Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

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 2015: Week 33

I was home all day on Sunday and in the evening went to see the new ‘Mission Impossible’ movie with my parents. It was good – the plot was, of course, totally preposterous but it was entertaining all the same. We had dinner at Wafi Gourmet afterwards, which was good.

On Monday afternoon I had a piano lesson. I hadn’t touched a piano in two months and was looking forward to having my lesson. We went through a couple of things I’d done before I left and then my teacher gave me the music for a new song called ‘Love Me Like You Do’ (from 50 Shades of Grey – which I have neither read nor seen).

On Tuesday I went to the monthly lunch of the International Business Women’s Group at the Trade Centre Club. I’d been to one of their lunches back in March and enjoyed meeting so many different people. Last week, I decided to apply for membership and I got an email in response inviting me to their lunch. It was a much smaller group – there were only five tables of five or six people at each. I suppose, being August, a lot of people are away for the summer. The presentation was about the new laws regarding health insurance in Dubai. Basically, by the end of the summer next year, you need to have health insurance before (re)applying for your residency visa – and this goes for all your employees too.

I had a session with Trevor on Wednesday morning.

We had to take my dad to hospital on Wednesday night and he was admitted for a few days. On Thursday I was home for most of the day and went to visit Dad in the afternoon. Visiting hours were from 4pm to 9pm and Mum and I were there until about 7.30, after he’d had his dinner. I stayed in that night.

We were supposed to have lunch at Yuan at the Atlantis on Friday to celebrate Dad’s birthday but of course we had to cancel that. I called the Atlantis to cancel the table – you would think it would be quite straightforward but it seemed to take forever as I was speaking to someone who could barely speak English and/or was incompetent. When I checked how long the call had lasted, it was almost 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Good grief.

Dad had been moved to a different ward on Friday morning, and Mum and I took a cake for him to cut (but he couldn’t have any of it). Being Friday, the ward was quite busy during visiting hours and Mum gave most of the cake to Dad’s fellow patients, their guests and the nurses.

I had lunch with a friend at Y by Yabani at Citywalk on Saturday. The food was good, but not as good as I remembered it. We had the spicy edamame and sesame seed cucumber salad to start with. My friend also had a miso soup. After that we shared some spicy salmon/tuna rolls, the aubergine miso rolls and the salmon izuzukuri (new style sashimi). After lunch I went home and soon after went to visit Dad at the hospital.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 18

I had hoped that this week would be quieter after the crazy weekend I had, but it was just as busy. In terms of working out, however, I did nothing.

I stayed in my pajamas all day on Sunday. I was supposed to have a session with Trevor (which I cancelled) and a meeting that afternoon (which I also cancelled) and I just stayed home. I hadn’t switched on my laptop in three days and had a lot of work to catch up on.

On Monday evening NP took me to La Petite Maison as a belated birthday treat. Our table was booked for 8.30pm but we decided to go earlier and have a cocktail at the bar. We both ordered tomatinis and had a good catch-up. We sat at our table shortly after 8.30 and ordered a lot of food! We were told that they didn’t have the pissaladière but everything else was available. To start with, we had: burrata (naturally), marinated salmon with pink peppercorns, salt cod croquettes and sea bass carpaccio. For our main course we shared the salt-baked sea bass and the grilled entrecote. We also ordered the dauphinois potatoes. We also had a wonderful bottle of red wine. It was a lot for two people (but we managed), and when the dessert menu came we shared the cheesecake and ordered two more cocktails. It was a lovely evening and a great birthday treat!

On Tuesday night, a friend had invited me and two others to La Serre for dinner. We met at 8.15 and had a drink at the bar. The bartender seemed very happy to see me, leaving the others wondering how often I went there (I hadn’t been in months, promise). We had a drink and then went to our table. For starters we ordered: fried calamari coated in plantain, burrata, tuna carpaccio with citrus dressing and grilled aubergine with feta and prawns. For our main course we shared a pasta dish, the whole sea bream baked in papillote and the 50-hour cooked beef short rib with sweet onion (amazing). We also ordered some sauteed spinach (too salty) and dauphinois potatoes. The restaurant was packed, just as packed as La Petite Maison the day before. We also shared a warm chocolate mousse for dessert and then went back to the bar to bring in my friend’s birthday at midnight.

I was home all day on Wednesday. That evening I met up with a friend and three of his friends at Tolosa Bodega in Souk Al Bahar. I didn’t know any of his other friends but it was an interesting evening. It was also ladies night so I was given three tokens for drinks. I left the ordering to my friend. He ordered: burrata (seriously), pequillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, prawn croquettes, a seafood sharing platter and dauphinois potatoes. French restaurants three days in a row. Just think of all that butter.

I stayed in on Thursday catching up with work. That evening my parents went to the Dubai Mall for a movie and asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner afterwards. I agreed and met them at Vapiano. I could have (should have?) had a salad after all the heavy meals I’d had during the week but in the end opted for my favourite, penne with salsiccia pomodori (beef pepperoni, olives, pesto sauce and other fattening things). We were home by 9pm.

