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!

I spy with my little eye... the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow - Take 2".

Take 2 of the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow" is with Aseya from Hello Pretty and Pretty in the Desert! She picked a 1920's burgundy little hat that I absolutely love!
For her look she chose to stress on the lips with a burgundy red lipstick and subtle brownish eye shadow. I love how her blond hair highlights the colour of the piece.

For me, she decided to keep it low and simple stress on the pink cheeks. It ended up being quite a natural dolly look, nothing flapperlike, no big eyebrow, no dark eyeshadow, just something light, which I love: the star is the hat!
I loved spending time with Aseya; half American, half Emirati, she's one on those people who have been in Dubai for so long they know all the good places and are unimpressed by the city of bling's Extravaganza. And I like that. She is easy going, chilled, fun and professional. So I figured if I liked her, you might like her too:
HOB: If you could live in a painting, which one would it be?
Aseya: It would be Georgia O'Keeffe's Abstraction Blue. The colours are so soothing, I would just flaot around in the painting all day.
HOB: If you could live in a different era, which one would you pick and why?
Aseya: It would be the late 60s/early 70s. I really love the music from that period.
HOB: What piece of clothing reminds you of your mother/father?
Aseya: Cropped pants always remind me of my mom, and traditional Emirati kundooras always remind me of my dad.
HOB: What scent takes you right back to your childhood?
Aseya: Christmas trees always take me back. Every year :)
HOB: When do you feel on holiday?
Aseya: I'm usually rushing around before a trip, so I am too busy to feel like I'm on holiday. But as soon as I'm in the new city and I open the curtains and look outside, I get that feeling of excitement that comes with being able to explore a new place.
HOB: What designer would you take on a camel ride?
Aseya: Betsy Johnson. She seems like she would be a riot!
HOB: Your favourite recipe to make?
Aseya: I make a really great fudgy chocolate brownie.
HOB: Best piece of advice you were ever given?
Aseya: Listen to your body; it knows what is best for you. Pay attention to changes in your mood and feelings.
HOB: What book changed your life?
Aseya: "Tuesdays with Morrie" was the first book I read that made me feel emotional. It really made me think about life.
HOB: The movie you've watched 30 times but might watch again tonight?
Aseya: I don't watch too many movies, but I love the show Arrested Development and I rewatch it every year.
HOB: Three favourite spots in Dubai?
Asyea: Smiling BKK, the Meydan Bike Park (I love skating there at night, when it's quiet and dark), Souq Al Bahar.
Don't forget to visit hellopretty.com

I spy with my little eye... a truffle galore.

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing food with D. and we were debating expensive taste, how very Dubai of us... The conclusion of this crucial conversation was that we both loved truffle, but I could live without oysters and she didn't understand caviar, but since we had truffle in common, I figured she was the perfect date to test the Oberoi Dubai's truffle menu at their restaurant Umai. the Oberoi has a special place in my heart: I love their warm hospitality mostly embodied by German chef Dirk Haltenhof who always has a story to share.
I will admit I didn't think they would push the truffle tasting so far as to put it in the cocktails! To be honest the white truffle pear Martini didn't work for me. The fact that I don't like pear should have been an indicator though... But D. was happy to take over my glass while I tried the Truffle aperol Spritzer, I'm usually not an Aperol gal' but the truffle was an interesting twist. All in all it was interesting but I'm not sure I would make it a regular.
 If the cocktails were not my thing, I loved the menu: mixing Japanese cuisines and truffle is not an easy thing and Chef Haltenhof made it work, Bravo Monsieur!
I was expecting black truffle since this is the one I am used to, but I was a little bit wary because it is a strong flavor and a whole black truffle menu would have been a bit much. So I was happy (and kind of relieved) to see that half of the menu was based on white truffle, which is a more subtle taste. The truffle scented dim sum smelled and tasted) heavenly.
I didn't know what to expect with the truffle lollipop, so these meat and truffle cheese balls were such a good surprise! The texture was rich, the cheese was melting, it felt very indulgent.
Then came the sushi with the truffle infused rice, followed by the truffle mash and black sea bream, that was more of a classic dish.
I enjoyed all of it, along with the joyful conversation of my truffle cocktail infused lovely friend! Thank you to the Oberoi for this unexpected experience, they keep surprising me and my palate and we are both loving it! Keep an eye on that hotel, they are full of surprises!
For more information, click here.

I spy with my little eye... the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow - Take 1".

