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My car is not a Ferrari. But I paid hard earned cash for it and try my best to look after it. So it really upsets me when I return to my car parked in Dar Al Salam Mall and find this large scratch on my door. Obviously from some inconsiderate @#$#! who had hit my car with their car door when they opened it.

Scratched Car Door

I caught a  glimpse of the badly parked car next to mine (they were parked at a sever angle in the space) pulling away just as I returned. A car full of laughing men who had no concern about the damage they (well one of them anyway) had just done to my car. And yes I know it was them for reasons I will not bother to detail here.

It’s a small thing in a world full of tragedy I know. But it still upset me. I’m just glad I don’t own a Ferrari, because it’s bad enough when it happens to my lovely little car.

Anyway enough of my whining, I just hope whoever did this has a really bad day.

 

Having been here in Qatar for almost eight years now, there is one tourist destination that has been on my to do list all of that time. A destination that requires a vehicle capable of off roading, and that is something I have never possessed here.

My son on the other hand has got a suitable vehicle and although I have avoided going into the dessert with him so far (because he is a nutter when driving off road), Victoria and I decided we would join him for this jolly to finally go and see Film City.

Film City is located on the West Coast of Qatar in the middle of the dessert, and was used for filming a soap called ‘Ayal Al Theeb’ (Sons of The Wolf) a Qatari soap that was first broadcast in the year 2000. Although no longer used for filming, the location remains, and appears to have people living there and maintaining it.

So last Friday the three of us set out from Doha in the direction of Dukhan. We were being guided by Google Maps, and it turns out that is a big mistake. Apparently there is a much better route which involves going to Zekreet and then on from there. But that is something we have learned since making the trip.

Anyway once we got there we found a very well maintained small compound. If I had not been told it was a film set, I would never have guessed. Personally I found nothing of interest there, and just snapped off some shots on my phone to prove I had finally done it. We weren’t keen to hang around because the wind was blowing like mad, and it was blooming freezing. For me this was worse because I was dressed like it was still summer, something I really regretted. Bri and Vic had dressed a little more appropriately, but even they were cold.

There is a little shop there where you can buy drinks and snacks, but we were keen to get away as soon as possible.

Once back in the car we decided to take in another point of interest located nearby. We actually drove past EAST-WEST / WEST-EAST BY RICHARD SERRA on the way to Film City, but decided to go and see it on our way back. This piece of dessert art was of much greater interest to me, and made the trip worthwhile in my opinion.

EAST-WEST / WEST-EAST BY RICHARD SERRA

All in all, a nice ride out. We left Doha around 12 noon, and were back around 6pm including a stop in the Mall of Qatar to get supplies on the way there, and a much needed coffee beak on the way back in Mc Donalds Dukhan.

Would I do it again? Nope! Once done, it’s done.

 

Yes that’s right, for just QR 400 your old laptop can not only preform like new, it should perform even better than it did when you first bought it.

By replacing your existing Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with a new Sold State Drive (SSD) your laptop will startup in the blink of an eye, and your software will load so fast you won’t believe it’s the same computer.

Crucial 525GB SSD
Crucial MX300 2.5 inch SSD

A 275GB SSD from Crucial will cost you just £77.29 when bought from Amazon UK (QR 353) and after you have paid Aramex Shop & Ship to send it over here for you at a cost of QR 53 you will have spent just QR 406 in total.

I ordered the Crucial MX300 pictured above, which is a 525GB SSD (cost QR 572) and popped it into my 6 year old Sony Vaio and I can’t believe the difference.

Your old HDD (Hard Disk Drive) stores data on spinning magnetic disks. SSD’s are like USB memory sticks but many times faster. There are no moving parts which makes them blisteringly fast. They run cooler, quieter and are less susceptible to data corruption when knocked or dropped.

My Vaio cost me QR 6,000 six years ago, and I was about to give it away because it was performing so badly. After spending just QR 572 this computer (yes I am using it right now) has become super usable and there is no way I’m going to part with it. Saving me serious money as the laptop I was going to buy to replace it was going to cost another QR 6,000.

