Sunday, January 25, 2009
Anyway…Munich is a great city. I’ve been once before many years ago but didn’t really see the centre. This time I had the chance to wander around in between meetings, and it’s very pretty. A very typical European city.
There’s something about walking round cities that really allows you to get under the skin of the place, I think. As you walk around you get to hear bits of conversation, make eye contact with people, look around at the architecture, breathe the air (very fresh and crisp at minus 6!) and really soak up the atmosphere. Maybe that’s why Dubai feels like it has no soul – even with my current walks to work, opportunities to walk around are few and far between, and that’s always been my favourite part of visiting any new city.
Some of my thoughts and observations after walking round Munich:
Munich has some beautiful old buildings. The main square has a town hall which reminded me a bit of Manchester’s in style. Very Harry Potter.
In a very alpine way, the church bells pealing each hour made me come over all Sound of Music. I especially liked the little wooden people who appeared at the front of the clock in the main square, chopping wood, etc, or whatever they were doing. It was hard to see from where I was standing.
As it was so very cold and icy (piles of snow at the sides of roads) there was grit everywhere. They obviously take this very seriously in Munich. Not like the UK where snow always seems to take everyone by surprise and there’s about one teaspoon of grit to dot he whole of the M6.
I saw a couple of homeless people during the day – not a sight you’ll ever see in Dubai. Very humbling and sad.
As I walked past a local hostelrie at 9.30 am I was comforted to see many people inside in the warm nursing not steaming mugs of coffee but giant pints of beer. Not just the Brits that like a daytime tipple then!
Trams and Transport
There are lots of trams in Munich, and they were all being used. It made me smile remembering Manchester trams and the familiar ‘parp’ and ‘honk’ that I used to hear dailty when walking to work. In case your’e not sure, the ‘parp’ is their usual warning sound, the ‘honk’ was much louder and usually reserved for some imbecile scally who wouldn’t move off the tracks in time, or people on i-pods who couldn’t hear the ‘parp’. (Guilty as charged on the odd occasion myself, most embarrassing.)
There’s also a lot of people on bikes, and bike lane running through the centre of the city. There was even a branded bike outside the hotel for patrons to use. Needless to say, my buttocks did not grace the saddle.
Well, I had to report back on this one, didn’t I! As you probably know by now, Dubai is not very dog-friendly – the complete opposite is the case in Munich. Big ones, small ones, some as big as my head. And I saw my two favourites: a bassett hound AND a pug. A treat!
So, that’s my summary of Munich. Next stop: Barcelona, again with work. Again, over a weekend. You’d really think my insomnia would have disappeared due to plain old fashioned exhaustion, but sadly not….
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
My favourite moment....when a French journlaist asked me why we hadn't started at the allocated time of 1 pm, and how long exactly would it be before we began. I had to explain that as most of the media hadn't arrived yet, we had to wait a while for them to make an appearance. He was horrified. "The media don't arrive on time to events?" he exclaimed in a horrified voice. Er, no they don't. Nor do most people, for that matter. Welcome to the Middle East!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
But blades, they’re a different matter. I’ve never ice skated so have never experienced anything quite like it. I first tried them out on Christmas Day itself but, perhaps due to the 12 (approximate estimate) bottles of white wine I had consumed by that point, wasn’t the most graceful, and resembled a demented weeble/new born giraffe as I shrieked and careered my way around the apartment. Last week I took the plunge and donned them for a maiden voyage in public. Well, if by public you mean the underground carpark. To be fair, at least three cars did drive past and see me (the horror!). A couple of people openly guffawed as they went past. I mean – that’s just mean.
I can report that once I get going, I am not bad. I can move forwards at an ok speed. The fly in the ointment is that I can't start, or stop. A fact which thus far has put me off going anywhere really exposed eg a park or the beachfront.
But I can’t put it off for much longer. The weekend approaches. And so, I fear, does my humiliation.
PS Rollerblades shown left are for illustration purposes only and are not my actual pair. Although mine are indeed pink. And grey. Which makes them look a whole lot more grown-up. Ok?
So when a friend here gave me the first series I was looking forward to it – but not quite restrained. Now I’m mid-way thrugh series two and I admit it – I’m hooked!
If you’re one of the 10 people left in the world that haven’t seen any of the show then click here. And then get hold of a series.
I’m just amazed that it’s taken me this long to discover it – the first series was broadcast in the states in 2000! It’s from the HBO stable (ah, SATC) but is about as far removed from Carrie and Co’s glamorous existence as you could ever imagine. It’s a cop show, yes, but much deeper than that. It has drama, grit and perhaps surprisingly, humour, in bucketloads. There’s five series in total so there’s still plenty to come. I don’t want it to end!
I did venture out onto the balcony for a proper look – and interestingly most of the development where I live had had the same idea – all the balconies were packed – but had to bit a hasty retreat back inside such was the velocity of the icy blighters.
We’re in the desert – how is hail even possible? (If you know some sort of scientist boffin answer please don’t share.) I have been assured that no, this weather is not usual for Dubai, and have also been regaled with stories of the time that it “didn’t rain for five years”. Hmmmm. I’d really like the sun to come out now so that I can get back into the usual weekend routine of pool and beach. I’m sure it’s a lament of many people who live in hot countries – but you do realize that there really isn’t much to do here when the weather is bad. Actually scratch that, I’m sure there are hot countries where you can do something other than go to a mall!
This time I do know how cold it is – but I don’t own a coat! Or a jumper for that matter. Or a hat. Or gloves….you get the picture…..it should be interesting!
You may or may not know that news here in the UAE is heavily censored and government controlled. I work with an ex-news journo from the aforementioned publication, and she has regaled me with tales of stories written and filed which either questioned the government, or contentious subjects covered that never made it to print. Apparently there would be a single phone call instructing them not to include a story – and that was it. Gone.
So I won’t go on too much about my opinions on the above piece (you may think this ridiculous but there was one blog here that has been banned by the government for being critical of Dubai – my UK readers will be able to see it here) as I don’t want my blog switched off.
But really. How on earth is printing this story considered acceptable?
But, the boy can certainly cook!
His restaurant is inside the Grosvenor House Hotel, a very nice hotel down in the marina. It’s home to Buddha Bar which is – so I’m told – a great bar.Dubai’s finest certainly frequent it at the weekends – thus far I haven’t managed to get there.
Anyway, the hotel is divine anyway – a bit dodgy looking from the outside but inside it oozes sophistication and refinement. Gary’s place: Mezzanine, is an absolute feast for the eyes. A bit like what I imagine Alice in Wonderland’s house to look like, if Alice lived in a grown up, French style boudoir type place. It’s nearly all white, with glittering chandeliers and splashes of colour in the form of the chairs and ornaments. The staff all wear white suits. James Bond meets French maid. It is very hard to describe so please don’t let that put you off.
Anyway – back to the main deal: the food. It was AMAZING! You can order a la carte or have a selection of smaller dishes as part of their taster menu. In between your food arriving the staff keep appearing at your elbow with amuse bouches ‘with compliments from the chef. This meant that I ate pretty much my own body weight in food, and by the time the jam roly poly came (with two huge jugs of custard and hot jam!) I was fit to burst. I still managed to polish off said roly poly though, natch.
I’ve always felt lucky that despite my love of the finer things in life, I’m as happy with a picnic in a park as I am in expensive restaurants. But it has to be said, there’s something very decadent about getting your glad-rags on and really treating yourself. Just don’t ask me what the bill came to…..
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Monday, January 05, 2009
One event which we did get our best bib and tucker on for was the annual party at the Royal Meridien. This is a very fancy hotel - one of the older ones in the city. By old I mean over 5 years!
The boy was invited through work and got us some extra passes for friends. A very funny evening. We’d been advised to get scrubbed up and I was glad I’d popped an LBD on when we arrived – a glittering white carpet led us into a packed reception area where carol singers and an opera trio entertained the masses. My favourite part was watching the faces of the hotel staff – they were completely enraptured by it all. Very touching.
Quite possibly the world’s biggest buffet then ensued (thank god for stretchy fabric!) and we duly stuffed ourselves silly, washing it down with champagne, of course. Every now and again I wanted to pinch myself - we were sat outside, without jackets – in the middle of December – oh and it was nearly Christmas!
A great evening, topped off by getting into a taxi which had an interesting accessory – a resident black wig. We of course took great delight in trying this wig on, taking photos and also popping it onto the driver. Thankfully he was a very good natured chap and took it all in his stride. Crazy drunken English people, hey?
But the sun shone, with a clear blue sky, in fact it was so warm that we had to keep moving the parasol at our table to stay in the shade!