Shine Like a Star 🌟

Forget the medals 🥇 🥈🥉

Forget the trophies 🏆 🏆 🏆

Throughout your journey in this trip called life

You’ll always be a champion in someone’s eye

Your parents’ ; unconditionally since you’re born

Your partner’s ; passionately when love knocks the door

The younger fan club ? When your children come on board

So no harm in your pride

Bask in the attention

And shine like a star 🌟

The World 🌍 🌎 Seen From …

Exploring the world 🌍 🌎from different perspectives, be it:

riding

1️⃣a donkey while in Tenerife, Canary Islands 🇮🇨 – July1985

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2️⃣an elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand 🇹🇭 – November 2007

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3️⃣a camel in Norita campsite, Uzbekistan 🇺🇿 May 2008

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sitting in:

4️⃣a carriage in Fontainebleau, France 🇫🇷 1986

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5️⃣a rickshaw in Vietnam 🇻🇳 March 2001

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6️⃣an ox cart in Madagascar 🇲🇬 May 2009

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7️⃣diving underwater in the Maldives 🇲🇻 July 2012

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8️⃣climbing up mountains in Bhutan 🇧🇹 October 2016

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or

9️⃣rising higher up above in a hot air balloon in Luxor, Egypt 🇪🇬 December 2016

The Night I Was Crowned Empress 👑

Today, reading that Japan revealed the name of its new imperial era in line with the new emperor’s reign took me back in time to 2001 when I was crowned empress in Vietnam 🇻🇳.

It was in Huế – ancient capital and UNESCO World Heritage site – and our tour guide Huu had planned a royal dinner experience in a historic residential palace 🏯for our group of twelve ladies. Before the pickup time, he recommended we dress in light clothing to avoid feeling hot as we were to add another layer upon arrival : a traditional costume👘 . His advice provoked one friend to wonder loudly: “Can we wear our swimsuits👙?”- light, isn’t it ?! 😉 Unbaffled, Huu replied : “The name of the agency I work for is Exotissimo, not Erotissimo. “

So that evening, on our way to dinner, Huu told us to choose two people to dress as emperor and empress, the others will be mandarins. While one friend requested to carry the male crown🤴🏻, the female one 👸🏻 landed on my head:a friend kindly suggested to bequeath the coveted title to my humble self , the baby of the group – her words not mine 🤷🏻‍♀…

For me, that was a battle won without arms 😊

Excitedly, we all wore our outfits and proudly headed towards the old palace with great fanfare, accompanied by two people holding an umbrella each for our highnesses.

We had a private room for ourselves and the culinary experience was heavenly. Needless to say all of us, mandarins and royals delighted in the authentic Huế dishes that were once the prerogatives of royalties of the Nguyễn Dynasty. However few details set the royal couple apart:

-our table was higher than the mandarins’. The latter were divided on two long tables of five facing each other, one on our right and one on the left.

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-In front of us, a band was playing traditional music🎶

-Two people stood by our sides throughout the whole evening with the sole duty of fanning us

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-Our dishes were ostentatiously decorated

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PS: We had so much fun with bouts of loud laughters that two Frenchmen – without the traditional costume- came knocking on our door. They were with a group of tourists visiting from France; drawn by the noise, they came to inquire about the reason we were having more fun than their crew..and we explained jokingly : husbands were miles away😉

PPS: Actually this sojourn is among one of the most memorable I did with the girlfriends. Just like that, we all fell in love with this breathtaking country, the heartwarming hospitality of the Vietnamese people, a world class gastronomy… not to mention the diversity of the shopping that drove us crazy and resulted in serious overweight luggage on the return flights.

Jules Verne and The Right Century

Here we go again, I can’t help myself but every time I’m at an airport I think of those thousands of people converging from all over the world and the different reasons behind their presence at that moment : business, leisure, family, medical or simply transit…

So I watch these bustling activities around me but…with the eyes of a 17th century man, yes a man not a woman. I suppose the reason behind this “gender swapping “ outlook is that unlike nowadays, women were a minority at the traveling stations. Seeing them now equal in number to men, moving freely and easily, is in fact :

-a way of recognizing these drastic changes and the updated demographic dynamics in the passengers’ hubs, and

-appreciating the advance in technology that reshaped the travel industry..

So airports have this scene-from-a-science-fiction-movie effect on me, something I’ve never felt when I watched mankind’s greatest leap in the transportation field : Apollo 11 landing on the moon! I know some would raise their eyebrows in disagreement but when this milestone was broadcasted live on television, I was too young and wasn’t among the 500 millions who followed – avidly or skeptically- Armstrong’s first steps on the moon..I missed the real deal, I missed the buzz…

Back to the airports, the millions of people are not watching the action, they are the action, we are part of the same scene that’s being replicated at the same time, at different airports around the world.

