Sunday 30 October 2016

Middle East trip - Abu Dhabi, Dubai (UAE) & Muscat, Oman

I'm not long back from an incredible holiday in the Middle East and I am late in doing a blog post on it. 
I flew out from Dublin to Abu Dhabi with two of my sisters. Lydia who lives and works in Oman had been home in Dublin for her annual leave so the plan was that we would tag on to her last few days of leave and do some travelling and sightseeing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and then on to Muscat to see where she has been living for the last 4 years of her life!
While we had about 10 days in total (including travel) we spent just 1.5 days in Abu, then on to Dubai for 2 days and then the majority of our time in Muscat.  This suited me fine to be honest - I would choose Abu Dhabi over Dubai if I was to go again and Oman over the UAE.  Dubai reminded me a lot of Las Vegas so I was well ready to leave after 2 days.  Muscat felt very authentic Middle East which was nice.
I had actually been in Abu Dhabi about a year ago for a work project so that was handy because when we arrived in late on the first evening I knew a great little Turkish restaurant to go to for something to eat.  I was more than delighted to go back to this place I sometimes dream about their shwarma hummus!!!!!
We went for the traditional(?!!) expats brunch on the Friday and then on Saturday before leaving Abu Dhabi we visited the beautiful Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

Although only 2 days in Dubai we did a great lot in that time - sunbathing in the morning, a trip across the river in an abra (local's water taxi), visit to the souk (pictured above), saw the Burj Kalifa and the foutains/water show out front.  We also went to some lovely restaurants and bars - we had a particularly nice evening with Lydia's boyfriend, Hussein's lovely group of friends.  Hello to the Lebanese folk if they are reading!
From Dubai we drove to Muscat which was a very interesting experience.  Arid, desert land with the occasional camel farm along the way.  And three military/Government checkpoints, which while I found a little intimidating,  and took a little bit of (nervewracking) time to go through, we had no issues.  I was glad we had an Arabic speaker (Hussein) with us and to be honest would not recommend going by land if this was not the case - Katie and I had admittedly wanted to fly initially but Lyd wanted to drive (for a combination of different reasons).  Anyway as I said, we got through with no issues.
In Oman we stayed in Lydia's apartment which she shares with the lovely Modesta.  Their apartment complex is owned by the airline they work for and it contains all (female only obviously!) cabin crew. It is a big 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment but as each of them travels so much (and so far/long haul) it is really just a base to live in some sense...
This part of the holiday was lovely and relaxing. A lot of sunbathing in a hotel complex beside her apartment that she is allowed use for a small fee, plus sunbathing in a beautiful expats compound which again she is allowed use for a small fee - and which had a restaurant and a bar that served alcohol!  Lydia was a wonderful tour guide and showed us all around Muscat, including the two mosques (one newly built which looks particularly nice lit up at night), showed us the Sultan's yachts, the beautiful old town of Muscat and brought us to the souk and malls for some shopping.  We also ate in some lovely restaurants every evening - in Muscat this was much cheaper than Dubai, but there was no alcohol served in a lot of them (unless you went to a hotel) which was different to Dubai.
Old Muscat town. 
On the day/night before we went home we treated ourselves to a stay in a beautiful resort about an hour away from Lydia. 
The Shangri-La is situated in the most beautiful landscape, surrounded by mountains, with a beach that looked more like Thailand than what I'd expect in Oman.  The room/food/staff were all fabulous and we had a great time - sunbathing, afternoon tea, cocktail hour in the courtyard and then some drinks & food in a cool bar that evening, and the next morning the most incredible breakfast ever.
This is me at the cocktail hour on our last night. 
I look pretty relaxed - and sure why wouldn't I, it was an incredible holiday! 

Saturday brunch

It's a bank holiday weekend here in Ireland.  It's also Halloween and the marathon is on - there is always a good atmosphere around the end of October in Dublin. 
Enid and I were overdue a catchup with our friend Alice so we arranged to meet in the rooftop restaurant in M&S on Grafton Street early on Saturday morning - Grafton Street was lovely, not too packed with people and even at that time some great buskers out entertaining.
I just love their pastries!

