Monthly Archives: January 2014

Comptoir 102

I truly enjoy and am 100% comfortable grabbing a bite solo – it is the introvert in me! After finishing up a doctor appointment in Oud Metha, I decided to put Blanca to use and stop by a locale I’ve been wanting to try for ages: Comptoir 102 in Jumeirah 1.

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Why, you may ask? Well, when we first moved to Dubai, I scoped out and googled “Gluten Free Dubai”, and Comptoir 102 was one of the places that popped up on my radar! I hadnt been before this week as it can be bit tricky to grab a cab afterwards on Jumeirah Beach Road, so Blanca to the rescue 🙂

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Comptoir 102 is part restaurant, part concept shop. The shop includes really diverse textiles, jewelry and tableware – each item had a lot of character. Regarding the restaurant, there’s a two-course menu which changes daily, coupled with a dessert option (or two!) There are plenty coffee, juice, tea, and smoothie options (all made to order).

Perfect al fresco dining atmosphere

An ideal al fresco dining atmosphere

 

Here was the menu the day I stopped by:

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Many of the ingredients are locally sourced, of which some are even grown in-house (they have a great little garden in the back) and others organic and gluten-free (of course!). Dishes are prepared with techniques designed to boost digestion (see the definition of miso from one of the board’s below):

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Now on to the good stuff – the food! For my solo, GF lunch, I ordered the red pepper with feta…

My favorite dish of the meal - just the right amount of salty and sweet - DELISH!

My favorite dish of the meal – just the right amount of salty and sweet – DELISH!

…the gluten free pizza…

Topped with avocado cream, more feta, basil, zucchini and mushrooms, this was a good GF pizza overall. Gluten free crusts are always tricky, but this one wasnt as crumbly as most and was exceedingly filling

Topped with avocado cream, more feta, basil, zucchini and mushrooms, this was a good GF pizza overall. Gluten free crusts are always tricky, but this one wasnt as crumbly as most I’ve tried and was exceedingly filling

…and of course, I indulged and enjoy a choco petit pot for dessert:

Delightfully light and rich - I was glad it was "petit" :)

Delightfully creamy – I was glad it was “petit” 🙂

All the portions were quite small, but the meal overall was very filling. I’ll definitely be back for another lunch – the vibe is really cool and inviting, the food deliciously healthy, the service top notch, plus, I cant wait to see what else Comptoir 102 will add to their menu. Until next time…photo 9

 

 

 

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Dubai’s Market Outside the Box

Ahhh Dubai – full of shopping and innovation! Dubai Shopping Festival (yes, that’s a real thing) runs from January 2 to February 2, and is a huge tourist attraction for the city, bringing 3 million people to Dubai. Essentially, most of the stores, malls, and local vendors have huge sales, fun entertainment and tons of giveaways to residents and tourists alike. Barr and I have scored some great deals over the past few weeks, and one of my favorite events thus far has been Market Outside the Box.

Market Outside of the Box is Dubai’s first stab at showcasing local and regional brands in a sustainable fashion and lifestyle market. All of the shops and restaurants are set up in refurbished shipping containers amidst many skyscrapers (including the Burj Khalifa) in Burj Park. We hit the market last weekend and were really impressed! Pop up events like this, particularly those providing such a unique (and green!) platform for local shops/artisans/cafes, are still fairly new to Dubai and hopefully this one will only breed more of the same.
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My personal favorite local shop, Aina, was set up there, and we snagged another amazing Dalla pillow – she has tons of other equally beautiful wares (passport holders, laptop cases, and more), so be sure to check it out!

