Posts Tagged ‘Dubai’

Bordeaux visit (1) and The Black Eyed Blonde

May 24, 2017

We are not long back from a week’s holiday in Bordeaux, the beautiful city on  the river Garonne in the south west of France. It’s only a two hour flight from Edinburgh and we got through customs quickly. The hotel recommended that we get the Lianes 1+ bus, so we got that. We hadn’t realised that this bus stops everywhere and it took us 1 hour 10min to get to where we changed for the tram, because of rush hour traffic. So we just had to thole it. There is always an element of uncertainty when you travel to a new place and you never quite relax until you get to where you are staying. Where we did stay – the Hotel Vatel – was excellent in terms of comfort, staff and location.

From our hotel, we could see the River Garonne which flows around the city. It’s a wide river and some cruise liners (not the huge ones) parked on the quayside. There are a number of bridges across the Garonne, with the oldest being Le Pont de Pierre (good photos) which was ordered to be built by Napoleon and opened in 1822. It is a very impressive piece of engineering, with 17 spans, most of which you can see in the first photo below. You can walk or cycle across the bridge or cross it by bus or tram. Bordeaux has an excellent tram/bus service and you can get a ticket, which you can use on the tram and/or bus for 1Euro 50cents – this takes you anywhere you want in the city and lasts for an hour. There is a new bridge in Bordeaux, Le Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas (good photos) down river from Le Pont Pierre and it is a stunning example  of modern design, engineering and architecture. Unusually, the bridge has a vertical lift (see website) to allow the larger ships to pass under. You can see the bridge’s elegant towers in the second photo below and also, in the background, in the drum band photos below. The towers reminded us of the modern architecture we were used to seeing in Dubai when our son, daughter in law and twin granddaughters lived there.

IMG_1484

Le Pont de Pierre, Bordeaux (click to enlarge)

 

IMG_1571

Le Pont Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux

Another feature of the riverside is the promenade or quayside (good photos) where hundreds of people walk, cycle, roller blade and run every day. You have to watch carefully as some of the cyclists and roller bladers go at high speed, weaving their way in between walkers and runners. On the Sunday morning, we could hear the sound of drums further up the river, away from the centre. The drumming got louder and louder and the first of the drum bands approached. All the bands were brightly dressed and drummed with passion – it looked very hard work, so they must have been very fit to do the drumming.  This was a great addition to our Sunday morning stroll and very much appreciated by the many people on the quayside. Two of the bands are shown below.

IMG_1562

Sunday morning drum band on the quayside in Bordeaux

IMG_1565

Drum band on the quayside in Bordeaux

On the plane home, I finished reading Benjamin Black’s (aka John Banville) The Black Eyed Blonde, given to me by my good friend John. The book is written in the style of Raymond Chandler (podcast by John Banville) and features Chandler’s world-weary detective Philip Marlowe. It is a wonderful read, with a well-paced plot, interesting and believable characters, sharp dialogue and Marlowe’s accurate and often witty observations on people he meets and the world in general. Like the Chandler novels, this is one of these books that you can open at random and find something quotable. Marlowe is asked by a Miss Cavendish to find a man called Nico Peterson. Miss Cavendish is (like many women in Chandler novels) beautiful and Marlowe reflects on “.. the tip of her nose – and a very nice tip it was, to a very nice nose, aristocratic but not too narrow or too long, and nothing at all like Cleopatra’s jumbo snozzle”. This is typical of a Marlowe reflection – detailed and often containing wit. It turns out that Peterson was found dead but, on Marlowe’s second meeting with Miss Cavendish, she claims to have seen him alive. Marlowe follows a number of leads and meets a range of flawed (and sometimes unsavoury) characters and is subjected to serious violence at times in the story, like many detectives in novels. The ending is neat and not melodramatic. My (very literate) friend John argues that many crime novelists lose their nerve when it comes to ending their books and go for wildly dramatic and often violent scenes. Neither Chandler nor Black is ever likely to do that. This is a memorable novel, so get a hold of it any way you can.