I got a lot of work done on Friday. That evening I went to Blended, at the Media City Amphitheatre. I went on my own but was meeting a friend who was there with a few other people. I’d bought a regular ticket but he spoke to someone and managed to get me a lounge pass for the concert. Performing that evening were Nico & Vinz, Robin Thicke and Kool & the Gang. I got there at about 7pm, Nico & Vinz were already on stage. I’d never heard of them but recognised their last song (Am I Wrong). Robin Thicke was on next – and again I didn’t know any of his music apart from ‘Blurred Lines’. He was on stage for a long time – and really seemed to love himself. And then came Kool & The Gang. They were awesome – and I knew most of their songs (some of which are as old as I am).

After the concert, I met up with a friend at Ikandy at the Shangri-La where he was staying. He was in town for just 24 hours so we caught up over a couple of drinks and ended up eating at Zaatar w Zeit next door. It was about 3am when I got home.

At noon on Saturday, some friends who were in town from Bombay came over. I was still in my pajamas when they rang the doorbell and wasn’t planning on going sightseeing with them and my mum. I eventually decided to get ready and go with them. Our first stop was Al Qasr – I wanted them to see the lobby and the view because it’s really something. After Al Qasr, we drove to the Palm Jumeirah. We didn’t get off at the Atlantis but did stop at the Anantara for a while, thinking we’d have lunch there. Unfortunately the lunch buffet didn’t look appealing at all – there wasn’t much variety to choose from. After that I insisted that we stop at the Zabeel Saray so they could see it. Honestly, one look at the pool and I just wanted to check in for a week! We went to the One & Only next – and I wanted to check in there too.

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Each hotel is more impressive than the last.

After our hotel tour, we decided to have lunch at the Mall of the Emirates. It was 4pm by this point and I was hungry. We ended up at Al Halabi, a Lebanese restaurant. The food was excellent – even better than Wafi Gourmet, I’d say. We wandered around the shops for a while and then it was time to go. We dropped them off at the Grand Hyatt and came home.

I hadn’t planned to go out that evening but my friend who was staying at the Shangri-La said he was meeting a couple of friends at La Petite Maison and asked if I wanted to join them. We got there at around 8pm. I started with a tomatini. We didn’t have a reservation but they managed to accommodate the four of us without any difficulty. Again, they didn’t have any pissaladière but we managed fine without it. For starters, we had: burrata, marinated salmon with pink peppercorns, warm prawns with olive oil, baked crab (on their new specials menu) and escargots. For our main course, we had: whole sea bream baked in papillote, grilled entrecote, grilled lamb cutlets (excellent) and rigatoni with mushrooms (but I was too full to try it). Guess what sides we ordered? Did you say dauphinois potatoes? Yes, that’s right. And French fries and green beans (I had neither). We also had a couple of bottles of wine (red, and all I can tell you is that the label has a drawing of a locust on it). Everyone wanted a different dessert so we ended up ordering three: the rhubarb and kumquat crumble, the cheesecake and the pain perdu. I had one bite of each. The cheesecake is still my favourite though.

After dinner, we walked over to Roberto’s – the guys fancied some cigars and whiskey. I hadn’t been to Roberto’s in a long time. I had a glass of Rioja while they enjoyed their cigars and Glenfiddich.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 5

After my session with Trevor on Sunday morning, I had to get down to some work as I was still swamped. At about 4pm I decided I needed a break so I walked up to Tim Horton’s and sat down with a coffee and my book. I wanted to finish reading Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón so I could move on to something else. It was an easy read, but as I’d predicted it was nowhere near as good as Shadow of the Wind.

I went to yoga at the Shangri-La on Monday morning. I was home by 9.45 and had the whole day to work. I was supposed to have a piano lesson that afternoon but I had so many deadlines that I ended up cancelling it. That evening I went to the Scene Club in Knowledge Village – they were screening ‘Factory Girl’, an Egyptian movie about a girl who works in a garment factory and has a crush on the manager. It was a good movie – but it did make me angry. Angry that things don’t really seem to change for women in the Middle East, and angry that people will believe a rumour about a person which turns that person’s life completely upside down.

I had yoga at home on Tuesday and was home the rest of the day – just working!

I had a friend in town from Lagos – so we met up for an early lunch on Wednesday. We went to Wafi Gourmet at the Dubai Mall and we overate – hummus with pine nuts, grilled halloumi, muhamara, fried aubergine in yoghurt, potato harra. I couldn’t move after that – but we still went to Eataly for dessert where we shared a Nutella crepe!

I got home, did some work and then went to my piano lesson. That night, Dad and I went to Sobahn, a Korean restaurant on Sheikh Zayed Road. I’d been there once before – I didn’t think it was great (nothing is as good as Arirang in London), but it was close by and I knew we’d be home early. I’d booked a table online in the afternoon but when we got there, they said they had no record of the booking. It wasn’t a problem as the restaurant wasn’t crowded, and I had a confirmation email and a text and I wondered whether they just hadn’t bothered to check their messages.

We were shown to a table and sat down. I ordered a small bottle of still water and Dad ordered a small bottle of sparkling water. They brought both but no glasses. Dad asked the waiter for some glasses and he brought us one. Were we supposed to share it? So we asked for another one, obviously. We flicked through the menu – this page amused me:

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What is ‘flap meat’? I didn’t fancy trying it. To start with, we ordered the pah jeon (without seafood) and Dad ordered a kim chi soup. Little dishes of a variety of kim chi were brought to our table and were complimentary. For our main course we ordered a beef bulgogi and spicy prawns. I asked the waiter to bring the starters first and then the main course – and not to bring everything at once. The waiter came back and said they didn’t have any beef bulgogi – so I ordered bee bim bab instead.