As you know it by now, I love my hats and my collection is growing every time I travel. They are usually hanging on the wall in the living room, on display (so I can grab one whenever I want just before I go out). I don't know why we stopped wearing them on an everyday basis, probably out of convenience I guess, but I refuse to let them on the wall of the living room. So after a couple of months of thinking and discussing with beauty bloggers, I came up with the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow" project. The concept is easy, I simply asked a few beauty bloggers to choose a hat and create one contemporary look on themselves, and one vintage look corresponding tothe era of the hat on me, just to show that they are all wearable nowadays.

So here is Take 1 of the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow" is with Anna from The Sparkling Blueberry. She chose a 1950's sailor hat, one of the most wearable hats that I own: an easy felt dark blue. She created a very modern colour block look on herself:

And for me she used darker colours, with a burgundy lipstick and very dark eyes for a dramatic 1950's look Ahoy sailors!

So you have it: 1 hat, 2 looks!
I had a lot of fun working with Anna, she is very professional, focused, sharp and creative. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know her better so I asked her to answer the HOB interview:

HOB: If you could live in a painting, which one would it be?
Anna: There was a famous Hungarian painter Pál Szinyei-Merse who has this amazing painting called “Picnic in May”. That art piece for me showing something that I can really imagine doing in the 18th century. It’s so laid back, calm but playful and flirty in the same time. You can see it here.
HOB: If you could live in a different era, which one would you pick and why?
Anna: I love the 17th-18th century, mainly the Romantic era (note: I'm not sure if it's called like that in English too, but in Hungary we call it British Romanticism in literature). I miss the lifestyle and habits that, for example, Jane Austen (my favourite writer) pictures in her work. But sure that has a darker side as well, because those centuries were great for the richer but much worse for the poorer.
HOB: What piece of clothing reminds you of your mother/father?
Anna: My father has a weird attraction for flat caps, so every time I see one it makes me smile and think “My Dad can really rock this one”. My Mom is into fur…but not the regular “rich fur” ones, but more of the old, second hand and weird type of fur coats which sometimes makes her look like she just stepped out from Game Of Thrones.
HOB: What scent takes you right back to your childhood?
Anna: The smell of hot, hazelnut flavoured oatmeal (my favourite childhood meal) and the air in the forest filled with the scent of wild mushrooms and fallen leaves. (We spent million hours in the forests collecting mushrooms with my grandparents and parents)
HOB: When do you feel on holiday?
Anna: Good question. It’s very rare that I can completely switch off. Sometimes the fact that you don’t have to go to work doesn’t mean that you don’t work. My brain is always “working” thinking on the next thing to do, the possibilities, creating new ideas etc. If I can just completely empty my mind, sit with a glass of wine at a bar in Paris and just enjoying the moment, that’s when I feel I’m free.
HOB: What designer would you take on a camel ride?
Anna: I think Isabel Marant could really enjoy one, without making any scenes because of the sand on her sneakers ;)
HOB: Your favourite recipe to make?
Anna: Easy to answer; my favourite recipe to make -and to eat as well- is Potato Casserole. That’s my ultimate number one food, which I make really good. Unfortunately my husband don’t like it in general, so I haven't had it for 2 years, but you reminded me now so I know what will I have this weekend J
HOB: Best piece of advice you were ever given?
Anna: People are not changing, accept them as they are or don’t even start with them, but never ever believe that you will be able to change someone.
HOB: What book changed your life?
Anna: The one that taught me how to read in first grade… since then I’m completely addicted to the letters doesn’t matter if it’s reading or writing. I had a lot of nice memories according to books and sometimes they really planted thoughts in my head, but none of them were literally “life changing” so far. I’m still looking for The One ;)
HOB: The movie you've watched 30 times but might watch again tonight?
Anna: Ok… that’s awkward but I can watch Harry Potter movies over and over again no matter how many times, and same with the LOTR sequel as well. This magical/fantasy thing can really switch me off.
HOB: Three favourite spots in Dubai?
Anna: 1- Burj Al Hammam in the Jumeirah Beach Plaza. That is my favourite restaurant, where they serve the nicest Lebanese dishes and they have the best Kibbeh Nayeh (raw meat paste)
2- Safa Park and now Zabeel Park with the Ripe Fresh market: During the cooler months it was such an amazing experience to wake up early and to go out to feel like in a real market, just like in Europe. The vendors and the crowd also has great variety, there are organic food stands, clothes, décor and even beauty items.
3- Mercato Mall: It might sounds funny but this small mall in Jumeirah is my ultimate favourite. It’s so refreshing after the huge and crowded malls, and the selection of shops and services are almost perfect (I miss an H&M from it, but whatever…).
Have a look at The Sparkling Blueberry!

I spy with my little eye... a new home and a couple of Dubai lessons.

