let’s do brunch

let’s do brunch

Day 192 • Friday • 13 Feb 15 • Today’s High 31º

Groan … Poss and I really had to drag ourselves out of bed this morning – them bones ain’t what they used to be, especially after a night out of not dancing! Today we had a brunch date @ Cafe Belge with his old school mate from London. We call him The Rock because I kid you not, he really does look like him, minus the bulging muscles. The Rock is married to his fabulous wife who we call Heidi, because you guessed it, she kinda looks like Heidi Klum. Funny thing is, even though she looks like a blond German glamazon, Heidi is actually Turkish but she grew up in Germany. Confused? I definitely was –  to this day, I keep forgetting she’s Turkish because she looks so German. It’s the blond thing!

Continue reading “let’s do brunch”

you had to be there!

you had to be there!

Day 45 • Friday • 19 Sept 14 • Today’s High 36º

Where do I start??

As I may have mentioned before, I love my Pub Grub, especially my Fish & Chips. I’ve sampled McGettigans which is pretty good, then a a friend of Poss’ suggested we try Fibber Magee’s which I understand is a bit of an institution in Dubai. It’s in a real obscure place and you find yourself walking down a back alley just to get there (Perhaps that should have been our first clue!). Apparently, there’s a great tale behind how this Pub came to being in the middle of nowhere but there’s no ‘official’ story. When I looked it up online prior to going, the photos pretty much showed a typical Pub, so we figured, no worries and headed down there with another girlfriend. Little did we know, that as soon as we walked through their double doors, we would be entering the Twilight Zone.

Are we still in Dubai? Before us stood revelers as far as the eye could see, swaying and singing My My My Delilah at the top of their lungs, looking like they might possibly have been there since noon – it was now 8pm. We were probably the only ‘foreigners’ in the place (save the staff) and quite likely, one of the few sober ones. For a moment we stood there, frozen, each secretly thinking if we should make a run for it. But then, perhaps spurred on by the hypnotic voice of Tom Jones, we decided we’d just make a night of it and with a deep smokey breath, plunged head on into the chaos!

IMG_0716

Fortunately we found a table at the back and there we sat, almost mesmerised by the scene unfolding in front of us – the dancing, the random snogging, the singing – you name it, it was going down! By this time, ‘Delilah’ had left and Michael Jackson’s ‘Love Never Felt So Good’ had arrived – I know! Talk about contrasts! But hey, they had started to play our kind of tunes so we weren’t complaining and before you knew it, we too were singing & swaying at our table – this is getting contagious!!

Hunger finally set in and we placed our food orders. The prices are pretty good for Dubai but unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the food – I had to send mine back twice as it was undercooked. But to be fair, I think a good time is more the name of the game here.

Then the night got really interesting for Poss because suddenly out of nowhere, a guy parks himself right next to him in what can only be described as an invasion of personal space. If you know my Poss, you’d know that he takes his personal space very seriously. My girlfriend and I couldn’t actually hear what this guy was saying (the music is pretty LOUD) but apparently he opened with “Are you from New Zealand?”. When Poss replied “No”, his comeback was “It’s ok. I’m not racist!”. Huh??? We really must have looked like a trio of aliens! Not that it seemed to matter to this guy because once he started talking, there was no stopping him. He was quite literally all over my poor Poss.

Feeling quite at home, he started helping himself to our chips (complete with tomato sauce) – erm ok – and then he wanted some of my soda – again, erm ok and we passed him the can. What he did next is something I have never seen in my life ! Unable to find an empty glass, he proceeded to pour the soda into an ashtray – yes, an ashtray (thank god a clean one) and drank it???!!! Eeeewwww – what was this guy on??? We were gobsmacked and kept telling him to stop but he just kept on, like it was the most natural thing in the world.

By this time, the waiter that had been serving us noticed something was amiss with this picture and asked if we were being bothered, to which my girlfriend replied, a loud resounding yes! And before you could blink, a rather large bouncer was at our table asking this guy if he could please come have a chat. What does this guy say? Yeah ok, in a minute, lol! If some big ass bouncer asked me for a chat, I think I might accidentally pee my pants before even managing to bat an eyelid! Alas, our visitor finally gets up to leave and that was that, we never saw him again! While I do feel a little bad, I give full props to the waiter and the bouncer for calmly diffusing what would have only become an even more awkward situation.

