Dubai: Day 3

On Day 3 (Tuesday) I decided to try out the gym in our building. It’s in the same complex but you have to collect an access card from reception and walk across to the car park. The pool and gym are on the top floor/roof of that building. When I got to the sixth floor, I couldn’t figure out how to use the access card. The machine on the wall had a number pad and I had a card that (I thought) needed swiping. There was an office across the hallway so I went in and asked if anyone knew how to get to the pool/gym area? One of the guys came out to help me – he tried holding the card against the machine but nothing happened so he punched in a code and let me in. 

There was an entrance to the pool, a door which said ‘Aerobics’ (I didn’t go in), and the gym. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I think there’s enough equipment there to keep me busy! It’s not the most up-to-date equipment I’ve used but it’ll do. 

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I usually use the bike but I had another ‘blonde’ moment and couldn’t figure out how to use it. I started pedalling and followed the instructions but the machine didn’t start. So I decided to use the treadmill. A few minutes later a guy came in, sat down on the bike, started pedalling and it worked – eh?). Anyway, when I pressed ‘start’ on the treadmill, cold air started coming out of the top of the display. I’ve never seen or even heard of treadmills with fans before! I also bumped into someone I know, who also lives in the building, but apart from that it was very quiet. No people-watching, no music, no screens to watch the news on… Very different to LA Fitness! So I watched the poolside (which looks much nicer from pool level than from up above). I did some weights, some lunges (yes, lunges!) and some stretches and went back home. On my way out of the gym, I tried holding the access card against the number pad on the machine. And it worked. 

My brother-in-law hired a car and driver after lunch and we drove to Sharjah. The plan was to go to the Arabia Wildlife Centre and show Vinay some animals. It took us about an hour to get there and when we finally arrived, the couple outside the Centre told us it was closed. WTF? After all that! And that meant the Children’s Farm next door was closed too. Hmm – someone didn’t read the website properly. So we piled back into the car and Googled other things to do in the area. The driver must have thought we were morons. The Sharjah Aquarium? Yes, we’ll go there! It took us another 30 minutes or so to get there and when we did it looked like the building was closed – it was under scaffolding and looked like it was being renovated. Thankfully, it wasn’t and we went in. It cost AED20 (approximately £3.50) per person.

The aquarium was interesting – they had a variety of aquatic life on display. The only thing I’d complain about was that at every exhibit they had touch screens where you could find out more about the creatures in the exhibit but none of them worked. Each time I clicked on the screen, it would bring up starfish and other ‘harbour’ creatures, but nothing about the sharks that were in the tank.

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We got to walk through an underwater tunnel where stingrays and other big fish were swimming around, but I have no idea what they were. It was interesting nevertheless.

After the aquarium, Vinay played in the children’s area outside. He loved going down the slide and did it over and over again with a huge grin on his face.

The drive home didn’t take as long as the drive there and we were home in time to see the sunset (ignore the streaky windows!).

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My dad finally got me a du SIM card – I put it in my phone and nothing happened. He told me to wait an hour or so and it would start working. About two hours later, the only things working were the phone and Twitter. And really, who uses the phone any more? My BlackBerry service wasn’t up and running yet so I wasn’t getting any emails or BB messages. It’s shocking how much I rely on my phone!

That night, my sister, brother-in-law and I went out for steak. We went to The Meat Co in Souk Al Bahar at the Dubai Mall. We sat indoors as it was quite cool outside. After we ordered the waiter brought over some bread – a chocolate and cranberry loaf and an onion loaf. It looked so good.

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The two of them had some bread and butter, and by the time the real food arrived I was too hungry to take any photos… I had calamari and they had bruschetta to start, and we each ordered a steak. I had the USA Black Angus 160 Day Grain-fed Cut steak, they both had the Brazilian Grass-fed Beef. I asked for a salad instead of the fries that came with the steak. The other two rolled their eyes. We also ordered some broccoli and spinach as side dishes. And a bottle of red wine, which soon became two bottles… 

We were home soon after 11pm – it had been a long day! 

