Staycation Dubai – Part 2: Fireworks & Fountains

Continuing our 5 day staycation break, as Eid al Adha formally begins, so does the fireworks!

Day 3 – Dolce Far Niente

What’s a holiday without the chance to kick back and take it easy, or to be more specific, do nothing? In my post about ‘Doing things the Italian way’ I talked about the wonderful habit of ‘Dolce Far Niente’, so it seemed only right to practice what I preach.

Therefore this was a lazy day, kicking off with a late start, followed by a yummy ‘full english’. One major difference between being in the UAE and our previous experiences of living in Saudi Arabia, is that pork products are readily available at many supermarkets – and a full english without bacon and bangers, just isn’t a full english in my book.

The slow pace of the day continued into the afternoon with a leisurely swim – like many apartment blocks in Dubai, ours is equipped with a small gym, and pool. It’s not the most glamorous pool around, but on days like this, its more than adequate.

Each evening of the Eid break, we learnt there were to be fireworks at the nearby beach, located at Jumeriah Beach Residences (JBR to us locals!), so we decided to head down there, grab some dinner and be part of the fun. From being in Dubai on New Years Eve, I learnt that fireworks are one thing they really know how to do well, so it would definitely be something worth seeing.

Dinner was at ‘Leopold’s of London’ at JBR – and having eaten there twice now, I can strongly recommend it. It’s a casual bistro with good atmosphere, great value, and the crispy skin chicken is delicious, whilst Mel loves the mushroom and truffle pizza.

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Leopold’s of London – JBR

The fireworks were due to start at 8.30, and we managed to leave Leopold’s just a couple of minutes before that, so it was great timing – with the restaurant being located adjacent to the beach, we had a perfect view as soon as we left.

It’s funny that even though you know fireworks are about to start, that initial bang still takes you by surprise; but right on queue, and for the next 10 minutes, the sky lit up with a gorgeous colour filled show that was greeted at its completion with a loud and well deserved round of applause from the crowds that lined the beach front.

Following the show, we took a slow walk along the beach, stopping to watch some beach volleyball (it was still in the high 30s!), and trying to decide if we wanted to have desert. I’m a sucker for cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, so as that was en-route, we checked it out, but with a 45 minute wait, we continued on.  Eventually, we stopped for coffee (and cheesecake) at the nearby Amwaj Rotana Hotel, before continuing the short walk home – a really enjoyable end to a very relaxing day.

Day 4 – Doing it in style

Another day of taking it easy, although we did squeeze in a quick trip to the Mall of the Emirates. The Mall opened in 2005, so has been around quite a bit longer than its nearby cousin, The Dubai Mall – as well as being another giant shopping complex, its major claim to fame is that it is home to the unique attraction, ‘Ski Dubai’ – here you’ll discover:

‘22,500 square metres of snow spread over five runs of varying difficulty, from the bunny slope to the black run, along with a freestyle area for snowboarders and tobogganers.

The 3,000-square-metre Snow Park is great family fun, with snow caves, toboggan slopes and tube rides. The alpine café is ideal for sipping hot chocolate in minus four degrees, or watching the daily march of a colony of snow penguins.’

Shopping and Skiing – only in Dubai!

However, ours was a quick trip, so no time for a slalom run (as if!), just a few shops to visit, and a very unhealthy fast food lunch.

The highlight of our day however was to come in the evening, as we had reservations for At.Mosphere, the lounge and restaurant located on the 123rd floor of the Burj Khalifa. Although a perfect venue for special occasions, our visit was more of a ‘bucket list’ fulfilment – we had both wanted to go there for some time as we had heard great reviews, so this seemed the perfect opportunity.

Access to the venue is via the wonderfully stylish Armani Hotel, located at the base of the Burj Khalifa. This was a first visit to the hotel for us, and it did not disappoint; the welcome from the team at the main entrance and lobby was warm and genuine, and gave a great first impression.