So, what did the waiter bring? The pah jeon and the spicy prawns.

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‘I specifically asked you to bring the starters first.’

‘The prawns are a starter.’

‘So when I ordered it as a main course, why didn’t you say so?’

No response.

Then they brought the bee bim bab and the soup. Crazy. The food was average – I’m not sure I would go back.

On Thursday morning, I had to go to Sharjah to collect my passport and I had to be there by 10am. I was in and out in about 5 minutes but there was a lot of traffic on the way back. I got home, did some work, had lunch and then went to get my hair done.

That night I had dinner with some friends at Rivington Grill in Madinat Jumeirah. We hadn’t seen each other since November so we had lots to catch up on. We had a bottle of Shiraz, skipped the starters and went straight to the mains. I had the lamb chop (disappointing), one friend had the rainbow trout, another had the Dover sole and the fourth was still full from lunch so he ordered a starter portion of calamari and a portion of chips. We shared an apple and blackberry crumble for dessert. After dinner we went to The Agency next door for another drink. It was quite a late night and it was 2.45 by the time I got home.

On Friday I had lunch with a couple of friends at Maison Bagatelle. I ordered the beetroot and goat cheese salad with spinach and pine nuts, one of my friends had the full English breakfast and the third had a steak. Every time I’ve been there, the food has been very good – and this time was no exception. We decided to share a blueberry tart for dessert and finished with coffee. After lunch, I walked to the mall and ended up at Kinokuniya. While browsing, guess what I came across? Two Folio copies of Travels with Charley that I’d been looking for the week before! I should have known the man at the information desk had no idea what he was talking about. I wanted to see if he was there, but it was a woman at the desk. How infuriating!

On Friday night, Dad and I went to Y by Yabani at City Walk for dinner. I ordered the starters first and told them I’d order the main course when we were ready. I didn’t want them bringing everything at once like they did at the Korean restaurant! I ordered a sesame seed cucumber salad and some spicy rock shrimp tempura. Dad also ordered a miso soup. When we’d finished that I ordered the salmon and tuna izuzukuri (thin slices of salmon and tuna, coriander, sesame seeds, green chilli, chilli powder, spring onion, izuzukuri sauce). We ordered black cod with miso and nasu miso for our main course with some sushi rolls. There was too much food but it was all so good. We could have definitely done without the aubergine and I think I would have chosen either sushi or black cod – not both. We were home early and I helped Dad pack as he was off the next day.

Dad left on Saturday afternoon and I was home all day. That evening I went to see Zakir Hussain’s Nirvana 2015 at the World Trade Centre. It was an Indo-Celtic fusion concert and it was fantastic. Also on stage with him were: Rakesh Chaurasia (bansuri – Indian bamboo flute), Ganesh Rajgopalan (violin and vocals), Navin Sharma (dol and percussion), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Patsy Reid (fiddle), Jean-Michel Veillon (flute), Fraser Fifield (bagpipes and whistle), Tony Byrne (guitar) and John Joe Kelly (bodhran).

The musicians were incredible, but the event organisation let them down. The acoustics in the hall we were in were pretty awful, and the lighting was a joke. During the concert, the house lights were switched on and off, and one strip of lights (right above us) was even left on for about 20 minutes right in the middle of the concert.

The concert finished at about 10.30 and my friend and I went to Zuma for a late dinner. We ordered the yellowtail sashimi, tuna tataki, prawn and black cod gyoza, dynamite spider roll and spicy tuna roll. We were till about 1am and then went home.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 24

I didn’t have a session with Randy on Sunday as the schedule for my Arabic classes for the week had changed. There would be three classes instead of two – on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Sunday we covered:

  • What our jobs are (engineer, lawyer, teacher, psychologist, freelancer, etc.), where we work (private company, Government, at home) and the verb to work
  • Two more letters

That evening I went to Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal for a massage. I’d used an Entertainer voucher in May and had a free massage to enjoy. I slept well that night!

On Monday I had yoga and decided to go to the gym for a quick workout as well. I was home working the rest of the day.

I had another Arabic class on Tuesday. We covered:

  • Nationalities
  • One more letter
  • More verbs – to travel, to write, to like
  • More vocabulary – here, there, cold water, glass, sure, not sure, of course
  • Practising conversation – Do you like studying Arabic? Where do you study Arabic? Where do you go on Friday? Where do you work? and appropriate responses!

I had a piano lesson soon after my Arabic class so one of my friends and I went to Costa for a coffee and a quick bite to eat. My piano lesson was good – I’m really enjoying it and I’ve even managed to practise regularly recently. I started learning ‘Stay’ by Rihanna.

I had my third Arabic class on Wednesday. We covered:

  • Age – how old are your children, etc.
  • The past tense (briefly) because it’s not for our level (kunt = I was)
  • Numbers from 100 upwards
  • More verbs – to see/look, to come
  • How to conjugate two verbs in a row – if you were to say ‘I like to drink coffee’ my instinct would be to conjugate ‘I like’ but to leave ‘to drink’ as the imperative. Well, that’s wrong. You conjugate both verbs so the literal translation is ‘I like I drink coffee’
  • Four new letters

That evening I went to my creative writing class at The Pavilion Downtown. It had been cloudy all day but on my way to my class I realised how low the clouds were.

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There was a cloud right in the middle of the Burj Khalifa!

