A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to be invited to a menu tasting at a recently opened dining outlet in Abu Dhabi. The Fifth Street Cafe is part of the Courtyard by Marriott World Trade Center Hotel, which opened late last year, and is currently in its “soft launch” phase. Needless to say we were very pleased to accept. Continue reading
When we lived in the UK we ate out occasionally, but not often. I suspect it was a combination of the fact that we tended to live out of town, the lack of quality eating places in our area, and the cost of taxis if one wanted to enjoy a drink or two. I don’t need to look at my spreadsheet to know that the situation has changed completely since moving to Abu Dhabi.
Having been on something of a roll in September things came to an abrupt stop in October when I got a bad case of “blogger's block”. I suspect there were a few reasons for this, but here I am again, dipping my toe back into the water.
A quick review of “The Illusionists 2.0” at the Emirates Palace Hotel, just in case anyone is thinking of going over the next couple of days, or next week when it is in Dubai.
Last night was our third trip to Pachaylen this year, which should tell you that it is one of our favourite restaurants in Abu Dhabi.
I’ve always loved reading. I remember getting certificates for being a “book worm” at Padiham library from an early age, and the passion has stuck with me ever since. I find it a fantastic way to escape from reality for a while and to unwind before going to sleep. As part of my “quantified self” project for 2014 I decided to start tracking how many books I am reading. This is partly to help me remember where I am up to with the various series I am reading, but also just to see how much I am reading. I am using the “goodreads” website and iPad app to track how I am doing, and have set myself a target of 50 books for the year. As you will see from the picture below I am ahead of schedule halfway through the year.
I’ve decided that on a monthly basis I will post short reviews of each of the books I have read. I’ve been using reviews on goodreads and various blogs to identify books to add to my “to read” list so I figure its the least I can do to try and help others find books they may not normally read. So please find below my reviews for June 2014. The books listed demonstrate that I am not a “high brow” reader, I read for pure pleasure. They also illustrate how the books I am reading at the moment tend to fall into three main categories:
- CAN DO NO WRONG AUTHORS. The best example of this category is Stephen King. I will normally read any new book by one of these authors as soon as it is published because I have liked them for so many years. Their books aren’t always perfect, but I know I am almost certain to enjoy them greatly.
- TICK THREE BOXES BOOKS. If a book ticks the following three requirements I will almost certainly give it a go: (1) It is the first of a series of crime novels. (2) The series is based in the UK (bonus points if it is the NW). (3) The first book is on offer for Kindle at less that £2. I’ve discovered numerous excellent series in this category over the last couple of years, which either illustrates there are many good authors out there, or I am an undiscerning reader. You can decide which.
- YOU HAVE MY SUPPORT BOOKS. These tend to be new books from authors of the series in the “tick three boxes” category, but they are standalone books, or the first books in a new series from the same author. Because I’ve enjoyed the series I will almost certainly demonstrate loyalty to the author by trying their new works.
This approach means that for the foreseeable future I am unlikely to run out of reading material. The main challenge is keeping track of new books that fall into these categories. Amazon is scarily good at recommending books for me based on my previous purchases. The goodreads website provides further assistance, as does registering for updates from authors’ websites, or following their twitter feeds. Of course I then have an excuse to compile everything into my own lists, with colour coding and everything, to get an overall picture. Anyway, before I get too carried away with telling you about my lists I present to you my reviews for June 2014. Continue reading
As far as I am concerned it is now most definitely too hot to spend any significant amount of time outside so like many families we are on the lookout for things to do with the kids indoors.
A popular place is Adventure Zone at Adventure HQ in Dalma Mall which opened just a couple of months ago. Adventure HQ is an “outdoor adventure” shop selling pretty much everything and anything for all manner of outdoor pursuits. Adventure Zone is an indoor adventure park attached to the store, suitable for kids Flossie's age and upwards.
The Zone offers a number of activities, including a cable climb (think mini “Go Ape” indoors), a climbing wall, a skate park, a bike track (involving a series of sharp turns and steep bankings), and a trampoline park (basically a large room completely full of trampolines). You pay to do the activities in 30 minute slots.