Scan_20170523

The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

 

Another Dubai trip and Stoner the novel

March 4, 2015

Having left a very cold Scotland, where it was 3 degrees and felt much colder, on Wednesday of last week, it has been a very pleasant change to be in wall to wall sunshine and a daily temperature of c25 degrees. Our son Stuart, daughter in law Catherine and 3+ twin granddaughters Abigail and Lola live in the Arabian Ranches, which is a 25 minute drive – along a 6 lane highway – from the city. Downtown Dubai is ever expanding and with every subsequent visit, a new building seems to have leapt up toward the sky. The two photos below were taken from the car and one shows men on ropes, presumably doing repairs, or cleaning windows. For excellent views of the Dubai skyline, see here. A trip to Dubai would not be the same without yet another photo of the Burj Al Arab, perhaps the most iconic of Dubai’s stunning buildings, as in the 3rd photo below. No matter how often you see this building, you still wonder at the audacity of its design and construction.

Downtown Dubai

Downtown Dubai

Downtown Dubai building repairs

Downtown Dubai building repairs

Burj Al Arab

 Burj Al Arab

In our house in Dubai, there’s a large vase of lilies on the table. They arrived with closed flowers and have opened quickly, with large white-tongued leaves and startling cucumber shaped orange anthers, with a smaller, heart shaped, purple centre. The photos below show the whole flower top as well as a close up of the anthers, which have an abstract and possibly surreal quality.

White lily

White lily

Lily anthers

Lily anthers

I’ve just finished the much praised novel by John Williams entitled Stoner. The book was first published in the sixties, to no great acclaim but was “discovered” and republished in 2012 and became an international best seller. When you read such glowing reviews of a novel as “A great American novel” and “Rarely has the intimate detail of a life been drawn with such emotional clarity”, you can often get a feeling that it will not live up to its stunning reviews. This book does. It is by turns tragic and joyful and innocent and mature. Stoner teaches in a midsize American university and the book begins by stating that few colleagues or students remembered Stoner who remained an Assistant Professor during his long teaching career. His colleagues or students may not remember Stoner but anyone who reads this intriguing novel most certainly will. There is an excellent introduction to the book by the renowned late Irish author John McGahern – one of my all-time  favourite  novelists. The writing in Stoner is consistently of a high quality and often the reader is presented with a remarkable passage. One example is when Stoner’s father dies and he visits his bereaved mother, who shows him his father. “The body he saw was that of a stranger; it was shrunken and tiny… The dark blue suit which enfolded the body was grotesquely large, and the hands that folded out of the sleeves were like the dried claws of an animal” writes Williams, and the use of the word enfolded makes the passage even more striking. There is much sorrow in this novel but also much joy and Stoner is fiercely realistic about his (and all of our) tiny presence in life. He is relentlessly stoical. Whatever happens, he tholes it. This is a must read book, so beg, steal or borrow this book – from the library of course. Even better, buy it and I’m sure that like me, you’ll revisit it.

A Word a Week Photograph Challenge: Play

February 12, 2015

Another very flexible word for this week’s challenge. for more, see Sue’s website.

No play at St Andrew's Golf Course

No play at St Andrew’s Golf Course

Culture clash as Scottish pipe band member plays the didgeridoo

Culture clash as Scottish pipe band member plays the didgeridoo

Accordionist in Florence

Accordionist in Florence

Roger Federer at Dubai tennis tournament

Roger Federer at Dubai tennis tournament

A Word a Week Photograph challenge – Pots

January 15, 2015

Here’s the pick of my photos of pots – see many more at Sue’s website.

Steaming pot in Dubai Indian restaurant kitchen

Steaming pot in Dubai Indian restaurant kitchen

Lobster pots at Dunbar harbour (Summer)

Lobster pots at Dunbar harbour (Summer)

Spring flowers in a clay pot

Spring flowers in a clay pot

Lobster pots at Dunbar harbour (Winter)

Lobster pots at Dunbar harbour (Winter)

A Word a Week Photo Challenge- round

April 18, 2014

Here is my contribution to this week’s challenge – many more great attempts at Sue’s website.

Camellia flower after rain in Wagga Wagga

Camellia flower after rain in Wagga Wagga

Bales in a field near Dunbar

Bales in a field near Dunbar

Fountains at the Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Fountains at the Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Poppy seed pot in my garden

Poppy seed pot in my garden

Chagall stained glass - seen in Nice gallery

Chagall stained glass – seen in Nice gallery

Creme brulee - afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Creme brulee – afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: contrast

April 2, 2014

Here are my photos involving different types of contrast. Many more excellent specimens at Sue’s website.

Please note that I’m unable, at the moment, to make photos open in a new tab – looking for a solution.

