I spy with my little eye... the Austrian escape.

Anybody who's been in Dubai for more than a year is familiar with the need to escape. I love the sandpit and I chose to be here, but every couple of months, I need to get away. Every couple of months, I need to get back to greenery, history and simplicity, and last month C. and R. wedding in Austria was the perfect escape: a short flight, a long week-end, a lot of laughter and memories. Despite being Irish, the couple decided to get married in Poysdorf (norh of Vienna), where they bought a lovely little farm, and to keep it very very simple. The most important for them was to make sure people would be able to make it, so they prioritised logistics over grandeur: most of the details were handmade, the bride found her dress in a second-hand shop, friends made the cakes, the invites, the brunch the morning after was hosted by the couple etc... It was simple and warm, they made sure we were taken care of and organised transportation, hotels, hydrated and well fed. 

After a 5h flight, I discovered Poysdorf, Austria, wine region.
Austria wouldn't be Austria without beer and cold cuts...

The morning of the big day, I woke up and realised I was going to have to dig deep in my memory to manage breakfast in german: despite studying german for several years, sign language sounded like the better option, that's how bad I am...

After failing at putting together one single german sentence, it was time to put on the wedding attire, hope for a sunny day and head to church. 
I have a peculiar relationship with churches: they make me giggle, and I am always interested in looking the exact opposite to where the action is... which is how I caught the groom giving the choir the signal to start singing for the bride's walk down the aisle:

The ceremony was short, sweet and joyful. And the... it was time to celebrate!

A big Merci to the lovely couple for such a fun week-end! It looked and sounded like them: warm, joyful, Irish, Austrian, simple, very well organised, attentive... with lots of wine!

I spy with my little... the highlife vintage style posters.

Dubai is getting more and more quirky and I am loving it! Markets are popping everywhere, there are more and more restaurants that look like actual bars (aka unpretentious, and smiley), food trucks are appearing on the beach etc... You can even find people who don't take themselves or Dubai seriously, how amazing and refreshing is that?
Clare Napper, a former Saatchi and Saatchi Bristish designer, who's been in Dubai 8 years, got inspired by both our expat lifestyle where everything is easy, and Roger Broders depictions of France touristy sites in the 1930's-1940's. I love the satire and honesty of her observation, as much as the retro style of these simple, yet spot on posters. Yes golf sucks in summer, yes, Jumeirah Janes are lost without their nannies, yes, the Palm is a posh neighbourhood... all these things that make me roll my eyes but also make Dubai what it is are condensed in this collection of 18 artworks.
To see the full collection, click here: www.highlife-dubai.com

I spy with my little eye... Spring time with Chantelle!

Spring is coming! I am not one to change my wardrobe with every change of season, but I have a tendency to crave new lingerie when in Spring and Autumn. When Chantelle new collection landed in my mailbox a couple of days ago, I instantly fell for Merci ensemble in grey. I loved the romantic subtle colour and art deco patterns, it made me think of a lazy Sunday afternoon in the South of France, in an old rustic house full vintage wallpaper and cracking wooden floors...

I realised after I shot this picture I had picked the same model but in a different colour... That tells you how much I loved it. As much as I like a classical style, I think Parisians have it a little bit too easy: you can't really go wrong if the only colours you wear are plain black, white, navy, beige or grey. That's just lazy fashion if you ask me. I like to add a touch of colour (it's Spring, let's go crazy!), for example that pastel yellow ensemble would be perfect under a grey sweater and black carrot pants!

For more information about Chantelle new collection, click here.

I spy with my little eye... The Paradis - French Kitchen.

The french restaurant Le Paradis du Fruit was always one of my favourite places to catch up with the girls in Paris. The concept of healthy, light cuisine wasn't really popular in France 10 years ago so this little gem was a novelty at the time: I remember I discovered frozen yoghurt thanks to them. So when I heard they were opening a branch at The Beach, I couldn't wait to check it out. 

They've always been known for their healthy menu but also colourful interior design featuring Philippe Starck details. Just walking into the restaurant feels like you've had a shot of vitamins!

I was happy to see that their menu is still as healthy and appetising as it used to be: the salads and smoothies without any added sugar are the highlights. But since I was there for breakfast, I decided to go unhealthy and get the French breakfast... You can get the French girl out of Paris but you can't get the croissant out of the French girl.

