The lost souls of Pompeii

This summer I managed to tick off a fair few items on my bucket list; Pompeii was one of them. Unfortunately, due to forest fires, we weren’t able to hike up Vesuvius and grasp the full Pompeii experience. Then again, walking amongst the ruins of that ancient city is impressive enough.

I believe it goes beyond the scope of human consciousness to envision how the people of Pompeii would have felt on that fateful day in 79AD. The words to describe the eeriness of walking amongst ruins and remains that are almost 2000 years old escape me. Yet, it would be hypocritical of me to pretend there is no way of describing Pompeii in a touristic manner. Since I like thousands of others shared ‘that’ Instagram post with the perfect hashtags for likes. As much as I hate to admit it, of course, I did! It’s in my nature as a 21st-century tourist to do so. Thus, I used my experience of Pompeii to write a short piece which I feel depicts it in a way that brings the past into the present.

‘Soul seared streets’

There are souls here.

Hidden amongst the dust and rubble.

Souls stumbled, shattered and crumbled.

Ashen faces,

laced with the horrors of nature.

Depicting the life that once existed.

The darkness encased this place,

As the clouds obscured the sun.

Yet the heat of a thousand fires was felt,

There was nowhere to run.

There are souls here.

Stopped in their tracks on that harrowing day,

As the walls came tumbling down.

Pushed and pummelled by molten rock,

From the depths of a fiery hell.

There are souls here.

Hidden amongst the rocky remnants,

Well preserved yet forsaken tenants.

Flesh and bone, now the concrete,

That lines these legendary streets.

We trample and tread where history began,

Ashy remains pave pathways where they once ran,

Now,

it’s tourists ambling, scrambling for an Instagram snap,

Who smile in the face of fury.

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Reflections on Rome: 72 hours in the Eternal City

First day in Rome.. disaster. Ok maybe that is a little dramatic, but for future reference, those little tags they give you when you check in your luggage are pretty damned important (who knew).

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So, we started our journey at Zagreb, checked in and were told to ‘re-check in’ for our connecting flight in Belgrade. Seems simple enough, right? However, I seemed to have misplaced my luggage tag when the moment came to check in for our Rome flight. No bother, I thought since luggage should, (I repeated SHOULD) have final destination stickers on it. We mentioned it at check in and the lady didn’t seem too concerned and so off we went to board our next flight. Now, Kristina was pretty mad at me for losing the tag, but I assured her “you don’t really need those anyway”‘… hmm, cue the well-deserved “I TOLD YOU SO” a couple of hours later on arrival in Rome.

Ok, maybe not a couple, she suppressed the urge long enough for me to dry my sodden cheeks in the taxi, after realising my suitcase was not on the luggage conveyor, in fact it didn’t even board our connection. My suitcase was floating around somewhere in Belgrade airport (I hoped and prayed) since the lady in Lost & Found assured me that I didn’t have any luggage in the first place! Never mind, we decided to continue to suitcase search at the hotel.

The hotel was rather basic but homely, with a lift that made you fearful of the twilight zone every time you entered; but with heavy suitcases (ok, suitcase for now) 6 flights of steep stairs were much less welcoming. On arrival to the room, we tried every means of contacting Belgrade and Air Serbia, with little success via phone and so an email was sent, in Croatian in hopes that they’d pick it up in time for me to locate my case before we left Rome!

Low and behold, half an hour later, there it was! An email stating my case would be sent on the next flight that evening! Hallelujah! Straight out of the door and on to figuring out the cheapest way back to the airport via an amazing pizza place of course. Yes, I had picked out a hotel located 200m from Pinsere, an award winning pizzeria that serves the best pizza I have ever experienced. No, this is not an exaggeration, read the other 1000+ trip advisors that say so too. We tried their championship winning pancetta, pumpkin and provolone pizza; It was insanely good and just what we needed to numb the pain of the impending airport journey.

Anyway, long story, short, I was reunited with my suitcase and only an afternoon of potential toursiting was lost! When we eventually arrived back in Rome at around 9pm, exhausted and starving we hobbled to a street side restaurant for dinner accompanied by a much-needed glass of wine. Carbonara and tomato pasta was served by attentive waiters and the wine was wonderful. Well-fed we headed back to the hotel for an early night in hopes of beginning our second day in Rome.

Day two began with an early alarm in preparation for our trip to Vatican City. The Vatican was located around 30 minutes from the hotel on foot and via metro-line which gave us the perfect chance pick up pastries from the patisserie close to the hotel. We negotiated our way onto the correct metro and managed to ear-wig directions from a local Italian lady which placed us on the right track to the Vatican, arriving just in time for our slot. Thank the Lord we had booked online, as the touts were out in full force and the queues were insane. Considering we had booked for a 9 am arrival, those without tickets must have already been there for a considerable amount of time.

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The Vatican museums are something not to be missed; a labyrinth of rooms and hallways in which to lose yourself. At one point, we actually did want to leave and still managed to get lost inside another 3 or 4 galleries. The architecture of the museum is something to be admired, with wide, spiralling stone staircases, columns and marble flooring, and walls lined with rich tapestries that leave you in awe before you’ve even reached the exhibitions. The museums are split into art galleries and rooms filled with artefacts dating to early ancient Egypt and Rome.

There are incredible displays of Egyptian and Roman artefacts from vases and sculptures to mummies inside their crypts. The hieroglyphics carved into stone dating back thousands of years left us awestruck, along with the perfectly persevered corpses wrapped in their protective bandages and placed delicately behind glass for hundreds upon hundreds of visitors to behold daily.

We made our way through the galleries, past the tapestries depicting religious moments of importance and on towards the Sistine Chapel. Not before coming across the highlight of my visit, our visit; “that is one sassy baby!” I exclaimed in reaction to a painting of what I believe to be baby Jesus and Mary. Kristina did not look impressed until she turned to behold the image for herself. I will let you all be the judge of this one, but seriously Jesus is full of sass in this painting, just look at that swagger; blasphemous as it might be.IMG-20170910-WA0007

Anyway, moving past the hilarity of my observation we made our way to the Sistine Chapel, which is immeasurably impressive. We were ushered in through the crowds and simultaneously hushed by security as a mark of respect for such a holy place. Not that this impacted on the hundreds of tourists squeezed inside, who continued to chatter and take sneaky snaps of the imposing ceiling artistry. I believed a little light should have been allowed in and suggested to Kristina that they draw back the curtains (the walls are covered in murals of curtains); she was not highly amused, unsure whether I was trying to be funny or just confused. I can assure you it was the former. We spent a good while inside eyeing the extraordinary work of Michelangelo before moving out and on towards the latter parts of the museums. At this point, after close to 3 or maybe 4 hours of wandering, we were more than ready to find some new, old buildings and artefacts to look upon.

