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
A quick update from a great trip in May and June.
We're very excited to see much of the world opening back up thanks to all the vaccinations. Hopefully that will be good news for summer travel - more on that down below.
We went to the Maldives in May for a quick break and spent time here for the remainder of May and June. We enjoyed an 80's party to celebrate a couple friend's birthdays this past weekend.
Lots of great pics & videos.
Maldives - Ozen by Atmosphere at Maadhoo
We took advantage of the Eid break to go to the Maldives with Hayden, Christy, Waco, Tosh, Wayne, Hayley, Wally, & Shendy.
The trip started off pretty wild, as Lisa decided to tap into the overnight free alcohol on the plane (after 4-5 hours in the Doha lounge!).
The resort had amazing food, top notch drinks, a gin bar, and a really cool underwater restaurant.
80's party - June 10th
We attended an 80's party (well, I guess 70's as well) to celebrate the birthdays of a couple friends.
There were some great costumes and some awesome photo props. Great catering and amazing music by DJ Chunky Luv.
Now the planning begins for summer holidays.
A lot is depending on when we get our second vaccines as most places need you to be fully vaccinated for 14 days.
July vacation (July 12-28) has a plan A (France and Croatia), plan B, and plan C.
Our August 18-Sept 8 vacation has a plan A (Canada) and plan B.
We are optimistic to get back to Canada - even have tickets for an Alan Doyle/ Blue Rodeo/ Captain Tractor concert on August 21st.
So strange, as we usually have everything planned out and booked. Fingers crossed for the 2nd jabs!
Anyways, should be an interesting finish to 2021.
Thanks for checking out the blog. Stay safe everyone!
The Rest of 2020
* Click on photos to enlarge, move cursor over them for captions *
Wow, it has actually been April since our last post. Don't worry - we're still alive.
Like the rest of the world, we just haven't had a lot of travel this year!
This blog will discuss life in Saudi during the pandemic, the little travel we did have, and a new addition to our family...
Pandemic Life in Saudi Arabia
It was quite amazing to watch how countries around the world were handling the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw many outbreaks in the US, Canada, Europe, and many are going through the 2nd waves right now and experiencing lockdowns.
Saudi was quite strict, as discussed in the last blog we posted. The country locked down in March and didn't open back up (for expats) until September 15th. Yes, that was over 6 months INSIDE the Kingdom with no pork or alcohol but we managed. Masks have been mandatory in all public areas since March and nobody is protesting or fighting against that.
Many friends and their families were also stuck out of Kingdom. Aramco was amazing at continuing to pay them and arrange travel to get them back into Kingdom.
We had many vacations in Kingdom at home, staying on our compound to enjoy the pool and have many BBQ's with friends. There was a few weeks with 24 hour quarantine where you could only go out for essentials like medical or groceries and you also needed a government pass to go through check stops to get to work. Overall, the Saudi government and health officials did an outstanding job managing the pandemic which is why our cases continue to stay low.
The pics below will show some of the things we did to keep entertained throughout this period:
- Lots of BBQ's - teaching friends how to make tandoori
- Celebrating Birthdays
- Friends shipped items to us from Canada and the US - sure cheered us up while locked inside
- Many game nights and karaoke nights that turned into great costume parties (for us anyway!)
- As things opened up, there were some concerts
- We tried many new restaurants as a way of getting out into the city
- We did some Saudi marathons. Nothing hardcore - just tracking distance over time with targets of 100km in a month
- We did our first COVID tests, allowing us to take a trip to Bahrain in early October
- we did a couple trips to a sister compound (Murjan Village) in Jubail, going with many friends for some pool and beach fun
- Then of course, there was a great Halloween party
Looking at all of these pics sure makes us feel very lucky.
Sure we didn't travel like we wanted.
Sure we didn't get home to see family & friends like we wanted.
But we are healthy. Our friends & family are healthy.
And we made the best of the lockdown time.
Maverick the Cat
During the lockdown, we were walking in our compound and found an abandoned kitten. He was so cute but so scared. We fed him one night and we decided to make him ours.
We struggled with names...do we call him Corona or Covie to remind us of the crazy times when we got him.
Instead, we landed on Maverick...probably because Lisa is so excited for the new Top Gun movie that is coming out.
We are now getting adjusted to life with a kitten...a kitten that has tons of energy & doesn't always listen.
