Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2013: Week 34

After my session with Randy on Sunday morning, my parents suggested that I sort out my PIO card. I’d been putting this off for one reason or another but my parents were insistent that I sort it out. Ugh.

Mum and I went to a typing centre at Al Khaleej Centre. I don’t know why we went all the way there because I’m sure there must be places closer to us that offer the same service (or I could have done it at home). They basically filled in the application form for me – I took my passport, my parents’ PIO cards, their passports and they did the rest – and gave me a printed copy. All I had to do was take the form and submit it with all the relevant documents.

That afternoon I went to The Dubai Mall to meet a friend who was in town for the day on his way back to Lagos. I thought we’d go for coffee but he wanted to have a milkshake. I vaguely remembered seeing a milkshake place near The Cheesecake Factory so we went looking for it. We stumbled upon a calligraphy sculpture exhibition called ‘Moon Reflections’ in The Souk section:

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I thought it was pretty cool… I decided I’d take my DSLR camera to the mall later in the week and take some better photos.

We eventually found the milkshake place – it was called Millions of Milkshakes. My friend ordered an Oreo milkshake with cookie dough and I just couldn’t decide what to have. He tried to convince me to have the Galaxy milkshake but I knew it would be too sweet and I’d get sick of it. I opted for a mixed berry milkshake instead – and I’d have it again if I went back there. We caught up over our milkshakes and walked around the mall for a while and then headed home. He had a work event to go to and I had some work to do.

On Monday afternoon I went to see my GP about my knees. I wondered whether I should wait until my knees were sore again before going to see her but I didn’t want to start running, have to stop because of the pain and then start again. She asked me what kind of pain it was and how bad it could get – she was surprised when I told her that when it’s really bad it wakes me up in the night. She checked the range of motion of both my knees (all fine, no pain) and told me to start taking glucosamine and recommended SynoShield Forte (glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM with type II collagen biocomplex) twice a day for 2 months. She also suggested I have an X-ray of my left knee (instead of doing both knees, she thought it would be best to do the one which usually ached more). The radiology clinic wasn’t far from the GP so I went straight there after my appointment. They told me their X-ray machine was out of order and I would have to go to their other branch in Umm Suqeim. I decided to go home for lunch first and then went for my X-ray.

I didn’t have to make an appointment, I could just walk in and would be seen as soon as they were free. It was empty when I got there and I was taken straight in after filling in a registration form. I lay on the table and the X-ray technician positioned my knee so that my leg was straight for the first X-ray and then she covered me with a lead blanket from my thighs upwards. For the second X-ray I had to bend my knee and lay it flat on the table, turning a little on to my left side. I was done in 5 minutes. The results would be sent to my GP and she would let me know if anything suspicious showed up. (I got the all-clear on Wednesday morning.)

On Tuesday morning, my mum and I left home before 10am to sort out my PIO card at the Indian Consulate. I decided I’d do all the photocopying I needed when I got there:

  • Two application forms? Check
  • Two copies of applicant’s passport and valid UAE visa? Check
  • Two copies of parent’s passport? Check
  • Six passport photos? Check

I was sorted. There was no queue and we saw the lady immediately. She went through my forms: ‘Yes… Yes… Good… Sign here… Yes…’ And then: ‘No birth certificate?’ F***. It wasn’t even on the list of required documents. F***, f***, f***ety f***. And where is my birth certificate? In my safety deposit box. And where is my safety deposit box? In London. F***. It will have to wait until November.