Of course you do have the tiresome task of backing everything up first and transferring it to your new SSD. But there are people who will do this for you for around QR 100 (message me if you can’t find anyone, I know someone who will do it for you).

 

 

 

I am not a food blogger, but I like to blog about good food. And last Thursday Victoria and I

Seafood Night Banner
Seafood Night Banner

went for our first meal out together in 2017. Our venue of choice was the Village Restaurant located next to Midmac Flyover, because we love seafood and they have started a regular Seafood Night on Thursday evenings.

We knew in advance that this was not going to be a buffet, but having seen the advertising banner for the Seafood Night we kind of expected the food to be similar to that shown in the image. However it turns out the menu looks noting like the photo in the advertising. As you will see when you read on this wasn’t an issue from our side as the meal was fabulous. But I think it would have been better if their advertising reflected what you are actually going to eat.

The Village opened in 2011, and I actually photographed the restaurant before it started trading way back then. It’s such an impressive restaurant spread across 2 floors with different dining experiences on each. The Seafood Night is held in it’s Medi Grill on the ground floor. But one of the really nice things about the Village is its private dining booths on the first floor. Which is very, very popular with those wishing for privacy to enjoy their meal, and thus very popular with families.

On arrival we were greeted at reception and taken to our table which we had reserved in advance. The Medi Grill is a bright and modern restaurant with plenty of space between tables.

The Medi Grill at The Village Midmac
The Medi Grill at The Village Midmac

The Seafood Night menu gives a choice of two soups, then a starter with salad followed by your choice of main (grilled or fried seafood platter) along with a choice of two sides, and finally a wide choice of desserts.

Seafood Night Menu
Seafood Night Menu

Both Victoria and I went for the Italian Bouillabaisse soup to get things going. We could have had Cream of Seafood as an alternative choice, but this tomato based soup sounded more to our liking.

Italian Bouillabaisse
Italian Bouillabaisse

Well to be honest. We both agreed that we could have had the fresh bread basket and a bigger bowl of Italian Bouillabaisse each, and we could have gone home very happy right there and then. The soup was everything we expected, tangy tomato with a cocktail of seafood bursting with flavor. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I knew there was so much more food to come, I would have asked for more.

Next  came the Starter & Salad. Nothing to choose here, it all comes as standard. Hummus, Shrimp Ceaser Salad, Fish Cake, Bruschetta and Fried Calamari.

Starter & Salad
Starter & Salad

It was all delicious, but those Fish Cakes were the best I have ever had. I’m sat here writing this and I can taste them right now. I am craving them, and will definitely be having those again.

Starter & Salad
Starter & Salad

That doesn’t mean that anything else was below standard. The Shrimp Ceaser Salad hit the mark as did the Bruchetta and Calamari. But those Fish Cakes were awesome!

For main course you have a choice of Village Seafood Grill or Fritto Misto (fried seafood). I went for the Village Seafood Grill, and Victoria went for the Fritto Misto.

Village Seafood Grill
Village Seafood Grill

I had chosen Mushroom Risotto and Spinach Mashed Potato to go with my Village Seafood Grill.

Village Seafood Grill
Village Seafood Grill

While Victoria elected to go for Home Made Fries and Saffron Rice to go with her Fritto Misto.

Fritto Misto
Fritto Misto

They both looked delicious, but Victoria instantly regretted going for the Fritto Misto and stared enviously at my Village Seafood Grill.

And for Victoria there was an added problem. She was full! The soup, bread basket and

Victoria and Me at The Village Midmac
Victoria and Me at The Village Midmac

starter had done for her. She picked a little at her food, and then eat half of my shrimps, which being a gentleman I didn’t mind one bit  (Grrrrr…) and that was her finished. And there was nothing I could do to help as I only just had room for my plate and a bit of room left over for dessert. So we both knew at this point what was for breakfast the next day.

