Saturday, 31 December 2016

[TripAdvisor Contribution] The Anvil Rooms - “Very very nice meal!”

With the wife and kids we headed up to the 28th Floor of Tornado Tower for a last meal of 2016. We had looked at going to a couple of other places, but given it was New Year's eve, the other establishments were on fixed menu's for fixed price (excluding alcohol) and the menu's were not really what we were looking for. Fortunately, The Anvil Rooms were doing the normal A La Carte menu and had what we wanted!

We had booked an early table, as thought it might have been busy, and arrived for 7pm. The restaurant was very quiet and didn't really get too busy all evening while we were there, just slowly the tables were taken.

I had an absolutely delicious meal with Beef Carpaccio, Oxtail soup and then an amazing 10oz fillet steak for main and a brownie and ice-cream for dessert. The steak was without question absolutely perfect. All washed down with a lovely bottle of bubbles.

I will definitely be back here for another steak!

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d3724082-r450170971-The_Anvil_Rooms-Doha.html#



Monday, 19 December 2016

When Uber meets MasterCard...50% discount




Uber and MasterCard have paired up for a special promo of 50% discount on rides (conditions apply).

Just use the promocode:
MCDOHA


See here for more! https://newsroom.uber.com/qatar/mastercard/



If you are new to Uber, you can sign up using this blog's promocode:

uberQatarIsCalling

for further savings and benefits (again, condtions apply and offer subject to change).



Happy Holidays!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Too much? Hmm...........do wonder!

The platform hotel services team have got the decorating down to a fine art.

Trying to make it feel like that time of year when it should be snowy and cold. Yet, despite being in the middle of Persian Gulf they succeed in bringing 4 trees, fairy lights, tinsel and other decorations to cover the walls and ceilings of the main recreational areas.

CCR


Duty Mess - aka "Starbucks"

Duty Mess - aka "Starbucks"

Corridor from Boot Room and Gym to Mess Hall

Corridor from Boot Room and Gym to Mess Hall

Outside Mess Hall

Outside Mess Hall

Mess Hall

Mess Hall

Mess Hall


Work in progress!

Arrival Lounge




Sunday, 27 November 2016

And so the rains came!

The forecast was for rain, with Saturday due to be the worst, based on the mid-week forecast.

Friday saw a little, but more just a tease. Saturday morning, the skies didn't look like it was going to come to anything, then in the afternoon, the skies clouded over and it all begin. A really sharp downpour.

As you can see from the photo below outside the villa, there was a bit of standing water.

C'Ring road looked a bit damp, with a lot of standing water near Ramada Signal

And walking round the villa, you can see how much water had collected in the floor beds

And then came Sunday.....it was a lovely day, a wee bit of cloud, but around 32c.....then it started, and it started quickly! The sky got very dark, very quickly, and then the thunder and lightning started. It just got heavier and heavier, the wind picked up and the rain was sheeting with the wind.
It didn't last too long, but the volume of water was incredible. The kids went out round the compound and the standing water was up over the kerb stones, so a good 6+ inches of standing water and the roads in the compound looked like canals!

Fortunately for us, we didn't have any leaks into the villa, but the maintenance guys were out in their slicker suits, with drain rods and plungers, checking all the drains, on the roof spaces, balconies etc.

Looks like there has been some really bad flooding in other parts of the city going by the videos on the various media sites.











[TripAdvisor Contribution] Sukar Pasha - Excellent food, but restaurant changes come with a 'but'

The in-laws were over for a holiday, and took them up to the restaurant as the weather was great.

Arrived to find that it had all changed since our last visit. The large outdoor seating area had been removed and replaced with a very small seating area. We were looking forward to sitting out enjoying the weather and the view, but sadly, what seats were there were taken, or not enough at a table for our party of 6. Raised our disappointment with the staff and they explained the outside was downsized when they opened the extra inside seating area.

So, inside it was! Sat down and the staff handed and explained the new tablet menu's. This took a bit of getting used to, and it became very confusing when everyone started adding choices of others (i.e. particularly the childrens). It would be so much better if they were all linked to a single 'order', to see the overall order. Another thing is the basket view could really do with a small image next to the order items, just to make sure what you were ordering was what you thought you decide on, especially when you jump back and forth through the menu.

The food however, was once again excellent. the barley soup, mixed grill and 'puffy' bread was my choice and all were delicious.
The others all enjoyed there food, and the youngest had the chops and cleared them all.

Staff were excellent. no issues at all. Just a shame about outside!

