Family Christmas trip to Dubai

First of all- I hope everyone's Holidays and New Year's celebrations were great and you got to spend time with your loved ones.

For all of my life we have had the same Christmas traditions. The whole family comes together, we eat a bunch of food, we have Santa Claus visiting and everyone has to read a poem / sing a song / dance for every present they got.

This year we decided to do it a bit differently.

Me, my sister and brother all have pretty big age differences. I am 27 (soon 28), Eeva just turned 22 and Richard is 13. Me and Eeva have been to a lot of trips together and she and Richard, but since by the time Richard was 4 years old, I already moved out of home, we had never actually been on a trip the three of us together. So we made it happen.

We wanted to go to a place where no-one in the family had been before and with coordinating the schedules of 6 people, Christmas week was the only one that worked for everyone.

We chose Dubai.

Since I know it's a popular destination for a lot of Estonians to visit in the colder months of the year, I figured I'd share some of the fun things we did there.

Christmas trip crew- me, Nick, my sister, her boyfriend, my brother and mom

Off we go

We stayed at JBR Sonder Suites located in the Jumeirah Beach area. We absolutely loved the place, since it was huge, great views and nice neighbourhood. We had a kitchen, big living area an four bedrooms, four bathrooms.

Our home for the time in Dubai

Especially good kids still had elves visiting them in Dubai

Not a bad way to fall asleep

The first day we just hung out by the beach and the pool. Our luggage for some reason was not put on the plane in Estonia, so we spent the first days mostly lounging.

Beach days

Jumeirah Beach is a great area to stay. It has a lot of food places, nice water-side walk and like the name says- good beach.

Dubai Marina area
Put your hands up for Dubai

Jumeriah Beach is just a 10 minute walk from Dubai Marina mall and a beautiful promenade. We went there multiple evenings to walk around and enjoy the views.

One of the first sightseeing activities we did was visiting the Dubai Miracle Gardens. It's a park full of colourful flowers and Disney characters. For kids it's probably an especially memorable experience and I surely get giddy visiting places like that too.

Dubai Miracle Garden sights

Nick made me do it!

Near the Miracle Gardens is a very cool place called The Global Village. They have a lot of countries, their food and specialities represented. We watched a stunt show, ate and walked around. It is ginormous so if you want to look through the whole place you can easily spend most of the day there.

One of the days we went on a Desert Safari. It consisted of ATV driving, jeep cruise in the desert, sand boarding, dune pictures and dinner with 6 different Arabic shows. That was one of the favourite things for most of our crew, that we did on the trip.

Since there are a lot of service providers, it might get a bit overwhelming at times looking what to choose. Pretty much all the things we did were recommendations from friends who have lived in UAE or visited multiple times. That was also the case with the Safari. We had great jeep driver, who made the journey even more enjoyable.

Desert safari with all of its activities was definitely a highlight

Dubai has a lot of "the biggest / tallest / fastest in the world" attractions. One of them is the grandiose City Center with the world's tallest building- Burj Khalifa. Obviously- we couldn't miss seeing that.

On top of the world
Dress from my favourite- Denimdream
"Look, you can see Estonia from here"

In the evening time we visited the Dubai Frame. On one side you can see the Old Dubai and on the other side the New City Center. It also tells a bit about the history of the city and the future vision. Very neat experience.

Dubai Frame views

At night there is a big fountain and light show in front of Burj Khalifa, which is beautiful. Next to Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall is definitely worth a visit. For the underwater world lovers- Dubai Aquarium, one of the largest of its kind, is also located in the Mall.

Burj Khalifa light show

In between sight-seeings, eating and swimming, a little bit on working out and reading fit in the daily agenda too.

"Do your squats and read your books. Grow your booty and your mind"

Since Abu Dhabi is just an hour drive away from Dubai we rented a car one day and took a road-trip to the capital of United Arabic Emirates.

Road trip gang

We visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was amazing.

Mind-blowing Grand Mosque

On our way back we also explored an area called La Mer, which is a beach front near the City Center. It has colourful little restaurants and great vibe. For my Estonians- resembles a bit of Telliskivi in Tallinn. It's a beautiful place for an evening stroll.

