Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 49

I spent all of Sunday at home, enjoying the last day of quiet before my parents got back from their trip.

They were home by 8am on Monday morning. I had a session with Pete on Monday morning and a piano lesson that afternoon. I went home after that and carried on with some work.

I had some errands to run at Mercato on Tuesday but apart from that, I was at home.

Wednesday was busy. I had another session with Pete. We had our session outside even though the gym is finally finished! That afternoon I had my hair coloured and cut, which seemed to take forever.

On Wednesday evening I had Christmas dinner at The Scene in Pier 7, behind Marina Mall. There were 12 of us seated at a long table. I think it was the first turkey dinner I’d had since I moved to Dubai almost four years ago. I started with the smoked salmon starter and then had the roast turkey and trimmings for my main course. I didn’t have dessert. After a few more drinks, everyone was planning where to go to next, but I decided to go home as I knew I had a busy day the next day and still had some work to finish off.

I think the concept of having seven different bars and restaurants in one place is great, but it could have been planned better. There are three lifts which stop at all seven floors and waiting for them is just annoying. Leaving Pier 7 is also pretty awful. We waited for a taxi and then eventually decided to walk up to the main road. It must have taken us almost 20 minutes to get a cab – there weren’t many around that evening, and those that were around and available weren’t even stopping.

A friend of mine (R) arrived from London on Thursday morning and was staying at the Fairmont on Sheikh Zayed Road. We’d arranged to meet at the sports bar just off the lobby of the Fairmont at noon, but I was running late and got there at 12.30pm. R had a pint and I had some water. He’d booked a table at Okku for lunch so we walked there from the Fairmont. It was empty – there were only two other tables apart from ours. We ordered some water and a bottle of cold sake (which I can’t believe we finished!). We shared two starters and two main courses: we had the spicy tuna on crispy rice and the beef tataki, and for our main course we had the Chilean sea bass and lamb cutlets with the truffle fried rice. All the food was excellent.

After lunch, R had a meeting and I had some errands to run but we arranged to meet at the sports bar at the Fairmont later on. I did my errands, packed my suitcase and was at the Fairmont by 6pm. A friend of R’s joined us as well and we had a few drinks. We started with a mojito, then switched to a vodka tonic, and then had a shot of whiskey for the road with a beer chaser. I’m so glad I went home after that. I was surprisingly sober and had dinner with my parents and finished off my packing.

I left for the airport at 6.45am on Friday morning. I checked in my bag, picked up a copy of The Economist and a book and went to the gate. Well, the gate consisted of a waiting room where we were then taken by bus to the plane. The journey on the bus took so long I wondered if we were being driven to Bali. I had a window seat and I didn’t think the flight would be crowded. Sure enough when they closed the doors, I had two empty seats next to me. After breakfast was served, I stretched out for the first half of the flight and managed to sleep, and then read and watched two movies for the rest of the flight.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 41

After a very busy few days, I was exhausted on Sunday. All I wanted to do was stay in bed but I had work to do. I had also booked a 90-minute hot stone massage at the Shangri-La Spa for later that afternoon. It was exactly what I needed and I couldn’t wait to get home and get into my pajamas when it was over. Unfortunately, I had accepted an invitation to a friend’s 40th birthday drinks that evening so I had to wait a bit longer for my pajamas!

Her birthday drinks were at Iris – and thankfully indoors because it was still unbelievably humid outside. I hadn’t been to the indoor section of Iris but was pleasantly surprised – a long bar and lots of seating. The outside area was totally empty that night. It was all women at her drinks – and it was my first outing after the summer (with this particular group of women) so it was nice to catch up with everyone. As soon as the birthday girl cut her cake, I left with one of my neighbours who was also at the drinks.

On Monday I had a session with Pete at 10am – by noon I was showered and back in my pajamas. And I intended to stay in my pajamas until Tuesday morning! It had been days since I’d been able to do that and I was looking forward to it.

Apart from yoga on Tuesday morning, I was at home (in pajamas) until the early evening. I met up with a couple of friends at Calabar for happy hour. We got there at 6.15 so we were able to make the most of it! At about 9pm, we ended up going to The Eloquent Elephant where we had a bit more wine (not very wise). I was home by midnight.

I had to be up early on Wednesday as I had to go to Sharjah for some paperwork. Drinking all that wine the night before really wasn’t a good idea. I got back home by 11.20am, had a cup of tea and got ready for my session with Pete. After that was over, and I’d had some lunch, I got back into bed and slept for a couple of hours!

On Thursday I met up with a friend who was in town from Lagos for a couple of days. We went to his favourite – Wafi Gourmet at the Dubai Mall – and ended up overeating as usual! I actually felt a bit ill afterwards. We thought we’d walk around for a while to digest our food but ended up walking to Patchi (and not buying anything) and then walking on to Eataly where we sat down for coffee. I needed to be rolled home after that.

I got home and did some work for a few hours. That evening I met up with some friends for dinner at Catch at the Fairmont on Sheikh Zayed Road. I hadn’t been there and had heard mixed reviews – but I was pleasantly surprised. We were seven people, and a few of them had been before so knew what to order. And because we were so many we were able to order a wider variety of dishes. Some of the starters we had were: crunchy rice cakes (similar to the spicy tuna on crispy rice at Okku), crispy shrimp and the DXB roll (tuna, crab, avocado, wasabi, yuzu). For our main course we had the Korean fried chicken and a whole roasted sea bass (chilli rubbed, cracked olive, artichoke, rocket greens, turmeric silky potatoes). For the sides we had the macaroni & cheese and parmesan truffle fries. I didn’t think I could eat any more after that and had a small bite of dessert when it came (the ‘Hit Me’ chocolate cake). We also had two bottles of wine (which isn’t bad between seven people!). It turned out that I knew the sommelier – she used to be the co-organiser of the wine club but now works at Catch full time.

There was some debate about what to do after dinner, but I was too tired to do much and was home by midnight.

