Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rollercoaster of love....

(Bit of humor from the roads near RAK before we get into the story)

I know there are things more wretched than throwing up uncontrollably until you're left dry heaving helplessly, head spinning. Sure there are.
How about doing so at kilometer 15 during a half marathon (13.1 miles or 21 kilometers) in a porta-potty in the Middle East?

Trust me, that is a bad way to be. I now know this, firsthand, to be a fact.

Later, it was nicely pointed out to me that I was fortunate to have had the porta-potty there, and I can't argue with that.

It's all about perspective, isn't it?

Needless to say, the Ras al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon was not the joy for me this year it was last year. I'd been excited to get out of bed at 3:30 am for the drive out there, had felt fine for the first 10k, but hey, I managed to drag my sorry sick behind across the finish line, got my medal, and was happy for my fellow runners, even as I staggered around, somehow not passing out.

That's running for you. No matter how utterly crappy you might have done, you're still excited for the acomplishments of others.

My buds were concerned (apparently I looked as bad as I felt, which must have not been a pretty sight) and brought me water and gave hugs and then quietly and thoughtfully left me sitting alone when I involuntarily started gasping and crying behind my sunglasses.

I think it wasn't the feeling bad, but the thought that maybe long-distance running is not for me anymore that set me off.

Here, thirty minutes after the finish, no longer so freakishly pale, with the world staying where it belongs:

Mechelle, Natalie, Vickki (her first half!), and Nigel

On the humor side, (it's never far away!) I was more than a bit amused to hear my illness blamed on the camel burger I ingested. Hardly. More like having being sick with a nasty bug for a good week and having rotten low blood pressure besides. That latter bit tends to make you lightheaded.

I went home (a friend was driving, I was in no shape), fell into bed and slept for several hours.

Mike had really wanted to take me out for a rather-delayed birthday dinner, and what the heck, you gotta eat, right? The sitter was coming, and after the nap, though I was as stiff and sore as a woman can be, I was game.

I thought he was looking at me admiringly as I went out to meet him on the street to hail a taxi. Instead he was smiling at my stiff gait. Oh well.

I had asked Nigel, the same friend who had recommended the fantastic Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, for a dining suggestion. For a special evening, he said, the seafood restaurant Pierchic would be just right.

Oh it was. It really was.

Pierchic at the end of it's namesake pier, the Middle Eastern smiling crescent moon above, (it looks like a 'U' instead of a 'C') the waters of the Arabian (Persian) Gulf all around.

Setting the tone, after gaining permission from the gate guard, the taxi dropped us in front of a majestic fountain of golden rearing horses and we walked through the stunning marble lobby of the Al Qasr Hotel, where there was no question that if you were staying here you had money with a capital M.

Al Qasr means 'the palace' in Arabic and is supposed to evoke the experience of a sheikh's summer residence. Opulence in the grandest Arabic style, to say the least. We were early for our reservation, so we explored the corridors and then the extensive grounds, needing to ask for directions several times. We knew the restaurant could be 'accessed near the pool area' and the pool, which we later learned is the largest in the Middle East...

Well, yes.

Wandering the gardens in the sultry night air was lovely, heading toward the Burj al Arab, crickets and stars all around.

Already I was seeing why this experience has been repeatedly named a "Most Romantic" and a "Must Do".

Mike was being tolerant of my stopping every few feet to take photographs, even though I was getting a little compulsive, so beautiful was the setting.

We made our way out the long wooden pier, torches flaming in the salt air, lighting our way to the restaurant where we were seated with a view of the seven star Burj Al Arab on its exclusive island

and the glory of the Souk Madinat Jumeirah along the shore.

The ocean breezes danced around our table and the waves sang their sweet song beneath. I lost track of the number of friendly and thoughtful staff waiting on us; they would appear, improve our lives in some fashion, then fade discretely away into the darkness. We settled into a lingering and luxurious dinner that was everything a romantic evening should be.

Mike had what he pronounced "the best Manhattan outside of the USA". (Actually he had three.) I like the cherries out of those, so we have a system. The bread basket arrived, revealing the loveliest warm dinner rolls with the buttery taste of a croissant but fluffy instead of flakey. I could have eaten these all night long. Pierchic had already scored bulls-eyes with us on our points of greatest culinary vulnerability, and the meal hadn't even truly begun.

