Tag Archives: United Arab Emirates

Guest Restaurant Review on FooDiva: Don Alfonso 1890

Another day, another restaurant review! 🙂 Check out my second review for FooDiva’s fab site about my trip to Don Alfonso 1890, a hot new Italian eatery at the Shangri-La hotel in Dubai, near DIFC. A true Italian experience: yay or nay? Find out on FooDiva – buon appetito!

Mozzarella souffle: To. Die. For.

The Don Alfonso mozzarella souffle: To. Die. For.

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Visiting Dubai: Our Favorite Tips

We’ve just another set of visitors depart for the states after a full week of tourist-ing…one more visitor coming before the summer hits (every time I think about impending summer, I want to say “summer is coming” a la Game of Thrones’ “Winter is Coming” – super scary).

via QuickMeme.com

But I digress. I know I mentioned our jaunt to the Dubai World Cup, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. And instead of going through this particular visit day by day (I didnt take as many pictures as I should have, and what is a good blog post without plenty of pics?), I thought I’d do a quick write up of some our favorite tips/destinations/companies and the like for those of you planning a trip to Dubai. Bear in mind that I am by no means a travel agent and/or a Dubai expert – these are just some ideas that we’ve found are hits with guests if theyre here for a handful of days!

  • Decide if you want to stay near the shopping or the beach: Yes, there is shopping down by the beach, but we’ve found that when guests come, they prefer to do shopping at one of the big malls off Sheikh Zayed Road.

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  • Don’t rent a car: There are plenty of cabs/hired cars, as well as the metro, that are easier to use than trying to navigating the (at times) treacherous roads – plus you dont have to worry about parking!

via Dubai-Taxi.com

  • Visit the Burj Khalifa by way of At.Mosphere: Skip the lines and touristy gift shop “At the Top”, and use that money to cover the minimum at the restaurant/bar/lounge, just a floor below the observation deck. Same effect, but you get a cocktail!

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  • Book a desert safari tour: While they are a bit touristy, these desert safaris are awesome! We like to use Dubai Desert Safari Tour.

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  • Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding: Dont miss this! I really like the breakfast, and you can learn so much about the culture of the UAE (and GCC at large). It’s about an hour and a half, and we always like to show guests the souks and take an abra ride afterwards. If you only have a few days, this is a great way to show visitors a more “traditional” view of Dubai.

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What about fellow Dubai-ites (Dubai-ians?) – do yall have any visitor tips/tricks/places that can’t be missed? Until next time…

 

Dubai World Cup (and other Kentucky-esque news)

Like me, my husband is a bit of a nomad. Born in Chicago, lived in Tennessee, but his heart and soul are all Kentucky; he’s a good ole Kentucky boy through and through. This means primarily two things: he loves thoroughbred horse racing and lives and dies by the University Kentucky Wildcats. So if you know anything about either (or both) of these, you know it has been a good week in the Blanton household. 🙂

First, UK (University of Kentucky, not United Kingdom) progressed to the Final Four in the NCAA basketball tournament – I wish I could claim the diehard-ness of my fandom, but alas, it was only Barr who got up at all hours to watch two key victories last week. I joined in on the morning celebrations, just not at 2AM or 545AM…

C-A-T-S!

And the Blue Grass State celebrations continued when we went to the Dubai World Cup to watch the ponies race ’round the track! The world’s richest (obviously) horse race was not as much like the Kentucky Derby as I think we thought it would be, but it was a sight to behold all on its own. For one, there was no infield or gambling – what a travesty! (During Derby, the infield of the track at Churchill Downs is Kentucky’s third largest city). However, the fancy British fascinators, Scottish kilts, and continually flowing champagne (sure, sure the horses were there too), made the Dubai World Cup a different type of spectacle. Too bad there wasnt a betting window, as this girl picked the winning horse! Enjoy some IPhone shots I captured below. We’re off to Abu Dhabi today with some friends in town from the Duke days, so Ill be back in action later this week. Until next time…

Go go go!

Go go go!

Hobnobbing with the beautiful people...and their fascinators

Hobnobbing with the beautiful people…and their fascinators

UAE Derby

UAE Derby

What's a Dubai event without some fireworks?

What’s a Dubai event without some fireworks?