IMG_0718

Drama averted, we stayed on to listen to the live band who weren’t bad and a couple of high fives later from complete strangers (everyone is very friendly), we decided to call it a night. At the end of it all, while we did “Enjoy the Craic” (it was an experience to say the least!) it was just a little too much “fun” for this little princess to garner a repeat performance. But if you’re ever looking for a rather interesting watering hole in Dubai, look no further – you’ll be well entertained if nothing else!

redlips

a vision of beauty …

a vision of beauty …

Day 42 • Tuesday • 16 Sept 14 (Part 2) • Today’s High 41º (Abu Dhabi)

… but enough about me, let’s talk about the equally stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque. If the boys thought we were going all the way to Abu Dhabi just for Ferrari World, they were sadly mistaken. After an adrenalin filled morning fueling their passion, I arranged for a little detour en-route home to fuel their soul!

To be honest, I didn’t even know the name of this Mosque or anything about it. I just heard there was a beautiful one in Abu Dhabi. So I asked the driver if he could take us to “that famous Mosque” all the while thinking we’d only steal a look from the outside – we were, after all, dressed for a theme park. Little did I know our driver had other ideas.

There we were, driving around the Mosque perimeter, oohing & aahing away when our driver suddenly turns into it. I of course start freaking out because the last thing I want is to be disrespectfully dressed and worse yet, get arrested for indecent exposure! So I’m madly telling him to turn around as we don’t need to go in and he’s madly saying no problem. By now we’re in the underground car park – he stops the car and tells us to get out and make our way on foot to a door opening at the end of the car park. I’m still too apprehensive to even move, let alone get out of the car! Thankfully however, I remembered I had a big shawl stuffed in my bag, so I rolled down my cargos, wrapped the shawl from head to wrist and hoped I had gotten all my bits.

It turns out I needn’t have been so anxious because through that door opening was a changing room where they provide you with Abayas – all you need is a photo ID. Like he could have told me that in the first place right instead of giving me heart palpitations! Even though they do provide you with the appropriate dress, I would still suggest you wear loose & long clothing when you visit.

From the underground car park, you can take a lift up to the Mosque level. Standing in the grounds, you’re not only struck by the sheer size of the Mosque but also how breathtakingly beautiful it is. Pristine white, columns and floors inlaid with colourful precious stones, depicting fabulous flowers and vines that look like they’ve been painted on and that’s just outside.

L1010299   L1010300   L1010278

L1010298  L1010282

At the main door, there are shelves for you to leave your shoes – you don’t have to worry about them going walkabout, you just need to remember where you put them. The inside of the Mosque is even more amazing with more intricately inlaid tiles, huge Swarovski crystal chandeliers and a soft hand knotted carpet in tones of green & red that runs from wall to wall. Words and pictures really don’t do it justice. You need to see it for yourself to appreciate all the details.

L1010295   L1010284

L1010286   L1010289   L1010291

So if you’re ever in Abu Dhabi or are looking for a short road trip from Dubai, I would certainly recommend putting the Sheikh Zayed Mosque on your must-see list. It’s best to go on a weekday evening when it’s a little cooler and you don’t have to fight big crowds to take pictures. Just be sure to respectfully observe the rules and women should keep their head covered throughout the visit or you’ll have a guard on your tail in no time.

Having visited our fair share of churches during our European adventures over the years, one thing Poss and I were looking forward to in our Middle East adventure was exploring all the beautiful Mosques within the region. Perhaps we shouldn’t have started with this one then – I think it might be a little hard to beat!

redlips

boys & their toys

boys & their toys

Day 42 • Tuesday • 16 Sept 14 • Today’s High 41º (Abu Dhabi)

While any Diva would love to have a mini me to fuss over, I wouldn’t give up my family of boys for anything because when you’re the only girl, you often get fussed over, as it should be! Inevitably however, having that much testosterone around means a LOT of car talk, so on this particular kids trip, it was very much “forget the shopping mum, we want to go to Ferrari world” – oh joy!

Don’t get me wrong, of course I love luxury cars, especially when they come wrapped in a big bow with my name on it, but that doesn’t mean I need to know everything about them. As long as they start, get me from A to B and make me look good, what’s there to know?! Thankfully, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is also the world’s largest indoor theme park with other things to do besides ogle at cars all day long. So with that, Poss hired a car (not a Ferrari) and a driver and we set out on a road trip to Abu Dhabi.