My writing session that day was about dialogue (which I’m rubbish at). Dialogue sets the scene, defines characters, breaks up prose. One of Elmore Leonard’s tips is to avoid describing people and places as much of it will come through in the dialogue. Dialogue also creates pace and is the best device for the delivery of information. It pushes the story forward. Silence also says a lot in a story. Some tips we were given about dialogue were:

  • Let it flow
  • Pour it out – make it sparkle later but just get it down on paper first
  • When writing dialogue, write as fast as you can – don’t worry about who said what, just write it all down

We then had to write a dialogue between two people, imagining a third person was eavesdropping. I wrote about an 8-year-old girl whose parents had organised a surprise birthday party for her and were trying to figure out where to tell her they were going.

We then talked about setting and how a place can be one of the characters (e.g. New York in ‘Sex and the City’). Time is also important – a contemporary novel is fairly straightforward but when writing a historical or futuristic novel you need to research: food, fashion, what’s on the radio, conversations at the pub, and so on. We then had to choose a setting and write a short paragraph. I wrote this:

Oxford Street at Christmas always reminded her of the video game Frogger which she used to play as a child. Shoppers, cars, cyclists, buses – nobody cared who they bumped into or ran over as long as they got what they wanted where they wanted. It was the complete opposite of Christmas. She thought of the frog crossing the three lanes of traffic, jumping from one floating log on the river to another, and then finally arriving safe on the other side of the river bank.

She always felt relieved when she walked past McDonald’s towards the relative quiet of Hanover Square. She could breathe again – the crisp air entering her lungs. It was just a brief respite though as soon she would leave the square and end up on Regent Street which she would also have to cross. Admittedly it wasn’t as bad as Oxford Street but by the time she got to her yoga class she was ready to snap off someone’s head.

On Thursday I went to my niece’s 5th birthday party at Chunky Monkey on Sheikh Zayed Road. My dad and I didn’t go for the whole thing though – we got there just in time to cut the cake (and have some pizza and samosas). There were about 20 kids running around and one of the staff shouting into a microphone. Had I gone for the whole party I’d have left with a headache. My 13-year-old nephew came up to me and asked: When are you going to get married?

WTF? Was I really going to have this conversation with a 13-year-old? ‘Why are you asking me that?’ I thought one of his grandparents might have put him up to it.

‘I want to play the guitar at your wedding.’

Aww – that was sweet.

‘How many lessons have you had?’ I asked.

‘One.’

Oh – well, he has plenty of time to sort himself out!

That night I went to wine club which was held at the Sheraton next to the Mall of the Emirates. I went with a couple of friends and met some other regulars there. It was a fun evening, the food was good and the wines weren’t bad either. We had:

  • Banrock Station 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (Australia): this displays lifted tropical and herbaceous aromas. On the palate, fresh and soft gooseberry flavours finish with a grassy lift
  • Chateau L’Aumerade 2011 Cru Classe Cotes de Provence (France): pale yellow with green hues. An intense nose with fresh citrus notes which warm up to reveal tropical fruits on the glass. Medium bodied on the palate with a pleasant finish. Pair with scallops, prawns and white fish. Made from Rolle grapes
  • Dr Loosen 2011 ‘Dr L’ Riesling (Germany): on the nose fragrance of pears, green apples, flowers and slate minerality. A good swirl in the glass brings out the typical lime and lime zest characteristic of this grape varietal. On the palate it’s slightly sweet which tempers the above average acidity. Good summer wine or aperitif
  • Argento 2011 Shiraz (Argentina): Dark purple in colour with violet tones. On the nose look for blackberry, black pepper spice and a hint of vanilla. Long persistent finish with soft tannins. Aged in American oak for 4 months
  • Te Mata Estate 2009 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon (New Zealand): this traditional blend of Bordeaux varities is a consistently rewarding, complex wine showing ripe blackcurrant, plum and chocolate flavours with a supple and sustained palate
  • Montes Alpha 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile): extra dry, dark rich colour with slow legs in the glass. On the nose it is an elegant, complex and intense wine with violets and red fruit, blackberry, chocolate, black pepper and cigar box aromas while its affinity with oak lends vanilla and coffee notes, producing a wine in perfect balance of real finesse and class, a real outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon

After wine club several of us went to Vantage, the wine bar at the hotel. Unfortunately the only seating they had available was outside and it was hot. My blowdried hair soon started to resemble Chaka Khan’s. We had more wine and then a few of us went on to Centre Circle Bar at the Ramada Chelsea. We were there till they closed.

Getting home was interesting. At some point in the evening we were joined by an English woman who was new to Dubai – she’d been here 8 days. She’d been at wine club (although I didn’t meet her there) and she joined our group while we were still at Vantage. It was only when it was time to leave the Ramada that we realised how wasted she really was. She refused to go home. She wanted to go out dancing. I explained to her that it was after 3am and nothing would be open at that time. She insisted that she didn’t want to go home. When she realised that we were all leaving, she got into the cab with us. I asked her where she was staying. Her response? ‘I don’t know.’ Jesus. I asked her if she was staying at a hotel – she said she was but she couldn’t remember which one it was. There are hundreds of hotels in Dubai – this was going to take a while. ‘It’s on Sheikh Zayed Road,’ she finally said. Was she aware that Sheikh Zayed Road actually went all the way to Abu Dhabi? I thought I’d try my luck and started listing each hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road starting at the Trade Centre Roundabout and working my way down. ‘Is it the H Hotel?’ ‘Noooo.’ ‘Is it the Fairmont?’ ‘Noooo.’ Is it the Radisson Royal?’ ‘Yes!’ Oh, thank God. ‘Do you know your room number?’ She seemed to remember a room number – I hoped it was hers. When we got to the Radisson, she almost fell out of the cab. In hindsight I should have taken her up to her room, but it was 3:45 at this point and I really needed to get home.