Height of man and height of termite mound in Litchfield National Park,  NT, Australia

Height of man and height of termite mound in Litchfield National Park, NT, Australia

Bright sky and dark shore at Belhaven Beach, Dunbar

Bright sky and dark shore at Belhaven Beach, Dunbar

Silhouettes against sea and sky, Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Silhouettes against sea and sky, Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Burj Khalifa dwarfs 70 storey buildings in Dubai (Photo taken from car)

Burj Khalifa dwarfs 70 storey buildings in Dubai (Photo taken from car)

Contrasting colours in the summer sky above

Contrasting colours in the summer sky above the summer night sky in Dunbar

Upright donkey, leaning tower in Pisa

Upright donkey, leaning tower in Pisa

In Dubai: Dubai aquarium and Masters Tennis

March 7, 2014

One of the astounding features of the Dubai Mall is the aquarium, which is located in the centre of the mall and is on two floors. The first time you see the aquarium, it seems an offence to your senses i.e. a huge aquarium situated in a shopping mall doesn’t seem at all right. You can stand outside the aquarium – with many others – and watch the sharks, sting rays and human divers inside, but paying to visit is a hugely better experience. You firstly walk along the outside of the huge tank and watch the amazing variety of fish, then you are in a tunnel where you get up close – but fortunately not and personal – with big sharks, whose life-destroying teeth are only the thickness of the glass away from, and when you look up, stingrays float majestically above your head. I think that only watching a catch stretch and relax can match the calm ease displayed by the stingrays. See photos below.

Shark's teeth

Shark’s teeth

Stingray

Stingray

You then go upstairs to what is known as the underwater zoo and it is a series of tanks with many varieties of fish but also other sea creatures. One of the most impressive features of this part of the aquarium is the range of colours of the fish. What I should have done was take a pen and paper and write down the species I was photographing, but I didn’t, so I don’t have names for the fish below – just enjoy the colours.

Bicolour Angel Fish (maybe)

Bicolour Angel Fish (maybe)

Unknown fish

Unknown fish

Unknown fish

Unknown fish

The final section of the aquarium is given over to other species such as huge crabs, dwarf crocodiles and penguins. What I did feel in this section – more than with the fish – was that these creatures were even more confined, and that I felt uncomfortable watching them being very still – the giant crab and dwarf crocodile below – or being very active, but in a small space – the penguins below.

King crab

King crab

Dwarf crocodile

Dwarf crocodile

Feeding the penguins

Feeding the penguins

Another highlight of our visit, was having season tickets to the Dubai Masters Tennis tournament, which took place at the impressive stadium, attached to which is the Irish Village, a collection of pubs and a shop selling Irish souvenirs. The tennis, featuring many of the world’s top players, was amazing to watch. These players hit the ball with ferocity but also control and have the ability to return balls which are practically on the ground. The top match which we saw was the semi final between Roger Federer (1st photo) and Novak Djokovic (2nd photo) and it was an intriguing 3 setter with Federer, who appeared to the more motivated of the two players, winning, and this delighted the full house, most of whom were supporting the Swiss player. Federer also won the final against Tomas Berdych. One cultural anomaly that I noticed each day, was that, while in the stadium, men and women were in T shirts and shorts, and some were drinking beer or wine, and in the background, you could hear the Imam calling from the mosque. An anomaly certainly, but also and example of tolerance.

Note: This is the 400th posting on this blog since it started.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

In Dubai: Burj Khalifa and Amal Restaurant

February 25, 2014

A rather belated blog entry as we flew to Dubai on Wednesday to stay with our son, daughter in law and two gorgeous 2 year old twin grandchildren Abigail and Lola. So we come back to Dubai, a city, for those affluent enough to enjoy it, of spectacular architecture, rampant (as some would see it) consumerism, and unashamed luxury. On Friday (first day of the weekend here) we were taken out to the excellent Amal Restaurant which is one the third floor of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. I’ve included photos of this architectural wonder – of course, not everyone would agree with my evaluation – in the blog before, but I’ve only taken photos in the daytime. At night, the Burj Khalifa becomes even more of a building out of science fiction. Night photography is not my best – I need to do much more homework but below are two photos taken from the restaurant balcony and looking up to the top of the building, which has 160 storeys.

