Training for the Camino Portugues

Several  months ago my husband and I watched the movie The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed by Emilio Estevez. My husband commented “ that looks like fun…we should do that.” And since he really doesn’t like anything involving exercise or the outdoors, I immediately agreed.  Now the route in the movie is the Camino Francés…500 miles which takes most people about 5 weeks.  At present, it’s rather difficult for me to get that much time off….so we are going to walk the Camino Portuguese.  Only 150 miles, but ends at the same place, Santiago de Compostela.

The Camino is actually a series of routes taken by pilgrims to the cathedral in Santiago which is believed to house the bones of St. James. Many walk for religious or spiritual reasons.  Others walk for the physical challenge.

In May will will begin our walk in Porto, Portugal and if all goes as planned will finish about 20 day’s later in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Today, we bought the hiking shoes we will use of the trek.  It takes about six months to break in hiking shoes properly and we want to make sure they fit properly to avoid blisters. Tonight we donned our backpacks and new shoes want went for walk, about 5 miles.  Other than the heat and humidity, the packs and shoes felt fine.  Training will continue until May. Stay tuned for updates.  Buen Camino.

 

 

 

Dining in…Vietnamese Pho

I have always loved to cook. From ribs, to desserts; French to Asian. Doesn’t matter. Cooking is a form of relaxation and creativity. Last night, Kevin, my husband and sou chief, and I prepared Vietnamese Pho. A warm and hearty combination of chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, scallions, ginger, red onions, cilantro, fish sauce, rice noodles, and homemade chicken broth, topped with fresh mint from our garden.

Fargo…yes…Fargo for vacation.

 

 

Back to where it all began…at least my life in academia.  It had been four years since seeing our friends and colleagues in Fargo and North Dakota State University, so Kevin and spent two days driving (each way) to revisit our old stomping ground.

On our way to Fargo, we stopped in La Claire, Iowa.  Home to the TV show American Pickers, but also home to a lovely winery, distillery, AND brewery.  Of course we had to sample some of the local flavors (just a taste for me because I was driving).

 

Once in Fargo, we made the rounds, but the real reason for the trip was to see Weird Al in concert.  It just happened to be our wedding anniversary as well.

 

Of course…it’s not summer in Fargo without the RibFest.  There are few things in life better than ribs for lunch, so of course we were second in-line when the event opened on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.)

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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!

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.  

    
    
    
    
    
 

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.