I can tell you now, Chef was not impressed at Victoria not being able to finish her food. And I don’t blame him. In fact she hardly started it. He explained that of course we were welcome to takeout what she couldn’t eat, but once it goes cold it will never be as good as it was right there and then. Something we knew as well. But neither of us could do anything about it. We both apologised to Chef and blamed it on the generous preceding courses which had been much larger than expected.

For dessert we were given the option of moving from our table and relocating to the Village Cafe just across the other side of reception.

The Village Cafe Area
The Village Cafe Area

This was a brilliant move. It was nice to have a change of scene and sit down in a relaxing environment with a cup of coffee while we waited for room in our stomachs for dessert.

After a while I felt like I could handle a nice Cheese Cake, and Victoria decided to have a go at a lovely looking chocolate brownie.

Cheese Cake
Cheese Cake

I manged to nail my cheese cake, but once again Victoria floundered on the chocolate brownie.

Chocolate Brownie
Chocolate Brownie

I managed to almost finish the brownie. But I was done. Well and truly done. The portions in the Village are very generous, and we had both eaten late lunches. A big, massive, mistake.

We loved our evening at the Village Midmac. And we both thoroughly recommend anyone that is into their seafood to pop along and give this place a try. It’s tremendous value at just QR 149 per person, and being a Thursday evening is a great way to start your weekend.

The Village Restaurant before opening back in 2011
The Village Restaurant before opening back in 2011
The Village Restaurant before opening back in 2011
The Village Restaurant before opening back in 2011
The Village Restaurant before opening back in 2011
The Village Restaurant before opening back in 2011
Private Dining Booths
The Village has private dining booths
The Village Restaurant
A private dining booth in The Village

 

 

 

 

New affordable wireless devices from loads of manufactures are now on the market to enable you to put together your own Home Automation System easily and without breaking the bank.

I work in the home automation sector. My company is a custom installers of home automation equipment. We control everything in your home from your lights, curtains/blinds, air conditioning and doors, to your TV, HiFi and media library. It’s not cheap. And although my company is extremely competitive, our solutions are targeted at errr…. shall we say above average income earners.

Also the type of home automation solutions we install are to a degree retro installable, but mainly aimed at new build where we can run lots of lovely cable around your home before you decorate.

There will always be demand for the type of system we design and install, but new technology advances are bringing home automation into the range of normal people, with normal incomes and normal homes that they already live in. Like me.

As I arrive at my apartment my lighting knows from my phone location that I am home, and by the time I open my front door my hall lights are on to welcome me. I can walk into my living room and simply say “Alexa Living Room lights on” and presto my lights are on. Then say “Alexa play ABBA Greatest Hits” and like magic Dancing Queen starts playing through the speakers in the room.

I could go on and on about things I can do in my home. But I won’t. I think you get the idea.

The thing is the technology is starting to emerge and is affordable and useable. It’s still early days and mostly being adopted by technical enthusiasts like me. But as time moves on this will become standard in more and more non techi homes.

You can start by ordering a Phillips Hue starter kit. I got mine on Amazon and had it delivered to me here in Qatar. It costs £150 (QR 670) and includes three colour LED light

Phillips Hue Starter Kit
Phillips Hue Starter Kit

bulbs and a device called a bridge. This will allow you to control three ceiling lights from your phone. You can put them all in one room or put them in 3 different rooms. You can also screw them into floor standing or bedside light fittings. You can then create lighting scenes and control them from your phone. You can add more bulbs as your confidence grows, and like me add wireless buttons to add more traditional control by placing them on the wall next to existing light switches, or stick them on your bedside cabinet. Additional Phillips Hue LED light bulbs cost £15 (QR 67) for dimmable white, or £50 (QR 223) for a full colour dimmable bulb. Everything is wireless so no need to run cables around your home.