As traffic had been surprisingly light, we arrived at the hotel quite early, so we took the opportunity to have pre-dinner drinks in a lounge area overlooking the amazing Dubai Fountain.

The fountain is the worlds largest choreographed water display, and comes to life every evening from 6pm, with displays every 30 minutes. There are numerous different ‘performances’, so if you have the good fortune of being able to watch a number of displays over the course of an evening, it’s likely they will all be different.

Our timing was perfect, as we got the opportunity to view a stunning program from an amazing vantage point on a balcony adjacent to the bar, just before our drinks were served – a great way to start our evening.

Delicious cocktails consumed, we returned to the hotel lobby to gain access to the special reception and exclusive lift that would whisk us to At.Mosphere; our reservation was checked, and we were guided into the magical capsule.

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Which floor Sir?

Just the lift ride itself is an amazing experience; rising 123 floors in 60 seconds is quite breathtaking, if a little ear-popping!

On arrival we were escorted into the lounge area, and our pre-booked table by the window.  When booking At.Mosphere, you have the choice of the Lounge, or Restaurant – and we had chosen the Lounge, as we felt this would be a little less formal, although even for here, a dress code of smart casual had been advised to us.

The evening was magical, looking down over the lights of Dubai, and enjoying some excellent food and drink. The lounge menu is more of a collection of ‘light bites’ rather than main meals, so throughout the evening we worked our way through a wonderful selection which featured foie gras,  avocado and tomato water melon, ‘kalifornia’ roll, chicken spring rolls, pop shrimp, mini chili burger slider, and truffle fries.

In addition to the food and drink, the staff of the lounge were also first class, our waitress did an excellent job of guiding us through the menu, even steering us away from over ordering.

After a wonderful experience, we boarded the lift for the descent back to the world of Armani, and then the taxi home. The evening was everything that we’d hoped and to be honest, expected, and its a definite ‘must do’ if staying in Dubai.

Day 5 – The Morning After …

The final day of our break was expected to be a low key affair, we both felt the effects of overindulgence from the fun of the night before, so most of the day was spent lounging around, catching up on emails and of course Netflix. However, we did manage a quick trip to the nearby Dubai Marina Mall, which included a visit to the UK supermarket chain, ‘Waitrose’. It’s great to be able to buy good quality British items so easily, even though there is often a premium to pay, it’s worth it for a tin of Heinz Baked Beans, or a pack of McVitie’s Digestives!

Whilst out at the Mall, we received an invite to join our friends (and newlyweds) Rowena and Andreas, in a pub quiz taking place at the Jumeriah Beach Hotel – this has become something of a regular event that we really enjoy, so we happily accepted; no need to buy anything for dinner then!

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Food shopping in Dubai, British style

The Jumeriah Beach Hotel is located in a magnificent setting, next to the famed ‘Burj Al Arab’ hotel. The weekly quiz night takes place in the hotel’s ‘Dhow & Anchor’ pub (or D&A as it’s known to the locals), which overlooks the Burj, so offers great photo opportunities.

For guests who are hungry, there are two menus on offer, one with ‘Signature Dishes’, such as Angus Beef Cheek Pie, and The Wagyu Burger, or for lighter options, a bar menu is available with such delights as Fish Goujons, Mini Burgers, and Hand Cut chips. We both chose items from the bar menu, which were good value, standard pub type fayre.

On our previous two visits to the quiz, our team had managed to win, so we felt we were on a roll – with first prize of a voucher to the value of 600 dirhams ($163), it makes for a good evening out, and with minimum expenditure if you do win!

However, this time victory was not to be, we couldn’t manage the ‘three in a row’, but it was a fun evening nonetheless. Who knew that Sean Penn’s school book photo made him look like Jodie Foster, or that a chandler is a type of blueberry?

With the quiz ending, so did our staycation – it has been a great 5 days, we’ve managed to experience many new aspects of Dubai, and create lots of magical memories; and in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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