Jules Verne comes to my mind too…“Around the world in 80 days”?! We are way past that😉

Hence, for the person that I am, cursed or blessed with the wanderlust bug, I am definitely living in the right century: the easiness and speed in moving from place to place and the comfort we enjoy on board nowadays never fail to amaze me. It’s not the Titanic or Orient Express kind of luxury, but it’s definitely the one that appeals to me: massage before and during the flight, bespoke meals concocted by an inflight chef, a flat bed with crispy white linen, pyjamas and a pair of slippers for an unparalleled comfort, a bathroom bigger than my guest toilet in my birth country with the possibility to book a hot shower🚿(timed but 👌) a lounge bar and a praying area. Well, that’s Etihad Airways for you and I’m certainly a fan.

When the chef holds a knife at your throat

Continuing with the Turkish carne, and throwing it back to March 2016 in Dubai, here is a photo with #Nusret AKA #SaltBae holding a 🔪 to my throat. Honestly, he doesn’t need to as the yummy 🥩 is too good to resist 😋

However, this photo brings back childhood nightmares : eating, especially eating fruits which I abhorred. Just kidding 🙈my dear mom never held a knife to my throat even though I can ascertain she would’ve loved to on many occasions, and definitely when she realized that the pediatrician’s advice was fruitless..he had told her ” let her be hungry and ask for food “ ! Which I didn’t, for a full day until she collapsed with helpless tears of frustration.

22 years later I was confronted with the same nightmare from another perspective though… with my son ..karma I guess, or rather DNA? 🤷🏻‍♀

Are You a Massage Lover?

There are two different types of people: the massage lovers and the others. I belong to the first group and admit having tried almost every kind of massage one might have heard of…yes, wherever my wanderlust bug took me I thrived to indulge in my favorite pastime.

While the “Razzie award” belongs to the Inca massage in Agua Calientes, Peru (it triggered pain in my neck i.e. Brufen was my best friend for quite a few days 🤷🏻‍♀️), some of the best experiences were in :

-Siem Reap, Cambodia: advertised as “massage by blinds”, all the employees in this center were professionally trained visually impaired masseurs and masseuses.

-Sri Lanka : Ayurveda treatments; and the star of them all, the Shirodhara – oil dripping technique.

-Bali: yummy treat(ments) i.e. coffee scrubs, chocolate massages…

-Maldives: the outdoor picture perfect spectacular setting

-China: relieved me from a chronic back pain in only one session…like magic!

-Thailand: the 2-hour body massage felt like seconds 😳😲

-Madagascar: much needed pampering between hikes

-Costa Rica : excellent “surround sound system” reaching us from the surrounding raiforest🌳…chirping birds, cascading waterfall… live, no CD.

However, the one treatment that left me with the strongest impact was closer to home…Yes, here in Abu Dhabi where I enjoy an established yet dynamic routine.

Honestly, I went to the spa at the Emirates Palace out of curiosity…understandably, it’s the most luxurious spa I’ve ever been to. I suspected the tag price to be associated with the lavishness, the splendor of the surroundings.

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I found out it wasn’t exactly true: the treatment was above my expectations…pure bliss is a cliché! Words fail me…🤷🏻‍♀️I can’t describe the burst of emotions I never knew existed and caused my eyes to well with tears towards the end of the treatment, once I felt, inch by inch, a warm blanket descending on my back before being left there and covering me like a warm cocoon.

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Heroin! It’s like heroin! Yes, well suddenly this particular article came to my mind…I read it twelve years ago in a Glamour UK issue while visiting my daughter Sara in Beirut. It was the addiction journal of a young teenager who revealed that the first time she tried heroin it felt like she was being enveloped in a warm blanket. I still remember that I thought then and there why wouldn’t she simply envelope herself in a warm blanket instead of letting herself be sucked into the downhill spiral that could have cost her her life?! Strange how our memory works.

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Anyway, back outside sipping on my minted tea in the relaxing area, a smooth transition before exiting the enchanting “realms of the senses”, I inquired about the “heroin effect ” treatment.  They don’t have it on the menu, it was bespoke! They came up with it when I asked for a “brain teaser”, a relaxing and energizing treatment😯

Still under the spell, I left the premises with the feeling that the treatment I just experienced could really lead to a habit, a guilt free and harmless habit 😉