Sunday, November 19, 2017

Spotlight

Personal Recommendations

 

This weekend, after a wait of about eight years we managed to stay at Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa for the very first time, it certainly will not be the last.  It is the most amazing place and I truly hope that everyone has the opportunity to visit Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa at least once in their lifetime.

We arrived at the resort slightly earlier than check-in for two reasons; I was too excited to get there and I was dying to see Team Al Maha again, nothing to do with the Jumbo Prawns that I knew were going to be on the lunch menu, that I also knew I was going to order.  We arrived at the main gate of the resort where Desert Ranger Kathryn met us and transported us to the main hotel. It's about a 10 minute drive through the desert dunes, Kathryn told us all about the resort and told us that Maretha was actually our appointed guide, we met her when we got to the Hotel.  Checking in is a very simple affair which involves a bit of paperwork, iced towels and two very lovely fruit cocktails. After checking in we headed down the Al Diwaan Restaurant. I will write about the food at Al Maha in a separate article. After a fabulous lunch it was time for our Guest Relations Manager Myat to show us to our Bedouin Suite all 75 square metres of it! I have posted some pictures here as my description won't do it justice.

The Suites are just amazing, each suite has its own infinity pool, none of the suites are overlooked so you have total privacy, we had a few Oryx that kept popping their nose in for a quick peak, and a really pretty little Gazelle nearly came up to the pool for some water.  You can handle intruders like that any day of week!! Suffice to the say the rooms are the ultimate in luxury and you find photo's here, along with information about all the facilities in the rooms, check this link.

After a few hours of sitting around doing nothing I decided we ought to really get ourselves out and about and explore the Resort, so following a quick shower in the biggest shower cubicle in the world, and a quick call to reception we were in a Land Cruiser with Kathryn and heading into the Dunes for the Wildlife Drive, absolutely superb!! so informative, we saw some fabulous Oryx, the views were stunning and the driving in the dunes, though scary (wimp), I have to admit was brilliant. Did you know that Al Maha Reservation is actually 225 square kilometres? that is 1/5 th of the total land in the Emirate of Dubai!

We got back to the hotel just in time to meet up with Maretha to be driven into the desert again, (I was too scared to do the camel ride), to see the sunset Al Maha style, that's with a glass or two of ice cold champagne!! Absolutely spectacular and if you do visit Al Maha I can strongly recommend you do this activity.  You can do two activies per day that you are resident in the Resort, more information about the activities can be found here.

We were very lucky to have Maretha as our Ranger as she very kindly took us to see the Falcons after the Sundowner experience, I met an Owl, an Eagle and various Falcons, Maretha has a very loud Falcon that she takes care off, I pretty sure it's a Geordie really.

After an amazing nights sleep in what felt like the biggest bed in the world, with the softest pillows known to man, we were up and out an about again, this time we headed to Timeless Spa, I am not a great one for Spa's but do appreciate their beauty, I have taken plenty of photo's which you can find here. The main pool for resort is also at Timeless Spa but I guess most people use their private pool.

Eventually our stay came to an end and Maretha came to collect us and drive us back to the main gate where we picked up my Pajero and headed back to Dubai Town, as we drove back I wondered how long it would be before I heard the birds breaking the morning sun, or for that matter when I would see the team at Al Maha again, I know it won't be long.

This one is for Chef David, Chef Sebby, Vivek, Thaya, Sateesh, Myat, Kathryn, Maretha, Aaron, Hussein, Irfan, Radi and the rest of the Team at Al Maha who made our visit so special. We WILL be back!

You can find Al Maha on both Facebook and Twitter

GA

 

 

For those of us who are parents we all know how hard it is see our little ones in any kind of pain or discomfort.  Well it turns out that one of Mitten's baby teeth just wasn't going to come out and her adult tooth was pushing up under it causing her some pain, so much pain that she actually asked to go to the Dentist, so we went this morning.

When I say we, I mean all three of us, there was no chance this was going to be a little trip to the Dentist with Mum, nope Dad had to come out of work, it was a real real drama.  We arrived at Dr Michael's Dental Clinic just before 11 am, filled in the appropriate paperwork and then we were introduced to the Dentist, Dr Alexander.  Then the real drama set in, tears, flailing legs, sobbing chest.  Even my favourite Sean the Sheep video on the screen didn't seem to help! Eventually and injection was adminstered and the offending tooth removed.  It was off to Choithrams for a treat, which turned out to be flowers so I am definitely not complaining about that.