See more Dubai updates here.

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Dubai: Day 2

Day 1 (Christmas Day) was spent at home – lazing, eating, playing with my nephew. It doesn’t make for interesting reading.

On Day 2 we went to the Dubai Mall after lunch.

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I needed to get a local mobile number and spent about 45 minutes in the Etisalat store waiting for my number to be called. As I’m not a proper resident yet, my dad had to register the number for me. All the tariffs they offered us are double the price I would expect to pay in London. We told them we’d think about the various options and bought a pay-as-you-go chip. Dad later said it would be better if I got a contract with du, another mobile service provider which he and my mum use, but to use the Etisalat SIM card in the meantime. I asked him if that meant I’d have to get a new number when I switch to du? Probably, he replied. In that case I’d rather get a du pay-as-you-go chip, switch it to a contract next month, and keep the same number. Doesn’t that make more sense?

After having coffee at the Dubai Mall, my parents and I went to the Oasis Centre, a smaller mall, to look at furniture. Apart from my bed which was shipped from London and fitted wardrobes, my bedroom is bare. I need bedside tables and lamps, a couple of bookcases, a desk, a mirror. We went to two furniture shops in the mall and one across the road. I saw a desk I liked but thought I’d look at a few other places as well. What if something better comes along? Yes, I have commitment issues. We walked back to the Oasis Centre and went to the electronics store.

I need a new laptop – I’ve had my Sony Vaio for 2.5 years and for the last 1.5 years it’s been making a rattling/tapping noise every time I use it. I went into Emax a few minutes before my dad and one of the shop assistants started following me around. ‘Do you need anything?’ ‘Just looking – and waiting for someone.’ I thought he’d stop following me, but no. It was annoying. Eventually Dad showed up, we walked over to another display, and I managed to lose my stalker. The second guy who offered to help us was impossible to understand. Have you ever heard members of the Indian cricket team being interviewed on TV? This guy sounded just like that. No pauses, no punctuation, no breaths – he talked and talked and talked. I had to leave because he was giving me a headache. ‘I’ll think about it.’

A quick trip to Carrefour and we were all set to go home. All I’d bought on my first day out was a dustbin and some bananas. I still had no local mobile number. This wasn’t going to plan. 

See more Dubai updates here.

Moving…

Moving house is a pain in the ass. Moving countries, however, is a bloody nightmare. Over the summer I decided to move to Dubai. I had various things going on in London, including a friend’s wedding and tickets to George Michael (which didn’t happen), until mid-December, so I decided Christmas Eve would be a good time to leave. I would get to Dubai on Christmas morning – a present to myself.

I had six months to sort out my (mostly junk) possessions, and much of my stuff (mostly books) was shipped back in November, but I was still running around like a headless chicken until Christmas Eve.

I woke up on the Saturday thinking that I needed to buy another suitcase and would do that after lunch with the girls. I went to Edgware Road, found the shop my mum had been talking about (Mindels), bought a large bag and came home. I started packing everything that was left, but the bag was filled in under 15 minutes and it weighed 30 kilos. Shit. That’s the problem with big bags – the bigger the bag, the more crap you’ll put in it. For a while we debated what to do, whether we could leave anything behind, but then decided to buy another bag.

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I went back to the luggage shop and asked the guy for a similar bag which was slightly smaller. After I’d paid for it, he said ‘I’m open for another hour if you need anything else. Otherwise I’m closed until the 27th.’ I told him I was leaving that evening so the 27th was no good to me. Thankfully we managed to fit everything into our luggage. Mum and I left for the airport with seven bags. SEVEN. It would have been eight bags but friends of ours offered to take a suitcase for me earlier in the week. I had no idea I had that much stuff.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel leaving London. The last three weeks had been such a blur that I hadn’t had time to think about it properly (or soberly). I knew I wanted to sit by the window. I knew I didn’t want my mother to talk to me as we took off or ask me how I was feeling. We got on the plane, I took the window seat and Mum dozed off before we took off. I looked out the window and saw… the wing of the plane. Dammit! The window behind me wasn’t obstructed by the wing so I looked through that as we took off. A minute after taking off we flew into a cloud and I couldn’t see anything. Dammit! Perhaps it was for the best.