I was home all day on Friday with a stinking headache. I’d have loved to stay home that night but I had a cousin in town from Bombay and I told her we’d meet for a drink at Okku that evening. We had a couple of lychee martinis and my other cousin who lives in Dubai joined us as well. We parted ways at 9pm as my cousin from Bombay had dinner plans and my Dubai cousin and I were going to Ruth’s Chris for steaks with a friend. The steaks there are just so good – and we had some lovely red wine to go with it.

On Saturday I went to Wafi Gourmet with my Dubai cousin, my Bombay cousin and her husband. I wasn’t feeling great – my throat felt a bit scratchy and I felt a little feverish too. I went straight home after lunch and took it easy.

That evening my dad had invited one of his banker friends and his girlfriend out for dinner. We went to Tong Thai at the JW Marriott Marquis. It’s a lovely restaurant, and very big.

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The staff were very attentive. The food was great, quite spicy, and the portions are large. My dad and I shared a tom yum soup but four people could have shared that as a starter. We also had two salads as our starters and ordered one chicken dish and one pad thai for our main course. Halfway through dinner I suddenly felt exhausted. I couldn’t wait to get home, take some Panadol and get into my pajamas. I knew I was getting sick.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 23

After my session with Randy on Sunday morning I did some work and then spent the afternoon at the pool. That evening I had a friend and her son flying in from Hong Kong for a couple of days on their way to London. I went to the airport that night to collect them and by the time we got home it was after midnight. We chatted for a while and eventually went to sleep.

My friend’s mum was arriving early on Monday morning (and also staying with me) so we left home at 8am to pick her up from the airport. We got home, I had a cup of tea and then had to go to my Arabic class. We learned:

  • The words for month/s and year/s
  • How to say whether we were married or not – and also the words for husband and wife
  • How to ask someone how long they’d been in a place (and a reply)
  • More pronouns, e.g. his house, her house, their house
  • More random vocabulary: yesterday, day before yesterday, tomorrow, day after tomorrow
  • How to use the tamarbuwta
  • More verbs – to want, to visit, to go, to drink – and how to conjugate them in the first person

After my class, I met up with my friend, her son and her mum at Nando’s and we had some lunch. She and her mum had some errands to run so I took her son to the pool for a while.

That night, the two of us went out with some friends. We went to Pai Thai at the Madinat Jumeirah. I’d never been there and was pleasantly surprised. The service was also better than in many places I’ve been to. I used two Entertainer vouchers as well and we saved about AED 200!

The next day the four of us went to Wafi Gourmet for lunch. I had to go to a piano lesson straight after and my friend and her mum and son were out until the evening. That night the two of us had dinner at Karma Kafe with a friend we bumped into at the airport on Monday morning. Small world! The food was good, as usual – and I used yet another Entertainer voucher. I’ve used so many of them this year already! We got home a little after 11pm and my friend, her mum and son left for the airport at about midnight. It was quite a busy couple of days!

I had another Arabic lesson on Wednesday. We learned:

  • More verbs – to live/reside, to study, to know – and how to conjugate them in the second person (male and female)
  • Random vocabulary – family, parents, people before, sometimes, always, beach, gym, building
  • We learned two new letters and also did some writing practice (still looks like a 3-year-old’s writing!)

I went home, did some work and then that evening went to my second creative writing class at The Pavilion Downtown. We talked about opening paragraphs and how naming characters is so important – names change with generations and different social classes. We were told that we need to be the character we’re writing about and have to know them inside out. We talked about character traits and how flawed characters leave plenty of room for growth. For our homework we were asked to write about people meeting and coming together, perhaps at a dinner party, picnic, or something along those lines. How do they behave? What are their flaws?

I was home all of Thursday and then met up with a couple of friends at The Agency in Madinat Jumeirah. What a night! We ended up having four bottles of wine. When we left we wanted to go dancing, so we hopped in a cab and headed to Malecon. We were only there for about half an hour, and we didn’t drink any more, but we had a great time dancing to salsa music!

I was home the whole of Friday. My head was aching and I didn’t feel like doing very much apart from reading by the pool.

On Saturday I did some reading by the pool and then went to see The Internship with my dad and uncle. It was better (and longer) than I thought it would be – I quite enjoyed it!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 21

Another busy week!

After my Sunday morning session with Randy, Dad and I went to Outback Steakhouse at the Dubai Mall for lunch. I love the mall on Sundays – because it’s so empty! After lunch we went to see The Fast and the Furious 6 (Dad’s choice, of course). I thought it was an average movie but that the last 20 minutes were totally unnecessary. Anyway, these days I tend to go to the cinema just for the popcorn (salty)!

