Friday, 28 December 2018

2 0 1 8

A quick so-another-year-is-over post.

The Dubai 10k, an afternoon in the desert, a corporate visual identity refresh, toasties at Boston Lane, me wearing trousers #groundbreaking, staying in a film producer's flat thanks to Airbnb, taking on the world's longest zipline, bending over backwards at Nikki Beach and my last day as a lawyer 

My best nine tells me that you like pictures of me disproportionately to how much I post them, that you prefer white bread, crisps and black coffee to smoothie bowls and salads, that the inside of a cosy London apartment is equal to a sweeping Dubai skyline and that the best photos are the ones where memories are being made.

The non-Insta highlights of 2018 include: leaving a career path which made me deeply unhappy yet felt integral to my identity, looking after a friend's cat for a week and only turning its paws blue, going from having last driven a Smart Car in St Albans in 2010 to changing lanes on an eight-lane superhighway while debating the effect of Mercury's retrograde, introducing my boyfriend to my best friends over G&Ts and feeling like things have always been this way, getting a sneaky second tattoo in Hong Kong which no one has really seen yet, catching-up with one of my original "internet friends" in Bali, soaking up the sun on Brighton beach while watching my mother and boyfriend skim stones and perfecting my ability to nap twice in an afternoon and still sleep well all night.

I think 2019 is going to be even better... 

Saturday, 1 December 2018

November Round Up

And, just like that, it's December.

November skipped by rather quickly, a blissful month of slightly cool mornings, evenings spent outdoors, yoga classes and long walks.

This blog turned nine at some point - I'm not sure if 22 year old me could contemplate any part of my life now, let alone still typing into this white square periodically. Blogging isn't as big a part of my life as it once was but it still, and always will, have a special place in my journey and stands out as a prominent peak of the slightly bumpy ride of my twenties.

November looked like this:

1. Breakfast at Parkhouse after paddle boarding on Kite Beach - Mummy Lipstick came to town at the start of the month and didn't fall in during her first attempt at paddle boarding!

2. Devoured every word of Dolly Alderton's book in one day - I think all of Instagram has already read this but if you haven't then buy / borrow it right now. Just seeing the cover on my desk makes me at once feel less lonely, and miss my girlfriends terribly.

3. Breakfast at my favourite morning hangout, The Sum of Us, before taking part in one of their weekly "cupping" classes and learning a lot about coffee in the process. I did go home and write notes afterwards.

4. Taking a break from reading to do some yoga at Nikki Beach.

5. His and her's breakfast at The Surf Cafe. I curse and admire my boyfriend's fast metabolism at every meal.

6. YogaFest! An amazing morning at Dubai Internet City practicing yoga outside. I finally convinced myself that I do enough yoga to deserve a chi-chi yoga mat.

7. Breakfast for lunch at Amongst Few Cafe. The vegan bowl might be one of my favourite meals of 2018.

8. Paddle boarding again at Riva Beach Club.

9. Possibly the best swimming pool in Dubai at The Four Seasons DIFC, definitely not one for peeing in. You were all thinking it.

Favourite bits of the internet this month:

Michelle wrote about spend shaming - as an avid fan of Refinery29's money diaries and someone who has swung from three-designer-handbags-in-a-week to taking a substantial pay cut and...not doing that anymore, this rings so true.

Charlie's "Dear Expat" post is really cute - even as a self-confessed Miss Scrooge, being far from home at this time of year can be hard.

Haley's Man Repeller article on going make-up free felt like a timely read - I mostly stopped wearing make-up a few months ago as part of a general cutting back of consuming and using "things" and I'm still enjoying the freedom to rub my eyes and nap on a white pillow case in the middle of the afternoon.

I'm late to the podcast party as always but (somewhat predictably as a former lawyer) I am enjoying Serial Season 3 a lot.

Let's make the last month of 2018 a good one....


