First stop… Shakespeare and Company

For the typical tourist sites such as Notre Dame and the Effiel Tower would be their first destinations when in the City of Lights. For us, it is a bookstore. Not just any bookstore, but Shakespeare and Company. The original store was home to such literary figures as Joyce, Hemingway, and Ginsberg. It’s current location, across from Notre Dame. The reading rooms on the second floor feature live music and book readings.


 

 

Our Paris Apartment

Here is the view from our Paris apartment, situated in the heart of Paris, just a few blocks from Notre Dame. The neighborhood is filled with cafes and shops.  The metro station is just a block away.  This is the perfect location to serve as our home while we explore Paris and the surrounding area.

  

Paris.  Here we come.

My husband and I leave Saturday night for a month in Paris. Packing has begun. Lots of outfits from just a few items. Yes. Four pairs of shoes but we will be doing lots of walking and I like to change shoes every day. Everything fits into my carryon bag. Stay turned.  

 

Anniversary Dinner

Last night Kevin and I celebrated eight years of marriage by enjoying a wonderful dinner at Stratos. It was perfect in every way. The service was attentive; the food was cooked to perfection; the views amazing, even though a sandstorm was moving in on the horizon. I enjoyed oysters on the half shell, rock lobster, and several vodka martinis. Kevin loved his  steak, medium rare, Caesar salad, and German Riesling wine. At the end of the meal we were present with a lovely sticky toffee pudding in butterscotch sauce with vanilla ice cream and port wine, compliments of the house. This is a great venue.

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Simple Homestyle Curry: A Cooking Lesson

Food in Abu Dhabi, and the UAE as a whole, is heavily influenced by both its neighboring countries and by the expatriate population (which accounts for approximately 85% of the population), the majority of whom are Indian. That makes for some great Indian cuisine.  Many hotels offer elaborate Indian buffets, small, family owned Indian restaurants are plentiful, and the local markets stock a wide variety of vegetables and spices for home cooks.

On a recent trip to Dubai, I came upon a lovely cookbook, 50 Great Curries of India, by Camellia Panjabi.  The photos and recipes were so tempting that I wanted to start cooking, straight away. But author advised to begin with a simple home-style curry before venturing into the more complex dishes.

So today I took her advice and made my first home-style curry.

All ingredients are prepped
All ingredients are prepped

Frying the onions properly is a very key step in curry making; the key is to not to get the pan too hot as to overly brown the onions.  The goal is to achieve a golden, caramelized color.

Step 1: frying onions to a golden brown
Step 1: frying onions to a golden brown (still need about ten minutes)

After about twenty-five minutes, it was time to add fresh ginger and garlic.  The ginger here is amazingly fresh and moist, not the dried out root I typically found in the US. After a minute on the heat, the kitchen smelled heavenly, but now it’s time to add the spices: coriander, cumin, garam masala, and paprika.

After about ten more minutes, the result was a reduction of Indian goodness of warm spices (not spicy hot), ginger, garlic, and onions.

20150425_130800Now time for the tomatoes.  After a few more minutes, the chicken was added to the party. The result was a rich, flavorful chicken curry that I served over rice with Arabic bread on the side.  A perfect lunch.

20150425_132748While this was a solid first attempt, my husband and I both agreed that next time (and there will be a next time) I will add some “heat” in the way of dried Asian peppers and perhaps a few more vegetables.

Bon Appetit.

Major Sandstorm hits Abu Dhabi

I’ve experienced blizzards, zero visibility, and icy roads, but nothing prepared me for driving in the sandstorm that hit the city this morning. Visibility was under 25 meters (roughly 25 yards) at times! Seeing traffic lights was almost impossible.

The sandstorm came in from Iraq, traveling through Kuwait with wind speeds clocking 25-35 knots. According to the national weather service, the regions experiences 8-10 severe sandstorms each year. In addition to the traffic accidents due to low visibility, health issues, especially respiratory infections, increase due to the storms.

Think I’ll stay in the rest of the day.

Downtown Abu Dhabi. Visibility was better here then on the coast there we live (see below).
Downtown Abu Dhabi. Visibility was better here then on the coast there we live (see below).

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The visibility was so bad, that I nearly missed the turn from my building coming home from tennis.

View from our balcony.
View from our balcony.
Can barely see the apartment building next door.
Can barely see the apartment building next door.
There are huge apartment buildings in this photo...really there are!
There are huge apartment buildings in this photo…really there are!

Tennis Lesson in a Sand Storm

Those of you who know me personally know my passion for tennis.  Cold, heat, sleet, even snow, has not kept me off the court. But today was a first. Gorana, my awesome tennis coach who is getting my game back in form, and I took to the court early this morning before the brunt on a major sand storm hit the city.  As you can see from the photos, sand was beginning to form on the court, which is a hard court by the way, not clay or sand. The balls, our clothes, our hair, everything was covered with a reddish coating of sand by the time we finished. But we had a great lesson. I guess all the years of hitting in the wind in Kansas City proved useful since I was striking the ball really well in the strong wind. If your are going to play tennis in Abu Dhabi, it’s not just the heat you must get use to!