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We found our way out of the maze that is that Vatican, blinding ourselves when emerging into the midday sun to embark on our next point of interest. St Peter’s Basilica was within close proximity and thus the most logical step on our trip. Stocking up on water and ice cream, we made our way down the cobbled streets towards St Peter’s Square where we were greeted by a queue that snaked in between the vast stone columns and around the square. We joined hesitantly, melting in the midday heat and waiting as slowly but surely the queue diminished and we reached the Basilica’s entrance within a little under twenty minutes. The Basilica is impressive and beyond, having been completed in 1626 as a reconstruction of the original 4th-century Basilica. It is home to over 100 tombs containing the remains of past Popes including the largely debated remains of St Peter himself; the world’s first Pope. There is also a Bronze statue of St Peter on display, whose origin remains largely debated. It is custom to rub or kiss his foot on passing which is a closely followed tradition made apparent by the smoothed-out surface of the right foot when compared to the perfectly preserved left. One of the most recognisable and notable parts of the Basilica is the Baldacchino that towers 96-feet over the main altar and is made entirely from bronze that is said to have been taken from the roof of the Pantheon.

On leaving the Basilica, we headed towards Castel Sant’Angello also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian; a cylindrical building overlooking the river Tiber. Instead of continuing our pursuit of Roman relics, we decided it was time for some lunch and picked out an idyllic spot at the bottom of Ponte Sant’Angello. We chose a small Italian eatery along the banks of the Tiber; the Tevere as known locally. Here was the perfect place to rest weary legs and refuel with more pasta of course! Whilst enjoying lunch at a leisurely pace we had the opportunity to plan our next stop which meant we didn’t plan at all. A busy morning of sticking to schedule left us thirsty for the chance to wander the streets of Rome aimlessly just taking in the surrounding atmosphere.

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Deciding to give the tour of Castel Sant’Angello a miss we headed across Ponte Sant’Angello (perfect tourist snap material) and towards the network of tiny side streets on the other side. Well away from the tourist traps of Vatican city and central Rome we stumbled across boutique stores and wine shops as well as small art galleries selling vintage prints. The streets began to widen as we approached Campo di Fiori a small public square south of Piazza Navona. Unfortunately, we’d arrive mid-afternoon and so too late for the famous food market, nonetheless, there was something else to draw us into spending a little more time there; The Drunken Ship. This is an American owned bar that sits in an ideal people watching location on the corner of Campo di Fiori. Prosecco in hand we whiled away a little time watching locals and tourists milling around and taking in the atmosphere before making actual plans for our next move.

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The Victor Emmanuel II Monument was our next destination, a monument that dominates the Piazza Venezia and in Kristina’s opinion is ‘the most beautiful building in Rome. Unfortunately, there are many who do not share this opinion giving the monument less flattering descriptions such as the ‘Wedding Cake’ or “Typewriter”. The monument is built entirely from stunning white marble and features a huge staircase leading up to a colonnade. It also features the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the bottom and of course, a Statue of Victor Emmanuel himself above the tomb. Due to the time, we had reached the monument we were unable to board the glass elevator to the rooftop, leaving us to plan time to slot the visit into one of our other days. Instead, we hiked back down the staircase and round to the right of the building to take on another slight climb to reach Capitoline Hill.

Capitoline Hill is the smallest of the seven hills of Rome and overlooks the Roman Forum. Since we had reached the peak gone sunset, there was little option to explore Capitoline Museum, not that we needed to fit anymore history into our day! We spent a little time wandering around the square, sitting people watching and eyeing the Capitoline Wolf sculpture, before embarking on our journey back towards the hotel; exhausted. We made a promise to return to Capitoline square should we have the chance over the next couple of days or trip. The journey back to the hotel was a long and steady trek, but impressively, we didn’t get lost once. Reaching the hotel at around 9 pm, we’d made plans to grab some Pinsere Pizza and an early night. Unfortunately, the people of Rome do not appear to value the need for late night (I say late, is 9 pm late?) pizza and so our plans were scuppered by a closed pizzeria. Thus, it was on to find the nearest shop (not easy, at 9 pm in Rome) and gather some goodies to satisfy hungry stomachs until the morning.

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We started the next day with breakfast, (if you can call croissants and Cannoli breakfast) at Il Sicilani, a small café on the corner down from our hotel. We then headed off to the Colosseum to begin our day of visiting the Ancient sites of Rome. On arrival at 9 am the queues were already of considerable length, yet moving quickly and so avoiding tours and ticket touts we made our way to the entrance. A ticket to the Colosseum affords you entrance into the Forum and Palatine Hill. The Colosseum is magnificent, despite the picture you build up in you head based on films like Gladiator and google images, nothing quite prepares you for the sheer size and architecture of the structure. We ambled around the pathways dodging the camera flashes of awestruck tourists before I found the ideal place to get a proper panoramic shot; albeit a bit of a climb! Clambering up some of the stone steps and holding on to the not so ancient iron railings I was able to stand above the crowds to really take in the area. Despite the sheer size and grand nature of the Colosseum, I did believe the 45-60 minutes we spent there were more than enough to fulfil the experience and was ready to push on to our next stop.

The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are accessible via the same place and conjoined, much to our confusion as we left the Forum before seeing Palatine first time around. Thankfully a very nice security lady allowed us back in despite our tickets being void; this was our first tourist mistake of the trip (the luggage debacle, long forgotten). The Forum is home to a plethora of ancient ruins and was once the epicentre of Roman life. Walking amongst the ruins is almost surreal as we attempted to imagine how life looked thousands of years ago. The Arco di Settimio Severo towers 23m over the forum and is one of the most notable ruins along with the various temples, including that of Saturn, built in 497 BC. The whole area is filled with an almost mind-blowing history; it really is nigh on impossible to get your head around the idea of standing on the same grounds as Cesar once roamed.

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The Forum leads on to Palatine hill which is the centermost of the hills of Rome. The hill stands above the Roman Forum and overshadows Circus Maximus on the opposite side. The hill, along with the form is shrouded in greenery with foliage creeping up through the cracks in and around the ancient ruins. This area of Rome is not to be missed and is well worth the 1000s of steps spent getting lost in and amongst the ruins. Of course, we spent a good few hours getting lost amongst the amongst the ruins and shrubbery baking in the midday heat and posing for typical tourist selfies and candid explorer pics before deciding it was time to move on in search of lunch.

