Grocery Shopping

After the sticker shock that everyone experiences when in Bermuda for the first time, there has been a lot of questions on how the prices are over here.  The answer is a good one…. it is no way near as bad over here on general items.  Equally I have only been here a short time and I am struggling to do the conversion in my head because math has never been my stong point!!

Each mall has a different grocery store attached to it.  The Dubai Mall (next to work) and the Marina Mall (closest to home) both have Waitrose.  Very cool!  I recognise the produce and can get some nice things from home which I would have been missing in Bermuda.  Still no gluten free range though. 

The Ibn Batutta Mall that I went to yesterday had a place called Geant,  Huge place, absolutely massive.  Probably about the same size as a monster Wal-Mart in the States.  It has as much in it too.  Random the things you could find!  Although the good news was that I found Cool Ranch Doritos.  Yummo!  I bought some humus and had myself an instant dinner!

Todays mall was Mall of the Emirates.  It has a grocery store called Carrefour.  Huge, again.  Not quite as big as Geant, but close for sure!  It was the first “real” shop that I had done, rather than just nipping in to get a couple of bits. 

What impressed me the most was how much fruit and vegetables everyone was buying.  I know it sounds daft, but was just insane after living in Bermuda where it was absolutely extortionately priced, then the UK where most people live of pre-made, frozen food.  People were filling half their trolleys with fresh produce.  It was fantastic!

It did lead to some serious people watching though.  I mean, what was the lady going to make with 2 cabbages that were roughly twice the side of my head.  What about the man who had about 40 onions.  And the family that bought about 15 cucumbers.  I was so tempted to ask, or to stalk them around the shop to find out what else was going into their trolley, but thought that really neither idea would be all that appropriate!!

It is a fantastic place to people watch though.  Waitrose is full of expats really buying stuff from home.  Carrefour was full of every nationality, and culture that you can find here.  Their trolleys are full of produce I don’t recognise, and wouldn’t have a hope in being able to cook!  I just really want to know what they are doing.  Maybe one day I will ask… probably not though!

The other cool part was looking around the produce section and not knowing what some of the things were.  I could take a rough guess as to whether it was a fruit or a vegetable by looking at what it was surrounded by, but more than that, I got nothing!  I haven’t seen them on any of the cookery shows or in a supermarket before.  I read the signs and was still in the dark.  I am going back with a camera next week and taking pics and then googling them!  My cooking could be a giant experiment for the next few weeks!!!!

I will be a bit boring now and tell you what I bought so you can be super impressed, well the Bermuda people can, about how much I got for a relatively small amount of money!  To those in the UK, or elsewhere in the world, just pretend do be excited for me!!

Potatoes, 1 courgette/zucchini, 2 red and 1yellow onion, broccoli, 2 garlic bulbs, strawberries, 2 oranges, 1 aubergine/eggplant, bag baby carrots, 2 bars of galaxy chocolate, 1 red,1  yellow and 1 orange pepper, 6 black plums, minute steak, turkey slices, 2 dark rye ryvita, small orange juice, glade candle and a small melon.

Want to take a guess at how much?!

AED140

which is…

UK£25

or…

US$39

(all approximate and based on todays exchange rate)

Not bad hey people!  I am super impressed!  I dread to think what that would have cost me in Bermuda.  I  actually think it wasn’t bad compared to the UK either.  I enjoyed that shop very much and think that Carrefour is going to be my grocery store of choice!

Yay to affordable fresh foods!!

Advertisements

Lunch with The Girls!

Today was the official public holiday for the Prophet’s Birthday therefore I had the day off and on your first day off, a girls lunch really must be done!

Off M and I went to a place called Medinat to meet her friend P and her 3 month old baby!  It turns out that the baby was born on the same day as my nephew!  She was absolutely adorable.  A true “adorabubba”! 

Medinat is a souk, a hotel and a mall all rolled into one!  Absolutely great place!  Parking could be much improved though.  Apparently it is an absolute nightmare.  We were lucky today that we were there before the rush so found a space fairly easily.

We were having lunch at a place called The Meat Company, which is a South African chain… and one that we very much appreciate having spread across the globe!!!

M had called a couple of days ago to reserve a table thankfully as  we got the best table ever!  We were sat right on the water’s edge, and looking up at the Burj Al Arab!  I really couldn’t stop staring at it for very long, even with the adorabubba there! 

Lunch was lovely, but supersized.  Next time I go I really have to not eat anything all morning!  I started with grilled halloumi (sp?!) with roasted vegetables and followed it with a burger!  I really need to stop eating burgers soon or I am going to completely look like one.

