Tunnel Traumas!

Before I tell this tale I must first say that I really love Brussels and that it is a great city for the most part.  That being said it is not perfect and it’s biggest pitfall in my eyes is the Metro…

When I first started to take it I heaped praises on it compared to the Tube in London; less crowded, plenty of seats, polite staff and cheaper too!  However this was all before our heat wave…the trains are HOT…ridiculously hot, stick to the chair you’re in hot.  Punctuality is somewhat hit or miss AND on occassion they decide to kick you off the train!  This has all contributed to rubbing the shine off my commute.  The one remaining saving grace is my lovely colleague who I at least travel back with.

However the love is officially lost for the Brussels Metro after an incident a couple of days ago…I got on the metro as normal where it was already a sauna.  Then off we went until three stops along where we stopped indefinitely.  There were no announcements and people were getting increasingly anxious.  Eventually people started to force open the doors to let air in but we were in a tunnel and so we couldn’t leave the train.  Near us was a baby getting more and more distressed.  The whole thing was horrendous and at no point did ANYONE say what was happening.

An HOUR later they eventually allowed us to walk through the tunnel which was a surreal experience.  The staff were rude and off hand and almost seemed put out by having to help us – which was a bit much given they were literally standing around.  The whole thing was utterly weird and at no point did anyone apologise for any of it!  It transpired that it was an electrical fault that caused all this…a fault that happened two hours before we even went to the station so it could all have been avoided with some better communication!

Suffice to say I won’t be getting on a metro without water and a fan ever again!!

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Brilliant Birthday Bonanza!

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Last week I celebrated my 32nd Birthday in quite some style!  I felt completely spoiled rotten by everyone and had the best time!

The first day of the week my colleagues and I had a lunch together to celebrate both mine and my bosses birthday.  It was lovely to spend time all together as we are still all quite new and getting to know each other more and more.  They spoiled me with a lovely box of goodies from Yves Rocher which was a wonderful surprise as I didn’t expect anything, least of all something so generous!  A great kick off to my birthday week for sure!

My dad flew in from Berlin as he had some meetings here in Brussels and so he planned a dinner the first night of his visit (my birthday eve) which was FAB.  We went to a brilliant place called JB’s which serves Belgian Food but with great style.  Haute Belgian Cuisine is fantastic and I heartily recommend it.  The restaurant is also beautiful and the people who own it are fanatical about what they do so the food is to die for!  To mark my birthday they had a firework sparkler thing which was great fun and made me really happy.  I love a firework!

The next morning I woke up and got ready for work and Bond and Dad had cake and tea and presents waiting for me.  I was thoroughly spoiled by them!  I got a fabulous jumper from my favourite store and a great new book from Bond – one to add to my ever expanding reading list!  He had also iced my cake which was most impressive!  He got it from the same place that we had our wedding cake made so that was really special.  Mummy and Daddy got me a load of make up, face masks, bath salts, a new frock and a cardigan as well as an expandable handbag which is very clever indeed.  All in all a perfect birthday morning!

I had a nice day at work and lunch with some colleagues which was a nice way to spend some time before a hectic afternoon trying to get things done.  In the evening Bond had booked dinner at La Quincaillerie which was awesome.  It’s a converted ironmongers store and it has a lot of the original fittings and fixtures which for a design nut like me is great.  I also loved the giant clock that they have on their stair way.  The whole look of the place is very well done.   The food also proved to be fantastic, Brussels is really spoiled with wonderful restaurants!

All in all it was a completely perfect Birthday and I felt very lucky!

Conference Chaos

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So last week I had my first conference with my new job where we headed to Frankfurt.  My first experience of Belgian trains was extremely positive, I had a yummy eclair and beverage at the platform with my colleague, the train was comfortable and clean and arrived bang on time.   From then on though the trip descended somewhat into chaos as I realised that German efficiency was not going to be deployed.