Next you can order yourself some Amazon Echo Dot’s. They cost £50 each (QR 223). Or if you prefer the high quality audio option Amazon Echo at £150 (QR 670) each. I personal started by ordering three Echo Dot’s and placed one in my living room, one in my bedroom and one in my bathroom.

amazon-echo-dot
Amazon Echo Dot

These little devices are just the beginning of what we can expect as being normal in homes of the near future. They sit these and listen for a command word, in my case “Alexa”. Once they here this they wait for you to give them an instruction or ask them a question. They have built in speakers that respond with your answers, confirmations and play music you have selected. All wirelessly except for a USB style power cable. And they integrate seamlessly with Phillips Hue lighting.

amazon-echo
Amazon Echo

Examples of things I can get Alexa to do are; “Alexa turn on Living Room Light”, “Alexa Dim Living Room Light”, “Alexa play the latest album by Cold Play”, “Alexa tell me a joke”, “Alexa what is 100 ounces in milligrams”, “Alexa who stared in the movie Top Gun”. You can also set reminders by saying “Alexa set timer for 10 minutes” or “Alexa set alarm for 7am”. Now you can control your home without pressing a single button or reaching for your smart phone. Which is why I love the one in the bathroom because it’s easy to change what I am listening to, or adjusting the volume while in the shower. And because Alexa has access via the internet to all TuneIn Radio stations, I like listening to radio stations back in the UK.

The good news is that more and more companies are producing more and more devices that will talk to each other and work together. Standards are being established for manufacturers to adopt and so you will be able to control more and more aspects of your home in more and more ways.

If like me you buy the Phillips Hue and Amazon Echo, you can add Samsung devices that will control wall sockets so you can turn a fan or a kettle on. You can add sensors for security or convenience, and you can check the status of devises while you are away. Add security cameras, or thermostats. You can keep building your home automation system as you identify your needs and at an affordable pace.

Trust me this is the dawning of a new age in the modern home.

Feel free to contact me if I can help you with anything.

 

 

 

 

I love cooking Christmas dinner. With the exception of one thing; cooking the Turkey. It’s a stressful event for me as so much counts on getting it right. And my oven is not very accurate or even. So this year I decided to book a ready cooked turkey and all the trimmings from the Village Restaurant next to Midmac flyover on Salwa Road.

Flyer for Festive Turkey takeout from the Village Restaurant
Flyer for Festive Turkey takeout from the Village Restaurant

With Victoria travelling today, we decided to have an early Christmas Dinner together yesterday. I booked my turkey with the Village for 4pm and when we arrived there it was ready for pickup.

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The ultimate takeaway meal from the Village Restaurant

This is the ultimate takeaway dinner. Let me tell you it did not disappoint. The turkey was cooked to perfection, and it came with vegetables, pork free pigs in blankets, stuffing, gravy and a delicious cranberry sauce.

The ultimate takeaway meal from the Village Restaurant
The ultimate takeaway meal from the Village Restaurant

However I took the precaution of cooking my own roast potatoes and some additional veg just in case, as I wasn’t absolutely sure what was coming. And for that I am glad as I make the best roast potatoes in the world, and they were the only addition I actually needed.

It was a feast! My Christmas Mega Mix was playing in the background and a good time was had by all. A wonderful early Christmas.

Thank you to all the staff at the Village, you guys did an awesome job. I may be back for another very soon 🙂

 

Well to be honest it was actually a photo walk around Abdul Aziz Bin Ahmed Street. But Musheireb was the reason I took the walk. It was the contrast between Musheireb Street and Abdul Aziz Bin Ahmed Street that made me get out of the car and start snapping with my trusty old Sony RX100 Mk I. The old and the new, the coming down and the going up. Images that right now are not that interesting I believe will be in years to come.

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Mercure Grand Hotel Qatar
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In a country where you can expect to be BEEPING a lot while driving, and where you are going to be BEEPED by a driver three cars behind you 0.5 seconds after the signal turns green. It seems to me that we need to install PA (Public Address) systems in our cars instead of horns. And have an array of buttons with pre-recorded messages on each one. Then instead of BEEP we can express what we actually mean.