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Make sure to grab a delicious coffee from Raw and hunker down on one of the bean bag chairs or picnic tables, beneath the lovely weather aside the Burj Khalifa  (and of course get a little shopping in – you’re just helping the economy, right?) 🙂

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Market Outside of the Box will run through the end of DSF in Burj Park, Thursday-Saturday 12pm-12am and Sunday-Wednesday 4pm-10pm – it’s supposed to be fabulous weather this weekend, so if you’re in town, I highly recommend stopping by to check out this fabulous event! Until next time…

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Dubai Neighborhoods: The Marina

I love being in a good routine: I know that every morning I have a workout class from 9-10, teach a computer class each Monday from 6-7, Barr comes home on Wednesdays at 930, etc. Some would call it being a creature of habit, while some may call it anal retentive. (I prefer the former.)

So with this in mind, I thought that a weekly post (same day, of course) on the different neighborhoods/areas in Dubai would be a consistent way to keep this blog informative and interesting, while providing me with an opportunity to both learn more about the different areas of Dubai and honing my newly acquired/severely lacking practice DSLR skills. 🙂

 

Map of different areas of Dubai (via Mappery)

Because I was lazy this week, we’re going to keep it close to home and explore my current neighborhood: the Dubai Marina. It was a hazy morning today, hence the cloudy shots.

Outside the Marina Mall

Outside the Marina Mall

Cluster of boats at the Marina Yacht Club

Cluster of boats at the Marina Yacht Club

Where: South of downtown, right on the Arabian Gulf

The Dubai Maria (via World Floor Plans)

What: The marina is a relatively new area of Dubai. The marina itself is man-made and was carved out of the Arabian Gulf to create an additional waterfront. There is 8km of walkways along the marina front, full of pedestrians, shops, restaurants, hotels and apartment buildings

Water taxi

Water taxi

Highlights: The Marina Mall (love this mall as it isnt typically as crowded as Mall of the Emirates or Dubai Mall, but has tons of great shops and places to grab a bite), close to the gulf/beach!, quick access to the Dubai Metro, Infinity Tower (the infamous “twisty” building), and the Walk – great spot to run, walk, eat and people watch

Shaded playground for the youngins' beneath a bridge to shield them from the hot summer sun

Shaded playground for the youngins’ beneath a bridge to shield them from the hot summer sun – reminds me of parks/playgrounds on top of buildings in NYC

Fun facts: 

  • The marina is home to several of the world’s tallest residential buildings, including the Princess Tower, 23 Marina, and the soon to be completed Pentominium, which will be a whopping 122 stories!
  • It is unreal to me that the Dubai Marina did not exist until 10 years ago – it is now home to 400,000 people in 200 skyscrapers
  • The Marina is one of the few districts of Dubai where Westerners comprise the majority
The heart of the marina: the hardworking construction men

The heart of the marina: the hardworking construction men

The Infinity Tower (twisty) and to the right, the world's tallest residential building, the Princess Tower

The Infinity Tower (twisty) and to the right, the world’s tallest residential building, the Princess Tower

Stay tuned for these each Monday – I am going to hold myself accountable! Until next time…

Letters from Home

Everything is so electronic these days – and dont get me wrong, I enjoy getting immediate news, updates, pictures, videos, books, shopping, etc, etc, etc (I mean, hello, a blog couldnt be anymore e-newsy! All things considered, though, a handwritten letter (or even an addressed envelope) goes a long way in 2014!

Check out our newly redecorated refrigerator – full of happy memories, pictures, Christmas cards, and invitations from friends and family stateside (and this wasnt even all of them that my mom brought to Dubai with her from Houston!) Seeing these each time I open the fridge (ahem, a lot), means more than I can express electronically 😉

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Until next time…

 

More Touristy Adventures in Dubai

I’ve never lived in a very tourist-y city before: sure, the three (count ’em 3!) cities that I have lived in North Carolina, Houston, and Atlanta are great, but none were exactly where family and friends were flocking for week long trips of the tourist variety. And now, living in Dubai, we’ve had guests aplenty – which I have loved! It’s so fun showing off our new city to family, and even seeing tourists snapping shots of buildings with their iPads on my daily runs is fun as well (unless there is a huge flock of them, refusing to get out of my way, in which case, not as much fun) 😉 Either way, I’ve loved learning about Dubai and then “showing it off” to our visitors over the past few months! Here’s a quick recap of the rest of my mom’s trip here:

Abu Dhabi was a big hit with my mother – she really liked the more laid back feel of AD, plus we met up with one of her fellow expat friends from Singapore, who coincidentally moved to Abu Dhabi about two years ago. We met at her villa near the corniche and headed to lunch at a great cafe on the third floor of the ONE department store – delish! Of course we saw the Grand Mosque, and left Abu Dhabi with a gorgeous wool rug for my mom and great time with her friend, Sandy.