I started with a kiwi/apple/mint smoothie that looked a bit surprising to be honest because the kiwi and apple juice didn't mix nicely, but it was refreshing to see something normal and not utterly perfect in Dubai. The very few juices I make at home tend to look a bit strange too, which is why: 1- I stopped making them, 2- I could tell this was freshly made. It was tasty and light, just as promised.
Then I tucked in the pain au chocolat: I hadn't had such a light and buttery pastry since La Serre, and my lovely breakfast buddy Tjasha who definitively knows a good croissant when she sees one agreed that it was one of the best she had had in Dubai!

The bread selection with home-made jam were nice, and the coffee very good, but what I appreciated best after the menu and pain au chocolat is the service. It was fast, efficient, smiley and french! Whether I was talking to the waiter, the manager, or the guy making smoothies and juices behind the bar, everybody was speaking french, it definitively felt like home!

Happy gal! Thank you Le Paradis - French Kitchen, I will be back!

More information on: http://www.leparadisdufruit.ae/

I spy with my little eye... a road trip to Saida and Tyr.

What I loved the most about Beirut was the joyful, constant and loud mess! Jumping in a car with all the cousins, turning on the cheesy music, singing and dancing while racing with my uncle's car, stopping on the way for mana'iches, fooling around at the check points, and ending up by the sea, feet in the water in December.

Yallah, let's go to Tyr!

But first, let's stop in Saida to visit the old soap factory (that just happens to be in a gorgeous house).

Saint Exupery said that love wasn't looking into each other eyes, but looking in the same direction... Looks like lil sis' and her boyfriend are on a good track.

Might as well get coffee and pastries while we're here... We haven't eaten in 1h30, we definitively need a snack...

Then let's have a tour of Saida's soukh. (Note to self: shopping with a Lebanese family is the best way to test one's patience.) Bananas anyone?

Or maybe 10kg of fresh meat?

And my personal favourite: the disco veggie stall!

Eventually we got back in the car and headed to Tyr to find... the sea.

Cousins made plans to cross the sea.

And Lebanon gifted us with a gorgeous sunset. What an amazing day!

I spy with my little eye... a New Year.

Sometimes all you need is some time out and family to reboot. And that's exactly what I did in Beirut over the holidays: no phone, no emails, sometimes no electricity but LOTS of food, card games and laughter. I've always felt more French than Lebanese despite being half half but 10 days in a real city with no sparkle was exactly what I needed after 3 years of full-on Dubai. I know I'm a bit late but we're still in Jan so I'm enjoying the "holiday mood" extra time with a belated Christmas post.

Here is lil'sis who just moved from Paris to Beirut with Birdie, the most silent pointer on Earth. She never barks, and all she asks for is cuddles.

Birdie was very keen on the celebration, here she is, discussing with my mother. Yes, we do have that habit of discussing with pets. It applies to dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, parrots... I will never forget Jujupe, my grandfather's parrot in Nigeria, who used to play around with lil'sis: she would make her run down the stairs several times a day by taking my aunt's voice to call her.

Family portraits with the aunts.

Funny how cooking the turkey is a woman's job but carving it is always a man's job.

Birdie's best Chrismas present: cuddles with my cousin!

Happy times always lead to funny selfies, or "ussies" like my aunt calls them. "Did you take an ussie?" "Sorry, a what?" "A picture of us, an ussie!"

And it always ends up with flowers and hugs, happy times!

I spy with my little eye... Christmassy Cocktails!

Less than 10 days to Christmas and I'm running out of time. I still don't have all presents figured out, which is a great excuse to have cocktails and brainstorm so you can imagine how perfect Royal China's invitation to a mixology class sounded! Being raised in a French family came with a wine education (do not mess with my red wine: the last sommelier who tried to have me drink Syrah through a blind test was La Petite Maison's and he got disappointed), but I am clueless when it comes to cocktails. I learned how to drink martinis here in Dubai with my New Yorker friends, I know how I like my Bloody Mary and I like a good Hendrick's G&T but that pretty much it. Which makes me the perfect candidate for a mixology class!

I will be honest, I can't remember the recipes, but what I will take with me is that a good mixologist is one that serves as good a story as a cocktail. It's all about the entertainment and spending a good time. And at this game, Drago, Royal China's new mixologist was a real treat: good banter with the gentlemen, flirty with the ladies, I highly recommend him. Oh and the drinks were good too (nearly forgot about them!).
My cocktail education is clearly not done yet, I still have a lot to learn. For now, I am happy to observe and enjoy the ride and pretty colours!
Thank you Royal China, looking forward to more cocktail adventures!
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