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It's easy to see where your shots land when the court has a thin coat of sand!
It’s easy to see where your shots land when the court has a thin coat of sand!

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Driving in Abu Dhabi: Playing Chicken in the Rain

I’m American. I LOVE to drive and have driven since I was 15. I’ve driven across the US three times, by myself; I’ve driven in Atlanta, Dallas, LA, and numerous other major cities. But nothing prepared me for driving in Abu Dhabi….and NOTHING prepared me for during in Abu Dhabi in the RAIN!

First, let’s think about who is driving here. Remember that 85% of this country is composed of expats from around the globe…many of which drive on the “wrong side of the road.” Also, understand that the Emirate (locals) cannot even learn to drive until age 18, so once they do pass their driving exams…watch out! Did I mention that many of the locals have really fast sport cars. This odd mix makes for some interesting driving experiences and “customs.”

Being American, getting my license was easy.  Pay a small fee, have a photo taken and done.  The entire process took less than 30 minutes.  No road sign test, no eye exam, no actual driving test.  The fact I had a valid US license was sufficient.  That in it self should tell you something about driving here.  Many countries have nearly “automatic” approval.

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Now driving is an experience.  The website below gives you a taste, but understand it is five years old and the traffic is much worse.

http://wn.com/abu_dhabi_driving

Driving is like playing “chicken” at 60 kph. First one to blink, loses. Therefore, here are my rules of road:

Rule #1 Don’t look in the rear view mirror. It will only make you nervous and there is nothing you can do what’s back there anyway.

Rule #2 Be slightly aggressive. Meaning don’t give way (except for city buses). The big cars and trucks like to “bully” themselves into your lane.  If there is the slightness bit of space, they will turn in.

Rule #3 No hand gestures.  This is a tough one for me to remember, but showing someone, especially a local, how a “bird flies” can get you arrested and deported.  There are cameras everywhere.

Rule #4 Remember there are cameras everywhere, so if you run a red light you will get a ticket. But the country makes this issue hassle free…there is an app in which you can log in with your tag number and check for fines. You even pay online.  Rarely will you see police pull someone over; if there do, it is usually for erratic behavior, etc.  Minor offenses, speeding, illegal turns, lights, etc., are all handled electronically.

Now, back to the rain issue.  It rained on my way home today.  To you, that probably isn’t news, or blog, worthy, but here in Abu Dhabi any small about of rain is a major event.  The rain was enough that I had to use my wipers (blades for you British folk). It wet the road, but barely. So I’m talking about a very, very small about of the wet stuff. But this is enough to make everyone crazy.  You would think they would slow down….you would be mistaken. Just the opposite.  They speed up so as to get out of the rain faster!  That makes for even shorter braking distances, faster lane changing (forget about using blinkers…that just doesn’t happen), and lots of horn honking.  After several near misses, I managed to get home without a scratch on the car, but I know there are a few more gray hairs on my head.

Very glad it only rains a couple of days a year. 🙂

Mushrif Central Park

There have been very few things I have missed, or not been able to find, since moving to Abu Dhabi. But one thing I have missed is my weekly visits to a farmers market.  That is no longer true.  The Ripe Food & Craft Market opened today in the new Mushrif Central Park.  What a joy…so much produce and all organic!  Needless to say I filled a large shopping bag with pears, oranges, kiwis, peppers, and carrots.  This was a good thing until I realized I had to carry it the rest of the afternoon.  The shopkeepers did offer to keep my bag until I left, but I knew they would be busy, so I just carried it.

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Along with the farmers market, there were over twenty booths of local crafts.  Everything from homemade olive oil and avocado soaps to leather goods.  I resisted the temptation to buy a few items, but knowing they will be set up weekly means I will be back! There were  plenty of food vendors selling everything from fresh coconut milk to Italian gelato (which I did try after I had my Lebanese sandwich!).

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As I sat enjoying my meal, a young man, 16 years old, stepped up to a microphone, guitar in hand.  He introduced himself and said this was his first gig. I stayed for the entire set which was all covers of current American top 40 pop. He may not be ready for Arab Idol, but props to him for performing.  After his set, I told him and his parents I truly enjoyed his performance. Hope he performs again at the park.

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Back to the park.  It is the result of a major renovation project.  Complete with amphitheater, children’s play areas, lots of water elements, prayer rooms, and endless walking paths. Truly an oasis in the middle of the city.

http://www.thenational.ae/uae/a-green-heart-for-abu-dhabi-mushrif-central-park-to-reopen

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