The adventurous part of the meal was the ‘beef bacon’ that I tried on my burger.  Odd.  Very odd.  Obviously this is a Muslim country so there is no pork on any menus.  I don’t really miss it yet, but bacon on a burger is kind of a must in my world.  So I got all brave and ordered the beef bacon.  Again, and I can’t say it enough… odd.  It wasn’t minging, but it isn’t something that I will rush to have again.  It was a bit like chewie, slightly tough minute steak, but cut as thin as regular bacon. 

In case you didn’t get the message already… odd.

Oh, and the other thing… the worse virgin strawberry daiquiri that I have ever tried! 

After lunch I decided that I wanted my photo taken on the bridge that leads over to the beach side, and eventually to the Burj Al Arab.  After watching for a while, we discovered that it was a bridge that could only be used by people staying at the hotel.  No one was even allowed to step on it for photos.

Not me!  I walked myself over there and had a little chat with the guard, and M stood across the water and took snaps!  Look how well it worked…

 

Yay me and my cheek! 

We went for a walk around the shops after that and can I just say, I am absolutely convinced that I am going to end up with the most over the top apartment ever if I don’t get one that is fully furnished!  I had previously thought that I liked white walls and clean lines… until I found all this cool stuff in the souk! 

For example:

 

and for clothes:

Start keeping your fingers crossed for me and my mental health, and sense of colour and design… and well, me generally!!

OMG – this isn’t just a Mall!

The Dubai Mall… WOW.  Huge doesn’t quite cover it.

I went for a “little” explore after my work lunch.  We had lunch at a water side restaurant, which of course I can’t remember the name of now!  It was in Souk Bahar, which is a little offshoot of the Dubai Mall. 

After we were sat down and had our drinks ordered, music started pumping through the speakers.  I was a little confused until I looked out over the  lake thing and saw the dancing fountains! I obviously hadn’t read that far in my tour guide books!

It was fantastic.  The backdrop for them is the Burj Khalifa.  These fountains pulsed and sprayed in time to the music.  It lasted maybe 5 minutes and was just amazing!  Apparently it is even better at night because the fountains are lit up too.  I can’t wait to go back and see that!

(‘borrowed’ picture!)

So after lunch I walk across the bridge and head into the main mall.  I can not explain how huge it is.

I went in through the Food Court.  I had just eaten a huge lunch so skipped straight through to the elevators and found the stores!

I walked out of the elevator and straight into Fashion Avenue.  I knew there were stores like M&S and Monsoon, but what I wasn’t ready for was Chanel, YSL, D&G, etc. etc. etc.

Mind-blowing. 

There was a whole host of designers I had only ever read about.  I was walking around like a kid in a candy store!  I drooled through windows and had to give myself a  good talking to in my head so that I didn’t linger! 

I think I will just avoid that section from now on!

I continued walking and walking and walking.  I could have walked for hours more.  You could literally spend the day there and not see everything I think.

Randomly, they have a fountain one corner.  Stunning.

(‘borrowed’ picture!)

I did find the Gold Souk.  I had thought, until I got home and told M and G about it, that it was THE Gold Souk so I was super disappointed.  It was just a tonne of jewellery stores.  Some pretty things, some way OTT things, some just pure tack.  It was really cool to see… until I turned the corner and walked to see Tiffany, Chopard, Bulgari (can’t spell that!) and Cartier… to name a few!  That was much better.  Apart from Tiffany.  I just am not a fan.  Chopard was great though!

After another talking to, I walked off and found myself outside of the ice rink!  It was probably one of the smallest rinks I have ever seen, but just the fact there is one was enough for me!  If I hadn’t injured my ankle just before I moved here, I would have been on that ice in a heartbeat, blue wellies or no!  They even have a skate shop.  Perhaps I will finally replace my broken skates!

(‘borrowed’ picture!)

I stopped and watched for a while, and then ambled on a bit further.  I turned another corner and found the biggest fish tank I have ever seen!  this mall is so huge it has it’s own aquarium!  Insane!  It has sharks and everything… and the most giant, ugly fish I have ever seen.  It even beats the ugly fish from Bell Diving in Bermuda!

(‘borrowed’ picture!)

I picked up the price list and information leaflet because I am absolutely going back with my camera for that!!

By this point I was shattered.  I had been exploring for a good two hours by this point!  I started to try and head for a taxi point, and found Waitrose instead!  It was a great find.  I knew it was in the mall, but not where it was.  And, the best part was that it was right next to an exit with taxis!

