Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer Update

Another long gap since my last post, so time to dust down the keyboard, open the thesaurus and provide an update to this blog. I should also apologise in advance for the blog post title as my last post concerned the Rugby 7s last December - a mainstay of the UAE sporting calendar and another fabulous weekend of sporting action for Dad and I courtesy of the delightful NC, so this will be the starting point for update. I am also experimenting with some pictures for the first time so let's see how that goes!

Christmas last year was spent back in UK with a couple of beautifully sunny days spent in London staying on the Strand and enjoying the delights of Christmas in London courtesy of Es parents which took in a visit to Jersey Boys, our now traditional trip to Chinatown for some crispy aromatic duck at the Four Seasons (restaurant not hotel!) and also some ice skating for V. at Somerset House Ice rink.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day was spent with my Sister and her family, and then with K. and A. We also managed to catch up with my cousin C and his wife L at Wisley RHS (a bit of a busman's holiday for Leonie!)and our traditional trip down to Rock-a-nore in Hastings. All in all, a very relaxing traditional Christmas spent with family and friends. Back to Dubai after the New Year and I was straight into preparations for my big case which was due to start at the end of January. The team duly decamped to AD and there followed a very intensive couple of weeks of verbal cut and thrust which was enjoyable but completely exhausting! Fortunately, everything finished on time and so I had a couple of days to get mentally (if not physically) prepared for our trip back to Europe for Skiing and a wedding in February.

The skiing was in Norway – Trysil – and was terrific fun. It is not particularly high – the top ski station was around 1200m but the snow was excellent and whilst at times very cold (I think -18degrees was the lowest temperature), the ski conditions were excellent. The kids (we went with my Sister’s family for Bs 40th birthday) had an absolute blast. V and A had skied before but N and J had not previously skied apart from some dry slope lessons. However, the collection of Green/blue runs and easy off-piste through the trees meant that they all were zipping about without a care in the world by the end of the week. The Hotel (Radisson Blu resort) was also lovely (and ski in/out so very easy with our room having a view over the slopes) – probably the nicest venue I have every stayed at on a ski holiday and the conditions were so benign that E. and I as well as the kids and M and B were all able to ski together on a couple of occasions.

Although the transfer to the resort deep into the snowy mountains was a good three hours by the regular bus service (and only marginally quicker by taxi on the way back), one of the attractions was the two hour flight time from Gatwick which was very helpful from a planning point of view (we stayed at a Gatwick hotel overnight before meeting M and her family to fly to Norway and Gatwick was close to the Wedding in UK which we were attending after the skiing). In fact the only downside was the cost of food and drink so we mainly ate in (although we were in a hotel the rooms were essentially self-catering) or had take-out pizzas.

On our return to UK E and I went to L and Ds wedding – weddings are so few and far between that we decided to make a special effort for this one and it was great to see all the extended family again – one of the downsides of expat life is that you tend to miss out on events like this but we had a great time with all the younger cousins who were now getting married or starting families of their own. As usual with weddings with the Irish side of the family it all got a little raucous but we had to leave relatively early to prepare for our flight back to Dubai but a good time was had by all.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Long Weekend

The National day holiday and the rugby 7s have coincided perfectly this year (as has the weather) and today we achieved a good balance between the spiritual ( V. executed her reading with considerable aplomb this morning), and the sporting - Dad and I enjoyed another feast of rugby under another cloudless sky which included a trophy for the Irish ladies (although unfortunately not the English ladies). Dubai definitely comes into its own at this time if year and hopefully there will be more of the same tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rugby 7s and other matters

Although it is now 1 December I do fell that I should carry on posting given (a) my tardy start; and (b) the fairly hectic schedule for this Holiday. We started off today with a visit to the the Bond a Exhibition at the Burj Khalifa. I had no idea where the exhibition was being held - obviously other than the fact that it away somewhere close to the Worlds tallest building but given he fact that the tickets said that it was next door to the Armani Hotel, I was somewhat concerned that there was unlikely to be any parking and even if there was, it wold be eye-watering expensive.

As it turned out it was relatively straightforward. Admittedly, we had to valet park at the Armani (and braving the various sets of security and gatehouses on the way in took a significant portion of my reserves of chutzpah....). However everybody was very accommodating and we soon found ourselves wandering next to the original James Bond Aston Martin and an extensive collection of JB memorabilia. V. had been very anti going (having visited the the Bond Museum in Covent Garden already) but it proved a hit with all the family with a wide range of gadgets from "Q" on display (with clips from the relevant Bond films showing on screens extra to each item where they were being put to use) but was the last to leave.