On Wednesday evening I met up with a new friend for drinks. I met him at a friend’s dinner party in July and we eventually met this week. We went to La Serre at the new Vida Hotel downtown. It was quite empty when we got there – we met at 6.30 – but by the time we left (10pm – four glasses of wine and one vodka later) it was pretty crowded. It was a fun evening – and nice to talk to someone new…

On Thursday evening a friend invited me and a couple of friends to her brother’s flat in the Burj Khalifa (her brother was out of town). Trying to get into the Burj Khalifa is like getting into Fort Knox. Actually I’d imagine getting into Fort Knox is easier! The first security check is in the driveway – you stop, tell the security guy what flat you’re going to, they call the flat, the flat confirms whether or not you’re telling the truth. Then they let you through (or not). Once you’re in the building you have to check in with the receptionist – they ask what flat you’re going to and your name. Residents have to let security know in advance if they’re having people over. The receptionist then escorted us to the lift and we went up to the 23rd floor. The view was spectacular.

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We had some cheese and wine – it was a really nice evening. At about 11pm we decided to go to McGettigan’s for a drink. On the way out of the building I noticed the entrance to the Burj Khalifa Residence (I saw it on the way in obviously but didn’t really look at it as I was so flustered with the whole security process). There are cymbals on long poles that go all the way up to the ceiling – they’re different sizes and are placed at different heights. Water drips from the ceiling on to the cymbals and creates melodies! Isn’t that just genius?

We went to McGettigan’s for a drink and then headed home by 12.30. It was a nice evening – not too crazy!

On Friday, me and three girlfriends went to Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road. We’d bought a Cobone deal a couple of months before and decided we’d make a day of it. The voucher cost AED275 – it included use of the pool, steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and a 75-minute massage. Considering their 60-minute massage is AED400 and you have to pay extra to use the pool, it was a bloody good deal.

The pool at the Radisson Royal

The pool at the Radisson Royal

We got there at noon, swam, sunbathed, read, had lunch, had massages, went back to the pool to watch the sunset.

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I came home a few shades darker!

I was home all day on Saturday – I went to the gym, I swam, I read my book by the pool, I caught up on some work. A lovely day!

I love my life.

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Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday

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Dubai 2013: Week 4

I was feeling less cranky on Sunday than I had for the previous 2 to 3 days (thank goodness).

I had a session with Randy and then had lunch at the Dubai Mall with my parents. I’d been wanting a steak but knew I was going to have one that night so we ended up at Vapiano instead. I had the penne with salmon (as usual). After lunch Dad went to a movie on his own while Mum and I browsed the shops. I was heading to London soon and needed to take some gifts for all the new babies that had arrived since my last trip!

That night I met up with NP for dinner. The last time we’d met was before Christmas when her son and my nephew had a playdate at the Mall of the Emirates. We went to Ruth’s Chris Steak House at The Address Marina. I walked in and was immediately impressed with the music (George Michael’s ‘Older). It wasn’t very crowded and the service was good. We both ordered the set menu (three courses and a side dish for AED 315 each). We both had the seared ahi tuna to start with (other options were Caesar salad, onion soup au gratin, and mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat); and we both had the 8 oz filet of beef with pepper sauce as our main course (other options were Caribbean lobster tail, stuffed chicken, and caper dill sea bass). We shared creamed spinach and fresh broccoli (the third choice was mashed potatoes) and shared the two dessert options (chocolate sin cake and creme brulee). I think it was pretty good value for money. We also had a nice bottle of red wine (I think it was a Malbec but can’t remember). We enjoyed the wine so much we ended up ordering another glass each after dinner. When the waiter brought our bill we thought it looked surprisingly low and then realised that the waiter hadn’t charged us for the bottle of wine (of course we told him). 

Monday was uneventful but when I woke up on Tuesday morning I couldn’t see out the window. It was a little before 9am but it was like being in thick white cloud. I couldn’t see the Shangri-La just a block away. I could barely see the pool 17 floors below.

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As the day progressed, it got better.

On Tuesday evening a friend and I went to a Lime and Tonic event at Hakkasan. The deal was AED 150 for a selection of dim sum and two cocktails. I was expecting it to be an interactive event like the Secret Gourmet Supper Club the week before so I was mentally ready for that (kind of). We got to Hakkasan and were taken to the separate bar area away from the main restaurant. People were sitting at tables in small groups and we were asked to sit anywhere we wanted. We joined a couple of girls who had also just sat down; they were so engrossed in their conversation so we just caught up on our own. 