 

Guest Restaurant Review on FooDiva: Social by Heinz Beck

I mentioned a few weeks back that I met with a local celebrity here in Dubai, and the secret is now revealed! Samantha Wood (wholly deserving of the “local celeb” status!) of FooDiva.net, an amazing food blog covering (impartial) restaurant reviews, food features, chef interviews, and culinary travel experiences, was seeking a few guest writers to cover some of the restaurant reviews – it seems like every week there is a new eatery opening here in Dubai, so there is no shortage of material! I emailed Samantha of my interest and  the next thing I knew, Barr and I were enjoying a meal at Social by Heinz Beck. Head on over to FooDiva to check out my review by clicking here. And if you’re local to Dubai, dont miss out on this fab restaurant! Until next time…

Raspberries 1.0, Chef Heinz Beck's signature dessert - and well worth every caloric bite!

Raspberries 1.0, Chef Heinz Beck’s signature dessert – and well worth every caloric bite!

Dubai Neighborhoods: “The Beach”

Dubai has such a simple (but large) way to hide their ever prevalent construction projects. Just take the drive between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and you’ll find the hugely tall walls going up to disguise Expo2020 building – they go on for miles. You can imagine my surprise and delight when some of those walls came down in JBR, just across the marina from our apartment, only to reveal the infamous, impressive The Beach. The walls had be assembled since we moved in (and well before that, I’m sure), with the only clues to what they beyond being the mock up paintings of the development around JBR and the clatter of construction tools. All was revealed a few weeks ago – voila!

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JBR is already a bustling area of Dubai, and The Beach only enhances this vibe – just now with a bit of a facelift. Developed by Meraas Holding, The Beach is comprised of a series of plazas, housing shops, restaurants, family-fun areas, a running/walking track, and what many believe will be the big draw: an open-air movie theater.

Where: The Beach can be located here, right on the water, just to the left of the Palm – approximately at letters N, O, and F. Just adjacent to the Dubai Marina and on JBR.

The iconic JBR buildings as seen from The Beach

The iconic JBR buildings as seen from The Beach

The iconic JBR buildings as seen from The Beach

The iconic JBR buildings as seen from The Beach

What: A number of retail and eatery options (only a handful of which are open as of yet – the rest are slated to open later this summer) right on the beach. And the beach itself is a great public beach option. The aforementioned open-air theater has seating right on the beach, as well as an indoor cinema (fabulous for movie buffs like we Blantons). Plenty of hotels, too! Be warned, however: the road to The Beach is a busy, one way street, but there is a 1,200 car parking lot as well as valet parking available – further, they are constructing a public transportation tram that should (?) be completed soon.

Gorgeous beach

Gorgeous beach

Menchie's...a favorite from Charlotte, NC!

Menchie’s…a favorite from Charlotte, NC!

Highlights:

  • The open-air movie theater by Reel Cinemas – check it out before it gets too warm here in Dubai!
  • The amazing sand sculptures (see below)
  • If you have children, I would think this would be an ideal place to bring them! The area absolutely caters to little ones with spots to ride bikes, a mini water park, as well as playgrounds (and of course the sea)
The sand Dubai skyline

The sand Dubai skyline

A tranquil little spot within one of the plazas

A tranquil little spot within one of the plazas

A ton (for Dubai) of green space

A ton (for Dubai) of green space

Check out The Beach in JBR to mix up your week – I’m looking forward to more shops opening and checking out a movie there one of these days. Until next time…

 

 

Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

Five minutes after I crossed the finish line of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (the sprint distance: 750m swim, 50km bike, and 5km run), the endorphins kicked in, and allowed me to euphorically state to my husband, “I could do this again!” Endorphins are funny like that; three hours later (and even now, eight days later), I’m not as sure – still euphoric though – that I finished (my time was nothing to write home about, but I finished!) The event was exceedingly well run, and I can see how triathletes can become quickly addicted, though I dont think I will morph into one of those individuals. 🙂

As some of you may know, I am a runner – it’s definitely my preferred form of exercise! In a past life, I swam (though I wouldnt call myself a “swimmer”), and I definitely do not bike. When Barr and I signed up last fall, I thought, “Well, 1.5 of the athletics of the race I have down – I’ll just train”. HA! Having the triathlon on the heels of my return from the states didnt quite allow for as much training as I should have done, but again – I finished! So photographic evidence:

No no, we didnt come in 1st...

No no, we didnt come in 1st…

I so naively believed that the run would be my easiest leg, but having it be the last portion of the event and after the particularly grueling 50km bike (I could scarcely run my bike back to the racks), I struggled in the 5k run. But I finished! And nothing can really prepare you, save experience, for swimming in the ocean with hundreds of other swimmers thrashing around you – very daunting. But I finished! (Can you tell I was morbidly fearful of not completing the triathlon?)