First we had huge boxes to cart around (thanks to my valiant colleague I mostly stood and guarded them while he hefted them until he managed to force someone to give us a trolley).  Then we finally dropped all this off and tried to check our emails and do some work that was urgent for our event the next day.  Naturally the WiFi did not want to work and so we had to work from our phones, less than ideal for sure!  By the end of the day we were absolutely exhausted!

Thankfully we had the most enjoyable evening with the rest of the team and felt somewhat refreshed after our ordeal of a day.  We got to bed late but happy we had survived!

Up early the next morning our spirits were instantly deflated when we realised our conference room had not been set up!  Soon we were moving tables and chairs and cleaning the floor.  Not ideal!  Then we realised all our attendees were lost all over the vast conference centre.  Cue me running around in my Ferragamos trying to find them – btw those are the WRONG shoes for such a job!!  Eventually everyone had arrived and we started the event which thankfully proved to be a HUGE success and almost made up for my sore feet!

In the evening we had another team dinner, sadly neither my Belgian or Romanian colleague were overly wowed by German cuisine – the fries left much to be desired I was informed.  British boarding school obviously made me less fussy!  In any case we had a good time together and it was good to get to know each other all a bit better.

The last day of the conference was certainly the best as I got to actually go to the stand and meet the people that we help support in their projects.  It was great to learn more about their work and see the difference that our work can make.  I really enjoyed the feeling that in some small way I make a difference to them.

We took a late train home armed with donuts and chatted all the way back.  I got home to Bond who earned major husband points by greeting me with a bloody Mary ready made and a hot bath with bubbles!  As he had also been away on a business trip I was really touched and it instantly made me feel better – exhausted but happy.  Not a bad end to a hectic week really!

Books brilliant books!!

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Now that we live in Brussels in my parents place I have access to my dads library which is amazing.  He has a great range of books and I am trying a few things I might otherwise never have read which is great.

I have started with ‘Londoners’ from my dads shelf.  As a born and raised Londoner who left home a few years back and still can’t face the idea of going back I was intrigued by this book.  The cover says it all really

‘The Days and Nights of London as Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Long for It, Have Left It and Everything Inbetween.

As someone who left but falls bang slap in the middle of love and hate with my home city this book was a great read.   I think if I had never left I would have been annoyed by some of the views people hold on my fellow Londoners.  There are a great deal of stereotypes that I previously resented but now have had to accept are true.  Why don’t we speak to each other?  What’s the fear of smiling at a stranger?  Also must we speak so fast?  My poor colleagues for whom English is a second language said ‘luckily you annunciate which helps’.  Five years away and still I speak like I just drank a litre of coffee, ironic as I don’t touch the stuff!  It’s also true that we think we come from the best place in the UK and are a tad dismissive of the rest of the country.  The parts I loved most of these books were the hidden parts of London that showed the good of the city, especailly the tale of the lost and found at the train station – it will restore your faith in humanity.

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For me I love London for the people, nothing will ever take the place of those old friendships that I slip back into like a favourite pair of shoes.  The city itself may be the footwear equivalent of having to run a marathon in stilettos but the friends make it feel like there will always be a sofa and slippers ready to recover with.  For those friends who have always dropped everything to see me – you’re my London and I love you far more than I could ever love a place.

My move to Brussels pushed me to read ‘Merde in Europe’ by Stephen Clarke.  Hilariously written and easy to read I finished it in two days (the commute on the metro has massively increased my ability to finish books!)  It was great realising how many of the places I know and recognise – my local metro station even gets a mention.  Having only been here a few weeks it’s great to realise how at home I feel here.  I even felt defensive when one of the characters was rude about the food…Belgian cuisine is in fact brilliant and the produce in their supermarkets is unbelievable.  Our little local carrefour is full of great stuff that doesn’t cost the earth!  Straciatella yoghurt is a game changer btw!  I now want to read the rest of his books as I find his style amusing and engaging.

