August In and Around AD

My August was much the same as July.  I was busy with work and made several trips offshore, two of which coincided with Bec’s visit from the 9th to the 13th, but we still managed to spend some quality time together. However, she already filled you in on that weekend trip in ‘Abu Dhabi Again’.

The first weekend, I was back in the Sweihan dunes on Friday afternoon for a drive led by Dyaa.  Laurie and Amanda invited me out boating on Saturday morning.  They also invited another Scottish couple so the 5 of us casted off from Yas Marina around 8:00am.  We pulled up to a large spit of white sand known as Disappearing Beach because it is completely gone during high tide.  We had a nice picnic before heading back to the marina.

Nugra Dune

Ready to attack Nugra Dune

I attended a Wine Club tasting at La Cava in the Rosewood Hotel on Monday the 14th.  Amanda was there with a friend and I ran into some UAE Trekkers as well.  The wines were from Nederburg with Cellarmaster Andrea Freeborough from the vineyard leading us through the flight.

On August 18th, I set out for the Liwa Desert with Shadi and company.  We met at the Hameem petrol station at 2:30pm and soon entered the dunes.  My 4×4 shifter seemed to be broken as there was no resistance from the gears.  I thought, “Man, I drove 2.5 h for nothing.  I’ll have to turn around and go home.”  Luckily, we had with us a very mechanically inclined Oryx member.  He ripped out the console and rigged up a temporary solution to get me into 4 low.  We set out on the dunes but took it pretty easy.  We exited at sunset and made the drive back to AD.

Sunset in Liwa

On Saturday morning, Laurie and Amanda were heading out for another boat trip.  This time out of Emirates Palace Marina and they graciously invited me to tag along again.  I decided to walk over to the Marina and met them at the gates.  We were hoping to find some dolphins, but didn’t see any.  We found a nice stretch of beach similar to the Disappearing Beach near Yas Marina and dropped anchor.  We chatted and soaked in the sea until the tide came up and forced us off the beach.

Tidal flats near Emirates Palace

Laurie and Dan selfie

That afternoon, we had a camel milk latte while the 3 of us waited for Spence to meet us for lunch at Le Café inside the hotel.  It was a burger fest with Laurie and I going for the camel, Amanda the beef, and Spence going veggie.

Camel milk latte

Dan ready to dig in to camel burger with gold flakes

The following Monday, I had a nice dinner with Nadia and Rene at BiCE in the Jumeirah Hotel.  It was a good catch-up as Rene has been away with a new business venture.  I also made some pretzels that week but I am not sure if Bec would think they are as good as the ones in Germany.

Peter Reinhardt’s soft pretzels

Last Friday of August, what am I doing?  You guessed it…dune bashing.  There was such a big Oryx crowd at the meeting point.  A Junior, Oryx, and Senior level drive all headed out.  I joined the Seniors and it was probably the most extreme drive I’ve done.  The next morning, Spence, Laurie, and I got up at an ungodly hour to avoid the heat and teed off at the National at 6:10am.  The weather was quite pleasant and, with no one in front of us, we shot around the course in record time. It was a busy month with desert driving, boating, golfing and socializing!

Biggest Oryx group yet

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Mom’s Visit to Berlin

Once I found out the news that I would no longer be living in Berlin, I tried to convince my mom to come for a visit before it was too late. We found out on August 15th and by August 24th Mom landed in Berlin. We met at the airport, grabbed a coffee, and finally got her bag after a minor mishap with her luggage before getting settled in the apartment. I happened to know of a Street Food Market on Thursdays that I hadn’t been to yet so we wandered over to East Side Gallery to check out the Wall and then across the Oberbaumbrücke to Markthalleneun where we found the bustling market. We grabbed a seat, a couple of glasses of wine, and a few tapas for dinner before heading back to the apartment in Mitte.

East Side Gallery

Mom was on her own the next day and she did some exploring around the neighbourhood. It was Sommer Koncert at the Botanical Gardens that evening so we grabbed a couple of beers for the train ride over only to find out the concert was sold out. However, since we were already there, we decided to still get a ticket and at least see the gardens. We wandered the gardens, visited the greenhouse and then sat outside with a glass of wine and we could even hear the band playing faintly in the background. We finally made it back to the apartment after some bus and train confusion and had a late dinner in the flat.