I had my Arabic class on Monday. We learned:

  • Days of the week
  • How to use numbers with nouns – one boy, two boys, and so on (it’s not as simple as you would think!)
  • More random vocabulary – tired, busy, hungry, holiday, yesterday, please (when offering something)

A friend of mine from Lagos (GRH) arrived in Dubai that morning for a few days so we had dinner at La Petite Maison in DIFC. As soon as we sat down I ordered a portion of burrata. There was no way I was going to miss out on it again! My friend is vegetarian so when we go out everything we order is vegetarian but I also choose one non-vegetarian dish (of course I would love more than one but then I either overeat or half of it goes to waste). I ordered the crab and lobster salad. He then got a phone call and told me a friend of his was going to join us (he wasn’t vegetarian – hurrah!). So his friend and I shared the turbot – and my goodness, I love their dauphinoise potatoes! After dinner we walked over to Zuma and had a few more drinks. It was a really fun evening…

I woke up a little ‘dehydrated’ on Tuesday – so when GRH suggested going to Wafi Gourmet for lunch I jumped at the chance. I think hummus has become my favourite hangover food. We ordered a few things to share and then I had to head off to my piano lesson.

That night I went to see Amjad Ali Khan at the Madinat Theatre with a friend. We met a bit earlier and had a few drinks at The Agency and then went to the concert. I’d seen Amjad Ali Khan and his two sons in concert in London many years ago. In fact, they were the first classical Indian musicians I’d seen perform live. My grandfather was so excited when I told him I’d been to the concert – until that point I could never understand why he loved classical Indian music so much. He started making CDs of his favourite musicians – I still have them. However, listening to a CD is nowhere near as exciting as seeing a live performance and I don’t really listen to them much…

We had great seats. It was just Amjad Ali Khan in the first segment.

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He explained that the sarod isn’t just played with the fingertips, it’s played with the actual edge of the nails. He even filed his nails between compositions. He explained that there is rarely a programme for classical Indian music as the musicians themselves don’t know what they’re going to be playing – it depends on their mood and sometimes they even compose pieces of music while they’re on stage.

In the second segment, it was just his two sons – Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan. And then the three of them were together:

There’s a far better review here. I even spotted myself in the photo of the intermission crowd! And I’ve only just realised that Amjad Ali Khan changed while he was off-stage – perhaps he was wearing one of his son’s kurtas by mistake?

After my Wednesday session with Randy, I had another Arabic class on Wednesday afternoon. We did:

  • A new function word – to have (I have, you have, etc.)
  • More reading and writing practice with the letters we’d learned so far
  • More vocabulary – tomorrow, after, before, sorry, school, meeting

That evening GRH and I went to see Iron Man 3. I hadn’t seen the first or second movies but really enjoyed this one. After the movie we walked to Calabar at The Address Downtown for a drink and something to eat. It wasn’t a late night.

I had lunch with NP at Jones the Grocer on Thursday – I’ve resigned myself to the fact that even though I look at the entire menu I know I’m going to have the Wagyu burger and fries. That evening GRH and another friend of ours had dinner at Bice Mare in Souk al Bahar. We shared a couple of starters and then I had the baked turbot with artichokes and black truffles for my main course. After dinner GRH and I went to Zuma to meet up with some other friends. It wasn’t a late night but it was fun.

I had Friday brunch at The Ivy with some girlfriends to celebrate one of their birthdays. As I intended to get some work done after brunch I opted for brunch without alcohol (shocking, isn’t it?). There are two brunch options – you can either have the eight-course tasting brunch or the three-course a la carte brunch. The eight-course menu looked fantastic but I thought it would be far too much food, so I went for the three-course brunch. For starters I ordered the French toast with berries. It was good, but I still think the French toast at Raoul’s in Maida Vale is better! I couldn’t decide what to eat for my main course and eventually ordered the fish and chips. The portion was huge (a pleasant surprise compared to the tiny sea bass I’d had the week before).

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I ate only half of it.

For dessert I had the red velvet coupe.

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And of course I had to have some cheese too. I don’t know why I had it because I was already full but I couldn’t resist it.

Also, there was a live singer at The Ivy (I believe he’s there every Friday for the brunch crowd) – and he was amazing. I couldn’t see him from where I was sitting and when he started singing I thought they were playing a Michael Bublé CD!

I went home, did some work and then went to Siddharta Lounge at Grosvenor House for another friend’s birthday. It was a nice evening – I knew a few people there but met some new interesting people. I hadn’t been to Siddharta Lounge since last May and had never sat outside before. It was a lovely evening but quite warm!

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I ended up staying later than I expected (to the end, basically!) and my hosts gave me a ride home. It was a lovely evening.

I spent most of Saturday by the pool with a book.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 18

After my Sunday session with Randy I had a doctor’s appointment at Medcare Hospital. I’d had a chalazion under my left eyelid for months and just couldn’t get rid of it.

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I’d seen my GP and an ophthalmologist at the health centre where I’m registered. I’d tried creams and hot compresses and steroid eye drops but nothing worked. The ophthalmologist eventually referred me to an ophthalmologist elsewhere so I could get it removed surgically (they don’t perform surgical procedures at the clinic). I’d met her before I went to Vietnam and decided I’d do the excision when I got back.

