Hello, Harry Potter!

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As I mentioned previously in my English/Paris summer vacation, I paid a visit to the incredible Harry Potter Studio Tour near London, and I took a ridiculous amount of photos so I made it into its own post! I am avid Harry Potter fan, but I will admit, I haven’t read the books. (I’m not a huge fan of books! Sorry!) I think I will tackle them one day, but I do love every single movie in the saga. Alan, on the other hand, actually had never seen the movies or read the books (Brit fail!) so I tried to get in as many of the movies as we could in our free time in the UK before we went. While we didn’t get to finish it, Alan found the tour to be quite impressive even for the non-fan.

The tour has only been open for about 2 years, but it is so insanely popular that bookings must be done online only through their website and bookings fill up incredibly fast. As I was trying to get days off to extend my holiday, I kept having to change plans because every time I went to book, the days I had available were already full!

Upon entrance, you are greeted by three amazing Wizard’s Chess pieces!

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The introduction starts with a seat in a small theater, and a short video with Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint addressing fans and then the screen lifts to the entrance of Hogwarts. Every inch of the tour was just as magical as it seemed to be on the screen!

The ceiling is absent because it changes and so is designed with computer graphics.

The ceiling is absent because it changes and so is designed with computer graphics.

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Once you left the dining hall, you were free to roam through the tour yourself. It roughly takes about 3 hours!

Some of my most favorite bits were the costumes!

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It was amazing to see how the sets looked quite small in comparison to on the big screen.

Boy's dormitory in Griffindor

Boy’s dormitory in Griffindor

Griffindor common room

Griffindor common room

There was also an array of random props and artifacts gathered around.

Collection of wands

Collection of wands

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Dumbledore’s office:

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Throughout the tour, there were various supplementary video screens full of information and cool secrets. For example, the various moving portraits found throughout the school include some of the crew and staff!

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And prop crews found it entertaining alone just trying to fill the mysterious jars and vessels you see in Snape’s potion making classroom.

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Chamber of Secrets!

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The Weasley home

The Weasley home

Deatheater costumes!

Death Eater costumes!

Various prints and candy boxes – a graphic designer’s dream:

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Dolores Umbridge's very pink and very kittied office

Dolores Umbridge’s very pink and very kittied office

 

 

Tasting butterbeer and hanging out outside Harry's house!

Tasting butterbeer and hanging out outside Harry’s house!

On display were an amazing array of the various prosthetics and other makeup/masks…

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And of course, Diagon Alley itself!

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This smaller scale model of Hogwarts is used when filming the building from a distance!

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And of course, can’t leave until we find a wand…

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Maybe this one?!

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Lastly, I was a sucker and hopped on a broom, and YES, I bought the photos… there was a video, but I opted for just the photos. :)

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Home Sweet Home 2014

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The last time I was home in Phoenix, Arizona, was way back in November of last year. Unfortunately, the trip home takes nearly 20 hours (16 hours alone from Dubai to Los Angeles, and then hop on another plane to Phoenix), so going home for less than a week is senseless. I had family visit me in April, and again Alan’s brother in May, so a lot of my leave time was devoted to that. Since the last time I was in Phoenix, I had only started the wedding planning, so I had a lot to get done on this trip, especially since I wasn’t going to be back until about a week before the wedding in May. I dragged Alan back with me, and we did lots of usual wedding stuff – re-visiting the venue and setting up the layout, meeting the caterer, shopping for DIY supplies (I’m DIYing a lot which is difficult because I’m so far away!), and lots of other things!

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The venue is the Commemorative Air Force Museum, and I won’t show any more pics because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone!! But I will share some of my DIY projects. I had a craft night with my sister and some friends, so I put them to work!

Check out this post for my wedding DIY progress! (coming soon!)

Once all the important stuff was complete, we were sure to add in some fun things too:

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Go karts with the kids!

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Archery 101 class with friends and family! Thanks for a Groupon and Archery HQ Academy in Chandler!

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A night out at (new to me) club in Scottsdale, Bottled Blonde! Even splurged on a table…

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We toured GoDaddy.com’s newest facility in Chandler, where my cousin works. They have shuffleboard, mini golf, ping pong tables, beach cruisers, climbing wall, peddle cars and lots of cool nooks and chat spots for productivity. Pretty sweet! Check out the slide!