Friday, 16 November 2018

Planning Your Trip to Dubai

It's coming up to two years since I moved to Dubai so I'm finally putting together a little guide for planning your own trip to the desert. I first visited Dubai in 2007, returning every other year or so until moving here permanently in February 2017.

Dubai Miracle Gardens 

It's taken me a while to settle here as a "home", and living here is not the same as being here as a holiday-maker but I've now got my own edit of breakfast spots, cute shops and splash-out locations that I always take visitors to. Whether you want to flop on a sunlounger, shop shop shop or do something a little more adventurous, Dubai definitely has something to keep you entertained.

Horse riding in the desert 
Where to Stay

For travelling on a budget, I always recommend the Rove Downtown. The location is great, rooms are clean and the hotel is basic but stylish. Airbnb is legal in Dubai and is another option if you don't want the expense and fuss of a five star hotel.

Dubai Creek 

Dubai isn't a cheap place to holiday (check out my Money Diary for a typical week's spending). I'd recommend making restaurant reservations and booking activities in advance so that you know how much money you have left to play with.

TimeOut has a list of free activities which will help keep costs down.

Dubai from the Burj Al Arab 

Breakfast is my favourite meal and my top picks are;
  • The Sum of Us, Trade Centre Area - I am here almost every weekend for the great coffee, veggie and vegan options and all-round good vibes.
  • Tom and Serg, Al Quoz - with the same owners as The Sum of Us, this is the original Aussie-style cafe in Dubai 
  • Baker and Spice, Souk Al Bahar - great views of the Dubai Fountain from the outside terrace and the best freshly baked bread in Dubai 
  • Comptoir 102, Beach Road - super healthy food and the concept store is gorgeous
Baker and Spice 

Brunching is a Dubai institution - I don't mean the avocado on toast type, it's a full-day extravaganza of food and booze. Dubai brunch isn't *really* my thing but if its your first visit it's definitely worth checking one out. Most brunches take place on a Friday (the first day of our weekend) but more and more places are offering Saturday brunches, and some venues have "night brunches" (so, er, dinner?).
Given how expensive food and drinks usually are, it can work out pretty good value and you definitely won't want to eat anything else for the rest of the day...

  • Bubbalicious, The Westin - one of the most popular, a big, noisy, all-out brunch which has to be done once.
  • Al Qasr, Jumeirah Al Qasr - pricier but a little classier!
  • Muchachas - Mexican food and frozen margaritas in a smaller setting - it's all table service which makes for better conversation, my review here.
  • Vida Saturdaze, Vida Downtown - serving more traditional "brunch" foods, with a mix of table service for mains and a buffet too.
The Sum of Us