Rocking our abayas and pashminas, turned hajibs at the Grand Mosque

Rocking our abayas and pashminas, turned hajibs at the Grand Mosque

Thursday night, we went to dinner on the Palm at the One and Only (we find this ironic – oh the irony – as there are actually two One and Only hotels in Dubai) – we had reservations at the 101 Dining Lounge at the hotel, and it was AMAZING! The vibe is super swanky and cool, but the food lives up to the decor and views of the marina and water. My mom and I split a delicious paella and Barr had amazing scallops. (For any gluten free eaters, this is a great spot! I told them about my celiac diagnosis when I made the reservations, and the table had GF rolls for me and the chef came out to confirm my food selection was also gluten free – great service!)

The mini Simpson/Blanton crew at dinner

The mini Simpson/Blanton crew at dinner

The views of the marina were spectacular!

The views of the marina were spectacular!

Gorgeous pool area at the hotel

Gorgeous pool area at the hotel

On Friday, we took the Dubai ferry across the marina, past the Palm, the Burj al Arab and downtown all the way to the creek. This route only runs on Friday mornings at 11AM – highly recommend it (if you arent enjoying an amazing Dubai brunch, that is!)

Helloooo there!

Helloooo there!

 

We ended up at the gold souk (how on earth did that happen?! ;)) and couldnt resist a classic tourist shot in front of the wares:

photo 4444Of course, it is a great time to visit the desert as a tourist in Dubai, and OF COURSE we did that with my mom in town – camel riding, ATV riding, and dune bashing!

Great morning in the desert

Great morning in the desert

On a desert safari, definitely spring for the ATV ride!

On a desert safari, definitely spring for the ATV ride!

Checking out the baby camel - just 2 weeks old!

Checking out the baby camel – just 2 weeks old!

Obviously pondering life and wistfully looking off into the distance atop a camel

Obviously pondering life and wistfully looking off into the distance atop a camel

The last big tourist event we embarked upon was a day trip to Oman – definitely touristy, but a different thing to do if you are visiting the area – the landscapes are so different than those you see in the city as well as the desert. We had a two hour car ride to the coast (north of Dubai), followed by a dhow boat ride around the fjords (long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs – dont worry, we had to look it up to confirm what that meant!) – the dhow dropped anchor in a little bay where you could swim or go to the small beach. It was a little chilly so we opted to just stay on the boat and chat – this would have been even better had the weather been a tad warmer! It was a fun way to spend the day nonetheless, and was neat to pass by Zighy Bay, where Barr and I spent a few days on our honeymoon.

Passing by Zighy Bay in Oman

Passing by Zighy Bay in Oman

We had a great time, and now I feel fully equipped to recommend fun day trips, tourist attractions and spots to eat/drink/shop to future visitors 🙂 Of course it will always be evolving, but it is always fun to try new stuff out (or go back to your favorite places!) Dubai is such a great place to go visit, and we’re so happy our families have been over to see us – my dad was actually in Saudi the week my mom was here, so we felt that he was with us in Middle Eastern spirit! Until next time…

 

Mama Simpson hits Dubai

As we Simpsons say, it was a whirlwind! She came, we saw, and we conquered Dubai 🙂 This will be my last tourist visit post for awhile, I promise! This trip, while quite similar to the previous two (my sister and my in-laws), did have some new side trips and activities.