A kitten that rips apart Lisa's 2000 piece puzzle...when she has 1950 of them in place already.
A kitten that decides the thawing hamburger should be his and not ours.
A kitten that fetches toys like a dog and likes chasing (and eating) geckos - so funny to watch (see the videos!)
But...a kitten that is ours and fits into our family!
Here are a few pics of the little fella...
Jeddah - August 2020
At the end of August we had a couple weeks off and could not travel out of Kingdom so we decided here was our chance to see the Red Sea and the west coast of Saudi.
Off to Jeddah for the 1 hour flight. Our first flight since COVID. Loved the extra space!
You can see from the pics below that Jeddah had some very nice architecture, and amazing corniche, the world's tallest water fountain (over 1000 feet tall), and a very cool historic part of the city - Al Balad (Old Jeddah) that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Note to self...late August Saudi temperatures (45 degrees Celsius) and no cold beers is not a good combination!
KAEC - September 2020
After Jeddah, we went up the coast to KAEC (King Abdullah Economic City) which is a city designed to function on economies other than oil. There is a large port there and it was also the first part of Saudi to allow ladies to drive.
Lots of great beach area and the Royal Greens golf course which has hosted PGA and just this last weekend an LPGA event. In fact, Dustin Johnson holds the course record.
We had fun golfing with our friends Hayden & Christy...even had to drink some non-alcoholic beers to keep refreshed.
Maldives - October 2020
We finally got out of Kingdom for a vacation mid-October, venturing off to the Maldives for a 1-week all inclusive at Varu by Atmosphere.
This was a great resort and we took advantage of the beautiful weather, amazing beaches, snorkelling, and our water villa with pool on the patio. We even got to see shark and sting ray feeding nightly.
The vacation took a scary turn on our second night just after 8PM. We were getting ready to leave the bar (honestly, only had 2-3 drinks) and we were going to head back to our patio pool for a few more. Lisa looked at me and said "There's a problem...something's not right". By the time I went to get a sit down chair, she had fainted and smacked her hand and head on the floor. Everyone rushed to help and they got a doctor to help and get us back to the room. It seems that the fainting was due to dehydration (lots of sun and not enough water). Scary as hell! And a bruised hand that Lisa couldn't move the entire time we were there.
The resort did everything to take care of us and didn't even charge for the doctor. They even had a doctor come to the room our 2nd last day to do the COVID PCR test needed to get back into Dubai.
Overall, besides Lisa's tumble, it was an amazing week away. Since everyone arriving at the island needed a negative PCR test, nobody was wearing masks and it was almost like a 1-week window in 2020 where COVID didn't exist. So strange! The resort was at 40% capacity and had only about 100 guests so it was almost like having an island to yourself.
We feel so lucky to have been able to visit Maldives a second time. What a beautiful place!
Dubai - October 2020
After the Maldives, we spent a week in Dubai, which we were very excited for. Usually we are there for a weekend only...fly in, party, fly home. This time we could relax, see parts we hadn't seen, and chill in the area near our Airbnb.
We stayed in the JBR (Jumeriah Beach Residence) area which is our favourite part of Dubai. Within a 10 minute walk you have a free beach, many hotel pools with bars and beach access, tons of other restaurants and bars, a movie theatre, and a marina with a great mall.
The first weekend, we visited the Dubai Mall for shopping but also so Lisa could see the Mediclinic. After a consultation, they did 3 x-rays and determined she had 3 fractures in her hand so they splinted it and then called us back the next day for a cast. This only cost $300US. Can't imagine what that would've cost back in Canada or the US. FYI, Lisa just had the cast removed November 15th (one month after "The Fall")...she will need a month of rehab, as she is still bruised and can't move her fingers.
Besides a bunch of shopping (at 3 malls!), some beach/pool time, and a visit to Souq Madinat Jumeirah, we found some places in Dubai we had never seen:
- The Pointe - with the World's Largest Fountain - celebrated Jeff's birthday at Chicago Meatpackers for Meat Monday....$75US got us a huge steak, 2 sides, and all we could drink wine from 6-9PM
- Bluewater Island - great new island near JBR with many restaurants - tried the Mexican themed Puerto 99
- Global Village - huge amusement park with pavilions from most countries in the world...park access $4US...unbelievable.