Looking up to the top of the Burj Khalifa

Looking up to the top of the Burj Khalifa

Looking up to the top of the Burj Khalifa

Looking up to the top of the Burj Khalifa

The Amal Restaurant is by a country mile, the best (and yes, most expensive) Indian restaurant that we have been in. It is part of the Armani Hotel – representative of the unashamed luxury referred to above) which has the modest strapline of “A world of sophisticated beauty”. The restaurant has a very tall ceiling and it is decorated with (thin) arches to give it a cathedral like appearance. The complimentary starter made of semolina and fruit was delicate but very tasty – picture below.

Semolina cake and fruits

Semolina cake and fruits

 

I had intensely flavoured lamb and my wife had sea bass with a mild curry sauce, which she voted best ever. One of the biggest differences from “ordinary” (but still very good) Indian restaurants that we’ve been to in the UK and Australia, was in the quality of the naan bread. This was small, delicately herbed and spiced and cooked in a tandoori oven – pictures below of the naan bread and of a chef taking one out of the oven, taken in the kitchen (with permission) near to where we sat.

Nan bread in the Amal Restaurant

Nan bread in the Amal Restaurant

Taking nan bread out of the oven

Taking nan bread out of the oven

 

We are also going to the Dubai Masters Tennis tournament while we are here – more sophistication, more luxury – watch this space, as we live like part of the other half for  12 days.

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Waiting

January 16, 2014

Here are photos for this week’s challenge – see Sue’s website for many more.

Waiting for a fleece

Waiting for a fleece

My mate Charlie Moses at his farm in Coolamon, NSW and his sheep shearing son

Waiting to be released back into the wild

Waiting to be released back into the wild

The Snake Man releasing a brown snake (very dangerous) at Pomingalarna Reserve, near Wagga Wagga. People in Wagga Wagga phone the Snake Man if they find a snake in or near their house.

Waiting for fish

Waiting for fish

A heron in the sea at the back of my house in Dunbar

Waiting for food

Waiting for food

A hungry kittiwake chick on its nest on the walls of Dunbar Castle

Waiting for customers

Waiting for customers

Thai food stall in a Dubai hotel

 

Paella, Innocent Railway Path and night lights

August 15, 2013

On Sunday, to celebrate my sister Elaine’s  and great nephew Dylan’s  birthdays, my niece Kerrie made a special meal, the highlight of which was an impressive dish of paella. The question was asked – what does the word paella mean – none of us knew. Looking up the word paella, I discovered that the origin is from the Spanish La Paella, meaning a pan i.e. the dish not the meal, and originally from the Latin for pan  – patella. Before the main dish, the table was filled with a variety of starters which would have had the food gods salivating. There was breaded calamari with garlic mayonnaise, a wheel of cos lettuce leaves filled with Stilton and yogurt mix on a plate, Parma ham and salami, a chorizo salad, and some crispy bread. The paella itself (see photo 1 – taken with mobile phone, so not as clear as it might be) was served in the paella dish in which it had been cooked and was aesthetically pleasing as well as smelling wonderful. The dish was adapted from a BBC recipe and certainly lived up to the aim of to “Transport the quintessential flavours of the Mediterranean into your kitchen”. In the best paellas – and this was one – the flavour of the rice is a tasty (and tasteful) combination of the juices from the different elements – onion, peppers, garlic, paprika, chicken, mussels and prawns. In all, a great demonstration of culinary expertise.

I’ve been increasing my cycling mileage steadily and last weekend, I set a new record of 66 miles (107K), with my mate John and I cycling from Dunbar to Edinburgh.The route we took followed minor roads and including going along the Innocent Railway Path. Part of the route is a tunnel which has the distinction of being the first railway tunnel in the UK. The origin of the title Innocent appears to be obscure and may either have been related to safety or the slow pace of the trains. You might think that the origins may  have lain in the prison system, with one track for those found innocent and another e.g. The Guilty Railway Path for those convicted. There is, of course, no evidence for this, but it’s an intriguing thought.

Night time photography is notoriously difficult, especially for amateur photographers like me, who won’t sit down and read the detailed instructions provided with our cameras, but as I found out at the weekend, it can have some surreal consequences. I was taking some photos at the back of our house and trying to capture the lanterns which we brought back from Dubai. The result – see photo 2 – is an image which might be multi-coloured lightning hitting the lanterns or might be molten gold and white genies escaping from the lanterns – or it might just be the effect of not using the right setting on my camera – choose your own explanation.

Paella in la paella

Paella in la paella

Night lights

Night lights