The Dubai Miracle Garden opened up late last year, as it is closed a majority of Dubai’s hot, hot weather. I asked Barr if he wanted to check it out before my mom came to town, to which he heartily responded “no!” so green light for us ladies! The Dubai Miracle Garden is truly unlike anything you most likely have ever seen – as per usual for good ol’ Dubai. The website boasts that is it the Guinness Book of World Record’s Largest Vertical Garden, while describing the garden as a “…breathtaking garden called “piece of Eden”, [stunning] visitors with millions of blooming flowers having different artistic design each season and remarkable structures.” Verdict: lovely, lovely, lovely – the aromatic scents, fun structures and gorgeous blooms are insane, but bear in mind that it’s a quick visit – you probably need max an hour there. I’ll let some of my snaps from the morning do the talking:

The Burj Khalifa made of flowers - craziness, right?

The Burj Khalifa made of flowers – craziness, right?

L to R, clockwise: a house structure made of flowers, an Emirati emblem of a falcon and flag, an umbrella installation, and one of my favorite flower structures in the garden

L to R, clockwise: a house structure made of flowers, an Emirati emblem of a falcon and flag, an umbrella installation, and one of my favorite flower structures in the garden

That evening, we had reservations at Atmosphere, which the bar and restaurant atop the Burj Khalifa. Even if you’re not…shall we say, an imbiber, this is hands down the best way to see the Burj Khalifa’s one of a kind views. There is a minimum spend per guest at Atmosphere, but it is equivalent to that of a ticket to “At the Top”, PLUS you a cocktail or a nibble when you reach the top of the building! I will absolutely recommend going this route to future visitors when they want to go up to the top of the Burj Khalifa. We had sunset reservations, and it was a great way to spend the evening!

Atmosphere (this picture took an act of Congress as my mother is not the best with heights!)

Atmosphere (this picture took an act of Congress as my mother is not the best with heights!)

Cheers!

Cheers!

Festive drinks were followed by dinner at one of our favorite dinner spots nearby, Mango Tree, for some yummy Thai food, and the best place to eat and view the Dubai dancing fountains! Mango Tree has two dinner seatings, 7PM and 930PM, and when making reservations, ensure that you request an outside table next to the railing for the best views of the fountain – you will not be sorry!

The fountain going off with the Burj Khalifa in the background, from our table at Mango Tree

The fountain going off with the Burj Khalifa in the background, from our table at Mango Tree

Her second day, of course, we had to visit my favorite place to bring visitors: the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. (I should probably try a different meal next time, but breakfast there is great!) We had a male facilitator this time (the previous visits I have had females) – and he was superb as to be expected from the center! It was really interesting to get a male’s perspective during the Q&A portion of the morning. Not to mention, I loved his camel cufflinks that he wore with his kandora! We had a great time trying on the traditional Emirati burqa 🙂

Another happy (and well educated) visitor at the Center for Cultural Understanding!

Another happy (and well educated) visitor at the Center for Cultural Understanding!

Tomorrow, I’ll bring you some of the other new venues and trips we tried out during my amazing mom’s trip to Dubai…spoiler alert: I went back to Oman! Until next time…

Fashion Spot – 2014 Golden Globes

Switching gears yet again (clearly this blog is currently a stream of consciousness for me – one day I hope to find a more simplified niche!) That being said, I love awards season, the fashion moments on the red carpet in particularly. (We Blantons also love to go to movies and watch our fair share of TV, so picking my favorites for the winners is always fun, too – side note: we just saw Wolf of Wall Street here in Dubai; I’m going to direct you to another expat Dubai blogger, Circles in the Sand, as she sums up our own reaction to the censored version of the film perfectly).

Anywho, the Golden Globes weren’t televised here (travesty, but PTL that I will be in the states come the Academy Awards on March 2!), but we did get E! Live from the Red Carpet…it’s actually currently on continuous loop, so I could at least see the fashion moments and arrivals and then just catch up on the highlights and winners online. Here are some of of the looks/trends that really stood out to me – the good and the bad – it’s all about being noticed, is it not?