How cute is this gingerbread with the tiny gingerbread men on top?!

Myself and the gals.  Alice, Enid and I have been best friends since we were 7 years old and it's always great to see them.  A lot of our conversation was about the big trip we are planning to take in November 2017 (for our 40ths),  We started talking about this trip about 18 months ago, and it is very exciting to think that we are literally on the one year countdown now!  That time will fly I am sure - 18 months ago seems about 2/3 months ago looking back.

Later that afternoon Enid and I called into The Kemp Gallery to see Ciaran's exhibition.  I love modern art, and his stuff really reminds me of the New York graffiti/street artist Jean Michel Basquiet's work.  I'm really really tempted to buy a piece - I think it would look incredible on the big high ceilinged wall above my fireplace - but it's a big purchase...I need to think about it some more.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

The week in pictures...

Since I got back from holidays about a week ago I've been terribly lazy about blogging. That's going to change!  I promise.  But to ease my way back in I am going to do one of my little "cheat" posts showing what I've been up to

On Saturday I dropped into my brother in law's art exhibition at the Kemp Gallery where Ciaran was doing some live painting.
I Find You Fascinating is Ciaran's (aka Pigsy) first solo exhibition and I was really impressed with it.
Look at the colours on the pic he's working on!

I browsed my favourite little antiques dealership which is down a lane at the side of The Abbey Theatre (doesn't sound dodgy at all does it!),  I really like this little kitchen table and chairs set...

I adore this unit!!!  And at only €45 it's a nice price but unfortunately I have nowhere for it.

After the heat of the Middle Eastern desert my hair was pretty dry at the ends, so I went to the hairdresser and got about 4/5 inches chopped off.  It feels a lot shorter :-( but my hair grows pretty fast, it'll be back nice and long before I know it!

Drinking espresso and getting a new name bestowed on me by my local Starbucks staff.  Lol

My home bar is now complete with the addition of a wine rack up the top (from Ikea) which I spray painted white to match the shelving.

With the Dail back in session there is something going on outside my apartment at Government Buildings every day.  This was today on my way to work.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

New vinyl!

I treated myself to two new records today!
First up! Reservoir Dogs - the soundtrack of my late teens/early twenties.  Ah Good Times!
And then, the soundtrack to the movie Guardians of the Galaxy - which caught my eye because of all the great songs on it.

Hooked on a Feeling is one of my all time great singles.  This album brings me back to Friday night in the mid 90's, in my best friend's bedroom, having a few drinks while getting ready to go out to the local nightclub.

This photo is not great.  You can read the full listing of songs here. 
I've been listening to it all evening.  It's a great album.

And in other news!
I'm going on holidays!!! 
Packing is done.  I must go now and purchase some travel insurance. 
Other than that I am all set - aside from a very busy day in work tomorrow, and college tomorrow night, before airport Thursday morning!

Saturday 1 October 2016

Pigsy at the Kemp Gallery "I find you Fascinating"

My brother in law is currently in final preparation mode for his first ever solo exhibition of his wonderfully chaotic artworks.  This evening he was in the gallery working on his last piece for the show and Enid and I called to see if we could help out - not with the painting obviously!!!!
Artist at work!
Enid and Ciaran with the piece he was working on tonight in the background.
He uses a combination of mediums including spray paint and oil paint on stretched canvas.

This is the exhibition space.  It has been freshly painted white to show off the paintings.  This evening the floor was also being painted a dark grey (colour chosen by Ciaran who is an architect by day).

Enid and I got stuck into some work, cleaning and polishing.

Afterwards the artist, the painting team and the team of cleaners (Enid and I!) enjoyed some pizza and sodas which Ciaran had ordered in for us.

At the moment this is the only photo of his work that I have.  I guess you will just have to call into the gallery yourself to see the full collection!
His exhibition opens on the 6th of October and is on display for 6 weeks in the KEMP Gallery on South Frederick Street.  If you do go I'd encourage you to talk with the gallery proprietor who can talk you through Ciaran's inspiration for each painting - I love Ciaran's work from a visual perspective but when I learn more about what is behind each one's creation I will say I find it incredibly moving and emotionally affecting!