Seafood night
Palm trees and concrete jungle

All the previous years our Christmas Eve has been filled with blood sausage, sauerkraut, potatoes, veggies and cakes. This time we had our dinner in Dubai Marina in a place called Pier 7. It is a restaurant with 7 floors, different cousins and a view to the water. We enjoyed Lebanese food.

My beautiful sister and mom
Dress- Denimdream
Christmas Eve dinner

One day while me and Nick were hanging by the pool, my sister, her boyfriend and my brother went to the Atlantis Waterpark. My 13 year old brother loved every minute of it. As much as I heard from them and saw the pictures- it has some wild and fast tracks but also pretty view to the Palm and to the City.

Lazy pool days
Atlantis Waterpark

Overall we really enjoyed our time in Dubai. It is one of the most clean big cities I've been in and there is a lot to do for various preferences. Also seems to be very kid-friendly with changing rooms, playgrounds everywhere.

Golden hour

Dubai was great, but the most I cherish the time we got to spend together as a family. So blessed to call my family members one of my best friends!

Wishing you all an amazing 2020- a lot of adventures and memorable moments with close ones!



Flavor Squad's Latvian adventures

This following travel-suggestion is mostly for my Estonians. We had an awesome time this weekend in Latvia and I figured some of you might be looking for a nice, quick getaway too. This is a close, entertaining, beautiful option for that.

Me and Maarja (a fellow Southwestern Consulting coach and a great friend) had a team seminar on Friday in Riga. We decided to take our spouses with us and turn the work-trip into a work-and-fun trip. Maarja, just like myself, has an American husband. They met at the same time we met with Nick while me and Maarja were training in the US for opening up Estonia for SWC coaching.

So if you are thinking first... well what the heck is this Flavor Squad, then that's us four. We started as the team "Sweet & Spicy." Maarja loves everything hot and flaming and that's how her personality is and I adore everything sweet. Then we added Nick, the Salty one and last, but not least- Allen, Mr. Smoky. Our cheesy, but fun Estonian-American quartet.

Anyway- after work in Riga we decided to explore Sigulda. It's a small, charming town, an hour outside of Riga and it totally won our hearts with gorgeous fall vibes, vibrant buildings, and a welcoming atmosphere.

So here are a couple of cool things to do in Sigulda:

1.Walk around the parks

We found a Ferris wheel, butterfly exhibitions and a lot of nice parks.

2. Tour the streets

The town had an endearing look to it

Mrs. Clark in full bloom

Found the perfect chocolates From the left- Allen, Maarja and their dog Ellie) Nick and me

This little cafe had one of the biggest pastry-selections I've ever seen

3. Visit the Gutmanis Cave

4. Ride with a cable car and enjoy the nature around

The Cable Car ride over the River Valley

Gorgeous autumn

PS! We actually couldn't go on the cable car, because we had only cards. So make sure you have cash on hand when you go there (12 euros per person two ways).

Additional things to do in Sigulda, that we didn't get to yet:

  • Visit the Castles (Turaida and Sigulda Medieval Castle)
  • Go to the Tarzan's Adventure Park
  • Hike in the River Valley
  • Do a bungee jump
  • Check out the Bobsleigh Track

On our way from Latvia, we also stopped at a place near Pärnu that holds a very special place in all of the Flavor Squad's hearts, especially for the duo Spicy and Smoky. It's a place called Pärnu Bay Golf Links and it's where Allen and Maarja got married this summer. I and Nick were a part of their bridesmaids- groomsmen crew and it was an absolutely amazing day.

22 June 2019- Flavor Squad at Maarja and Allen's wedding

Have to have some flavors in this life!

Allen even had "Smoky" written in the collar of his wedding-suit

The building has a good restaurant and beautiful views, so if you are near Pärnu it is a good place to check out.

In a nutshell...this was our weekend- great friends, lots of laughs, a ton of good food and bright-colored scenes. If I had to describe a perfect weekend, there isn't a whole lot I'd add.

We definitely recommend to go in the next couple of weeks, when all the trees are still colorful, then it's the prettiest sight. For Estonians, it's quite a short and well worth drive.

Hope you all had as much fun!

When you get to Sigulda, send me some pictures too:)