However, it did lead to Cab Ride #2 and #3 so perhaps, in hindsight, I should have waked a bit longer!

The Man, The Legend!

Eric Clapton.

Say no more really!

Just before I arrived in Dubai, I had an email from my friend J who lives in Abu Dhabi.  She wanted to let me know that Eric Clapton was holding a concert at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi in case I was interested in going.

In case?!  I jumped on it there and then!

I very nearly didn’t book as my credit card was declined.  I rang the bank and it turns out because I had booked a flight, and was trying to book this concert ticket, they had put a hold on my account in case it was fraud.  I am always pleased to know that things are being watched carefully, but if it caused me problems getting to see Eric, I would have not been happy at all.

Thankfully it didn’t.

I arrived armed with my ticket print out and after being in the country for 3 days, I headed over to the next Emirate.

I do have to say, I really wasn’t in the mood though.  The tiredness had hit me like a brick, and after having 4 large voddies the night before, I was more than a little hungover too!  Nevertheless, I soldiered on and set off for a new adventure.

After getting over my rather eventful taxi ride (see “Taxis (if that’s how the plural is spelt!”), we had a lovely dinner at the Rotana Hotel.  It was a buffet and had a mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian food to chose from. The chef was really good and came around with me so that I would know what was in each dish.  I ate (for really the first time that day!) some of the best Indian food I have ever eaten, but was particularly impressed with the roasted aubergine/eggplant with humus.  Yummo!

We knew the music started at 8.45 but assumed that there would be a warm up act.  We arrived just after then, and made our way through to the Gold Circle (thanks again J for getting the freebie tickets!) and didn’t once feel guilty for not using the ticket I had paid for!  Once I had remembered to put my glasses on, I could see the man rather well!

He is absolutely mesmerizing.  I have a total wield old guy crush now!

He performed from 8.45 (oops!) straight through, without pause, until at least 10.30.  He played the classics and he played the blues.  It was just superb.  I was very thankful that he didn’t play “Tears in Heaven” but even more thankful that he played “Layla”!  

I still can’t believe I was there to see this amazing man play without all the pomp and fuss that goes with todays bands.  It was him, his band and raw talent. 

Would I go again? 

In a heartbeat!

Taxis (if that is how the plural is spelt!)

No surprises that my spelling and/or grammar hasn’t improved, but you get what I mean!

Before you get a car, there are a few different ways to get around…

1.  The bus – there appears to only be two routes round Dubai and neither come near my house.

2.  The metro – their version of a tube, but more like a monorail.  It is one route and goes from kind of near my apartment (AED10 in a cab away) and does have a stop near the office.  Not bad.  AED4.10 per ride between them both, and you can pay daily or get a card – a bit like an Oyster Card for London travel.

3.  The Taxi… keep reading…

Taxis (I need to look this up shortly as it is bugging me!) are readily available.  All you have to do is walk out onto the street and you can catch one.  They will literally stop anywhere, and will happily cause an accident to do so!  Unfortunately this isn’t a joke.  They are insane.

Cab ride #1 was from my apartment to work last Thursday.  I was going into the office to meet everyone and have lunch with the HR lady – who turns out to be the Office Manager. 

I walk down to the street and hail one straight away.  Excellent!  That is pretty much where the good news ended. 

I was clinging onto my seatbelt and the seat for dear life as he swerved, minus any form of indication, in and out of 6 lanes of traffic at a terrifying speed.  To give him credit, there was only a couple of times he nearly caused an accident.  The other issue was that he wouldn’t turn the aircon on as it used too much petrol.  Blugh.

I arrived at the office revoltingly hot and like I had just stepped off a white knuckle ride… no, strike that… I had just stepped off a white knuckle ride and looked like it too!

That was nothing compared to my anger at Cab Ride #2.

After lunch at the Dubai Mall with the Office Manager, I spent a good couple of hours ambling around exploring.  (For my thoughts on that see “OMG – this isn’t just a Mall!” shortly to follow!)

After I had seen as much as I could take in, I went and found me another taxi.  Something should have set alarm bells in my head when taxi-man was reversing back through a one way system in the mall parking lot in order to pick up the fare.  But, being exhausted and jet lagged, I ignored my gut instinct and got in. 

Error.