The flight was uneventful and we landed in Dubai at 8.30am on Christmas morning. Instead of going straight to immigration, we had to collect our visas from the visa counter. They were waiting for us and it was pretty straightforward. We then had to get our eyes scanned at the next counter.

Anyone who knows me knows how passionate (read ‘fanatical’) I am about spelling and punctuation. Imagine my horror when I saw a sign that said: Ladie’s counter. I wanted to weep. When in doubt, leave the apostrophe out (I think). After holding my head in my hands for a few minutes, I started to take a photo of the sign but an airport employee told me I couldn’t. After that we went through immigration.

There’s a duty free shop before you get to baggage reclaim and Mum said we had to pick up some alcohol (hurrah!). You’re allowed to buy up to 4 litres per person so we had four bottles of champagne, two bottles of Australian red, and two bottles of Italian Gavi. Non-Muslim residents living in Dubai need an alcohol licence to purchase alcohol or store it in their homes. I need to get this sorted out as soon as possible!  

We collected our luggage, got into a cab and were home by 10am. My sister and her family had arrived earlier that morning and were still asleep so my parents and I chatted while our new housekeeper, Joy, made us some tea (I could get used to this). I admired the view from our 23rd floor flat. I have a corner room with floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls. I can see the Shangri-La Hotel (and their lovely pool) and Sheikh Zayed Road on one side:

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And the sea and our own pool on the other:

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After all the packing I did, I just couldn’t face unpacking all those bags so Joy did it all for me. How spoilt am I going to get??

 

Leaving drinks…

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned my work leaving drinks…

From the time I told my friends at work I was moving to Dubai, Laura was determined I would have the best send-off EVER. ‘Where do you want to go?’ she kept asking. I didn’t mind anywhere, even The Wimpole, the pub across the road from the office. ‘We are NOT going there; we go there all the time; this has to be GOOD!’ was the response I got.

So she found a place called Amuse Bouche in Poland Street in Soho. The alcohol seemed reasonably priced and the manager was very helpful when it came to queries, reserving a space for 30 people and ordering platters of food. (We hadn’t given them any money yet.)

‘What leaving presents do you want?’ I was being asked. Hmm. Tricky. Most of my stuff had been shipped so I didn’t want anything too bulky or heavy. An arm band for my iPod… Mini tarot cards for my handbag… Someone asked me about a passport cover and I remembered the ones at Smythson which I love but would never buy for myself…

The weeks passed by quickly and before I knew it, it was the morning of the drinks. When I got to work and sat down. Laura came over to my desk and said ‘I can’t get on to the website for Amuse Bouche – wouldn’t it be funny if they’ve shut down!’ Er. No, actually – that wouldn’t be funny at all. And I didn’t think about that for the rest of the day until…

At about 3pm, Laura decided to ring them to make sure everything was in order and they were ready for us. We knew she was on the phone to them and could hear her conversation but everyone got on with their own work until we heard her say… ‘YOU ARE JOKING!’ Heads popped up above the desk dividers – everyone looked around at each other like meerkats. Waiting. She hung up.

‘They’ve been sold and the place has been gutted and we’re not going there this evening!’ Er. Didn’t they think to let us know? My drinks were supposed to start at 5pm and we had less than two hours to find a venue. In Oxford Circus. At Christmas time.