Lots of great 2 for 1 and Happy Hour deals in Dubai as they do everything to generate tourism right now!
Another great time in Dubai!
We had to submit our 2021 vacations already and don't have much planned yet. Orange highlighted days are the vacations.
We left Q1 empty as we still don't know what will happen with travel due to COVID (fingers crossed for an effective vaccine soon!). This means that our T&A fun will have to wait until 2022...but don't worry - we will be back with a vengeance!
July - we will be doing France and somewhere else in Europe for a couple weeks
August/September - Canada (for the first time since 2019 for Lisa and 2018 for Jeff)...maybe a week in the Montana cottage?
We will fill in the other vacations as time gets closer. Too much uncertainty now. Would love to get in a Tanzania/Zanzibar trip!
Hopefully some friends and family will join us for some travels!
We are so fortunate that all of our friends and family are staying healthy during these times. We miss you all and hope to see you soon.
Have a safe and Merry Christmas season!
HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!
We sure feel fortunate, having checked off another bucket list item. We were lucky enough to stay in a villa over the water in the beautiful Maldives.
What are the Maldives?
Here are a few facts...
- it is smallest Asian country by land area (298 square km) and population (under 500,000 people)
- it is made up of over 1100 islands in the Indian Ocean, located southwest from India and Sri Lanka, and lies along the equator, so the sun is very intense
- it is a Muslim country - the airport is dry and many resorts are also (luckily we did good research!)
- it is the lowest country in the world, with average ground levels of 1.5 metres (4 ft, 11in) above sea level and maximum of 2.4 (7ft, 10in). More than 80% of the country's land is composed of coral islands less than 1 metre above sea level. In fact, the Maldives are at risk of being submerged due to rising sea levels - the UN has warned that, at current rates, sea level rise could be enough to make the Maldives uninhabitable by 2100. Imagine, losing an entire country over things we had control over!
People travel to the Maldives from all over the world for their resorts, clear blue waters, and incredible diving & snorkelling. For travellers flying into Malé (the capital city) and then heading to an island resort, they have two options to get to the island, depending on where the island is located - sea plane or speed boat. Since our resort was further away, we had a sea plane take us the 45 minute flight.
Here are a couple maps to see where the Maldives are (red dot), as well as a short video of the resort we stayed at...
We stayed at the Constance Moofushi, which is a single resort that has it's own island. Yes, pretty crazy that you could walk the entire island easily within 30 minutes.
We were there with many friends from various parts of the world - Jeff/Sara from the US, Hayden/ Christy, Siddik/Yasmin from South Africa, and the rest from the UK - Wayne/Hayley, Jeff/Donna, Simon/Michelle.
We stayed in a water villa that opened right up so you could see the beautiful water. The patio had amazing furniture to lounge on and you could walk right into the ocean to swim or snorkel. The back yard had an open air tub and shower.
The island is surrounded by an amazing coral reef so we snorkelled many times and saw tons of cool animals, in fact many were right off the stairs of our patio. We saw tons of colourful fish, many sharks, eagle rays, manta rays, starfish, crabs, and even an eel. The most dangerous one was a yellow fish the resort warned us about called a triggerfish, which has teeth and is known to bite people if they feel threatened. Oh yeah, and the fruit bats were the biggest we've ever seen - they would actually shake the trees and don't like getting their photos taken...right Jeff??
There are some cool underwater shots here. Jeff is so proud of Lisa for FINALLY getting in the water and snorkelling, even to the edge of the reef where the water gets dark. She stayed until we saw the shark approach, and then set a speed swimming record to the shore that even Michael Phelps would be proud of!
Besides snorkelling, there were many beach areas to lounge at or you could simply tie up your inflatable floats and drink in the sun. The water was so incredible. We saw all the pics before and thought there was no way that reality would match up but pics taken even with an iPhone will show how beautiful it is.
The beach house offered many snacks, drinks, and also allowed you to take out snorkel gear, kayaks, paddle boards, or sailboats.
The resort had 2 restaurants and 2 bars that were fully stocked and waiting for us. We've haven't seen too many all inclusives with selections like this, including an incredible wine cellar. One of the bars had a DJ, dance floor, and a screen surrounded by people cheering on their teams for the World Cup.