I gave him the address of where I was going and he kept babbling on about being late to bring the taxi back.  I had received advice from M that I should ignore all attempts at conversation for safety’s sake, and so ignored him.  After a couple of minutes he is rambling away on his cel phone, whilst swerving in and out of the 6 lanes of traffic.  Then he slows down.  Then he pulls over.  Then I get ready for an awesome argument!

Turns out that if he doesn’t get his taxi back to the company by a certain time he will receive a very hefty fine.  I did point out that it was his problem, not mine, and if he had been running so late maybe he should not have tried to be greedy and take one last fare.  So he gets all uppity and then tells me to get out and get into the cab that has just pulled in behind him.  I refuse because I am not going to get into a cab with another passenger, especially not a man.  So we argue a lot more, and I eventually get out (without paying him because by this point I am super angry) and plan to walk back to the bus stop and hail another cab from there.  It was only about 300yards down the road so not so bad.

Just as I am doing so, the passenger gets out of the other taxi and explains to me that we are to swap cabs as he is heading closer to the taxi office type place and his driver is just starting his shift so will be able to make the “long” journey to my building.  I think this is a fair idea, so get in the other car.

Thus starts Cab Ride #3.

He didn’t kick me out, but we had to have words because he was cross that I had not paid his friend.  It was an argument that I won, but only after threatening not to pay him too.  Low, I know, but I was seriously pissed off !

We start the white knuckle ride all over but this time with the added advantage of the driver not watching the roads.  He was too busy staring at me through the rear view mirror (lippy mirror, girls!).  I had been warned this could happen, but after near miss number 2, I told him off.  He improved, but I am not sure that I had made him watch the road intently… well, I know I hadn’t given that I could paint a picture of his eyes perfectly despite only looking forward a couple of times.

The reason I was looking out of the window to the side more than looking straight ahead is that I was trying to give off the “do not even think about messing with me” vibes that I had been advised to use.  I need to work on this area, which I know most of you will find stunning and rather confusing, but in my defense, I was wearing sunglasses so he didn’t get the full effect of my ice maiden stare!

He was a fairly youngish chap, but I couldn’t hazard a guess as to which nationality.  Not Indian or the like though.  Too fair skinned and too tall.  Anyway, with his rather dreadful English (although better than any of my attempts at a second language to give credit where it is due!), I think he thought it was a good idea to try and chat.  Again, keeping M’s advice in my head, I gave very curt and short answers.  Also, thanks to Mum’s obsessive reading of my tourist books,  I had already put a ring on my “ring finger” so I just referred to “my husband”.  For example:

Q:  You live Dubai.
A:  My husband and I do.

Q:  You English.
A:  We are.

Q:  This your living?
A:  No.

(ok, so no mention of “my husband” on that last one but I figured I didn’t need a stalker to my building!)

So, with that cab ride over, I was dreading my next.  And for good reason.

Cab Ride #4 was from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.  I hailed the taxi from outside of my building (praying it wasn’t any of my previous drivers!) and finally, after half an hour, got in the cab with the most un-chatty driver ever.  I was very relieved.  He also didn’t drive too badly.  I was starting to think that this may be the turning point for my taxi experiences… when we arrived at Yas Island (see another post that I haven’t decided on the name for yet for further information!). 

We needed the Rotana Hotel.  I was in good time as I was due to be meeting friends at 6pm and it was only 5.30pm. 

I apparently had started to count my chickens too early.

Firstly, the driver hadn’t been to Yas Island before.  If he had told me that at the start, I would have waited for another taxi.  Also, the police had sectioned off a lot of the roads and closed others for the concert that night (see: “The Man, The Legend” for further information!) and so not only were we lost, but we were driving around in circles.  I started to lose my temper again.

After approaching the same point for the third time, I wound down my windows and told the policeman that we were going to the Hotel and that we needed to go straight on.  He moved the cones and we did.  Why the driver couldn’t have managed this when they both spoke Arabic, I really don’t know.

This was not the end of this muppets ability to get lost on a straight road.  We tried another 3 times to get people to tell us where we were going.  Again, it took me to ask for directions and explain to the driver where to go, for us to eventually get there.  I don’t think he was the sharpest tool in the box.

By this point it was 6.10pm.

By this point I had more than had enough. 

The fare was AED180 and so I gave him AED150 and got out.  I had asked repeatedly for him to hold the meter as we were driving around and pulling over for information, and he didn’t.  I was late, hot and angry.  I did feel a bit bad, until I told the girls that I was meeting and they agreed it was the best course of action!!

Cab Rides #5 and #6 were uneventful as they were back and forward to the concert venue, as was cab journey #6 which was less than 5 minutes.

