My Top Restaurants in Al Sadd and Fereej Bin Mahmoud

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Outside the bright lights of Doha city, hugging the C Ring Road as it bends round towards Hamad International Airport, lie two neighbourhoods whose culinary delights had, until fairly recently, remained unexplored by Mr Sunshine and me. For our first two years in Qatar we played it safe, preferring to stick to the acclaimed and popular hotel restaurants around West Bay and the marina-side eateries near to our home on The Pearl. But for months now, Al Sadd and Fereej Bin Mahmoud have been rapidly making their mark on Qatar's food map, and several restaurants in particular are making it difficult for us to continue to overlook these residential districts when it comes to choosing a place to eat out.

Over the past year and a bit, we have made it our aim to push ourselves out of our central-Doha comfort zone to explore the places that these two neighbouring areas have to offer. Now, after extensive research in the form of many, many meals out (it's a tough life!), in no particular order, here are my top four.

1. Mainland China




Behind an unassuming façade in Barwa Towers lies one of the most vibrant and aesthetically-pleasing restaurants to open its doors in Doha for a long time. Luckily, the artistic decor is not a ruse; the food is just as delicately beautiful as the restaurant itself. The menu is difficult to fault: extensive, diverse, interesting, refined and most importantly, value for money.

Don't miss: the Dim Sum (particular favourites are the steamed sea bass dumplings with truffle oil), the Crispy Duck Rolls, the Steamed Seabass Fillet, the Lamb Chops in the most delicious 'Chef's Special Sauce' and those so-naughty-they're-nice Coconut Dumplings...

2. Lo Spaghetto



We first visited Lo Spaghetto on a beautiful Spring day when I was 8 months pregnant and I remember feeling slightly underwhelmed by the food but completely overwhelmed by the atmosphere. The pretty, leafy courtyard and Mediterranean vibe of the restaurant is unparalleled in Doha. Are there better Italian restaurants in Doha? Most certainly, yes. Are there any with a more authentically Italian ambience which can transport you straight to a village Trattoria in the foothills of Umbria? I'm yet to find one.

Don't miss: the Caprése Salad and the Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino alla Gigi.

3. The French Olive



 
This dual Italian and French restaurant is an Instagrammer's dream, with sparkling white tiled walls and a display of pretty blue and white patterned porcelain plates down one side; eclectic colours and character aplenty. The food is all freshly made, using only the finest ingredients, and the menu offers a healthier alternative to some of the other offerings in the vicinity. Just check the prices of each dish carefully before ordering: some are extortionate and it's easy to get stung!

Don't miss: the freshly baked sourdough bread and breakfast items from the on-site patisserie; the wagyu burger; any of the delicious freshly-baked pizzas.

4. Cicchetti



Cicchetti Doha opened its doors earlier this year to widespread acclaim. It is part of the San Carlo group of award winning contemporary Italian restaurants, which have grown to become a £60 million restaurant empire. Over the past six months since its opening over 30,000 customers have graced the restaurant with their presence, and it's easy to see why: its upmarket ambience and chic interiors are mirrored by a refined and sophisticated menu with a few superbly executed, completely stand-out dishes. The perfect date night venue.

Don't miss: the Calamari; the hand made Truffle and Pecorino Ravioli; the Venetian Cod.

Best of the rest


Oishi Sushi: one of Doha's more authentic and reasonably-priced Japanese restaurants, located in Royal Plaza Mall.

Roger's Diner: a typically American joint with quirky interiors serving fast food and larger than life desserts.

Sabai Thai: one of Doha's most recently-celebrated Thai restaurants, located in The Westin with an absolute killer of an express lunch deal (QAR 65 for three courses!)

Sky View: One of Qatar's best rooftop bars, on the 11th floor of La Cigale Hotel, showcasing stunning views of the Doha skyline, and excellent sushi & sharing platters to boot.


Have you eaten at any restaurants outside of your usual stomping ground that have surprised you recently?

Our Honeymoon: A Memorable Meal at Don Alfonso 1890, Amalfi Coast

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

For over a century, Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890 has nestled in the centre of the quaint little village of Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi, approximately half an hour from the famous town of Sorrento. And for over a Century, it has wowed its clientele with its innovative twist on traditional Italian cooking, carefully crafted by generation after generation of the same talented family.

Despite being slightly off the beaten path, and nowhere near anywhere we were staying on our honeymoon tour of the Amalfi Coast, the restaurant's two Michelin stars, interesting menu and glowing reviews lured us in and we decided that it was probably worth a detour.


We weren't wrong. In fact, six perfectly executed tasting menu courses (plus one extra off-menu course for us to sample) and several glasses of bubbly, red wine and Limoncello later and we had both agreed that this was the most memorable meal of our lives. Here's why:

Every dish was unique


The baked egg with burrata and black truffle for example, which arrived looking exactly like nothing more complex than a raw egg in a dish, but which tasted so delicate yet complex that we both exclaimed in surprise.


The Gnocchi also surprised us with its warm, gooey liquid centres of smoked Scamorza and cherry tomato, which oozed out as we bit in.