Rainbow: I adore dressing with a singular, beautiful pop of color, and the red carpet was a crayon box of vivid shades – red, in particular, was a big hit!

via Daily Mail

TDF Hair: I usually notice the dress first, but there were three celebrities that killed it in the coiffure department, IMO: Reese Witherspoon (the cut, the color..I want it all), Julia Roberts (her dress wasn’t a favorite, but her hair was – as we Texans say, the higher the hair, the closer to God), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (her classic ponytail managed to look fresh and effortless, and complimented her simple Narciso Rodriguez dress perfectly)

Via Just Jared

Via Just Jared

Via Just Jared

The Best +1: There were a number of pregnant celebs on the red carpet this year, and I thought the way in which many dressed their respective bumps was fashionable, adorable, and fabulous! I mean Kerry Washington can literally do no wrong when it comes to her fashion choices (this off white Balenciaga was no exception), Drew Barrymore in a frothy, floral and fun Monique Lhuillier number fit her personality (or what I perceive her personaility to be like!) perfectly, and last but not least, Olivia Wilde, wearing a sparkly, emerald Gucci gown, rocked her new bump like whoa

Via WSJ

I’d have to say that my two favorite overall looks from last night were Sofia Vergara and Lupita Nyong’o.

Sofia Vergara is just a pure bombshell – I love how she rocks her curves, and this Zac Posen does just that; she looks so classy, and the Lorraine Schwartz necklace is just amazing – I think this is definitely an easy look for the “every woman” to emulate – all you need is a LBD and a statement necklace! Timeless.

Via Just Jared

Lupita Nyong’o is a Hollywood newbie (and I have yet to see 12 Years a Slave, but it is on my bucket list!), and boy did she make the best fashion statement EVER; her look was downright regal – everything from the makeup, the color, the cut of the dress, the peekaboo arms! Bottom line: that Ralph Lauren dress was everything. I literally want a cape to wear around now – the fact that I dont have any occasion to wear that type of dress to be damned!

Via Just Jared

I could go on and on, but I would need to write like 7 car posts to make up for it (sorry to Barr, my Dad, David and any other male readers out there!) 🙂 Until next time…

True Life: I’m an Expat Wife

I write a lot, or one could argue always, about the idyllic or interesting events, places, trips of our short time in the UAE, but what you don’t know is that that is intentional. Social media is a double edged sword, isnt it? You pretty much only put the “good” things going on in your life out there for your friends, or even the world, to see. The hard stuff isnt as exciting, as photogenic, as happy, as the romantic holidays, the gorgeous scenery, the new outfit.  But I’m going to tell you something exceedingly personal (I am a sharer after all, much to my husband’s chagrin): our life in Dubai isnt perfect – not by a long shot – it’s not all trips around the region, new restaurants, family in town; I should post most of my everyday life of running errands, volunteering in sweaty gym clothes, watching a movie alone on the sofa (but I will spare you those shots…just use your imaginations instead…)

Moving from the states to Dubai was a huge adjustment in a lot of ways. Certainly there were the obvious changes (cultural differences, why aren’t there any Target stores in Dubai, missing friends and family – fear of missing out is neverending, etc); however, the major adjustment that I wasnt prepared for was how I would act and ultimately, react to what others thought, to following my husband to Dubai, not work in corporate America, and essentially be an expat housewife. This has been my biggest challenge to date living in Dubai: this internal and external struggle with what one believes to be a societal “norm” – all of my friends from university, it seems, fall into three camps: in the work force, tending to their small children at home (a taxing, challenging and rewarding job in it of itself!), or pursuing a graduate degree. I fall into none of these categories (*briefly tears up even typing that sentence*).

