Tuesday, 18 September 2018

UK Vacay Snapshots

As an ex-pat, a trip back to the UK is never going to quite feel like a holiday but this trip involved beaches and sunshine and al-fresco drinking so it wasn't too far off.

And it's always nice to see your home city through the rose-tinted shades of being the friend back from far-flung climes, not having to answer the "how long have you lived in Dubai" question and feeling like it was only a few days, and not a few months or a year, since I last hugged friends goodbye.

On the less positive side, taking the tube alternately made me break out in a cold / decidedly not-cold sweat, hearing people loudly swearing was absolutely terrifying and each day felt like an impossible balance between seeing everyone, doing everything, living in each moment but also not being able to do everything, see everyone, and not to upset my carefully choreographed timetable of people, places and work meetings. Oh, and the time in London was bookended by two weddings (yes I am in my early 30s), M&S train picnics and a double dose of "so how do you know the groom / bride...".

An unexpected detour to Weymouth where the sun was shining
My outfit for a wedding weekend in Dorset - the dress is from Joy
A not very quick 8km the next morning along Swanage Beach 
Stopping for photos - I am a city girl through and through but enjoyed this morning a lot
Back to London to stay in this delightful airbnb 
I went to a yoga class and then needed to show off 
Optional punchbag for those who prefer less zen workouts 
A drinks date with a very dear friend and these millennial pink cocktails 
Visiting the London office of my current employer and getting very lost in Canary Wharf 
A weekend in Brighton for the second wedding - the weather redeemed itself for the previous weekend and was glorious!
My outfit for the second wedding, and a mental note to not wear stiletto heels to the next British summer wedding I attend
A morning run is a post-wedding tradition now, as well as a sign that I can now exercise restraint at an open bar. Some yoga for me and some photography practice for my poor Instagram husband (boyfriend)

Be back in October!


Thursday, 13 September 2018

Birthday Wishlist - Gifts for Yogis

This summer, chances are that (when not at work or sleeping) you'll have found me doing yoga, either at Zoga Dubai or with Adriene and Cat Meffan at home.

I went to my first yoga class over ten years ago but in recent months, practicing 5-6 times per week and having yoga as my sole form of exercise (although yoga is so much more than that) and post-work activity has resulted in a less achy, more flexible, stronger body and a much calmer, better behaved Lily (most of the time).

While yoga is really not about wearing a certain outfit, having a particular body type or forcing your body into a pretzel for an Instagram snap, there's no getting away from the yoga ~lifestyle and while most days I am happy practicing in a Hello Kitty tee and Primark leggings, I'm also guilty of a late night scroll through my favourite Insta-yogis and seeing the head-to-toe Lululemon outfits of my class mates and feeling slightly wanting. The commercialisation of yoga is complex and while a pair of £100 leggings aren't going to help me maintain a handstand for more than a micro-second, I am but a simple girl who once had a "fashion blog" and I still want cute things. Just know that you can still practice yoga at home, with your laptop, in your undies with a beach towel masquerading as a yoga mat.

It's my birthday on Sunday so here are some yoga gifts for yogis in your life:

gifts for yogis

The habit of wearing all-black in Dubai has well and truly got to me and I cannot imagine exercising in bright colours anymore. These Alo Yoga leggings have been on my list for a while - the mesh, high waist and 80s-esque stirrup detail makes them perfect for class and beyond. Yoga still needs a somewhat supportive bra but I have been oh-so-glad to do away with the ones I wore back in my running days - this one is the right mix of soft and structured.

For at home practice, a scented candle helps set the mood and this one smells so beautiful, for travelling and squeezing practices into the smallest of spare moments, toe socks are your friend - no excuse for not having space for a mat in your luggage. A room spray can also make anywhere feel like a yoga studio - this one smells of lemon and lavender would even work at the office if you or a colleague could do with some 9-5 zen (vegan). The Pixie Vitamin Radiance Mist also contains lavender for a post-class refresh (vegan, cruelty free).

I've been looking for some cute yoga tops lately, this one has a sweet faded design and some slight LA yoga-girl vibes. A girl can never have enough tote bags and this one would be a great gift for someone you know who enjoys say, coffee, yoga and naps.

Finally, a soft cushion for the home, and a super versatile Turkish-style towel for staying warm during savasana, doubling up as a scarf for after class or packing for a beach break too.

Namaste, y'all.


