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!

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. 

    
    
 

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.


  
  
  
  
  
  

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.)


  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

The Budapest Wine Festival 

I’ve been in Budapest all week attending a professional conference. After the late afternoon session,  a colleague and I ventured up to the Castle District to savor the grape

 harvest at the Budapest Wine Festival. What an amazing event. Over 200 vineyards were on display showcasing their wines. A prepayment card was used to purchase wines and foods. Upon leaving I was refunded the unused amount. The entire night cost less then $40 USD and I had the pleasure of sampling over 6 wines, grilled salmon, oven baked pizza, and a chocolate chili truffle. This event is not to missed.