New Year’s Eve in Dubai

My husband and I spent the holiday at the amazing JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai.  Yes, Dubai…the site of the horrific fire last night.  More on that in a moment.  We made our reservations six months ago and everything was perfect.  Our evening began with photos in the lobby and dinner at the Tong Thai restaurant in the hotel.  The set menu, served family style, included five different appetizers, soup, sorbet, six main course dishes, and dessert.  Apparently since I stay at Marriott properties a lot, the staff knew my birthday was in just a few days and surprised me with cake and a song.  So much food…and this was only the beginning of the evening.

    
Afterwards we headed to the Vault on the 72nd floor.  We had reserved our table, looking onto the Burj Khalifa.  To my surprise we were table #1, and had the very best view of the Dubai skyline.   On one side we could see all the way into the dessert on the outer limits of Dubia; on the other, we could see the beach and the Burj Arabia.

Unfortunately, this also meant that we were witness to the terrible fire that engulfed The Address, a luxury hotel and apartment building attached to the Dubai Mall and near the Burj Khalifa.  At first, we thought the flames shooting up the side of the building was a video, but quickly realized they were real.  Everyone in the Vault stood at the windows helpless, watching the flames engulf the building.  All only prayed that everyone makes it out safely.

 img_2130
As of this afternoon, the fire was out; only 16 minor injuries were reported.  One person did suffer a heart attack and there has been no word on his/her condition. This is stunning given how fast the fire spread and knowing that the hotel, all 63 floors, was booked solid, and their bars and lounges on the top floors would have been packed.

 

 

What a start to the new year.  One we will not soon forget.  So Happy New Year to you all and here’s to all the joys and adventures of 2016.

img_2136-1

Posted in Dubai, General travel info, holidays | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Cookies…not turkey 

In years past I would by spending the day, if not weeks, before Thanksgiving preparing a traditional American feast for a dozen international students and friends. This year my kitchen is filled with the aroma of Tollhouse cookies. No turkey. No dressing. Tomorrow Kevin and I both must work. Our dinner will be at Chilis. Not complaining. No dishes to clean or leftovers to pack on excess pounds. After dinner we will spend a few hours playing board games at the local game store. We are thankful for all life as given us, our families and friends, and thankful for whatever the future holds in the coming year.

  

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Food, holidays | 4 Comments

Holiday Time…Paddle Boarding and Santa

One of the biggest adjustments to living in Abu Dhabi has been that the leaves don’t change; a visual reminder that the holidays are approaching.  The temperature has dropped from the 110+F to a more comfortable low 90s, but it is mid November and all the vegetation is still green.  For me, November is time for Thanksgiving (yes, I’m American) and the site of holiday decorations in the stores. But in Abu Dhabi this is the time to go outside and enjoy the pleasant weather.  Restaurants have set out their outdoor seating and the beaches are crowed.  I’m not complaining…I spent last weekend on a paddle board exploring the Eastern Mangrove region. (That’s me in the pink top.)

2015-11-14_14-35-39   1B507C82-A94F-45AA-8709-BEAE2930ACB5

But not to fear…the holiday season, complete with Christmas blend Starbucks coffee and mall decorations, is fully present in Abu Dhabi.

IMG_1863My husband and I stopped in the local Ace Hardware store last week and I immediately turned into a giggly 5-year old girl upon seeing the huge Christmas trees and rows and rows of holidays decorations.  Everything one could possibly want to add holiday cheer to the home.  It was all there…lights, wreaths, life size Santas, tree toppers.  I couldn’t resist and added a small tree and this lovely book to our cart.

IMG_1865All the malls add traditional holiday decorations to their stores, but the ones nearest the expat areas really show their holiday spirit.  The Abu Dhabi Mall, shown below, features a three story Christmas tree and Winter Village, complete with a jolly old British Santa.  Photos with Santa are free and come with candy! I love watching families of all faiths and nationalities que (line up) to have a moment with Santa.

10431509_10205280715325764_7369298768998747978_nThis year, we are staying in the area for the holidays.  We have made reservations at the JW Marriot Marquis in Dubai and will spend a few days there to ring in the new year.  We have reservations at the “Vault” on the 72nd floor for New Years Eve.  Our table looks onto the Burj Khalifa which will be the site for a huge fireworks display at midnight.

Marriot signSo although the leaves don’t change and layers of clothing are not required, the holiday season is certainly present in Abu Dhabi!

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Christmas, Dubai, General travel info, holidays | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pen Store

I typically don’t write about specific stores but this one is a hidden gem. Hidden between the hundreds of chain stores lining the avenue in the Taksim area is “Panter” selling writing instruments of all types along with leather bound journals and antique treasures. The shopkeepers speak limited English but are friendly and have very fair prices. High quality, excellent service, and wonderful staff. When in Istanbul this shop will be a pleasant relief from the tourist vendors in the area.  

    
    
    
    
    
 

Posted in General travel info | 2 Comments

Istanbul

I’m in Istanbul for a week attending the ICEEPSY conference. I actually am one of the keynote speakers. I’ve been to Istanbul many times and refer to it as my favorite city. The people are friendly, the food amazing, and the mix of old and new abound. Seafood and doner kebabs are staples, as is Effes, the Budwieser of the region.  No meal is complete without Turkish tea and a local cat to clean year plate. 

    
    
 

Posted in General travel info | Leave a comment

Great Market Hall Budapest 

While at the conference this week, I enjoyed many lunches at the market. The market was originally constructed in 1894, but a fire destroyed half the roof in 1896.  Following repairs the market reopened in 1897. Along with the many shops for tourists, many locals do their daily shopping in the market. It is hard to resist the sames of cheeses and salamis that the merchants are quick to offer anyone who lingers by their cases.


  
  
  
  
  
  

Posted in Budapest, Food, General travel info, markets, shopping | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Another amazing evening at the Budapest Wine Festival. 

A light drizzle did not dampen my spirits nor did I allow it to dilute the wine.  Spent over five hours visiting the vendors, learning about the wide variety of grapes grown in Hungary. Met people from across the globe. Certainly wine is a unifying element of humanity!  Met some gents from England, a retired couple from California, and a family from New Zealand. Everyone was having a lovely time. Along with the wines, the food was scrumptious. My favorite was the open-pit smoked salmon and the dark chocolate chili truffle. Portions from all the vendors were huge!  I tried to capture the essence of the festive in photos, but you need to book a trip and experience this annual event for yourself.  (Hotels book far in advance for this event, so plan ahead.)


  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

Posted in Budapest, festivals, Food, General travel info, Wine | Tagged , , | 2 Comments