Before we had even got home Mitten was bragging about how easy it was and that she would now like some braces ..... yes?  doubt it very much!

I would just like to thank all the team down at Dr Michael's Dental Clinic for managing to get us an appointment so quickly, and then for sorting Mitten out so professionally and of course patiently.  You have a really nice clinic there, and I hear there is a new Paediatric Dentistry Unit opening later this year, I hope it all works out well.  (there are already Paediatric Dentists at Dr Michael's though).

You can find out more information about both their clinics by clicking on their website here.

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I first came across Antiques Museum in Al Quoz about three years ago, it had been recommended to me by a friend as being a rather different place to check out.  I went three years ago and then tried to go again and couldn't find it!  Last week though I got some good directions from one of the twitterati and managed to find it.   The first thing I must say is that, it is not a Museum, it is a warehouse, and were there any antiques there?  genuinely I doubt it very much.

BUT there is a hell of alot of other stuff there, I mean tons and tons of stuff, this warehouse is basically Karama indoors! it is huge and has so many little nooks and crannies that you can easily get lost.  They sell everything from tourist tat, to beautiful bedcovers and cushions, shisha, shoes!  you name it they have it at Antiques Museum.  I specifically went as I have some pictures that need framing, I was really impressed with the choice of frames available and the fabulous collection of Middle Eastern art that was for sale.

I say if you have visitors or you just fancy somewhere different, get yourself along to Antiques Museum, if you can find that is!! here are my directions ...  you know the lights BEHIND Times Square? turn left there, then second right, then first right, then park. It is a big grey warehouse on the right hand side.

Enjoy!!!

It is no secret in the world of Social Media that I am a huge fan of Alexander McNabb. It is solely down to him that I even have a twitter account let alone know how to use it.  His persistence in assuring me that it "works" made me even more determined to become part of the twitterati and see for myself whether Social Media was as effective as he claimed.  He, of course was correct.

I had known for some time that Alex had written a book which he had not been able to get published, so when I heard that he had self published I nipped straight out to Jashanmal and bought one.  I am not a great reader, more an internet junky so Olives ended up on my bedside cabinet until we had our weekend away at Le Meridien Al Aqah a few weeks back.  It was there, due to enforced relaxation that I started to read Olives ....

I have never read a book ever in my entire life where I actually knew the author in the real world, Alex is real, he is a human being, one who if I am fortunate enough, manage to bump into every so often and have a chat.  I also listen to the show he co-hosts on Dubai Eye every Wednesday from 12 - 2 pm.  Paul Stokes, the lead character in the book for me was actually Alex, his voice was Alex's, it was all quite bizarre as I am reading a book about a fictional character who to me was real, at one point I was actually starting to wonder whether Alex had actually lived as his fictional character, but I know that isn't true.

I am not going to tell you anything about the storyline of the book, suffice to say it kept my attention and interest which when it comes to reading doesn't happen with me that often.  I recommend you grab yourself a copy ASAP, it won't take you long to read, each page leaves you wanting more.  If you enjoy Olives you may well enjoy Alex's other ramblings which can be found on his blogsite here.

Enjoy!

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It has been a big week in Casa GA, as some of you may know we celebrated ten years of marriage in style this week kicking off with a fabulous weekend break at Le Meridien al Aqah in Fujeirah, this was followed by Dinner at Jumeirah Beach Hotel on the actual day of our anniversary and then a special private luncheon at Emirates Golf Club for close friends and family.  But could we end it there?  no we couldn't, and I quite promptly contacted Chef David and booked a table for four for Afternoon Tea at Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa yesterday afternoon.

Following a late start to the day, four very tired and fragile (due to the Lunch) people dragged themselves into the Pajero and hit the Al Ain Road to explore the delights of Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa. I have been before so I was able to brag a bit and pretend I knew where everything was.  we were greeted on the terrace by Radi who swiftly directed us to the Bar where Afternoon Tea is served.  A big smile greeted us from Vivek who along with Chef David and Chef Sebby looked after us for the next few hours.

Afternoon Tea at Al Maha is not a grand affair of over filled cake stands dripping in cream and manicured sandwiches, on no it's better than that, there are no sandwiches but a selection of tiny hors dóeuvres that melt in your mouth.  Chef David (infact all the Chef's at Al Maha know) that we enjoy a good creme brulee, so they made us five, yes five different ones to try!!  Raspberry, Pistachio, coffee, pink grapefruit and saffron. Now you are going to want to know which one was the best, well I can't tell you, I ate all five and each one has its own unique surprise.  Vivek very kindly made us some fruit cocktails of Mango, Mint and Tabasco, now they really are something different! after working our way through the creme brulees we tried everything else on the display, the tiny scones were so light they crumbled on your tongue, and who would ever have thought that rhubarb jam with clotted cream would be a winner!  that is where Maha is different from everywhere else, they DO think outside the box, they do go that extra mile to make it different. There is a selection of teas and coffees available with the Afternoon Tea too.

Chef Sebby (I want to insert a heart at this point) very kindly showed us around the resort, which was a great treat for my guests.  We visited the Timeless Spa and met the lovely therapists who made us more than welcome.   After that we headed down to the kitchens for a catch up with all my old *colleagues*, it was so good to see everyone again, I am getting a bit worried that Al Maha is starting to feel like home, not as worried as my husband is though.

In the bar on the wall there was a huge picture of a leopard resting in a tree, I admired it the first time I was there, much to my delight I was able to buy the print which pleased GM Patrick as I am pretty sure he thought that I would end up taking the original from the wall!!

Anyway it's a fabulous way to spend a very very relaxing afternoon, and nice to get away from the hussle and bussle of Dubai itself, and at just 120 Dhs a head, it's worth every single dirham.  I took some photos which you can find here.  The heart at the bottom is for Team Al Maha.

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Last weekend we stayed at Le Meridien Al Aqah for the weekend, you can find the article here.  I didn't get time to write about the glorious restaurants though so here it is, food @ Al Aqah.

We arrived just in time for lunch and Mitten was keen to swim so we headed for Baywatch Village which is a rather quant beach bar right in the centre of the pool area and gardens.  I ordered my favourite salad ever Prawn and Avocado and the husband opted for one of his favourites, fish and chips. The food seemed to appear in minutes and was really good, the Nile Perch was cooked to perfection with a good crispy batter.  It was here that we met The Italian One (Boss Chef) who was to come a real big part of our weekend, and after a quick chat about what I like I was told that I would be dining at Gonu that very evening and that he would personally oversee that I got yet another seafood kick.  When I am out and about I tend to opt for seafood as I am basically useless at cooking it at home.

That evening, we headed back down to the beach area to meet The Italian One and have our Gonu Experience.  Gonu is a small Bar/Restaurant right on the beach, with a sea view table we were in our element. We had a Seafood Platter for two, with grilled vegetables and steak fries. It was absolutely superb, if you ever or I should say when you visit Le Meridien Al Aqah you have got to try Gonu.  Gonu was built after Cyclone Gonu hit the East Coast in 2007, if I remember rightly Gonu was the brain child of The French One.  My husband said it was the best steak he had in a long long time, and he likes his steaks cooked to perfection.  The Lobster was so fresh I think it had just walked up from the beach. Following that we were served with Ginger Creme Brulee, georgous, but don't worry Team Al Maha you are still the winners of Best Creme Brulee in the UAE.

That was our first days dining experience we shall now move onto day two.  Breakfast is served in Taste if you are staying in a Club Room which we were but I still opted to try the busier Views Restaurant, located on the lower ground floor of the hotel. We would save our Taste Breakfast experience until the following day.  There was a great selection of food, typical of most 5 star hotels in the UAE, I am not a great one for a big breakfast so I opted for eggs and toast.  Mitten was somewhat disappointed as there was no chocolate fountain, the worrying thing about that is if The Italian One had known that he would have found her one!!

Later that morning Chef Bybee came to find us by the pool and took us on a tour of his amazing kitchens, I am getting rather into these Hotel Kitchens these days!!   so much hussle and bussle and creativity going on, I was particularly amused by the guy who was carving huge polystyrene Easter Eggs for the forthcoming Easter Weekend.  I would like to personally thank Chef Bybee and the rest of his team for being so welcoming during our time at the Hotel. 

Before we knew it was lunchtime and Chef Bybee came up trumps with some King Prawns and Mahi Mahi with vegetables, served in Sapore. Sapore is a small Italian Restaurant at the Pool Side, beautiful decor and fabulous bread! all baked in-house.  The fish, and prawns were superb, the butter orange sauce was what made it so special though!  Following this we had a chocolate and vanilla layer cake with raspberry coulis, divine. 

Now you would think that we couldn't possibly eat any more food but we did, we managed a very small afternoon tea in the Club Lounge, beautiful tiny scones with clotted cream and a nice pot of coffee, with a sea view too!! beautiful.

That evening, and by this point in time I am really struggling! more food!  yes more food, this time it was time to try out Taste, the Hotel's Thai Restaurant.  We met the lovely lady Chef who I am guessing we should call The Thai One, she personally prepared me a half portion of crispy duck and my husband had the Masaman Chicken Curry.  I love Crispy Duck, who doesn't!  It was fabulous, really tasty, moist and well seasoned. 

Day two over and now onto our last day and we returned to Taste to experience the A La Carte breakfast menu, Eggs Benedict for me and Chilli Omelette for the husband, he had to get more chilli's but I know for a fact that they will remember the next time and put loads in so that he ends up in a sweat!!

Well that was our dining experience at Le Meridien Al Aqah, a very very fine one at that.  If you want to see some photos you can them by clicking here, and if you so wish you can like my page too.

(I would like to add that we left the Hotel and didn't eat another thing until the following morning!!)

Thanks again to Team Al Aqah

GA

For just 40 years the Meridien Group of hotels has been offering hospitality to weary travellers in over 50 countries around the globe, they have quite a presence in the United Arab Emirates, and I have stayed in the three main Hotels in Dubai, but never the one on that much talked about East Coast, so last weekend we ventured over the Hajar Mountains and into Fujeirah to experience the delights of the Le Meridien Al Aqah.

There was of course a reason for this little road trip, and that was to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary and the fact that I was on my feet and back to "normal", one of my main challenges on the road to recovery was to meet Team Al Aqah.  When I walked through the door of the Hotel I felt immensely emotional at the fact that I had actually achieved it!  My first point of contact was Diaa who checked us very swiftly into our room and explained the layout of the hotel and the facilities it had to offer us during our stay.  The room was just breathtaking, not in it's decor as such but in the effort that had been made to personalise it to our taste. The floor was littered in flower petals and a bath towel, much to Mitten's amusement had been changed into an elephant!  You can find all the photos here.

Le Meridien Al Aqah is set on the East Coast of the United Arab Emirates and faces the amazing Indian Ocean, the view from our room (all rooms are sea view) was quite spectacular, a clear view of sea and mountains with the occasional fishing boat dotted along the shore. The overall feeling was one of total calmness and relaxation.

After checking into our Club room (photo's can be found here), we quickly changed into our swim gear and headed down to the pool area to investigate!  Le Meridien Al Aqah is one of the smallest hotels on the coast (room wise) but it boasts the biggest pool/beach/garden area. As the hotel is just a decade old the gardens are well developed, and of course beautifully maintained.  The afternoon was spent on sun loungers relaxing into the Al Aqah experience.

Later that day as the sun went down we headed into the hotel to explore what the Al Aqah had to offer its residents. There is no time to get bored during your stay, there is everything from a Spa to diving! boat trips to manicures!  there is absolutely no need to leave the resort (unless you want to) during your time at the Hotel.  There is a super well equipped kids club which is well staffed, what I particularly liked was the fact that you had to physically collect your child, which could give you an extra 20 minutes of solitude if you needed it.  Mitten particularly enjoyed the crazy golf course, I have always felt you need to be a bit crazy to golf!

That evening after a fabulous dinner (I am writing a separate article on the dining experiences at Al Aqah) we made our way back up to our room to share a glass of something sparkly and enjoy a good nights sleep, not before popping my USB into the huge flat screen television and catching up with a bit of UK drama.   The next morning we opened our curtains to gaze out at the view to find an Anniversary wish carved into the sand!!  There is nothing this hotel won't do to make sure their guests have an amazing Al Aqah experience.  If you are visiting the hotel don't be shy, tell the team why you are there and they will ensure they make it special for you.

After two glorious nights we headed back to Dubai, the journey took us just over two hours but we did stop at The Friday Market to buy a rug, which has lovingly been christened Rug Al Aqah.

All I need to do now is to thank Patrick and the rest of Team Al Aqah for their overwhelming hospitality, we will never forget our 10th Wedding Anniversary experience, thanks to everyone who went that extra mile to make it so so special, in particular The Italian One but you will hear more about him in my Le Meridien Al Aqah "The Food" article.

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