Long Island Wine Country and NYC

On Friday, March 22nd, Rebecca and I boarded a flight to New York.  We arrived at JFK International Airport around 5:00pm and found our rental car.  The rush hour traffic was a bit heavy at first, but it thinned out the further east we got and we were soon cruising down the Long Island Expressway.  It took a couple of hours, but we arrived at our final destination of Cutchogue, the sunniest place in New York State, located on the North Fork peninsula of Long Island.  The wind had really picked up and howled all night long.

We were served a delicious breakfast by our North Fork Guest House hosts and we asked about any interesting walks nearby.  They recommended Nassau Point Beach, but were a little concerned about us staying warm enough in the cold wind but being Canadian we had it covered…or so we thought.  We did a brisk walk on the beach, but the strong north winds off the Atlantic were too much for us and we ended the walk not long after it started.  From there, we drove as far east as possible to Orient Point Ferry Terminal and then backtracked a bit to get to the Kontokosta Winery.  Although Long Island temperatures are cooler than the mainland, it is all the sunshine that allow the grapes to ripen in this unique wine region.  We enjoyed a tasting while watching a small herd of deer on the lawns.  We then drove into the touristic town of Greenport where we strolled main street and hit a few vintage shops.  For lunch, we shucked our own oysters at Little Creek Oysters.  Our next stop was Jamesport Vineyards where we tried a couple wines and some local cheese.  Dropping the car back at the guesthouse, we walked over to Bedell Cellars just down the street and had our final flight of the day.  We opted for an early dinner at the nearby Touch of Venice restaurant and played a little crib back at the guesthouse.

Hitting the North Fork Wine Trail
Flight at Kontokosta Winery
We had to go “shuck ourselves” for some lunch
Dan at Little Creek Oysters in Greenport
Morning walk in the vines

On Sunday morning, the wind had finally let up and it was feeling more like spring as opposed to winter.  We had a quick walk through the rows of vines after breakfast before loading up the car and heading out.  We did stop at a sustainable family owned farm called Eight Hands Farm.  We purchased some snacks and coffees for the road and headed west for the Big Apple.  We found the Renwick Hotel in Murray Hill on Manhattan Island, ditched the car, set out on foot past Grand Central, through Bryant Park, and across Broadway.  Bec had scoped out a taqueria called Los Tacos No. 1 and it did not disappoint.  After lunch, we walked up Broadway past the Ed Sullivan Theatre and into Central Park.  It was a lovely spring day and people were out enjoying the sunny weather.  Out of the park, we walked down 5th Avenue past Trump Tower, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and into Rockfeller Center.  We were thirsty by this point and stopped for a refreshment at Bill’s Bar & Burger.  We then killed some time checking out Grand Central Terminal before our reservation at The Campbell, a cocktail and jazz bar inside the old office and reception hall of former financier John William Campbell.  We were enjoyed a couple cocktails and the duo of Acute Inflections.

Dan on Broadway
Getting in the order at Los Tacos No. 1
Pure deliciousness
Bec loves to stroll in Central Park
An evening at Grand Central
Dan can appreciate a well crafted cocktail
Acute Inflections, a singer and bassist at The Campbell

The next morning, I was off in the car rental to LaGuardia Airport super early for my flight to Calgary and Rebecca would be staying in NYC to attend her 2 day conference. She had plans to meet up for dinner with her friend Debbi that evening and then would be heading onwards to Calgary.

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March in the Emirates

March started with a friend stay-cation in the Emirate of Ajman. The guys (Spence, Laurie, and I) drove up in the early morning to play a round at the Al Zorah Golf Club while the ladies (Bec and Amanda) headed up a bit later to enjoy lunch and massages at the Ajman Saray spa.  The weather did not cooperate though – it was as cold and windy as it gets in the UAE.  The water was so rough that the beach was even closed to swimming. No beach time for us so we hit the highway in the morning back to Abu Dhabi stopping for a spot of lunch at Last Exit.

Laurie, Amanda, Bec, and Dan in Ajman

The next weekend, we joined Laurie and Amanda at Bazzar, a Cirque du Soleil show, where I was lucky enough to be called on stage to participate in the Maestro’s antics.  We visited Wahat al Karama, a new war memorial across from the Grand Mosque, before meeting our friends for a lovely outdoor Saturday brunch at Li Jiang.

