Trip to the Seaside
Friday morning we packed our gear and headed for the YC down on the other side of Sitra and the oil refinery, through a massive flyover building project. Despite it being GP Race 1 weekend there was little traffic just after 9am which was good as the queues for the junction in the middle of all the concrete shuttering can be horrendous (we've been stuck for 45 mins or more at times). With our new British Club membership we are permitted 6 weekend visits per year to each of the reciprocal clubs on the island so for BHD2 we were in and in possession of application forms.
The scene inside recalled memories of Sunday mornings at Brighton Marina YC with crews milling round waiting for the briefing or ordering breakfast. Racing though had been postponed to another day due to lack of wind so. Usually there is cruiser racing (IRC & PY) every other weekend on a Friday. We ordered coffee and found ourselves a place in the shade outside. Once the melee had died down and various crews departed for a drift in their boats we shifted a few yards to their beach but not before Kevin had discovered that there is a 20 footer for sale and exchanged details with its previous owner!
A lovely cove of curving coral sand with lots of umbrellas, table, chairs and sun loungers. There's a small trimaran propped up on plastic side tables to our left and a row of Hobby Cats on the quayside to the right, at one end of the clubhouse is a large pool with an awning shading the seaward end. Beyond the quay is the marina where a motely mix of motor & sail craft mostly under 30 ft - are tied up to a couple of long pontoons it could be a small marina anywhere. We were given a guided tour.
Families with kids and couples looking for a spot in the sun arrived in a steady stream before lunch. A BBQ was being set up by the catering staff for later in the day but lunch and drinks could be ordered on the beach from the friendly bar staff. After lunch we lazed some more, chatted to various people and then hot and sticky, headed back into town.
Having cooled down in the flat without the aid of the aircon, the rooftop pool beckoned. Amazingly there were people up on the roof - the first time we'd actually met any of our fellow residents. After a swim in the chilly but slowly warming pool, our newly acquired bottle of Bombay Sapphire (from the duty free in Dubai) was cracked open as we chatted to Mary & Phil from the 7th floor over nibbles & drinks. They've been here a couple of months longer than us but none-the-wiser about many of the things we still puzzle over like when does the cleaner come, do we have to wash our own sheets (we've one set per bed) & towels?
For supper we headed to the restaurant area Adliya fancying chinese. It was early (we though it would be simpler with the additional crowds this weekend) even so we managed to get the last parking spot on Osama Bin Zaid Ave. A short walk took us to the pedestrianised area where every building served food of some sort. Despite it being nowhere near 9pm (key time for eating out here) there was a queue at the restaurant. Where else then... a few more steps to next door but one and we found seats at the Thailand. Downstairs is like someones front room, cosy space with pale cane garden furniture and an over-dressed curve of windows in golden drapes at one end. The food was deliciously spicy - seafood and coconut milk soup followed by chicken with asparagus, chilli & garlic beef together with vegetable pad thai. The lemon grass, coconut, ginger and chilli tickled and tingled our taste buds.
Saturday dawned promising more searing heat and little breeze in town (another ex-pat of some years told us that the GP weekend is often unusually hot). In Manama Souk Kevin found himself a haircut and serious head massage - to the observer it looked quite painful but he claims he felt better for it. Both of us were made welcome and given a fruit drink, all for a bargain BHD1. We wandered around afterwards taking in the sights, sounds and exotic smells of the busy stalls selling everything from shoes to vegetables, saucepans and mobile phones to gold and spices. Lots more Europeans around than usual. We haggled in various places over the price of a tape measure (so we can confirm the size of our very firm mattress and buy a "topper" to improve our comfort at night), some tiger balm (no we had no need for 3 jars, 1 would suffice) and a pack of playing cards (to help while away our evenings).
Once we were well and truely hot and thirsty it was back in the car to head across the road to the City Centre Mall for some air conditioned comfort. A trip to Debenhams for swimming gear was followed by hallumi panini and salad in the Arabic coffee bar at the heart of the Mall's interpretation of a souk. A circular area with lovely Arabian architectural features - even the escalator up to the prayer rooms has ornate shiney silver panelling. Large lamps hang from the high wooden, painted ceiling and the coffee shop offers low wooden cushioned settees. One of our new favourite beverages is lemon mint juice - fresh lemon juice whizzed up with lots of mint- its so refreshing.
On the way out we were waylaid by the wonderful Bateel date shop. This amazing temptation sells gourmet dates and chocolates packaged in a box or basket of your choosing. Apart from the different fillings we learnt there are many types of date. Agwa (or Ajwa) dates cost BHD25 per kilo - which at around £45 makes them more expensive than steak. Apparently they are suitable for diabetics, whilst eating seven a day is supposed to keep you free from harm and poison that day, though I'd guess your bank balance might suffer. After trying a few samples including the Agwa we left with a smallish selection box of stuffed dates tied up in fancy ribbon for consumption on high days and holidays only! Khidri dates filled with orange peel are highly recommended by both of us.
Credit Card Stress
Back home the in-laws called in their mail forwarding capacity, telling us that my bank had written to say my credit card had been suspended. This caused panic as I'd used it to pay for son Will's airfare from Joburg to London earlier in the week. Called bank, but wasn't able to answer their security questions correctly (I couldn't even remember setting a password on my credit card account let alone what various characters it had) so was transferred to someone else and then again to another employee. Apparently the transaction was suspicious as I don't usually purchase airtickets in rands from Joburg (which is where Virgin's website had tried to conduct it) - nice to think they had my best interests at heart but I wasn't thinking very kind thoughts at the time with Will's flight due ot leave in a few hours! After ten minutes or so the bank agreed to reactivate my card and apologised for the inconvenience. Although apologies won't pay my phone bill. Virgin's office in Joburg it then transpired, closes at noon so tracked down a number in London and after a few minutes they helpfully converted & put through the transaction in sterling for me. Sometime later and Will was in possession of an eTicket and able to check in online before departing for the airport - phew that was close....
Back on the Roof
After all that stress a chillout in the pool seemed in order. With the sun setting and the breeze a little on the chilly side plus water not yet even remotely warm, our dip was limited to a few quick lengths before retreating rapidly and dripping for a warm shower in the flat. Judging by the trail of water across the floor by the lifts we weren't the only ones. Cossies in the machine for a rinse & spin, it took just a few minutes to track down which of the 10 JSC Sports channels would be showing the rugby. First match Ireland vs Wales. A supper of Boerewors and cabbage followed by yet more rugby rounded off our third weekend as ex-pats.