Hello everyone...hope you're having a great summer and enjoying Labour Day weekend!
We have just returned from an amazing trip to Zanzibar and the Serengeti in Tanzania. We spent 6 days at an all-inclusive beach resort on the island, then went to the Northwest part of Tanzania just 10km south of the Kenyan border/Masai Mara.
The best part - Anita was there to enjoy the experience with us...here is the update - not much for stories - the pics and videos will tell the story.
Adventures with Anita in Saudi & Bahrain
We were so happy to finally have a guest visit us. We were able to show some of the Saudi culture, including meeting out friends in our compound. Anita definitely got to experience some Bahrain brunches.
We asked Anita to share her thoughts and perspectives on visiting Saudi for the blog...here is her message. Thank you for sharing this Anita!
"After a long travel day, we finally may it to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Immigration was quick, the officer was extremely friendly and welcoming. After a quick picture and finger prints I was through the same time as Jeff and Lisa.
Right through the doors, Tourism Saudi had a welcome booth, where I was offered cafe and dates. Again a warm welcome!
Most have asked ‘Is it what you expected?’
I find this hard to answer, because I tried coming with an open mind and not too many preconceived ideas. That being said, my first meal was Subway at the airport for our trip to Jeff and Lisa’s. I was surprised at how many familiar businesses are here as well. McDonald’s,KFC, PF Changs, Cheesecake Factory, IKEA and of course Starbucks and Tim Horton’s.
We arrived at the compound around midnight so didn’t go for a tour until the next morning. I would have to say it’s more a gated community than a compound, with amenities ranging from a small store, gym, pool, kids play areas, bowling alley, tennis courts. The best part is it feels like a United Nations community. How cool is it to be able to chat around the pool with people from Indonesia, England, Scotland, Australia, Canada, USA, Wales, South Africa.
If I could describe KSA by what I saw I’d say Saudi is ‘under construction’. There is a lot of development going on and the culture is evolving.
There were a few things I didn’t expect:
All signs are in Arabic and English.
Saudi men and even a woman I had the good fortune to speak with are proud to talk about their country and excited to hear I am enjoying my visit.
My glasses fogging up whenever I go outside. It’s like reverse winter and unless you experience it, you truly cannot imagine what 80% humidity feels like! There are no heat warnings if the temperature goes above 30C and it was well above that every day. I think the hottest I experienced was 48C feels like 68C.
Friends in Zamil Village make an effort to come out when visitors come. I was fortunate to see some friends I had met previously in Dubai and meet new friends. Whether at the pool, in the gym, at someone’s house or the infamous Bahrain brunches I had so much fun and everyone made me feel so welcome.
The other question was ‘Would you come back?’
I understand why Jeff and Lisa took that leap of faith.
They get to experience a new culture.
They are in a great hub for travel on this side of the world.
They have made lifetime friends from all over the world.
The answer is I absolutely would come back in a heartbeat and hope I do have the chance again.
I am forever grateful to Jeff and Lisa for the opportunity to experience their lives and of course to travel with them. I hope to be able to share my memories with many and be an ambassador for Saudi Arabia. If ever you have a chance to see KSA I say embrace it!"
Here are some pics and videos from Anita's visit...
We flew to Dubai and into Zanzibar, getting in around 7AM. This was after a long night of vacation cocktails on the plane.
Zanzibar sunrises, sunsets, and beaches were amazing!
Stone Town & Prison Island
We did an excursion to Stone Town and visited Prison Island. It was designed to be a prison but never was used as one - instead, it housed people for quarantines during the Black Plague. Had fun seeing the massive turtles on then island and then took some time for drinks and seafood in Stone Town, the birthplace of Freddie Mercury from Queen.
The Rock Restaurant
When researching "what to do" in Zanzibar, this restaurant kept showing up - had to visit the Rock...yes, it is a rock in the ocean with a bar & restaurant on it...walked to it during low tide, had to boat back afterwards!
Tanzania Serengeti Safari
After a few beach days, it was time to fly to the Serengeti!
Nikyani Safari Camp
We always love landing in the plains on a dirt road...just like the movies.
We met Godson, our driver for the next few days. He was amazing! After a game drive, it was off to our camp for lunch, drinks, and to settle in.
Sundowners by the fire were incredible!
Our first time in a tent on the ground. Was quite an experience - needed a guide to take you back in the dark and you weren't allowed to leave until the guide got you. Any animal could come through. One night, we were getting walked back in the dark and there was a giraffe grazing on a tree by our tent. The last night, Lisa almost had a heart attack - animals rubbed against the tent near her side of the bed while grazing - we think they were zebras. On the other side, there were hyenas howling and running around.
Yep...the wild plains of the Serengeti!
The Great Migration is one of nature's spectacles...millions of wildebeests cross the Mara River every year and to experience it is unreal.