Two or three people started ringing some local pubs but venues had been booked months in advance (like Amuse Bouche – bastards). We almost ended up in the upstairs section at The Champion in Wells Street. Eventually one of my colleagues went over to The Wimpole to see if they could accommodate us. It turned out they could fit us in and they had a private room downstairs with its own bar which they opened for us…

It turned out to be a very fun evening and was quite fitting that we were at The Wimpole, having spent so much time there. There were lots of drinks, my boss and two ex-bosses said some lovely things about me, and I managed to get away without making a speech!

I got some amazing presents too…

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The first thing I opened was a pink iPad cover. And I already had the exact same cover in the same colour. Oops.

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The next thing I opened was the mini Tarot deck – I can’t wait to use it! I was told to leave the biggest present for the end so I opened the smaller box – which turned out to be a pink Smythson passport holder. 

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And there were cards…

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And a bottle of champagne and a bottle of red wine (which we drank)…

But by far the best and most unexpected present was a canvas bag with everyone’s self-portraits printed on it:

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The department drew their own self-portraits using Microsoft Paint. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. And I burst out laughing when I saw some of the self-portraits!

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It was just genius.

I was (and still am) so touched by the thought that went into those presents. Laura also gave me a separate card just from her – and she’d also created a few of her own Tarot cards as well. If you look closely in a couple of the photos above you can see them. We spent much of the night laughing about them!

After the pub closed (and we got thrown out) we ended up at Maroush in Vere Street, just around the corner. Food was very necessary at this p
oint, but I’m not so sure about the bottles of wine! 

I think everyone had a good time that night – I know it’s a night I won’t ever forget!

 

Week 18 update: 10 kilos by Christmas

So this week… I carried on eating and drinking my way through London in between packing suitcases, finishing off my errands, and waking up at 4.30 every morning. Yup – another write-off.

After my heavy night out with the boys, Monday did not go exactly as planned. Instead of being up and about early and going to the gym, it was ‘tortura’ (sorry, I just had to). I woke up with a headache and could barely move. Thank God I’d taken the morning off. I had a dentist appointment at 11.30 and got there just in time. After an hour of teeth cleaning (during which time I imagined throttling my dentist), I was told I couldn’t eat or drink anything for 30 minutes. All I wanted at that time was a can of Coke.

Instead I headed over to John Lewis. I’d realised over the last couple of weeks that my bras just weren’t fitting me and I decided to get myself measured properly before I moved to Dubai. I added my name to the list to get measured (there’s a list – who knew?) and waited about 10 minutes for the woman to come and get me. She led me to a cubicle, told me to undress to the waist but to leave my bra on. When she came back two minutes later she said ‘My goodness, you’ve lost some weight!’ I was wearing my black jeans which are held up by a belt, and which are now too big for me around the waist by several inches. Actually, they’re too big for me all over, but especially around the waist. She measured me and, sure enough, the bras I’ve been wearing are now too big for me around my rib cage. She brought in a couple of styles in the right size and the difference in how they look and feel (the bras, that is) is astonishing. She told me that if I continued to lose weight I should get measured again in about six months because I could be even smaller around the back. I don’t think I’ve been that small since I was about 13, but we’ll see in a few months. I spent 20 minutes in the queue and then spent close to £200 on bras. I then thought that if my bras don’t fit me any more, none of the clothes I bought over the summer for Dubai are going to fit me either. But I suppose it’s easier to alter clothes…

I had my last session with Gus on Tuesday morning. I eventually had to do some lunges and he said my lunges were so much better than they used to be. I laughed and asked him if he remembered our first session? My back knee was nowhere near the floor in those first few sessions. I remember the pain in the early days after each session with him – and I never want to experience that again! He said he’d send me a programme to follow until I find a new trainer. I managed to catch my last London sunrise on Tuesday morning:

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Tuesday was supposed to be a full day at the office, but I got there late, had a long lunch (with wine) with my team and boss at All Bar One on Regent Street, and then left before 5pm to meet one of the boys for a couple of martinis. Why, yes, I do have my priorities right. We went to our usual bar in St James’ – I love that place. It used to be a quiet bar but earlier this year it was listed in the Evening Standard Magazine as one of London’s top 100 ‘sexy’ places and is now always crowded. Even at 5pm on a weekday! Two martinis later we parted ways and I had dinner (and a glass of wine) with my mum and cousin at Raoul’s. I’m pretty sure the staff there think I have no life. Or that I own the place.