Botanical Gardens greenhouse

Selfie in the Gardens

Saturday we kept things a bit closer to home as Mom’s feet were getting pretty tired. In the morning, we walked over to the Reichstag, grabbed a couple of warm pretzels, and then strolled through Tiergarten to the Sinti and Roma Memorial. We then walked to the Holocaust Memorial where there was also a cultural parade in progress so we took a seat on the grey stones and watched the parade go by. We grabbed an early afternoon coffee at The Visit before we walked to Gendarmenmarkt square where we sat to enjoy the view along with an Aperol Spritz. We stopped to grab a few bottles of wine from Galeries Lafeyette and some groceries at Lidl before heading back to the apartment for a delicious dinner including the in-season mushroom, pfifferlinges.

Sinti and Roma Memorial

Aperol Spritz in Gendarmenmarkt

On Sunday, we went to the House of Small Wonders for brunch and then checked out the different boat cruises along the River. We settled on a 2.5 hour journey that afternoon which took us southeast down the Spree and back again all the way up to the Schloss Charlottenburg where the tour ended. We hopped off the boat and then strolled through the palace grounds before hopping on the bus and train back to Mitte. It was still a nice evening and we were hungry so we grabbed a spot along the Spree for some German specialities including currywurst and meatballs at Ständige Vertretung.

Oberbaum Bridge

Nhow Hotel

Bar along the Spree

Palace grounds

The next day we ventured back to the area of Charlottenburg. We took a coffee at Die Stulle and then visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. We enjoyed a bite at Neni with a view overlooking the Zoo. We stopped in at KaDeWe to pick up some wine and Lakrids liquorice before heading back to Potsdamer Platz. Then we made some dinner and had a relaxing night in watching a movie.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

During the week, Mom kept busy checking out the sights and in the evenings we went to THE ONE-Grand Show at Friedrichstadt Palast and Schnitzelei, a restaurant known for making some pretty delicious schnitzel. We even checked out the evening dancing at Monbijou Park where the locals were practicing the Tango. We had a great week together before Dan was on his way from Abu Dhabi to join us on August 31st.

THE ONE Grand Show

The famous German Schnitzel

Monbijou Park dancing

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Robbed of Time in Berlin

On August 15th, it was announced that my company was going bankrupt.

After getting over the initial shock of it all, I think what I was most upset about was losing my time in Berlin. I felt robbed. If I had known my time was limited, I would have done more, saw more, ate more, enjoyed more. I think this will be the lesson I will take with me from this experience. Don’t wait till everything is exactly how you want it to be before doing the things you want to do.

So once the reality of the situation had sunk in, I knew I had to start doing those things in Berlin I had been waiting to do. I made it a challenge to do something new almost every day. It could be a small challenge like trying a new drink or restaurant, exploring a new area of Berlin, or checking out some of the touristy sites.

Cats – On August 16th, I joined a colleague for a previously planned night at the theatre. We discussed the company situation over pizza and wine at my place and then walked to the nearby Admiralspalast on Friedrichstrasse to enjoy the Broadway show Cats.

Cats at Admiralspalast

Sammlung Boros – Art collection housed in a WWII bunker. This had been on my list for quite some time as it is right around the corner from my flat but tours book up really far in advance. I emailed them on Saturday, August 19th to see if they had any cancellations upcoming in the next 6 weeks. They emailed me back and said they had a cancellation for that evening at 6:30pm and I eagerly responded yes.

Boros Collection – Berlin Bunker

Long Night at Museums – The problem with accepting the Sammlung Boros cancellation spot was that it conflicted with my plans to attend the annual ‘Lange Nacht Der Museen’ event starting at 6:00pm. I decided to go anyways immediately after my tour and arrived around 8:00pm, grabbed my ticket, and chowed down on some Brazilian Tapiocas’s and beer while planning out my strategy for my museum filled night. I found a tour of the Altes Museum at 9:00pm, Deutsches Historisches Museum tour at 10:00pm and lastly a tour at the Anne Frank Museum at 11:00pm (which I had to sprint to in order to make the tour).

