The Colosseum, Rome

My Dad has invited me to take part in a blogging challenge over the coming months so I decided it would be a good idea to share it here. That way people will understand if my posts getting extremely competitive. (Okay, we know they won’t. I’m the least competitive person ever…)

It’s not specific to just us, any old blogger can join in. For details, check out his post here

P.S. Choosing a photograph for this post was difficult. I took this photograph in Rome in 2011. Rome was pretty high up on my ‘places to see before I die’ list. That will make sense if you choose to pop over to My Tiny Mind and check out the details of the challenge. 

My grandparents on their wedding day

Still in love many years later

1) My Paternal Grandparents on their wedding day in the early 1940’s,  2) Years later, they share a kiss, still madly in love.

Loving someone and having them love you back is the most precious thing in the world

– Nicholas Sparks

My grandparents were an inspiration when it comes to true love. I’ve never met any two people more in love than them. I passed by the place my Nana grew up today and it got me thinking about them as a couple. In this day and age, it’s very easy to dismiss the idea of true love and happily ever after, especially with roughly 50% of marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce and the rest of the world quickly catching up. I, however, believe in true love and I have my grandparents to thank for that. Their story is kind of like a fairy tale.  They knew each other way back in the early 1920’s when they were babies. The story goes that they used to hold hands from their prams when they were just toddlers. How could a story like that not end in love? I’m not 100% sure of all of the details but to my knowledge my Granddad went to England to work in his late teens or early twenties. When he returned, they fell in love. They were married in the early 1940’s and lived happily until she passed away over 50 years later in 1997. I was only 8 years old when she died but I still remember the way they looked at each other. Like a lot of women, she often rolled her eyes and dismissed the things he said but while he grumbled at the television she would stand against the door frame with a dish towel over her shoulder and her hand on her hip and smile at him. You could see it in her eyes that she loved him dearly. My Granddad, however, wasn’t so shy about his love for her. It’s important to remember that this was a man who was born in the 1920’s. Men weren’t exactly known for showing their emotions then but when it came to my Nana, he didn’t care. He gushed about her all the time and, for him, there was no-one quite like her in the world. She was a wonderfully strong woman and demanded respect that a lot of women in 1950’s Ireland didn’t receive. She was tough and independent but the most important thing to her was her family and I suppose while he worked and provided for his family, he was happy for her to take control. I’m sure it wasn’t always simple but it appeared that she made the rules but if he wanted to have his say, he did, and she respected it. No marriage or relationship is perfect but it worked perfectly well for them for over 50 years. My Granddad lived for 14 years after my Nana passed away. He kept photographs of her everywhere and although he didn’t talk about her every day, he mentioned her regularly. When he spoke about her, his eyes lit up with the same love and it never changed. He still loved her just as much and he spent his remaining years waiting for the day they would meet again. I really believe they were destined to be together.  How could a story so perfect not make you believe in true love?

Picture5 Picture7Picture1Picture2

1) two cakes at a time…sure why not?  2) Beautifuuly wrapped presents,  3) Cocktails with my girls,  4) The UH-mazing cake Jade made. It was delicious.

I had a lovely weekend celebrating my birthday with family & friends. It involved a LOT of food, two birthday cakes on Friday night, an amazing cake on Saturday night made by my lovely friend Jade, some cocktails and more beers. I also received some fab presents. What more could a girl want? 

 

Growing old/up quoteIt’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m turning 26. I’ll be officially in the latter half of my twenties but I can get away with mid-twenties on a technicality. I’ve always loved my birthday, but I’m not as excited this year. It could be that I’ve finally hit the age where it stops being exciting but I think it’s more to do with the absence of my guy. We were separated for his birthday in May too and I think it was harder for me because he’s not much of a birthday person. He always makes a fuss of my birthday though, because he knows I love it. Dane won’t be here but I’m lucky to have people I love around me to help me celebrate. I’m having a take-away dinner with my family at home tonight and then my girls are coming over for drinks and food tomorrow. I’d love to hear if other people enjoy their birthday and if not, when they stopped enjoying it?