Of course the messages would be polite and calm in nature. Perhaps with a posh accent. Now what buttons would I like Hmmmm…

[Would the car behind me please restrain from beeping, I will pull out from this junction when it is safe for me to do so]

[Excuse me, but your thoughtless and discourteous driving is rather unsafe and irritating]Traffic

[If I move over for you and push into the traffic in the lane to my right, are you going to flash every single car in this lane until every single one of them makes way for you?]

[Really?!]

[Get off your phone and drive your car properly!]

Any you can think of?

Full story in Doha News

In it’s beautiful setting the Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF) is attracting plenty of visitors this year. And for good reasons; it’s free, well admission is anyway. It’s accessible with plenty of free parking provision, free shuttle bus, limo service and even water taxis. It’s longer than ever before now spanning 7 days instead of the normal 5. It’s spacious with plenty of room to walk around, sit and chat, admire and of course eat great food even though the festival is more than twice the size of last year with over 100 attractions.

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There are cooking demonstrations, free tasters and entertainers scattered all around the festival grounds. And with so much good looking and affordable food to tempt you, it’s worth taking a walk around first before you start filing your stomach. Remember you only have so much capacity, and if you get stuck in too early, you may end up missing some of your favorite food further into the event.

Food costs from QR 5 to QR 35. Personally I spent around QR 80 for two people over a couple of hours but you may be hungrier than us.

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Is it worth getting off your couch and taking a drive for. Oh yes! Great atmosphere, great smells, great views and great food. You will be missing out if you can’t tear yourself away from that TV remote at least once this week.

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So back on October 24th 2015 I announced that I had saved a whopping QR 5,198 by flying Cebu Pacific instead of Qatar Airways Click Here To Read. And as promised I am now writing about how that worked out for me.

Well the first thing to disclose is that I messed up my online booking with Cebu Pacific and erroneously failed to pay for any luggage. I thought I had, I was sure I had. But for some unknown reason I did not. Something that I fortunately spotted before flying thus avoiding outrageously priced excess baggage fees during check in.

Having spotted my mistake I was easily able to go online with Cebu Pacific and add as an option 30kg for both my son and I at a total cost of QR 554. Of course this brings my perceived saving of QR 5,198 down to QR 4,644.

Cebu Pacific Check in at Doha Int. Airport

We arrived at the airport 4 hours before departure and began cueing for check in. Oh boy did I regret not checking in online. The cue was insane. However I did notice after cuing for a long time that the dedicated online check in desk could only be accessed having cued in a much longer ‘everyone’ cue first. Which seems a bit strange. Anyway having endured the cursed zig zag cueing, check in was simple and no different from any other airline I have flown with.

We went to the gate 2 hours before departure which was scheduled for 4:15am. Outside the gate there was hardly any seating so hanging around was not very comfortable. And a long cue had formed waiting for the gate to open. At 2:55 we finally made it inside the gate and were able to sit down. At 3:33 we were in the our next cue to board the aircraft. Something triggered everyone to jump up out of their seat and form a cue to board without an announcement telling them to and we joined in. However there must have been a technical problem with the aircraft. Through the window we could see the bridges being withdrawn from the aircraft as though it was departing, then we think they did an engine test or something, then the bridges were moved back into position. The frustrating bit was that there was no announcements advising us as to what was happening.We were in that cue for 1hr 25 mins grrrrr!!!

At 4:58am we finally boarded the plane. At 5:02am we were told they still had paperwork to do (at least they were making announcements now) and at 5:11am we finally pushed back. At 6:34pm (Philippines time) we touched down 19 minutes late. Which wasn’t too bad as we departed an hour late.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

There is only one class, economy class. And boy is it economical. The seats were hard with virtually no padding. The legroom seemed the same as on Qatar Airways, but the seats seemed narrower and more tightly packed.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

There was no LCD screen and no in flight entertainment. Even after moving to a seat where I had no one sitting next to me I had real trouble getting comfortable. During take off (before I moved seats) I was sat next to my son, and I can tell you now if I had had to stay in that seat for over 9 hours it would have been intolerable. Our elbows were digging into each other and we were fighting for armrest space. That said, later in the flight I noticed quite a few people managed to get to sleep even in such cramped conditions. I was sooooo…. envious of them.