As previously mentioned, sight-seeing is hungry work, not to mention in Rome where our average midday step count was well over 15,000. Thus, we went in search of Piazza Navona and the Pantheon with feeding intentions are the forefront of our minds. The Piazza was about a 20-minute walk from the ruins through the busier metropolitan areas of the city. We traversed a network of main and side streets before finding one leading up towards the pantheon. This particular street was filled with small tavernas, cafes and bars each offering tourists specials and traditional dishes. After a rather heated debate on where to eat (decision making is not my strong point), we sat a cute place towards the far end of the street. The food was good, both deciding on salmon gnocchi and the entertainment in the form of a slightly intoxicated waiter kept us well amused.

After taking our time over lunch, we decided to spend the afternoon lurking around Piazza Navona, people watching and exploring the Pantheon. The sheer size of the Pantheon dominates its surroundings, an architectural phenomenon steeped in over 2000 years of history; another fact one struggles to get my head around. It is almost perfectly preserved from the 60-ton columns to the oculus in the centre which allows light into an otherwise darkened building. Inside it is clearly a place of worship as we were hushed on entry where as hundreds of people milled around, some toursiting, some in prayer. The Pantheon is another one of those must-see Rome attractions, yet I’m still unsure if even now I can understand the real magnitude of it.

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After fighting our way through the crowds to leave the Pantheon, we headed toward Navona for a chilled early evening wander around and possibly another ice-cream; when in Rome and all! The Piazza is one of the largest in Rome and a very popular tourist destination since it houses the imposing Fountain of four rivers in its centre. We spent a little time wandering around the piazza before deciding it was time to head back to the hotel via the Spanish steps; not the original plan but my not-so awesome map reading skills led us there! Even so, from our brief encounter, I can assure you that the architecture of this beautiful roman district is something you should experience at a slower pace; there really is no need to reenact Rocky!

After a walk that took 75%, no, 100% longer than originally planned we arrive back at the hotel and in no mood to head back out. Thankfully, Pisere was open allowing us to brood over two distinctly wonderful and different pizzas, one with artichokes and another decorated with zucchini flowers. A cheeky little vino was also purchased to accompany our in-room feasting and then it was off with the lights to get some shut eye ahead of our final day!

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Our third and final day in Rome began with a trip to Villa Borghese, a landscaped garden and public park containing numerous buildings, sculptures and a man-made lake in the centre. The park is a world away from the busy streets of Rome, traffic noise and the general hum of civilisation. Instead, there is the faint sound of birds, the rustling of grass in the summer breeze and near silence in comparison. The park is also home to Galleria Borghese, one of the world’s most famous art galleries. Since we had viewed many an ancient monument and museum on our trip we decided to opt out of this one and spend a little more time admiring the natural beauty of the park and wander down to the lake. The lake is home to a variety of wildlife from birds to turtles floating along its surface attempting to dodge the rowing boats lazily passing by. Despite, looking like a fun way to spend a few minutes, we decided the heat was a little too hefty to rent out a boat and instead enjoyed sitting amongst the trees in the shaded areas.

After greater exploration of the park, we found ourselves at the Terrazza del Pincio, Pincian Hill which overlooks Piazza Del Popolo and offers the most stunning views over the city of Rome. Here we fell victim to an obvious tourist trap as a man thrust a rose into our hands and a cotton bracelet around our wrists, whispering something about luck from Africa as he secured it tightly. Yes, we had been officially had, and after bartering him down to two Euros (it was literally all we had) for items we definitely did not want, he disappeared in search of more women to scam with his good luck serenade. Never mind, roses made for excellent photo props in one of the most picturesque and romantic spots in the Eternal City.

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Paparazzi session over we headed down to Pizza Del Popolo to admire the ancient obelisk that towers above its centre. The obelisk is said to date back to 1300 BC and was moved to Rome from Heliopolis on Emperor Agustus’ orders. If made its way into the Piazza from Circus Maximus in 1589 and has stood there ever since. The Piazza leads on to Via Flaminia a road built in 220 BC connecting Rome to the Adriatic, and two hungry tourists to their lunch destination of choice, well almost! After three days in Rome and minimal consultation of restaurant guides and reviews, we decided it was time to make an informed decision about our final days eating schedule, after all, it was one of the things that attracted us to Italy in the first place. We’d chosen to eat at Edoardo II, a small and cosy boutique restaurant, conveniently located on the other side of the city! Thus, we had just enough time to make a pit stop by the Trevi Fountain without risking starvation.

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The Trevi fountain doesn’t need a big introduction or elaborate description, its domination of the Piazza di Trevi speaks volumes. Showcasing the Greek god Oceanus often mistake for Neptune, the fountain is one of the most visited places in Rome. We stopped for a little while to admire the incredible architecture of the fountain before the bustle of the crowds reminded us it was time to move on and find our lunch spot.

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Edoardo II is a quirky yet cosy restaurant located not too far from Kristina’s favourite Victor Emmanuel monument and nestled in the corner of a dainty side street. Inside, the place is decorated with bright pinks, flamboyant paintings, glitzy ornaments and chandeliers decorated with top hats and more. The owners and hosts are almost as loud as the décor and made for an entertaining and noteworthy late lunch. We shared a carafe of house white to accompany mussels followed by seafood risotto and pasta; easily the best meal we’d experience in Rome. Finishing the meal with an espresso to perk us up for our final tourist stop; the glass lift of the Victor Emmanuel monument.

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Yes, since we missed out on a visit to the rooftop of the monument on our first day in Rome, we’d decided there was no way we could leave without taking a trip to the top. Reaching the glass elevator requires a hike up the front steps of the monument which is no mean feat in the late afternoon heat. The elevator fits around 12 people in and the lines were very short making the visit much better than expected; the view from the top is amazing, a 360° view of the city. The ancient ruins of the Colosseum and Roman forum can be seen on one side, whilst the dome of St Peter’s Basilica is in sight on the other. We spent a good half an hour atop, taking in the view and resting our weary legs, 3 full days in Rome had resulted in over 60km walked! Finishing up our last day in Rome we headed back to the hotel to relax before planning a visit to Harry’s Bar for farewell cocktails that evening.

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Harry’s Bar is an internationally renowned bar in Rome’s Via Veneto district and it is easy to see why. Situated on the busy main road, it stands out from the small boutique stores and hotel eateries close by. We had spotted Harry’s on our walk to Villa Borghese earlier that day and were intrigued enough to visit. It features in the 1960 film ‘Dolce Vita’ and the atmosphere of the 60s transcends through the place from the black and white film laced décor to the tuxedo clad waiters. We took a seat outside and ordered two Rossini’s; champagne cocktails infused with strawberry liqueur. The cocktails were extremely good and the atmosphere better. We sipped our drinks to the sounds of Sinatra and chatted about our Roman adventure the clocked told us it was time to head back; tomorrow we had a 5 am alarm and a train to Pompeii.