I met up with some friends for lunch at La Serre on Friday afternoon. We met at 1.30pm and surprisingly didn’t have to wait too long for a table for five people on the ground floor. Once we had ordered, however, the food took ages to arrive! We complained about how long it was taking and our waitress was very apologetic.

I couldn’t decide whether to have breakfast (scrambled eggs with truffles) or lunch. In the end I opted for the portobello mushrooms with braised beef. Divine! After we’d ordered our coffees and dessert (lemon cake and some pistachio thing which I didn’t try), the waitress said that our coffees and dessert would be on the house.

On Friday evening I met up with a couple of friends for dinner at Loca. We met early, at 7.30pm, and it wasn’t too crowded at that time. They have several new guacamole options on the menu so we decided to try the guacamole with prawns. We also had the spinach and artichoke dip (of course). For my main course, I ordered the camarones a la diablo (tiger prawns sauteed in jalapeno butter). We skipped dessert as we were all too full. I was home before 11pm which was nice!

I was up early on Saturday as I had a piano lesson (I didn’t go on Monday so had to make up the lessson). After lunch I met up with a couple of friends at Common Grounds at Mall of the Emirates. Common Grounds is the new cafe from the people who opened Tom & Serg and The Sum of Us, and it’s in the new expansion at MoE. We had to wait a while for a table as it was pretty crowded. Once we sat down, we ordered a couple of juices and again I couldn’t decide between breakfast or lunch! In the end, two of us shared the pan-fried salmon and jerk chicken. Both were very good. I’d definitely go back and try something else. We also had some coffee and skipped dessert.

We couldn’t decide what to do after lunch and thought about seeing a movie at the new Vox Cinemas at the mall but there was nothing on for at least another hour. We eventually decided to go back to my friend’s place on the Palm and play Scrabble! He has a great view from his flat:

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We ended up playing a game of Scrabble on the balcony (I won) and making plans for our upcoming road trip to Muscat.

I got home at around 6pm and got straight into my pajamas!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 26

I woke up on Sunday feeling ill again. I felt a little feverish and I’d been up half the night coughing. I apologised to Randy and told him I wouldn’t be able to have my session with him.

I felt OK to go to Sumo Sushi for lunch – it was just my dad, my uncle, my nephew and me. I came home after lunch and got into my pajamas. I thought about having a nap because I was struggling to stay awake, but then I thought I might not be able to sleep in the night. I stayed awake but had an early night in the end.

I woke up on Monday, still coughing. I went to my Arabic class. We covered:

  • Telling time – revison
  • Verbs – to do/make, to write, to read, to finish, to return, to start
  • Random vocabulary – restaurant, homework
  • Sun and moon letters
  • Nunation – double strokes (I still need to get my head around this)

That afternoon I met up with a friend at the Westin Hotel in Marina. We’d booked a couple of massages and I didn’t want to cancel our appointments. I thought it might make me feel better. And it did for a little while. The massage was good, but I think Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal is better. After our massages we went to Oeno, the wine bar at the hotel, for a drink. It was almost 6pm and the place was quite empty. We had some wine and then headed home.

I went to see the doctor on Tuesday. She took my blood pressure (slightly high), temperature (normal), and listened to my breathing. She came to the conclusion that I had mild bronchitis and put me on a 3-day course of antibiotics. She also thought I might have allergies (I don’t know where she got this from) and told me to take Zyrtek at night. And she also prescribed a different cough syrup. I didn’t agree with her diagnoses of bronchitis or allergies, but she’s the doctor, I suppose.

I had my last Arabic class of the term on Wednesday. We covered:

  • Revision of most things we had learned and any questions we had
  • Random vocabulary – birthday, Christmas

We also had to give a short presentation using all the vocabulary we had learned: my name is ______. I am from ______. I’ve been in Dubai for ______. I am a ______ and I work in ______. I am married/not married. I live in Dubai with my husband/children/parents.

You get the idea.

After my class I met a friend for lunch at the Dubai Mall. We went to Cafe Bateel, next to the Waterfall. I’d never been there before. I had the pasta with smoked salmon but thought the food was better at Vapiano.

That evening I went to run some errands with my dad. We ended up at the Jumeirah Centre and I was starting to feel peckish. We saw a new(ish) place called Russo’s where they sell pizza by the slice and decided to try it. I thought it was OK – I didn’t like the way they put the toppings on but it hit the spot. The slice we ordered was big enough for both of us to share too.

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I met up with NP for lunch on Thursday. We went to our usual Jones the Grocer and we both ordered the Wagyu burger. We both wanted the truffle-infused brie but the waiter said he’d have to check whether they had any. And then he just stood there, waiting for us to change our minds. ‘OK, go check and let us know,’ we said (not in unison). He came back a few minutes later to say that they were out of truffle-infused brie. Could we have the truffle mayo instead then? ‘So now you want the truffle mayo?’ Good grief – what was his problem? Maybe he was trying to tell us (and by that I mean me) that we could do without truffle mayo. Our burgers arrived with truffle mayo and they were so good.

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That night I met up with a friend for Dupper at the Fairmont. It’s supposed to be like brunch – unlimited food and drinks from 8-11pm (‘dupper’ is a portmanteau of ‘dinner’ and supper’ but I think it sounds rather dumb). We got there at 7.30pm and were treated to a mixology class by the head bartender. The first drink was gin-based and the second was rum-based, neither of which I would drink over an extended period of time. So I switched to white wine. They had a good selection of food – a huge sushi section, an Asian section (Chinese and Thai), an Indian section and of course an Arabic section. They also had a separate dessert area where they were making fresh crepes. By the bar area they had a separate chilled room full of cheese. I ate mostly sushi and dim sum. For dessert I had a variety of cheeses and then unnecessarily had a Nutella crepe. I was so full after that! The service was excellent. Once Dupper was over we went to the bar and had a drink or two. It wasn’t a late night – I was home by midnight.

I spent the rest of the weekend at home. My brother had introduced me to ‘House of Cards’ and I ended up watching the entire season 1 over the weekend!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 13

After the excesses of my birthday weekend, we showed no signs of stopping.

