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  • 36 Hours In Dubai

    October 3, 2015

    This past month has been crazy. I’ve been traveling ruthlessly. So ruthlessly, I managed to fit Dubai into a weekend by doing 2 nights on a Qantas plane and one blissful night in a 5* hotel. I guess I basically commuted from Dubai that week! Though everyone I know thinks that’s mad, when you’ve got the bug to travel, you’ve got the bug, and when these opportunities come up, I jump, leap and get giddy at the chance to take them.
    With this particular trip, another thing a lot of people said to me is, ‘Dubai really doesn’t interest me at all’, which I think is crazy. Firstly, everywhere in the world interest me, even if its Scarborough. A jaunt from your normal life is fun, especially when you get to go and spend time there with someone you love (alas, a lot of the time I travel solo but still, it’s fun exploring!). Secondly, how can you not be interested by a place that’s literally boomed out of nowhere, has both seas and skyscrapers, and deserts and souks, raised the bar for luxury hotels, and has such a young history and tourism industry, that its culture and atmosphere is changing pretty much daily. To me, its fascinating. I went to Dubai as a child, back in 2005 on the way to Australia, and maybe it was that that planted the seed. Back then, we stayed in the Jumeirah Beach Hotel (“the wave” in the shadow of the Burj Al Arab), and it was the most overwhelming, luxurious place we—and I speak for the family—had ever stepped foot in. 10 years since and we still reference that stopover all the time, notably the epic breakfast at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, but also how we remember having to take siestas because it was too hot to go outside during the day, jumping over sand dunes in a jeep, feeling naughty smoking shisha at 14,  us kids burning our soles on the sand, and comparing bruises on our back from the wildest ride at Wild Wadi water park. I still don’t know why my Dad splurged so much on that hotel, but I’m so glad he did because it was so incredible, we’ll never forget it. (FYI, holidays weren’t always like that, 6 times out of 10 it would be a sweltering tent during European heat waves).
    With that in mind, I knew that my one night’s stay at Grosvenor House Hotel, one of Dubai’s original marina hotels, was bound to be serious bliss. Dubai is the home of luxury hotels, and with 10 years since my last trip for them to get even better, I knew it would be at least nice. Grosvenor House was above and beyond. Luxury dripped off the décor, and staff were so helpful and polite from the moment go, that I started questioning whether they’d mistaken me for royalty. Greeted at the airport with a hotel car, the driver pulled over to hand me back a chilled flannel to freshen up, and a couple of bottles of water. At check-in, a kind man brought over some sweet tea within the 20 seconds of me arriving. And later by the pool, the bartender brought my Gin Fizz to my lounger, with a tray so it wouldn’t fall over, and a bowl of nuts (he could obviously tell I was hungry!).
    With just 36 hours at the hotel, I spent the majority of my time by the pool, overwhelmed by just how insanely hot and humid this part of the world is. So much so that the humidity managed to break the trackpad on my Macbook temporarily, through my attempts to be semi productive whilst poolside. Floating around on your back in the pool, looking up and seeing cloudless blue sky framed by towering skyscrapers in every direction is a mesmerising experience—one that I wished I would be able to savour for longer. Note to all: spend more than 36 hours in Dubai.
    If you stay at Grosvenor House, you won’t need lunch. Any place that serves sushi for breakfast gets a giant tick in my book.
    Two ticks when there’s also grilled halloumi. That wasn’t all. It pains me to say it but I think the breakfast here might have outdone the famous breakfast of Jumeirah Beach. There was everything. And by everything I’m talking shrimp salad, carrots and hummus, waffles and syrup, cauliflower cheese(!?), pasta bake, cassava chips (my favourite!), prawn crackers, stir-fry, dahl, cheeses, along with all the regular breakfast fare. I’m not good at restraint at breakfast buffets and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so full. Or eaten so much halloumi in one sitting. The fullness wore off whilst relaxing in the beautiful oasis that is B/Attitude spa. I had the most wonderful, full on body massage too—proper rigorous, just as massages should be (to get out my knots at least!!)
    By dinner time, I was hungry again. Not unusually for Dubai, Grosvenor House has 14 eating and drinking options. 14. I ate at Toro Toro for dinner, a Pan Latin American restaurant, complete with Caipirinha drinks trolley. It’s a sharing plates menu, but as I didn’t have anyone to share it with, I just ordered loads for myself, taking guidance from the manager. It was great, notably the sea bass ceviche, the tuna tataki, and the incredible crispy prawns, which, though featuring on most restaurants across the world, shouldn’t be overlooked here. They were GIANT, and so crispy in panko breadcrumbs, accompanied by a sweet mango sauce. As if I wasn’t full enough, they insisted I got the Tres Leches cake, which obviously, was too delicious to not finish. (If anyone knows of any great Tres Leches cake in London, please alert me to it immediately, as it’s tastiest thing in the world, and I need to eat it on a more regular basis.)
    With such little time in Dubai, I really barely left the hotel. Having spent the weekend before running a half marathon, and knowing I’d be spending the weekend after traipsing around Prague, I was quite
    happy to take it slow. I did venture out for a stroll around the marina, and admired the infinite number of glassy skyscrapers, set against the blue sky, and also went up to The Observatory Bar in the Marriott Hotel, to get a bird’s eye view of The Palm and the craziness that is Atlantis, and admire the epic sunset from up high—seriously beautiful.
    I got genuinely upset when I left for the airport at 11:30pm on Sunday night. Probably partly because I knew I was getting off the plane and straight to work at the other end (urgh!), but also because I felt like a really warmed to this place, and was leaving far too prematurely. Though only a 6-hour flight, Dubai just feels far from London. The climate is so different. The culture is exotic. The skyscrapers blow my mind. If this fleeting journey served to remind me of anything, it's that I need to go long haul more often.


    I flew with Qantas to Dubai (all hail wide seats and seat-back TVs), and was hosted by the very beautiful, haven of a hotel, Grosvenor HouseIf you've ever got any questions about my trips, or want more information, please Tweet me or shoot me an email!