Explore Clumber Park

NJD Clumber Park

NJD

This summer, little diva got introduced to some serious nature by her paternal aunt and Uncle….at Clumber Park which is set on the old country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle and is home to beautiful avenues, plants, wildlife and an amazing picturesque trail for walking.

We walked through gardens, woodlands, light forests and NJD even had a Winnie the Pooh moment throwing twigs in the river and watching them come on the other end of a bridge over a waterfall.

NJD Clumber

We took photos of the chapel, a masterpiece of gothic revival, standing tall in grandeur of the past.

NJD enjoyed feeding ducks and swans while skipping along stopping only for ice cream after 3 hours of blissful nature around a magnificent lake. I got a nettle attack only to be cured by a leaf growing nearby in minutes.

We even came across a bridge that looked much like the troll bridge in the series ‘Once Upon a Time’. The day ended with scones and tea from the Café…delightfully English!

Natasha Dury Clumber

Tash climbs her first tree
Tash climbs her first tree

Afternoon Tea with Jimmy Choo in Hong Kong

MO Bar Jimmy Choo Shereen Shabnam

First let me clarify that I still have mixed feelings about Jimmy Choo….my sexy red heels remain uncomfortable the last I felt it but I still love the white bag, which for Choo, is NOT BAD since I normally use Luis Vuitton as a benchmark. However, I am delighted with the look of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental and the MO Bar at the hotel, which also looks beautiful in photos, has organised its latest fashion tea in collaboration with Jimmy Choo.

Jimmy Choo shoes and handbags are often worn by style icons around the world, from celebrities to royalty, and from musicians to heads of state.  Until 5 May, MO Bar’s Jimmy Choo afternoon tea will take inspiration from Jimmy Choo’s Spring/Summer 2013 collections, which will highlight the haute gypsy glamour of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and feature rich and vibrant colors and embossed leather, fringes and tassels, to reveal the fun-loving side of women.

Sidney Schutte, Executive Chef at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental says, “When creating this afternoon tea, we wanted to showcase Jimmy Choo’s Spring/Summer shoe wardrobe that is filled with bold and feminine shades. We have crafted edible miniature high heels and also took inspiration from the colours of the handbags and clutches, and have created some of the most fashionable-looking and delectable savoury and sweet items to convey their style.

Tea items include smoked salmon cucumber sandwiches made to resemble the design of the CAYLA clutch decorated with brightly coloured cream cheese pyramid studs; and the white chocolate bag based on one of Jimmy Choo’s signature leopard print designs.  “We are excited by this collaboration, which allows our guests to touch and feel the ‘Choo’s in a completely new way!” added Schutte.

MO Bar’s Jimmy Choo tea set will feature mouth-watering savoury bites such as Foie Gras High Heels on Crispy Brioche Bread, Ham Mousse Sandwiches with Savora Mustard, and Smoked Salmon Sandwiches with Cucumber and Cream Cheese.  Sweet temptations include Milk Chocolate High Heels filled with Lemon and Chocolate Biscuits, White Chocolate Bag filled with Lychee, Rose and Raspberry Mousse, Chupa Chup Macaroon filled with Passion Fruit and Mango Cream, and Green Tea, Strawberry, and Yuzu Mousse Shooter, as well as MO Bar’s signature light-as-a-feather Ginger and Raisin Scones.

Intimate, contemporary and ideally placed in the vortex of Hong Kong’s financial and luxury shopping districts, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong sets the standard for personal service and stylish sophistication.

It is time for Dubai Summer Surprises

NJD after a DSS face painting when she was young….she always chose a tiger design

Summer in Dubai these days are a lot different than 10 years ago thanks to the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, an agency under the Department of Economic Development of Dubai who have planned more than a 100 exciting shows and activities over 31 days set to cement Dubai’s reputation as the finest summer destination in the region through Dubai Summer Surprises 2012 (DSS).

DSS will run from June 14th to July 14th with the slogan “Dubai. Summer Fun and More”. I remember working with the DSF/DSS team in 2000 and had lots of fun at the DSF offices then with H.E. Laila Suhail who is now the CEO of DEPE and Ibrahim Saleh, Festivals Coordinator General and Deputy CEO of DEPE. Both of them are just as dynamic as I knew them 12 years ago and its great to see that they keep each year’s events fresh with new activities….I’m particularly excited with all the spa offers I’m about to experience – my body certainly needs it.