My friends who were staying at the Shangri-La invited us over on Sunday to hang out by the pool. We were there by noon and we took Vinay with us – he thoroughly enjoyed splashing around in the water. The poolside was crowded and my friend managed to convince the pool staff to turn a couple of sofas into a very large sunbed!

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We had pizza and several bottles of wine. At last count, it was four bottles (I think?). At about 4pm I went to The Fairmont to see my other friends who were leaving that evening too – we had a few drinks in the bar. I got home at about 7.30. I chilled out for a while and then met up with my parents, sister and brother-in-law at the Dubai Mall. We had dinner at PF Chang – their hot and sour soup really does hit the spot! By this point my hangover was starting to kick in. That’s the trouble with daytime drinking!

I was home all day on Monday – I was exhausted and was starting to feel jetlagged. That evening I met up with a couple of friends at iKandy for their ladies’ night. We met at 7pm and shared a few bottles of Prosecco – my sister and brother-in-law also joined us as the three of us were going on to have dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at the H Hotel. I’d booked a table but the restaurant was completely empty apart from one couple in a booth. We each had a steak (my cousin joined as too) and shared the dessert and two bottles of red wine. I managed to use a couple of Entertainer vouchers too! My brother-in-law left late that night for Lagos…

By Tuesday I was sure I needed a new liver. The last few days had been mental and it needed to stop. I cancelled my piano lesson and stayed in my pajamas. All day. I was shattered. I did some work but didn’t leave the house. It was also my first day without alcohol in 5 days!

It was my cousin’s birthday on Wednesday and she had organised a girls’ lunch at Apres at the Mall of the Emirates. There were six of us at lunch – we shared a cheese fondue, some pizza, and some other random starters. We also had a bottle of wine between us. After lunch, we had planned to walk around and do some shopping but we walked around for about 20 minutes and quickly lost interest in everything. We headed home instead.

Thursday was busy. I had lunch at Vapiano at the Dubai Mall with my sister and then we did some shopping. She bought me a lovely Ted Baker dress for my birthday and had some of her own things to do! We went home for a while and then decided to go to Safa Park. None of us had been there – and Vinay was very excited. We got there at about 6pm so it wasn’t too hot.

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We walked around for a while and then my sister took Vinay and the nanny for a boat ride. It was getting dark by the time they’d finished…

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But Vinay didn’t want to leave!

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That night my sister and I went to iKandy for a drink. We just wanted to get out of the house really – and I hadn’t tipped our waiter from the night of my party as every time I’d been back to iKandy he’d had the day off or was ill. I finally got to meet him on Thursday evening – he told me that there he had kept what was left of the Patron XO Cafe and could pour us a shot now if we wanted one. I looked at him like he was crazy. I’d have to do that another night…

We had lunch with my cousin and her parents and kids on Friday. We went to PF Chang at Mirdif City Centre which was nice for a change. After that everyone went their own separate ways – my dad went home, my mum took Vinay to the kids’ area, my sister and I walked around the shops for a while.

That night we went to see Olympus Has Fallen. I’d heard it was good but had no idea what it was about or who was in it – I thoroughly enjoyed it!

We were back at the mall on Saturday. A sandstorm (or shamaal, I’ve learnt) had blown in and there was sand everywhere. My sister and I went to Tim Horton’s for a coffee but there was nowhere to sit inside so we ended up outside – in about 10 minutes we were covered in dust. It was gross. She ran her errands, I tagged along and then we went home. At about 8pm she realised she had to go back to the mall to change the iPad cover she’d bought. Kaleem, the driver, had already gone home so we had to get a cab. It was windy outside! We were in the mall for about 20 minutes and then took another cab back home. On the way home it started raining. There was lightning every few minutes and it was windy! It was so windy that when we got home I couldn’t push the cab door open – the driver had to turn the car around so that we weren’t against the wind! We had sand everywhere when we got home – our hair, our eyes, our ears. Yuck.

My sister and Vinay left late that night – the house was going to be very quiet after that!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 12

This was a crazy busy week!

On Sunday, my cousin and a friend were hosting a lunch at Roberto’s to celebrate my 40th birthday. When they told me they wanted to have a lunch, I told them it really wasn’t necessary but they insisted. And the invite they sent out really made me laugh. It said:

Oh no, say it isn’t so…
Amreeta is going to be the big 4-0!
She said, ‘A lunch? No way!’
But we decided to have one anyway!

I was up early on the Sunday. I thought I’d be able to go to the gym before lunch, but lunch was at 12.30 and I had to get my hair done before that too. I was tempted to show up in jeans but actually made a bit of an effort and wore a dress. Apart from the hosts, I was the first one to show up at lunch. By 1.15 most people had shown up and were seated at one of the two tables. There was wine at my table (naturally). It was a lovely lunch actually. They’d even had menus printed especially for us.

And I got lots of lovely presents! Champagne, perfume, jewellery, shawls, a Harvey Nichols gift voucher. My parents were shocked when I went home with all the gifts.

I met a friend for lunch at Jones the Grocer on Monday. I’d been craving the Wagyu burger and insisted we meet there! It was a grey day and it was raining by the time we left the restaurant.

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That evening I went to iKandy to sort out the alcohol and food for Friday night. I asked the manager what we would do if it rained on Friday? ‘Postpone it,’ she said. That really didn’t help my anxiety about the rain. It was something I hadn’t even considered until that day!

I tried to do as much work as possible on Tuesday because I knew that once my sister and friends arrived I wouldn’t get anything done. My piano teacher cancelled our lesson as well, and I didn’t mind as I hadn’t practised much that week.

A friend of mine from Hong Kong was supposed to arrive on Wednesday evening but just as I got to the gym for my session with Randy she called to say she couldn’t make it due to a family emergency. I was so disappointed – I don’t even remember the last time we met and had been looking forward to her trip. Much later that night, my sister and nephew arrived from Lagos and it was 5am by the time we went to sleep.

One of my friends arrived from London on Thursday morning. I laughed when I got a text from him saying ‘Fancy a pint at 5?’ – that was our standard Friday morning conversation when I lived in London. I met him at The Fairmont sports bar shortly after 5pm.

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While we were there another friend invited us over to his place for a drink so we went to see him at 7pm. My friend had an early dinner to go to but said he would join my sister and me at Caramel when he was done. Our table was booked for 10pm and he joined us by 10.15! We had two bottles of wine, some cocktails and some B52 shots.

I woke up on Friday morning not sure I’d even make it to 40. I didn’t know what day it was to start with. My cousin had arrived from London that morning and was staying at the Shangri-La Hotel so we decided to meet for lunch with a friend who had flown in from Lagos that morning too. We hadn’t booked anywhere but thought we’d try our luck at Zuma. We were there shortly after 12.30.

I spoke to the cow at the front desk:

Me: Do you by any chance have a table for three for lunch today?
Her: We don’t do lunch on Friday, it’s brunch.
Me: Do you have a table for brunch then?
Her: No. People usually book 2 weeks in advance.

She went back to texting on her mobile. I wanted to punch her in the face.

We walked around DIFC and thought we’d try at La Petite Maison. They had a table outdoors and would need it back by 3pm. It was only 1pm and that was perfect.

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All I wanted was the burrata but of course I ate whatever was put on our table! We also had a bottle of wine to go with our food.

That night I had my birthday party at iKandy at the Shangri-La. I’d invited about 25 friends – I wanted to keep it small – but was worried that because my friends are so random, people would find it hard to mingle and have a good time. Most people showed up (including three more friends from London who had arrived that morning and evening). My parents came for a drink in the first hour and then I packed them off to dinner. It was quite a civilised evening – until about 11pm when my brother-in-law bought a bottle of Patron XO Cafe (a tequila-coffee blend) and started handing out shots. It gets hazy after that – I’d started on vodka, had a shot of Patron and switched to champagne a little before midnight. I remember cutting the cake. I vaguely remember what I said in my speech. I don’t remember having many photos taken but there are loads. I don’t remember paying the bill at the end of the night. I remember walking home (just about).

Considering it was after 4am when I went to bed, I was up quite early on Saturday. My phone had been ringing since 10am and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I opened the presents I’d received the night before: books, wine, champagne, Scotch, an encyclopaedia of wine, shawls, a tapas cookbook (clearly someone who doesn’t know me at all), a ‘tree’ pendant, a necklace with my name written in Arabic on the pendant (which I wore to lunch).

I had lunch at Royal China with the family. I was tired but I knew the only way to get through the day would be to have a drink so I ordered a glass of Prosecco. And a Coke. And some water.

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The Chinese food really hit the spot. After lunch I got back into bed, just to chill for a while, and I had the place to myself.

That night, after I cut the cake at home with the family, eight of us went to Sho Cho for dinner. It was mostly my friends who had flown in from abroad and it was a relaxing evening. We had sushi and sake while we tried to piece together the events of the night before!

It was a fantastic birthday – and I was so touched that family and friends flew to Dubai to celebrate with me! I feel so blessed to have them in my life.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 1

Another busy week! I managed to get loads of work done as well as going out and about!

On Sunday my parents, sister, her husband, son and I went to Wafi Gourmet for lunch. As usual, by the time we get anywhere for lunch it’s almost 3pm. We ordered loads of starters and by the time the main course came, I couldn’t eat any more. We wandered around the Dubai Mall for a while and then I went home.

That evening I met up with a friend from London. We decided we’d meet in the lobby of the Shangri-La and then go to iKandy for a couple of drinks. I got there before she did and while I was waiting in the lobby, a man approached me. He was Middle Eastern and probably in his mid 50s.

‘Are you waiting for someone?’ he asked me.

Obviously, I thought. Why else would I hang around a hotel lobby? Then I thought that perhaps he worked at the hotel.

‘Yes, I am,’ I replied.

‘So am I,’ he said.

I looked at him as if to say ‘Well, what do you want me to do about it?’ and he walked off.

He came back a few minutes later and asked if my name was XYZ.

‘No, it’s not,’ I replied.

Thankfully, my friend walked in at that moment and we went to the bar. But seriously, what a freak.

We had a couple of drinks and I was home by 9pm. My parents were out so my sister, her husband and I just relaxed at home.

Monday wasn’t very busy. I went to get my hair done at the Fairmont and came back home. We’ve stopped using the sleazy hairdresser because he was always late – if he showed up at all! There were a couple of occasions where he’d cancelled at the last minute and that was just annoying. I did some work in the evening but could see the traffic building up on Sheikh Zayed Road from about 6pm onwards. I was glad we were staying close to home!

New Year’s Eve began with a drink at a friend’s place. She hosts a New Year’s Eve party every year and she doesn’t live far from me so I went for a drink. At about 10pm I made my way over to iKandy where my sister and husband had just got to. It was a fun evening – very chilled with unlimited alcohol.

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Four of us got through two bottles of Tattinger, a bottle of Belveder and a bottle of Chivas. There was some food brought to each table but by the time we got round to eating it, it was cold. The highlight was being able to see the fireworks at the Burj Khalifa from where we were.

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What ruined the night though was the DJ who was absolutely rubbish. He was flown in from the UK and played at The Ministry of Sound – and he only played ‘house’ music. However, if you requested a ‘house’ track, he didn’t have it. That would be the only criticism I would make.

We did our traditional dim sum lunch on Tuesday – just the cousins and spouses. We didn’t eat until after 3pm and we were all famished by then. That night, my sister, her husband, son and I went to Nando’s for dinner. It was the first time I’d been to Nando’s since I left London at the end of 2011 and I don’t remember the last time I had it in London either. It’s not something I’ve really craved or thought about at all!

I was home all day on Wednesday until dinner. We had a late table booked at La Petite Maison – at 11pm. It wasn’t very crowded at that time – and the kitchen was going to close soon after we got there. For starters we had the burrata (of course), the goat’s cheese salad, the beef carpaccio, the marinated salmon with pink peppercorns. We shared three main courses between us (although in hindsight we could have done with two): the pasta with black truffle (which was one of their specials that day), the sea bass with artichokes and tomatoes, and the grilled veal chop. We ordered a side of the baked gratinated potatoes. Amazing. We were too full by the end of it to order dessert.

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All I did on Thursday was work and go for my piano lesson. We spent most of the lesson working on different kinds of chords (major, minor, dominant, dorian) and ‘As Time Goes By’. I also got some new music – ‘Autumn Leaves‘ and ‘Comptine d’Un Autre Été‘ (from Amélie) which we looked at briefly.

I stayed in that night – I was tired from being out so much during the week.

My dad hosted a family lunch at Sakura on Friday – six of us plus eight other family members. As we were so many we ended up sitting on two separate Teppanyaki tables, which really defeated the purpose of a family lunch. Dad and I walked home after lunch, stopping at Tim Horton’s for coffee. We stayed in on Friday night but once Vinay was asleep, my sister, her husband and I walked over to iKandy for a drink. It’s so convenient that it’s just next door!

On Saturday my sister, her husband, Vinay and I went to the Dubai Dolphinarium in Creek Park. We aimed to get there in time for the 3pm show and made it with a few minutes to spare. Entrance to the park is AED 5 and then you have to buy tickets to see the show. Tickets were AED 100 for adults (AED 120 for VIP seats) and children under 2 years are free. I can’t remember how much a child’s ticket cost. We sat down and got some popcorn and the show began. There were four dolphins and two seals.

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It was fun to watch but it was a shame the Dolphinarium is indoors – it was perfect weather for an outdoor show. I suppose they have to think of the hot summers here.

After the show we hung around outside while Vinay went on a camel ride and a horse ride.

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By 4.30pm we were famished and ended up at McDonald’s on Sheikh Zayed Road. After we’d eaten we went to Jumeirah Town Centre for a wander and then went home.

We stayed in that night and my brother-in-law left for Lagos.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 44

Another hectic week!

After my training session with Randy on Sunday, my sister, Vinay and I went to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. We didn’t get there until 3pm and were told we’d have to wait an hour for a table. We decided to finish our errands and then go back for our table. It was 4pm by the time we sat down and I was famished.

We ordered the spinach dip and I had the herb-crusted salmon (as usual). My sister had a cheeseburger and Vinay had the kid-size portion of chicken nuggets and fries. We were too full for cheesecake. I think we’ll have to go back just for cheesecake one of these days.

On Monday I went to meet some friends at the Dubai Mall who were in town from New York on their way to Bombay. We met at Fauchon Cafe and caught up over coffee – with their two kids. It was good to see them. One good thing about Dubai is that people are always passing through here! After we were finished my sister and Vinay came to the mall so we walked around for a while and I bought another dress. That makes five dresses in 1 week. I think I’m done for a while now!

It was my first anniversary in Dubai on Christmas Day! I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. It feels more like 3 months rather than a whole year. Christmas Day is a regular working day here in Dubai but that didn’t really affect any of us. We opened our presents before lunch (Samsung Galaxy phones all round) and then went to Shang Palace at the Shangri-La next door for lunch. It was just the six of us and one of Dad’s banker friends. The food was good – but the service was a bit slow.

After lunch Dad and I went to sort out our micro SIM cards for our new phones. We went to Du at Jumeirah Centre on Jumeirah Beach Road. In the past we’ve always been to Du at The Dubai Mall and have always had to wait in line. This store was empty and we got served immediately. We sorted out our phones – I decided to get a pay-as-you-go SIM for my BlackBerry, just for BBM, as I’m not sure I can quit that just yet! And for AED 1.5 per day I can afford to keep both lines! We stopped at Tim Horton’s for coffee and then went home. I spent the rest of the evening playing with my new phone.

On Wednesday afternoon, my sister, her husband, Vinay and I went to Jones the Grocer for lunch. My sister and I had the Wagyu beef burger, her husband had the prawn linguine (which looked very good), Vinay had some French fries, and we ordered a portion of the truffle parmesan fries as well (I know, that’s a lot of fries). Service was slow, but the food was good. After lunch we went to MoE to have a look round. I tried on a few things but didn’t buy anything. Trying on clothes after lunch isn’t a good idea!

That evening one of my cousins came over for dinner. Our parents were out so we hung out at home, opened a bottle of wine and relaxed.

The flat was very quiet on Thursday as Vinay and his parents went to the zoo at Al Ain. I would have loved to stay home but had a busy afternoon! I went to my piano lesson – we worked mainly on ‘As Time Goes By’ and chords. We also did some work on Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ and modulation – where you change keys in the middle of a song. My piano teacher told me that if you can play a song in any key you can do anything you want. I think that if I’d had a teacher like him as a child I’d be a completely different musician now. One of the main differences I’ve noticed is that if I’m sight-reading I’ll hesitate if I can’t find the notes I’m looking for. His opinion is that you should play anything, even if it’s wrong – hesitation is one of the worst things a musician can do. I didn’t tell him that with my old piano teacher I’d be too scared to make a mistake because she would start shouting at me! I need to find my old music theory books and go through them, just to remind myself of a few things.

After my lesson, I rushed to Pastels in Jumeirah – I had an appointment for a colour and blowdry. The salon recently moved and the new one is lovely – bright and airy. The garden is full of beautiful flowers too – I might take my camera the next time I go! I sat down with my book, and was given a cup of tea and a mince pie. I’d forgotten all about mince pies and thoroughly enjoyed it!

I went home after that – it was almost 6pm by then – and stayed home that evening.

We’d been undecided about what to do for New Year’s Eve as my sister is nanny-less this holiday and wasn’t even sure they’d go out at all. We’d heard about a party on the Palm but it wasn’t my first choice at all. It would be a trek to get there and back and it just didn’t appeal to me. I tried to get a ticket for my brother-in-law as he had some friends going but the organisers were being difficult about giving a ticket to one person (rather than a couple – even though they were selling single tickets) and we decided it wasn’t worth it. I found out a few days later that the two organisers had fallen out and that the party had been divided into two. What did this mean for ticket-holders? Basically, if you bought your ticket from one organiser and your friends had bought them from another, you’d be at two separate venues. Good grief. What a disaster! I was so glad we decided against that.

I then got an email from Okku about their New Year’s programme so I spoke to them about booking a table. They had availability but I still wasn’t sure about it. And then on Thursday morning I was going through the paper and iKandy was listed as one of the places to be on New Year’s Eve. It was perfect – we’d be able to walk there and back, sit outdoors, and watch the fireworks at the Burj Khalifa at midnight.

My brother-in-law and I took Vinay to the Shangri-La that evening to find out about their deal. We ended up booking three tickets. I told a friend of mine what our plan was and she subsequently decided to join us and booked her ticket too. It would be a chilled New Year’s Eve – I don’t think any of us were up for anything too crazy.

I was home all day on Friday. That night one of my cousins and I decided to go to Zuma for some drinks and dinner. It wasn’t as crowded as it usually is on a Friday and we got a table in the bar area and started on the martinis – I had the raspberry and passion fruit. Amazing. We ordered some food and more drinks. My brother-in-law joined us. We ordered some more food and drinks. And the green tea and banana cake. Another cousin joined us. We ordered another round of drinks. It was an expensive night.

I didn’t want to wake up on Saturday but had been invited to a girls’ lunch at Royal China. I didn’t know half the people there but sat at one end of the table with my cousin and some friends from Lagos and London. It was a fun afternoon and lunch didn’t finish until almost 4.30pm. I went home to change and then headed to the Fairmont for a much-needed manicure and pedicure. I decided to get my hair done while I was there too! It’s a hard life.

On Saturday night I went to a party at a friend’s place in JBR. Their flat is on the 38th floor and the party was on the terrace. It was a really nice evening – there was a clear sky and I could see so many stars and an almost full moon. It was nice to meet friends from London and Lagos who are in town for the holidays too. At about 1am a few of us decided to go to Boudoir. Unfortunately by the time we got there our table had been given away! We waited outside for about 20 minutes but I decided I’d had enough and my bed was sounding more and more appealing. I think what killed everyone’s mood was the long drive back from JBR! My brother-in-law and I decided we’d go to McDonald’s on the way home. We sat at a table and he realised he knew the people on the next table from Lagos. A few minutes later a couple of friends who had been trying to get into Boudoir with us walked in! I suppose McDonald’s is the place to be at 2.30 on a Saturday night!

We got home at 3am and went straight to bed.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 36

Sunday was another holiday and I was still recovering from the long weekend for Eid. I was home most of the day. That evening I went to see ‘Skyfall’ at the IMAX Meydan with my cousin and her son. I’d never been to the IMAX and if you asked me to point it out on a map I wouldn’t be able to – I have no idea where it was. The cinema itself was great though – a huge screen – and it was full. It’s much more expensive than the regular cinemas though – standard tickets are AED 60 (compared to AED 35). Even the popcorn is more expensive – I bought a small popcorn, nachos for my nephew and a bottle of water and that came to AED 62. It would have been less than AED 30 anywhere else. Anyway – the movie was great (much better than ‘Quantum of Solace’) and I enjoyed it.

On Monday night my mum left for Jamaica. My dad had been in Kingston for a few weeks and hadn’t been very well for the last 10 days or so. She’d wanted to leave sooner but Hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and we didn’t want her to be stranded somewhere mid-journey. It was the first time I was home alone since I left London in December last year. My parents didn’t want me to be on my own – how would I manage? Er – I was alone in London for so many years, I told them – and I managed just fine!

I was home most of Tuesday – in the morning I met my cousin at the Dubai Mall for a coffee at Tim Horton’s and that night I went to an InterNations event at Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Lounge in JBR. I went with a friend, we met a few people we knew, and we had too much wine.

Wednesday was uneventful – I had my last session with Rama (although I didn’t know it would be my last session with him!). I was home the rest of the day. I don’t know whether it was boredom or determination but I signed up to take part in NaNoWriMo – I have the time, I have the peace at home, I just didn’t have a plot.

Thursday was busy. I’d been wanting to get my hair cut for a while and a friend recommended Pastels salon in Jumeirah. I made an appointment for a hair cut, colour and blowdry. The two women who did my hair were a South African woman called Shakira and a Filipina woman called Girly (yes, really). I have to say they did a great job – I paid more than I would have at the Fairmont but it was worth it. The colour was better, the blowdry was better.

After getting my hair done I went to the Fairmont to get my nails done – the place was packed and I had to wait a while. By the time I got home it was after 5pm.

That night a friend of mine was in town for one night on his way back to Lagos. I hadn’t seen him since January so we had lots to catch up on. We went to Hakkasan for dinner (we’d been on the waiting list for Zuma and La Petite Maison for days without any luck) and when we were done we were so full. I ordered the prawns on toast with foie gras and left the rest of the ordering to my friend (who is vegetarian). We had the vegetarian dumplings and the lettuce wrap. We also shared two dishes for our main course and a couple of cocktails. It was too much – I could have done without the prawns on toast (I had to eat all four). We skipped dessert. It was lovely to see him and I was home by midnight.

I went to a friend’s engagement brunch on Friday. It was at the H Hotel (formerly the Monarch), at Mizaan restaurant. I knew a handful of people there, and met some of the people I’d met in Phuket over the summer too. I got home at around 5pm and relaxed for a while.

That night a friend made me dinner – it was an early night.