One negative thing is that at the moment you can't book in advance. I understand they will be implementing on online system at some point but for now you have to turn up and see what is available. Needless to say this means that as the weather gets hotter more people are turning up at opening time so if you're not an early bird you can find yourself having to kill a few hours before your slot comes round. Good for the shops nearby but not for families with impatient children.
We first went a few weeks ago, when the only activity available without a wait in excess of two hours was the trampolining. Archie and Flossie really enjoyed that so we bought them both a ten session pass which brings the average cost per activity down significantly.
Archie then got a new bike for his birthday, complete with gears and everything. He's been desperate to play on it as much as possible but its just been too hot to do it for more than a few minutes. Then Jo had a brilliant idea that he could take it to Adventure Zone and use it on the bike track there. She worked some magic and managed to secure us an unofficial booking for last Friday morning, not only for the bike track, but for the skate park and cable climb as well.
First up was the bike track. After an initial briefing from the instructor they both headed off on scooters to familiarize themselves with the track. Flossie decided she was going to keep using the scooter rather than her bike, which was probably a good idea.
Archie was determined to use his bike and did pretty well navigating the tricky turns and slopes for a couple of laps, before a lapse in concentration sent him crashing to the floor. After a cuddle with mum and dad he brushed himself off and went back to the scooter for a few laps, before having one last go on his bike which went fine.
Next up was the skate park, on which most of the smaller kids use scooters rather than skateboards. Once Archie had got the hang of using the brake at the back of the scooter he spent a happy 20 minutes trying out one of the medium slopes, going a little faster each time. Flossie however was more interested in flirting with the instructor who seemed quite taken with her and gave her a personal lesson on one of the smaller slopes.
Finally was the cable climb. I love this one as the trail goes out of the Zone and into the shop itself, so when people are browsing the shelves if they look up they will see one or more children dangling off a rope. Flossie had done the trail before at a party so once she had got her harness on she was off like a shot without a backward glance.
Archie was a little more circumspect so took his time, bringing back memories of Jo on “Go Ape” in the Lakes a few years ago. It took a while but he made it round and headed off for a second circuit.
Flossie managed to squeeze an extra circuit in although we did lose track of her at one point and finally discovered her, having lost her nerve, stuck half way along a suspended log in the middle of the shop that she had already crossed twice with no issues. With a little cajoling she recovered her composure and quickly finished the circuit.
All in all the kids had a great time and I would thoroughly recommend Adventure Zone to anyone with children of a suitable age. My advice is to get there early, especially at the weekend, so you hopefully won't have to wait too long for available slots.
You can find out more about Adventure Zone here (and no I'm not on commission!).
As always thanks for reading.
Twelve months out from the highly anticipated One Direction concert another boy band were in town last week. Ok, maybe boy band is the wrong description. Black Sabbath formed in the year I was born so have been going strong for more than 40 years. Last Thursday marked their first concert in the Middle East, and almost certainly their last given that the main band members are well into their 60s.
I can't say I've ever been a great fan of them, but when I heard they were playing just a few miles away I decided it would be rude not to go along. For some reason I couldn't tempt Jo to join me so I went alone.
The du Arena was nowhere near as packed as it was for the Rolling Stones, maybe about 25% (if that) of the crowd, but the organizers had constructed a temporary VIP stand part way down the field, so the crowd were all concentrated into a small area, making for a great atmosphere.
It was so hot and humid that I decided to treat myself to a beer. Treat being the right word because the prices at the du Arena are extortionate, at 60 dirhams (£10) for a beer. Mind you I wasn't as shocked as the chap next to me at the bar who had ordered four double vodkas and coke, and was convinced the barman was joking when he announced the price was more than 600 dirhams. He was still arguing about it as I left the bar.
We were treated to a warm up act, a local heavy metal band, delightfully called “Anuryzm”. They were loud, but that's all I have to say about them.
The crowd continued to build up with a real mix of people. There was a high proportion of middle aged men (including me), many of who (not me) had their other halves trailing behind them looking distinctly unimpressed by the whole thing. There were lots of young people, and quite a few families.