Bazzar performers

Dan onstage at Bazzar

Cirque du Soleil

Grand Mosque from Wahat al Karama

Li Jiang brunch

The Presidential Palace, Qasr al Watan, or Palace of the Nation, opened to the public on Monday, March 11th and we had tickets to visit the same day.  We’ve watched the construction since we arrived in Abu Dhabi and it is truly amazing. It is for official state visits and where global leaders are hosted and took over 5 years to complete.

Bec in Qasr al Watan

Qasr al Watan at night

Rebecca volunteered from 17 to 21 March at the Special Olympics again this year for the World Games. She was involved with the awards ceremonies as an athlete escort as well as a tray bearer of the silver and bronze medals at the ADNEC and Corniche venues. We attended the Opening Ceremony on March 14th at Zayed Sports City and I came to watch some of the sporting events at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. I also ran the Unified Run on Hudayriat Island to support the athletes.

Special Olympics opening ceremony

Bec at the SOWG opening ceremony

SOWG back of house

Dan in the 11 km Unified Run

On March 21st, Bec led us over to the Emirates Palace Hotel where we saw famous Flamenco dancer Sara Baras tap the night away in a performance called Sombras.  From there, we were looking forward to our trip to the US and Canada.

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Keeping the Wheels in Motion

We kept the wheels in motion after our kickstart to 2019.  Here is a recap of our busy Feb:

  • Watched Conversations with Nature (7 short films) at the Imagine Science Film Festival at NYU Abu Dhabi.
  • Took in the Papal Mass broadcast – a historic event as it was the first-ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula and an initiative of the Year of Tolerance here in the UAE.
  • Got back over to Abu Dhabi Pottery to paint our mugs and bowls.
  • Visited Warehouse 421 in the port area and enjoyed the photography exhibit on abandoned places in the UAE.

Warehouse 421

  • Went to a backyard BBQ and played board games late into the night with our friends.
  • Popped over to the Red Bull Air Race and watched in amazement as Jetman hovered on his jet pack back and forth over the Breakwater.
  • Ran in the 5km Saadiyat Dock Run.
  • Bec took me to Ferrari World where I finally got to ride the world’s fastest roller coaster, the Formula Rossa, which hits 240 km/h and 4.8 g’s.

The fellas at Game Night

Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi

Jetman, David Mayman

Saadiyat Dock Run

Formula Rossa

  • Went to the Cuban-Khaleeji Project Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra at NYU Abu Dhabi and kept the jazz theme going by spending the weekend in Dubai attending the Dubai Jazz Festival with Alicia Keys headlining.
  • Ziplined through the Dubai Marina with our friend Herve (Maliha and Bec sat this one out) followed by lunch at the Palm Grill JBR.
  • Indulged in some delicious cheese with Maliha at Dubai’s First Annual Cheese Fest.

Dan ziplining over the marina

Herve and Dan post zipline

Alicia Keys – Dubai Jazz Festival

Bec at Dubai Jazz Festival

  • Bumped into Pierce Brosnan at the Louvre Abu Dhabi while checking out the Roads of Arabia exhibit and the newly purchased Rembrandt.
  • The last week of Feb, we had our friend Jen stay with us while she was visiting from Canada and took her out to Nation Towers Neighbors, a social group in our building.
  • At the end of the month, I had a team building event and took the podium in both karting sessions at Al Forsan International Sports Resort.

Cheese Fest!

The girls in Dubai

A seasoned Abu Dhabian returns to UAE for a visit

Speedfreak and his gang of good drivers

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January Kickstart to 2019

Our 2019 kicked off with New Year’s Day at the beach and Dan trying out his new pasta maker before committing to our yearly January diet plan. We spent the first weekend in Dubai partaking in the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, running a 5km race in Cigna Park, and visiting Green Planet, an indoor rainforest attraction. We met up with some friends at Pier 7 before heading back to Abu Dhabi and watching the classic movie Dial M for Murder playing at Manarat Al Saadiyat. The following weekend Dan went out to the Liwa Desert for an overnight camping and desert driving trip.

Dan trying out the pasta maker

Cigna Park Run in Dubai

Burj Khalifa Light Show

The Green Planet Dubai

Pier 7

Liwa Desert Drive and Camping

The rest of the month was business as usual – working, apartment cleansing, dieting, and kicking up the workouts with a few runs and yoga classes. We did manage to check out the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and enjoyed a BBQ in Khalifa Park with our friends grilling up some steaks and veggie burgers. We also joined an interesting walking tour of the city called Remote AD followed by dinner at the newly opened Al Hudayriat Island food trucks. Our friends Mark and Debbi were also visiting from London and we had a nice dinner with them at one of our favorite outdoor restaurants, the Belgian Beer Café. We finally managed to get over to Abu Dhabi Pottery to try our skills at pottery making.