The display was very extensive and the coffee shop at the end of the exhibition was very welcome.

Thereafter a. Dad and I went straight to the 7s at the Stadium on the Al Ain road and spent a very pleasant couple of hours watching the rugby out in the desert. We had time after that finished for a BBQ and some pratice for Vs 2nd Reading at Mass tomorrow (her first time and given the numbers in the congregation - usually 600 - 800 - quite intimidating so all positive thoughts welcome!). All in all a very pleasant day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Summer Holidays Part 9 (UK)

So on to the last part of our Summer adventure! The day after we got back from Greece my Sister organised a tea party for E's birthday in a little cake shop/cafe just outside of Maidstone. The weather had held good so we were able to sit out in the back garden and stuff ourselves with some delicious cakes with a good turn out from the family (K. A, C and her two kids as well as M. B and there two kids + Dad). We ended up heading for a drink at the Malta where we caught up with S. who is moving back to Maidstone and had a very pleasant drink as the sun set over the Medway (never thought I would write that!).

In the couple of days we had in Maidstone we managed our reguar trip down to Hastings where we had our usual seafood lunch at Whites and explored the beach and the Fisherman's Museum and also picked up a couple of huge crabs.

I have written before about my love of Hastings and here is a good shot from the beach of the fishing boats with the cliffs behind. This is a good shot of the old part of town.The fishermans net sheds are at the back of the boats.

We have been going to the same fishmongers for years - the ones on Rock-a-nore road although I noticed some little shacks around the back closer to the fishing boats that had also opened up and were selling crabs and whiting. We usually buy our crabs from the fishmonger on the right in the photo below In the converted fisherman net sheds (they are just along from the Fishermen's museum - a converted Church) although it sometimes depends on what is in stock.

We ate the crabs in the evening washed down with a couple of glasses of cold white wine and baguette - bliss!

Our next Port of call was Bristol where E's parents had agreed to look after the kids while E. and I spent a day or so in nearby Bath - our first night away from the ids since V. was born! Bath was only around 30 minutes drive way from their house and I will describe our stay in the last post for this month.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Summer Holiday Part 8 (Kefalonia contd)

Whilst pretty basic, the rooms were fine with a little kitchenette attached to the sleeping area for boiling water etc.. The accommodation arrangements also worked very well with the kids occupying the room next door which meant that they could go on the early morning run and yoga sessions planned by B and M without waking us up.!

In the mornings we all met for an al fresco breakfast next to the pool where we were treated to Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit. it was then off to the beach (We arranged a cab for Dad) where we basically swam/snorkelled/sunbathed most of the morning with a bit of fishing off the breakwater (not hugely successful) and hole digging (by the kids - much more successful).

At lunch we ate our own body weight in Greek salad (what else!) and indulged in a local dish of "cheesy chips" and granita and then headed back to the Hotel for an afternoon of siestas (adults) and running around like mad things/diving into the pool (kids). Towards the end of the afternoon as the sun set picturesquely behind the mountains I would wander down for some more sunbathing/book reading by the pool and a leisurely swim.

In the evening we all walked down to the beach/main street and decided on which restaurant we wanted to eat at. As it was a fishing village most of the restaurants had an ice cabinet out the front displaying the day's catch and most offered a very reasonable deal on meals for two (tuna, calamari and sea bass being particular favourites) which usually included wine.

Everyone at very well and I was particularly taken by the grilled calamari at the Lighthouse restaurant. All of the restaurants were right on the beach overlooking the sea and it was a terrific place to eat. The kids could play on the beach whilst the adults could finish the meals at leisure. We would all then head back to the hotel with dad and I (and occasionally B) breaking the journey up with a quick trip to a small bar which was handily located on the road back to the hotel. The bar was also the source of some football (Chelsea) and a pub quiz as well as a duet between the landlady's mother and Dad one evening (1). Dad also managed to win a raffle (Euro 29) which was also very handy.

We did not do any exploring other than hiring a couple of boats for a trip up the coast. E. and the kids bailed out very early as the wind was blowing and it was quite choppy which proved to be a very sensible decision. The journey up the coast was fine albeit a bit bumpy. However, we had a real problem in finding somewhere to stop for lunch and ended up mooring next to a beach which could only be accessed by a stony/rocky stretch of water which was a nightmare and then we could not find any shade. Dad had to stay on the boat because of the access difficulties and felt seasick all the way back as we spent a couple of hours crashing from wave to wave as the wind blew harder as we were steering into the wind - I also lost my cap and B 's fishing lines got tangled. Not a success!