The experience held two major highlights (aside from completion): seeing Barr cheer me on in the last kilometer or so of the run and having the Brownlee brothers (Olympic triathletes from the UK) whiz past me on the bikes (they did 100km of the bike) – I wasnt anticipating them (and they came upon me fast!!), and saw some cameras snapping shots. Thinking that they were trying to get a photo of the girl in the cute blue outfit (it is all about a good ensemble, isnt it?), I smiled wide, but alas, they wanted that picture perfect athlete shot of the famous brothers. You can (kind of – it’s a bit like Where’s Waldo) spot me in a picture from The National here – I think the Olympians had passed by me as this point:

Riding the struggle bus…err, I mean bike

An item to tick off the bucket list, to be sure, but would I do it again? Ehhhh, ask me again in a few months as I may have stored up some more endorphins by then! Until next time…

Dubai Neighborhoods: Bur Dubai & Bastakiya

And I’m back on schedule..kinda! At least I am keeping with the weekly Dubai neighborhood update, anyway…albeit, a few days later than I had hoped, but better late than never (a shocker for me, as I am rarely, if ever late for stuff). But I digress.

Part of the entrance display at the Dubai Museum in Bur Dubai

Part of the entrance display at the Dubai Museum, alongside the Al Fahidi Fort 

Today I had to make a trip to Bur Dubai (literally translated: mainland Dubai) to pick up some souvenirs for friends and family in the states (I’ll be reporting to you for the next 2 weeks from good ole ‘Merica), and what better place to find some authentic (and not so authentic) goodies than Bur Dubai? By way of explanation of the post’s title, Bur Dubai is the actual “neighborhood” I suppose you would say, with Bastakiya being a smaller subset of Bur Dubai…more of a historic quarter (as “historic” as one can get in Dubai anyway!)

My favorite mosque in the city: the famous, blue-tiled Iranian mosque - the colors and patterns get me every time!

My favorite mosque in the city: the famous, blue-tiled Iranian mosque – the colors and patterns get me every time!

One of the things about this part of town that really intrigues me is that while there are historical buildings, walls, and museums, the actual construction in Bur Dubai is relatively new. The area dates back to the late nineteenth century, but once Dubai began its gung-ho development (particularly in the 1970s), many of the original buildings were destroyed for new construction. Bummer! But fear not, my friends, because in the late 1980s, the realization hit that some of the old/original stuff should be preserved (what was left of it anyway…and by this point, very little!) and/or reconstructed in that same architectural style. So voila! Dubai can construct the world’s tallest building and reconstruct their original, ancient buildings. Kind of cheating the system a bit, but they’re trying! And you absolutely get a more old time-y feel in Bur Dubai and Bastakiya, even if it is a bit contrived.

A local wind tower, an architectural element ubiquitous with Bur Dubai; these towers are traditionally designed to catch cooler breezes that occur at a higher level above the ground and to direct it into the interior of the buildings - smart, huh? Especially in 100+ temps!

A local wind tower, an architectural element ubiquitous with Bur Dubai; these towers are traditionally designed to catch cooler breezes that occur at a higher level above the ground and to direct it into the interior of the buildings – smart, huh? Especially in 100+ temps!

Where: Check out the top right corner of this map, just below of Port Rashid to the left of the creek. Like many (all?) cities’ first/original cities, even Dubai sprang up from right by the water. What better place to pearl dive?

Brightly colored fabric in one of the many textile shops

Brightly colored fabric adorns one of the many textile shops

What: One of Dubai’s oldest and most historic districts, just bordering the famous Dubai Creek. The neighborhood comprises narrow alleys and lanes, traditional wind towers, a number of mosques, residential apartments/homes, the textile hub and shops, as well as innumerable souvenir shops!

Can I interest anyone in a sari?

Can I interest anyone in a sari?

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Highlights:

  • Al Fahidi Fort – the oldest building in Dubai, dating from the 1780s!
  • The Dubai Museum – very close to the Al Fahidi Fort, and a great place to learn a bit more about the cultural, tradition and history of Dubai
  • Majlis Gallery – a great gallery for local artistic fare
  • Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) – my personal fave!
A narrow lane of Bur Dubai

A narrow lane of Bur Dubai

Fun Facts: Check out this video with super dramatic music for more!