On the way out, we stopped off in LA for a few days to visit some friends, and of course, go back to Disneyland! It was all decked out for Halloween, my second favorite holiday (my first being Christmas).

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I refused to wait in line to get a pic with Jack-O-Mickey so we just stole a shot!

It was overall a really great and productive visit home, and as always, I was very upset to leave. Even Alan wanted to stay! To make the departure even better, Alan and I scored a whole row to sleep on the long flight home, as well as free wifi onboard due to the Islamic holiday! A few days off and back to work soon!

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Summer 2014 Part 2: England and Paris

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Continuing from Part 1 of my eventful summer!

Back in Guildford, we spent a peaceful afternoon with a picnic and seeing more green than I have ever seen in one day; Dubai is definitely a concrete jungle, but even my hometown of Phoenix lacks this much green!

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He took me to a place called “Silent Pond”.. while pretty, I’m not sure what its purpose is…

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We paid a visit to the amazingly astonishing Harry Potter Studio Tour, but it is so magnificent, it’s getting it’s own blog post and I will link it here when it’s finished! And here it is!

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And at one point, I forced Alan to find a Chipotle, it’s my new mission to visit one in every country they’re in… (Yes, we did get to Chipotle in Paris but no pics! And I also have been in Frankfurt, too!)

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The weather had been so sunny and warm that we decided to have a barbecue at the end of the week on Friday, as it was near the end of our summer vacation and a good time to gather all of our friends around. As luck would have it, it rained all day, up until the late afternoon when we started to barbecue! Good ol’ English weather. Our friend Shaddy that we know from Dubai was staying in Southampton studying, so we invited him over.

Is he doing it right?

Is he doing it right?

Alan, Shaddy, and Alan's brother Tom

Alan, Shaddy, and Alan’s brother Tom

Alan’s friend, Alex, had asked me to bring graham crackers so that we could make authentic s’mores. FYI, a s’more consists of the said cracker, melted chocolate and slightly charred marshmallows. It’s a staple for American campfires. To be honest, I had never even had a s’more myself! But I happened to be on a US layover, so I picked up a few boxes and yes, I did pack it in my suitcase and take it to England.

I actually had to check Youtube for proper s'more preparing techniques...

I actually had to check Youtube for proper s’more preparing techniques…

Alan tries his very first s'more.

Alan tries his very first s’more.

Oh, did I mention we had more clotted cream, jam and scones?! Seriously, this is the best invention to come out of England. If you haven’t had it, have one PROPERLY! But I know the debate is on… I like my cream first, and THEN the jam.

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On the weekend, the family headed back out to Southampton for Alan’s cousin’s wedding. This one was a change from the Indian wedding, set in a barn with a nice, DIY vintage feel. It was complete with Pimm’s Cup during cocktail hour and a “wedding breakfast”. What is a wedding breakfast? Well, it’s simply the first meal the couple has as a married couple, thus the use of “breakfast” since it’s typically the first meal of the day. You weird Brits!

My second fascinator! My first was worn to the Dubai World Cup

My second fascinator! My first was worn to the Dubai World Cup

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Somewhere in the middle of all this British-ness, Alan and I spent a few days in Paris because.. well, why not?

I was back in Dubai in between Brit visits, so I flew to Paris and Alan flew from London to meet me. We booked our very first AirBnb.com apartment. It was very cheap and in a good location, and the host was very kind, but the apartment was literally just a box with a bed, kitchen and toilet. But it got the job done. We spent most of our time seeing Paris.

I’d been to Paris a few times before, but this was a first for Alan. So we hit up the usual spots, although no one told me how unbelievably HOT Paris summers are, and we became quite exhausted quickly. But we powered through!

First stop was of course the Eiffel Tower. I’d already been twice, but never climbed it. I couldn’t book an elevator ride because it was sold out all summer, but we were “pleasantly” surprised to find that you could climb to the second level via stairs. I wasn’t at all ecstatic at the thought of stairs, but I knew we shouldn’t miss this chance to climb it.

The first floor.. this made my legs feel like jelly!

The first floor.. this made my legs feel like jelly!

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The line below for the elevator. I believe the wait was 3 hours. We completed our tour in less than that.

The line below for the elevator. I believe the wait was 3 hours. We completed our tour in less than that.

Alan’s a personal trainer, so this was just like no big thang to him, but I needed lots of rest and breaks!!! And can you believe we climbed….

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SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY-NINE STEPS WHAT?! And that’s only to the second floor. And note when I say “second floor” it’s actually about 38 stories above ground!! It marks about halfway up the tower.

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And of course, we had to do our usual pictures…

Our #elfie... no explanation needed

Our #elfie… no explanation needed

Love this photo so much, we are using it as our Save The Date cards!

Love this photo so much, we are using it as our Save The Date cards!

Next, we paddled on over to the Louvre Museum, hitting up only a few exhibits since we were a bit strapped for time. The ancient Egypt exhibit is always my favorite!

Cat mummies!

Cat mummies!

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Later that evening, we ventured down to the world famous Moulin Rouge! Of course I love the movie, but it was just a must-do on our short Paris trip. It’s too difficult to get there while on a layover, so it was the only chance I had. The tickets were a steep 100EUR without drinks, so we snagged them, but somehow were must have been mysteriously upgraded to a table right by the stage and a bottle of bubbly!

Unfortunately,  I couldn’t take any photos of the show (Understandably so, but I snuck one in!) but it was incredible! I loved that every routine had a theme (I think my favorite was the Egyptian/Asian one.. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but it ended with the stage floor opening up to a huge tank of water with three HUMONGOUS snakes and a girl jumping in to join them!). I would have loved to see more of the traditional can-can dance, as it was only their final number, but I highly recommend checking it out. Honestly, I don’t care if people say “Even Parisians don’t go to the Moulin Rouge!” it’s quite a spectacle and if you can afford it, get a bottle of bubbly!

You guessed it... our #meflie

You guessed it… our #meflie

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The next day, we ventured out to Disneyland. If anyone knows me, they know I love Disneyland! But I have only been to the one in Anaheim so far, so this was quite exciting. Although I mostly enjoyed our day at Disney, there were loads of downsides. Firstly, it was extremely hot. It must have been about 90F and in the wait tunnels there was absolutely no AC or fans, and the temperature must have been climbing to 100F in some of them. Secondly, the staff weren’t really into it. I have heard they often have disputes over the working conditions and pay (although didn’t I just read that Air France pilots are on strike? Again? It seems to be a common thing in France…) and don’t really adhere to the “magic” that makes Disney what it is. Thirdly, some of the sister rides were a bit disappointing, like for example, the Indiana Jones ride in Anaheim is probably one of the best rides in that park, but in France, it’s a silly little outdoor coaster. But to make up for it, Space Mountain: Mission 2 in France is by far THE BEST ride of both parks, even outdoing its predecessor.

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Sadly, I lost those clip in Minnie ears on the Indiana Jones ride! :( They don’t sell them anymore.. in fact, they were for babies!

And because I have waaaay too many photos, here are the thumbnails, just click on them for the larger size:

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The closing show was absolutely spectacular! They used Sleeping Beauty’s castle as a screen and projected images onto it. Amazing.

On our last day, we paid a dutiful visit to the Ponts des Arts bridge to do what every crazy couple in love does… seal their love for eternity on the Love Lock bridge! I know they’ve been removing locks as of late to preserve the bridge, so I was thoughtful and brought a small lock.. I was shocked to see people STILL putting ridiculous massive locks on the bridge.

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Here’s me throwing the key into the River Seine…

We spotted some awesome street art…

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And last but not least, picked up an appropriate souvenir from Thomas Sabo…

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And that wraps up my pretty epic summer vacay! With the exception of the Harry Potter studio tour, which is coming soon! How was your summer?

Summer 2014 Part 1: England

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Wow, I am REALLY REALLY behind… I have just been super busy with my upgrade (I’m still in my probationary period), having been on leave a few times and planning a wedding with 8 months to go!

So I’ll break it down quickly what happened over the summer. Alan quit his job at the gym that hired him to move to Dubai, and with a partner, has started his own mobile fitness company, Universal Fitness. (Would be great if you could like them on Facebook! :) So during Ramadan, he spent a month back home in the UK. I went there and back, I had two weddings to attend (one of my friend’s and one of his cousins’) but had to work in between. We also spent a few days in Paris! I took loads of pics, so I’ll try and post only my favorites, but that will be difficult..

If you’re interested, you can see what I did while on my Layovers In London.

Before we start, I was surprised to find this gem in Alan’s hometown, Guildford:

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Our first objective was the drive to Bath to attend the wedding of my friend Raksha, who was my batchmate. We joined our airline on the same day and became fast friends. She resigned about a year later, and we kept in touch. She is Indian-British and her now-husband is just British… so it was a fun mix to see. :) I got a sari from a friend who no longer needed it, and I crafted the sari top myself. I basically bought a white cotton crop top, dyed it, and then hand beaded it.

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The ceremony was a traditional Hindu ceremony, about 2 hours long. Raksha looked like a Bollywood star!

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During the cocktail hour, Alan and I ventured into the Fashion Museum. The wedding was being held in the beautiful Assembly Rooms, and we had planned on visiting the Fashion Museum the next day, but it was so convenient to pay a visit while the couple were taking photos.

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I had to put my arms through the front and tie it over my sari!

The reception was in a lovely assembly hall with ancient Roman detailing. It was an amazing mix of Indian and British culture.

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The next day, Alan and I spent an unusually sunny British day exploring the adorable little town that is Bath.

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Roman Baths

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Threw a UAE dirham coin into the bath! Wonder how many different currencies are in there..

Threw a UAE dirham coin into the bath! Wonder how many different currencies are in there..

We ventured around the city and stumbled upon a beautiful little park.

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We then went completely British and paid a visit to the very busy and very famous Sally Lund’s tea house for afternoon tea, appropriately, in the Jane Austen room:

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We started with their famous “bunn” with smoked salmon, and finished with amazingly delicious clotted cream, jam and scones!

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On the drive over, we had accidentally come across STONEHENGE! It’s so busy these days that we have to book in advance, so we booked once we got into Bath for the next day. So we stopped by to check out one of the Seven Wonders of the (World) Medeival Mind, Stonehenge.

Our #stelfie... yes, our Stonehenge Selfie

Our #stelfie… yes, our Stonehenge Selfie

The Stonehenge Exhibition and shuttle service was built in December of 2013 to help preserve the monument, as well as offer additional information. Up until then, you used to be able to drive right up to it. I think this way makes it a bit more of a meaningful visit.

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We drove up to London for the afternoon to check out the Natural History Museum:

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Our #trelfie!! Yes, can you see a trend here?

Our #trelfie!! Yes, can you see a trend here?

To be continued in Part 2 coming soon!

Feature on CabinCrewHQ

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Great news! I’ve been featured in an interview with the popular crew site, CabinCrewHQ.com. Their first interview with crew personality was with An International Fly Guy. Jay and I started our aviation careers on the ground in my hometown. I was very honored to be approached for an interview. You can find other flight crew interviews and their blogs there as well. It’s also a good site with information on cabin crew jobs and how to secure them. So please, visit the site and check out my interview!

Cabin Crew HQ Interview

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Upgrading to New Horizons

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Hi everyone! Wow, it’s been quite some time since my last post I see. I have started up some new projects during my absence, such as getting back into the cosplay circuit, starting up a new geek community in the Middle East, having various family visit, and most importantly, I just completed two weeks of training to move into the role of Senior Flight Stewardess, beginning as soon as June 3. I have one more flight working in business class to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and it will be my first layover in Colombo, since I have only been to Hikkaduwa on holiday and only spent time in Colombo to get to the airport. So to highlight some of the above mentioned stuff… In past entries and my bio, I have mentioned my geeky side, as well as attending the first ever Middle East Film and Comicon, as well as the second one last year. I also may have mentioned my past in cosplaying at various events in the US, most specifically, the San Diego Comic-con International for multiple years. Even though I was lucky enough to go back in 2012, I hadn’t really made any significant new cosplay, and I don’t really count the last minute female Louis from Left 4 Dead I made to join my family’s group cosplay!

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My brother and his kids make up the remaining Survivors of one of my favorite zombie video games.

Many factors had kept me from coming back to cosplay – the fact that I didn’t know WHERE to find supplies, what kind of events I could wear them to, the dress-code factor of the Middle East, and most of all, not having my mom around the guide me. She had been the mastermind of all my cosplays – she was a self-taught and talented seamstress who manage to create the perfect patterns and alterations that is the crazy world of cosplay. I could do a lot myself, but when I was stuck or needed help, she was the one I could go to. Because I no longer had her, I felt emotionally blocked from attempting to cosplay again.

My mom helped design the structure of this top - keeping it true to the character of Elika from Prince of Persia, but also making it functional, stable, and immune to malfunctions!

My mom helped design the structure of this top – keeping it true to the character of Elika from Prince of Persia, but also making it functional, stable, and immune to malfunctions!

I eventually met a friend who was currently cosplaying in Dubai, and she helped me find places to buy supplies, and I must say, AMAZING supplies that really inspired me to get back into cosplay. So with the comic-con coming up in April, I finally decided to start on a costume I had been wanting to complete for years, since I played the game in 2009.

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Momohime from the Wii game, Muramasa: The Demon Blade

While I did encounter many obstacles, I did try to think back at how my mom might have done things or what kind of solution she would have came up with. Getting back into the creative world of cosplay was so therapeutic for me, and I felt like a small hole in my geek heart had been refilled! I even managed to get in touch with Yaya Han (yayahan.com), a well-known cosplayer in the US I had met a few times and did a cosplay group with once, who was coming the MEFCC as a guest and offered to take her on some sites around Dubai.

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With cosplay legend Yaya Han, her boyfriend Bryan, and my family.

Any cosplay fans, please check out my Facebook page, Jinx Cosplay, and Like and share. :) In addition, I started up a website to try and link all geeks, whether local or expats, in the Middle East region to network and socialize. It’s still under construction but please take a look!

The Middle East Geek website, The Middle East Geek Facebook.

My sister, cousin (who lives in Bahrain) and his parents came to visit during MEFCC, and a month later, Alan’s brother and his girlfriend came to visit from the UK, so I will be highlighting those visits in my next few posts. Keep an eye out! I do also have a few new destinations I will be posting up soon. In the mean time, I’m still trying to analyze and understand all the knowledge I’ve gained throughout the last two weeks in my new role as a senior onboard. Being on ground for two weeks was a huge change to my body clock but I am back to flying in the early hours tomorrow morning! Thanks for those that stayed with my blog, even when it was dead for a while. :)

Alan’s Birthday Weekend

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Even though Alan only turned 29 (not like me, who joined the Dirty Thirties Club in December) on March 13, I felt like being in a festive mood and made some special plans for his birthday.  Instead of paying for a dinner somewhere fancy, I opted for the annual Taste of Dubai, a weekend long festival where restaurants all over the city, from casual to fine dining, sets up a booth and offers a “taste” of their menu. There’s also live musical performances, cooking classes, as well as live demonstrations from cooks from all over the world.

British Airways VIP tent

British Airways VIP tent

French Chef Jean-Christophe Novelli does a lot of talking and very little cooking...

French Chef Jean-Christophe Novelli does a lot of talking and very little cooking…

Alan and I taken by Ahlan! Magazine (no, really!)

Alan and I taken by Ahlan! Magazine (no, really!)

Food booths.. yum!

Food booths.. yum!

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Cooking competition

Cooking competition

Also, I had made it a goal to photograph each plate I got, but I had starved myself beforehand and devoured each plate as soon as I got it! So here’s the only picture I have of food.. and it’s half eaten…

Delicious Thai green chili prawns and crab cakes

Delicious Thai green chili prawns and crab cakes

Every dish we tried was amazingly delicious! I even cheated on my low-carb diet and had a really yummy red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting.. ohhh maaaan I can still taste it!

Afterwards, we stopped by a friend’s place for a nightcap, and spotted an almost aerial view of the festival:

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The next day, although weather reports were showing to be quite wet for normally dry Dubai, we hired a yacht and invited some friends out. We were fairly lucky as it was only semi-overcast and sprinkled lightly for a few short bursts, but we couldn’t sail anywhere and just stayed put in one spot. It’s ok, we all still had a great time:

Lots of boats out not sailing, just like us!

Lots of boats out not sailing, just like us!

And this crazy guy...

And this crazy guy…

All the girls on the boat!

All the girls on the boat!

Aaaand birthday boy!

Aaaand birthday boy!