Watch the videos to get the true experience...many jeeps sit way back from the river so the wildebeests will cross. Then once one goes, they all follow, and jeeps race to the edge to watch this amazing crossing.
We saw many African elephants, including a huge group of 26 crossing the water and walking up next to us. Enjoy the pics and videos.
Enjoy the pics of these gentle giants...they are always amazing to watch.
We saw a few lions trying to keep cool in then hot Serengeti sun. And we saw our first male lion up close. Fascinating animals to watch!
We were lucky enough to see a couple elusive leopards lounging in the trees, again avoiding the hot sun.
There were hippos everywhere....lounging in the sun and then hitting the water to cool off.
We saw many other animals along the way - ostriches, nile monitor lizards, vultures feeding, hyenas, baboons and other monkeys, zebras, Cape buffalos, jackals, crocodiles, and pumbas. There were also carcasses and skulls everywhere. The cats were not starving, that is for sure!
One of our favourite things was the 12:30pm stop under a tree for lunch (after checking the tree for leopards) and then the 3:30pm stop for beer and pretzels to watch the animals.
After a few days tenting and doing safaris, it was nice to get into an actual hotel for a good shower and some drinks.
Arusha is said to be halfway in Africa between CapeTown and Cairo.
Flew out of Mount Kilimanjaro airport the next morning.
We are busy preparing for the next vacation...off to Spain for a month next week...excited for a great road trip along the Mediterranean, combined with some house hunting.
Enjoy September everyone....chat soon!
We spent a few weeks in Canada in July, with Lisa visiting her mom in Ontario for a week and then meeting Jeff in Calgary for a couple weeks. We had great times with friends and had a chance to see Jeff's dad in Medicine Hat. Lisa collected a souvenir from Medicine Hat - parking at a pub for 5 hours (in a 2 hour zone). Whoops!
Amazing Calgary friends hosted football parties...such a great time seeing everyone!
We went to the Calgary Stampede, one of the world's largest rodeos...not so much for the rodeo but for the atmosphere, people watching, beer gardens, and live music. Had a chance to finally see the Zac Brown Band!
We met Anita in Calgary airport, flew back to Saudi and she got to experience the 80% humidity - felt like 51 degrees Celsius when we left the airport at midnight. Welcome! So happy to host our first guest in Saudi! Excited to have her stay with us for a couple weeks - maybe some pool drinks and Bahrain brunches.
Then off to Africa!
Next blog update will include some stories and pics of us with Anita in Saudi and Bahrain, as well as the Zanzibar and Tanzania adventure.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
We are back after a couple of spring/early summer island vacations.
We visited Maldives and Cyprus, both beautiful places with amazing beaches.
Here are a few pics and videos...enjoy!
Hard Rock Maldives
We went back to Maldives for our 6-day Eid break at the start of June, this time staying at the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives.
It was a great resort with lots of live music and amazing restaurants.
We had a couple days with friends Dave & Nicky before they went back to the UK.
Lots of time chilling on the white sand and in the pool.
Once again...strongly recommend the Maldives if you ever get a chance!
We went to Cyprus at the start of June for a long weekend. 4 days is not enough time to see this beautiful island, but we definitely enjoyed our time in Ayia Napa.
Cyprus has a huge Greek influence and you can find their food and wines everywhere...at really good prices! We spent our time in Ayia Napa which is known for it's party vibe, as many 20-30 year olds from the UK come there to hit the clubs and bars which go until 4-5am. Not sure how us old farts were supposed to fit it but we put in a strong effort.
Check out the "Summer of '69" video below and watch Lisa dancing. A guy walks by and starts dancing with her. Keep an eye for his wife who comes in to clean him up and then he walks off with his head down. So funny!
We enjoyed the beautiful Nissi Beach and did a boat trip that was pretty wild. It even had it's own police (Constable Cruise) that would arrest you and make you pay the penalty of a shot and free drink. Best police ever!! Once again...it was us partying with a bunch of 20-30 year olds.
If you want cheap drinks and food, beautiful beaches, crystal blue water, and some amazing old architecture and ruins, then definitely visit Cyprus. Next time we will stay longer and visit Larnaca, Limassol, Pissouri, and Paphos as well as the party town of Ayia Napa. Cyprus also has some nice golf courses and lots of wine tours.
And less than a 3 hour flight from us!!!
We have 3 weeks left to plan details for our upcoming trips...
Fun times! Will try to upload a blog with Canada and Africa safari pics in late August.
Hope everyone has a great summer!
Cheers and love from L&J
We hope you had a great Easter weekend and are ready for summer. With the recent snowfalls for our friends and family in Canada, it may not feel like summer is ready for you.
We just hit our 6 year mark in the Middle East and are still loving every bit of it! Hard to believe it has been 6 already.
Most COVID restrictions have now lifted, which is great news for people like us who want to travel more and not have the hassles and restrictions! Dangerous on the pocket book however!
Some news we are so excited about...we are getting our first visitor to Saudi!!! Our friend Anita will fly back with us from Canada in July, get to experience our Saudi life for a couple weeks, and then will join us in Africa. You can not even imagine how pumped we are to host our first guest here!!!
This blog shares some of our spring 2022 highlights - Dubai a couple of times, an awesome T&A trip to Cabo San Lucas, Miami, and lots of fun in Saudi & Bahrain.
Enjoy the pics and videos...
New Years 2022 - Bahrain
We had a great time bringing in New Years in Bahrain. We did a brunch at McGettigans with friends Devin & Michelle. Food and drinks were flowing....a great way to kick off 2022 in style!
Saudi & Bahrain in Spring
Spring in the Middle East is beautiful weather so it's nice to get out and enjoy times with friends. Here are pics from some brunches, and amazing hat, an outdoor nursery in Saudi, and cuddles with the cat!
Dubai - Jan 2022
We went to Dubai for a long weekend in January and had an amazing weekend.
The weekend started off with a rooftop patio, dinner and drinks with friends Nigel & Jayne. Once again, it is amazing how you meet the best people. Met them at a Maldives resort in October 2020 and have been able to connect a few times since. Great people with amazing stories after living in the Middle East for 20+ years!
We spent a day at the Expo 2020 - amazing job with this Dubai! WOW! Incredible pavilions from every country - the architecture is stunning. The place is massive (check the video below) so could not even come close to seeing everything. Had to come back for another day - see the March section in this blog.
We went out for a brunch at STK...quite possibly the best brunch we have ever been to - great food and drinks and an awesome vibe! After that, we met up with friends Frank & Sherri (Americans in Dubai) and ran into Gabriel & Dorina (met them on the Croatia cruise in 2021...they are a fun couple from Montenegro).
Dubai...we can't get enough of you!
T&A in Cabo San Lucas - Feb 2022
T&A 2022 went back to where it all started...Cabo San Lucas on the west side of Mexico at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula (south of California). Our hotel was the Riu Palace Baja California.
2022's cast of characters included us, Mark & Gayle, Meghan & Joe, Marilyn, and a newcomer - Marilyn's sister Stephanie.
There was also a special guest appearance by Kevin, better known as "KP", who we both worked with in Winnipeg. Great to see him again after many years! For anyone who was at our wedding 15 years ago in the Dominican, you will most likely remember KP as the person giving my aunts "sexy rides" in the pool.
There were the usual shenanigans - pool drinks, dance parties, Super Bowl parties, threats from security after "borrowing" a bike, and crashing a wedding. Well, actually crashing the first dance. Whoops.
We did a fun excursion - whale watching, boat trip, pub crawl in Cabo, and then a few beach bars, before a rowdy water taxi ride back to our hotel (check the video below for some Grammy award winning performances).
Once again, the bartender foiled any sexy Valentine's Day plans by getting Lisa drunk. She went to "sleep" early so Jeff flew solo for Valentine's Day dinner....or did he?
Luckily, he found a date (a huge piece of bark from a palm tree) that Joe brilliantly named "Leafsa". So Leafsa joined Jeff for dinner, did a photo shoot with her new man, and had shots with Steph (video is below). Lisa was quite surprised to wake up with Leafsa cuddled up next to Jeff. If I recall, the words were "What the fuck??" And then Leafsa was gone.
Always a great time seeing the T&A gang. Hoping we can get more out for the next T&A adventure in spring '23. Stay tuned for details...
Off to Miami.
Miami - Feb 2022
We stopped in Miami for a few days on our way back to the Middle East. Always a great time in this city, as we love the beaches, the food and drinks, the shopping, and the overall vibe.
We thought we would do a few things we had never done in Miami before:
- Hop On, Hop Off Bus - saw some new areas of Miami, including a new area that looked really cool (Wynwood...more on that later), went to a favorite of ours - Bayside Marketplace for mojitos, and then ended in Little Havana for drinks, shopping, and some Cuban food (Lisa LOVES Cubano sandwiches). It was so cool to enjoy drinks there while listening to Cuban music and seeing the cigar making shops.
- Wynwood Marketplace - after driving past it on the bus, we went back to this very cool area of Miami. It is the arts district and has amazing signs and painted buildings plus the incredible Wynwood Marketplace, a 60,000 square foot outdoor complex with art, shops, food trucks, and bars. Great music all over. (see the video below).
- Hollywood - we cabbed to Hollywood, just north of Miami to check it out. Found a cool little restaurant (Le Tub Saloon) that had a cool vibe, amazing burgers, and was along the water.
The rest of the time we spent in South Beach, enjoying the bars (the Clevelander still rocks! See videos below), restaurants (Havana 1957, Sandwicherie...yum!), shopping, and the great beaches!
Can't wait to get back to Miami!
Dubai - March 2022