Bonjour pitchouns, sorry for the lack of posts. Despite what it looks like, I did come back from Hong Kong eventually. I've actually been back for a month but life has been upside down and now that I found a balance, I thought it would be a good time to share what I learned in Dubai in 3 years. These turmoil periods always make me think and when I finally settle somewhere with my cup of latte and a cookie, I like to reflect on the whole experience and write down my lessons.

My grandparents were expats, my parents were expats, I am an expat, it's part of who I am, but I finally found my limit: 6 houses within a year, this is too much. I had no idea when I moved to Dubai that I would adopt the Bedouin lifestyle, this isn't really what I was going for. But things happen and you just have to adapt. I have friends who like their cosy houses, I do too, but I am lucky to have been used to packing, unpacking, travelling light and moving often. I learned how to make a home early and quickly, I have a couple of things, silly little things that I need around me to feel at home, like landmarks: my morning mug, the Fortnum and Mason tin where I keep my coffee, a couple of prints that I like and one or two hats. As long as these are around, I'm comfortable. This is how I roll.
Now about Dubai. Friends back home always say that Dubai is bling-bling and glamorous and has a lot of attitude, well I think Dubai gave me a couple of lessons of humility:
1- Coming here as an expat, you discover you are in competition with people who are as capable as you are and will work for half your salary.
2- Speaking fluent English is not an exploit, Filipinos and Indians are much better than you are. This is a special message for my French "compatriotes".
3- I can confirm that I am more of a pot luck normal expat gal', rather than a boozy brunch or yacht: I love spending my day with friends but I like to remember it...
4- Filtering is key. Don't follow every piece of advice you hear. People build their own world according to their own needs and personality. Listen but filter: as much as I understand the importance of marketing oneself, not everybody has it in them to attend 4 events a night, keep mingling and manage to look fabulous by 45 degrees, and that's ok.
5- Know your friends. I've met amazing people here. People I can call in the middle of the night and will drop everything to come and get me if I need them to. I'm extremely grateful to have them in my life.
6- Surprisingly, I've learned to lower my standards in Dubai. You would think that it would be the opposite but no: with the cost of life rising tremendously every year and the salaries not following, I actually live less comfortably than I did in Paris. I'm absolutely fine and happy where I am but Dubai is not as comfortable as you'd think.
7- Keep an eye on your bank account. Dubai isn't what it used to be 10 years ago, life is expensive and expat contracts are rare. Young expats come here, enjoy the expensive lifestyle, the beach, trainers, sun, boozy brunches, and forget why they came here in the first place. Saving is not as common as in Europe. Because it feels like you're on holiday, it's easy to spend much more than you normally would, and you wake up one day, all your friends have put money down for houses and flats while you were sipping champagne on a boat and, there is a weird feeling that you've missed the boat. Dubai is full of Peter Pans, it's not a bad thing, just a fact.
8- I love the fact that Dubai is a place where you can still create, there is space for new ideas, everything hasn't been done yet. But I've seen so many people with ideas who get caught up in Dubai social whirlwind and end up postponing their plans. Making space to get things done and keeping yourself in check is important. At least to me.
That's a little insight into what has been going on in my head lately. I'm sure you all have your own expat experience, and I absolutely love mine, but I like the idea of being real.
So this is what my Dubai is like.

I spy with my little eye... Hong Kong Diaries - Part 3!

Last Hong Kong post! This is the one where we take the ferry and cross the bay to get on to mainland. It seemed like a pretty straightforward deal: get to harbour, get on a boat, get on the other side of the bay. Except that there are 5 or 6 different boat companies, and that nobody seemed willing to answer our questions. It took a solid half an hour and a couple of helpful Americans to finally understand that Star Ferry was the only one going back and forth without going around all islands. That is the one wisdom word I want to pass on: Star Ferry is the way to mainland. 
The view from the other side of the bay is fantastic and the city has a different vibe, I found it much more modern with skyscrapers and big avenues (as opposed to tiny paved and steep streets). 

We walked around Prince Edward station, I wanted to have a look at the markets, starting with the flower market. The colours, the happy people shopping, the kitsch arrangements, I loved everything about it.

Right at the end of the flower market, we found the bird market. I always have mixed feelings about animal markets: I find it sad to see all those birds in cages, at the same time, I have amazing memories of playing with my grandfather's parrots in Nigeria. One day maybe I will make up my mind, but for now, I choose to remain perplexed...

After this long walk, we took the metro under the water to get back to the island and get back to Central Hong Kong, around Hollywood Road. We found ourselves in Upper Lascar Row, surrounded by antics. Some of them real, some of them fake, but all good fun!