Deutsches Historisches Museum

Anne Frank Mural

On Sunday August 20th, I went for my morning run but this time I ran along the river stopping at Röststätte afterwards for a coffee. On my walk home, I walked past the Sophienkirche and stopped at the Jewish Cemetery.

Röststätte post-run coffee

Jewish Cemetary

That afternoon I grabbed another coffee and made my way to Siegessäule, or Victory Column, in the middle of Tiergarten. I bought my ticket, toured the tiny museum and walked the spiraling staircase to the top to get some pretty fantastic views of Berlin. I realized I was near Café Am Neun See, a biergarten in the park, so I finished off my day with a weissbier.

View from Victory Column

Victory Column

Prost from Cafe Am Neun See

The next week, I tried the famous Club Mate beverage I had seen so many Berliner’s wandering the streets and S-bahn with. Club Mate is a caffeinated carbonated mate extract beverage made in Germany since 1924 which is the overworked and hungover’s beverage of choice. It had a slightly odd taste which took some getting used to but all in all not bad. I also managed to go for a cocktail at the Westin (which was made with an Austrian liqour called Sporer), enjoyed the museum and views from Panorama Punkt, and had a lovely Italian dinner in Hackescher Markt of veal and in season mushrooms, pfifferlinge.

Popular Club Mate beverage

Panorama Punkt

During this time, I had also been trying to convince my Mom to travel standby from Calgary to Berlin for a visit given my imminent departure. We found some options that looked good and booked her on the Calgary to Frankfurt flight on Wednesday, August 23rd. I was really keeping my fingers crossed that all worked out and that she would make the flight!

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Abu Dhabi Again

During the beginning of August in Berlin, I kept busy with a few different meetup events including Thirsty Thursdays with Girls Gone International, Yoga morning flow in Tiergarten Park, and my regular Sunday 5 km run through Tiergarten. I attended the International Beer Festival which is the World’s Longest Beer Garden stretching a distance of 2.2 km along Karl-Marx-Allee between Strausberger Platz and Frankfurter Tor. We grabbed a pint of Bavarian brew and some Knoblauchbrot and fought the crowds streaming along the street. During this time, I also picked up my new blue card visa for Germany and extended my Berlin flat for another 6 months. With only 9 days in Berlin, I was heading back to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, August 9th. Unfortunately my work trip did not coincide with Dan’s work schedule so he wasn’t there to greet me at the airport this time as he was offshore. On Thursday, I attended my work event and then joined my old colleagues at Y bar on Yas Island for drinks and dinner. Dan arrived home late that evening and we met back at Etihad Towers when he got in from the port.

Berlin International Beer Festival

Friday morning Dan had to be at the port by 7:00 am but he was back by 10:00 so we made Andrew Cooper’s Alkalise juice with lemon, parsley, spinach, celery and apple and some coffees before heading down to the pool to enjoy some sun. Dan was heading back offshore that evening so we enjoyed an early dinner at Nolu’s Cafe in Al Bandar before he headed back to port and I had a relaxing night in watching my favourite Abu Dhabi movie channel.

Juiceman Alkalise concoction

Saturday morning I was off to meet our friends for a few rounds of bowling at the 40 lane Khalifa International Bowling Centre at Zayed Sports City. It worked out well with 3 guys (Spence, Laurie, & Rene) and 3 girls (Amanda, Nadia, and me). Spence took the win the first game and Nadia impressed us all to take the win and most improved for the 2nd round. We then all went for lunch at the Noodle Bowl located above the bowling alley which has some wicked Chinese food for rock bottom prices. That afternoon I hit up Tips and Toes at Marina Mall to get the nails did and then met up with Rene and Nadia for Happy Hour at Ray’s Bar that evening.

Spence getting another strike

Dan got back on Sunday morning and we spent the day relaxing – first by the pool, then for a short neighbourhood stroll, and then for massages at Talise Spa. That night, we watched a beautiful sunset over the Palaces and then Dan cooked me up one of my all time favorite scallop dishes-Bill Granger’s Grilled Scallops with Curried Noodles. After dinner, I had a quick rest before heading up to the airport for my 02:00 am red eye flight back to Berlin. A short trip but I would be back to sort out my exit clearance formalities in only a couple weeks time!

Short stroll around Etihad Towers

Scallops and champagne

Sunset over the Palaces

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Anniversary in Oman

Initially, I had planned a romantic anniversary weekend in Venice but, unfortunately, Dan told me he just couldn’t take any time off during this busy work period…there may have even been a Skype argument over this very topic. However, I decided if he couldn’t come to Europe then I would, of course, go to Abu Dhabi to celebrate our 8th anniversary together.

With this new plan in mind, I reminded Dan on multiple occasions that the traditional anniversary gift for year no. 8 is bronze or, alternatively, pottery. Day of, I received a call from my office reception that I had some ‘blumen’ waiting for me. A beautiful bouquet of flowers for my desk. I flew the next evening arriving in the early morning hours on July 27th. Dan had baked some ‘many seed bread’ and prepared some fresh beet juice for breaky. We popped over to Marina Mall, had some leftover gumbo for lunch, and grabbed the required ingredients for our community cookbook salad that evening. We had invited over some friends for dinner and a Cards Against Humanity game night. We even shared our aged Wedding Wine with our honoured guests.

Anniversary flowers sent to office

Dinner and games night

The next morning, we were off to officially celebrate our 8th year of wedded bliss. I had been wanting to stay at the Six Senses Zighy Bay Resort the moment I heard about it but it is one of those places you stay at only on special occasions. Thinking that our time may be limited, this was likely one of our last chances, and we also got a good summer rate. So, we set out on the highway around 10:00 am to make the 3.5 hour drive to the northern Musandam Peninsula in the Sultanate of Oman. We arrived just after lunch time and got checked in to our pool villa and enjoyed a cup of coffee along with an anniversary cake the hotel had arranged in our room. We enjoyed the afternoon relaxing by the pool and walking along the beach. To be honest, the weather was as hot as you would expect for summer in the Middle East but I was truly enjoying every minute.

Dan cooling down in our pool villa

We grabbed a bottle of wine from our in-room wine fridge and had a few glasses before heading out for dinner at the Summer House where we enjoyed the seafood grill and sea bass. After dinner, we grabbed a cocktail from Zighy Bar for happy hour and then exchanged our gifts. Interestingly enough, Dan went bronze, and I pottery. Dan had ordered a lovely set of bronze sculptures titled ‘Caress with Arm’ by Yenny Cocq Sculpture. I, on the other hand, went pottery and gave Dan a nice serving platter from Konigliche Porzellan-Manufaktur (KPM), a handcrafted porcelain manufacturer from Berlin, established by Frederick the Great, who have been in business for over 250 years.

Bec enjoying a glass before dinner

Caress with arm sculpture

The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast and some more pool and beach time before our late check out at 2:30 pm. We then made the drive back to Abu Dhabi along a different route Dan knew from some of his desert drives. That evening, we enjoyed some take out from our favourite sushi joint, Sushi Central, and we even served it on Dan’s new porcelain platter. The next morning, Dan dropped me off at the airport for my flight back to Berlin. One of our best anniversary’s yet!

Beach time

View of Zighy Bay

Sushi on anniversary porcelain platter

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July in Abu Dhabi

With summer at its peak here in Abu Dhabi, one must be willing to brave the heat and humidity to venture out of the apartment.  Most weeknights were pretty quiet aside from the odd round of golf with Laurie and Spence but I managed to keep fairly busy on the weekends.  I made a few different bread recipes and a big gumbo and brought it into work for my American colleagues who were heading back to the US after their tenure in the UAE.

Dan’s gumbo

On Friday, July 7th I set out for an afternoon Oryx drive in Sweihan.  On the way out, the Jeep recorded an amazing 50°C on the thermometer.  “What am I doing heading into the desert?” I thought.  The drive was good and I met some of the many new Oryx members that broke away from Abu Dhabi 4×4 and joined Oryx 4×4.  Their addition to the club has ensured there are always plenty of weekend drives to choose from.  Oryx 4×4 is thriving.  As hot as it was, a rare summer rain storm hit us as we exited the dunes.

Hot enough for ya?

Lined up and ready to go

On Friday, July 14th I joined a Junior Oryx drive and enjoyed helping the newbies.  We had just about all of the elements one could expect on a Junior drive…a flat tire, a pop-out, and some hair-raising stucks.  The best one was while our marshal was helping another driver, his Jeep began to roll away down a dune.  “Pieter, Pieter, your Jeep, look behind you!!!” I yelled over the radio.  Pieter took off in a flash and jumped into his Jeep in the nick of time before it took off down the dune on its own.  Crisis averted.

Taking care of a stuck

Can you guess what I did on Friday, July 21st?  That’s right, the dunes rang and I answered.  Raoul led us to a new spot near Sweihan I hadn’t been to before for a Senior level drive.  It was hot and the Nissan Xterras were overheating as we pushed the vehicles to their limits.  Towards the end of our drive, Raoul side-crested a high dune at low speed and had his downside, left, rear wheel pop-out on him and that was enough to tip him on his side.  Similar to what I did with Vern in the side-by-side back in 2013.  He was OK and we got the vehicle righted with the use of a winch.

Raoul trying to figure out what went wrong

Abu Ameer and his winch to the rescue

Saturday afternoon I met Nadia, Amanda, Laurie, and Spence at Dai Pai Dong, a dim sum restaurant on Maryah Island.  We were there for brunch which is traditionally held on Fridays in the UAE.  The dim sum was excellent and the Prosecco wasn’t too shabby either!

Dan and Nadia at Dai Pai Dong

Brunch group shot

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July in Berlin

After Dan returned to Abu Dhabi on Canada Day, I spent the next three and a half weeks in Berlin. The weather during July was not really the European summer I was hoping for with lots of rain and clouds, however, the sun did manage to peek out on a few days. I kept busy going for runs in Tiergarten, attending German classes and also joining a few different meet-up groups. On Saturday July 8th, I joined a hiking meet-up and we spent the day walking from Joachimsthal to Gross Schonebeck. We met on the train platform at 10:00 am and finished around 5:00 pm. We had planned to enjoy some post-hiking grub but the only restaurant in the small little town was closed. So instead, we grabbed some beers and snacks from the Lidl grocery store and sat outside on the pavement enjoying our much deserved break before catching the 7:00 pm train back to Berlin. That Sunday afternoon, I joined a biergarten meet-up group. They were meeting at Stone Brewing in the south of Berlin. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon and we enjoyed sitting out in the beautiful beer gardens enjoying the sun.

Hiking in Brandenburg

Wild mushrooms

Stone Brewing

The following week I joined another meet-up group at Emil’s biergarten. I also met a friend for dinner that Friday night and we did a bit of bar hopping in the area of Prenzlauer Berg. On Sunday evening, a colleague and I volunteered at the air berlin booth at the LGBT festival in Motzstrasse. On the 18th, I joined another company event which was a 6 km run at the Olympiastadion.  It was pretty amazing to be running through this historical venue built for the 1936 Summer Olympics. We enjoyed a beer and a bratwurst post race – I am pretty sure that was a first for me!

Bar hopping in Prenzlauer Berg

B2Run 6km at Olympiastadion

That Friday, I went to the Open Air Gendarmenmarkt festival to the “Eine romantische nacht” performance. The concert was great but I did envy the crowds outside the gates who brought their own lawn chairs, beverages and dinner snacks to enjoy the music from afar. On Saturday, I did a bit of shopping on Friedrichstrasse and, that evening, met a couple of friends at the Botanical Nights event at the Botanical Gardens. It was really cool with lots of different events going on throughout the gardens. I guess the big highlights were the light show at 10:30 pm and then the fire and water show at 11:30 pm. It was a nice few weeks spent in Berlin but after the luke warm summer weather I was ready to get back to Abu Dhabi to enjoy some heat.

Open Air Gendarmenmarkt

Light show

Botanical Nights

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