Having finished that I just started ‘Back Story’ by David Mitchell (the comedian, not the author of Cloud Atlas as he is quick to point out!)  It’s very funny so far and enjoyable to read (the chapters are the perfect length for my commute which shouldn’t be a criteria but does mean I can really enjoy it without having to stop mid paragraph.  There is something charmingly endearing about David Mitchell, and as Bond will tell you – being endearing is a huge character plus in my book.  That endearing and charming self deprecating way he has comes across brilliantly in this memoir.  I am only a couple of chapters in and already I can’t wait to eat some more…and on that note, back to my book  I go.

 

 

Well it’s been a while…

I am sorry that I have been missing in action for an extremely long time!  A lot has happened in the past year but now that we are settled I feel it’s time to start blogging again!

So First things first – Bond and I got married!  We had the best day ever (though I imagine everyone thinks that about their wedding!)   It was extremely special to share this momentous occasion with so many people we love and care about.  Everyone made a big effort to make it the perfect day and we felt so extremely lucky and happy!  We danced till very late in the morning and just had the best time celebrating.

Post wedding we went to Mauritius for our honeymoon which was BLISS.   It is such a beautiful Island with so much to see and do.  We were lucky enough to stay at the Four Seasons where we were treated like royalty.  We were able to really  enjoy some quality time together looking at the gorgeous beach and we also got out and about.  We went to the races and to a rum tasting as well as a tea plantation.  We were so lucky to see so many amazing things!

After Mauritius it was back to a stint of ‘real life’ in Dubai where Bond had to work and I was able to enjoy a bit of a break from working life and wedding planning!  We had decided that this was to be our last few months in Dubai so we made the most of what we still wanted to do and saw friends to say our goodbyes.

In March we packed up our bags and headed off on our next adventure!  We went to India to explore around and then on to Jordan.  Both countries were incredible and special in their own unique ways.

From Jordan we went back to the UK for some time with Bond’s family which was lovely.  His new niece is cute as can be so it was fun playing with her!

Then a stint in London to see my friends which was great fun – it had been too long!

From there a jaunt to the US of A. California, Ohio and Atlanta!

We then had some time back in the UK before heading to our final destination…Brussels, Belgium.

We have now been living in Belgium for a few weeks.  Bond is working on his new business and I have a job which so far I am really enjoying!

It has been a very hectic and full on year full of fun and new experiences! Now though time to get back into blogging and sharing the fun that Belgium has to offer.  Oh and now I work a four day week I am finally finding time to read – book reviews to follow!!

 

Ajman…amazing again!

ajman-sarayOn our first trip to the Ajman Saray we fell in love with the place and went back and loved it all over again.  So when Bond proposed a spontaneous weekend away back to this magical place for the third time I leapt at the chance!  I was hopping with excitement and danced and sang in the car while Bond drove, apparently this is preferable to my navigational and driving tips!  It’s only a 40 minute drive from where I live so an ideal spot for a quick staycation.

The second we arrived the luxury experience started.   We were greeted with champagne and a room upgrade to a fabulous suite with a sea view.  As we had skipped breakfast we decided to have a healthy and nutritious snack before heading to the spa, but then we realised what a silly idea that was and instead had milkshakes and split a cake.  The holiday was officially on!

feature-hot-stoneWe headed on up to the spa after gorging ourselves and were led to the couples suite.  The GOCO spa is totally beautiful and the staff are so lovely and relaxed that you feel instantly at ease.  Bond had convinced me to try a hot stone massage and my word am I glad that he did.  Even three days later I feel like a new woman with relaxed muscles and my neck is straighter.  Bond had the same treatment and said he felt rejuvenated too…so much so he was kind enough to buy me a beach dress in the spa shop!  I felt very spoiled and instantly wore it to go to the beach so I could show off my chic new look.

safi-restaurantThe rest of the day was spent enjoying the beach, swimming in the sea and having a cocktail at sunset.  We also watched a lovely couple celebrate their engagement and they were kind enough to share cake and wedding favours with us which was so lovely.  It was the start of many lovely moments the weekend offered us. Soon we went to dinner at Safi restaurant which was delicious.  The food is Japanese fusion and they have a buffet so you can try all sorts of different dishes.  I especially enjoyed all the sushi which was so fresh!  The Japanese pancakes were also delicious and Pom enjoyed his noodles a lot.  The cake section was also incredible and we tried every single one and practically rolled out of the restaurant.