Finally we sat down at Fish & Meat for one of the best dinners I had in Hong Kong! The team and caring, the food was tasty and simple (and generous!). This burrata was fantastic and I can't even start with the pavlova! Thank you to the chef for signing our menu and sharing the love!

The lessons of this last day in Hong Kong:
1- I admire Hong Kongers discipline: I had never seen people queue to get into the metro.There are lines on the platform. I'm impressed by the fact that despite the city being over-crowded, I didn't feel claustrophobic. 
2- Hong Kong island and mainland are very different, it felt like different cities.
3- Don't stop walking. We thought we had seen all of Hollywood road until we let the streets guide us to Upper Lascar Row where we realised we had missed plenty of vintage treasures. 

Thank you Hong Kong for a great time!

I spy with my little eye... Hong Kong Diaries - Part 2.

I will admit that with the jet lag, we didn't manage to wake up before 11am, so we never made it to breakfast. Doesn't mean we didn't enjoy every bit of our hotel: for some reason, I completely fell for their wall paper... 

Eventually we ventured out to go and explore Wanchai. We had lunch at 22 Ships on Ship Street: gastronomical tapas with coffee wasn't the best idea, it was a bit early, but I loved seating and eating on the street!

After lunch we wandered the streets of Wanchai, just to realise that it was clearly a nightlife kind of neighbourhood. There wasn't a lot to see but our walk took us to the financial district where the protests took place. There were only a few umbrellas left, it felt like the only ones left didn't get the memo saying that the meeting point had changed. The roads were empty, it felt like a ghost town. 

The one thing I remember from Wanchai is that it felt less international than Central Hong Kong, I was surprise to see how the balance between oriental and occidental culture varies from one neighbourhood to an other.

With such a packed city, HongKongers have become experts in making the most of every bit of space. Coming from Dubai where space is the one thing we never run out, it is quite impressive.

On our way back to Central, the Gentleman stopped at The Armoury for some bespoke shopping. After turning around the building for a solid 20min, we finally found the entrance and eventually made our way up to the 3rd floor of Pedder Building. Big up for the vintage fabric ties and passionate staff!

Then we headed to Sevva on the rooftop of Prince's building for a cocktail and a fantastic view of Hong Kong. The cocktails were interesting and the sunset, amazing. It is expensive but perfect for a special occasion.

Finally we met K. who moved to Hong Kong a couple of months ago for dinner at Bibo. I would highly recommend it: it is located in an old station, underground, and they managed to gather an amazing amount of art pieces. From Banksy to Kaws, and Tsang Tsoi Choi, there is a strong street art vibe displayed like an accumulation of piece, making the space a visual feast for the eye. What happens in the plate is as explosive as the decor: subtle flavors and lots of colours, I loved it! Oh, and the team is adorable!

The lessons of this 2nd day in Hong Kong:
1- don't believe everything the media say: the Umbrella revolution was nothing threatening from what I experienced. We arrived in Hong Kong at the end of the movement but there was absolutely no reason to feel unsafe, people were peacefully (and passionately) demonstrating. They were eager and happy to share but there was no violence whatsoever. And to be honest, my french revolution history background felt a lot of empathy.
2- you've got to admire Hong Kongers sense of design. The city is a mess but they find ways to make it evolve.
3- Hong Kongers have their own style. You don't see it everywhere but some of them of very edgy, in a very London way: street-style, sharp shapes and fluo colours. My favourite thing to do while seating with a drink watching people pass by was to chase the big eye contact lenses. They love it and it gives the ladies a kawai vibe that I love.

... to be continued...

I spy with my little eye... Hong Kong Diaries - Part 1!

The Gentleman and I decided to visit Hong Kong on Eid break: a revolution based on umbrellas? I had to check it out! So it started at the airport, Terminal 1, trying to board despite the endless queues and insane traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road.

We had picked a hotel with a very central location: the Pottinger. A boutique hotel in a teeny tiny street. That's one of the first things we noticed: the city is a big mismatch of everything. You will find a fancy shop next to a butcher, next to a bar, next to a furniture store. Dubai is sometimes a bit too tidy, you can't get surprised: if you're in the fashion alley at Dubai Mall, then you know it's all going to be clothes, if you are at Pier 7 in the Marina, then you know it's all going to be restaurants. In Hong Kong, you get surprised at every corner of a street, and that's very refreshing!

A tired yet happy face after a night flight.

And so off we went to explore! Coming from a city where you can't really walk, we were determined to use as little public transport as possible, so we didn't go very far, but we wandered around the neighbourhoods of Central, Wanchai and took the ferry to have a look at Hong Kong Island from the mainland. 
On our first day, we focused on Central, Hollywood Street and ended up by chance at PMQ, the new hub for creative addresses on Aberdeen Street. It was fun to wander the floors of this center once we understood how to pass from one side to an other (two brains, one building, we can do this!).