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Our dim sum basket arrived with our cocktails. I ordered the Thea martini (vodka, apple juice, ginger juice, lime juice, vanilla/chilli sugar) – it was yummy!

We stayed for an hour and then walked over to The Agency at the Emirates Tower Hotel where we had another drink each. After our drink I went over to Thai Chi at Wafi Pyramids to meet my parents who were having dinner with some cousins who were in town unexpectedly. They were on their way back to Ghana from India and had missed their connecting flight.

The following morning it was foggy again, but not as bad as it had been the day before. On Wednesday night I went over to a friend’s place for dinner. It was a lovely chilled evening – good food, good wine and good music (once we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) figured out how to create a playlist on the computer)!

Thursday was a public holiday (the Prophet’s birthday) and I didn’t have my piano lesson. That night I went to wine club with a couple of friends. This month it was at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road so quite convenient for me! Sadly there was no wine that I really enjoyed that night – and I noticed the ‘Sula’ on the neck of the bottle as the wines were being poured. I have to say that Indian wine is disgusting.

The wines we had were:

  • Lindeman’s Bin 30 Sparkling Rose (Australia): A fresh, lively, full-flavoured sparkling rose. Strawberry and cherry fruit flavours are complemented by a creamy texture. The finish is soft and dry with lingering flavours. If I had to pick a favourite this time, this would be it…
  • Argento Pinot Grigio (Argentina): Pale straw colour; peach and tropical fruit aromas; extra dry palate with medium body and crisp flavours. Serve as an aperitif or with creamy pasta dishes.
  • Sula Sauvignon Blanc (India): Herbaceous, crisp and dry, with hints of green pepper and a touch of spice at the finish, this wine is well balanced with good acidity. Serve chilled at 8-10C.
  • Mancaro Marche Sangiovese (Italy): Ruby red colour with purple tints, fruited, fragranted bouquet with hints of wild berries. Fresh, delicate taste.
  • Sula Shiraz (India): A smooth, medium-bodied red wine accentuated by ripe cherry  and plum fruit, with attractive aromas of black pepper. Pair with tandoori dishes and mildly spiced curries. Serve lightly chilled. Open and allow to breathe before serving. If it were up to me it would be opened and poured down the drain and never served.
  • Argento Shiraz (Argentina): Dark berry fruit, cedar and smoke on the nose. Palate confirms the nose and has moderate tannin in a house style that is maintained from year to year. Serve with lamb, beef, duck and hard cheeses.

There was a good selection of food – some sushi rolls, and a lot of small sandwiches this time round – no satays or anything. There were also some delicious deep-fried cheese rolls. 

We didn’t feel like lingering that evening – usually we’re the last to leave wine club and hang out on one table at the end, but this evening we decided to leave early and go elsewhere. We ended up at the Blue Bar at the Novotel World Trade Centre. We ordered a round of drinks and listened to the live band (who were actually very good). We stayed till after midnight and then decided to call it a night.

Friday was very chilled as well – I was home until the evening. I went to see Argo with my cousin and a friend. What a fantastic movie! I’m not usually a Ben Affleck fan but he was so good in this. And the last 10 minutes – oh my goodness – my heart was beating so fast! What I couldn’t unders
tand, though, is that over here in Dubai subtitles are in Arabic and French – which is fine – but during the movie, in the parts where the conversation is in Persian/Farsi, there were no English subtitles. Luckily I could understand what was happening by reading the French subtitles but my friend didn’t have a clue! A few days later my parents went to see the movie and came home asking the same question: ‘What happened in that bit with the housekeeper?’

After the movie we had planned to eat at the mall but it was SO crowded. Instead we ended up at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Burj Plaza called Yeldizlar – it was average, I’d say. We ordered a mixed grill, some hummus and some tabouleh. The service wasn’t great either. We did walk over to the Dubai Fountain to watch the Fire and Water show at 10pm. 

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We watched for about 10 minutes and then walked back to our table. I was home by midnight.

I was home all day on Saturday until my writing group at the Pavilion Downtown. I wasn’t in the mood to go but decided that I had to go if I was going to write anything! There were 13 of us and I felt that the group was too big. In theory we just sit and write but that particular day people were talking and it was very distracting. There were a couple of annoying characters there who I hope I never see again. 

I got home at around 8.30pm. I had some dinner and had the place to myself for the rest of the evening.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 3

Another busy week!

After my session with Randy on Sunday I met a friend for lunch. He was in town from Lagos for a few days and I was looking forward to catching up with him. We hadn’t met since November and it was the first time in 5 years that we hadn’t had our New Year’s Day dim sum lunch together. We decided to meet at the Dubai Mall.

I was there a little early so sat outside watching the fountain (Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’). It was a beautiful day, warm but not too hot, and it wasn’t very crowded being a Sunday.

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We went to Ping Pong for lunch (just to keep up our dim sum tradition). I hadn’t been to Ping Pong in Dubai and had heard mixed reviews about it. I was pleasantly surprised. As he’s vegetarian we ordered more vegetarian dumplings, but I ordered the prawn and chive dumplings and lobster dumplings for myself.

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Nothing on their dessert menu appealed to us so we went to the Hummingbird Bakery a few doors down and had a cupcake each. And I wonder why I’ve put on weight recently! To be fair I did ask if they had any mini cupcakes but the waitress said they were special orders only.

I walked around the mall for a while and then went home.

That evening a friend and I had booked to go to Lime and Tonic’s first Secret Gourmet Supper Club. We’d booked it in advance (AED 260) and were told the pick-up spot would be at DIFC. As it was Art Night the dinner would have an ‘arty’ theme to it. About 30 people gathered at the entrance to DIFC and we were led to a coach. We had no idea where we were going. We knew vaguely what we’d be eating as we’d been sent a list of ingredients beforehand so we could let them know if we had any allergies. There would be no alcohol served.

About 15 minutes later the coach pulled up outside Sama Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road, between the H Hotel and the Fairmont. We were having dinner at the Miele showroom! We were given glasses of lime and tonic when we arrived and were shown around the store. We were taken upstairs where they have a space for cookery classes (I’d imagine?) and met the chef who would be preparing our dinner. We gathered around one of the long tables and were told that it would be a very interactive evening and it would be a lot of fun.

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At that point, all I really wanted was my dinner and the thought of being ‘interactive’ did not appeal at all. I simply wasn’t in the mood. Two long tables had been set and we sat down and waited for our starters.

We each had a card with ‘tasks’ listed inside.

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We were already speaking to people we didn’t know. I had a French/Australian couple on my left and a freelance journalist from the UK opposite me. We started drawing our favourite dishes on the blank placemats in front of us (full English for me, thanks).

Ten of us were then called up to collect the starters – one dish for ourselves and another for someone we didn’t know. As it had an ‘art’ theme, the starter was based on Jackson Pollock’s ‘Summertime’.

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It was quail breast and roulade with mushroom, lemon confit, beetroot, balsamic and jus – the four sauces were drizzled over the plate, similar to the painting. I took my portion and an extra and served someone on the next table explaining the significance of the drizzled sauces. When I got back to my seat, the placemats had been turned over and was an image of Pollock’s ‘Summertime’. I thought that was clever.

Our main course was based on Joan Miro’s ‘Sun’. Once again, our placemats were changed to match the painting.

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The main course was fillet of beef with smoked eggplant, capers, herbs and anchovies. It was really good – the meat was so tender.

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For dessert we had banana cake with cardamom, caramelised banana and whipped sour cream. That was based on Andy Warhol’s ‘Banana’.

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After dinner we were each given a thank you card which listed the evening’s menu.

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Each card had a little present inside – fridge magnets!

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Mine was Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Girl with Ball’.

After we said our goodbyes, we all got on the coach and headed back to DIFC. It was a fun evening but I’m not sure how often I would do something like that. Perhaps if I was with a bigger group of friends I’d consider it.

On Monday afternoon I had to go back to GMC to see the eye specialist. I was given an eye test (perfect, she said) and she looked at the lump under my eyelid. She gave me a prescription for eyedrops and an ointment, both containing steroids. I wasn’t crazy about the idea but she told me to try it and come back in 3 weeks.

That night I met my friend from Lagos for dinner. We went to Zuma. I can’t believe that place is always so crowded, even on a Monday! We met at the bar and ordered a drink – I had the raspberry and passion fruit martini (again). We went down to our table and ordered our food and sake. Most of our food was vegetarian but I ordered the tuna tataki for myself. As always, the food was excellent. And the sake was fantastic too. In fact, we ordered a second flask of sake! After dinner we were joined by one of his Lebanese friends so we hung out at the bar for a while and had a few more drinks. I got home at around 1am.

Fortunately I had no plans on Tuesday until the evening. A friend and I were going to a talk by Egyptian photographer Laura El-Tantawy at Gulf Photo Plus in Alserkal Avenue. The talk lasted over an hour – she talked about her work on Egyptian identity, suicide in rural India and her latest collection called ‘The Veil’. She was very passionate about her work – I think to be an artist you need to be passionate. As she was talking I wondered how she survived financially on photography and she later said that she had a regular job which enabled her to save up and travel and take photos. Artists really suffer for their work… 

I was home all day on Wednesday and had a piano lesson on Thursday afternoon. I had managed to learn ‘Comptine’ but it still wasn’t perfect and I wanted to record it in my next class. We spent most of the lesson working on something new: Solfeggietto in C minor. I hope I sound as good as that when I finish learning it!

That evening my friend from Lagos and I went to Trader Vic’s at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for a couple of drinks and some deep-fried cheese balls. I thought we could get a table and sit down but as we weren’t having main courses we had to stay in the bar area. It was horrible – we managed to find a stool at the bar but it was really smoky in there. We stayed for an hour or so and left. He was heading out for a late dinner and I went home. 

I was home all day on Friday – I just didn’t feel like doing very much. I had a couple of friends call to go out that evening but I just wanted to be at home. 

On Saturday afternoon I went back to Gulf Photo Plus as I’d booked a ticket for a seminar on architectural photography. It wasn’t a practical seminar so I didn’t even need to take my camera, just a notebook and pen. Several of the people were architects or interior designers and I thought it might be a bit too advanced for me (I was just curious), but it was interesting to learn how to take photos of buildings and rooms and to get the best shots. The photographer said he spends as much time in Photoshop as he did taking the actual photos. Perhaps I’m just naive but he said that on all hotel websites/brochures, all the photos you see are actually made up of several different shots! I thought that was kind of sad in a way. It’s like finding out Santa Claus doesn’t really exist!

I went home that evening and got into bed. I’d been feeling tired and cranky and upset and broke (long story) for the last few days and just couldn’t figure out why I felt so down. What was I doing with my life in Dubai? Would I be better off back in London? All kinds of things were going through my mind. As I was brushing my teeth that night I caught sight of my eyedrops and wondered whether it could be the steroids in the eyedrops that were affecting me so negatively? The percentage of steroids in the eyedrops must be miniscule so it didn’t seem likely, but I actually started to feel better once I had a probable cause of this ‘meltdown’ (to be overly dramatic). 

And that’s another week gone! I think this year will go by even quicker than last year!

I love my life. 

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Dubai: Week 22

What a busy week!