Day 1 -9Day 10 - 18Day 11 - 30

I recently took part in the 30 day self-portrait challenge that Elsie and Emma from A Beautiful Mess shared through their blog and Instagram accounts. I’ve taken part in Instagram challenges before. I tend to feel a bit fed up towards the end and often don’t complete them at all. This one felt different. There was so many people taking part and there was also a chance to win a signed copy of their new book. Excuse the obvious statement but this challenge was…challenging! Taking 30 pictures of yourself over 30 days can become a bit repetitive pretty quickly so it forces you to try to think of different things to do in order to mix it up a bit. I have to admit, there were days when the last thing I wanted to do was post pictures of my face. Everyone is entitled to off days I suppose, so those days involved a lot of hand and feet shots. I enjoyed the challenge and learned a lot about myself and the photographs I tend to take. Only after the challenge I realised that my ‘looking off camera’ photographs tend to be almost always to the top right (my left).  I learned a lot about light and I also learned that when you’re restricted to take a photograph each day you don’t always have the time to take the photograph when the light is perfect but I tried to make the most of it. Knowing that sometimes you just need to use a black and white filter to help fix up a shaky iPhone picture works a treat. Most importantly, I learned to be comfortable posting pictures of myself without wearing make-up or having perfect hair or clothes. Becoming comfortable posting those pictures when I didn’t look or feel my best helped me to accept my imperfections. Finally, I noticed that even if I took the photographs in the morning or afternoon I almost always waited until evening to post it so now my next small challenge for myself is to put the insta into Instagram every once in a while.

Kiara and IDane and DecoKiara and DecoKiara & ICheers Deco & Kiarapolice car 2Dane & I

1) Kiara and I,  2) Dane and Deco being competitive,  3)  Kiara and Deco outside The Burj Al Arab with the Jumeirah Hotel in the background,  4) Kiara and I with the Mercedes Police car,  5) Cheers – shot time!  6) Deco and Kiara,  7) Dane and Deco with the policeman and the Bentley police car,  8) I love this picture of Dane and I. It’s so silly. We had just posed for a picture together and this was what followed.

The fact that I’m writing this post almost a week after arriving home leaves me with a sad feeling. Dane always says that you don’t really appreciate a place and how amazing it is until you leave. In a way, I believe he’s right. You see it all the time with Irish people living abroad. They tell anyone who will listen how great Ireland is. So much so that I often wonder why they left in the first place. In my opinion, part of this is because the grass is always greener on the other side and part of it is because as time goes by we tend to forget any negative feeling towards a place, especially if there aren’t many, and remember only the positive ones. We also tend to build it up to be better than it was. It’s a funny one because although I remain firm on my stance that Dubai really isn’t for me, when people ask I still tell them how beautiful it is and about all the amazing things to see and do and I would always recommend it to people. Strangely enough, The first time I went to Dubai remains very close to the top of my list of holidays. This may come across as strange, but I feel comfortable in Ireland in a way I’ve never felt in any of the beautiful and spectacular places I’ve visited. I know now, more than ever, that Ireland is my home and I just can’t see that ever changing. That being said, I find myself missing small things about Dubai, most obviously waking up every day and knowing Dane is there.

Our last 10 days in Dubai were spent with Kiara and Deco, as you know from my previous post Summer in Dubai, Part 3. Although they were our third set of visitors in only 2 months, it was just as fascinating to see their reaction to all of the wonderful things Dubai has to offer. The same way a place can seem much more enchanting when you leave, it can seem very normal and everyday while you’re there. Especially if you’re there for a while and have seen it plenty of times. Seeing everyone’s reaction to the things only Dubai can produce was refreshing every time and it reminds you to appreciate it while you’re there. Kiara and Deco were very aware that this was mine and Dane’s last week or so together for a few months and were kind enough to arrange some of their plans for days out when he was off so we could spend some time together. All four of us had a great time and the 10 days went by in a blink. We ate, we drank, we shopped, we played cards, we laughed, we argued over the rules, we took silly photos in photo booths, they experienced Dubai – the Burj Khalifa, the bus tour, the market, Wild Wadi water park, etc. We had a 7 course, 7 star afternoon tea pretty much right after a trip to Burger King, we shopped some more, we went to Sega World and the ‘men’ reverted back to being boys – it wasn’t a long trip! We drank some more, we ate some more, including a McDonalds drive thru trip or 2 in taxis (I have never seen a human being consume food the way Deco can – he eats lots and very often) and we had some of the funniest taxi journeys ever, singing and dancing with the taxi men. Dane’s ability to sing in ‘Punjabi’ is second to none.