When people here ask “and what are you doing here?”, I am always very quick to reply that I want to work – would work! – but I just recently received my visa (sponsored by my husband, labeled “HOUSEWIFE, NOT ALLOWED TO WORK”), we’ve had visitor after visitor in town, I’m going to the states for three weeks next month, and then another trip in May, etc, etc. During these discussions, I oftentimes feel like a small child offering excuse after excuse as to why they didnt want to clean their room or something – ashamed, small, wrong. I fear what they will think, of their potential judgement. (When in reality, its more of me judging myself…)

The expat wife is ubiquitous in Dubai – there’s no need to explain oneself. In fact, more often than not, when I start my litany of “excuses”, I am stopped and told that there’s no need to explain myself – they get it. That does make me feel a bit better, I have to admit – because then its just the voice in my head that I have to deal with 😉

via mamamia.com

My mother, a former expat wife herself in Singapore and Calgary, recently posted this article on her Facebook, “Life of an Expat Wife“, or “trailing spouse” as the author so PC-ly puts it. Reading the article, I literally felt a weight being lifted from deep within my chest – this author got it. Now, I am not a mother, so some of it didnt necessarily apply, but it did make me feel better, validate me a bit…I wasnt alone in some of my sentiments. Yes, I dont hold a job right now, and yes, I did follow my husband halfway around the world for his job, but that isnt what defines me – this wasnt just “for him”. There are other ways to fill one’s day, to contribute to a household, to give back to a new community – and no, I suppose compared to most, what we’re doing right now isnt the “norm”, but who wants to be normal anyway, I suppose. Kirsty, the author of the aforementioned article, ends the post with this, which gave me pause and allowed me time to sniff back in those alligator tears (or at least sprout some happy ones): …you’ll see her [the expat wife], leading the way with her trailing spouse behind her, she’ll be showing him how the city works and what she’s learnt during the week, because in reality we all know who the real trailing spouse is.

Happy, happy, happy

Until next time… 🙂

Road Trippin’ to Fujairah

After the guests had departed, driver’s licenses secured, and Blanca leased, Barr and I headed out on a little road trip! Sweet Barr had been looking into getaway locations within driving distance since he came home from Riyadh, and one of the perks of his continual travels is no shortage of hotel points! We settled on neighboring emirate, Furjairah at the Le Meridien Al Aqah beach resort given its tropical vibe, two hour driving distance and Starwood-ness 🙂

We hit the road early to get the hotel and enjoy as much of our time there as possible – I took the leg out there (I love driving!) As we started our little journey, we couldnt help but be reminded of a portion of our honeymoon trip to Zighy Bay in Musandam, Oman – the terrain was very similar!

Six Senses at Zighy Bay in Oman

Some camel hieroglyphics from a hike we did in Musandam, Oman

Fujairah and Musandam (pictured here) are quite similar in terms of terrain – rocky mountain one way…gorgeous ocean the other!

But I digress. Back to THIS trip!

Aside from one portion of the drive where there are really no distinguishable lanes and plenty of trucks and local drivers, the Dubai to Fujairah is quite easy! We made it in about two hours. Our room wasnt quite ready, but the staff couldnt have been more accommodating (that’s one thing I really have to stress about the Le Meridien Al Aqah: the staff was top notch!) We decided to hit the beach and enjoy some lunch and festive drinks!

Amazing scenery and great company

Amazing scenery and great company

We checked into the lovely hotel room and showered up for dinner and drinks at the top floor of the hotel. Then in typical Blanton fashion, we hit the hay early 🙂

Lovely sunset

Lovely sunset

We enjoyed some more reading and pool time the next day before hitting the road again (Barr at the wheel this time around – he stayed much calmer in the unmarked lanes than I did). This trip to Fujairah was so special, and a lovely way to cap off an awesome holiday season. I’m always happy when my workaholic husband can shut down on vacation (or at least 75% shut off) and relax – he even read a book! (This is an accomplishment, not because he can’t read, but because he rarely has time to just read for pleasure!) 😉

Is this real life?

Is this real life?