I didn’t have my usual session with Rama on Sunday. Instead I was invited out for an early(ish) lunch at Siddharta Lounge at Grosvenor House Tower 2. It’s a beautiful restaurant – it reminded me of the Sanderson Hotel in London. It was all white – white bar chairs, white sofas, floor-to-ceiling windows all the way round. It’s a gorgeous venue for lunch, but I’ve heard it’s also very popular on Thursday and Friday nights. 

After lunch, my mum, grandmother and I went to the Patchi store at Mercato. My grandmother and I both needed to buy gifts for a few people. Unfortunately the store at Mercato was being refurbished and they didn’t have a big variety of gifts on display. I picked up a few things but we decided to go to the store at the Dubai Mall as well. We were there for what seemed like forever. Between us we ordered about 20 boxes of chocolates and waited around for them to be prepared. By the time we got home it was 6.30. I rushed upstairs, changed and freshened up and was out again by 6.45.

My cousin had asked me to join her and some friends at Capital Club in DIFC for quiz night. I love quizzes so I went along. There were six of us on the team and that particular evening it turned out to be an all-music quiz. My five teammates weren’t very happy about that but I was thrilled about this as I thought my musical knowledge was pretty good. 

Which is why it pains and embarrasses me to say that we came last. LAST. Out of seven teams. There were eight rounds consisting of eight questions each. The first two rounds were fine (TV themes and Oscar winners) but it went rapidly downhill after that. We were by far the youngest team there and the rest of the quiz seemed to revolve around music from the 1960s and 1970s – and I think my musical knowledge only begins with the 1980s (unless it’s classical music). I hate losing. When I got home and told my parents, they were shocked that we lost too!

I had my usual yoga class on Monday and then worked for the rest of the day. I had a lot of work to get through and didn’t want to have to do it when I got to London. That evening we went to a restaurant called Aryaas in Bur Dubai, another vegetarian Indian restaurant. On the menu was a ‘family dosa’ which we were told was their specialty. I have never seen such a big dosa in my life. I don’t even know how they managed to make them so big. I thought the food was just OK – I still prefer the palak dosa at Sukh Sagar! 

I had a session with Rama on Tuesday and then went to Sharjah with my parents. Our work barely took 15 minutes and we were on our way back home. We decided to stop at Mirdif City Centre for lunch. I’d never been there – it was quite empty compared to the Dubai Mall and it was nice to walk around. We ended up at PF Chang’s. 

After lunch, I went to the Dubai Mall as I needed to pick up a few gifts for friends I was seeing in London. I also managed to sneak in a quick visit to Gloria Jean’s. I stayed in that night finishing off some work and thinking about packing. 

I started packing on Wednesday morning. And by that I mean I started looking at my clothes, trying things on, and deciding what to take with me. I left everything I was going to pack on my bed. That afternoon I went to get my hair cut, coloured, highlighted and blow-dried. When I got to the salon I decided to get rid of the highlights and skip the cut. For months the hairdresser kept telling me how ‘terrible’ my highlights were and the colour was all wrong. I was so sick of hearing it I just thought it would be best to get rid of them altogether. I also had a mani/pedi.

I went to have tea with my cousin after getting my hair done. She had flown in from India the day before with her husband and one-year-old daughter and was staying at the Fairmont. It was good to catch up, even though it was just for an hour. I went home, finished packing, did some work and then we went out for dinner. 

It was my grandmother’s last night in Dubai so we decided to go somewhere nice for dinner. We went to Bice Mare at Souk al Bahar. Sadly they didn’t have a table outside but we could still see the Dubai Fountain from our table. The three of them ordered some starters but I decided to have just a main course. I ordered the baked turbot with artichokes and black truffles. It was fantastic. 

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My parents ordered the seafood platter to share and my grandmother had a vegetarian pasta. When we had finished our meal we went out on to the terrace and watched the fountain. 

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We were home before midnight and I was in bed by 1am. 

I woke up at 6am on Thursday and my mum and I left for the airport a little after 7am… I couldn’t wait to get to London!

I love my life.

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