This summer in Dubai was interesting to say the least. I got to experience it with some of my favourite people and I am eternally grateful to them for making it that bit easier to be away from home for so long (I know what you’re thinking – you would swear I was away for 10 years but it was a daunting experience for me as I’m such a home bird). Having people that I love there stopped me from getting too home sick and certainly made the days when Dane was in work until 6, 7 or 8 at night much easier. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. I also made some lovely new friends and I hope to see them in Dublin in the near future.

Being in Dubai during Ramadan and the start of the 3 day celebration (Eid) that follows it taught me a lot. I learned to appreciate a culture that is so different from my own and because at times it was difficult, it also reminded me to appreciate my own culture. It taught me that although I love to learn about other countries and cultures, I am very lucky to live in a country that it is very liberal (not an opinion I would have had before, we’re still pretty far behind other countries on a lot of issues). Being in Dubai for Ramadan reinforced for me the lengths people will go to please their god and whether you agree with it or not, it takes a lot of strength to fast for 30 days in 40-50 degree (celsius) heat whilst going about your everyday life which includes working and for woman still cooking for children and all of this without so much as a drop of water from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is not only about fasting. It is also important to live a clean life during this period where Muslims should only think positive thoughts, refrain from gossiping, smoking or having sexual relations during daylight hours. It is also a time for giving and so it’s a nice time to be in Dubai because people are very kind and charitable.

Now that I’m home (well in County Wexford, which is about 2.5 hours from home), I am enjoying the familiarity and beauty that is Ireland and quietly remembering the magnificence of Dubai.

County Wexford, Ireland

1) County Wexford on a map of Ireland

I felt it important to check in and let anyone avidly waiting for my next post (that’s you Dad!) know  that I’m currently enjoying a week away in a small village called Fethard On Sea in County Wexford. There is no wifi in the house we’re renting and the 3G signal is practically non-existent. I’m getting withdrawal symptoms from the free flowing Internet of home (or even Dubai) so I’m currently writing this post in the pub at half time of the Ireland versus Wales friendly match. I’ll be home in a few days and I’m bursting to share some posts about my last weeks in Dubai, my trip to Wexford and some opinion pieces too. I’m fond of sharing an odd opinion, in case you haven’t noticed. For now I’m enjoying some fresh Irish country air and a holiday with my dogs. Watch this space…..

Mam and MariaAbra (water taxi) Maria and Dane Mam and IIMG_6596

So my mam and Maria left Dubai to travel home on Wednesday night after 12 days. Dane organised a surprise for them and we dropped them to the airport in a white stretch Hummer limousine. Slightly cheesy, yes! Ridiculously enjoyable watching their faces as we walked towards it with their luggage, hell yes!! It was really great to have them both here for loads of reasons. For me, even though I was only here a little over a month when my mam arrived, I was delighted to see her. I enjoy the fact that I’m close to my family and I miss them when I’m away from them for too long. It was also great for Dane’s mam Maria to spend some time with him. I know it meant a lot to both of them…probably Maria more so but that’s sons for you. We had a lovely time and we got to see and do some things I hadn’t experienced in Dubai yet which was a win all round. It certainly didn’t take long for Irish ‘mammy-ness’ to kick in and within no time they were telling us what to do (“you need to save more” and “that’s not a substantial breakfast”), asking an outrageous amount of unnecessary questions and dying my leopard print blanket blue and my leopard print pyjama shorts pink (I’m obsessed with leopard print, remember). If I didn’t know better I’d say there’s a clause in the Irish ‘Mammy-ness’ contract that you have to be terrible at washing clothes and regularly stretch, shrink and change the colours. They try to justify it by saying “ah sure now it’s like ya have a new t-shirt” when they change the colour from white to blue. Anyway, we had a busy 12 days which included sunbathing, visiting the mosque, swimming, asking questions, afternoon tea, shopping, eating, drinking, asking questions, playing cards, laughing, the Dubai Fountain, asking more questions, the Burj Khalifa, more shopping, visiting the souks and the creek and did I mention asking questions? Like a lot of questions. They’re gone now and as they left, our friends Kiara and Deco arrived for 10 days. Literally. As in they all met at the airport for a few minutes. Needless to say it’s Friday (the weekend in Dubai) and I’m exhausted so while the others go to the market, I’m tidying around the apartment and relaxing with my book. Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of ‘Summer in Dubai’. 

