This post is sponsored in part by Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach. They generously hosted me while I was in town so we could discuss working together in the future. All opinions are my own.
Apologies in advance for the crazy amount of photos in this post, but there was just so much to share! Two weeks ago, I was in Dubai for some meetings. The plan is to come back for an urban yoga retreat, so if you're in the area or are willing to travel to Dubai, just let me know by filling this out so I can notify you when plans are finalized.
So, now the pics.
The trip started out kind of a bummer because we missed our connecting flight in Doha, Qatar. Fortunately, Qatar airlines took good care of us and booked us the next flight without a penalty (so kind of them!). We finally arrived in Dubai just after midnight.
Sofitel, in case you didn't know, is a 5 star luxury chain of French hotels. This one sits right on JBR's walk that goes all along the beach and is peppered with little cafes and shops. I love the location because the beach is right there to the front, and out back you can just hop on the metro and go inland toward the Burj Khalifa. More on that in a sec.
Our room had a beautiful view of the water and the famous Palm (below) and a little balcony where I sipped tea and read before starting each day. The bed was really comfortable, and the complimentary internet was reliable which was an obvious bonus. Side note: It really bothers me when hotels don't offer complimentary internet. It's a big pet peeve of mine. No worries about that here!
Each morning, we'd have breakfast near the pool. Breakfast was really international and included everything from omelet and crepe stations, to sushi to fresh juices to croissants to deli meats. The service was excellent, and the food was delicious, so I was feeling pretty spoiled.
After breakfast, we'd head down to the beach where I was so happy to lay in the sun and go swimming. The GAPS book talks about how our bodies absorb nutrients from oceans and lakes, and I swear I felt it! Even after my first swim, I just felt so good.
On one of the days, we got to test the new menu at Plantation, where they feature slow-cooked French meals made and served in cast iron cookware. Below you'll see the spinach stuffed ravioli, and cod fish with ratatouille. My only complaint is that I wanted more - it was all so good. :)
The chef, Vladimiro Gadioli, is a redheaded guy from Italy with the best personality, and came out to say hello and chat a bit about the menu. My favorite was the pan seared scallops, shown below.
After an evening walk on the beach, we made our way inland to check out the famous Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world).
One of the things I love about Dubai is how safe I feel. The first time I visited, I was alone, and felt that no one looked at me twice. Never once did I feel unsafe, and things like the Women & Children Cabin in the metro really help. The safety here is one of the reasons I feel this would make an ideal location for an urban yoga retreat.
After the longest day ever walking around the Dubai Mall (I think we were there for six hours and still didn't see everything!), my body was in desperate need of an epsom bath salt soak. It was a treat to find it in the pharmacy in Dubai...although funny story. In Dubai, it's marketed as something you drink for a laxative. I stocked up on five or six bottles and the guy ringing me up goes, 'Uh, are you ok?' Hahaha. He had no idea you could soak in the salts and absorb the magnesium for sore muscles.
In other news, Sofitel has the most delicious bath products from Lanvin. I am crazy about the scent of oud. It's distinctly Middle Eastern to me - I've only smelled it in Dubai, and it just makes me so happy.
On one of the days, we had lunch at Pier 7 overlooking the marina. I might've eaten my weight in fresh hummus and leban but it was worth it. I am part Lebanese so I grew up eating these dishes and it just made me so happy and reminded me of big family meals with my grandmother who made the most delicious Lebanese food. The meals, actually, were the best part of this trip. Each dish was like a walk down memory lane.
Confession. I had big plans for working out while in Dubai. I knew Sofitel had an incredible gym called So Fit, and I wanted to take full advantage of it. But you know what they say about the best laid plans, right?
It just wound up being such a busy trip between meetings and sightseeing that there wasn't any time. But look at that gym! For a hotel, that's a crazy good gym, no?!
On our last day in town, we booked a driver to take us out to the desert for a photoshoot, because hey, when in Rome...
We learned some interesting things on the drive. Like, did you know that some people in Dubai will drive to the camel farms and get fresh, raw camel milk? The guy says it tastes a little salty, but is delicious. :)
I kind of can't wait for you to see the pics from the shoot because knowing the back story is going to make you laugh.
So. The driver picks us up at the hotel. (Side note: the concierge got us the deal of the century - huge shout out to the Sofitel concierge!) We get in, and my husband Greg notices that the suv has a roll cage. At this point, he just thinking, "Ok weird, safety first, whatever."
However, the last time I was in town, I did a little research because I had wanted to go to the desert but my friend had already been and it was pricey, so she wasn't into going again. In my research, I learned that it's not just a leisurely drive through the desert. It's hard to tell in these photos, but these small looking dunes were actually huge, and in order to get up them and not spin out, you have to hit the gas. Essentially the wheels are spinning, and the car is going sideways and you're holding on for dear life, and if you're like me, you feel like you're going to die and a major panic attack ensues.
Anyway, back to Greg, who still was in the dark about how crazy they have to drive. He, too, was holding onto the roll cage and giving me Looks. Later he was like, "So I legit thought we were going to die! Why didn't you give me the heads up it was like that?!"
There was a point where I was hyperventilating and couldn't feel my legs! You guys! Haha, I had major, major anxiety issues in college and really felt like I had worked on my anxiety. I can't remember the last time I had a panic attack - it's been that long! Well, it was pretty awful driving through the desert. To make it worse, the driver knew I was anxious so he really tried to slow down, bless him, but in order to get up those dunes there's really no other choice but to drive like a maniac. It was like being on a roller coaster for over an hour straight.
So every so often we would stop and try to get some pictures in. It was seriously so beautiful. And so hot. Once I got out of the car I was fine, although I felt a little weak and dehydrated. We got our pics done, and then hightailed it out of there! I'm grateful I did it, but equally grateful I hired a private driver because they do group tours and I surely would've been the Debbie Downer in the group!
See the road on the right? We had driven in from the left and gone across the whole desert and left on that road to the right, so this was taken at the tail end of the trip.
The next morning at 5am, we were up bright and early to take off.
People often ask how I travel on the GAPS diet, and the answer is, it's pretty challenging. For the most part, I just try to go into it knowing that the diet won't be perfect and that I just have to do my best and let that be enough.
One trick I did on this trip, though, was order room service the night before. I had a plain rib eye and a Lebanese cucumber salad, and then cut it all up and put it in my tupperware I had brought on the flight over along with sauerkraut I brought from home. I kept it in the mini bar fridge and took it in my bag in the morning. It really saved me because long haul flights are the worst for food if you're trying to follow the GAPS diet.
I watched a really good movie on the flight home (that new one with Nicole Kidman called Before I Go to Sleep- so scary!), and then read the latest HBR on the iPad.
It was a great trip and I am so looking forward to going back to lead a retreat there! Let me know if you're interested in coming!
And now, a 10 minute before bed yoga sequence filmed at Sofitel. This is really relaxing, and very gentle. Perfect for all levels, including beginners
PS- More behind the scenes pics on our new instagram account