At the end of a long, exhausting year, my husband, baby and I packed our suitcases and said goodbye to Singapore for a well-deserved 2 week break in Dubai. It was the first time visiting for all of us, although my husband and I have been through Dubai airport so many times, it was starting to get silly. We had to visit. And what better time than Christmas and New Year?
First off, I was impressed by the female airport drivers with their pink head scarves! This immediately put me at ease. Unfortunately, that ease quickly evaporated once we got onto the roads! Or should I say motorway. People drive so fast in Dubai and because there seem to be no simple left or right turn offs, you speed down one long bridge after another, up and down and round and round until you arrive at your destination with an abrupt screech. Not-fun.
We stayed with family at Yassat Gloria Hotel Apartments which is in Internet City on Sheik Zahid road. The apartments were lovely, and I liked the décor and the huge balconies. What I was NOT a huge fan of, was the COLD! It was winter in Dubai and there was no central heating, just an ac system that didn’t blow warm air. If there’s one thing I can’t stand its being cold. My husband enjoyed the change from Singapore and my in-laws loved the escape from freezing London, but I think the little one was on my side. He threw me MANY an appreciative glance for packing his long-sleeved onesies.
I really liked the Yassat Gloria gymn, and it had an outdoor pool on the same floor with a nice view. It also had a sauna and steam room and a spa, none of which I used. But it was so lovely to be able to work out, take a bath and relax knowing my son had lots of people to fuss over him. After a couple days, my husband kept remarking how fresh I looked! Yeah you know it’s bad when it comes to that.
We had a nice quiet Christmas day with lots of food. I tried my best not to eat too much, but I have a mince pie addiction that’s hard to control so I let go. I made it up in the days after though, and my sister-in-law taught me how to play squash which was great fun and a brilliant burner.
So what else did I do besides eat? Well having the tot in tow and still breastfeeding meant my activities were pretty limited. There’s so much to do in Dubai – indoor skiing, helicopter rides, boat tours, a water park etc. All await on my next trip when he’s older. So for this trip, I went to The Dubai Mall quite a few times! It’s absolutely HUGE with every shop, store and eaterie you can imagine. We caught the beginning of Dubai’s January sales and they were pretty good.
I loved the aquarium on the ground floor with huge sea creatures, and I liked Galerie Lafayette (which incidentally stocks Nomada bags designed by my bestie Divya. I’ll def be doing a post soon!)
It’s a nice place to while away the time and it’s a good shopping experience, but in terms of shopping I think I prefer London during sales period. For luxury goods though it’s pretty great, especially for accessories. There’s also a really nice baby changing room and play area on the ground floor.
The Mall of Emirates was good too – much smaller and less flashy, with a huge Carrefour supermarket where we did all our grocery shopping.
Because I’m not back to my pre-baby weight, shopping was a-leetle depressing at times, so I decided to spare myself (and my husband) the long face and focus on eating out! (Yum!)
We checked out the Souk Madinat, which is an upscale mall in the design of a souk market. We really only explored a fraction of it because the baby was restless so we ate at practically the first restaurant we saw. But it was a really fun place with food stalls, a canal boat ride and even games and a ride.
Some of the places we ate at:
The Rib and Rump on the third floor of Dubai Mall was FINGER LICKING, OH-MY-GOD INDUCING DELICIOUS. The meat was so tender and the Greek salad was so lovely – the feta creamy and crumbly. It was perfect. So perfect that I went back and had it again – on my own – out of my own pocket. Doesn’t happen often!
We went to an outdoor mall called The Beach a few times. One of the places we ate at was The Counter, a build it yourself burger joint. I had a (hormone-free)beef, mushroom and blue cheese burger with wholemeal bread while my husband had a 1 pounder which was huge! They were okay, we weren’t blown away. Maybe our expectations were too high. We later had dessert at Cheesecake Factory. We stayed away from the sinfully decadent concoctions and shared a delicious bowl of vanilla ice cream.