Review posted at:https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d2485857-r440298622-Sukar_Pasha-Doha.html#

Friday, 25 November 2016

Bird Defences - Stage 1

Lying in your bed early morning trying to have a decent sleep, and all you can hear is 'tap tap tap' and the calls of the birds on the windows. Really annoying.

Add to this and the excessive amount of poop that they leave on the glass and ledges and ground below.

It was time to engage mission Bird Defences - Stage 1...

The small ledges on the windows between the panes are only about 60mm deep, so it is not the big pigeons, but the smaller birds, so had to look at the smaller type spikes. I don't want the metal spikes here, as the glass has a reflective coating to help with the summer sun and it would easily get scratched.

Having searched locally and found nothing, I headed to the the usual, the internet. After looking at few different ones, I settled on Bird Defender Narrow Plastic.


These are manufactured by Jones & Sons in the UK and I got them via Ebay. under their seller name DefenderBirdSpikes http://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/defenderbirdspikes?_trksid=p2047675.l2559

Having measured up how much I needed, I settled for 2x10m packs, and shipped them via Aramex Shop&Ship. The package weight was around 1.12Kg so was 112 QAR to ship.


[Update: Do NOT use double sided foam strips, they don't stick properly, see update here.]
As the spikes are relatively sheltered out of the elements, not that we get much rain anyway, I elected to use some double sided 20mm wide foam tape (from the local Carrefour) to attach to the metal window frames after first giving them a wash to remove the dust. I simply cut a small strip about 20mm x 5mm and stuck it to the end of each strip.

Attaching all the whole length section first, to fill in the gaps at the end, it was simply a case of bending the strips to snap them at a breakpoint line and snipping off the ends if necessary to fit the remaining gap.

It didn't take long at all, and think I had fitted around 17m in about 1 to 1.5 hours, including all washing of the frames and sticking the foam strips to the spikes.

As they are clear plastic, once they are attached, you don't really notice them unless you are looking for them, and after a while you forget they are there. You don't really notice them from the inside looking out either.

Side of the villa

Master Bedroom Balcony 
Main Balcony

Living Room Front Window

Looking out from inside

You can see more on the different types of spikes they do and get more on the technical specifications like sizing info on their website. http://www.birdspikesonline.co.uk/Bird-Spikes/default.aspx

I certainly noticed this morning, the first morning after fitting, the lack of bird noise, particularly from the master bedroom balcony, as they are always there first thing.

Next up is Stage 2 - to deal with the pigeons on the ridge lines and overhangs, but think will go for the larger metal spikes, but still to be decided....there is a local company here for them, but tempted to do it myself, as they are dragging their heals, but not sure how the shipping costs would come out. Maybe have to make some more enquiries and to a cost estimate, but also need to factor in 'risk of falling'!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

First season rain on the way?

Looking at the forecast the first of the heavy seasonal rain could be hitting the area this weekend. Let's hope there is not the same flooding as last winter!

The snapshot below is for Saturday and shows peak rain fall at > 20mm/hour.



You can see the animated projections on WindyTV at the following link;

https://www.windytv.com/?rainrate,2016-11-26-09,25.240,51.487,8

I don't know about you, but I'm certainly looking forward to some thunder and lightning displays and a bit of a downpour!

Friday, 18 November 2016

1st Desert Camping!

With the weather cooling down, it was time to do our first overnight camping. We were heading out with the next door neighbours as our guide.....



Packing the car with ice-boxes for food and drinks, sun lounger cushions as mattresses, bog roll, wet wipes and heaps of water. Sleeping bags and a Weber Go Anywhere BBQ.



We headed out from Doha, west towards Zekreet and then came off the main road and just headed into the desert and kept going until we found the coast. Camp was set up before it got dark, then it was time to relax and fire up the BBQs.

The kids and the mums went in for a dip, but it was really shallow and the water was freezing. Colder than you would expect for the area and being an enclosed sea area.

Post BBQ was camp fire time, having collected drift wood off the shore, this things was well toasty! Kids enjoyed their marshmallows.



After numerous hours, I just crashed into the tent I was sharing with the youngest and Nadia. I was woken to the sound of the sea in the morning and thought it was raining as Nadia was complaining of being dripped on. It was condensation on the roof of the tent coming in the seam and dripping down onto her, no rain!

Everyone had a great time, especially the neighbours dogs!

Time to get up, pack up camp and head back. Exhausted, but great fun. Definitely do that again.



Video below posted on YouTube

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Spice Market - Pleasant evening although food felt rushed.

Out with the wife and another couple, met at the bar area in Spice Market around 7pm, the place was pretty busy. had a few drinks then headed to the table.

It was freezing, no idea where the draft was coming from, and a few others who arrived at tables nearby asked to be moved as it was cold. Think the AirCon had been set for full summer mode!