Until next time…

 

Filling My Day

I suck – I havent done my neighborhood post this week, but it’ll come later this week, I promise! In the meantime, how have I been filling my day you might ask? I started substitute teaching! Having come from corporate America, a job where the whiteboard looks like the below vs. a conference call that always goes like this (CAN I GET AN AMEN?!), I have been a pretty happy camper lately. Subbing is good for one’s ego! 😉 Until next time…

Thank you for thinking I have blond hair!

Thank you for thinking I have blond hair!

AD Birthday for AB

On our wedding day, I felt sick to my stomach. No, I wasnt nervous about who I was marrying, if it would rain (okay, I was a little worried it would rain), nor was it cold feet: I just really dont enjoy being the sole center of attention. Following the ceremony, I was just fine – it was just the thought of walking down the aisle, all eyes on me that freaked me out. The same anxiety kind of comes with my birthday. Don’t get me wrong, of course I love celebrating and hearing from those I love (this year more than ever!), but the idea of the attention being on me is very daunting! I’m a weirdo, right? Oh well.

Well, in the aforementioned event of our wedding, I definitely made the right choice as my husband was the best ever on my 27th birthday! 🙂 He planned such a fabulous weekend in Abu Dhabi, leaving no stoned unturned – not to mention the hotel was immaculate! We hit the road to Abu Dhabi (“AD”) after the work day was done (an easy hour drive), heading to the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (those Starwood points do pay off!) Here are some initial shots:

Would you look at that turquoise water!?

Would you look at that turquoise water!?

View from the balcony in our room

View from the balcony in our room

Saadiyat Island is being tapped as Abu Dhabi’s cultural center, with a Louvre and Guggenheim museum both under construction on the island. There are also commercial and residential buildings in place and under development as well, and I’ve got to say, it is a little paradise in Abu Dhabi!

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We arrived at the hotel just in time for cocktail hour, but first dropped by the room to freshen up, and lo and behold, the room’s butler was already on the ball, having decorated the room with balloons, signs, flowers and cupcakes (gluten free, of course!) That husband of mine – such a planner! 🙂

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The service was beyond fabulous at the hotel – I can’t rave about it enough. That brings us to the food 🙂 We had a celebratory cocktail at the Manhattan Lounge (did you know that the original St Regis hotel in NYC invented the Bloody Mary cocktail? Each St Regis has its own signature Bloody Mary, in fact!) in the hotel before our dinner reservation at Koi (on the island, adjacent to the hotel).

Cheers!

Cheers!

Koi: the food was out of this world. The rolls were delicious, the lobster tacos were unreal delicious, full of lush cuts of lobster – in fact, all the dishes were chock full of the fresh fish, and each bite better than the next. I’ll admit that we were a tad disappointed with the service at Koi; we felt that the food and drinks were a bit rushed – we didnt have time to enjoy even a sip of our drinks before the food was upon us – a bummer as we would have preferred a more leisurely meal whilst on vacation, but c’est la vie! We had a no cell phone rule at dinner, so unfortunately no shots of the food this time around.

DSC_0639 DSC_0645 DSC_0636On Friday, we decided to flashback to our honeymoon and do exactly NOTHING – and we loved it! (In actuality, the Captain of Industry did churn out some emails poolside), but with scenery like this, who can complain?

Where we posted up for most of the day!

Where we posted up for most of the day!

Saturday were our individual personal days – golf for him, spa for moi! The spa was lovely, and Barr deemed the Saadiyat course one of the most beautiful he had ever played.

DSC_0655 DSC_0638 DSC_0652 DSC_0658Not to shabby, eh? Next time, I want to play the course as well! The St Regis at Saadiyat was one of the best hotels I have had the privilege to stay – no stone was left unturned.

All in all, it was such a spectacular birthday week: so chill, beautiful, and lovely – Barr put a lot of thought into the weekend, and I couldnt have felt more blessed by his love or by the influx of emails, Facebook messages, and texts I got over the weekend. It makes me miss everyone even more! 🙂 Here’s to my 27th year – toot toot. Until next time…

Happy – Dubai Version

Happy Tuesday, all! To those that have seen and heard Pharrell’s new jam, Happy, you know what a joyful and fun song it is – and now, Dubai has its own version, starring 29 (!) different nationalities as they dance around various areas of the city as the backdrop of the video (the gentleman getting down in his suit and tie is my personal fave). I love this song – I put it on in the mornings sometimes and literally do feel happier starting a day with it.

Thanks to the Dubai Confidential site for putting this video together. I dare you not to smile watching these folks spread happiness around Dubai. Enjoy and have happy weeks! 🙂