Overall, our time in Rome was short but memorable; the streets are made to be walked for weeks not days and I believe there is still so much left to discover. Away from the ruins and museums, Rome has so much more to offer. My favourite moments were not those spent exploring the remains of temples and amphitheatres but those spent resting our feet on park benches, cloud watching and enjoying the sounds of the city. When not focused on travelling from A to B to see the next big tourist attraction, our times wandering through forgotten side streets and quiet back roads made our Rome trip complete. Of course, the history is enthralling and captivates the imagination but it’s the atmosphere and pace of Italian life that is sure to draw us back to the Eternal City.

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24 hours in Zagreb: Zoos, Views & Broken Relationships

 

esplandeAfter 16 hours of travelling the Esplanade’s hotel lobby was more than a welcomed sight. The prior journey had been a little more harrowing than expected, made bearable by the makeshift bed we’d set up in Belgrade’s departure lounge much to the bewilderment of onlookers. The Esplanade is a beautifully decorated art-deco style hotel located in the centre of Zagreb. The hotel is a world away from the modern and often garish décor of many of the Dubai hotels with a much homelier feel.

Despite our late arrival, we had reason celebrate and an even greater need to feed impatient stomachs and so it was straight out to explore the city. Now without sounding too dramatic; it was freezing! Like seriously, whoever was responsible for the thermostat in that city needed some serious employee training! Ok, so 22 degrees isn’t necessarily Arctic, but us desert dwellers have grown accustomed to temperatures that’d make Satan draw a sweat, so allow for my dramatisation.  Thus, we huddled together and filled the night air with chattering teeth and half-hearted complaints. I’m pretty sure she is more English than me in that department!

 

As we moved through the streets of Zagreb the roads were relatively silent, the sounds of a music festival at nearby Zrinjevac park drowning out the minimal traffic noise present. As we passed the park, there were people drinking and dancing out of the grass, a rare sight for us Dubaians. The walk had warmed us up a little and by the time we had reached Tkalčićeva Street we were happy to search for a table on the outside on the main street. Tkalčićeva is a lively and eclectic area of Zagreb, lined with pubs, bars and coffee shops filled with al-fresco diners.

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Sitting down at Mali Medo (Little Bear) it was time to order some much-needed food and home-made beer. The food was good, traditional fayre of turkey steak and veggies but the beer was even better. Of course, all kinds of beers are available in Dubai with a hefty price tag, but there is nothing quite like a dark ale fresh from the brewery, the type only available in Europe! We drank our ale and listened to the merry chatter of locals and tourists alike. Before long it was time to head home and catch some sleep ahead of a very busy day.

 

The next morning, after a breakfast accompanied by champagne (well, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere as the saying goes) we were well fuelled and ready for a day in the city. The temperature was a little balmier than the previous night, beyond comfortable ‘t-shirt weather’ as us Brits would call it, sunshine and hardly a cloud in sight. We made out way through smaller side streets into the main square before hopping on to a tram to our first stop; the zoo!

 

digLocated in Maksimir park, the zoo is shrouded in greenery and appears much more eco-friendly than your average museum of caged animals. With a tiny entrance fee of just 30 kunas (around 4 Euros), it’s well worth a visit. On entry, there are bridges crossing a lake filled with turtles, swans, pelicans and other wildlife providing more of a sanctuary type atmosphere. The zoo is split into various sections showcasing everything from wild cats, hippos and the endangered red-pandas to the ever so cheeky meerkats. Luckily, we arrived at feeding time, which was entertainment in itself. I actually pride myself on not slipping one of the little fellows into my backpack before leaving, but then again smuggling a mini mongoose around Europe is probably not well-advised and so Pedro the minion will remain our only non-human companion.

 

On leaving the zoo, we had a relaxing stroll around the park before heading back into the city. Parks & greenery are something us Europeans often take

maks parkfor granted. Yet, now coming from a part of the world where greenery is a luxury, trees and their inhabitants are somewhat fascinating and a welcomed change from the desolate desert or sky-scraping scenery that often accompanies UAE road trips. Maksimir Park is the oldest public park in Zagreb and a cultural heritage site. The beautiful and tranquil surroundings of pathways, lakes & gardens made for a pleasant break from the city, but with only one day to explore Zagreb our time was precious and so we made our way back to the tram for the next stop.

 

 

Outside of the park’s gate, the proximity to Stadion Maksimir home of the capital’s football team Dinamo Zagreb is very much apparent. Fences and walls along the walkways are adorned with graffiti signed off by the Bad Blue Boys (BBB); a set of ‘ultras’ who support the football club. This graffiti bears heavy presence around the city and the outskirts, with one tram even sporting the club’s crest and the signature of their footballing worshipers.

 

The tram brought us to Jelačić square where we moved off towards the upper part of the city; Gornji Grad. The upper town is the oldest part of Zagreb and is a network of small streets lined with interesting bars and cafes as well as housing the famous Museum of Broken Relationships which was a fast approaching stop on our tour. Nonetheless, tram hopping and exploring zoos is thirsty work and so it was almost too convenient to find a cute little craft ale and wine bar sitting above the cobbled streets of the upper town. Sitting on the terrace overlooking the streets below it was the perfect spot to recharge and reflect on our busy morning whilst sipping on an ice-cold beer.

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Refreshed and recharged, we spent a little time wandering through the streets of Gornji Grad making our way to St Marks square. St Mark’s Church is one of the most photographed sites in Zagreb and with good reason. Its colourful tiled roof was constructed in the late 19th century and displays the medieval coat of arms of Croatia on the left side and the city’s emblem on the right. After grabbing a token selfie, we moved on further towards the edge of upper town to the famous viewpoint where the whole city can be seen below. The view here is phenomenal and really highlights the depth and history of the city, an area that cannot and should not be missed on any visit here!

 

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As mentioned previously, the city is not shy of graffiti, yet there is much more to the city’s  wall art than the scrawls of football hooligans across bus stops. In upper town, street art consists of everything from a giant humpback whale floating along the side of an abandoned building to tributes to Croatian engineer Eduard Penkala and the lesser known (rolls eyes in sarcasm) Nikola Tesla. Street art is something that makes the city feel alive and a little more real than other places I have visited. Coming from Manchester, where we home some of the best street art in Europe (in my humble opinion), the street art in Zagreb makes this city feel more familiar and homely.

 

davThe Museum of Broken Relationships is a quirky museum housed in the centre of upper town. The museum was founded by two Croatian artists as a display of the articles left over from their own broken down relationship. Showcased within the museum are hundreds of mementoes that have been donated by people from around the world.  Objects range from a stiletto from a Dutch Prostitute and a positive heroin drugs test to a cuddly centipede with half its legs torn off. Other interesting and thought-provoking exhibits include a mother’s suicide note; the museum’s focus is not exclusively linked to the break down of romantic relationships. Exhibits are accompanied by stories explaining the significance of each object and the length and type of relationship it has survived.  The museum is an extremely interesting concept and provides an insight into strangers’ darkest and most intimate moments, something a little different to your average exhibitions of old art and medieval memorabilia.

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By the time we left the museum it was moving rapidly towards sunset and time for dinner. Luckily for us, the area is filled with small tavernas and traditional restaurants and so it didn’t take us too long to stumble upon Laterna na Dolcu. The restaurant served amazing local cuisine with outstanding service from an attentive waiter. We dined on Strukle, a traditional Croatian dish of baked dough filled with cottage cheese and wrapped in pancetta; perfect. This was followed by Dalmatian ‘pržolica’; steak served with swiss chard accompanied by a beautiful bottle of local Grasevina white wine.  The food was amazing (yes I know I’ve already said it, but it really was that good) and the wine would put up a good fight with the best. It was just what we needed after a hard day’s touristing with still a few more sites to see.

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Well wined and dined, it was time to make our way towards one of the final stops on the tourist map; the Museum of Illusions. Now trust me, a bottle of wine, places an interesting spin on this particular museum, which is made to confuse the senses of even the soberest humans. The museum is located on Ilica, the main shopping street running through the centre of the city. It holds various displays made to play with the perceptions and deceive and confuse the senses. A particular favourite of mine was the infinity room which almost had me leaving with a reflection rather than the real Kristina! Whereas the anti-gravity room only amplified the effects of the earlier vino, leaving us both a little more tipsy than when we’d entered.  After experimenting with beheading and almost landing a role in ”The Borrowers” in the chair illusion, we decided it was time to move on to our final and most important stop of the day; ice cream!

 

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Yes, we finished our 24 hours in Zagreb like any self-respecting adult would, by visiting an ice cream parlour on our way back to the hotel. The Vincek family cake and ice cream shop is one of the oldest in Zagreb and is extremely popular with locals and tourists, and it isn’t hard to see or taste why. The flavours span from your average chocolates and vanillas to the more adventurous ‘Vincek’; a mix of walnuts, honey, wine and white and dark chocolate. Easily one of the best ice creams I have had and the perfect way to end our day in Zagreb.

Overall, despite being brief, my 24 hours in Zagreb accompanied by my very own tour guide (thank you Kristina ) has left me very much excited for my next visit. The city has so much to offer and I feel like my short trip has only allowed me to touch the surface if that. Of course, we hit many of the city’s major tourist attractions and some hidden gems, but I believe there is no doubt much more to uncover in the vibrant and history-drenched city.

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Satirical Slaughter of the fitness ‘Profession’

 

After writing, submitting and performing a rather melancholic piece at the first 9Hirji spoken word event, I decided to take a lighter approach to my writing for last Friday’s event. I am only too familiar with basing my writing, whether it be poems or prose on a solemn subject matter and so toying with humour is somewhat of a more challenging affair. I played with a lot of topics for this event and wrote numerous lines, complete and incomplete pieces but nothing really felt right.

It was only when I stopped really thinking and glanced aimlessly through my Facebook and Instagram feeds that the idea hit me. As a fitness fanatic with pretty extensive knowledge and experience of competing at an elite level, nothing grinds on me more than these get-fit-quick schemes and Instagram ‘like’ whores. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t see someone touting the latest diet phenomenon or sensationalising basic work-out principles; Juiceplus and Herbalife, Caveman diets and 60-second ab workouts. Last week I even read something about Breatharianism, yes, a diet on which people exist solely on air alone…AIR. If only someone could direct this Breatharian lifestyle to the millions affected by world hunger we could put OXFAM and Feed the Children out of business.19452985_1868872706766486_222520762331115035_o

Nonetheless, before I get onto my soapbox so-to-speak and rant about the diabolical nature the multi-million-pound diet and fitness industry, I’ll get to the point. During my Facebook flicking and Instagramming, I started to word vomit a few lines of what would become my piece for the 9Hirji event. This piece attempts to tear into the morality of the modern fitness industry and highlight the fickle nature of many “qualified” personal trainers. It is a satirical and sarcastic attempt to reveal the truth behind the filtered fitness profession; one I feel passionate and at times genuinely pissed-off about.

 

It is definitely more of a performance piece, so I’m not entirely sure how it will read, but take from it what you will:

 

 

“First of the year, sign you up, new you, new me, new us,

Pull on those joggers, lace up those trainers it’s time to see what all the fuss…

Is about down in new gymnasium, the one with the fancy machines.

The one that steals half of your pay cheque and swallows up half of your dreams.”

 

“Rise and shine.

Drag your arse out of bed, the avocado won’t smash itself.

Glug down the green mixture, with the slimiest texture,

I swear it is good for your health.”

 

“Step up, step down and repeat again,

You’ll get used to it I swear.

Yes, it’s monotonous.

Yes, it’s mundane.

But listen, I don’t really care.”

 

“Sign up right now to my 60-day plan and commit to some cheese grater abs,

Biceps and triceps, lats and traps, and the coveted Kardashian ass.

Sign up for 90, I’ll throw in a shaker and some Instagram filter lessons,

Cos face it, that matters more than my cut and paste gym sessions.”

 

“Now, Get on the treadmill and up the pace, before we move on to some Zumba,

Cross fit you say?

Show me your snatch,

Don’t forget to dip before going under,

Now hit 50 reps in 60 secs and don’t stop until your back starts to burn,

If it ain’t hurting, it ain’t working,

And no, you don’t get no desert.”

 

“Well, maybe on your cheat days, I’ll throw in a couple of Krispy Kremes,

Let you take five guys to Maccy Ds,

As long as 6 out of 7 you’re eating ‘clean’,

My plan will give you the body of your dreams.”

 

“No, I’m not lying, my transformations tell the story,

Photo-shopped and filtered in all their glory.

No, you don’t have those abs or tiny waist.

But you gotta admit, the lighting’s great!”

 

“Fake?

Of course, it’s not fake, just like this shake,

Juice plus,

Slim without the fuss

30-day guarantee,

If it doesn’t work,

You’ll get the next month free.”

 

“Lose a few pounds, drop a dress size,

Reward yourself with extra fries.

A burger, some nachos and a diet coke,

Watch your money go up in smoke.”

 

“Start Monday, new week, new you,

Back on the waggon, round two.

Those shakes seemed to work, my plan was just right.

Show me your money, don’t put up a fight.”

 

“Step up, step down and repeat again,

You’ll get used to it I swear.

Yes, it’s monotonous.

Yes, it’s mundane.

But listen, I don’t really care.”

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Images courtesy of Dubai Poetics and photographer Myriam Nehmeh  instagram.com/mashrou3_suwar

 

 

Finding my way back to writing…

Since work has now decided to slowly subside, or maybe I have started to place less emphasis on the importance of work, (more likely the latter!), I have decided to restart my blog. Don’t expect any breakthrough moments of brilliance or anything of key importance. This is just simply a regurgitation of my weekly, ok maybe monthly (let’s not make too much of a commitment eh) goings on as I try to amble through adult life in the desert.

Last week was a turning point for me; I found my way back into the world of writing as I stumbled across the Dubai Poetics group on Facebook. In excitement, I hastened to join the workshop that was taking place in Dubai Mall on Tuesday evening, expecting it to be a discussion of writing styles, techniques and genres. However, on receiving confirmation of my attendance, I was asked to submit a piece of my own poetry or writing for discussion; shock horror! Of course, I have pieces that I have written over the years but where were they? Nowhere to be found amongst the thousands of files on my laptop and hard drive. In panic, I decided it was time to start writing something new.

I took on a piece that I had begun a long time ago. Two stanzas were briefly played with, but the topic of the piece was something that lies very close to the heart. Thus, I never really got around to finishing It back then, as I guess the emotions at the time were a little too raw. Anyway, I pulled up the first part and spent an hour or so battling with a mix of emotion and writer’s block before coming up with my first drafted article. Using the same refrain throughout it was easy to piece together the topic and create an almost melancholic story. I say almost, because I don’t want my pieces to mournful or filled with sorrow, yet this particular piece left me with little other options.

The workshop itself turned out to be an eye-opening and insightful experience. I have written blogs, poems and excerpts in the past but never with an intention to perform the pieces. Spoken word is something I’ve only ever watched or listened to on Youtube or the radio and so it was interesting to meet those with much more than and as little experience as I have. Sharing our texts helped me to understand how my work may be interpreted by others and the difference it makes to only reading it myself. The power of punctuation really is more than just a cliché!

I decided to attend Friday’s spoken word event to get a feel for the performances and gauge the suitable topics (we are in the UAE after all!). I had no intention of performing myself, with hopes of leaving that until next Friday’s event, when I had a little more time to prepare. Nonetheless, the event was drawing to a close with around 20 minutes left for an open mic session. I felt that slight buzz of nervousness and hesitation as my brain ticked over the thought of performing. I had a few pieces in mind but none but the most recently written one to hand. It wasn’t memorised and not really written to perform. Yet I’d shared the piece to receive great reviews at the workshop and so that gave me a little confidence to volunteer myself. Seconds later, I found myself stood in the 9Hijri Exhibition in the middle of Dubai Mall’s Souk, performing my first ever spoken word piece. A little shaky at first,  the finger-clicks throughout my performance calmed by nerves and reassured me that I’d made the right decision.

I love writing, I have shied away from it for much too long now allowing life to get in the way a little too often. Writing has always been quite a private thing for me. I’m not talking deepest darkest secrets and confessions, private. But private in a word vomit kind of way. Sometimes it’s nice to throw all of your thoughts onto paper because the ink is much less transient than a feeling. It’s nice to revisit written prose and to reflect and gain clarity on a situation. I love writing, poems, short stories, diary pieces and excerpts. I’ve tried and succeeded in written word publication but now I think it’s time to challenge myself further. Joining in on Friday has given me a little more motivation for writing and much more motivation for Spoken Word. Hopefully, I can use my time out here in the sandbox to gain much more than just motivation.

Anyway, enough of discussing my innermost thoughts and feelings on my new love of Spoken Word. Here’s the piece I shared on Friday… in case you’re interested that is!

I’ll let you make your own conclusions and interpretations…

“Age is a terrible thing”

Physical decline, mental frustration,
Infantile mannerisms return as the days hasten.
A fragile frame, with the same soul existing.
Age is a terrible thing.

A shadow, a shell, a hollow and muted memory,
He sits in his armchair, watching in misery,
The clock ticks deafeningly on.

A gallant old gentleman with stories untold,
Now lost in the abyss, as the memories grow cold.
Age is a terrible thing.

Memories of walking hand in hand to the park,
I remember those eyes, crystalline, blue,
I remember those eyes before the onslaught of the dark,
I remember those times, if only he could too.

So full of energy at times, but others he’s spent, finished.
Days go by, all signs of life, diminished.
Age is a terrible thing.

He once was my best friend, now I’m unsure,
Now he doesn’t recognise me, sometimes, when I walk through the door.
Sometimes there is a glimmer, a flicker of him,
Sometimes there is a smile, a laugh or a grin.

He is healthy, he is strong, he is sound of mind,
A young man, a young soul that now lays confined.
Age is a terrible thing.

His stories light up his eyes, they light up my days,
His smile is infectious and his mood cascades.
With a flick of a switch he is home, he is here,
With a flick of a switch, he is gone.

He is tired, he is weary, he is ready to depart,
I am afraid, I am selfish, I can’t let go in my heart.
Age is a terrible thing.

 

 

Mountains, Monkeys and Momos- A Nepali Adventure

So Kathmandu, where to begin? From the second we stepped off the plane it was mind-blowing. The temperature was much milder than expected, sunny yet cool with a slight chill as the wind blew across the tarmac but nowhere near the big freeze, Kristina was clearly expecting! Well, that was for the time being anyway, we were soon to find out that us desert dwellers aren’t quite cut out for a December trip to Nepal, despite the frantic last-minute shopping trip for hats, scarves, and jackets.

Anyway enough about the weather (I’ll bore you with more whines later), and more about the experience that was our airport pick up. We were greeted by a hotel representative outside the small airport terminal and guided, in between traffic, to our mighty carriage; a small indefinable car with rugs on the backseat and a distinct lack of passenger seatbelts, never mind, “when in Rome” as they say. Then again, Rome has traffic lights, lane separators, and traffic laws, which are clearly lacking across Nepal. The drive through busy Kathmandu to even busier Thamel was pupil dilating; roads filled with buses, trucks, scooters and bikes dashing this way and that to avoid pedestrians and the occasional cow (yes, you did read that correctly), since sidewalks and pavements were filled with Nepali locals selling everything from clothing to your fruit and two veg.

Arriving at the hotel, we were thrilled to find out we had been upgraded to a suite room and having been assured this was one of the best in the hotel we eagerly climbed the several flights of stairs to reach our room. This was where the real fun began… FREEZING!!! The room was absolutely freezing, despite the almost balmy outside temperatures, we had entered an igloo, cue using the AC unit as a heater and blocking all sources of a draft with excess bed sheets. Yes, we did stuff the window vents with a comforter to block out the cold air and nope, this was not an excessive measure.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the local area and coming to terms with the absolute lawlessness that is the roads of Thamel. I would not be exaggerating if I mentioned almost dying on more than one occasion, motorbikes and taxis do not slow down for dithering, unfamiliar tourists, neither do rickshaws for that matter.

Once we’d done a little exploring, we made it back to our igloo for a nanny nap only to find ourselves being serenaded by the sounds of Bob Marley coming from the ‘Irish bar’ across the way. Nonetheless, we did manage a little shut-eye before donning all of the layers and heading out to explore Thamel by night. Since the Irish bar was so close by we decided to give it a go only to find ourselves emerging onto a half built rooftop (no sign of a bar) and in the company of around 10 hippie-types surrounding a trashcan-esque fire; now that explains the Marley family soundtrack! Giving this party a quick swerve we found ourselves heading deeper into Thamel ending up on the rooftop of the Reggae Bar accompanied by a great sounding Nepali band, shisha, and decent local beers… result!

We began day two with a trip to Kathmandu Durbar square; one of the major tourist attractions of the city. Having come to terms with the traffic (sort of) we found it much easier to negotiate our way through the small and sometimes rubble-filled streets. One thing that struck me whilst walking through the streets of Thamel was the sheer energy that filled the atmosphere; whether it was street sellers vying for our attention, taxis and rickshaws squeezing through the narrow alleyways, kids making their daily commute to school or people evidently rebuilding their homes and businesses in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake, there was a constant buzz.

Durbar square was a humbling experience; the history within those streets is overwhelming, despite the vast amounts of damage inflicted by the earthquakes. We were given an excellent guided tour through the history of the square, a lesson on Buddhism and even caught sight of the Kumari; the living goddess. The story of the Kumari is fascinating, a young girl who is selected to be the town’s living goddess until she reaches puberty. Selection is based upon the belief she is a reincarnation of Kali, possesses 32 specific features and shows fearlessness and courage tested by her ability to face the decapitation of 108 buffalo alone amongst other harrowing tasks. Seeing this young girl in person and knowing her story was slightly unnerving yet equally awe-inspiring and experience that will live with me for a very long time.

Thus, even though we were suckered at the end of the tour by the guide’s “request” for payment despite paying an entrance fee, all in all, we enjoyed an educational and interesting experience. Later that afternoon it was time for the Swayambhunath or the Monkey Temple as it is now more commonly known.

Starving, we jumped out of the taxi and headed to a local street seller for a samosa and a couple of other interesting looking Nepali treats, much-needed fuel for the 365 step steep ascent to the top of Swayambhunath. We found a nice spot below a tree to enjoy our snacks unsuspectingly stumbling upon monkey feeding territory. Before we knew it, the cheeky little buggers had snatched the food straight from our lips, not once but three times! Samosa, GONE, indiscriminate sweetie thing, GONE…Pretzel type thing… yup gone too! Oh, how we laughed and were laughed at! Failing to feed, we started our ascent only to be faced with dodging a cascade of monkeys (who may or may not have been responding to a feeding call from their thieving friends) running and swinging 60mph down the stairs towards us; what an experience, incredible and one I definitely won’t forget in a hurry.

Swayambhunath is shrouded in history, and despite obvious earthquake damage its beauty in architecture is absolutely evident. It stands just outside Kathmandu, aloft, with spanning views across the city, surrounding areas and the far-off Himalayas. Everything from the prayer wheels, carvings and brass monuments captivates the imagination of even the least religious souls. After exploring, taking snaps, and being possibly a little too enthusiastic about the monkeys (guilty as charged) we climbed through a tiny gap into a café which rose even higher above the Stupa. Sat together, huddled in our scarves and jackets it was the perfect place to watch the sunset and enjoy a hot lemon and honey, customarily served in a glass (yes, 3rd-degree burns are all part of the experience).

As day two came to a close, it was another eventful trip back to the hotel getting slightly lost on the way. Noticing the increasing throb in my knee (Dr had advised no stairs, no long walks etc…ooops) we decided to jump into a cab in which the driver seemed equally as confused. Low and behold, tourist fail number 2 of the day! Finally, when we appeared to be approaching Thamel, it was time to ditch the cab and make our own way back. An early night was in order after another hectic day and an imminent 4 am alarm, and so we grabbed dinner across the street at the lovely Blueberry Kitchen, sank another Nepali Beer; Nepal Ice this time (delightful, I may add) and headed straight for bed.

Day three began with a less than welcomed pre-dawn alarm forcing us, bleary-eyed to stumble out of bed and embrace the deep freeze that was the outside world. Yes, 4 degrees may not seem so bad to my fellow Brits but having spent a considerable amount of time basking in the desert heat it definitely froze the bones. We were picked up by our guide and driver at 4.45am and taken to Nagarkot ahead of the sunrise. The trip down was filled initially with interesting facts from our guide and inevitably, snores from the backseat as we napped before our hike.

As we arrived at Nagarkot, about 1 hour 30 minutes outside of Kathmandu it was already daylight, yet the sun was nowhere to be seen as we climbed to stairs towards the viewing tower. The view from the hill-top was outstanding, even more so when we made the climb up the viewing tower ladder. From there, every aspect of the Himalayas was prominent including the shadowy peaks of Mt Everest on which the sun began to rise. It was an unforgettable experience, a moment to be present and just enjoy and one that can’t be captured in even the finest of photographs (even though I did try!). After carefully descending the tower, it was time for a warm by a roaring barrel fire with some Nepali tea (excessively sweet and milky, much to our delight) before beginning our 4-hour hike back down through the mountainous villages.

The hike was something else, initially beginning on road-like terrain before crossing over fields, gravel and crumbling rubble (much to the delight of my own crumbling knees). This was real Nepal. There were women trekking through the forest and jungle areas carrying huge loads of vines, leaves, and grass on their shoulders for farming, men rebuilding their homes in the wake of last year’s events and kids making the daily hike to school. It was eye-opening to see and a world away from the modern existence I have grown used to in Dubai and the western world alike. The views again, were breath-taking, farmland, forests and mountain tops disappearing into the distant clouds. We passed through farms where goats and cows roamed free, passed a yard of water buffalo waiting for sale and certainly intrigued the young locals who didn’t hesitate to say hello.

Once the hike came to a close, we headed back to Thamel in search of some well-earned lunch finding solace in the form of Vegetarian café OR2K (yes, I was very sceptical beforehand). The food was amazing, though, traditional Dhal-Bat and a not so traditional veggie burger to share. The café has a definitive Hippie-like vibe, with floor cushioned seating, low lighting, and interesting wall art, a sure favourite of our trip.

We spent our final evening back at the Reggae Bar from the first night after a brief stop at the Purple Haze rock bar (a little put off by the not so rocky boy-band crowd). This time we chose inside seating avoiding a couple of luring locals asking for pictures with us (only the 3rd request of the trip!). The band was great again, the drinks also very good but after a 4 am wake-up call we were both beginning to lag a little. That was until two local guys joined us at our table; being typical tentative tourists, we attempted to shrug them off before realising they were actually really bloody interesting! We shared experiences from our lives and learnt a lot more about the area; what to see, what not to see (would have been really useful on our first night actually, sod’s law, I believe) and before we knew it, it was 2.30am. We turned down an invite to a local club (Thamel has clubs, who knew?!) and headed home after an awesome night; one of the best things about travelling is not only the places you see but also the people you meet along the way (gotta love a cliché).

Our fourth and final day began with a later start than originally planned as we headed to the Garden of Dreams on the outskirts of Thamel. This place was a great way to spend a couple of relaxing hours guarded against the hustle and bustle of the outside city; seemingly a place where local couples meet due to its romantic feel and tranquil atmosphere. The gardens only take a little time to explore but the chipmunks there kept us entertained for much, much longer; so playful and intelligent. Whilst feeding them was not advised, they were happy to play around us inquisitively and were the highlight of the visit!

Unsure how to spend our final few hours in Thamel we decided to snoop around for some token souvenirs (a shot glass and postcard for my growing collection) and search for traditional Nepali Momo (steamed dumplings), to round off our trip. We found the latter in a cute courtyard restaurant after a very frustrating GPS failure that led to walking round in circles in search of a specific Momo café. As a reward (or consolation) for our 3rd tourist fail of the trip, our Momo’s were joined by a very welcome glass of mulled wine and a buttered rum punch (interesting, to say the least).

The sun was starting to set on our Nepali adventure but with an 11 pm flight we still had ample time to escape the cold and cuddle up on the cushioned floors of OR2K ( yup, we went back, creatures of habit) with some spiced cider and apple pie to round off the day before our airport transfer.

Overall, our 4-day escape to Kathmandu was a trip I most certainly will not forget; the bustling streets of Thamel which descended into nothingness after dark, the sunrises and the sunsets, the culture and the wildlife, and the history surrounded by the steep guard of the Himalayas. Although Kathmandu only provides a small insight into Nepal, it is as a vibrant and intense as one could imagine and provides an experience that is both humbling and captivating. This city has captured our hearts and minds and left us keen to explore everything else Nepal has to offer…Everest base-camp, we’re coming for you… eventually!

Desert Life: WODs and Wadis!

So this weekend marks 6 weeks on my Dubai life calendar and the time has absolutely flown by. Life in the desert is pretty much everything I imagined and more and it is safe to say, so far so good! As with all my travelling escapades, life really only becomes normal when I find myself a gym or somewhere to train to my full capacity, and Dubai so far has most certainly given me endless opportunities.  Despite my overuse of hotel gyms and dalliances with outdoor sessions, my real gym search began when I moved into my apartment a couple of weeks back. Cue, my introduction to Crossfit…SHOCK HORROR!

Yes, after many, many conversations in the past taking digs at Crossfit competitions, I have found myself in the mist of the Crossfit revolution that is Dubai, oh the irony. These gyms, or “Boxes” as I now know they call them, are all over Dubai and with the chance to take on a new challenge, plus the free trial incentive, it was kinda hard to refuse to give it a go. I attended Crossfit Duo for two weeks, with my trial sadly coming to a close recently and I must say I am more than tempted to continue as a full member.

The classes have been challenging to say the least and I have well and truly lost my status as a big fish in the powerlifting pond. Whilst, I feel I can hold my own during most sessions, some parts of the WOD (workout of the day for the layman) do leave me drowning in true beginner’s style; I mean what even is “kipping handstand push up” anyway!

Even so, I find this somewhat refreshing at times; I am constantly learning new techniques and challenging my fitness to levels that I haven’t touched on during my time as a Powerlifter. The cardio, the anaerobic involvement, the repetitions, blood, sweat, more sweat and a little more sweat has kept me interested and feeling invigorated after every session, as well as keen to go back for more.

Don’t get me wrong, I most definitely have not lost my love for lifting, or my hunger for those 9 white lights, I even miss squats… honestly! But actually participating in Crossfit classes has opened my eyes to what it really is like, dispelling many a myth along the way. However, I still can’t help but internally criticise some of the events, techniques or methods used during a WOD or when watching competitions. It isn’t necessarily the techniques or events that leave Crossfit open to criticism, but the principles on which competitions are based. When taught properly and seamlessly (as it is a Duo) Crossfit is an excellent way of improving fitness, but in practice, true form and technique is often lost in the pursuit of maximising AMRAPs (as many reps as possible). Thus, I am still heavily undecided about my continuation into the Crossfit world, as much as I have enjoyed the challenge of something new, I am still not entirely convinced it is the life for me.

Cue the decision to look for more gyms, more free trials and generally just expand my horizons on the Dubai fitness circuit; which is looking pretty spectacular to be honest. I mean, in the past 6 weeks I have attended Fit Fest, Yoga Fest (Yes, no typo here, I actually went to a Yoga Festival), and Dubai Fitness Expo, as well as Canyoning through the waters of Wadi Showka, and so health and fitness is evidently a huge part of desert living.  On top of that, the opportunity to workout al fresco now the weather is delightfully tepid is expansive, with outdoor gyms on the beach, boot camps and purpose made running tracks that are “knee” friendly I really have no excuse to limit my training.

Anyway, I guess the next couple of weeks; I’ll be on the lookout for my new gym “home”, using this time to explore and test the waters before settling down so-to-speak. I am yet to try out Gold’s Gym, and still waiting for my opportunity to get down to the world famous Warehouse Gym for a session; which I believe has its own powerlifting club and regular competitions, so I have all of the reasons not to settle just yet.

I am taking this opportunity to really explore my options and leave no weight un-lifted until I find the right place for me. Powerlifting has served me well over the years, the temptation of figure and physique still hangs close by (although not as close as the Tim Horton’s underneath my building) and now my introduction to Crossfit has sparked an interest that I may find hard to dampen. Thus, a new life in the desert, has given me more reason than ever to maybe rethink and restart my fitness journey, even if for now, it’s only to avoid the dreaded “Dubai Stone”!