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Four East London Vegan Breakfasts To Start Your Day

The best thing about being back in London (besides friends, family, weddings and drinks outside)? The breakfasts. Even with my favourite avocado on toast off of the menu (for now while my body has - hopefully temporarily - decided it doesn't like a long list of foods including wheat).

We breakfasted like kings (and queens) each morning because gin for supper is far more acceptable when you've started your day with a kombucha smoothie bowl. Here are some of my favourites, and the spots I'll be starting my day at when I'm back in my favourite (when it's not grey and raining) city next month. 

1. Buckwheat Pancakes at Curious Yellow Kafe 

curious yellow kafe hoxton

Staying in an airbnb a few steps away from this cosy Swedish cafe was a very good idea indeed. The prices are so good that after a year in Dubai I was convinced that they had only billed half of our order. The buckwheat pancakes (buckwheat is actually wheat free despite its name) were super delicious and came smothered in coconut cream, raspberries and a carmelised banana. Yum. My boyfriend has his signature breakfast of the moment - porridge with a side of sourdough.

2. Almond Milk Porridge at The Hoxton Grill

the hoxton grill shoreditch

The Hoxton Hotel has become a go-to for seeking sanctuary when arriving off of the overnight flight from Dubai. When you've been away for a while, London on no sleep feels like a rather aggressive assault on ones senses (compared to when you live here when London on no sleep is alternatively grimly bearable or aching beautiful depending on the previous night). The Hoxton is the perfect setting to grab a delicious breakfast and then (after requesting an early check-in at the time of booking), take a well-deserved nap. The almond milk porridge at The Hoxton Grill is really delicious and so warming when 22 degrees feels cold.

3. Kombucha Smoothie Bowl at Friends of Ours 

friends of ours hoxton

The one rainy morning of our stay in London saw us take shelter in Friends of Ours with a rather sunny-day breakfast option. The kombucha smoothie bowl is vegan, gluten free and packed with lots of goodness. I had an oat milk chai on the side to attempt to warm me up a little bit. Service is fast and friendly, and back in my coffee-consuming days, I loved this place for it's iced soy lattes. The all-day menu has a few good vegan options and offers gluten free bread, too. For the more carnivorous, my boyfriend recommends the beef brisket benedict.

4. Porridge at Ozone Coffee Roasters 

ozone coffee old street

A few steps from the Old Street Roundabout, Ozone is never not busy with people cooler than me who I cannot help but wonder why they aren't at work at 10.45am on a Tuesday. I had the spring porridge made with oat milk and topped with banana and "scroggin" (I have no idea what that is). I also braved some caffeine with an oat milk iced pirate chocolate with a shot of espresso and it was like an adult-acceptable version of the Starbucks Mocha Lite frappucinos that I spent all of my money on at university. My boyfriend's chia pudding was a little small but the spoonful I snuck of it was delicious and the dark chocolate topping saves it from being too virtuous. 

Where serves up your favourite East London breakfast?

Saturday, 1 September 2018

August Round-Up

August is over and for us Dubai-dwellers that means that it's nearly "outdoor season" again. The temperature has hit over 40 degrees for most days since June, and August brought with it a bonus dose of sticky humidity - no, the desert is not "dry heat", my constantly steamed-up glasses will attest to that...

I am writing this in advance of a trip to the UK where I may well take all of the above back if the heatwave has not made a reappearance in time for me to not shiver my way through two weddings.

August in Dubai looked like this:

1. Lunch at Zuma to say farewell to a colleague - a sad inevitability of ex-pat life is that everyone, including you, will one day leave.

2. Breakfast at The Sum of Us - my boyfriend treated because I correctly tipped France to win the world cup.

3. A lunch meeting at the Armani - still pleased with trading off a chuck of my salary for a more varied, less soul-crushing and normal-working-hours type existence.

4. Chia pudding and beet bowls at Common Grounds - fuel for braving the Mall of the Emirates on a Friday.

5. Cat sitting for a friend which mostly involved saying "I want a kitten" for five hours after each visit - this is Dizzee Rascal and he's the cutest thing ever.

6. Cherries are £8 per pack in Dubai so I whipped up some vegan pancakes so that these didn't go to waste. Extra points to me for flipping them using chopsticks as I still haven't gotten around to purchasing kitchen utensils.

7. Breakfast at The Sum of Us again. Not sponsored we just like it there a lot. Possibly explains why I've yet to buy utensils.