After dinner we went to the bar where we had yummy cocktails and chatted away. It was so lovely to have so much quality time together as Bond has been working so hard recently!  It felt like we caught up on so much and also shared our thoughts and hopes for the future.

photo1jpgThe next day we started with a delicious breakfast before heading straight back to the beach where we enjoyed some fabulous weather. The sun shone brightly and I have even got a bit of a tan which is thrilling after many pale years in Dubai. Bond then managed to persuade me to go on a jet ski which turned out to be brilliant fun!  We fell in but we were laughing so much we didn’t care, although Bond did lose his cap to the Arabian Gulf sadly, still such things are replaceable!  On our return from our adventure the hotel were kind enough to give us cake and champagne to celebrate Bond’s new job.  It was so lovely of them and the perfect way to end our blissful stay.

uae-flagAs we drove away from our little piece of paradise I told Bond that it couldn’t have been a more perfect weekend and I can’t wait to go back.  If you live in the UAE or you’re looking for a mini break then I recommend the Ajman Saray, you will leave feeling like a shiny new person!

All the news…

62180920I totally lost my blogging mojo but I am determined to get it back.  I have missed writing and interacting with everyone who kindly read my posts.  It’s time to get back to it and hopefully my groove will return a la Austin Powers! 

I thought it  best to get the wedding out of the way first then go chronologically! It’s a shamefully long time since I wrote so here are the highlights of the past few months.  There have been mini-breaks, fabulous meals and all sorts in between but the below is the edited version!

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The infinity loop has become the symbol for our wedding. 

The wedding looms large in my life right now.  Bond and I have proven rather efficient at all things wedding and have most things planned now.  My mother has been an incredible source of ideas as well as patience, it turns out I got a bit weird about chairs and the only person who really got the importance was her!  Not a single row has occurred so far which seems miraculous after every bridal magazine I read advised it would be carnage.  My dad is a voice of calm and seems to just get on board with everything. Now that most things are in place and booked the next hurdle is the ceremony…what readings and music to have is proving a challenge.  Getting the right tone of gravitas for the occasion but also levity for the kind of couple we are seems so difficult to get right.  Still tackle it we must and research will commence soon!  If you have any readings you think might be fitting please fire them at me!!!  Soon I have my first dress fitting for which I will fly back to the UK and my lovely mother will fly in from Berlin to see me in what will hopefully be my glory!  Depending how I look I will post photos for you to see…fingers crossed it all goes well.  We have lots of other wedding meetings in the UK including with the florist, I am so excited to see the vision we have discussed over Skype become reality.  Also living in the desert has given me an even deeper love of flowers so I imagine I will be basking in their beauty and snapping pictures like mad for Instagram.

c33db3979a4a214fd6e12b12995bdae7October had BIG news as one of my closest friends got engaged and then married within 8 weeks – proving that indeed anything is possible!  She even had a couture dress which I was pretty awe struck by.  The second she announced the wedding date we booked flights, got outfits and headed to London to see the nuptials.  It was such a fun evening, a small and intimate affair with all the people who really matter to them.  I was even asked to make a speech which was such an honour and it was so special to be able to force my humble friend to listen to some compliments while she couldn’t tell me to shut up.  So far they are happy and content and I couldn’t be more pleased for the pair of them, and their fur baby of course!  Every time I see the pictures I smile, she deserves every happiness!

happy-birthday-cake-designWhile we were in London my parents came over too and so we were able to celebrate my dad’s birthday all together which was so wonderful.  It’s always lovely to have family time together especially so spontaneously!  We had a lovely time together albeit it too brief but we did manage a couple of really fun dinners and breakfasts as we all stayed at the wedding venue which was magical.