The four of us ordered the "5 Courses 10 Flavours" set meal. Didn't know what to expect, so it was case of time will tell. For 4 persons you also got a choice of 2 bottles of wine from a set list. Price per person was 280 QAR.

As I am more of a meat eater than fish or veg, this was either going to be a nightmare or heaven, as it turns out it was neither. Just got stuck into whatever came and it turned out alright, prawns, tuna steak, grilled chicken, and can't remember what else!

The only other comment to make other than the AirCon was the speed at which each course arrived, it felt very rushed as if they were wanting you in/out as quick as possible. This was raised with the staff, not that it would make any difference on this visit as we only had the pudding to go.

After the meal, we went back to the bar area, as it was a bit quieter now and should hopefully be warmer. Another few drinks to finish the night.

Pleasant evening with good company, but not sure I would take that menu choice again. At least I have tried it!

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d1576497-r438242935-Spice_Market-Doha.html#

Monday, 24 October 2016

GEMS Wellington - 2016 Winter Fair - 19th November


Winter Fair
GEMS Wellington School

19th November 2016

10 am - 2 pm

With many stalls for gifts, arts and crafts, plus plenty activities to keep the kids entertained, come and visit the GEMS Wellington School Winter Fair on 19th November 2016.

Build-A-Bear-Workshop are hosting a Magic Show at 12 pm.






Wednesday, 19 October 2016

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Il Teatro - Back again for another Friday Brunch

Back again and this time, we were in with our next door neighbours. Somehow, we ended up on the same table again, which is a good thing!

Staff were once again excellent, great selection of foods from both the Il Teatro and Elements sides. Had my usual overdose of Crispy Duck Pancakes to start the day off, followed by numerous selections of meat dishes.

Glasses kept topped up, cocktails and beer and great company, made for an excellent afternoon.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d3542754-r429574933-Il_Teatro-Doha.html#

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Library Bar - 11th floor, smoke free and tasty panini!

Living across the road from the Radisson, I headed over for an evening with a work colleague to enjoy some beer and a bite to eat.

We headed up to the Library Bar as it is smoke free and usually peaceful. There was only a handful of others in the bar. Staff very pleasant and friendly, and happy to keep the supply of beer coming.

I enjoyed a very tasty tenderloin panini, and will definitely be having one of them again!

A fine relaxing evening.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d306474-r429573004-Radisson_Blu_Hotel_Doha-Doha.html#

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Olive Oil - A pleasant relaxing brunch......

Located within the City Centre Rotana, the Olive Oil restaurant offers a lower than typical priced brunch (270/ 350 Qr (alcohol)) and slightly shorter, however, this is not something to be put off by. It was more relaxed and laid back and kids weren't a problem.

We headed here with some friends and all the kids for something different, away from the normal Friday brunch at some of our more usual locations. 

With a good selection of international foods, it certainly filled me up and the staff were always ready to top up the bubbles and pour another beer. The kids also had an area of food selection out of the main restaurant, which meant they could come and go with out disturbing other diners.

Lentil soup - tasty, beef- tasty, can't remember what else I had - tasty!

The brunch also included use of the outdoor pool facilities up on the 7th floor, so as the parents sat back and enjoyed some relaxing sunshine/fresh air and fruit cocktails from Aquarius pool bar, the kids got to burn off some energy in the pool. Note: There is currently no alcohol at the pool bar, however the staff did say they have applied for a license.

We you sit back and look up at the Doha skyline towering above you, it is easy to forget that you are 7 floors up.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d8835978-r429571105-Olive_Oil-Doha.html#

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Cucina - Fine soup and tasty pizza, ideal for mid week informal outing....

Located within the Marriott Marquis City Centre Doha, this italian restaurant was the venue for a group of work colleagues out for an informal evening to mark one of their 25th anniversary with the company.

We kicked the evening off at 6.30pm, so it wasn't too busy in the restaurant, shown to our table we got ourselves settled and the staff came over to take the drinks order and hand out the menus.

I started off with minestrone soup and followed up with hawaiian pizza. Selection of breads were also available on the table.

The food was very good and would certainly go back again. The only criticism I would have, and it is minor, is that the drinks were a bit slow to arrive at the start and considering the place was relatively quiet, I thought that was an area for improvement.

Overall, very positive and as I say, definitely go back.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d2422203-r429565116-Cucina-Doha.html#

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Maintenance Time - Waste Disposal Unit!

While I was offshore, Nadia informed me that the kitchen waste disposal unit had died. She raised it with the compound maintenance team, but they said they do not do these anymore, but would happily remove it and return the sink to being just a normal drain connection.