8. Starting the three-day Eid break with a yoga class at Zoga and a post class acai bowl. I've been doing 4-5 yoga classes a week for the last couple of months and I'm making slow but steady progress in new poses and undoing years of slouching over a desk.

9. I took an afternoon of work, just because Cherie wrote a post about taking a day off work just because.  I visited a new cafe, Kad Che in Bay Square, read my book, attended an earlier yoga class and felt SO refreshed.

September plans:

Visits from friends, my birthday (turning 31 and feeling fine about it), slightly cooler climes and, of course, more breakfasts.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Travel: Hong Kong Photo Diary - A Day In Central

Just a metro or boat trip away from Lantau (post here), we ventured in to Central for a day of exploring. I'd snapped the above pic a few days earlier on the way back from a Junk Boat outing, sitting on the front of the boat watching the skyline get closer.

My boyfriend hadn't been to HK before so I wanted to take him to a couple of the sites and everyone I spoke to told me we had to visit Grassroots Pantry and that it would cater for my veggie / gluten free / general dietary woes. I also wanted to buy things and walk on streets because I am easily amused.

But first, coffee. I love HK cafe culture and Coco Espresso's iced lattes and cold brew provided welcome relief from the crazy humidity. You can find my other favourite cafes here and on this trip we also visited N1 Coffee & Co in Kowloon where we picked up a bag of beans to take home.

I was very keen to take the escalators (my favourite thing about HK) up to mid-levels as a way of seeing the city without getting overly sweaty (humidity makes me grumpy). Hopping off at Hollywood Road, Grassroots Pantry did not disappoint - I had the vegan nachos with pulled jackfruit. My plans to pop back for some snacks were scuppered by a torrential downpour...more on that later.

We hopped in an Uber to the top of the Peak and got dropped off at the park rather than the viewing platform. No one else was around, I was wearing a vintage dress and sandals with absolutely no grip and it felt like a thunderstorm was imminent so we decided to go on a walking trail despite not knowing how long it would take to complete.

Despite my boyfriend having to carry my handbag while I tried not to slip and die, the walk was quite nice - the humidity was almost bearable and aside from some bugs it was peaceful. We saw this waterfall and speed-walked the last few hundred metres, arriving at the shopping centre right before a T1 storm.

One of us had a grilled cheese while we waited for the rain to stop. It didn't. I was actually enjoying it having not seen rain since April in the UK. We braved a rather terrifying tram ride down (ticking off another "HK must" in the process even if the windows were all steamed up) and then got wet all over again getting back to IFC Mall and I definitely didn't accidentally whack people with my umbrella and it's not really my fault because I am so out of practice using one but it didn't happen anyway. 

We found a Japanese restaurant in the mall and I had a cocktail which (I think) contained whiskey and lemon sorbet and it was very restorative, especially after viewing the menus for at least three other places and discounting them all. We also had some okonomiyaki fries which were delicious but not very photogenic and then hopped on the MTR back "home" to collapse in a heap. 


Thursday, 9 August 2018

Travel: Hong Kong Photo Diary - Lantau Edition

My second trip of 2018 to Hong Kong - back in March I visited with Lauren, staying in an appropriately-named hotel in Central and spending our days wandering, chatting and stopping for avocado on toast.

Fast forward a few months and a much hotter and more humid Hong Kong was waiting for us. My boyfriends's friends have recently relocated from North London to South Lantau and staying with them for a week was the perfect mix of HK's frantic city pace, chilled beaches, boat trips, gin-fuelled board game sessions and making them my friends, too.

Our friends' place had an amazing view over the beach and mountains. Most of our week was spent on Lantau itself - the humidity was a little crazy, even for someone who lives in Dubai (where it is actually humid, much to everyone's surprise) and I very much appreciated the  slower pace and being able to take frequent dips in the sea and pool.

Staying pale on the beach - borrowed the hat and beach cover-up because I packed way more "city break" than beach holiday and ended up not needing half of what I packed, including heels and my entire make-up bag. Blissful.

The "Big Buddha" is a Lantau must. We took the glass-floored cable car up to pay him a visit and then caught a taxi to Tai O. Walking up those steps in the humidity was not my least-grumpiest moment.

A HK first for me, Tai O is best seen by boat. Trigger warning: smelly fish but seeing the remains of the traditional way of life here was well worth it.

Grateful to have packed my prescription sunglasses, we spotted some dolphins off of Tai O - given the amount of plastic pollution in HK (and everywhere else) I was sceptical that we would see any but certain that there are far fewer now and that we were lucky to see the ones we did.

Our friends' favourite Lantau restaurant, The Gallery in Tong Fuk serves up amazing salads and (for the carnivorous) amazing steaks.... The menu is written up daily on a chalk board and the restaurant is unpretentious with beautiful, simple food done really well.

On our final evening, we took a mini BBQ down to the beach to watch the sunset with G&Ts and skies clear enough to see the stars. I never thought that HK was somewhere I'd associate with being super relaxed but there are so many sides to this city and, if time permits, you have to explore beyond Central and HK Island.


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

July Round-Up

Long time, no blog post.

July was all sorts of busy but in a good way - I spent less time on my phone and in front of screens and some WhatsApp messages didn't receive replies for...oh, at least 4 hours. Highly unusual for me. I spent quite a lot of time watching the World Cup and hiding indoors from the 50 degree heat in Dubai, and finally braved the crazy roads here and almost enjoyed it.

1. Welcoming July with my Bando planner. Diary entries included: trips to Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong, farewell drinks (because #expatlife) and friends making brief appearances in the desert (as in stop-overs, not mirages).

2. On the beach in Ras Al Khaimah - spent a weekend exploring another Emirate and did the world's longest zipline which was less scary than me driving back to our hotel on a motorway for the first time ever and the hotter-than-bathwater sea. 

3. Breakfast at The Sum of Us is a weekly must when in Dubai. 

4. I got my haircut for the first time in months at Y12 Salon - highly recommend this chilled salon at the Ritz-Carlton, DIFC. Not quite sure what I'm doing with my hair currently - the urge to cut it all off sometimes surfaces...

5. The prettiest gins at BBs in DIFC. 

6. A weekend in Abu Dhabi where friends cooked up an American-inspired feast, I played N64 for the first time and spent a lot of time cuddling their three cats.

7. Bookclub discussions and a book that everyone loved! Would definitely recommend this one if you're living / working abroad or thinking about it.

8. Lunch at Peyote in DIFC to welcome a new colleague to my work team.

9. A week in Hong Kong staying with friends in their beautiful villa in Lantau. More on this when I get around to opening my laptop again... 

August sees a trip to London for two weddings, finally hosting a dinner party and taking part in a yoga challenge (weddings on two consecutive weekends surely need some stored-up zen?).


Sunday, 1 July 2018

June Round-up

June involved returning from Bali, grasping at (bamboo) straws trying to create Bali vibes back home in Dubai and planning for a trip to Hong Kong next month. It has also involved a lot of pictures of breakfast because it's really hot outside.

1. Catching up on my reading - I shared some recent reads here.

2. I've started making smoothie bowls and as someone who a) needs more nutrients and b) only really enjoys "pretty" foods they are perfect.

3. During Ramadan, brunch at home became a regular fixture (as restaurants are closed or screened off during the day). Sourdough topped with avocado and halloumi to start the weekend.

4. Putting my spirulina to good use with a chia pudding / smoothie combo, inspired by the best Bali breakfasts.

5. Dinner at Hotel Cartegena - a newly opened Latin American, jungle-themed restaurant on the 72nd floor of the JW Marriott Marquis. The food was as good as the decor and I am very keen to return.

6. A first attempt at making poached eggs and they were excellent.

7. Breakfast at Jolie Floral Cafe - it's the prettiest cafe ever (happy me) and the food is amazing (happy boyfriend), full review here.

8. Another day another smoothie bowl.

9. Breakfast at The Sum of Us - I'm sure they change their avocado on toast every time I have it? This version came with ricotta and chilli flakes.

In case you missed it:

- My Canggu and Bali first-timer guide
- Money Diary: A 30 Year Old British Girl in Dubai
- Three Day Trips to Take from Canggu, Bali
- A Summer Wishlist
- A Life Catch-Up

How was your June?

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

A Little Life Catch-Up - Work, Relationships and Making Friends as a Grown-Up

It's been a while since I've written anything even a little bit personal on here. I love sharing my life online but as I've got older I've become a little more guarded of the cyber trail I leave in my wake... (hello to current and former bosses, close and distant family, and friends of friends reading). Here's a rather overdue catch-up / ramble about what's new(ish):

1. I quit my job!

I've barely mentioned my career on this blog as this has always been my creative outlet and I felt somewhat uncool in a world of freelancers, girl-bosses and influencers in having taken a traditional, corporate career path (although decidedly not a 9-5 one). One where I had a boss, where eating three meals a day at my desk was the norm, where my WhatApp auto-filled the "sorry I can't make your [insert occasion here], I am stuck at work".