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In November Bond and I went on the most amazing holiday to New York and Columbia. It’s the first big trip we have taken in ages and it more than lived up to expectations.  New York is an amazing city, it’s sort of how I imagine London would be if it got put on fast forward!  I loved the vibe of it though I imagine living there must be quite exhausting.  We managed to pack a lot in to our few days there, from art galleries to fabulous restaurants and many strolls through central park, including cocktails at Inn on the Park which was lovely.  The meal highlights for the trip are a toss up between ‘Craft’ and ‘The River Cafe’.  The two are polar opposites but they both excel at what they are trying to do. Craft is all about the food, everything is organic and the waiters can tell you where it is all sourced.  The service is also exemplary though in a laid back and casual way, we both felt like we were old friends with the staff and had been a thousand times before, they had even printed the menu with ‘Happy Anniversary’ which was so lovely and made us feel totally special. I would totally recommend it and I suspect we will always go back when we are in NYC. The River Cafe is old school glamour, the sort of place where the men wear jackets and ties and the ladies wear  proper frocks. The food is stylish and delicious and the staff make you feel like you’re back in the twenties and even though we were the youngest people there we LOVED it.

architecture-srgm-rotunda-empty-800e28086c397e28086533We hit all the major museums and had to accept that we will never be people who really appreciate modern art.  The architecture at the Guggenheim was amazing but the Edith Martin exhibition left us totally cold. I still regret not buying the tea towel that proclaimed ‘my five year old could have done that…but I guess he didn’t’; it captures my ideas about modern art for sure. As well as Museums we went to Broadway and watched ‘Book of Mormon’ which was hilarious and very well done.  We both enjoyed it a lot but I am not sure we felt it was quite as amazing as everyone had told us it was.  We managed to go to a Basketball game and happily my team won! I really enjoyed the vibe and the energy of the game and Bond enjoyed seeing real life cheerleaders in action.  I had to agree they had amazing moves and so much spirit!  All in all so many fun things that I am beaming just remembering them.

As well as getting our ‘culture on’ there may also have been a spot of shopping, I am only human after all and we were staying very near 5th Avenue…I fell in love with Bergdorf Goodman’s and wish I could shop there all the time, though it’s madly expensive! 

eloise3We also managed tea at the plaza where I discovered they have a shop for all things ‘Eloise’ who was my childhood heroine, I wanted to be her and live in a hotel like she did.  We had drinks at the Rockefeller tower and enjoyed the gorgeous views.  We went on a helicopter tour of the city and night as well as a river cruise which was just magical.  We discovered Eataly and ate there far too often but it was so easy for a quick bite on our last couple of days so we couldn’t resist. 

f39db8c23c1c8dd9c48df011c3b3c184The only sad day we had was when we went to the 9/11 memorial and museum which is tragic and harrowing and left me in tears for most of it.  They have created a beautiful and fitting tribute.  From there we went to Vietnam Plaza which is equally tragic and heart wrenching, not just for the memorial itself but for the fact it’s tucked away and treated like a secret which just feels so wrong.  I am glad that we went to see both places but I admit to being a bit of an emotional wreck by the end.

There are probably so many other things we did that I am forgetting now – but all in all it was an incredible trip and I really want to go back and do all the things we missed this time around!

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From New York we flew to Colombia.  What an amazing country!  One of my oldest friends got married there and it was so special to be part of this amazing occassion.  The wedding was beautiful and fun – we all ended up in the pool at the venue, even the bride and the mother of the bride took a dip!  We were in Cartagena and stayed at the Sofitel Santa Clara which is just the most beautiful and incredible place.  Soon it became the hangout for everyone regardless of where they were staying!  It was so so lovely to reunite with old friends and have wild times in a new place and create new memories that we will all treasure forever. While we were there I fell in love with the culture, the people are friendly and fun loving and so kind.  The food is unbelievable though very bad for the diet – how the Colombian women are so slim and healthy looking remains a mystery!  The weather was glorious, although one day it was overcast to the horror of the English set who wanted to sunbathe constantly.  We managed to go to a museum about Emeralds and Bond treated me to a stunning set of earrings.  We also went to the old fort which is a world heritage site, the scale of it is incredible.  I couldn’t believe how vast it was!  I urge everyone to go to Colombia, it’s beautiful and interesting and so fun and truly I felt very safe.  It’s firmly on my list of places to explore further!

ladies-night-1024x498On our return to Dubai three of my friends came for a visit!  It was so much fun to have them out here!  We went to ladies nights, had fun dinners and just enjoyed being reunited.  i can’t wait to have them visit again soon.  Luckily they all loved Dubai and are keen to come again!!