Mam, Maria and I Times for prayer Dome MeJumeirah Mosque

Last Wednesday I took a trip to Jumeirah Mosque with my mam and Maria. We read up about it the day before so we knew in advance we needed to cover our arms and legs and that they would provide scarves to cover our hair. You can see chairs in some of the pictures. They are not usually there and are only there in this specific mosque because it’s the only one in Dubai that non-Muslims can visit freely. The chairs are left out for people to sit on at the 10.30am visit which is the only visiting time each day. A representative from the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding spends around 1-1.5 hours explaining the religion and how the mosque is used. It was really interesting to learn about a religion that I knew very little about. The time board on the wall beside the clock decides the 5 times per day when Muslims pray based on the lunar calendar. Woman can pray either in the mosque or at home whereas men are encouraged to pray in the mosque. The reason for this is that woman are the primary care-givers for the children and it may not always be possible for them to attend the mosque. You will see in the photographs that there is a pattern in the carpets that forms lines for people to stand while they pray. The mosque itself on the outside is quite beautiful and although it has beautiful chandeliers and ceilings inside, it is very basic in that it is mostly a square room with very little inside. It was fascinating to learn about a different religion and culture, however, much like my own religion, some of the explanations for why things are done the way they are can be a little hard to swallow. Overall, it was very interesting and I would encourage people visiting Dubai to take the time out to visit the mosque. 

Burj Al ArabCheers - sparkling date juice

1st Course

course 2Maria, Mam and Icourse 3MocktailsCakes & creme bruleeCourse 4Chocolates to take-awayLeaving the Burj Al Arab

1) The Burj Al Arab – looking up,  2) Cheers – sparkling date juice,  3) First course – berries and cream on shortbread,  4) Second course – Beef and potato,  5) Maria, Mam and I,  6)  Third course – selection of sandwiches,  7) One of the mocktails we tried,  8) Cakes, cookies and creme brulee,  9) Fourth course – selection of scones and mini patisserie,  10) Chocolates to take home,  11) Leaving the Burj Al Arab

Yesterday my Mam, Maria and I went for afternoon tea in the Burj Al Arab hotel. Our reservation was for 4.30pm but we were eager to see the hotel so we arrived at 3.30pm. I had been to the hotel before with Dane’s previous employer but it was nice to have the time to look around the foyer area and take some photographs. We went up to the Sky View bar early at around 4.10pm and we were seated next to the window facing the sea immediately. The service in the hotel is second to none from the people who call the lift (elevator if you’re from the U.S.) to the waiters serving your table. There are several courses to the Sky View Afternoon Tea. When we first arrived we were offered dates which are the holy fruit of Arabia. We were then offered sparking date juice. Usually guests are offered champagne but as it is currently the holy month of Ramadan there is no alcohol served anywhere in Dubai before 8pm. The first course on the menu is berries and cream which is served on shortbread. The second course is the chef’s carvery of the day which was beef (cooked to perfection) and mashed potato. Although it was delicious it is a very small portion. This works out well considering there’s still 3 courses to go. Next we were served finger sandwiches including salmon, chicken, caviar, tuna, cucumber and beef. If you have special requirements you can let them know. By this stage we were feeling quite full. The second last course is a mixture of homemade scones, cakes and creme brûlée. The final course is lychee and rose sorbet. There is also a menu with lots of different teas, coffees, iced drinks, hot chocolate and mocktails and you can order as many as you like. We started off with an English breakfast tea (old habits die hard) then we moved onto a mocktail. I had a lovely Oreo one. We were so full by the end and we didn’t finish all of the cakes and scones so they packaged them up for us to take away. We were there for roughly two and a half hours in total and another 30 mins taking pictures beforehand.

For anyone visiting Dubai I would definitely recommend this once in a lifetime experience. There are two reason why you would only do it once. The first is that it is expensive and works out at roughly €93 which is 450dhs (Arab Emirate dirham) or 122 American dollars. The second is that it’s the only 7 star hotel (self proclaimed because there is technically no star higher than 5) in the world and the likelihood of you visiting Dubai more than once is low unless you have friends/family etc living there. I didn’t think I would be saying this but, I think it is worth the price tag to see the hotel, experience the view (which includes part of the Palm Islands) and enjoy the amazing food and drink.