Other than the boat trip, it was a terrific holiday - very relaxing and the kids were clamouring to go again almost as soona s we left.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Summer Holidays Part 7 (Kefalonia)

Having spent 5 days enjoying the sunshine in the wilds of Oxfordshire at the Wilderness festival we returned the vans and then packed for our trip to Greece with my Sister and her family. They had visited the same resort (Katelios)last year and had really enjoyed it so we all decided to go (with my Father) for a relaxing seaside holiday ... and that was exactly what we got.

We had all ordered a large van to take us all to the Airport (Gatwick) from Maidstone) very early on the Tuesday morning (although we ended up in going in cars as for some reason the van was not available) and we arrived in good time for our Thomson flight. Everything proceeded smoothly (flight into Kefalonia was around 2.5 to 3 hours)and the Hotel sent a coach to big us up at the airport and take on the short (45 minutes) drive to the resort. It has been a long time since I have stayed in Greece (probably when E and went to Crete back in the day) and Kefalonia is a largish Island which was quite reminiscent of Cyprus which we used to visit regularly - green and full of flowers and quite hilly.

The Hotel was just outside the (very) sleepy fishing village of Katelios) - around 10 minutes walk down the hill to the main street where there were 5 or 6 restaurants, a beach and a tiny harbour. The beach was protected by a breakwater and sloped gradually out to see which meant the water was very clear and calm and absolutely perfect for snorkelling as there was plenty of safe water for the kids to explore and the breakwater was home to many multi-coloured fish. The beach was sandy (although there was a lot of seaweed on the shore) and there were plenty of sunloungers which could be hired with parasols.

The Hotel was on three levels and very small - probably around 22 rooms but it had a great pool, a bar and a nice flower clad eating area for breakfast. Given our early start from UK, we had time to have a swim in the pool and then down to the Lighthouse restaurant (which became a firm favourite)for Dinner on our first day having allocated the two sets of kids to separate rooms and the adults and Dad to our own rooms.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Summer Holidays 2016 Part 6 (Wilderness days 3 and 4)

Highlights of the rest of our time at the festival included various visits to the "naked" fruit juice stall which dispensed huge quantities of free fruit juice (which the kids loved and given how hot it was, everyone took full advantage of), a ride on the Big Wheel which also gave panoramic views of the Park where the festival was being held as well as a number of trips down the nearby helter skelter by the kids; plenty of excellent food including a chocolate brownie stall and a waffle store which were in very convenient proximity to each other; plenty of live music including Robert Plant (of Led Zep fame) at full throttle and a jazz band that seemed to consist of a couple of huge Tubas and musicians who basically danced their way through the songs along with the audience; various demonstrations of dance, crafting, henna tattoos taxidermy, a "quiet" disco (where participants wear headphones playing the music and dance around to that but there is no other sound - it is pretty surreal to be standing around watching everyone cavorting in a silent room - the kids absolutely loved this); a late night yoga class which the kids found hilarious; more wild swimming; lazing around in the Summer sunshine people watching - the dress code appeared to be hippy chic with lots of glitter and the very young children (of which there were many) being transported round in little carts decorated with flowers - there was also a couple who were simply "dressed" in blue body paint and there was plenty of sunbathing with varying degrees of clothing (although pretty tasteful all things considered)around the wild swimming area; a couple of glasses of champagne in the Champagne tent to celebrate E's big birthday; games of Frisbee and football with the kids; and the David Bowie tribute set on the last night where Kate Nash and Charlotte Church shared top billing with yours truly and the Wilderness choir (well we opened the show with a four part version of Space Oddity which was quite magical even thought I say so my self).

I had never stayed at a festival before and this was very user friendly and loads of fun - I would definitely do it again although we were truly blessed with the weather which was uniformly good until the morning of our departure and even then it was just a bit overcast. We even got the hang of the toilet/shower facilities (the showers were actually pretty good). There was a lot of walking around and we barely skimmed the huge variety of events, shows, lectures, seminars, concerts on offer so next time I will pay closer attention to the programme. N. managed to break her teeth brace on the penultimate day so there was a bit of a rush to get back to Maidstone and return the vans and get to the orthodontist in time before our early morning departure on the Tuesday to Cephalonia for the next part of our Summer adventures.