462d715d98a93af2b7a94a609679d52bFor Christmas my parents and I joined Bond and his family at their home.  It was so fun to all be together and to really enjoy the festivities.  Bond and his parents went above and beyond to make us all feel comfortable and at home and it was lovely to see my parents and his really becoming friends.  We played Charades, watched cheesy movies, ate way too much and really relaxed and had fun. By the end of our time together we were all sad to part ways and now we are planning our next family Christmas.

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Now to actually read Sophie Robehmad’s book about Dubai Expats!

 

In other ‘news’ I got made redundant, which I am seeing the bright side of.  Thanks to the generosity of Bond I am having a bit of time out to enjoy planning the wedding as well as do some travelling.  First trip London and Berlin!  So far I have embraced being a Jumeirah Jane as they call trailing spouses out here who don’t work.  I am becoming quite the gym goer and it turns out I can actually cook if I put my mind to it.  My mother also helped me do some major decluttering while she and my dad visited (dad did some useful heavy lifting under her instructions) and it turns out my utility room has a floor that isn’t made of plastic bags!!!  Who knew???  Not to sound too virtuous though I am also now on Season 4 of House and Season 2 of Ray Donovan and I binged on Call the Midwife which resulted in a lot of tears.

In happier career News the wondrous Bond has moved companies and been promoted in the process.  To say I am proud is an understatement!  It seems he is unstoppable!  So far he is doing really well in the new role and is enjoying it which is great!

2016_1_dragonfly_baseMy parents came to visit for two weeks, the poor souls had the most miserable weather I have experienced since moving to Dubai.  I couldn’t believe how grey it was, we even had rain on several days.  Luckily they really come to see us so they said they weren’t too upset about the bad weather.  We had such an amazing time together, as I wasn’t working we got to spend real quality time together and we went on some fun adventures too.  The Miracle Garden was a real highlight, it’s a bizarre place but well worth a visit – I imagine it’s one of the few places in the world you can see an Emirates Plane bedecked in blooms.  Another fab day out was to the Burj Khalifa to see the Bond exhibition – my Bond thoroughly enjoyed seeing his namesake in all his glory and he and Dad geeked out over the gadgets while mummy and I decided which gowns we liked the best.  I thoroughly recommend it to any Bond fan!  We also had many fabulous meals while they were here, wedding diet be damned was the theme of their trip!  I would say the two best were Marina Social and Dragonfly.  Marina Social is the restaurant by Jason Atherton at the Intercontinental where my parents stayed.  The food is incredible and although it’s a sharing concept you can opt out of that should you have to dine with only children like my dad and I…a wise call by mummy and Bond!  Dragonfly is next level dining, truly I haven’t had a meal like it in my life and I urge EVERYONE to go, fly to Dubai especially even.  I don’t think I can do the food justice in words and my mouth waters as I try to.  From the amazing Langoustine to the truffle Dim Sum to the best chicken I have ever eaten and all the epic courses in between I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to go here to eat.  The restaurant is dry and they have come up with this ‘Jein’ (juice wine) concept to combat that, every drink is paired with the course and comes in a special glass to bring out the flavours.  Truly you feel you’re drinking wine and even whisky with the last course, but you can still drive yourself home! A brilliant concept for non-drinkers and drinkers alike.  Go to Dragonfly, you’ll thank me and your taste buds will thank you!  As well as eating we just enjoyed hanging out together and chatting. 

Right I think that is everyone up to date…now I promise to do much better at updates from now on!!