To know what you want to indulge in this year, check out the “Dubai Calendar” which gives visitors and residents a month-by-month line-up of the unique and entertaining events taking place in the city all year round and it is a great source of reference for anyone wanting to make the most of their time in Dubai….it is an awesome tool for people who have visitors all the time in Dubai.

This year’s partners and sponsors which includes Emirates Airlines, AW Rostamani, Al Futtaim Group, Emaar Malls Group, Emaar Properties, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, Al Ghurair City, Mercato, Paris Gallery, EPPCO and ENOC, Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai Duty Free in addition to Master card and Dubai Shopping Malls Group (DSMG), all of which, over the years, have played an important role in the success and continuing growth of DSS.

Malls across the city will play host to DSS signature events, such as World of Stories, Kids Fashion Week, Min Bladi Al Emarat, and the Sheila and Abaya Fashion Show, and kids can look forward to 8 highly popular international stage cartoon shows such as The Smurfs, Barbie, Hello Kitty, Sponge Bob, Charlie and Lola, Ice Age, and Teletubbies….man these bring memories of us going all over town with little diva. I must say I am glad she’s all grown up now and enjoys DSS the way I like – retail therapy!

My favourite bit this DSS will be naturally be the spa offers program “Dubai Spas” with cool discounts at the cream of Dubai’s luxurious spas. I’m not big into raffles partly because I never win anything but DSS usually has some mega prizes.

I’m pretty sure there is a lot more news coming up for DSS but the taster activity schedule that landed in my inbox makes me want to just here all summer.


Celebrating cuisine that's just as spicy as moi

My favourite Thai dish in KL was nasi Pattaya….which is fried rice wrapped in thin omelette. In Dubai its everything on the Sukothai menu 🙂

Last Saturday, I made a supreme effort to get out of my pyjamas end of day to catch up with my cool friends from The Tourism Authority of Thailand at Dusit Dubai as they launched the “Amazing Taste of Thailand Festival 2012”. I don’t normally sacrifice my weekend for ordinary people or events but I love everything about Thailand and the people from Thailand have become some of my closest friends here so I was there in all my glory…. I love the country, got married there after a crazy weekend trip from KL (in Hatyai with a few weeks in Krabi), love the food, love the spas, love Muay Thai, love shopping in Bangkok, love the people of Pattaya and the list goes on.

Basically I was invited since everyone from the Thai Embassy, the Thai spas know how dedicated I am to my food and massage sessions and they are very right. In a nutshell, the month-long festival is until 7th July 2012,during which time diners at 13- participating restaurants will have the opportunity to win gift vouchers and a number of exciting prizes including a trip to Bangkok with Thai Airways.

“The Amazing Taste of Thailand” launch event was co-hosted by the Dusit Thani, Dubai and Thai Airways and began with a welcome speech from H.E. Mr. Somchai Charanasomboon, Ambassador of Royal Thai Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the ever so dynamic Wisoot Buachoom, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand.

There were also two performances of traditional Thai dancing, fruit carving demonstrations and live cooking stalls where the 13 participating restaurants show cased their individual specialist Thai cuisine. The restaurants participating in the “Amazing Taste of Thailand Food Fest 2012” include Benjarong, Blue Elephant, Pai Thai, Sukhothai, Spice Emporium, Ban Khun Mae, The Kitchen of Thai, Shang Thai, Thai Chi, The Royal Buddha, Chimes, The Thai Kitchen in Dubai and the Taste Restaurant in Fujairah.

The ‘Thainess’, which is at the heart of Thai hospitality permeates across all of Thailand, from amazing beaches and natural environment to culinary expertise. Thai cuisine is a key element of ‘Amazing Thailand’ and the ingredients used, the various herbs and spices together with cooking methods is all part of the essence of Thailand.

Looks like the next few weeks are going to be a culinary adventure for me and anyone who wants to be in my company for meals….can you stomach the spiciness levels of this diva?

Celebrating cuisine that’s just as spicy as moi

My favourite Thai dish in KL was nasi Pattaya….which is fried rice wrapped in thin omelette. In Dubai its everything on the Sukothai menu 🙂

Last Saturday, I made a supreme effort to get out of my pyjamas end of day to catch up with my cool friends from The Tourism Authority of Thailand at Dusit Dubai as they launched the “Amazing Taste of Thailand Festival 2012”. I don’t normally sacrifice my weekend for ordinary people or events but I love everything about Thailand and the people from Thailand have become some of my closest friends here so I was there in all my glory…. I love the country, got married there after a crazy weekend trip from KL (in Hatyai with a few weeks in Krabi), love the food, love the spas, love Muay Thai, love shopping in Bangkok, love the people of Pattaya and the list goes on.

Basically I was invited since everyone from the Thai Embassy, the Thai spas know how dedicated I am to my food and massage sessions and they are very right. In a nutshell, the month-long festival is until 7th July 2012,during which time diners at 13- participating restaurants will have the opportunity to win gift vouchers and a number of exciting prizes including a trip to Bangkok with Thai Airways.

“The Amazing Taste of Thailand” launch event was co-hosted by the Dusit Thani, Dubai and Thai Airways and began with a welcome speech from H.E. Mr. Somchai Charanasomboon, Ambassador of Royal Thai Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the ever so dynamic Wisoot Buachoom, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand.

There were also two performances of traditional Thai dancing, fruit carving demonstrations and live cooking stalls where the 13 participating restaurants show cased their individual specialist Thai cuisine. The restaurants participating in the “Amazing Taste of Thailand Food Fest 2012” include Benjarong, Blue Elephant, Pai Thai, Sukhothai, Spice Emporium, Ban Khun Mae, The Kitchen of Thai, Shang Thai, Thai Chi, The Royal Buddha, Chimes, The Thai Kitchen in Dubai and the Taste Restaurant in Fujairah.

The ‘Thainess’, which is at the heart of Thai hospitality permeates across all of Thailand, from amazing beaches and natural environment to culinary expertise. Thai cuisine is a key element of ‘Amazing Thailand’ and the ingredients used, the various herbs and spices together with cooking methods is all part of the essence of Thailand.

Looks like the next few weeks are going to be a culinary adventure for me and anyone who wants to be in my company for meals….can you stomach the spiciness levels of this diva?

Inspirational coffee moment with Colm McLoughlin

With Colm and Sinead…. movers and shakers behind the most successful brand in Dubai

After seeing Colm McLoughlin around town and in the media for over 11 years, I finally had a chance for a delightful chat with the man behind the most successful Duty Free retail venture in the world. I always wanted to do a blog on him so when our awesome Group was given an opportunity to get up, close and personal with Colm one morning a few months ago, naturally I jumped at the opportunity, had a chat with him and then found out even more later about the many initiatives he and his team help support via DDF.

Arriving in the UAE from Ireland in 1983 to help set up Dubai Duty Free (DDF) on a short-term contract with just a team of 10 people, Colm was enticed to stay longer to realize the vision of H.H Sheikh Mohammed to make DDF the most vibrant, successful and profitable airport retail organisation in the world. Over 28 years later, we find that the growth of DDF has surpassed all the goals that Colm had set and has gone beyond that into other fields as well. From 100 staff and earning 72 million revenues, DDF today has over 4,000 employees and posted Dhs4.6billion in revenues.

About 48 members of the original team are still with DDF and after facing the many travel related challenges over the years, and starting with concession shops to see the company grow into a major airport retailer today. Apart from owning the Aviation Club that houses the Dubai Tennis Stadium and The Irish Village and Century Village, Colm tells us of DDF’s plans to build a hotel within the same complex that would be run by the Jumeirah Group. The five star Jumeirah Creekside hotel will have 293 bedrooms with an all day dining restaurant.

While most people revel in DDF’s retail success, many associate the brand also with major sports tournaments and CSR initiatives. Colm tells us about the birth of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the 20th year anniversary of the tournament this year and the fact that it is seen worldwide on TV in over 400 million homes. He is particularly delighted by the fact that the players always vote DDF as the best tennis championship in the world. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was honoured by the ATP, being named as the ATP World Tour 500 Tournament of the Year for 2011. This is the eighth time in nine years that the Tournament has won the Award, a truly impressive achievement.

Other than tennis, DDF also sponsors the Desert Classic Golf Tournament, World Cup Horse Racing the Dubai Film Festival amongst other key events that help drive tourism and put Dubai on the map for world class events. Other events associated with DDF is the Irish Derby, Emirates Festival of Literature, local productions like City of Life, Gulf For Good, the library at DUCTAC as well as managing the DDF Foundation for children’s education and health in countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Dubai Duty Free also supports ‘Hand in Hand for Haiti’, the travel retail industry-funded educational initiative, where DDF Foundation provided US$500,000 to finance a new Sports Complex at the Lycee Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable School in the town of Saint Marc. The DDF Sports Complex at the Lycee school will offer pupils and the wider community in Saint Marc an outstanding sports and leisure facility. Facilities will include an international regulation soccer pitch, a 6-lane athletic track, a basketball court and a volleyball court.

During our conversation, it also emerged that DDF has won over 250 awards. But Colm personally also received an award recently by the Garbally College, which presented 55 former pupils with Alumni Awards. Colm with his two brothers Ray and Feidlim were amongst fellow alumni that included prominent and highly respected Irish professionals from the field of Business, Politics, Science, Education, Religion and the Arts. Both of Colm’s older brothers, Ray and Feidlim, have enjoyed highly successful business careers combined with high profile sporting success on the rugby field.

In addition to awards and CSR related events, Colm also supports initiatives by DDF to raise awareness and create environmental ambassadors within its operation. Dubai Duty Free sponsored two of its employees’ recently to participate in the ‘International Antarctic Expedition 2012’ expedition led by the renowned polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan, OBE. I asked Colm on DDF’s future plans and he enthusiastically tells us about Dubai Airports expansion plans, which would result in further growth of DDF with at least 1,000 more staff and 8,000sqm of retail space at concourse three. The concourse is anticipated to complete beginning of next year followed by another concourse three to four years later.

With the two new concourse areas, Colm expects sales to exceed the Dhs10billion mark with staff numbers increasing to over 8,000 to support the footprint at the bigger airport due to increased traffic. Speaking of some of his proudest achievements, Colm talks about team building initiatives and training provided to DDF staff. The management encourages staff to achieve exceptional results and provide them with all the facilities and tools to help them perform better in the workplace.

DDF is known to provide sports facilities at the residences of staff as well as computers and programmes so that they continuously improve their skills. Colm attributes this initiative to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed who is seen as a superstar as a boss who provides opportunities to his team to grow themselves and DDF to new heights.

In his leisure time Colm loves to cycle, swim and play golf. In ten years he hopes to see DDF doubling the business with more than 50 nationalities working together to sustain DDF in its pole position as the best airport retailer in the world. It was a pleasure spending the morning with Colm and Sinead and I hope to get insights from him and his team, who are equally dynamic, more often.

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2012

Last night I went to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2012 to listen to an author (David Nichols) whose book “One Day’ I’m reading after my NJD and Eric persuaded me that it was totally up my street – and they were right as I am currently enjoying this book as my bedtime reading. 

I bumped into people I know at the festival who enthused about the breathtaking display of readings, poetry, song and dance at the spectacular theatre that  is part of Cultural & Scientific Association at Al Mamzar.  This is where I saw the Japanese Drum show last week and it was wow.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2012 is held in Dubai between 6-10 March 2012 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and is held in partnership with Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage.

I am going to some of the sessions later today. As my first project in the UAE in 2000 (DSF 2000) was for Saeed Al Nabouda, who is now the Acting Director General of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, I look forward to catching up with him hopefully at the festival – always good to stay in contact with ex clients.

I am all set for the literary sessions today as well which look awesome. I wish local author Dedra Stevenson was part of the line-up too as my daughter loves her work too. Can’t wait to hear Rashad Bukhash speak on the architectural Heritage of Dubai. I love his groups talks on design and traditional architecture so it would be delightful to hear both Rashad and Peter Jackson share their knowledge in one session.