On Wednesday I went to LA Fitness for the last time. I never thought I’d be sad to not work out! I did my cardio session, gave Gus his Christmas/thank you present and said goodbye… I went to work in the afternoon to do some last minute things and say goodbye to whoever was left. Even then it didn’t hit me that I was leaving for good. Isn’t it weird? One of my editors took me out for a long overdue drink at The Wimpole which was actually quite nice – and my boss joined us for a quick drink as well. I had dinner with friends (with cava and wine – my poor liver) at Fino in Charlotte Street. I hadn’t been there in years. The ham croquetas are better there than they are in Spain and the rest of the food is really good! For dessert, we had the doughnuts (yay – deep-fried carbs!)… We had hoped they would be churros, but the waitress said they really were just doughnuts.

On Thursday I had my hair straightened, ran some errands with my mum and then thought we’d stop at Royal China on Baker Street for a late lunch. We got there at 2.45 and were told they were closed. Disappointed and hungry, we walked over to Bright Courtyard which is across the road. I’d never been there before and had heard mixed reviews. We had hot and sour soup, spring rolls, tofu and Singapore noodles, and Chinese tea to drink. Our bill was £52 – which I thought was expensive for what we’d just eaten!

I went over to say goodbye to friends that evening and had dinner (with wine) at my last stop. In recent weeks I think there’s only been one day a week (if that) where I haven’t had anything to drink. And I’ve been feeling like a blimp.

On Friday my cousin took me to Royal China Club on Baker Street for a quick lunch between my errands. I need to say that, at this point, I still had two more suitcases to pack and just kept putting it off. I went home after lunch, packed a few things, headed back into town for a farewell pint (or two) at The Champion (it had to be done), headed back home, packed a few more things and then headed back into town for some friends’ Christmas drinks. It was a lovely champagne-fuelled evening and it was nice to see so many people before I left. I did get a bit cranky a couple of times, but that was bound to happen. I got home at 3am and packed a few things!

I said goodbye to the girls at Raoul’s on Saturday. Thank God they managed to hold it together – had one of them started crying that would have set me off too. I headed home after lunch and packed. And packed. And packed. I had to go to Edgware Road twice to get more bags! I’m glad I did go the second time because I caught this sunset on my way home:

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I eventually left for the airport with seven bags. 

I got to Dubai on Sunday morning and passed out until 3pm. When I woke up, my parents, sister and brother-in-law were all having shawarma sandwiches. I thought to myself that if I had a shawarma sandwich now, I’d give in all the time – and I didn’t want all my hard work of the last three months to end that way. I opted for the shish taouk (no bread), houmous and tabbouleh. 

I was aiming to lose 10 kilos by Christmas but that didn’t happen. Especially with the way things were the last three weeks! I haven’t weighed myself in over a month but judging from the fit of m
y clothes (my old jeans fit!) and the compliments I’ve received, I feel like I’ve lost about 15 lbs (6.8 kg). More importantly: I had a goal, I was dedicated, and I’m going to continue trying to reach that goal! I wonder whether I can lose 10 kilos by Easter? Can anyone recommend a good trainer in Dubai? Preferably with a sense of humour? He/she will need it.

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Read more updates here.