ZSC Make a Wish Run

Post run coffee on Al Hudayriat

Abu Dhabi Pottery

Dinner at Belgian Beer Cafe

During the last week of the month, our friends Rene and Nadia spent the week at our place before transitioning back to Canada. We enjoyed having them stay with us and celebrated with a going away dinner at one of their favorite Italian restaurants, Villa Toscana, on February 1st with a few close friends. Rene and Nadia were actually the first people we met here (through a family connection) and we have many happy memories of our time with them.

Going away dinner

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2018 Year in Review

For those of you who are still following our Overseas Adventure and enjoy reading about our travels and experiences, here are some interesting statistical figures for 2018.

  • Views: 3,388
  • Visitors: 2,111
  • Comments: 84 (top commenters were Uncle Dale and Judy)
  • Posts published: 28

We saw that most of our readers in 2018 were from the US and Canada. However, we also noted that our views were slightly down from the prior year by 14%. Happy to report though that we did have some new followers join us!

Top 5 posts related to 2018 activities

  1. Isle of Skye Wedding
  2. Cousins in Paris
  3. Amsterdam to Bruges
  4. Kicking Horse Wedding
  5. Beginning of Spring

These posts reflect some of the highlights of the year including celebrating two of our best friends weddings and meeting up with family in Europe.

Top 5 posts Overall 

  1. Taitung Surf Trip
  2. African Safari
  3. Trekking in Leshan and Emeishan
  4. Trekking Through the Borneo Rainforest
  5. Barry and Carole Do the Dubai World Cup

We hope our blog continues to inspire our readers to keep travelling, exploring and enjoying life to the fullest!

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Festive Season

After returning from the Maldives, Bec and I kick-started the festive season in Abu Dhabi.  We got busy right away writing our Christmas letter and cards.  We kept up with our tradition of cheese fondue with our friends Nadia and Rene at Brauhaus while the Swiss Christmas Market buzzed on around us.

Fondue at Brauhaus with Nadia and Rene

We also tried to keep up with the fitness during the festive season. Bec ran a 5 km portion of the first annual ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon on December 7th. I, on the other hand, was saving my energy for the next day.  My friend Spence and I had been crazy enough to sign up for the Dubai Tough Mudder.  A quick summary: drive two hours into the desert, run through sand, mud, ice cold water, crawl, climb over A-frames, cargo nets, 30 ft. drops into water, and the grand finale of running through electrically charged wires.  Both Spence and I got jolted to the point of collapse.  I, however, was lucky enough to take it on the chest as opposed to the one Spence got on his face, but I’ll never forget watching him hit the mud.  Sorry friend, too funny!

Bec pre-race at ADNOC HQ

Spence recovering from brain trauma

If any of you know Rebecca, you know she loves Christmas.  Christmas carols, writing Christmas cards, Christmas decorations, Christmas tunes, Christmas baking, Christmas glasses, Christmas sweaters/jumpers, Christmas cocktails, Christmas shopping, advent calendars etc.  The only thing missing was our tree.  It was late.  We had, again, confirmed our order of a Fraser fir tree from Quebec, but the shipment was delayed.  We finally received the tree on the 11th, and let me tell you, Bec had it decorated the same day.  There’s no need to let it defrost and let the branches fall for a day as there is Canada.

Christmas Cocktails

There she is…c’est magnifique! And I also love…Formidable!

We also had the pleasure of cat-sitting a young male cat by the name of Baghira for a week.  We had to cat-proof the house which meant hiding some of Bec’s more precious Christmas ornaments, but we really enjoyed the “almost wild/totally wild” nature of our feline roomy.

Baghira of the Jungle

December 14th was also a tradition for us, our annual Christmas party.  It was an open house after 5:00pm and the night flew by with 25 friends and colleagues.  My favorite part was setting flame to a rum punch.  We dimmed the lights, lit the over-proofed rum, and let the flames work on the clove-studded oranges.  When it was time to douse the flames, I poured on some homemade apple cider.  It was a hit, I do believe, and really got the party started.

Dousing the flaming punch

Merry Christmas! Wait…what time did you say it was???

