Elizabeth Kesses Delport (aka “Britchick Paris”) takes wandermelon on holiday as she escapes the big European freeze and heads to the hot spots of the Middle East.
I was born and raised in Athens and suffer from serious Seasonal Adjusted Disorder now I live in northern Europe. I miss the sun big time. I often dream about being on boats or desert islands. I even wear suntan cream in winter so I can smell the sun. Greece, of course, has its cold spells like the rest of Europe, but by February spring is sprung and by April summer beach weather is in full swing. The only place where I felt my sunshine-ometer was forever full was Sydney. Winter there is just a dip in temperature and you can zip up north and be in tropical heat.
This year Europe has perished, literally, with cold. It has been unbearable. Layers of clothing on top of pasty white skin and going from freezing air to boiling home or office, so flu, bugs and viruses abound. On the odd occasion the sun came out it had no effect at all. A watery weak light that gave off no heat. Spring seems miles away as the little daffodils have drooped in the frost and the days only start getting really light again at the end of March. Maybe that’s why Valentine’s Day is mid February; to warm our hearts if not our bodies.
The one place that is antidote to all this gloom is the Middle East. We have been to Bahrain, Doha and Dubai now several times in the winter. Take off in sub zero temperatures, 7 hours in comfy Emirates and arrival to 25-degree heat and blue skies. Bliss. It’s not just the sun; it’s the feeling of vertigo as you experience a total culture change. Dubai in the UAE is the most extreme. It’s like Sin City-Vegas-meets-LA with a dash of Disney. It genuinely feels like the belly button of the world—a hub for East and West—where all is possible. You step out of the plane and the vibrancy hits you like a lightning bolt. Skyscrapers are lit up in every color, the Burj el Khalifa, the highest building in the world, sparkling like the Middle Eastern cousin of the Eiffel Tower and a medley of smells: Lebanese mezze, Dunkin Donuts and Costa Coffee.
We stay at the Shangri-La Hotel. Its Asian origins make the service impeccable and it has one of my most favorite Chinese restaurants in the world: the Chang Palace, which serves the best crispy duck. And I have had tasted a few. It’s also really compact—perfect for our whistle-stop trip. The pool, with a water bar for morning pineapple juices that turns into a pink-lit cocktail bar called ikandy by night, is perfection. Putting a bikini on after months of woolly jumpers is an incredible feeling. Many Europeans must have had the same idea as us as the contingent poolside looks like a Casper the Ghost convention. It’s also ten minutes from the Dubai Mall—a shopaholic’s heaven. I swear it has every famous store in the world. British Top Shop and H+M sits along side French Petit Bateau. You can go food shopping at Waitrose or New York’s Dean and Deluca. You can ice skate, see sea life in the aquarium or go on a Sega Ride of your life.
Nightlife is also out of this world. Dubai’s Time Out is bigger than London’s. All the top chefs and restaurants have set up shop here like Zuma and the Ivy, as have celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. The party scene is also hot to trot. Every time we have come a big DJ is doing a set—this time Roger Sanchez, Axwell New Year 2011 and in a week David Guetta. The clubs are decadent and sumptuous, such as the Cavalli Club with its glittering chandeliers or new hype-y Mo*vida from London.
All of this might leave you feeling slightly out of breath. I like to feel the vibe of a city like Dubai. But there are many Zen options. Once we stayed at the Desert Palm next to the lush green Polo fields. Or there are the many beach-based spots like One & Only’s Royal Mirage and The Palm. Or further afield in Oman, the tranquil eco-haven of Zighy Bay, a Six Senses Resort, where you can be isolated in your beach cabana for your entire stay.
In truth Dubai is the city of opportunities from skiing in the Emirates Mall with penguins on the slopes (no kidding) to sunset treks to the desert. It gets written off as a fake non-destination. But if you only have a few days it’s not far to go for a burst of sun and fun.
BritChick Paris is a British girl living the fabulous life in Paris society. Her blog regularly appears on the Huffington Post and sofeminine.com. If she doesn’t get you into the Middle East mood, check out this gorgeous video: 3 Days in Dubai from Aaron Mendez (Ahwahnee Films).
Photos courtesy Daniel Laskowski – avid traveller and co-founder of travelplusstyle.com – an independent guide to the most inspiring and sophisticated hotels in Asia, Pacific and Africa. Travel tip: “Although the interiors of Burj al Arab many consider rather kitschy, it is still worth visiting, if only to see the white piano in the Al Muntaha restaurant—and enjoy the amazing views. If you want to visit this famous building, you may want to consider staying at one of the surrounding hotels from the Jumeirah group—Jumeirah guests are free to pop in for a look.”