After we saw the New Year in (quietly), I got a real treat on my birthday. We went to the Madinat Jumeirah Resort and had the Mina A’Salam champagne brunch. It-was-incredible. Every morsel melted in your mouth. The sun was shining and there was a great live band. I was able to eat healthily by eating a small bit of whatever I fancied.
We spent the last few days of our holiday at The Shangri la. I wasn’t sure what to expect but Id read great reviews and The Shangri la in Singapore is absolutely gorgeous so I knew standards would be high. Let’s just say it is now my favourite hotel and whenever I next get the chance I’ll definitely be staying there!
There are so many good things to say about this hotel. The customer service was brilliant – relaxed but attentive. We had a gorgeous sea view I never tired of and really good inhouse dining. My favourite things about the room was having audio in the bathroom and this bedside gadget that controls all the lights. Even the promotional video of all the hotels that comes on when you switch the tv on was super relaxing and helped the baby sleep!
Every time I picked up the phone, the concierge pronounced my name effortlessly! The gymn was so beautiful, situated near the spa so it had a very relaxed vibe and was excellently stocked with water and fruit. It even had a fan in each treadmill! Like Yassat Gloria, it also has squash courts, plus it offers yoga and pilates classes and kiddies workout classes. I also had my best massage to date – an oil blend of 7 essential oils. It was deep with just the right type of sweet pain a massage should have. I returned to my son running (metaphorical) circles round my husband and declared “Ok. Now Im ready for 2015!”
It’s a very baby friendly hotel. We were welcomed to the pool and there were always other mummies there with their babies. There’s also a babysitting service (probably best for older kids!)
Breakfast….breakfast is the reason to stay here. There are just so many staff running round taking care of your every need. There was no request too small. And I’m a stickler when I eat out, it drives my husband crazy. So to have my eggs done exactly right, waffles and French toast made in front of me – hot and piping, fresh juices and smoothies, a huge selection of fruit, yoghurts, cheeses, smoked salmon and mackerel..there were so many things on offer I can’t even remember them all. All I remember is seeing things I didn’t know the names for and enjoying them melt in my mouth. By day 2 though I needed a break! It was gastronomic.
In general I found Dubai very baby-friendly and nursing friendly, especially the restaraunts. In fact, it was a battle keeping people off my baby – much worse than Singapore! But this was a pleasant surprise because I was a little nervous about what to do when I needed to feed him.
So that’s a brief summary of our trip. I have to say, the customer service at all the restaurants we ate at was excellent, but in terms of taste and value for money, I think Singapore still leads in this department.
One thing that frustrated me about Dubai was the taxis! Very easy to get from your hotel, but once you’re out and about, there didn’t seem to be a clear system for hailing one – no visible taxi ranks etc. Whenever I asked someone how to get a taxi, they just pointed me to the nearest curb! It was mayhem at times, and a bit stressful with the baby. At Dubai mall, there weren’t any clear signs as to where to get a taxi but it was much easier at Mall of Emirates.
I took the metro once and it was nice, very clean and efficient but with extremely long queues.
All in all, a very nice holiday. Quiet and relaxing. I’ll definitely be back because I think it’s a great place for older toddlers, teenagers and couples who are feeling adventurous enough for some extreme sports! For shopping though, it’s good old Blighty for me.
Now in terms of what I didn’t like about Dubai…it was a little flashy for my liking. I encountered a lot of loud, drunk expats and pushy Emirati women. At our champagne brunch an Emirati lady (I use the word lady loosely) shouted at three bellboy/waiters “You can’t tell me where to go! I’ll go where I want, this is my country!”. It left a very sour taste in my mouth.
For me travelling is not just about eating well, relaxing, seeing the sights and shopping. It’s experiencing the culture and interacting with the people. Well there’s none of that in Dubai…so for that reason it’s probably not at the top of the list of the places I’ve visited. That said, when it comes to spending time with family, it’s the company that counts, isn’t it?
When my son is old enough to enjoy rides and make himself sick on candy, it’d be worth another visit.
PS – Despite all the food I did work out loads and came home a few pounds lighter! Hahaha!