It is possible to sleep on a cramped Cebu Pacific A330 flight

There is no pillow, and no blanket supplied. But they can be bought on the plane, which we did not. And once I was in a seat with no one next to me, I began to settle down and watch movies I had placed on my iPad ready for the trip. Time to order a beer. Oh no! The beer was warm! We had to drink it with ice to reduce the temperature. Not too expensive at P130 (QR 10) but they only had San Miguel Pale Pils, which when diluted with ice made a very weak tasting drink. But they must have put some in the fridge, because by about our 3rd or 4th it had finally started to be served cold. We brought our own supply of spicy snacks to enjoy with our beer.

Cebu Pacific, in flight beer P130 (QR 10, GBP 1.90) a can

I had pre ordered one hot meal and could have opted for a second one as well if I had wanted. Like the seating the meal was also very economical.

Cebu Pacific in flight meal

Beef curry, a chocolate brownie and a small bottle of water for P500 (QR 38). This was paid for in the total ticket price at the time of booking.

Cebu Pacific in flight meal

It was edible but for me not quite enough and I was left feeling like I needed another one. Qatar Airways gives 2 hot meals included in their ticket price, which consist of slightly more in quantity and variety.

Cebu Pacific in flight meal

But in my opinion both airlines offer meals that were similar in quality and taste. And I do remember being highly critical of my last QA in flight meal. There is lots of snacks you can buy off the trolley including noodles, chips etc. at reasonable prices, so there is no need to go hungry. And they don’t mind you bringing meals onto the flight either. I noticed a number of people eating meals they had prepared themselves.

Service was ok. The cabin crew were very similar in performance to QA staff. Nothing notable to comment on there.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

Would I fly Cebu Pacific Doha to Manila again? Oh yes! I would have been happier on a Qatar Airways flight. The beer would have probably been colder, the meal slightly larger and the seats more comfortable. Oh and there would have been in flight entertainment and we may have left on time. But would I have been prepared to pay an extra QR 2,322 each (remember total QR saving 4,644) for those improvements? Nope! A 3rd person could have traveled with us with the money we saved and we would have still had cash left over.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

The fact it was the Christmas period undoubtedly increase both airlines prices and this makes the saving appear more. Now if the difference in price between the two airlines was less than QR 1,000 it is possible I would be flying with Qatar Airways again.

Cebu Pacific A330 Seating

One last thing. At the moment there are only 2 flights a week each way DOH-MNL-DOH with Cebu Pacific, so your traveling dates are much more restricted. Oh and on the flight back Cebu had no beer!!! What!!!

Cebu Pacific A330 Safety Instruction Card

 

 

 

New easy way to use your Online TV Box’s without a VPN Router!

Ok so I have written about getting UK and US TV content here in Qatar before. And to use devices like NOW TV or Amazon Fire TV here you need a VPN Router. The Routers are hard to get in Qatar, and either involve paying a lot of money or getting someone who is a tech-head to sort it out for you. And VPN Routers tend to be slow causing buffering issues in the middle of something you are watching at certain times of the day.

GOOD NEWS!!

I have now found a much better way of doing it. No VPN! Instead you use something called Magic DNS. This gives you the full bandwith ooredoo or Vodafone are supplying you with to stream your TV channels. It’s super fast with no buffering. I can’t tell you how much better than VPN it is.

Ok it’s not free, it costs $40 (QAR 142) a year. But you can get a totally free 7 day trial by following this link Magic DNS then click on the Magic DNS link at the top of the page.

It’s super quick and easy to setup with no hardware to purchase (well as long as you know the Admin password for your existing router that is). But if you are having any problems get in touch with Barzan Digital located in Al Jazeera st, Bin Mahmoud, Doha and they will sort you out. They can even register you for Magic DNS using cash if you are having problems making payments online. And can help you configure your existing router if you are having problems with that as well (but I repeat, you must know your routers Admin password).