I was nervous when I got there – more about the local anaesthetic than anything else! I was expecting to have a shot in my eyelid and then hopefully feel nothing afterwards. The injection was so painful – I wanted to cry. But at least the worst part was over with. Or so I thought! She gave me two more shots in my eyelid – the second one was quite close to the first so I didn’t feel it. The third shot was very close to my eyelashes and was the most painful of the three. Once the anaesthetic had taken effect, my eyelid was flipped back and clamped and the chalazion was cut out. I didn’t need stitches and it wouldn’t leave a scar as it was done from under the lid. It didn’t hurt but it was uncomfortable – I could feel a lot of pressure on my eyelid and I just wanted to get up and go home! (This is where the deep breathing exercises I’d learned in my meditation class came in useful!) The whole ordeal lasted about 15 minutes.

I went home looking like this:

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I had to keep the dressing on until that night. When she taped the dressing my main concern was that my eyebrow didn’t come off with the bandage! I went home and slept for a while. I couldn’t do much else! After I took the dressing off (eyebrow intact), my eye looked a little swollen but it didn’t hurt:

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I took it easy for most of Monday. By the evening I was feeling well enough to go to the third History of Islamic Art talk (I missed the second one). The session was about ornament and calligraphy in Islamic art. The speaker first covered ornament:

  • The early Islamic period (Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates): the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (completed in 691), the Great Mosque in Damascus (completed in 714), Qusayr Amra in the Jordanian desert, stucco decoration in Qasr Mshatta, Jordan and Samarra, Iraq
  • Umayyad Spain: the fountain at Madinat al-Zahra on the outskirts of Cordoba and the Pyxis of al-Mughira (carved in 968)
  • Art of the Muslim East: the Minaret at Jam in Afghanistan (1194-1195 or 1174-1175), the Samanid Mausoleum in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, the Shrine of Ahmad Yasawi in Turkestan, Kazakhstan (1398); Masjid-i Jami (14th century) and Masjid-i Mir Chaqmaq, both in Yazd, Iran

Some of the things she talked about with regard to ornament were ‘horror vacui’ (fear of empty spaces/emptiness), the impact of geometry (symmetry or patterning), the ability to make any theme a part of an ornament (including script), and arbitrary-ness – the idea of impermanence and that decoration is just a shell.

She then talked about calligraphy and the following:

  • The Koran in the 8th and 9th centuries (in Kufic script – which was square and angular)
  • The Koran of Ibn al-Bawwab (Baghdad, 1000-1001)
  • Ibn Muqla‘s ‘Six Pens’
  • Bobrinski bucket, probably made in Herat in 1163
  • Shazi pen box (1210-1211), now at the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
  • Earthenware bowls imitating Chinese porcelain (9th and 10th centuries)
  • The tughra (official signature) of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1520-1566)

I had another piano lesson on Tuesday afternoon and worked the rest of the day.

I thought the doctor was exaggerating when she told me I wouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort after the surgery. I expected my eye to feel similar to when I had my laser eye surgery but I really didn’t feel any pain at all. The swelling had gone down by Wednesday and you couldn’t even tell I’d had my eyelid cut open 2-3 days earlier.

On Wednesday evening I had another meditation class. We started with an anti-anxiety breathing exercise done lying down: inhale slowly for 4 counts, exhale slowly for 4 counts, inhale slowly for 4 counts, exhale slowly for 5 counts, inhale slowly for 4 counts, exhale slowly for 6 counts, and so on (as far as you could go without straining yourself).

Our teacher then talked us through a visualisation meditation which I really enjoyed. It involved: walking down 21 steps, a key opening a door to a private room, French doors leading to a terrace, your own private garden, small forest, sand dunes and a private beach. I was so relaxed by the end of it!

On Thursday afternoon I had a follow-up appointment for my eye (all fine) and then went to a dinner party at NP’s house to celebrate her birthday. Apart from her and her husband (who I’d only met once) I didn’t know any of the other seven guests – but I had such a good time. The entire meal was gluten-free and the food was excellent. There also seemed to be an unlimited supply of wine and champagne! It was a lovely evening.

One of my cousins arrived on Friday morning – he was staying for a few days. The two of us ended up going to Wafi Gourmet for a late lunch and then wandering around the Dubai Mall for a little while.

That night I met a friend for dinner at La Petite Maison. I’m not joking when I say I’d been dreaming about the burrata all day. I got there at 9pm but due to a misunderstanding my friend was 30 minutes late. I had a Tomatini while I waited and studied the menu. We eventually ordered our food (burrata, crab and lobster salad, escargots, calamars frits for starters, and salt-baked sea bass and the baked gratinated potatoes for our main course). The waiter came back 5 minutes later to say that they’d run out of burrata. I thought I’d misheard him – because how could they run out of burrata?? Do we have to pre-order it now?? I was depressed. I looked at the plate of burrata on the next table – would they notice if I helped myself? We ordered the goat cheese salad instead but it just wasn’t the same. I then ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc with the sommelier. ‘Sorry, we don’t have that,’ she replied. WTF? ‘Just joking!’ she then said. Not funny. Not funny at all. The food was great but we were full after the starters as we’d both had a late lunch – and we ended up cancelling the main course and went straight to dessert (cheesecake). After dinner we walked over to Roberto’s for a couple of drinks and then ended up at Zuma. It was a fun evening but I don’t think I really recovered from the burrata episode.

I had another piano lesson on Saturday (a make-up lesson from April) and came home and did some work. There was a beautiful sunset that evening.