I expected to find lots of girlie shops in Hong Kong until I remembered that Kawai was a Japanese concept, not Chinese... So Bread'n Butter was pretty much an exception, a very pretty pastel chamallowlike exception though!

Don't get me wrong, we still managed to buy gifts out of a mushroom, so if you really want your daily dose of Kawai, Eat & Play is the place for you!

Soho Fama, a restaurant located in PMQ too is more representative of the Hong Kong we discovered: quirky and arty! 

Even in an arty shopping mall, we stumbled on a wedding photoshoot. And in case you were wondering: it wasn't a fashion shoot, they were whispering sweet words to each other when I stole that picture. 

Which leads us to an other favourite: The Refinery. Literally fell for these bunny caps! "A little bit difficult to wear with a straight face" as the Gentleman put it but so cute!

After (a sleepless night and) a long walk, we sat down at Libertine, a little restaurant located right in front of PMQ on Aberdeen Street, for a quick coffee before heading back to our hotel.

The lessons of this first day in Hong Kong: 
1- this city is STEEP! Now I understand why Hong Kong ladies don't wear heels: it's the best way to kill yourself.
2- if you live in Hong Kong you don't need to go to the gym: my bum and legs were hurting at specific places after walking for 2 hours up and down the city.
3- shopping is tricky: since the city is packed, lots of shops are located in the higher floors of the buildings. Which means that while you are looking down on your feet to keep your balance, you should (in theory) also look up. Being a neophyte at that looking-up-and-down thing, I chose to focus on my life rather than shopping...

... to be continued...

I spy with my little eye... Qbara the opulent.

Everybody had been talking about Qbara for the past months so one calm week-end (before everybody came back from their 3 months holiday), the gentleman and I decided to go check it out. Booking was surprisingly easy and smooth so we wondered how packed the restaurant would be on a Friday night.

It was actually busy but in a nice buzzing way. Qbara is the kind of place that will never be empty but where you can always get a table, which is perfect. The space huge but doesn't feel empty, you colour scheme is middle eastern with rich gold and purple shades but without feeling crowded (which is a miracle).

I appreciated the effort on the wine list: they definitively kept it Mediterranean with wines from Lebanon, Syria, and even Greece. I was very happy to discover something new, never had had Greek wine before!
Foodwise, the concept is to give middle eastern cuisine a gastronomical twist. It's actually surprising that no one thought about it before. I appreciated the wide menu, and the effort to make simple family dishes something more elaborate, it was tasty and surprising, even if I didn't understand everything: why in the world would you put lobster in a fried kebbe? Lobster is way too subtle a taste in my opinion to be paired with fried food, in other words: I couldn't taste anything. 

As much as I enjoyed the dinner, the deserts were the highlight of the evening with a mix of textures and spices. I knew the Middle East loved it's pastries but that confirmed it all. It was probably the first time I managed to finish deserts after a mezze!
All in all, I'm very happy I finally made it to the "best restaurant in Dubai at the moment" since I had been hearing this all summer long. I love the effort to put forward local cuisine, and I love the fact that they can do better: means plenty of surprises to come!

For more info about Qbara, visit their website: www.qbara.ae

I spy with my little eye... cha cha cha Chantelle.

When it comes to lingerie, I am very picky. So picky I actually can't remember buying a single piece of lace in Dubai in 3 years. The only underwear I can handle in the UAE is the everyday Marks and Spencer bras, I realise how sad that sounds coming from a Parisian, but this is the blunt truth. I refuse to wear cheap lace and I have declared war to ugly big flowers, therefore I am still on the hunt for high waisted panties and art deco lace, but I haven't given up yet. Hence my surprise when Chantelle sent me their new catalogue: there is some good stuff in here!

So let me show you my favourite piece!

Starting with Mouvance. Love the Art Deco vibe with the suggested shells, and the subtle grey.

In the same vibe, I liked the Vendome ensemble which made me think of burlesque 1920's performers with these big stars and golden touch. I paired it with the book I'm currently reading, and my beloved Kate Spade lipstick!

In a less retro theme and more of an everyday baroque style, this Palazzo burgundy ensemble caught my eye. For some reason I like triangle shapes, and small patterns, this model manages to be both simple and a sultry at the same time.

Finally, our cheetah Lino had a crush on the Graphic bra, looks like he has simple taste when it comes to lingerie!

I spy with my little eye... Good Magazine's blogger of the month!

Guess who's Good Magazine's blogger of the month?

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