I was home most of Saturday – day 3 of NaNoWriMo and I was already behind. That evening I went to the Dubai Writers’ Group at the Pavilion. Unfortunately the organiser couldn’t make it in the end so people were just focusing on their own work. Several of the people there were also taking part in NaNoWriMo so it was interesting to hear how people approached their writing – I asked whether anyone actually had a plan of what they were going to write about (I never do and usually just go with the flow – wherever that may be). I was relieved to find I’m not the only one who does that. The downside to that is because I never know where my characters are going to end up, I have several beginnings of stories but no endings.

I decided to stay on at the Pavilion and have a bite to eat after we were done – I had the smoke salmon on gluten-free bread (yummy) and then headed home.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 35

What a busy week! I had my usual work and gym sessions but it was pretty busy otherwise as well.

On Sunday afternoon, Mum and I decided to go out for lunch. We ended up at the Cheesecake Factory – I really enjoyed their herb-crusted salmon the last time we went and I wanted it again! We shared the spinach and cheese dip as a starter and then I got my salmon. Mum ordered the Caesar salad – and even though she ordered the starter portion she had trouble finishing it. The portions are huge there! We skipped dessert though – we were both very full.

That night my cousin invited me to her book group as a one-off. She had asked me when I moved to Dubai whether I wanted to join them but I declined. She had told me they weren’t a serious group and I wasn’t sure it was for me. Anyway, the reason I went on Sunday was because they were discussing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and I’d already read it a few years ago for my book group in London. I told her to let me know when she finished it so we could talk about it – so she invited me to join them. It’s a fantastic book – if you haven’t read it, I suggest you do so. It’s a quick read and even though I read it in 2 days, I haven’t been able to forget it.

I knew all the girls at book group already, apart from one. There was wine and appetisers followed by a full dinner. We discussed the book from time to time, and there was also more discussion about schools, Diwali, and 50 Shades of Grey. I think the trouble with meeting for the entire evening is that it’s easy to digress and come back to the book (several times). I much prefer book groups where you meet for an hour or so, discuss the book, and hang around at the end if you want to. I didn’t get home until midnight.

Monday was uneventful.

On Tuesday night I had dinner at Spectrum at the Fairmont with two of my cousins. It was quite crowded. We skipped the starters and ordered main courses only: black pepper beef, Thai green chicken curry, pad thai. We didn’t have dessert either. After dinner I rushed home to collect a parcel and then went back to the Fairmont to meet a friend who was leaving for London that night. We had a drink at Bridges, the sports bar at the Fairmont. I was home by midnight.

I didn’t sleep very well on Tuesday night and was quite tired on Wednesday. It was a long weekend here in Dubai, due to the Eid holidays. Thursday and Sunday were both holidays.

I stayed in on Wednesday night – I was in bed by 11 and passed out by midnight.

I was home for most of Thursday. That night a friend invited me to someone’s house party in Marina. It was a fun evening – but you would think I’d have learned by now not to mix my drinks. At about 2am, six of us headed to Amika at the H Hotel for more drinks and dancing. We left when they closed and I got home after 3.30am.

I was up earlyish on Friday but then went back to sleep as my eyes were burning! I eventually got out of bed at 1pm. All I wanted was houmous – it’s my new favourite hangover food.

Mum had some errands to run so I went to Mercato with her at about 5pm. After that we walked over to Choithram’s to pick up a couple of things for her trip to Jamaica and waited for a cab on the main road. There were none. We waited 20 minutes and then decided we’d start walking. Mum suggested going back to Mercato and waiting for a cab there but I’d seen the queue for taxis when we left and it would have been even longer an hour later.

We ended up walking home. It took about 40 minutes which is fine, but it was hot. We were sweaty and my hair looked like a nest. We got home just after 7pm, I got ready to see Enrique and then left a bit before 8pm.

At midnight after the concert, my friend insisted I go to a house party in Rashidiya with her. I wasn’t even dressed for a party – I was in jeans and a top. Plus, I was tired after walking home and standing throughout the concert. She told me that the guy whose house it was worked in the restaurant industry and there would be good food there. That worked. I’d barely eaten anything all day and I told her I’d go for one drink only.

Well, that’s not what happened. We got there, I sat at their bar and was spoiled rotten by flowing champagne and dim sum, and a fun group of people. Guests included: a sommelier at a top Dubai restaurant, a chef at another top Dubai restaurant, an Emirates pilot, and several other interesting people who were very welcoming.

I got home at 5.30am. What a night!

Saturday was painful. I’d only slept 3 hours and we were meeting my cousins for lunch at the Dubai Mall. The mall was a zoo – we ended up having lunch at PF Chang, outdoors. It was quite nice but I could barely string a sentence together and just wanted to be left in my zombie-like state. When I got home I got back into bed and tried to nap.

That night my cousin and I had dinner at Spectrum (yes, again). We ordered a bottle of wine – I couldn’t believe I was going to drink again after the two nights I’d had. We had the hot mezze platter to start and shared a chicken biryani for our main course. I was home by midnight.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 24

Week 23 was a write-off so there’s not much point saying anything about it. I got back, fell ill and spent the week in bed. On Saturday evening I decided I’d had enough and that it was time to get back on track.

I had a Sunday morning session with Rama (it killed me). My parents wanted to go out for lunch so we headed to the Dubai Mall. Considering it was a public holiday it didn’t seem so crowded at first. When we were told we’d have to wait 1.5 hours for a table at one of the restaurants we decided to go elsewhere. We ended up at Red Lobster (I had grilled salmon, broccoli and a baked potato) and then went to Tim Horton’s for coffee. It must have opened while I was away because it definitely wasn’t there before I left. I had the French Vanilla cappuccino – I’d never had it before. Lovely!

After lunch, Dad went home and Mum and I went to get a birthday present for my cousin’s daughter. We went to Times Square Center intending to go to Toys R Us but I got side-tracked by a music store selling pianos.

I’ve been wanting to get a piano since I moved to Dubai (but admittedly haven’t done much about it) so I went in and looked at what they had. I’ve noticed a lot of places selling electric keyboards/pianos here, but very few sell traditional upright pianos. The assistant in the store said they only sell Ritmüller pianos. I’d never heard of them. I was told the pieces (hammers, strings, keys, soundboards) are crafted in Germany and assembled in China. I suppose Yamaha are also assembled in China – so what difference does it make? I’ll have to do some research. 