I thought that there must be somewhere in Doha that has these, as there are kitchen sale rooms all over the place.

I removed the old unit and checked for size etc, and it looks like a fairly standard arrangement. I was convinced it was exactly the same layout as the one in Aberdeen, so thinking it might be a standard fit.

Original Faulty Unit
I checked the manufacturer data on the label and it was rated at 2.25A, 220-240vac, so I would expect the resistance of the motor coil to be around ~100 Ohms, however, when I put my multimeter across it, there was only 30 Ohms. 


Posting on the Facebook group When, Where and How in Doha, yield no results, so it was a time to just head out in the car.

Dropping the kids off at school in the morning, I was originally going to start off in Barwa Village, as there are literally hundreds of shops and many hardware type places in amongst them, however, Nadia thought I was heading to the massive Ansar Gallery first (Industrial Area Road), so we ended up there. There are a lot of roadworks in the area of the school, and I had asked what she thought was the best way to go, and guess we never got near Barwa Village, and it wasn't until we were at Barwa City, I thought something wasn't quite right! Not to worry.......

Instead we went into Ansar Gallery first, they have a huge kitchen area, but they didn't do disposal units. next followed the road along and stopped at every kitchen/bathroom sale room, and nobody had anything. Next stop was Salwa Road, and again, driving down the service road, stopping at all the kitchen places we could see. Nothing........eventually, a possible glimmer of hope. One of the sales guys in one of the kitchen showrooms, explicitly mentioned a shop by name and where it was. So off we went, unfortunately, when we came onto Salwa Road, we had already passed this shop, and that is why we missed it! We arrived at the shop, Teka, it was closed for lunch, argh!. Couldn't believe it was already 12.30.......we dropped the kids off at school at around 7.30! By this time, we were worn out and hungry, so just headed home to the villa.

I went onto Google and did a search for Teka Doha and found the relevant website. They had an online pdf of their Teka kitchen sink catalogue, and sure enough in the accessories list was a waste disposal unit...Yah!

I went back out when they re-opened (4pm) and into the showroom, and success, they have them, but not in the showroom. The woman didn't have any to show me, but simply showed the catalogue pictures and confirmed the sink hole size requirement. So I purchased one, and it would be available to collect from the showroom the next morning. 1650 QAR, discounted to 1500 QAR, that will do nicely.

Next morning, after dropping the kids off at school, we headed back to the shop, but it wasn't in yet, the woman said around 9.30, so we head home, and then I went back to collect at 11am. Arriving in the shop, the same sales woman, opened the box and let me see everything. It looked fairly standard, came with a whole bunch of fittings etc. so I was fairly convinced there was success in the making.

Getting back to the villa, I opened up everything and laid it all out. This one also came with an air activated switch, which was optional to fit, but thought it would be better than having to turn it on/off at the wall switch all the time like had to with the old one, will need to think about that.

First, up, was removing the old sink connector that the original unit was attached to. The new one was easy to fit, but needed 2 people, as it was difficult to hold in place while trying to clip on a large circlip ring that held the clamping arrangement in place. Once that was done and all tightened up, I removed the spare tap connector hole on the sink, perfect, it is the same size as the air switch button!

Clamping the new disposal unit onto the sink mount, and centralising, it was time to focus on the drains. It looked like everything was just going to slot into place, until I discovered that the fixed pipe that went to the drain system (i.e. the one that is permanent under the sink) was a few millimeters larger diameter than all new new stuff. I took the old trap I had removed and played around with all the bits on the floor to see what i could potentially cobble together, then it dawned on me just to use the old connection directly onto the new disposal unit, after all it 'looks' like they are in the same place. Sure enough, it all just aligned up perfectly, problem solved!

The air hose from the air switch was pushed onto the connector at the bottom of the unit, and the excess hose would round the neck of the unit just in case I needed to trim back in the future.

Next up was the electrics. The old unit had a wire that was terminated directly into the unit. The new one however came with a fixed, sealed flex and a european 2 pin plug. I thought I was going to have to go and get a wall socket and box from the supermarket, but then remembered I had kept the single socket I had removed from outside when I had replaced it with a double. Perfect, mounted it high under the sink, terminated the wire from the wall. Cut off the european plug and fitted a spare UK 13 Amp plug I had in my toolbox.

First test.....on with the water.........no leaks, success!

Second test.....switched on the breaker in the supply cupboard, turned on the wall switch, put on some water and pressed the air switch......yah! It works and how much noticeably quieter is this thing!

New disposal, new socket, original pipework and fittings.
As you can see in the picture above, the air hose at the top left, which is connected to the air switch mounted in the sink using one of the spare unused tap holes.
Air Switch
I could have also messed around with the pipework a bit more, and tried to hook in the existing dishwasher drain and fitted a new overflow to the sink, but they are all as original going to a different drain connection so just left them alone for now. Never know, if I come to redo the kitchen, it might get sorted out then........

Overall, a relatively painless swap out, the hardest part was finding a supplier!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Summer Holiday? That's all folks!

Well that is it. Summer is officially over, or more precisely, summer holidays.....it is after all still toasty here in Qatar!

It all started way back in the last week of June, Nadia and the kids jetted off to Florida for a 3 week break. The following week, I joined them after I had finished my offshore trip.

What is it with hire car companies? Or in this instance, Avis. When you have bought and paid fully up front for the full 3 weeks, told them when you arrive etc. and yet this still do not have the car you ordered available and try to give you a car instead of a jumbo SUV as ordered. That is bad logistics planning on their part and need to get their act together! I mean, how would their boss like to book a holiday to a 5-Star all inclusive resort to turn up at the door and be told, "Here is your tent, and a bow and arrow, you have to catch your own dinner, you can go and pitch it yourself in that jungle over there..." Anyway, ended up being upgraded FOC to a slightly smaller, but more luxury SUV, so it was as if it wasn't the end of the world, but certainly not what the wife needed after a 17 hour journey and two flights.......

We rented a villa down in Solterra Resort, which is a relatively new community, and only partially completed. The villa (see this link) was nice big 6 bedroom, private pool so just fine. The resort is adding more villas, expanding the facilities, currently has a clubhouse and community pool, adding in Lazy River etc. We had taken a larger one than we actually needed, as there was a possibility of some other friends coming, but at the time of booking was unconfirmed so just to be on the safe side. Add to this, that we were already really late booking anything, so choices were becoming more limited each day.

As you can see on the map below, Solterra is just south of the Disney area, off the I-4, which made access to everything quite handy. With nearby supermarkets for everything you would need in the villa, and also not far from places like Celebration, if you didn't fancy a Disney day and could wander around somewhere else for a change. You could also head straight up the I-4 and head right into Orlando for all the shops and eateries on International Drive, or at one of many along the 192.


Cool off in the fountain opposite the ice-cream shop (delicious!) in the heart of Celebration!


As you can imagine in the theme parks, it was hard to tell who had more fun, the kids or the parents. I think this next picture pretty much speaks for itself, and we were breaking the kids in gently on the coaster at LegoLand. So you can imagine what they were like on the bigger ones that we did manage to get them on!

The flights we took were from Doha to Boston, then Boston to Orlando. I'm convinced that clearing immigration in Boston was a lot quicker than going through Orlando, and having read all the concerns in the press about the queues, it didn't appear all that bad. Being a domestic flight from Boston to Orlando also meant that it was just a quick bag pickup at the Orlando end.

After the few weeks in the USA it was time to head back, and after an overnight stay at the villa in Doha, it was over to the UK. I went over for just 1 week, the wife and kids went over until the end of August. 

The biggest shock I had, was how much Aberdeen has changed in 1 year since I was last over, probably mostly down to the oil price crash. Thursday is usually the busiest shopping night, and the place was just empty. Even on the Friday when I went out for a few beers around town, the place was pretty quiet. I do hope it recovers soon! The construction work is really coming along with the Bypass, the chaos around the Airport roads, and construction at the Airport. I mean to say, an International Airport with a single temporary baggage carousel outside in a portacabin!

It was great to catch up with everyone who we managed to see, and as usual there is always some that are away or have other things on that you just have to say, well there is always next time! At least I managed to get a decent steak in at the Marcliffe!

I arrived back in Doha for a couple of nights then headed offshore for a 4 weeker. My back to back had asked to do rota shuffle so we both ended up with a 4/4 trip. The trip went surprisingly quickly. I guess keeping myself active with a lot, I mean, a really lot of walking, helped to pass the time. 
Came home after the 4 weeks and a it was time to get my survival refresher done again. This time I was doing it in QISC in Doha, makes a change from Aberdeen! The rota swap worked out fine with the Florida holiday, but certainly not looking forward to going back offshore after only 2 weeks at home.

So the family made it back to Doha, and after about a week it was back to school. The eldest has now moved from Gems American to Gems Wellington (British), and at the same school as her sister, which simplifies things slightly. The 2 schools were next door to each other, so no big change really.

Boozy BBQ's, blood, sweat and tear's, DIY repairs, new car.........and all Nadia is happy about is getting Great British Bake Off on the telly thanks to some internet modifications at the villa, but that is a whole different post!

:-)