My favourite bars / drinking spots are:
  • Weslodge - a Canadian-themed bar on the 68th floor of the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel. Great cocktails and music. Ladies night is on a Wednesday.
  • La Serre - a French restaurant at the Vida Downtown hotel, grab a seat at the bar for the best people-watching, friendly bar staff and their amazing home-made crisps.
  • Ninive - a Bedouin-themed venue at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, the cosy seating is perfect for a relaxed evening of drinks and shisha and the food is amazing, too.
  • Fai - a small bar at The Palace Downtown, Fai has great views of the Dubai Fountain from the terrace.
Jumeirah Beach 
  • Kite Beach is one of the best public beaches in Dubai - you can hire a sunlounger, towel and umbrella for AED110 (~£25) and spend a day relaxing and watching the kite surfers, or bring your own beach bag and spend nothing. Nikki Beach and Cove Beach are good options if you're after something a little more luxurious.   
  • Take a trip to the desert with a tour company - there are a few different packages and, while touristy, it is a fun way to get out of the city. 
  • Go up the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, I'd recommend booking at table at Atmosphere for afternoon tea or sunset cocktails rather than visiting the observation deck.
  • Take a trip to Old Dubai, visit the Gold Souk, take an Abra across the Creek to the Textile Souk and visit the Dubai museum - minus any Gold Souk purchases this is a very cheap day out. 
  • Alsekeral Avenue in Al Quoz is Dubai's "gallery district" - while there's never going to be the calibre of exhibitions you get in London, it's a fun place to mooch around the independent (and free) galleries and coffee shops (Wild and The Moon is my favourite). 
  • Take a trip to another Emirate if you have time - read my post here.
  • A desert sunset horse-ride has been one of my favourite activities here, no riding experience necessary.
  • The Burj Al Arab is an iconic venue, but one for those with deep pockets who book in advance.
  • Dubai Miracle Gardens is a little out the way but will provide you with #newprofilepics for days.
Nikki Beach
Top Tips:
  • Visit between October and April for the best (coolest!) weather. Summer gets very hot and will mean that certain venues close their doors and even walking down the street is near-impossible.
  • I wouldn't recommend visiting during Ramadan, many restaurants close during the day and there are strict regulations around eating or drinking in public. 
  • Dubai taxis are very reasonably priced for nipping around town although Ubers have GPS if you're heading somewhere less well-known.
  • Dubai is a Muslim country so be respectful in how you dress in public places - hotels and beaches, anything goes but use common sense and always have a pashmina / cardigan to pop on if in doubt. Religious sites will provide you with a headscarf / abaya.
  • Sun protection is a must - even in winter it's hotter than a UK summer's day. 
  • Check out Groupon and TimeOut for 2 for 1 deals and special offers to help you stay on budget.
  • Pick up a bottle of gin (or your booze of choice) at the Duty Free at Dubai Airport as you leave - you can only buy alcohol in specialist shops with a licence and bar bills add up quickly. The drinking age in bars / restaurants is 21 and its strictly adhered to (I'm 31 and still get ID-ed).
  • "Ladies nights" offer free or discounted drinks / food for women - most are on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. 
  • For souvenirs, try the Textile Souk or Spice Souk for budget buys and Bateel (shops everywhere) for the juiciest dates.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Book Report: Autumn 2018

Cooler weather and remembering that practically every apartment in Dubai comes with a pool has made for a lot of reading since the mercury dropped. Since my last round-up I've ticked off a few bookclub reads, as well as downloading those books that just keep on popping up on my Instagram feed...

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma was a bookclub read. Aside from Chimamanda Ngozie Adiche, I hadn't read another Nigerian novelist before. Obioma writes like a natural story-teller, setting out a modern day fable with heaps of imagery, folklore and modern Nigerian history thrown in, centring around four brothers growing up in mid-90s Nigeria. The story is dark but it's not a grim book to read in any way.

I'm not much of a non-fiction reader (doing a law degree will do that) but The Culture Map by Erin Meyer is one that I would really recommend if you live or work in a country other than the one you grew up in (so...most of us in Dubai). It's well written, the chapters feeling more like in-depth articles that you can dip in and out of and return to if you're facing a specific roadblock. While it's written as a "work" manual, everything in this book applies equally to personal interactions - doubly useful if, like me, you're from a mixed cultural background.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie is quite possibly my favourite read of the year. It feels like a brave book to have written, it's not always an easy one to read and being a modern re-telling of Antigone you know from the start that the ending isn't going to be a happy one... The viewpoint shifts between members of two very different British-Pakistani families, as love, politics and power clash and bring about an ending I had to read twice through. This is a quick, intense and very "current"read. 

The Red Sparrow Trilogy by Jason Matthews. Sometimes you just want to read something that entertains, draws you in and has you picking it up in every spare moment. I've not been as addicted to a trilogy since reading Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo etc) and, as with those, the books are far superior to the films. The books centre around a love affair between an American CIA Agent and a Russian former ballerina turned agent set against a backdrop of modern day Russia. There's also, oddly but it works, a short recipe at the end of each chapter for one of the dishes eaten by a character.

Instagram made me do it. But...I actually loved Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor starts of the book leading what appears to be a quiet and simple life, which is gradually stripped away by glimpses of her backstory and her gradual (and sometimes quite hilarious) journey out of her comfort zone. This book covers some heavy themes but never feels like a sad or wallowing read. The passages on loneliness were particularly hard-hitting.

Instagram made me do it again... Crazy Rich Asians is a definite "beach read", it's silly and brash and dramatic but...actually really quite entertaining. I'm sure you know the story - girl gets invited to spend the summer in Singapore to meet her boyfriends's family without realising that said boyfriend's family is, well, crazy rich. It reminded me a lot of the Gossip Girl novels, only swapping out the Upper East Side for Singapore. I've still not got around to seeing the film (which is why I picked this up in the first place!) or to reading the two sequels.

What have you been reading recently?


Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Exploring The UAE - Beyond Dubai

Starting this post with a quick geography lesson: Dubai is one of seven Emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although you would be forgiven for thinking that Dubai is the UAE / the UAE is Dubai there are actually six other Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain) which have their own laws, ruling families and history.

One of my goals for this year was to explore my new home country and venture beyond Downtown Dubai at the weekends. The UAE is really easy to explore by car, with the other Emirates being a 1-2 hour drive away and each of the offering something different. I haven't ticked them all off of my list yet but if you're in Dubai and want to get a feel for the rest of the UAE then these are my top picks (so far):

Abu Dhabi - For Culture 

As the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi city still has its share of high-rise buildings and five-star hotels along the glitzy Corniche. The city is a network of interconnected islands with strips of sandy beaches, mangroves and clear blue water between them.

Abu Dhabi has become a cultural centre in recent years and your first stop is the Lourve Abu Dhabi, a beautiful gallery which tells the story of human history through comparative art. Next on your list is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - the largest in the world and one which welcomes all with daily tours.

Abu Dhabi's dining options are just as good as Dubai's - start your day with breakfast at No. 57 Boutique Cafe at Al Bateen Harbour and end it with dinner on Al Maryah Island - the business district is home to Abu Dhabi's Zuma and upscale Italian, Cafe Milano.

A Weekend In Abu Dhabi at The Hyatt Capital Gate
Two Contrasting Cafes to Visit in Abu Dhabi 

Fujairah - For Diving 

Located on the Gulf of Oman coast, Fujairah is the place to go for scuba diving and snorkling boasting clearer waters than the Persian Gulf which Dubai is situated on. I did my first ever scuba lesson at the Le Meridian resort, spending an hour in the pool getting to grips with the equipment before hopping on a boat for my first open water dive, where we were treated to the site of a giant sea turtle.

Fujairah has a few beach resorts to stay at which are nestle between a white sandy beach and the Hajjar Mountains and with no high-rise buildings it feels like an entire world away from Dubai (it's really only a 90-minute drive).

RAK - For...Zip-Lining

Ras Al Khamiah (RAK) in Arabic means "top of the tent" - fitting as RAK is the northernmost Emirate. The beach resorts in Al Hamra are the perfect weekend getaway from Dubai, we stayed at the Al Hamra Hilton which had huge bedrooms, beach access and a Trader Vic's Tiki Bar...

The main attraction in RAK is the Jebel Jais zipline - the world's longest (you might have noticed this is somewhat of a theme in the UAE). The zipline is a further 90-minute drive from the resorts in RAK but the drive itself is an experience, the road cutting zig-zagging up the side of a rocky mountain with the satnav route looking like an F1 circuit.

The entire zipline experience takes around two hours - there's quite a bit of safety briefing, getting kitted up, being transferred from car park to the equipment centre and to the actual zip line itself. The world's longest zipline is so fast that it only takes 2-3 minutes to complete, before a shorter zipline takes you back to the mini bus to return all the kit. Ziplining isn't something I ever saw myself being a fan of but it's super fun (far less scary than scuba diving), and means you can definitely justify an afternoon drinking Tiki cocktails on the beach...

Al Ain - For History 

Al Ain city is part of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi but is a separate city, located inland next to the Oman boarder. Not being on the coast gives Al Ain a very different feel - the city is much older, more traditional and a definite insight into life in the UAE before Dubai became "Dubai".

Al Ain is the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed so you can pay a visit to his former residence as well as take advantage of the greenery that we...don't really have so much of in Dubai by visiting the date palm oasis and hot springs.

We also found a little piece of British culture in Al Ain - the M&S in Bawadi Mall has a food court which provided us with plenty of car snacks for the drive back to Dubai...

Have you visited the UAE?

Thursday, 1 November 2018

October Round Up

October has been a good month. I spent nearly two weeks back in London, a mix of showing my boyfriend around the small town I grew up in, catching up with friends in bars where you wait in line and carry your own drink to the table, walking several miles each day just because it feels good to and lots of long-awaited reunions.

In Dubai, the lowering temperatures have been accompanied by simple joys - the first dinner on the balcony, being able to hold a conversation while changing lanes on a seven-lane motorway, spending a Friday afternoon hunting down a carving pumpkin and venturing in to the weights room at the gym for the first time. Life feels slow and simple in the best way possible.

October looked like this:

1. Walking through our very own One Hundred Acre Wood - greenery! Fresh air! Being outside! (It's been a lonnnng summer in Dubai).

2. Breakfast at Shoreditch Grind when it wasn't quite warm enough for an acai bowl but I wanted one anyway.

3. Exploring the Barbican Conservatory on a Sunday. 

4. A slightly changed view from my Barbican flat (my tenant moved out the weekend we flew back to London - I think I am now cashing in on some well-earned good karma).

5. After a year of growing my hair I got five inches lopped off (at Pimps and Pinups in Spitalfields) in an effort to make it feel thicker and healthier. No regrets. 

6. The Welwyn Garden City fountain turned pink for October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

7. Back in Dubai and revisiting an old favourite, Comptoir 102, for breakfast. The chilled cafe and accompanying shop are a must-visit if you're looking for a healthy but tasty alternative to this city's obsession with buffets and chocolate fountains... 

8. An evening at Ninive, a really beautiful and unique venue in DIFC which has re-opened for the cooler months. 

9. A matcha latte at Menagerie in Mirdif. I stopped drinking coffee a few months back, helping my anxiety and bank balance in the process, but because obsessed with matcha lattes when back in London.

How was your October?


Tuesday, 2 October 2018

September Round-Up

September is my favourite month. And not just because my birthday falls right in the middle. Despite living in Dubai and now being 31, September still evokes memories of slightly chilly, crisp mornings, of school books with still-sharp corners, shoes waiting to be broken in and the obligatory new pencil case. Of starting out in the working world some seven years ago with a wardrobe packed with rainbow-hued work dresses. Of starting university eleven years ago, grateful that a gap year was time enough to grow out the remains of the black hair dye from my teenage years.

There are less opportunities for new beginnings and fresh starts as an adult but September is still a small opportunity to take stock - freshly sharpened pencils and patent t-bar shoes optional.

September looked like this:

1. Making pancakes again - sparkling water in the batter (and practice) makes perfect.

2. I finished "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" in four days - such a good read.

3. Just two people sharing three breakfasts at The Sum Of Us.

4. Spending a long weekend in Al Ain, an inland city on the Oman border.

5. Jumping on another book bandwagon with Crazy Rich Asians.

6. An acai bowl at La Cantinetrès délicieux, très chic.

7. Breakfast at Vibe - a new opening in Jumeriah 1 which has been frequented by Drake.

8. A weekend in Abu Dhabi with a visit to the Louvre - it's been a while since I've exercised my brain with something cultural.

9. Lunch at No 57 Cafe - a kale and pumpkin salad to fuel the drive back to Dubai.

How was your September?


Tuesday, 18 September 2018

UK Vacay Snapshots

As an ex-pat, a trip back to the UK is never going to quite feel like a holiday but this trip involved beaches and sunshine and al-fresco drinking so it wasn't too far off.

And it's always nice to see your home city through the rose-tinted shades of being the friend back from far-flung climes, not having to answer the "how long have you lived in Dubai" question and feeling like it was only a few days, and not a few months or a year, since I last hugged friends goodbye.

On the less positive side, taking the tube alternately made me break out in a cold / decidedly not-cold sweat, hearing people loudly swearing was absolutely terrifying and each day felt like an impossible balance between seeing everyone, doing everything, living in each moment but also not being able to do everything, see everyone, and not to upset my carefully choreographed timetable of people, places and work meetings. Oh, and the time in London was bookended by two weddings (yes I am in my early 30s), M&S train picnics and a double dose of "so how do you know the groom / bride...".

An unexpected detour to Weymouth where the sun was shining
My outfit for a wedding weekend in Dorset - the dress is from Joy
A not very quick 8km the next morning along Swanage Beach 
Stopping for photos - I am a city girl through and through but enjoyed this morning a lot
Back to London to stay in this delightful airbnb 
I went to a yoga class and then needed to show off 
Optional punchbag for those who prefer less zen workouts 
A drinks date with a very dear friend and these millennial pink cocktails 
Visiting the London office of my current employer and getting very lost in Canary Wharf 
A weekend in Brighton for the second wedding - the weather redeemed itself for the previous weekend and was glorious!
My outfit for the second wedding, and a mental note to not wear stiletto heels to the next British summer wedding I attend
A morning run is a post-wedding tradition now, as well as a sign that I can now exercise restraint at an open bar. Some yoga for me and some photography practice for my poor Instagram husband (boyfriend)

Be back in October!


Thursday, 13 September 2018

Birthday Wishlist - Gifts for Yogis

This summer, chances are that (when not at work or sleeping) you'll have found me doing yoga, either at Zoga Dubai or with Adriene and Cat Meffan at home.

I went to my first yoga class over ten years ago but in recent months, practicing 5-6 times per week and having yoga as my sole form of exercise (although yoga is so much more than that) and post-work activity has resulted in a less achy, more flexible, stronger body and a much calmer, better behaved Lily (most of the time).

While yoga is really not about wearing a certain outfit, having a particular body type or forcing your body into a pretzel for an Instagram snap, there's no getting away from the yoga ~lifestyle and while most days I am happy practicing in a Hello Kitty tee and Primark leggings, I'm also guilty of a late night scroll through my favourite Insta-yogis and seeing the head-to-toe Lululemon outfits of my class mates and feeling slightly wanting. The commercialisation of yoga is complex and while a pair of £100 leggings aren't going to help me maintain a handstand for more than a micro-second, I am but a simple girl who once had a "fashion blog" and I still want cute things. Just know that you can still practice yoga at home, with your laptop, in your undies with a beach towel masquerading as a yoga mat.

It's my birthday on Sunday so here are some yoga gifts for yogis in your life:

gifts for yogis

The habit of wearing all-black in Dubai has well and truly got to me and I cannot imagine exercising in bright colours anymore. These Alo Yoga leggings have been on my list for a while - the mesh, high waist and 80s-esque stirrup detail makes them perfect for class and beyond. Yoga still needs a somewhat supportive bra but I have been oh-so-glad to do away with the ones I wore back in my running days - this one is the right mix of soft and structured.

For at home practice, a scented candle helps set the mood and this one smells so beautiful, for travelling and squeezing practices into the smallest of spare moments, toe socks are your friend - no excuse for not having space for a mat in your luggage. A room spray can also make anywhere feel like a yoga studio - this one smells of lemon and lavender would even work at the office if you or a colleague could do with some 9-5 zen (vegan). The Pixie Vitamin Radiance Mist also contains lavender for a post-class refresh (vegan, cruelty free).

I've been looking for some cute yoga tops lately, this one has a sweet faded design and some slight LA yoga-girl vibes. A girl can never have enough tote bags and this one would be a great gift for someone you know who enjoys say, coffee, yoga and naps.

Finally, a soft cushion for the home, and a super versatile Turkish-style towel for staying warm during savasana, doubling up as a scarf for after class or packing for a beach break too.

Namaste, y'all.


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Four East London Vegan Breakfasts To Start Your Day

The best thing about being back in London (besides friends, family, weddings and drinks outside)? The breakfasts. Even with my favourite avocado on toast off of the menu (for now while my body has - hopefully temporarily - decided it doesn't like a long list of foods including wheat).

We breakfasted like kings (and queens) each morning because gin for supper is far more acceptable when you've started your day with a kombucha smoothie bowl. Here are some of my favourites, and the spots I'll be starting my day at when I'm back in my favourite (when it's not grey and raining) city next month. 

1. Buckwheat Pancakes at Curious Yellow Kafe 

curious yellow kafe hoxton

Staying in an airbnb a few steps away from this cosy Swedish cafe was a very good idea indeed. The prices are so good that after a year in Dubai I was convinced that they had only billed half of our order. The buckwheat pancakes (buckwheat is actually wheat free despite its name) were super delicious and came smothered in coconut cream, raspberries and a carmelised banana. Yum. My boyfriend has his signature breakfast of the moment - porridge with a side of sourdough.

2. Almond Milk Porridge at The Hoxton Grill

the hoxton grill shoreditch

The Hoxton Hotel has become a go-to for seeking sanctuary when arriving off of the overnight flight from Dubai. When you've been away for a while, London on no sleep feels like a rather aggressive assault on ones senses (compared to when you live here when London on no sleep is alternatively grimly bearable or aching beautiful depending on the previous night). The Hoxton is the perfect setting to grab a delicious breakfast and then (after requesting an early check-in at the time of booking), take a well-deserved nap. The almond milk porridge at The Hoxton Grill is really delicious and so warming when 22 degrees feels cold.

3. Kombucha Smoothie Bowl at Friends of Ours 

friends of ours hoxton

The one rainy morning of our stay in London saw us take shelter in Friends of Ours with a rather sunny-day breakfast option. The kombucha smoothie bowl is vegan, gluten free and packed with lots of goodness. I had an oat milk chai on the side to attempt to warm me up a little bit. Service is fast and friendly, and back in my coffee-consuming days, I loved this place for it's iced soy lattes. The all-day menu has a few good vegan options and offers gluten free bread, too. For the more carnivorous, my boyfriend recommends the beef brisket benedict.

4. Porridge at Ozone Coffee Roasters 

ozone coffee old street

A few steps from the Old Street Roundabout, Ozone is never not busy with people cooler than me who I cannot help but wonder why they aren't at work at 10.45am on a Tuesday. I had the spring porridge made with oat milk and topped with banana and "scroggin" (I have no idea what that is). I also braved some caffeine with an oat milk iced pirate chocolate with a shot of espresso and it was like an adult-acceptable version of the Starbucks Mocha Lite frappucinos that I spent all of my money on at university. My boyfriend's chia pudding was a little small but the spoonful I snuck of it was delicious and the dark chocolate topping saves it from being too virtuous. 

Where serves up your favourite East London breakfast?

Saturday, 1 September 2018

August Round-Up

August is over and for us Dubai-dwellers that means that it's nearly "outdoor season" again. The temperature has hit over 40 degrees for most days since June, and August brought with it a bonus dose of sticky humidity - no, the desert is not "dry heat", my constantly steamed-up glasses will attest to that...

I am writing this in advance of a trip to the UK where I may well take all of the above back if the heatwave has not made a reappearance in time for me to not shiver my way through two weddings.

August in Dubai looked like this:

1. Lunch at Zuma to say farewell to a colleague - a sad inevitability of ex-pat life is that everyone, including you, will one day leave.

2. Breakfast at The Sum of Us - my boyfriend treated because I correctly tipped France to win the world cup.

3. A lunch meeting at the Armani - still pleased with trading off a chuck of my salary for a more varied, less soul-crushing and normal-working-hours type existence.

4. Chia pudding and beet bowls at Common Grounds - fuel for braving the Mall of the Emirates on a Friday.

5. Cat sitting for a friend which mostly involved saying "I want a kitten" for five hours after each visit - this is Dizzee Rascal and he's the cutest thing ever.

6. Cherries are £8 per pack in Dubai so I whipped up some vegan pancakes so that these didn't go to waste. Extra points to me for flipping them using chopsticks as I still haven't gotten around to purchasing kitchen utensils.

7. Breakfast at The Sum of Us again. Not sponsored we just like it there a lot. Possibly explains why I've yet to buy utensils.

8. Starting the three-day Eid break with a yoga class at Zoga and a post class acai bowl. I've been doing 4-5 yoga classes a week for the last couple of months and I'm making slow but steady progress in new poses and undoing years of slouching over a desk.

9. I took an afternoon of work, just because Cherie wrote a post about taking a day off work just because.  I visited a new cafe, Kad Che in Bay Square, read my book, attended an earlier yoga class and felt SO refreshed.

September plans:

Visits from friends, my birthday (turning 31 and feeling fine about it), slightly cooler climes and, of course, more breakfasts.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Travel: Hong Kong Photo Diary - A Day In Central

Just a metro or boat trip away from Lantau (post here), we ventured in to Central for a day of exploring. I'd snapped the above pic a few days earlier on the way back from a Junk Boat outing, sitting on the front of the boat watching the skyline get closer.

My boyfriend hadn't been to HK before so I wanted to take him to a couple of the sites and everyone I spoke to told me we had to visit Grassroots Pantry and that it would cater for my veggie / gluten free / general dietary woes. I also wanted to buy things and walk on streets because I am easily amused.

But first, coffee. I love HK cafe culture and Coco Espresso's iced lattes and cold brew provided welcome relief from the crazy humidity. You can find my other favourite cafes here and on this trip we also visited N1 Coffee & Co in Kowloon where we picked up a bag of beans to take home.

I was very keen to take the escalators (my favourite thing about HK) up to mid-levels as a way of seeing the city without getting overly sweaty (humidity makes me grumpy). Hopping off at Hollywood Road, Grassroots Pantry did not disappoint - I had the vegan nachos with pulled jackfruit. My plans to pop back for some snacks were scuppered by a torrential downpour...more on that later.

We hopped in an Uber to the top of the Peak and got dropped off at the park rather than the viewing platform. No one else was around, I was wearing a vintage dress and sandals with absolutely no grip and it felt like a thunderstorm was imminent so we decided to go on a walking trail despite not knowing how long it would take to complete.

Despite my boyfriend having to carry my handbag while I tried not to slip and die, the walk was quite nice - the humidity was almost bearable and aside from some bugs it was peaceful. We saw this waterfall and speed-walked the last few hundred metres, arriving at the shopping centre right before a T1 storm.

One of us had a grilled cheese while we waited for the rain to stop. It didn't. I was actually enjoying it having not seen rain since April in the UK. We braved a rather terrifying tram ride down (ticking off another "HK must" in the process even if the windows were all steamed up) and then got wet all over again getting back to IFC Mall and I definitely didn't accidentally whack people with my umbrella and it's not really my fault because I am so out of practice using one but it didn't happen anyway. 

We found a Japanese restaurant in the mall and I had a cocktail which (I think) contained whiskey and lemon sorbet and it was very restorative, especially after viewing the menus for at least three other places and discounting them all. We also had some okonomiyaki fries which were delicious but not very photogenic and then hopped on the MTR back "home" to collapse in a heap. 

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