L1010245

Now I don’t know which part of ‘largest indoor theme park’ I didn’t get, but I actually made the kids put sunblock of their faces before we even left the flat! We’ll just call it a reflex action. It takes about an hour to get to Abu Dhabi and the scenery along the way is basically desert and in case you miss it, more desert. As you can imagine, Ferrari World is massive with the infamous Ferrari red everywhere. How they keep the temperature in such a big space at a cool 24ºC is beyond me but it means you can visit all year round, regardless of how scorching the outside heat is.

There are 2 roller coasters in the park. While I rode on the more moderate Fiorano GT challenge which has you riding in a Ferrari F430 Spider competing with another coaster on twisting parallel tracks, I drew the line at Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster. From a standstill,  you accelerate to 240km/h in under 5 seconds – I figured if I wanted a facelift that badly there are plenty of other ways to get one minus the whiplash! The boys loved it so much, they went on twice in a row because apparently being the fastest also equates to being the shortest ride.

L1010266

L1010267 L1010268

While you actually get on the coasters within the park, the tracks are outdoors – so you see, the sunblock wasn’t a complete loss! Besides the 2 coasters, the only other thrill ride they have are the racing simulators. And for an extra AED100, you can try out the advanced simulator which is like the ones used by the F1 drivers themselves. Mr teenager A who will be going for his driver’s license next year tried the advanced one, of course – all I can say is, I hope he drives a real car better than a simulator or we had all better TAKE COVER!

L1010250 L1010248

The rest of the park’s attractions pretty much showcase Ferrari & their racing history so it’s great if you’re a Ferrari fan. Me, not so much which was made evident by the fact that I walked through the store without purchasing a single thing. This from a girl who can normally find something to buy anywhere –  even a little general store in the boondocks!

L1010270

All said, it’s a good day out, especially if you have young kids or car fanatics in your family. The park wasn’t very full when we went and we were done in about 3.5 hours. Oh and if you’re buying tickets online, I wouldn’t bother going for the Premium tickets (which we did) unless it’s really peak season – it lets you skip lines but doesn’t give you priority seating on the rides.

With my boy racers having satisfied their need for speed, it was time to slow things down a little. It was Mum’s turn now and I knew they were just gonna love what I had planned next!

redlips

at the top

at the top

Day 41 • Monday • 15 Sept 14 • Today’s High 37

Ever since almost 13 year old K heard we were moving to Dubai, all he could talk about was the Burj Khalifa. He’s fascinated by buildings of all kinds and if his Minecraft is anything to go by, is becoming quite the budding architect. When we asked him once, what kind of architect he wanted to be, his simple answer was “A rich one”! Aahh … music to his father’s ears.

So you can imagine K’s excitement when we finally got tickets to ascend the 124 floors of his dream tower – his excitement only eclipsed by the mention of 2 little words, FREE WIFI! Because now he wasn’t only going up the Burj Khalifa but he could also tell the whole world about it in real time.

It it best to book your tickets online ahead of your visit for a specific time slot, especially if you want to go at sunset. Tickets are also cheaper if you book in advance (from AED125). Unfortunately, we decided to go at the last minute so we had to try our luck at the ticket booth at Dubai Mall and managed to get tickets for about 3pm. Because tickets are limited, you just have to take whatever time slot is available.

As I stood there buying the tickets however, I started to think that maybe K could become a rich Dentist instead because needless to say, the place was packed with tourists. Not that I have a problem with tourists, I am after all often one myself – I just hate being herded around. But herded we were, through snaking security lines and eventually, the lifts that would take us up to the observation deck, ‘At The Top’. There are a few multimedia displays on the journey to the lifts though to keep you somewhat occupied while you wait your turn.

IMG_0687   IMG_0688   IMG_0695

My advice for the lift ride is to try and create as much space around yourself as possible because a lift full of people can get rather claustrophobic. The fun really starts once the lift doors close because your 60 second journey is accompanied by a sound & light show, complete with blue flashing arrows of sorts and music that increases in intensity as you near the top. While lots of people think it’s all rather cool, I exited the lift feeling like I had just left a rave club and was tripping!

Once I steadied my dizzy head, I was greeted by the observation deck which offers 360º views, including an open air terrace you can venture out onto. While your lift times going up are specific, once you’re up there, you can stay as long as you’d like. Unfortunately, it was rather dusty the day we went so we didn’t stay for long. Once we had done a full circle of the observation deck inside & out, we headed straight for the souvenir shop – of course! We couldn’t leave without getting the mandatory been-there-done that memento.

IMG_0690   IMG_0692

Overall, K thought the whole experience was great but teenager A felt a little underwhelmed by it all. To be honest, it was all a bit of an anti-climax for me too – the experience of ‘At The Top’ overshadowed by the whole rigmarole of actually getting up there. Perhaps too because this was my 2nd visit to the Burj Khalifa – the 1st being my rather plush birthday dinner at the restaurant At.mosphere on the 122nd floor. So while I’m glad to have taken the kids, I don’t see myself going up the observation deck again anytime soon.

Having said that, the Burj Khalifa should be a “must-do-once” on your list. But if you don’t have kids in tow, and you’re a little Diva like me who doesn’t fancy doing the whole tourist thing, you can opt to do High Tea (3-6pm) or Sunset Drinks (6-8pm) in the At.mosphere lounge instead. Yes, a bit of a splurge but it’s a much nicer, more relaxing way to spend an afternoon/evening. You still get the views plus you can say you’ve been to the highest restaurant in the world and that’s a little hard to top, for now anyway.
redlips

on top of the world

on top of the world

Well, the concrete world anyway! After my luxurious Spa day, Poss literally topped off the evening by taking me to the highest restaurant in the world – At.mosphere @ Burj Khalifa. Located on the 122nd floor, you almost feel like you’re dining in the stars.

Getting to the 122nd floor however is a bit like entering Fort Knox! We entered through the Armani Hotel and were taken to Level B1 where the restaurant’s reception is at the front of the Burj. After confirming that we did indeed have a reservation, we were escorted up an escalator to another reception desk that led to the lift that was about to catapult us up 123 floors. There are only 2 floor buttons on the lift panel and they need to use a touch-key card to press the restaurant floor. I’m not afraid of heights per se but an enclosed lift that’s about to shoot me up to the sky does give me the heebie-jeebies somewhat.

Having said that, the process to get you into the lift is very friendly and smooth and before you know it, you’re in, the lift doors have closed and you then realise there’s no turning back! So you do the only thing you can do, fix your eyes on the digital display. At first, it’s a little slow and you’re willing it to speed up but then your ears start popping and you’re trying to keep up with the numbers and a mere 45 secs later, you’re at your destination. Phew!

The restaurant is actually located one floor beneath the lift drop off so you have to make your way down a staircase first. And lo and behold, another reception. To your right is the restaurant and to your left is the lounge. We got there early enough to check out the lounge first and were escorted to a table by the window. There is no denying that the view is spectacular. The lounge is pretty big with a proper smoking and non-smoking section and for a Monday night, there seemed to be enough people in both. It’s pretty dark whichever side you’re on and while I get it’s mood lighting and all, I have a theory that all these places in Dubai do this so you can’t see the prices of anything properly. After having a scan through the drinks menu, I’m believing in my theory a little more – a vodka is about AED75, wine starts around AED80 a glass and a cocktail AED95. Yeah, it ain’t cheap!

        IMG_0627   IMG_0619   IMG_0620

                       IMG_0622     IMG_0623

It then came time for dinner. Because Poss wanted to spoil me with a window seat for my birthday, he could only get a dinner reservation for 9:30. To be fair, he did only book 1 week in advance, so if you want to have a window table for the sunset, I suggest you book WAY earlier. From what I understand, At.mosphere has a minimum spend per person. I’m not sure if it’s more expensive by the window but all I can tell you is that we had a minimum spend of AED650 per person?? I wondered if i could even eat that much because I hardly eat! Well it turns out, it isn’t that difficult to hit the quota. As you can imagine, the prices are as high as the restaurant. I had the Hand Dived Scallops for a starter (albeit the best cooked scallops I’ve ever tasted) for AED240 and followed that up with a lobster tail for AED380. 2 courses in and I had pretty much hit my target. We also had the Burrata which, to be honest, does not hold a candle to La Petite Maison and while all the food was very nice, it wasn’t OMG, so you really are paying a premium for the At.mosphere (Get it?)

IMG_0611    IMG_0612    IMG_0618

What I can’t fault them on is their service which was truly exceptional. As I said, even from the lift, we felt at ease and it only got better as the evening went on. Poss had told them it was my birthday, so I got a slice of very yummy cake with a candle (thank god no singing) plus a polaroid photo to boot. They also pay attention to details – I was getting a little cold and started hugging myself a bit when the Sommelier suddenly appeared out of nowhere with a Pashmina. That earned him lots of brownie points.

At the end of it all, was I glad Poss took me there? Hell, yeah. It’s a must do if you can. Is it a repeat do? Maybe, if we were entertaining the Queen!

 

redlips