 

Your week ahead (26-31 December)

Wow – the last week of the year! From next week, ‘Your week ahead’ will be posted on Sundays… 

Aries

7_chariot

The Chariot – achieving victory – reaching your goal, winning; using your will – being determined to succeed, focusing your intent, letting nothing distract you; asserting yourself – establishing an identity, feeling self-confident, looking out for your interests; achieving hard control – curbing impulses, holding in anger, showing authority

Taurus

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4 of Swords – resting – taking a break, giving your body time to heal, finding peace and quiet; contemplating – standing back from the situation, reviewing where you are, taking time alone to think; quietly preparing – consolidating inner resources, getting ready for the future, tying up loose ends

Gemini

Swords_knight

Knight of Swords – be aware of being direct/blunt – being frank and outspoken/tactless and rude, giving an honest answer/showing little discretion; authoritative/over-bearing – speaking with assurance/being domineering, having great influence/acting in a high-handed manner; being knowledgeable/opinionated – being sought as an expert/having to have the last word; being logical/unfeeling – setting aside emotional factors/being cut off from emotions

Cancer

Swords_ace

Ace of Swords – using mental force – using your intellect, applying logic and reason, finding out the facts; having fortitude – facing problems, finding the strength to overcome, surmounting obstacles; seeking justice – righting a wrong, doing what is right, accepting responsibility; proceeding with truth – cutting through confusion, being honest, finding out what is real

Leo

Pentacles_page

Page of Pentacles – having an effect – making your plans real, acting on your dreams; being practical – stopping daydreaming, using common sense; being prosperous – increasing your means, seeking abundance, becoming secure; being trusting/trustworthy – accepting others at their word, proving yourself dependable, having faith in others

Virgo

Cups_queen

Queen of Cups – being loving – being sensitive to the feelings of others, having infinite patience; being tender-hearted – feeling what others are feeling, reacting with sensitivity and compassion; being intuitive – sensing the climate of a situation, understanding without having to ask; being psychic – having a finely-tuned sensibility, being a natural medium; being spiritual – finding joy in communion, seeing the world as a holy place, appreciating the deeper meanings of life

Libra

Cups_8

8 of Cups – seeking deeper meaning – leaving the rat race, finding out the facts, starting on a journey of self-discovering; moving on – abandoning a hopeless situation, letting go, finishing up and walking away; growing weary – feeling tired and listless, getting weighed down by worries, becoming burned out

Scorpio

Pentacles_ace

Ace of Pentacles – using material force – improving the body/health, focusing on concrete results; prospering – having the means to reach a goal, flourishing, increasing assets; being practical – using common sense, grounding yourself in the real world, being realistic; proceeding with trust – feeling safe and protected, having a support system, knowing the situation is stable

Sagittarius

10_wheel_of_fortune

Wheel of Fortune – feeling a sense of destiny – using what chance offers, opening to luck, sensing the action of fate; being at a turning point – moving in a different direction, altering the present course, being surprised at a turn of events; feeling movement – being swept up in new developments, getting involved, experiencing change; having a personal vision – becoming more aware, expanding your outlook, discovering your role and purpose

Capricorn

Cups_ace

Ace of Cups – using emotional force – getting in touch with your feelings, empathising with others, expressing deep feelings; developing intuition – trusting your inner voice, going with your gut reaction, getting in tune with yourself; experiencing intimacy – falling in love, developing a relationship, getting close to someone; proceeding with love – expressing affection, giving to those in need, getting rid of negativity, forgiving and forgetting

Aquarius

Swords_5

5 of Swords – acting in your own self-interest – thinking of your own needs, indulging in power plays, gloating; experiencing discord – choosing to battle, creating ill will, being in a hostile environment; witnessing open dishonour – losing your moral compass, losing sight of what is right, knowing of criminal activity

Pisces

2_high_priestess

The High Priestess – staying non-active – withdrawing from involvement, becoming calm, being passive; accessing the unconscious – trusting your inner voice, using your intuition, being aware of a larger reality; seeing
the potential – opening to what could be, allowing development, understanding the possibilities; sensing the mystery – opening to the unknown, sensing the secret and hidden, looking beyond the obvious

For previous readings, see Notes by Nectar.