We never went to the spa but a friend said it was pretty cool to get a massage in a hut over the water while looking down at the fish through a glass floor!
They even offered a private setting to watch movies on a screen on the beach at night if you wanted!
The staff here were incredibly friendly and could not do enough for you:
- "You need a cooler full of Corona for the beach?" / "Sure sir"
- "You're friend's ear is plugged and you want to pour vodka into it to unplug it?" /
"Sure sir, use the good stuff - this is Grey Goose"
- "You want a 1L bottle of Captain Morgan and 12 Coronas to your room?" / "No problem sir"
Besides drinking, there were some educational offerings - we attended a cocktail making class in the water, where we learned to make different exotic drinks. Who knew aloe vera made such a tasty addition to a beverage? Later in the week, we attended a wine tasting class in the water, where we learned to properly taste wine with breads and cheese, with the odd shark swimming in the water. Pretty cool!
One thing that blew us away was to think that this resort is unlike every other resort we've ever been to - although they grow some herbs (not the Jamaican type, mon!) and vegetables on the island, EVERYTHING else must be shipped in from or shipped out to the main island. There was a boat with two c-can shipping containers that docked one day while we were having breakfast - workers unloaded all the food, cleaning supplies, booze for hours...then they loaded it back up with garbage, torn down tree leaves & branches, and broken down cardboard to be taken away. Truly makes you appreciate the experience!
Another thing we thought was cool? The bar and restaurant floors were just beach sand - no flooring (except for the dance floor). So what? No high heels for the ladies, no shoes for the men...in fact, we did not wear flip flops until we finally left. A full week with no shoes! That kicks ass!!
We would strongly recommend this resort - maybe T&A2020??
We decided to do a professional photo shoot since the surroundings were so beautiful. Even though it was a professional photo shoot and we had a professional photographer, he was dealing with far from professional models. Oh well, here are a few of those pics...
We did an excursion to one of the nearby islands where it is common to find whale sharks. Whale sharks are slow moving, filter feeders that are the largest known fish species, growing over 40 feet long and weighing up to 45,000 lbs.
Now, you've heard the old saying "it's like finding a needle in a haystack"? That is literally what it is like trying to find a whale shark (who is moving around) in the ocean (which is friggin' huge!). Many people go on the excursion and don't see any whale sharks - we were lucky enough to see two.
You can't even imagine the rush it is to jump into the water off the boat, not knowing what is below, and to open your eyes and see this beast of an animal cruising along, not caring if you are near him or even in his path. Truly amazing...and scary!
Here are some other random pics and videos from the trip..
Inflatabull - yes, we ordered the famous inflatable bull and had a ton of fun riding it in the water. Wow! It was not only hard to stay on, but hard to mount! Haha
Sandbar island - we did a short excursion out to a sandbar that is usually above the sea during low tide and about a metre below the sea during high tide. Not sure what the tour guy was thinking, but they took us there during high tide. Oh well, the floating cooler kept us occupied while we weren't snorkelling around the reef.
Jumping fish - you could take drinks down to the dock where the float plane lands and see many jumping fish, as well as sharks and rays at night. Pretty cool.
Dubai - May 2018
We did a quick weekend trip to Dubai at the start of May - some bars, some beach, and some shopping. Hit the Mall of the Emirates that has a ski hill and toboggan hill inside it. In a friggin' mall!
Always a great time!
Bahrain Tribfest - April 2018
In April, we went to our third Tribfest in Bahrain. Always a great time, hot & sunny weather, beer-filled, and great music. We went with friends David and Nikki and met up with Waco and Tosh. Loved the Bon Jovi tribute band called Wrong Jovi.
Back to Canada
We received some sad news in April, learning that Jeff's Grandma had passed away. She lived a happy 95 years and was Jeff's last living grandparent. We flew back to support Jeff's dad and it was a great opportunity to see his brother and many relatives we hadn't seen in some time. Our path took us to Calgary and then Saskatoon, then driving up to Prince Albert. The path back was Saskatoon to Toronto to Abu Dhabi and then Saudi. Was great to catch up with cousins Ryan and Rebecca and also to see support from mom's family, catching up with Sue and Barry. Lisa also took advantage of a trip to Canada to fill her suitcase with Canadian snacks. It was a whirlwind trip, making the 24-hour one-way trip to Canada and back all in less than a week!
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa