36 hours in Dubai

Dubai has never really featured highly on my list of places I want to visit. However, when the opportunity did arise I felt we should grab it. This was because we were en route for Cape Town to celebrate a special birthday for Mr FF! I am not the biggest fan of flying, so the chance to break our long haul flight was too good to miss. I’ve read and heard so much about Dubai that I thought I should find out about the city for myself.

Our flight was with Emirates on a 380 Airbus. I must say that I was very impressed, both with the food and the in flight entertainment. We arrived in Dubai quite late and caught a taxi to our hotel.

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This is the view from our hotel room balcony. Pretty dramatic?! Our first impressions were of the tall buildings and the lights. Of course, Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa.

We were pretty tired by this time and decided to settle for room service, so that we could get up early and make the most of the next day.

I’ve blogged about Hop on, Hop Off buses before when we visited Barcelona and Glasgow. I think if you’re spending a relatively short time in a city, they are a great introduction.

There are three possible routes: the city, beach and marina. We only had time for one of these, so we decided to take the city route which would give us some understanding of the history and culture of Dubai.

The tour begins at the Dubai Mall. This is the largest shopping mall, in the world, and has over one thousand shops. It also houses an aquarium and an ice rink!

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If you are a fan of shopping, especially designer brands, Dubai is a tax free haven. Here’s the Wafi shopping mall, photographed from the top of the bus. We didn’t go in but from the outside it looks more like an Egyptian museum.

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As we continued our route, I was surprised to see how much green there was in Dubai.

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As we continued, this building caught my eye:

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We decided to hop off and visit the Dubai Museum and see one of the original parts of the city. Unfortunately, we hadn’t factored in the long, lunchtime closure of the museum. Below you can see some of the original city walls. There was a strange type of heat mist and the sun had gone behind the clouds, so the colours seem rather dull.

For our final stop we opted to visit Dubai Creek. Some people say that this is the real heart of the city. It is a saltwater estuary and when trade with the outside world began, over a century ago, this sheltered inlet was the natural place to develop a trading port. The creek has been widened many times and is nowadays busy with abra – small wooden water taxis – carrying passengers between the souks of Deira on the northeastern bank and the historic district of Bur Dubai on the southwestern bank.

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We started by visiting the souks:

I’ve visited souks in other countries but I found the ones in Dubai were much less intimidating than others I have experienced. Although we were approached by guys trying to persuade us to buy their goods, they weren’t pushy or nasty. We managed to resist purchasing any items – even in the utensils souk!

Our Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour included an hour long ‘cruise’ on a traditional dhow. This is a traditional wooden boat originally used  by fishermen. The boat trip was a very good way to experience both sides of Dubai, the old and the new.

We ended our day by having dinner in a Lebanese restaurant that happened to overlook Dubai’s Dancing Fountains. These are the world’s largest musical foundations and spray up to 150 metres. The display is illuminated and accompanied by music. It was impressive! Here’s a clip I found to give you an idea of the experience.

I was so glad that we had taken the opportunity to sample Dubai.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever been there and what you thought.

Next stop: Cape Town

Top 20 first names in France

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I’ve  always been fascinated by children’s names. As a teacher, learning – and remembering  – the names of your students is extremely important. I have always been interested in the fashion for first names and how this was reflected in my class register. I remember, one year, when I was teaching in London and had a class full of Kylies!

Of course, when it came to naming our two sons, there was another problem. Certain names immediately conjure up memories of naughty boys. I’m being very polite here! We also have a long and unusual surname. In the end, we went for very traditional, ancient names. They are both Biblical names but, to be honest with you, that is coincidental.

When I taught, in France, it was a similar story with certain English names being very popular. However, I was very surprised when Kevin topped the list of most popular boys names, in France. This is how you pronounce it in French!

This is the top 10 girls names in France, at the moment, according to my research in various French magazines and on several websites:

  1. Emma
  2. Louise
  3. Jade
  4. Alice
  5. Mila
  6. Chloé
  7. Inès
  8. Lina
  9. Léa
  10. Léna

And here are the boys:

  1. Gabriel
  2. Louis
  3. Raphaël
  4. Léo
  5. Adam
  6. Jules
  7. Lucas
  8. Maël
  9. Hugo
  10. Liam

I think there are some lovely names, some interesting names and some surprising ones. What do you think? Do you have a favourite first name? I’d love to know!

Sharing with #AllAboutFrance

Lou Messugo

 

5 recommended places to eat in Brighton

We have just returned from a five day house and dog sit in central Brighton.

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The owners of the lovely little Lurcher, pictured above, had left us with plenty of recommendations for places where we could eat, so we decided it would be rude not to try at least some of them!.

One of the reasons we like Brighton and Hove is because there is such a diverse range of restaurants and cafés. I love that it is so easy to find excellent vegetarian and vegan food and that all the places we visited were within walking distance of the house.

Here are the 5 recommendations, ordered only by when we visited them:

  • Billie’s Café 

This is a very homely café which is well known for its all-day breakfasts and massive hash browns. All the hashes are made to order with various toppings. There are plenty of vegetarian options, too. Having seen the size of the hashes, I wimped out and went for the Welsh Rarebit which came with a generous and delicious side salad. This was more Hare-sized, than rabbit, but I somehow managed to eat it all. Will definitely go back and next time have a hash … garlic mushroom and avocado is calling to me! Below is my husband’s hash. I tried a piece and it was yummy.

  •  Flour Pot Kitchen

This is the Brighton Beach branch which is situated in the Kings Road Arches. It was the perfect place for us to stop after a long walk along the beach with the dog! It’s a dog friendly café and has a very welcoming atmosphere. The only problem is what to eat, as there are so many delicious choices. I had a lentil and mushroom roll, the veggie equivalent of a sausage roll! This was followed by a slice of flourless chocolate cake. Mr FF had a pie which did have meat and, instead of having a cake, decided to try the mushroom and lentil roll.

Here is Edie, in the café, hoping for a doggy treat!

  • Bincho Yakitori

Bincho Yakitori was very different to anywhere I have eaten before and is probably best described as Japanese tapas! There are a variety of small sharing dishes on the menu with the addition of daily specials. Everything is cooked to order. Our choices included the Tempura Sea Bream, Pork Belly and mushroom rice. We had some others as well which I can’t remember but I do know that everything we had was delicious!

  • Bankers Fish and Chips

You can’t possibly stay in Brighton and Hove without having fish and chips! This particular venue was recommended by our hosts and was very local. We opted to eat in, rather than take away, on this occasion. I’m not a fan of greasy food, particularly when it comes to the batter on my fish! I’m happy to report that everything was fresh and beautifully cooked. We had mushy peas and Mr FF also had bread so that he could make a chip butty. You can’t take him anywhere! This was all washed down with a very tasty bottle of white wine.

  • Foodilic

Last but not least was the Western Road branch of Foodilic. We actually lunched here twice! The emphasis is on healthy eating and there is something for everyone; vegetarians, vegans and carnivores but I would say the emphasis is on the former. The buffet (eat as much as you like) is incredible value at £7.50 and everything I chose was delicious. I had vegetarian moussaka accompanied with some excellent salads including roasted vegetables, lentils and spinach. I felt spoilt for choice! Mr FF even managed a raw cake for dessert. He chose pistachio and mint, pictured below.

Although we were very unlucky with the weather, we still had a fantastic stay and walked miles and miles every day which is the great advantage of having a dog. In light of everything we ate, this was probably just as well and we thoroughly enjoyed trying out all these new food venues!

 

 

Pancake time – La Chandeleur

I love pancakes or crêpes and welcome any opportunity to eat them! So, I’m delighted that today is Pancake Day. If you’re reading this in the UK, this may come as a surprise.  Let me elaborate!

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February 2nd, in France, is ‘La Fête de la Chandeleur.’  The name Chandeleur comes from the Latin ‘candelorum festum’, which means festival of candles and is also known as Candlemas.

Apparently it was Pope Gelasius I who helped to establish the festival of Candlemas and was said to have fed pancakes to the pilgrims who processed, holding candles, to his church.

Candlemas falls 40 days after Christmas and, in the Christian calendar, marks when baby Jesus was first  presented, by Mary, in the Temple at Jerusalem.

However, the festival can be traced back to Roman times when candles were lit to scare away evil spirits in the winter.

In the UK pancake day 2019 will fall on March 5th; more pancakes!

As well as eating pancakes, I enjoy making them! They were always a go-to favourite with my sons and their friends, whether for tea, breakfast or sleep overs. There are many recipes for making pancakes but the one I have always used is by Delia Smith.

https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/international/european/british/basic-pancakes

Although, I must admit I don’t bother to add melted butter to my batter!

Bon appétit!
Are you a pancake fan? I’m a traditionalist and I love mine with lemon and sugar!

Happy National Croissant Day!

You may have read this post last year but when I saw the date, I couldn’t resist the chance to republish!

I couldn’t miss the opportunity to wish you ‘Happy National Croissant Day’! January 30th is International Croissant Day. This is a new celebration for me. One which comes from the States, apparently.

Although, to be honest, I’m more than happy to celebrate croissants every day. Especially if they happen to be almond croissants!

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The croissant was originally created in Austria. The shape is based on a crescent moon which features on the Turkish flag. Why? Travel back to 1683 when the Ottoman Empire laid siege to Austria. The Turks decided to tunnel beneath the city walls.The Viennese bakers who were working in the basement, heard the sound of digging and alerted the army who defeated the Turks. In celebration, they baked their bread in the shape of a crescent moon—the symbol of the Ottoman Empire – and created the Kipferl. This croissant arrived in France in 1770. Marie Antoinette, who was Austrian, was feeling homesick. The French bakers decided to make her favourite pastry which became known as the “croissant”.

Of course, it’s difficult to know exactly how much of this is fact and how much is fiction!

Are you a croissant lover? Do you have a favourite croissant? Savoury, perhaps? Or are you a purist who prefers a classic, butter croissant? Are you a dunker? I’m definitely not!

 

 

A night out in Reading, Berkshire

I must confess that there was a time when I was rather dismissive of Reading; apologies to anyone who lives there or originates from the town.

The only part of Reading I really knew was the train station. I would pass through on the way to the West Country or up North, often for work.

Then two events meant that I got to know Reading a lot better. Firstly, my eldest son moved there for work and secondly, our first TrustedHousesitters assignment was in Reading.

There is much more to Reading than first meets the eye. There are some fabulous walks. There is a great deal of history. There is the University. There is the River and the Canal. There are a wide range of cafés and restaurants. There are shops. In fact I think I will do another post about Reading when I have some decent photos!

The only photos I do have, feature the two dogs we looked after in Reading! They were very young when we first looked after them. These photos were taken during a walk alongside the Thames.

I digress…

Our night in Reading was to celebrate the birthdays of our eldest son and his girlfriend. They happen to share the same birthday, although not the same year. Mr FF also has a special birthday later this month, so it was celebrations all round! Youngest son joined us as well for a very special visit to ‘L’ Ortolan’.

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L’Ortolan is the only Michelin restaurant in the Reading area and we decided to have the seven course tasting menu. This was a new experience for all of us. I don’t think the photos really do the food justice. My favourite dishes were the hake, the venison and the divine desert!

 

The restaurant is in a former vicarage in Shinfield which is actually just outside Reading. The service was everything I hoped it would be and more.

However, I must confess that I am not a fan of foams and gels. I do find them – dare I say – a bit pretentious or maybe that says more about me!

I also think we have been spoilt by the amazing food we have been enjoying in France, at both ends of the scale.

When we have saved up again – haha – I would quite like to return to L’Ortolan and have a ‘proper’ meal! Watch this space…

Here’s the link to the restaurant’s website, if you’d like to find out more:

www.lortolan.com

Here we go again…

… was my immediate reaction when a promotion for this book, by Mylène Desclaux, caught my attention.d7b641e7-f264-4ef2-9b21-0e0b85fe78a0

I decided to find out some more. Through the power of the internet, it is now possible to dip inside a book and read a sample before you buy! There has also been a fairly widespread reaction to the book across the media; articles, reviews etc which I have been reading with some interest, cynicism and amusement, depending on who has written them.

However, I must confess that I haven’t read the whole book and it’s unlikely that I will.

In the last few years, we have been told that ‘French women don’t get fat’ and  ‘French women don’t get facelifts’ and that’s just for starters.

Here are some of Mylène’s suggestions for feeling young at 50:

  • never have a birthday party – you don’t want to risk people finding out your real age
  • never wear reading glasses on a date
  • never keep a first name name that reflects your true age

Mylène (and I quote here) writes: ‘My experience has taught me that you should never, EVER, tell people your age… Being however old you are is nothing to be particularly proud of…’

WHAT? I am very proud and glad to be sixty-five. I know (knew) people who are no longer with us and would give anything, I’m sure to be fifty, sixty or just here. Thankfully, there are many writers and bloggers who celebrate age.

I’m afraid this post has turned into a bit of a rant but if you read my blog fairly regularly, you know my opinion of the stereotypical, chic French woman with which we are constantly being presented. I am a Francophile and have some wonderful French women friends who do not all conform to the image with which we are so often presented.

You may be interested in reading the most popular post I have ever written on this topic:

https://fancyingfrance.com/2017/09/26/cest-chic/

Thanks for reading and I’d love to know what you think.