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Salalah at this time of the year is so hot and humid that the weather in Dubai feels like spring. We did check the weather forecast, which we promptly ignored, and still pushed through with the trip because a) we had the rare three-day weekend, and b) there was a great deal online (return flights + two-night stay + breakfast).

We flew from Abu Dhabi’s Terminal 2 which, based on the several large windowless aircrafts parked outside, appeared solely dedicated to cargo flights. We doubted whether or not we were at the right terminal. The airport is small; there was one checkin kiosk, one immigration officer, two boarding gates. Once aboard the aircraft, the cabin crew told us to sit wherever we wanted. We were offered water and juice and, before we knew it, it was time to land in Salalah’s very new (it just opened in June 2015) airport.

Salalah Rotana Resort

Rotana provided pick and drop service for us. We drove for 30 minutes, noting the houses glitter in the dark as we passed by. It seemed like the trend there – to have glittery walls. There were so many new houses being constructed. Concrete roads leading to these houses are yet to be built.

The resort is impressive. Set along the shores of the Indian Ocean, Salalah Rotana is a 5-star waterfront resort with 400 rooms and suites—lots of Arabesque geometric designs and stone archways—beautifully built around the lagoons, water features and manmade canals. Their website says the resort has been carved from desert rock as the hotel rises out of the water, making it part of the landscape.

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Three rooms were given for our group of six. Mom and my sister got the room next to ours, while Masood’s brother and his wife got a room in the next building. Our request to have all three rooms in the same building was politely declined owing to a fully-booked resort. We were, however, totally unprepared for what greeted us when we entered our room!

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First, I was like, “Okay … well … this is totally unexpected.” Then I saw the tray of sweets on the table and a strawberry cake with Happy Honeymoon written in chocolate next to it! I even had this crazy notion that they were probably giving such rooms to all the couples, but that wasn’t the case. We think that whoever booked that suite cancelled out last minute, thereby making it available for us.  Lucky us! We all sat together and ate the sweets!

The service is amazing; the staff is knowledgeable, friendly and polite. The property is well-maintained and clean. Breakfast buffet spread is very good. If you follow my Instagram account, you’ll notice I’ve been posting about the resort’s interior design a lot.

The cons of staying in this resort include poor WiFi connectivity (there’s free WiFi in the lobby and restaurants, and a 10-Riyals-per-hour paid connection, which is also slow, but we’re told this is the case all over the city and not just limited to the resort) and being far from the city so that, if you do not have your own car, there is no other option but to order the very expensive meals.

Salalah, The Garden City

This should include a tagline so that it reads:

Salalah, the Garden City
If you visit between July-September.

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The plains and mountains are naked this time of the year. It’s hot and it’s incredibly humid. Yet, Oman always win my heart, every single time – whether it’s Musandam or Muscat – there’s something that draws me in. And now, it’s the same with Salalah.

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Salalah gained prominence in ancient times because of its wealth of frankincense, an extract commonly used for perfume and incense, as well as for many Judeo and Christian practices. Frankincense trees are native to this area, one of just a few places worldwide, and for this reason the city is often called the “Perfume Capital of Arabia.”

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Our driver and guide, Ahmed, showing us the countries to which Omani cargo ships had sailed in the past. One could sense his pride for his country and its rich history, the way he spoke about the past. And yet, like any other young man, he dreams of making it big abroad. “So, in Dubai … salary up?” he enquired, as we sat in the car waiting for Masood, who went out to buy tea. “Yes, but house rent more up,” replied my sister.

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Beware: Camels Crossing!

Captured by Gary Scudder

Have you seen one of these road signs? Well, I’ve been seeing them ever since I landed here in the UAE, and my problem was that I’d never actually seen camels crossing the road! It seemed as if I had always been at the wrong place at the most inopportune time because these magnificent creatures never appeared on the road.

I got lucky in Salalah!

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How amazing is that!

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That’s Masood patiently waiting for his wife, who takes a lifetime taking pictures of everything that crosses her path. I’ll post a couple more posts about Salalah—soon, I hope—because this one has gotten quite long already.

 

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Everything about Wildberry Cafe is big – the menu, the portions, the flavors, and quite unfortunately, the queue for a table. Arrive early like we did!