Six-and-a-half years as a corporate lawyer was a truly formative experience - one where I made lasting friendships, worked with some incredibly talented, fiercely intelligent individuals, travelled to new countries, spent my first ever bonus on a now well-worn pair of Louboutins and learned as much about myself and my personal values as I did about corporate law. Being a lawyer is not the sum total of my identity but it will always be a part of my life, a part of me will always be a lawyer despite no longer practising law.

My new job isn't a huge leap away from the familiar - I actually still work for a law firm and am getting to grips being "behind the scenes" in the marketing team. So no, I'm not teaching yoga on a beach or tapping away on my MacBook in a cafe, and that's ok. I've reclaimed a huge sense of balance, I get more sleep, do more yoga and I have zero Sunday night fear.

And I'll still review your lease agreement, house purchase contract or help you write a strongly worded email, you're welcome.

2. A sweet life milestone

I haven't really mentioned much about my relationship on my blog but it's now been "about a year" (29 July, to be exact) since I nervously caught a taxi to a bar, arrived half an hour early, visited the ladies approximately six times and then got to the empty bar to find my now boyfriend chatting to the bar man. I deleted the dating app we connected on while walking home, walking into a granite rock sculpture in the process.

Embarking on my first relationship with a fellow human in my (very) early thirties has been a revelation, it turned out that dating and getting to know someone was super fun but being truly at ease in someone's company is even better. I'd made peace with the possibility of not finding someone I really, really liked and getting to that stage was key, for me, in knowing that my relationship hadn't sprung out of the fear of being alone but was better than taking on the world solo.

Having no touchstones of comparison, and no traumatic heartbreaks or cheating exes always made me wary about ever being able to be "good" at being in a relationship - most of my friends have had at least a ten year head start while I was too busy trying to make myself the finished product, proving I could be independent and climbing the career ladder (see point 1 above).

It turns out you don't need to be "sorted" or have made yourself perfect before finding your king (or queen), there's no time limit on finding them and when you do, there are no rules on how you should or shouldn't do things. Loving someone else, and accepting their love in return, has been my biggest and best adventure.

3. Expat trials

It's been almost 18 months since I moved to Dubai I somewhat underestimated the challenges of being far from friends and family, of not having a readily accessible support network to grab a drink with and to (sometimes) walk me home after the lights come on. Of not having family a phone call and car ride away, of time together being subject to combined annual leave days and expensive, seven hour flights.

Arriving in a new city, I naively expected to be welcomed as a newbie, rather than being met with the feeling that everyone had "enough friends" already. Friendships have always been formed from shared experiences, and in a new city where initially all my energy was spent just figuring out how to get through each week it seemed like this would never come, that I'd left a slightly dwindling social scene in London for...no social scene in Dubai.

It turns out that making friends as an adult is hard, making friends in a new county is hard, making friends in a place where you didn't go to school, or university or have connections from a time before you were the well-adjusted, sensible young lady you are today is hard.

A huge part of moving to a new city is acceptance that you can't recreate your old life in a new place, and that the old life isn't even there anymore, as you knew it. That this may just be a life phase where friends feature less, and that's ok because the last year has been really seminal but friends have always been so important that it's hard to go without - friends are, I now know, an essential and not just a "nice to have". Making friends is like playing a quasi-dating game only friendship is harder because it's not as clear cut and takes on varying forms of depth and closeness.

In the last couple of months I've realised that, actually, I do have friends - friends who have welcomed me into their homes, trusted me to look after their cat for a week, brought me back sweet, thoughtful gifts from trips and, bittersweetly, invited me to their leaving parties. Friendships have sprung out of activities which are enjoyable in themselves and where friendship is incidental and a bonus if it happens - bookclubs, yoga classes, networking events. It's also taken WhatsApping a fellow barre-attendee until we could both make a coffee date, tracking down a table mate from a women's network dinner on LinkedIn, forcing myself to ask people for their numbers, facing my fear of the spontaneous and accepting last-minute invites even when I've not felt my most sociable to get to a point where, while my diary isn't quite as packed as it was in London, it's no longer filled with conspicuous gaps.