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That night I went to iKandy with a couple of friends. We had two bottles of wine and some food (the sliders at iKandy are really good). It was a really fun evening and I noticed that it was starting to get really hot at night – summer is definitely on the way!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 16

After my session with Randy on Sunday morning, my parents and I went to Wafi Gourmet for lunch. My cousin from New York had arrived the day before and was staying with us. Wafi Gourmet is usually the first place most people in my family want to go when they get to Dubai! We had all our favourites – hummus, baba ganoush, kibbeh, shish taouk, tabbouleh, and more. That night we had dinner at Hoi An at the Shangri-La with more family members. I’d only eaten there once before but the food is great. There are just too many restaurants to choose from in Dubai!

I had yoga on Monday and was home the rest of the day until the evening. I’d found out about a series of talks on the history of Islamic art at Art Sawa in DIFC and was keen to go. I thought it would be different and I’d learn something. The talks took place over 5 weeks:

  • Week 1 – The origins of Islamic art
  • Week 2 – The art of Islamic Spain (I was going to be away for this session and it was the one I was most interested in!)
  • Week 3 – Ornament and calligraphy in the Islamic tradition
  • Week 4 – Tradition of Persian miniature painting
  • Week 5 – Modern and contemporary art

What I liked was that you could pay per session (AED 100) rather than for the entire course. I even found a friend to go with me.

The talk was held at DIFC, but not at Art Sawa itself. It was in one of the offices. The speaker was Marta Ameri, an assistant professor at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. The first session was fascinating and I learnt so much – it was a combined talk on the history, geography, religion and art of the Middle East  from the beginning of Islam (thought to be 622 AD):

  • The only art forms in the Middle East before Islam were textiles and jewellery – very little art was created, there wasn’t much in the way of natural resources, there was no real tradition of sculpture, the population was nomadic;
  • The aversion to figures in Islamic art (only God can create life);
  • Agra and Cordoba both contain Islamic architecture but this is so different in each place as these buildings depended on the materials available in the area;
  • Jerusalem – important to the three monotheistic religions (Temple of Solomon in Judaism, Jesus’ crucifixion in Christianity, and Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac in Islam). The Dome of the Rock is built on the same site as Solomon’s Temple (Temple Mount) and is very similar to the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy (although the dome of San Vitale is hidden) – this is because Byzantine craftsmen were used to build the Dome of the Rock.
San Vitale

San Vitale

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

Did you know that in the early years of Islam, Muslims prayed towards Jerusalem? I went to Jerusalem in 1998 and it was one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been to. I would love to go again. There is so much history there.

Fascinating stuff.

I had a piano lesson on Tuesday afternoon (no earthquakes this time!). I definitely don’t practise enough and need to sort that out. After my lesson I went to meet an ex-colleague who was in Abu Dhabi for a few days. I hadn’t seen him since I’d moved to Dubai and wa looking forward to catching up.

On my way out of Dubai I thought I’d stop and get my eGate card sorted out. I’d been meaning to do it for a while but hadn’t got round to it, only to kick myself every time I was travelling because the queues at the airport can get so long. I went to the first floor of the DNATA building on Sheikh Zayed Road – I took my passport and a passport photo. The whole process took about 5 minutes. I had my thumb prints scanned and while my card was being processed I paid at the cashier (AED 225 – cash only). By the time I went back to the office my card was ready and I was on my way. No more long queues at security or immigration – hurrah!

It didn’t take long to get to the Fairmont at Abu Dhabi. I told my friend I’d be there by 6.30 and it took about an hour. We had a couple of cucumber mojitos at their outdoor bar and then moved to one of the restaurants where they had an international buffet. There was so much food to choose from (I had mostly sushi and some Lebanese food). We were sitting outdoors until it started raining! Luckily we’d finished eating by then so the waitress brought our bottle of wine indoors and we carried on there. Dessert was excellent – fresh crepes and cheesecake – and again, so many things to choose from. I left Abu Dhabi at about 9.30 and was home before 11pm.

Wednesday was busy. I had to finish off some work before travelling the next day. I also had to pack, get my hair and nails done, and go to my meditation class in the evening. I had also been invited to a big ladies’ lunch but had to decline as I just had too much going on. I managed to do everything and went to my meditation class that evening.

We talked about how our respective meditation practice had gone during the week, whether we had any issues, whether it was what we expected. We then learned some new techniques. The first one was a full yogic breath which was done seven times: inhale for 7 counts – the first 4 counts are abdominal breathing, the next 2 counts are chest breathing and the last count is collarbone breathing; exhale for 7 counts, reversing the process (1 count relaxing the collarbone, 2 counts relaxing the chest and 4 counts relaxing the abdomen). The next exercise we did was a 4x4x4x4 breath: sitting in a comfortable position, imagine an empty picture frame; begin at the bottom left hand corner of the frame and as you breathe in for 4 counts imagine your focus is moving up the left hand side of the square; hold your breath for 4 counts as you imagine moving across the top of the square; exhale for 4 counts as you imagine moving down the right hand side of the square; hold your breath for 4 counts as you imagine moving along the bottom of the square back to the bottom left hand corner; repeat seven times.

I did not enjoy the 4x4x4x4 breath at all. The last 4 counts reminded me of learning how to dive last summer in Bali when Made closed off my oxygen tank. As soon as I’ve exhaled, I want to inhale immediately (which is normal), not hold my breath for 4 counts!

I stayed home that night, finishing off my packing (I hate packing) and I finished reading The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari too…

The next morning, I left for Saigon.

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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