After our order, the restaurant presented us with an amuse-bouche of delicately smoked salmon, compliments of the restaurant. I had fretted a bit, reading that entrees ran around 500 AED ($136) apiece on a limited menu, but I found this to be an exaggeration. In fact, I think the criticisms must have come from people who are so snobbish about food they have to find something to publicly malign.

One person's online complaint was that the wine glasses were so big you couldn't view your dining companions! Give me a break! Besides, is there such a thing as a wine glass that's too large? Just asking. Because, as far as I was concerned, everything was exquisite. The staff's timing was so impeccable it could have been choreograped, completely beyond reproach.

Mike's lamb arrived and he rolled his eyes to heaven in appreciation with the first succulent, tender bite. My perfect square of crispy seared trout, balanced carefully upon four Risotto rice balls with some dainty greens beneath for height of presentation and a swirl of light colored cream sauce around was pure foodie art. The trout was nearly creamy in texture beneath a beautifully contrasting crunch of crust on top, everything that is appealing about eating fish and nothing that wasn't. I'd also ordered buttery new potatoes with sprinking of fresh herbs, which were blissful.

The staff continued to be artfully subtle and just the correct level of helpful, being accessable and friendly without the slightest whiff of snobbishness or pretension. Our portions appeared fashionably small, but we ended up pleasantly stuffed.

And that was before Pierchic subtly presented me with a chocolate fondant-y mousse cake that was as light and fluffy as air with three candles and a chocolate oval that spelled out happy birthday in gold.

We savored every morsel of that evening.

I finished with a perfect cappuccino to balance out the chocolate, as beneath us, the blue lit saltwaters came alive with fish, some a good four feet long, as well as the lengths of ribbonfish and the yellow and white striped shapes of butterfly fish cavorting and dipping.

I couldn't eat the truffles they brought us at the close of the meal, and tucked them into my purse. We laughed a bit at the check. A bit over 600 AED, we thought it a good deal, even as we recollected that we'd spent $100 for another particularly memorable birthday meal at the Metropolitan Grill in Seattle 7 years ago and thought that a chunk of change. Living in extravagant Dubai messes with your cost perspective, to say the least.

We wandered dreamily back over the pier to land, pausing to have our photo taken, and then home to dream.

A perfect evening after an especially hard day. Literally dizzying up and downs.

Looking back, I don't think I would have had it any other way.


Connie said...

Oh no! So sorry your run tried to kill you :( Not sure I agree with your friends who told you that you were lucky to have a portapotty out there... I'd think that anywhere would be a much better place to be so extremely sick! Ah well, you survived! And what an evening. I want to visit the 'Palace' now too. Lovely! (Thumbs up Mike!) And belated Happy Birthday to you :) Thanks for dropping by my blog :)

Connie said...

(I meant 'anywhere else would be a better place'... I can't type some days...

Cindy Napier said...

Sounds like an amazing dinner! I may just have nightmares about your race experience now-- LOL! Your next one has to be better-- nowhere to go but up, right? :)

Will & Cheyenne said...

You are such a trooper! I am so sorry you were so sick!

Nathalie said...

Happy belated birthday! That place sounds (and looks) amazing!!! What a special treat!!! Love the photo of the pool:)

Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian said...

You are such a good sport! From near death in the morning, to a celebration of your wonderful life in the evening.
And your line of acceptance of it all at the end of the post.
I want to be just like you when I grow up!

Natalie said...

Thanks so much, everybody! You are awesome. I am happy to report that the rest of the season consists of 10Ks or shorter races.(It's getting hotter, folks...95 degrees yesterday) Hooray for 10Ks!

And Gerry, special note to you: don't you DARE grow up! Don't change one iota, we adore you exactly as you are.

Tanya said...

Hmm Im with Connie I would probably have used the porta potty for cover rather than actually gone inside:) Glad you recovered enough to enjoy the night tho
PS Im impressed with your night shots esp the on of Burj Al Arab. Mine are still mostly grainy I just cant seem to figure out the settings