I hope you got to the end of what could have been three separate blog posts.... I'll be back with some pictures of avocado soon. xxx


Friday, 22 June 2018

Wishlist: Sweet Summer

You would think that living in Dubai would mean that my summer wardrobe is good to go. I actually wear more black than I did living in London and the enthusiastic air-conditioning and sometimes hard to navigate dress code means that I frequently find myself wearing long sleeves on a 40 degree day.

I'm off to Hong Kong in July which will be hot and humid and, unlike my recent trip to Bali, a beach dress over a bikini will not be acceptable day-to-night attire.

I usually travel in a Joanie tee and leggings - their t-shirts are super soft and comfortable, this "veggie breakfast club" one is too cute. I spent all of my Bali trip wishing I had packed a paid of denim shorts - these H&M ones are cheap and cheerful as I won't get a lot of wear out of them in Dubai... Suncream is an essential in the city, too - I recently started using Glossier's Invisible Shield which is about as pleasant to use as suncream can be.

Birkenstocks are my go-to for sandals I can walk around all day in without complaining that my feet hurt - these gold ones are currently high up on my shoes-I-want list. A cute H&M scalloped edge top for pairing with shorts on holiday and trousers back home. Dresses are still my most worn - these two (black print, red print) from Oasis are the right mix of "city" and "summer" and will work for day and night. Finally, it wouldn't be Summer '18 without an impractical straw bag - this one reflects one of my favourite emails to type up.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Bali Day Tripping: Three Day Trips From Canggu

Exploring Bali isn't the easiest - party because the traffic is awful (a 15km journey from the airport to Canggu taking two hours) and partly because the temptation to just relax and do nothing is too strong.

We managed a few day trips which were well worth the traffic, the ferries and the earlier starts to see a little bit more of the island. Huge thanks to Agus, Helen and Hannah for the driving, logistics, local knowledge and itinerary planning!

1. Uluwatu

In the south of Bali, the Uluwatu Temple was our first stop. Situated on the side of a cliff, the views are incredible. The temple grounds are resident to a group of monkeys which did not bother us on our visit, maybe take your sunglasses just in case.

The beaches have some of the best waves in Bali and are a popular spot with surfers. Grab a table at Single Fin to watch the surf and the sunset.

We stopped by Jimbaran fish market on the way home for a fish feast - picking out the fish from the market and eating them freshly barbecued was fun, if a little out of my comfort zone (I'm technically pescatarian but prefer my fish in bite-sized sushi portions). The stray cat that took up residence under my chair had never eaten so well in its life.

2. Nusa Lembongan

An island off of the Bali mainland, Nusa Lembongan is worth the ferry ride to an almost-paradise island. We started with a boat trip, jumping off twice to snorkel and see the coral. The water was so clear and the reef was abundant with sea life - I'm still amazed that I can even put my head in the water after years of being terrified.

After the boat, it was straight onto the back of scooters to rattle around the island and over the narrow bridge connecting Nusa Lembongan with Nusa Penida. Next adventure - the zip line! Less scary than it looks and I amused myself and my Bali gang by volunteering to go first.

Last stop was Le Pirate beach club for lunch and a celebratory gin for surviving various modes of transport.

3. Potato Head

One of my favourite days of our Bali trip - Potato Head beach club was the perfect location for doing not much all, but stylishly so.

potato head beach club

We arrived before the 10am opening time to reserve a day bed and alternated between dips in the pool, wanders on the beach, napping and reading. The food was great and the soundtrack and vibe was chilled. Try the fresh coconuts by day and the Potato Head Bloody Mary by night made with local arak, if you're feeling brave...

potato head beach club


Friday, 15 June 2018

Money Diary: A 30 Year Old British Girl In Dubai, In June

Since giving up news (a story for another day), my sole internet reading is Refinery 29's Money Diaries series. I hope they never stop publishing them. I've shared a few of mine in the past and, my goodness, has life changed since I penned my first Dubai money diary.

Here's what a week of spending looks like these days, in short - I now earn less, work fewer hours, have a boyfriend and have a (small but carefully curated) Dubai friendship group. Getting happy has reduced my impulse shopping, my spending on make-up (which I barely wear these days) and my thirst for gin - all of which my bank balance is grateful for.

Here's a week in June, during Ramadan and the hot, hot Dubai summer. All prices converted to GBP.


9am: taxi to work. £3.04

12.30pm: Uber from my office to a cafe near the World Trade Centre. I have a half day off in lieu for working at a few evening events recently. Having more time is worth far more to me than extra $$$ in the bank after years of cancelling social plans and sleep in favour of work. I have an Uber discount code because I take a lot of Ubers... £2.31

1pm: lunch at The Sum of Us - the restaurant is open during the day during Ramadan but the doors are closed and the entrance is screened off. I order a vegan coffee smoothie, a cauliflower rice bowl and write some blog posts on my ancient MacBook. £21.71

4.30pm: Uber home. £7.05

5.45pm: Uber to my boyfriend's place - it's a ten minute walk but the great outdoors feels like an oven so walking isn't happening until September. £4.05

6pm: stay in for the evening making cocktails and popcorn.


7.55am: taxi to work. £3.04

8.05am: iced soy latte from office coffee shop. £3.24

12.30pm: lunch with my team and a colleague who is on maternity leave and her baby. We go to TGI Friday's as the financial district ins't very baby friendly. The menu is mostly deep-fried - I order a so-so salmon salad and a side of fries. A colleague treats.

4.30pm: vegan protein balls from office coffee shop. £2.34

5.05pm: Uber home from work. £6.28

6pm: vinyasa flow yoga class - I paid for a six month unlimited membership at the start of April (£963 - fitness is pricey here) so effectively free in this week's budget.


10.15am: advanced vinyasa flow class - I love the smaller class size and the chance to try some crazy things. Effectively free.

11.30am: pop in to Spinneys (a supermarket which sells own brand and Waitrose food) and buy almond milk, loo paper, frozen blueberries, fresh strawberries and a single-serve back of granola to make a Bali-inspired smoothie bowl. £19.51

1pm: back to the yoga studio (its effectively in my building) for a guided meditation class.

2.45pm: Uber to the mall where I practice looking at things without buying them. £4.07

4pm: dentist appointment - my dentist is in the mall and is about as pleasant as going to the dentist can ever be. It's a follow-up appointment to no charge.

4.45pm: walk home from the mall (the ten minute walk nearly cooks me alive) and pick up an iced green tea and a halloumi bagel from Caribou. £9.98

6.50pm: Uber to my boyfriend's place. £4.07


Blissful day of not going outside and not spending any money. Make avocado and halloumi toast for breakfast and order Wagamama on Deliveroo for dinner (the "rule" is that whoever's place we are at pays).


8.20am: Uber to work. £4.07

10.35am: iced soy latte from office coffee shop - this week I seem to have forgotten that I now know how to use the office coffee machine. £4.07

12.30pm: lunch from a cafe offering a free glass mason jar with an order - can't resist and order avocado on sourdough. £9.89

6.30pm: take an Uber to an Iftar (the meal to break the fast during Ramadan) hosted by a women's network which I am a member of. £7.17

7.10pm: Iftar at a newly opened hotel in the Al Seef district. The Iftar is free but I have a yearly membership of the network (£135 paid a few months back).

9.10pm: catch an Uber home with a fellow attendee who happens to live two minutes from me - her Uber looks to be turning up first so I cancel mine.


6.40am: Uber to physio appointment before work. £8.03

7am: I have mild scoliosis and have just started physio in an attempt to strengthen my back muscles - it's covered by my medical insurance so while I pay £100.77, I'll get reimbursed.

7.50am: Uber to work. £8.48

8.20am: another coffee. £4.07

12.30pm: order lunch from a discounted delivery service which offers a daily choice from two restaurants - today its a vegan superfood salad. £5.07

5.35pm: Uber to mall after work. £5.27

6pm: waxing appointment (every five weeks). The salon I go to has a loyalty points scheme so I cash mine in to get a discount. £37.73 (usual price £49.66)

6.50pm: I spot a new Japanese store in the mall - Miniso. Somewhat guilty fill a basket with flip-flops, a glass water bottle and three Japanese skincare products. Reason that the glass water bottle will help to save the world. £18.59

7.15pm: walk past Pret and end up going inside for a taste of "home", stare at the fridge for ages and settle for a falafel flatbread and a sparkling water. £8.14


6.30am: sunrise yoga class on my membership.

7.55am: Uber to work. £5.79

12.10pm: order lunch from the same cafe as Monday - avocado on toast with a side salad. £9.89

4.30pm: vegan protein balls. £2.34

7.30pm: walk across the road (so humid bleugh) to the Ritz-Carlton for a colleague's leaving drinks. Sneak a G&T onto the bar tab they've set up. My boyfriend joins us. Have two more G&Ts and pass up on free oysters (#Dubai). Boyfriend settles the tab for the drinks we've had - we take it in turns to pay for things so make a mental note to pay for drinks or brunch during the Eid weekend (a long weekend to celebrate the end of Ramadan).

9.25pm: taxi home because its far past my bedtime. Eat a square of dark chocolate in lieu of dinner. £4.07

The damage: £231.12

Over £100 less than my last Dubai week... My budgeting has been a little less strict since getting back from Bali but I'm working on that elusive balance between respecting and not wasting money but also not being hard on myself if I do want a daily coffee or to pick up something not 100% essential. The current weather also takes some blame for the 16 taxi trips taken...

Do you keep track of your spending?

Sunday, 10 June 2018

My Canggu Guide: 6 Tips For Visiting

My recent trip to Bali might just be my favourite ever. I'm a sworn city girl but after a week in Canggu the idea of a city "break" does not sound like one, this might be the only holiday I've come back from and not felt more exhausted than before I left.

Canggu beach at sunset 
Here's a little guide to Canggu and Bali which I might have found useful before heading off. I did very little prior research beforehand, partly because I'm chill now and trust that I'll have fun regardless and also because Hannah's sisters live in Bali and we happened to time our trip with hers.

1. It's pronounced "Chan-gu" not "Can-gu". A freebie for you.

2. Sort out your money before arriving. I usually scrabble around for an airport ATM to get my holiday cash or just pay on my card in places like NYC and HK but took GBP300 in Indonesian Rupiah (which was all I could get hold of in Dubai) and USD400 to change up. £100 is IDR1.8 million - enjoy your millionaire status! 

There are ATMs in Canggu, and money exchanges everywhere, of varying "official"-ness. I used my credit card a few times, no issues. How much you spend will depend on your Bali lifestyle - we spent around £700 for a couple in a week which included all our meals, drinks and a few day trips. Bali is very affordable compared with Dubai and you could definitely spend less than this and still have an amazing week.

La Brisa beach club - our favourite chill out spot 
3. Take mosquito repellant. I'm a bit sceptical as to whether any of this stuff really works but I liberally sprayed myself every evening and only got a couple of bites. The mosquito nets around the beds in Bali have the double benefit of looking quite dreamy and romantic. You can also buy repellent in supermarkets and pharmacies which have everything you need so don't worry about taking the kitchen sink with you. Bali isn't in a malaria zone and you don't need any vaccinations but obviously check with your doctor and don't take advice from an internet stranger.

4. Packing: Bali is super chilled - leave heels, make-up, designer handbags etc. at home. No one cares about status and you'll look ridiculous. I mostly wore beach dresses with bikinis underneath, Birkenstocks, sunglasses and a straw hat because I'm averse to tanning. My skin enjoyed the break from make-up and I could have packed a third less than my 8kg suitcase and been fine. We optimistically packed running gear - my trainers stayed in my suitcase. Bali is hot and humid and air-conditioning isn't really a thing so be prepared to get hot and sweaty and to not really care about it. Suncream is your friend, reapply often.

Lunch at La Brisa.
5. Getting around Canggu can seem channelling at first, our airbnb was 2km from the beach which doesn't sound far but when there are no pavements and scooters speeding along the road and its a little hot it's not exactly a relaxing walk. Uber, Grab and Gojek are banned in Canggu but you can use Blue Bird taxis (download the app) and there are local taxis in town which would run us back to our airbnb at night for around £3. 

Everyone will tell you that you "have" to hire a scooter - you really don't if you're not keen. I have no sense of direction and a poor concentration span so knew that scootering wasn't for me and we got by fine without one. If you do hire one, please be careful. 

Our airbnb terrace.
6.  Canggu has a great mix of local food and "hipster" food, and it's all really affordable, delicious and healthy. As a vegetarian, Bali is the most AMAZING place to have delicious veggie food that you'll actually want to eat. Having been to India last year (where I mostly ate cheese Dorritos) I was a bit worried about being able to eat what I wanted but it was fine - I avoided drinking tap water and drank my first couple of G&Ts super fast to avoid the ice melting in them but then forgot about my paranoia and was totally fine. 

Bali has it's own beer, Bintang, which is super cheap. I tried the lemon one as I'm not really a beer drinker and found myself saying yes to a second bottle. Gin and cocktails are a little pricier - we picked up a bottle of gin at the airport on the way in for drinks at "home" - duty free limits are strict (one litre of spirits per person) so make sure to check. Supermarkets do not sell Fevertree Tonic.

Beach yoga.
Have you been to Bali?
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