On Christmas Eve, Bec and I stayed in and enjoyed a vegetable broth fondue with champagne.  We dipped shrimp, scallop, sausage, wagyu beef and veggies for a few hours accompanied with some 80’s style dipping sauces.  We took the 25th away from work – we opened our stockings on Christmas morning and joined our friends Laurie and Amanda at their home for an afternoon turkey dinner with all the fixings including Christmas pudding.  We were, of course, missing our family back in Canada and were happy to later connect to see how their celebrations were unfolding.

Christmas Eve fondue preparations

Dan and Bec on Christmas Eve 2018

A very enjoyable Christmas Day with the Samuel’s

Bec and I couldn’t resist attending the Mubadala World Tennis Championship as it was looking like Rafael Nadal would meet Novak Djokovic in the final on December 29th.  When we woke that morning, we found out that Nadal had withdrawn from the semi final due to an injury.  In the end, Bec and I saw a great match that saw Djokovic narrowly beat returning champion Kevin Anderson.

Dan remembered to bring his jumper this time

Djokovic coming out of his boots on this backhand

On New Year’s Eve, Bec and I reserved an outdoor table at Dai Pai Dong’s Yum Cha Brunch on Al Maryah Island.  We enjoyed the dim sum and the atmosphere but we were totally oblivious to one of the most, if not the most, popular Arab singers performing just a stones throw away.  Anyone familiar with Amr Diab?  We left the island around 11:00pm and caught Abu Dhabi’s top-notch fireworks from the Corniche just a short walk from home.

Who is this mysterious woman?

NYE Corniche fireworks

Boom! That’s it. Thanks to everyone for following the blog and best of luck in 2019!

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COMO Cocoa Island

I got back from London just in time for Dan’s birthday weekend. We celebrated with 10 friends at the Friday Hakka champagne brunch at Hakkasan in Emirates Palace and then we took in the Formula 1 races and concerts over the rest of the weekend, including the closing act Guns n Roses on Sunday evening.

Boys getting into trouble

Bec & Dan at Hakka b-day brunch

Post-brunch ladies

F1 time

GnR concert

The following weekend we were heading on our last trip of 2018. I had been wanting to go to the Maldives ever since we moved to this side of the world. It is only a short 4 hour flight away. We landed in Malé on Thursday, November 29 to rain and were a bit concerned our beach vacation might be a wet one. We found our boat transfer and were soon off to COMO Cocoa Island, known locally as Makunufushi, in the South Malé Atoll where we would be staying for 4 nights. We arrived after a 40 minute boat ride and couldn’t believe how secluded the island was. We checked into our overwater Dhoni loft suite, inspired by local fishing boats, unpacked our things and ventured out the back terrace only to see a black blotched string ray swim by. We couldn’t resist much longer in getting our feet wet so we both hopped in for a snorkel in the warm Maldivian sea. We soon headed to Faru Bar for happy hour cocktails and seafood bbq night.

Dan outside our Dhoni overwater villa

Dan can’t wait to get in the water

Black blotched stingray

Dan going for a snorkel

Cuttlefish

Heading to Faru Bar

Beach side cheers

Maldivian sunset

Seafood BBQ dinner

Our 4 days on the island consisted of snorkelling the spectacularly clear waters of the house reef, going to yoga, hydrotherapy, a marine talk, watching the gorgeous sunsets, sipping happy hour cocktails in Faru Bar and enjoying the delicious beach front dining. We both got painfully scorched the first day – we think it was the sand bar walk that truly got us in the end and we had to pay the hefty price for some aloe vera from the hotel shop. Dan went diving three times and basically had private dives as no one else on the island was diving. To be honest, I am not a big water person or a strong swimmer. The snorkelling off the jetty was my favourite spot though I was too scared to go check out the drop off point. We both saw so many different kinds of sea life – the highlights being turtles, octopus, eels, spotted eagle rays, stingrays, cuttlefish, needlefish, butterflyfish, unicornfish, surgeonfish, snapper and the small baby blacktip reef sharks swimming in the lagoon.

Sand bar walk

Dan diving deep

Fish feeding

Bec getting ready for another snorkel

Baby shark

Ready for a dive

Corona time

Beachfront cocktails

Faru bar happy hour

Pano sunset

Heading to the airport

I cannot really express the beauty of this area. The pictures do it some justice but honestly you have to go there to see it for yourself first hand. Simply amazing.

 

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