We eventually made it to Toys R Us, picked up the present, and headed to Oasis Centre. It was dull household stuff – hangers, plastic boxes for the kitchen, and so on. I couldn’t wait to get home. 

On Monday I had yoga after ages. After that I went for a Balinese massage at Dreamworks Spa at Palm Strip Mall. I’d bought the deal (1 hour for AED99) a couple of months ago and forgotten about it. When I found the voucher, I realised that Monday was the last day I could use it and luckily they had a spot available. I went there, really not expecting very much (especially after the massage at Chelsea Tower) but I was pleasantly surprised. 

2012

It was quiet. The rooms were comfortable. And the massage was amazing. I will definitely go back – and they have 25% off massages on weekdays! 

By Monday night I had a slight temperature again and my muscles were aching after my training session the day before.

I woke up on Tuesday at 6am to see the sun rising (I sleep with my curtains open).

2012

I did go back to sleep though, and stayed in all day – working.

On Wednesday I had another session with Rama and then Mum and I went to the Fairmont for a sushi lunch. We over-ordered and ended up taking home a doggy bag. After lunch we both had our nails done. I had a much-needed pedicure – all that walking in London didn’t do much for my feet, and even if I’d wanted to have a mani/pedi while I was there I don’t know when I would have fit it into my busy schedule!

My parents were out that night and I had the place to myself. I caught up on some work and some TV shows. That night a friend suggested I start a food blog. I admitted that I would love to but that I usually remember to take photos of my food after I’ve eaten it (oops). I must try and remember to take more photos. 

Thursday was quite busy. I went to the gym in the morning and then my parents and I went to Vapiano at the Dubai Mall for lunch. I knew their portions were huge from the last time I went, so I ordered a Greek salad to start with.

2012

For my main course, I was supposed to share the tagliatelle funghi with my mum, but it was too much. Next time I’m just going to stick to the salad. Oh, and of course I forgot to take a photo of the pasta! After lunch, I got a takeaway coffee from Tim Horton’s and we headed home. 

An hour later we went over to the Shangri-La as my cousin was having her daughter’s 4th birthday party there. There were kids, mums, babies, nannies, balloons, an entertainer, a bouncy castle, food, cake. The kids looked like they were having a good time. We stayed for just an hour. 

That evening I went to Dubai Wine Club. The last two times I’d been, the venue had been outdoors at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel. This time it was at the Radisson Royal, just a few blocks down, at their restaurant Indo Thai. The venue is lovely but I preferred the set-up at Ibn Battuta: you can see everyone, you’re on a round table so you get to talk to most people. At the Radisson we were on long tables of 10 and the layout of the room was such that you couldn’t really see any of the other tables. Because we were on a long table our table was very much divided into two – which wasn’t very conducive to the discussion of wine (or anything else). I sat with one of my friends and the rest were all new people. I met an English/Irish couple and when they asked me what I did and I told them, the husband looked shocked and said ‘My wife wants to be you!’ She also works as a freelance writer/editor and in fact knew my ex boss from Haymarket Publishing. What a small world. 

On to the wines. Six sparkling wines were chosen for the evening – as before they were all blinded. 

2012
2012

E was my favourite, followed by A. I didn’t like B. C and D tasted almost the same and I didn’t like them either. I didn’t really care for F either. So what were they? You will be s
hocked. I know I was. 

  • A: Spanish cava (Castillo Perelada)
  • B: Taittinger
  • C: Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir
  • D: Moët & Chandon – and guess what grapes they use? Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
  • E: Italian prosecco (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene)
  • F: German sekt (Henkell Trocken)

No wonder C and D tasted so similar – they’re the same grapes! And compared to a couple of the other wines, D didn’t taste that good. Surprising.

The choice of food was quite good – chicken satays, beef satays, calamari, spring rolls, fish, steamed dumplings. Again, I forgot to take a photo – but instead of it being a buffet like it was at Ibn Battuta, the food was brought to each table on long platters. 

As people started leaving, a group of people gathered at the bar. I’d met some of them before so I joined them for some drinks. Three glasses of Sauvignon Blanc later, we were the last group to leave the bar. I got home after 2am. 

On Friday the three of us went to Sakura for lunch with my cousin and her parents. The food was good and I overate as usual. As much as I like Sakura, I think the rest of the Crowne Plaze Hotel could do with a makeover. It’s pretty shabby.

We got home from lunch a little before 4pm and I thought about going down to the pool. I looked down at the pool to see if there was anyone there – about 20 kids were splashing around, there were tables and chairs laid out and there was even a blow-up slide leading into the pool. I decided that maybe I could wait until Saturday to lounge around by the pool!

 

My cousin and I were supposed to meet for a casual dinner that night as well – but we both knew our parents were out and both wanted to make the most of the peace and quiet so we decided to postpone it! 

On Saturday I went to the gym quite late and then spent the afternoon at the pool, swimming and reading. There was an English guy there – I’d seen him before but had never spoken to him. I’m terrible with guessing people’s ages but I think he must have been in his mid to late 50s. We started chatting while we were in the pool and he said that there had been so many problems with the pool the year before that he joined the gym at the Shangri-La. He said the pool had become an algae green colour (gross) and nobody was doing anything about it. He also said that the residents in the building should be concerned about their safety in the event of a fire. He said the smoke alarms don’t work and that there aren’t enough sprinklers on each floor. He said the chances of people on the higher floors making it out alive were slim. I have to admit this had crossed my mind already. It’s a long way down from the 23rd floor. Since I moved I’ve read about at least five fires in residential buildings with devastating consequences. We talked for a bit longer and then he left. I did a few lengths, dried off in the sun and finished my book. A great Saturday. And the icing on the cake? I had the place to myself on Saturday night too.

I love my life.

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