This place was very convenient for us—our hotel was in downtown Chicago, just a couple of blocks away from Millennium Park—so we had breakfast here for two consecutive mornings.

As you walk in, you are welcomed with a strong smell of coffee, caramel and vanilla. It’s like a warm hug in a cold weather.

Breakfast – Day 1

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Signature Berry Bliss

$11.50

Vanilla Anglaise, Blackberry Coulis, Berry Mascarpone, and Fresh Berries.

The serving is huge, and we had absolutely no idea! Two people can share this. Masood and I absolutely loved the soft pancakes sweetened by the sauces drizzled on them, and it had just the right amount of berries to give the tartness to cut through the sweetness. One of the best pancakes we have ever had!

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Sizzlin’ Skillets – The Garden

$11.00

Hash Browns, Cheddar and Jack Cheese, 2 Eggs, Mushrooms, Asparagus, Spinach, Onions, Tomatoes, and Broccoli

Again, being that it was our first time in Widlberry Cafe, we had no idea that their portions are gigantic! This dish, accompanied by two slices of toast, can easily satisfy two hungry adults.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Garden, specially since it contained all my favorite ingredients. Also, I remained full and did not eat until dinner later that day.

Breakfast – Day 2

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Brioche French Toast 

$9.00

Recalling the previous morning’s heavy breakfast, Masood decided to order something lighter. Just having the slices of banana on top was a good choice and did not mask the taste of the bread.

Did you know that French Toast dates all the way back to 4th century Rome, long before France even existed as a country? The name for French Toast in France is “pain perdu”, which literally means “lost bread”.

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Classic Eggs Benedict

$11.00

Poached Eggs, Avocado Slices, Toasted English Muffin, Homemade Hollandaise and   Hash Browns

The original Classic Eggs Benedict is served with ham. When I requested the sweet lady serving our table to omit the ham, she suggested adding avocado slices instead. And I’m so glad she did! I absolutely loved this. Bonus points: crisp hash browns!

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Hot Chocolate $4.00

No cream because, well, it was freezing in Chicago and we drank hot chocolate like a dehydrated person drank cold water in the Sahara desert. When one drinks an enormous amount of hot chocolate, one is wiser to forego the cream.

Speaking of cold water, I noticed that no matter how low the temperature was outside and no matter how bundled up a person was because of the cold, restaurants always serve water in a glass filled with ice cubes!

I highly recommend Widlberry Pancakes and Cafe!

Widberry Pancakes and Cafe
130 E. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: 312-938-9777
Open Daily: 6:30 am—2:30 pm

No Reservations accepted.

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First, kindly take a moment to admire how pretty this building is!

Word of Thomas Sweet’s delicious “blend-ins” spread quickly around town the moment they opened their doors on Nassau Street in Princeton in 1979.

What’s a blend-in? This is when you take the ice cream flavor of your choice and blend in cookies, candies, nuts, fruit or other choices they have available in the shop.

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On a late weekend afternoon a few weeks ago, my family and I all drove to Princeton University campus to admire its gorgeous architecture and also to see where Princeton’s most famous resident, Albert Einstein, lived.

My brother-in-law, who was also our guide, took us to Thomas Sweet for some ice cream. Might I also add that there is another ice cream shop that is equally popular, and it’s called The Bent Spoon. Some swear on their lives that this place serves the world’s best ice cream, so I might try this next time. Anyway, those who know me well know that I don’t care much for ice cream, but hey, this is one of those places where smart Princeton students hang out, so why not. They call this place the T-Sweet.

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We had the coffee flavor with chocolate bits in it. I must admit, the ice cream did taste good! Had I been an ice cream fan, I would have experimented with their crazy blend-in combinations. They have Coffee Ice Cream with Heath Bar, Coffee Ice Cream with Oreo and Nutella, Banana Cream Pie Ice Cream with Graham Crackers, Chocolate Marshmallow Oreo, Pumpkin Ice Cream with Heath bar, Cookies and Cream with Butterfingers, and the list goes on!

One one side of the wall stands a funhouse mirror salvaged from Palisades Amusement Park. Next to it is a picture of Einstein enjoying an ice cream cone.

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Thomas Sweet
183 Nassau St, Princeton, NJ 08542
Monday-Thursday, Sunday 11:00 am – 11:00 pm,
Friday-Saturday 11:00 am – 12:00 am

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