Friday, June 30, 2006

Nice Jazz Fest!

I've just found out that during our overnight stay in the Cote d'Azur, the Nice Jazz Festival will be on! I didn't think too much of this at first, but checked out the programme and was blown away by the line up. It just so happens that Kanye West and Neneh Cherry amongst others will be performing.

I now wish we had a little more time in this beautiful area of the South of France. Perched on the edge of the Riviera, this area seems to have so much on offer. We have a busy day planned - a visit to the Matisse Museum, a short train ride through the city to the top for amazing views of the Riviera, time exploring Nice's Old Town before heading to Monte Carlo for a couple of hours capped off with a night at the Jazz Festival! Phew! That's the plan, anyway. I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You know it's really hot when...

1. You meet Malaysians that have just arrived and they are complaining about the heat
2. Your sunnies/glasses fog up everytime you step outside
3. You see cars with curtains hanging on the inside?!?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dubai Summer Surprises

The famous DSS, similar to the Dubai Shopping Festival, is an annual event where shops, shopping malls and the like get together and put on Dubai-wide co-ordinated promotions and sales. Every week there is a planned themed surprise, starting with an 'Ice theme'.

- Modhesh, the Dubai Summer Surprises mascot -

The opening ceremony - yes, there was one! - was held at the Mall of the Emirates yesterday. We did not go as Gypsy Boy was busy working and I was busy hunting down a hotel in Budapest. We will however be going today to have a nosy as there will be performances and no doubt, some good bargains too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Obuda, Buda, Pest here we come!

A few days ago, we decided to change our trip itinerary a little. We're now going to visit Budapest instead of Vienna on the recommendation of a friend who has lived and studied there. After some research and discussion, the character, history and sheer beauty of the city won us over.

-The Chain Bridge, connecting Buda to Pest over the Danube River-

I was excited to find a great little online airfare from Venice to Budapest on Sky Europe - a central European value airline I'd never ever heard of. Nevertheless, a fantastic fare of 45 Euros per person!

What I didn't expect was having the Formula One Grand Prix in town the same weekend we'll be there. As a result, it has taken me 3 days to find a suitable hotel with vacancies! Most of the popular hotels are already fully booked and if they aren't, require a minimum 3 or even 4 night stay at a premium. Fortunately, I've managed to find a basic hotel in a fantastic location for our 2 night stay albeit paying 30Euro more per night than if we were staying any other time of the year. I guess you just can't win 'em all.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Me: 1, Travel Agent: Nil

A couple of weekends ago, Gypsy boy decided we should take the rough itinerary I'd planned for our pending trip to Europe, to a travel agent. This was to see if they could make recommendations, book hotels and travel between cities with their travel agent contacts, experience with the region and expertise.

We were so impressed with our travel agent's professionalism and obvious first hand knowledge of travel within Europe. We walked away wondering why we hadn't visited sooner! Due to the large and meaty itinerary we gave her to work with, she promised to get back to us within 3-4 days and we were more than happy with the timeframe.

At the same time, I have continued to work with researching the attractions of each city, rail networks, hotel rates and locations, plus ways to get between cities. My contact with hotels that I'd shortlisted showed that many were starting to book out, so when we hadn't heard back from our travel agent I followed up with emails and phone messages but to no avail.

8 days after our visit, we received the quotation from the travel agent with an airfare, recommended hotels and their rates, plus a quote for a rail pass. Firstly, the airfares were 1000dhs more expensive to the online fare we have found. Secondly, and most to my horror, upon researching the hotels she'd recommended I found they had some of the worst traveller reviews I'd ever come across and they were more expensive than the ones I had on my list! Thirdly, I'd managed to find some cheap airfares between our longest journeys within Europe so buying individual train tickets for the shorter journeys will cost us 546Euros less!

Enough ranting for now, I have more bookings to make!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

No such thing as a free lunch?

Maybe, but we just scored a free dinner!

Eversince moving to Dubai, we have been trying the many different types of cuisines on offer. Some months ago we dined at an Indian & Chinese restaurant on the other side of town. No, you read it right - it was a one stop shop Indian and Chinese restaurant all in one. Not knowing any better, we ordered from the Chinese food section of the menu. The food was extremely spicy and the dishes not at all like described on the menu! Nevertheless, the waitress invited us to fill out a comments card which we did and took it as an experience to learn from.

Using our details from the comments card, the restaurant called us to invite us for a complimentary dinner at their new restaurant uptown. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the venue this evening - a gorgeously decorated dining area with chandeliers and hanging crystals, beautiful furnishings and tableware and some very spunky staff uniforms.

This time, we selected from the Indian section of the menu and it was a decision not to be regretted. Melt-in-your-mouth chicken to start with, the best garlic naan bread ever, a great fish curry, some dhaal and the most amazing babycorn and spinach dish. The flavoursome food was absolutely scrumptious and the service was just excellent. In Dubai, we've already had what we've thought is some of the best Indian food we've ever tasted. The food in this restaurant, while a little on the pricey side [not that we were paying this time anyway!] was definitely up there in the ranks.

What an amazing treat for us both! It's not everyday you get invited to a free dinner, and what a fabulous meal it was too!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

European Escapade

It's settled! Thanks to the tips and advice we've received from dear friends and family, we're ditching the idea of going with an organised tour of Europe, and are going to take it on ourselves!

Of course, this involves a lot more time in researching and planning but it means that we get to spend more time in cities and countries that we want to see, doing what we want to do and staying where we want to stay. The only thing is, there is so much choice I'll be working out our trip from now till the time we leave...

Gypsy Boy and I share a deep passion for travel and adventure. I feel we are so lucky to be in 'the middle of the world' so to speak, and plan to take advantage of our current geographical placement by exploring the middle east and nearby Europe. How exciting!!!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Swan Lake

Performed by the Imperial Russian Ballet - this was a real treat. I love the ballet, and upon hearing that the Imperial Russian Ballet were coming to town, this was definitely not a show to be missed!

Act II was my favourite, when the 'swans' first appear, and when Zigfrid swears his eternal love to Odetta. The ballerinas were so graceful they really did seem to assume their roles as swans, and the scene was just so mystical and magical.

My only gripe would be that Tchaikovsky's music was not really done justice. The music was not performed live and unfortunately was not played on cue. Nevertheless, the costumes were so beautiful, the performance spectacular. Worth every penny!!!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's getting hot in here...

Summer has officially started. What can I say, the rumours were true. Eversince we arrived in DXB, just about everyone we've met has 'warned' us about how unimaginably hot and humid the summer is here and how we'd need to 'escape' by travelling out of the region for at least the month of August.

8 days into Summer, and the mercury is consistently hitting the 42-45 degrees celcius mark everyday and humidity levels are also rising. So far, we're coping ok with the heat just by trying to stay indoors with air conditioning most of the day. It's hard to imagine it will only get hotter and even more humid towards and for the month of August, but I guess the human body adjusts.

That said, we are planning a trip to Europe for a month leaving mid-July...can't wait!!!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Back to Blogging after 2 weeks of having MIL stay, and a whole week suffering the effects of food poisoning!!

This is the 3rd time I've had food poisoning in the 6 months we have been in DXB, all from dining out on chicken. The first 2 times were a lot milder, but last week really put me out, and I can only put it down to 1 of 3 reasons:

a) I'm getting a weak stomach [due to lack of exposure to outside bacteria] from eating home cooked food 90% of the time

b) Some really suspect hygiene/food storage/preparation standards - especially in 40 degree heat

c) Rotten luck!