I feel so blessed to have been able to have Christmas surrounded by so many loved ones (and then FaceTime for those that werent here in person), to have friends here in Dubai that opened their home to us for a fab NYE celebration, and to have my husband by my side for two whole weeks! Now I’m gearing up for my mom’s visit next week (!!!!!!!!!!), volunteering beginning again, and a grueling Paleo Challenge that I doing with my gym (wish me luck – I suffer nightly from sugar withdrawal headaches). Stay warm to all my friends that are stateside – baby its cold outside (or so I hear!) Until next time….

Le Meridien Al Aqah pool and beach from our hotel balcony

Le Meridien Al Aqah pool and beach from our hotel balcony

The Blantons Do Dubai – Part 2

A week with our family truly flew by – by the time their Saturday departure rolled around, it felt as if the Blantons had just arrived! I planned for their time here for so long, and it all went past in a blink of an eye (always a good thing, I think!) 🙂

So in the states, we don’t really celebrate/recognize Boxing Day; however, it was a holiday on the calendar growing up in Canada (although after learning the origins of the day, it would be dishonest to say that we Simpsons actually “celebrated” this holiday!) Back to THIS Boxing Day: it definitely was far superior to most if I do say so myself. While the Blanton men hit the Atlantis water park in the morning, we Blanton ladies had a nice breakfast al fresco at one of my favorite spots: Baker & Spice. It was my first time trying the Marina Walk location, and while smaller than the Souk Al Bahar location, it was just as fresh and delicious!

via BakerandSpiceME.com (the fresh fruit centerpieces are TDF)

Following our respective mornings, we all regrouped for our desert safari trip. The itinerary included ATV rides amongst the dunes, dune-bashing, a sunset in the desert, with the evening ending at a camp with a traditional dinner, belly dancing, henna, and the like. A bit touristy? Sure. But still always worth the visit, I’d say! This time around, I booked with Desert Safari Tours, and was uber impressed with the company. The shots below are worth a thousand words! (Prepare for photo overload, folks…)

The original four

The original four

Todd & Curry

Todd & Curry

Barr & I

Barr & I

Barr & Todd

Barr & Todd

One of the dancers - he was incredible - reminded me of a whirling dervish!

One of the dancers – he was incredible – reminded me of a whirling dervish!

DSC_0335

Friday, we decided to show the family a Dubai favorite: brunch! I wouldnt say that this is a “traditional” Emirati gathering, but tourism is slowly making it so 🙂 All the better for us expats and tourists! Barr and I havent indulged in many Friday brunches here, but let me tell ya, the Al Qasr brunch was 100% worth it! Gut busting, but worth it 😉 All you can eat and drink (more champagne please!) for five hours…it was just as glorious as it sounds.

I wish I had taken a picture of the macaron tree sooner! Let it be known that I probably ate 75% of these treats

I wish I had taken a picture of the macaron tree sooner! Let it be known that I probably ate 75% of these treats

Assorted bruschetta

Assorted bruschetta

Holiday sugar cookies

Holiday sugar cookies

Sangria for all!

Sangria for all!

And then to cap off a great week, we Blantons headed to Abu Dhabi! In my view, no trip to Abu Dhabi (for first timers, anyway) is complete without seeing the Grand Mosque – it was awe inspiring as usual:

DSC_0408

The Grand Mosque is probably one of my favorite pieces of architecture - the shapes, colors, and overall thought that went into the interior and exterior design is incredible

The Grand Mosque is probably one of my favorite pieces of architecture – the shapes, colors, and overall thought that went into the interior and exterior design is incredible

And for a festive ending to the Abu Dhabi trip, we headed to the carpet market – and yes, it was well worth it: each couple left with a new rug (all thanks to Barr’s exceptional bargaining skills!)

The Iranian salesman was not amused with our bargaining

The Iranian salesman was not amused with our bargaining

Truly, it was such a memorable week, made all the better when my mother in law left us with the question: “where should we go next year?” 🙂 Oh the possibilities! Until next time…