At around 9:20pm Black Sabbath finally appeared, and proceeded to rattle through a mix of old and new songs. Ozzy Osbourne has certainly seen better days, and half the time I wasn't convinced he really knew where he was, but he can still perform. As can Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, but I was most impressed with the tour drummer Tommy Clufetos, who did a fantastic seven minute solo towards the end of the set.
He was spot on. At one point the heat got too much for me so I moved over to the side of the arena for a bit of a breather. I found myself next to four Indian cleaning staff stood staring at the stage looking very bemused. One of them eventually turned to me and asked, “who is this band?”. Once I'd told him he didn't seem any the wiser, and he and his colleagues continued to stare for a few more minutes before going about their business.
Almost two sweaty hours later, with ringing ears, the concert was over. I managed to get ahead of the crowd leaving and, once I had dodged a few bodies lying on the grass, clearly suffering from too much expensive beer, I was straight in a taxi and home 15 minutes later.
All in all it was a very enjoyable evening, and I'm glad I went.
As always thanks for reading.
So the plan was we would go today, getting there for opening time so it would be quiet (with it being Friday prayers). This was all conditional on Jo being fit to go as she was going out with the ladies from the compound last night. It was looking increasingly unlikely it was going to happen, then at 9:15am she opened one eye and announced that we had better get ready as we needed to leave in 20 minutes.
Earlier in the week we’d ascertained that Henry wouldn’t be joining us (“I don’t like swimming, I’ve never liked swimming, why would you think I would want to come with you”, etc, etc), so the rest of us grabbed a quick breakfast, jumped in the car and headed off. We arrived just after opening and other than embarrassing ourselves arguing with the lady in the ticket booth about a voucher we had, when actually WE (that’s the “royal we”) hadn’t read the small print correctly, getting into the park was pretty smooth.
As we had hoped it was quiet at that time of the morning, so we slapped some sun cream on, put our stuff in a locker (cue second embarrassing episode in ten minutes, when I complained that the wrist band they had given me wouldn’t lock the locker like it was supposed to, only to be told politely that the reason for this was that I was trying to use a big locker but sir had only paid for a small locker), and headed to the rides.
I won’t bore you with each of the rides we went on, other than to note that they were all great fun. We did the roller coaster, a number of slides of one shape or another, and two lazy rivers (actually one of them was really a very energetic river as a huge wave came rolling along behind us every 30 seconds or so). Archie and Flossie loved it, other than Flossie declining to go on one or two slides, and Archie having a brief “will I or won’t I” moment at the top of a steep, dark ride – he did, he loved it, and we went on twice more. We also splashed about in the main pool area for a while, having great fun when the wave machine was switched on at regular intervals.
As the morning progressed the park got busier, the sun got hotter, the party girl started showing signs of relapsing, and we all got hungry and thirsty. We decided to have lunch but before that we stopped to watch the lunchtime show at the small amphitheater in the park. The seats look onto a water tank in which two ladies put on a short underwater acrobatic show, which was pretty impressive. I think I read somewhere a few months ago that at least one of them was in Aquabatique, who were on Britain’s Got Talent a few years ago.
Next stop was one of the food outlets for a spot of lunch. It was the normal theme park choices (burgers, chicken nuggets, etc) but the food was of a good standard, and the service was very good (friendly and helpful, and more than happy to give us extra empty cups so we could split drinks and so on, something that wouldn’t have been allowed by the “jobsworths” in other parks we have been to).
After lunch the kids spent a happy 30 minutes splashing about in the kid’s play area, whilst Jo and I relaxed and watched them, and then we headed home having had a very enjoyable day.
As the day turns to evening we are enjoying a drink on the roof terrace, catching the last of the sun. If we remember we’ll be back out here later to see if we can hear the Justin Timberlake concert from here (he’s playing at Yas Arena tonight), and to see if we can spot any of the Camelopardalis meteor shower (which I am sure I read somewhere earlier in the week is named after ……. a giraffe, explain that one to me) that is due this evening, although I suspect there may be too much light pollution, perhaps we should have planned a trip into the desert.
You can find more information about Yas Waterworld here.
Thanks for reading as always.