch Airlines provide low fares all year round, with flights from Birmingham to Sharm El Sheikh starting from £52.99 one way and £272.98 return taxes included.
Even so, I somehow manage to get myself into a panic thinking I’m running late. As it turns out, I’m running perfectly on time — I put it down to early morning confusion. But seeing I’m in a panic, the accommodating Monarch staff quickly put me at ease.
Feeling slightly silly, I think it best to get a coffee. Airports do have a tendency to incite stress. They’re full of people running late, remembering they’ve left something important at home, or desperately trying to keep their kids entertained for hours on end.
Thankfully, there is a haven of calm to be found amongst the madness. The newly redeveloped Aspire Lounge is a refuge for travellers who are keen to get away from the mad rush after check in, with a peaceful atmosphere, champagne welcome and breakfast waiting for us. This is ideal as a luxury add on for honeymoon or business travellers.
The flight, which takes around five hours from Birmingham International straight to Sharm El Sheikh is more of economy than luxury standard but there are optional extras such as additional leg room for £9.99, online check in and hot meals which can make your journey that little bit more comfortable. Seats can be pre-allocated for £5.99, which is perfect for families who want to sit together.
Arrival into Sharm El Sheikh airport is somewhat chaotic. This appears to be a cultural difference, as there is a system of sorts in place, but it lacks the control and comparative calm of British airports.
However, if you are staying at the Savoy Hotel, a representative from the hotel will meet you and guide you through the confusion and take you to the resort.
So after a short coach trip we arrive in the lap of luxury that is the Savoy. It seems a little strange to be at a global commercial brand in the midst of barren desert in a country fraught with danger but the upshot is that you feel totally safe.
Greeted by hotel staff who radiate professionalism and warmth simultaneously, I am shown to my room and left to marvel at its luxury.
It is spacious, light, luxurious and the balcony offers a more than pleasing view of the resort, the beach and beyond. Not a bad sight to wake up to in the Egyptian morning sun.
Depending on your desires and your budget, there is a range of accommodation options available. These standard rooms in the Savoy are ideal for a relaxing getaway or quiet family holiday.
For that extra step into luxury, you can book a room under the exclusive club wing of the Royal Savoy. This will grant you access to a private lounge, pool and beach area — just for that extra bit of peace and quiet.
Guests in the Royal Savoy are also greeted by a lovely fresh fruit basket and beautiful flowers. Upgrading to S Class also effectively gives an all-inclusive experience, giving one less thing to worry about at meal times.
Speaking of meals, there is a wealth of cuisines to try throughout the hotel, and tonight we’re trying out the unique dining experience of the lavishly decorated Hot Rock. The restaurant works on the basis of your meal being served raw on a plate of hot volcanic rock. This is great for steak eaters as it allows you to have the meat cooked to your exact preference. Plus, it’s a fun and novel way to dine with friends. For dessert, scoops of delicious ice cream are joyously served on plates of freezing cold volcanic rock.
At night, this place turns into the Caligula nightclub if you fancy a dance – just don’t expect a cutting edge clubbing atmosphere, it’s very much a typical holiday resort club. If you are after a more novel party experience then check out the Ice Bar in Soho Square – a bar where you’re kitted out in a massive duffel coat as everything is made of ice.
The Soho Square complex is conveniently placed just next to the Savoy resort facilities, which adds to the experience yet remains quite separate from the calm of the hotel.
Offering extra dining and entertainment amenities for guests, there’s a whole host of international cuisines to choose from in the restaurants – each of which pleasingly boasts head chefs trained in the country of the cuisine. So cue delicious curries in the Bombay restaurant, local Egyptian delicacies to die for in Saffron and quite possibly the best Chinese meal I have ever eaten in Zen.
Soho Square also offers entertainment facilities including ice skating, bowling and a historical culture cinema.
If the hustle and bustle of this cosmopolitan complex isn’t your thing, you could try going for a romantic meal in Italian restaurant Rosmarino or a more relaxed drink in the warming atmosphere of the Safari Bar within the hotel, which became a firm favourite hangout during my stay.
For lunch, Seafood Island is the place to go. I opt for a salmon dish with roasted vegetables on my visit — which arrives all succulently cooked and bursting with delicious flavours. The real beauty of this place though is revelling in the stunning sea view across the table as you dine.
Another accommodation option – which works well for families, is to stay in one of the villas. Each one has its own theme and style, every one of them is opulence defined – culminating in the extravagant Queen Cleopatra villa.
They would also be perfect if you are on your honeymoon and really want to splash out on something special. With your own private pool and in some villas, Jacuzzis, this is ideal for a romantic getaway designed to optimise quality alone time together.
Pampering yourself is a must when on holiday, and the hotel has excellent spa facilities serving just that purpose. I decide to go for a much needed back massage. As the masseuse gently works my knots she comments on how tight my back is. As if by magic, I leave feeling elevated, sublime and with a back free of knots.
To make the most of your stay, you can take advantage of the various day trips on offer, and explore outside of the resort. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking for adventure or you just want to experience a traditional Egyptian shopping trip, there will be something for you.
A boat trip to Tiran is a luscious boat ride – where you can sunbathe on deck and admire the gorgeous islands surrounding the crisp blue seas. Along the way there are stops to jump in and go snorkelling.
Aided by professional divers who really do make sure you are safe and at ease, you can see some of the world’s most beautiful sea life with your own eyes. There also facilities on hand in the resort to go scuba diving with an instructor, if you want to get really up close and personal with the sea creatures.
If you find yourself craving a more authentic taste of Egyptian life, then coach trips into the traditional Old Sharm markets are on offer, where I manage to find some super bargains to take home for friends and family.
By far the highlight of the whole trip was a day out quad biking and camel ride — much to my surprise, as I climbed onto my quad bike with fear. I am a wimp at the best of times, but once we get the bikes revving, I quickly uncover a love for quad biking, and find myself zooming across the desert at exhilarating speeds.
We stop at the Mount Sinai, and our guide shows us the astounding echo valley before we get back on our bikes. I could do this all day, but I have a camel waiting to take me into the sunset. Led by a man who has amusingly named his camels after popstars, I sit atop Madonna who follows Shakira to his home — a three walled stone hut in the middle of the desert. Sitting and gazing into the night sky whilst sipping on a cup of Egyptian tea in this minimalist home whilst thinking about the consumerist excess of our own lives is a humbling and liberating experience.
Sadly, it’s time to leave Sharm El Sheikh before I know it, and my reluctant departure is testament to what a wonderful time I have had here.
Savoy Hotel: www.savoy-sharm.com
Soho Square: www.soho-sharm.com
Sun International: (quad bikes, boat trip, camel riding) www.sunegypt.com
Monarch Airlines: www.monarch.co.uk
Fore some video footage from the trip, check out the clip below: