Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Dubai!

Ryan touched down in Dubai for the second time since his visit last March.  July in Dubai is a bit more, shall we say, sticky.  Undaunted, (as most of you know Ryan spends most of his time shirtless), he packed up his running shorts and his girlfriend Jessie and came to our little oven of city.

Being his second time around Ryan was able to play host to the sights of Dubai, but we still decided to throw off his familiarity by moving apartments since the last time he was here, although he still remembered his way around the Gold Souk, the fish market, and the Dubai Mall.  When he arrived he told me he had a surprise for me, and he slowly pulled a Wawa soft pretzel from his backpack.  Less than 24 hours old?  Yessir.  It was a dream come true!  Ry definitely knows the price of admission!

We were delighted to have he and Jessie stay with us for the week, and here are just a few things we got up to.
A hand made, er, hand ordered traditional Indian feast!  I never met a curry I didn't like and if the empty bowl from Ryan's lamb roganjosh was any indication we have the same taste.
Fi joins us for a night out at Zuma, Dubai's sushi lounge hotspot.  Do apple martinis have a place in the food pyramid?
Ryan (in his natural state) lends Jessie some support while she tries shisha for the first time at the Nasimi Beach pool party.
The best flower arrangements in the city!  The lobby of Al Qasr hotel never disappoints.
Of course we had to take the kids to brunch!  Jesse is wowed by the mini Tabasco sauces (they are pretty cute)!
Class is in session.  Fiona schools Jessie in how to acquire 20 drinks in 2 minutes before the brunch cut off time.  Nice goin' gals.
Everybody is happy when brunch is on the docket (Ryan is crying tears of joy beneath those shades).  Our friend Guy and Sarah joined up and helped Ryan and Jessie practice their French before the Paris leg of their tour.
Is that guy a model?

You guys are welcome back any time.  Just keep in mind we are in a recession and inflation is high, I'll have to demand two soft pretzels next time!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dubai in the Summer: Feels Just as Hot as DC!

Ah, jokes about the weather - is there anything better on a sweltering hot summer day?  According to the news cycles of CNN and, apparently not:
 Upon closer inspection, however - I see that there's also a cold snap in Dubai.  Here's DC's weather:
 And here's Dubai's weather tomorrow:

On second thought, maybe I won't fly west for the summer...

The Whiffenpoofs Take Dubai

It's a name that boggles the mind and tickles the tongue.  What in the world is a Whiffenpoof?

In fact the Whiffenpoofs are the oldest male collegiate a capella group in the United States.  They hail from Yale and were established in 1909.  Most recently they were featured on the Sing-Off NBC's a capella competition.

We had the chance to be delighted by their musical stylings on Fourth of July in an event hosted by the US Consulate and the American Business Council at the fabulous Traiteur restaurant in the Park Hyatt hotel.  They sang a great array of songs from (of course) the 'Star Spangled Banner' to David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' and the crowd was delighted by their true talent and the great energy they brought to the performance!

I kept on waiting for 'Don't Stop Believing' to make an appearance but then realized that I've clearly seen too much Glee!
After the performance we got the chance to hang out with the boys and after a few drinks it seems that a few members of the crowd were compelled to sing 'My Country Tis of Thee' from the top steps of the open kitchen.  Unfortunately, the guests weren't as talented as our university men.  Fortunately, they quickly joined in to salvage the performance and then topped it off with an old German drinking song - in perfect harmony, natch.

A few more bits about the Whiffenpoofs: it's a full time job!  Narrowed down from 200 auditions freshman year, the group is highly competitive and performances are so in demand most members typically take a year off just to perform year-round.  I'd didn't know you could red shirt for the glee club?  Radical.  Go arts!

It was great to have such a talented and fun group of good ol' Americans to celebrate with on 4th of July and even better to get to spend some quality time with these quality gentlemen.  Yale ladies take note!  (I promised them this blog post could get them a few dates!) 

You've got to love the white tie tuxes!  Although can't help but think these guys would great in new attire! :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sey What? Seychelles for the Weekend.

There's two types of sand in our world.  The one that is blowing in your face everyday during the sweltering Dubai summer, and getting stuck in your teeth, your eyes, your hair and anywhere else it pleases.  Then there is the pristine, finely milled, soft mounds that you want to put between your toes.

The island of Mahe in the Seychelles is home to the glorious second kind, and boasts lush vegetation, coral reefs, giant tortoises, and all the fresh fish you can eat - a winning combination for a three day weekend if I've ever heard one!  So with map, a rental car reservation and dive bag in hand we traveled to the African island, who still is buzzing about their recent visit by Will and Kate.

So this Matt and Kate decided to see what the island had to offer in 72 hours!

It all starts with a map of the island.  Stick with me kid, I'll take you places...

First stop the Victoria fish market, ETA: 7:30am - still early enough to see some good stuff!

The waters off the Seychelles produce a bountiful catch.  Everything from huge yellow fin tuna, to rays, white tip reef sharks, and even a hammerhead were on offer for dinner that night.  The scene can be a little graphic with so much carnage about, but the skill in which these fish are cleaned, filleted and sold is truly impressive.  See you guys on the flip-side: my dinner plate!

Next stop the National Botanical Gardens to check out all the lush vegetation, and these guys - the giant tortoise.  They were pretty friendly, abeit much scarier looking than I remember from the Philadelphia zoo.  Matt decided they looked hungry and, naturally, hopped into their enclosure to feed them - he loves developing nations (no oversight).  Slowly, but surely, a feeding "frenzy" ensured.

In Victoria for lunch later in the afternoon, we walked by a Barclays bank.  Matt then wonders, "I think I can go in and sign my Knot Standard incorporation papers here."  What?  Sure enough, the teller pulls the file and Matt initiates the account.  I ask Matt if this was on purpose, and he tells me that he only remembered this small fact as he saw the bank and thought it might be convenient to take care of the details while he was "in town".  Typical.
You have such a dirty mind!  Whatever you are thinking, you should know that this nut, the Coco der Mer is the largest nut in the world and the pride of the Seychelles, the only place where it grows naturally.  Legend has it that sailors, who first saw the unique double coconut floating in the sea, imagined that it resembled a woman's disembodied buttocks. This association is reflected in one of the plant's archaic botanical names, Lodoicea callipyge in which callipyge is from Greek words meaning 'beautiful rump'.  (It's also there passport stamp - seriously!) 
The top compliment I can give any island?  "This is so Jurassic park".  This outlook from the Morne Seychellois (905m) was just stunning.  I love me some volcanic islands. 
At the summit there is a fantastic smelling tea factory.  Ceylon and camomile are the specialties of the island.

We ended on on the Western side of the island for sunset, at this perfect little stretch of beach called Anse Soleil.  There on this deserted piece of coast we found the most amazing tree that had taken root right on the beach.  It just screamed PHOTO SHOOT! 
This is what a picture looks like when Matt sets the timer and runs back just in time for the snap.

This is what it looks like when I set the timer and run back to the tree and then realize that Matt's legs are twice as long as mine.  He tries to pull me up when we realize that we are out of time and out of strength to get me on the tree - with the timer looming, I can't think of anything else to do but pose.  Clearly I've seen too much Cirque du Soleil.

How did we take pictures on a deserted beach?  Matt created a tripod out of a piece of drift wood and half a coconut shell.  He started calling it Wilson - should I be worried?

Pegasus on the beach!
We dined at the delicious Lounge 8 who boasts a surprise five course menu nightly - no menus, just fresh ingredients and innovation.  We were greeted with test tubes full of violet flavored champagne - it's purple!  My compliments to the chef. 

Not to be outdone by the local chefs, we decided to try to try our hand at nabbing some of the local catch.  When Matt suggested we go fishing, I was thinking "sitting on the dock of the bay...".  Not so much.  To get the big game you need to travel out, far out into the open ocean.  Then I learned that you need to keep the bait moving to attract the big guys.  So after dropping five lines in the water we proceeded to ride the swells in our little boat.  Just as I felt like I could, ahem, chum the waters happened!  That fantastic sound of line being taken on all FIVE poles.  With four of us grabbing a line, I learned how to fish trial by fire!  My adrenaline was pumping and as I battled my beast (30lbs), as the guys pulled in the other fish one by one.  At the end I was breathless, tired, and (see Matt above) covered in blood.  Had I been fishing, or survived an episode of Dexter?

When you catch a fish you have to drink a beer it's practically a rule, even if it's 9:00am.  Surprisingly Seybrew is really refreshing at that hour.  Especially while navigating 10 foot swells.
The booty!  We actually caught 8 but gave two away to a few fisherman along the way (whose row boats weren't going to brave the open ocean - great to see someone's face when you hand them dinner for their family), we brought in 200lbs of yellow fin tuna!

After catching some big fish, we decided to give some of the little guys some love.  Snorkeling in the marine park was amazing!  Here is just a sampling of what we saw.

We worked up a pretty good appetite fishing and snorkeling, so naturally we had to have some of our delicious fresh fish for lunch!  Matt grabbed one by the tail and walked it into the lobby (dripping blood from it's mouth) of the hotel and said simply "I need a chef".  The result follows.  3 hours old - freshest fish I've ever had! So delicious...
All good things must come to an end.  In this case, our trip ended well, with some challenges.  As we packed up to head to the airport with 6 hours to spare, we thought we would stop off at a local beach to see the sunset one last time on the island.  Five minutes after we got into the car, I heard the dreaded 'whomp, whomp, whomp...' of a flat tire.  Pulling off to a local gas station, Matt wasted no time whipping out the doughnut (which was literally the size of a doughnut...) and changing the tire.  I was impressed!  We were on our way having spared just 20 minutes.  Then: whomp, whomp, whomp...what the...?  Yup.  10 minutes down the road, the new tire was flat!  This had to be a joke.

Now we were in trouble.  We had NO workable tire.  So after calling roadside assistance and waiting another 20 minutes, a representative showed up and upon learning that we wanted to drive more than 100 yards, decided that he couldn't in good conscious give us a new spare and therefore gave us the tire off of his car!  Two Kias, 3 tires later, 90 minutes elapsed and a missed sunset formed our send off!

But in island time you are never too late! So in that case we were right on time for our flight!

If you get a chance to go to the Seychelles, just 'sey' yes!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Sendoff for Grandpa Louis

Just a few days ago, we lost an icon of our lives:  Our infamous Grandpa Louis passed away in Washington, DC.  I say "Our" because he was Grandpa to more than just my brother and I - he was presence to everyone he met, and an honorary grandfather to many, many people.  To say he will be sorely missed, well - that's just a lie.  The world won't be the same without him, and while we will pay proper homage to him very soon, Katie and I took some time this weekend to honor the Louis we knew as larger than life.

First an foremost, I felt that his quintessential drink was in order.  Since dubbed "Seawater" (yes, that's what it tastes like!), it's a mixture of gin, olive brine, and olives.  However, we were at a roadside bar off the coast of Africa, and language was a bit of a problem.  After they brought me a gin and orange juice (nope - try again!), the manager came out and told me that all they have are pre-packed olives with herbs, spices, and peppers.  With the entire staff looking on, we indulged - that dirty, salty, stiff drink never tasted so good.  (Sidenote: the first drink I ever bought Katie to try and impress her?  A Louie Special - an then she married me!)
Next up, it was time to show the man who spent so many days teaching me how to fish that I really earned my stripes.  We rounded up a couple of Somali pirates fisherman and headed out into the rough morning sea (I'm only half-joking - we were only a few hundred miles off of Somalia, smack dab in pirate waters).  Katie got into the action as well, and Grandpa was definitely smiling down on us.  Not 10 minutes after hitting the fishing grounds, ALL FIVE poles got a fish on at the same instant - and all five landed 35+ pound yellowfin tuna.

Just like Louis taught us as kids on Seneca lake, we clubbed those fish senseless and threw them in the baitwell for lunch!
Lastly, and most importantly to our sendoff, was sitting under the stars and smoking a pipe.  Well, I never did try that pipe - and this night was no exception.  We were downwind from a bunch of cigars, and the similarity to Captain Black tobacco was close enough to cap off the long day by swapping memories under the bright starry sky.

Katie and I just barely scratched the surface, and we hope that all of you out there that knew him find a way to celebrate his life in your own special way - I know we will for a long, long, time.  We'll miss you, Grandpa - more than you can imagine.  Stay tuned for our full homage to Louis Leach in the coming weeks...