Even so, I can not wait to get my own transport again!

Busy, Busy, Busy!!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, but I am exhausted!  I started work on Sunday and am so thankful that this week is a short week.  There is a public holiday on Thursday for the Prophet’s Birthday so at least I will have a three day weekend to get over the shock of working! 

I am having a great time though.  Work seems like it is going to be interesting, varied and challenging, and everyone in the office seems to be really nice. 

I will update more over the weekend as I have lots to say, but just now I am going to have a fairly early night. 

This working for a living is totally exhausting!!

Blonde in Dubai!

I made it!  A few bumps along the way but I am finally here…. and it was raining on arrival!!!

It all started Monday in the wee hours.  I was checked in with Emirates as everyone had told me how great it is.  No one had told me about their baggage charging policy though!

I had packed most of my bags and working along the lines of the other airlines.  I thought I would  check to see if the bags were 23kg or 25kg.  Good thing I did too.  You are allowed 30kg free but then are charged for every 5kg over.  For my three bags, it would have cost me £975 in baggage charges.

I had a major meltdown.

Enter British Airways.  I hate British Airways. I hate losing £1,000 even more though.  I cancelled my Emirates flight and booked, paid for my extra bags, sucked up the cancellation charges and still saved two thirds of the price it would have been.  Thankfully!

The slight, but very minor issue was that I would have to leave Tuesday night instead of Wednesday morning.  That meant fitting a lot more preparation into  a much shorter time, but we got it!

Despite the M25  trying it’s best to delay me, we got there on time.   I had a slight issue with my cases and had to repack but the biggest delay was at the wheelchair desk.  I had an age to wait.  The wait was worth it kind of though as I had a really nice ‘driver’.  He didn’t stop talking, but he was super sweet.  He took me around some of the shops and laughed at me when I bought enough water and Ribena to get through the flight as apparently it is more than he has seen anyone buy before.  Strange!

We got to the gates and discovered that there was a delay.  The emergency lighting wasn’t working so they had electricians and engineers on board trying to fix the problem.  Eventually they decided that it wouldn’t be logical to keep trying to fix the issue so they just bought a new plane in.  Why couldn’t they have decided this right away?

So, 110 minutes later than planned, we set off!  I am very proud to say that I actually managed to sleep for about 4 whole hours!  Very exciting!

Even more exciting was my first sight of Dubai.  It is huge and it is a proper city.  I know I knew that, but I had no idea how built up it was or how densely packed the buildings would be.  However, the most exciting part was seeing The World and one of the Palms.  Super cool!  Apparently they are sinking though which kind of sucks!

I got off the plane and this teeny weeny little chap was there to push my wheelchair.  I felt so bad for him.  I was also very thankful for him when I realised just how HUGE that the terminal was.  I have never seen anything like it.  I was pleased to spot a Costa Coffee, a Starbucks and a MacDonalds!

After being scowled at by absolutely every uniformed man in the airport, I was finally out into the fresh air… and there waiting for me was my lovely friends M and G!  I have never been so happy to see a friendly face!!

We packed the car full of my luggage and set off.  G is an awesome driver and negotiated the evil lane crossings like a pro.  I am officially super intimidated!  There appears to be very little structure and everyone just goes for it.  Insane.

We got to the apartment and got into the elevators to take us up to the 32nd floor. 

My ears popped!

I have apartment envy!  It is absolutely stunning!  The views are amazing.  It is not like Bermuda’s beauty but is absolutely awesome!  There are these huge buildings everywhere and you look down and you are looking at toy cars!  You look left and the marina is there, right and the beach is there. Wow!

We spent the morning chatting while poor G went to work and then I crashed.  I had to have a little napnap.  M and I agreed that I would snooze for an hour and then go and have a little explore.  M agreed to knock on the door for me because my alarm clock was still packed.

She knocked after an hour.

She knocked after two hours, and came into check on me.

Nothing!  I was absolutely unconscious!  Didn’t even stir!!!

I work up a little while later and stumbled into the shower.  I felt much more alive after that.   It took us nicely to a chill out half hour which I mostly used as a Q&A session, and then we headed out to dinner.

I have found a restaurant that make wicked awesome burgers, and, just to top it all off, sell biltong!  It is literally a 2 minute walk.  I think I am going to be a regular!!

After a little stroll along The Walk we came back to the apartment, and this is where my very long day ends!

I have had a great time and my brain is a bit mushy.  Far too much to try and absorb in one day, but I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it.