And the pièce de résistance was the dramatic dessert platter complete with lashings of dry ice, which poured out over our table, creating the drama that each of these unique creations deserved.




The entire menu exuded passion


Livia, mother of head chef Ernesto runs the front of house and makes it her priority to circle the pretty white tables each evening, checking the guests are comfortable and answering any questions that they might have. She arrived at our table just as the mozzarella soufflé was being served by our waiter.


She described how her son had shut himself away in the kitchen for six whole months to perfect this dish; how it became an all-consuming obsession until he had got it just right. As she spoke, I wondered how a dish so simple could have become so important to him, but as soon as I tasted it I understood. I know that it will be a long time before I eat something so perfect, in texture, taste and composition.

The soufflé was incredible but it wasn't unique. Every dish that comes out of that kitchen uses simple ingredients but is the product of complex techniques and an incredible amount of passion.

The food was about more than just the finished product


Since 1896, the kitchen has used produce from its own dedicated farm Le Peracciole, which lies a few miles away on the coast facing the island of Capri. Tended by Alfonso's father (and Livia's husband) Alfonso, this seven hectare vegetable garden provides an array of beautiful organic ingredients for the restaurant, from olive oil and lemons, to seed, grain and tomatoes.



The restaurant's wine list is also given very careful consideration. In fact, the extensive wine cellar which dates back to the fifteenth century is one of the most interesting things about the villa in which the restaurant is housed, and we were lucky enough to be taken on a quick tour down the ancient stone staircase which leads to the maze of chambers which house the 25,000 or so bottles on offer to the restaurant's patrons.



We felt like a part of the family


We were welcomed warmly at the door, as if we were old friends visiting the family home for dinner. We were congratulated throughout the meal for our recent nuptials, and our meal was turned into a celebration by the kind staff.



When we had finished, Livia asked if we would like to visit the kitchens and meet her son, and we jumped at the chance to shake the hand of the man who had concocted the best meal of our lives.



She then invited us into their family home, to show us maps of the farm, and talk about the history of the restaurant. It was clear to us that this was far more than a business to her, it was her entire life, and we were so grateful to her for sharing her passion with us so warmly.




We didn't want to leave


It was nearing midnight when Livia finally led us out to our waiting cab. We had arrived for an early dinner and I wasn't sure where the last five hours had gone! I waved out of the back window of the cab as we pulled away, Livia still standing out on the pavement to see us off. I felt as though we were leaving old, beloved friends, and even though we had been there for a short amount of time, I knew that this meal would live on in our memories for a very long time to come.

Mr Sunshine says:

"This truly was a unique experience for both of us. For a two Michelin Star restaurant, I was expecting glitz and glamour but the look and feel of the restaurant was actually pretty unassuming. That's the beauty of this place: they let the food do the talking. From cheese soufflés to decadent desserts, every bite had us smiling from ear to ear! A family institution and one we were honoured to be a part of, for a few hours at least!"

Don Alfonso 1890 | Corso Sant'Agata, 11/13, 80064 Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Massa Lubrense NA, Italy | +39 081 878 0026

End note: At the end of the night we were ushered from the house to our waiting cab and as we were a little tipsy by this point, we didn't realise that we hadn't paid for our meal until we were almost back at our hotel. We were left wondering whether this meal was given to us for free or whether it was an oversight that we were not asked for payment at the end. If it was the latter and we left without paying then we are truly sorry to this lovely family who welcomed us so warmly! We emailed to apologise, and next time we are back on the Amalfi Coast, we have promised that we will come back to foot the bill (and have another incredible meal of course)!

I am posting this as part of the monthly travel link-up with Angie JessiEmma and co-host Tanja at Red Phone Box Travels. This month is all about memorable food experiences - link-up your post before the 7th!

Mummy & Baby Yoga Fit: COMPETITION!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

 
Last Tuesday I donned my exercise gear for the first time since I found out that I was pregnant. For over a year now I have been in a state of perpetual tiredness: the exhaustion and sickness of my first trimester was replaced with hard work as I tried to get everything sorted in preparation for the baby's arrival in the second trimester, which in turn was replaced with broken sleep and an inability to move more than ten paces without stopping for a cuppa in the third. Then Sophia arrived and our lives were turned upside down and back to front, sleep became practically non-existent, and some days I barely had time to wash the baby sick out of my hair, let alone pull on my leggings and take myself down to the gym.

Isn't life ironic? Just when I could really do with an endorphin-boosting, stress-busting, mood-enhancing, health-kick the most, there was absolutely no way I could find the time or the energy to do it. Or was there? The perfect solution was presented to me over a coffee with my friend Hannah in the form of Mummy and Baby Yoga Fit. Hannah is a qualified Yogi, specialising in pre and post-natal yoga, and she has started to run private and individually personalised classes for busy new mums which aim to get them back into shape and to manage their stress levels, while bonding with their babies in the comfort of their own homes! For a frazzled mummy with no childcare, this sounded too good to be true and I didn't waste any time in signing myself up for a taster session.


The basic class structure was simple: Hannah started with a consultation to discuss the needs of both me (de-stressing, building core strength and toning up) and Sophia (wearing her out so that she might consider getting some sleep!), so that she could tailor the class accordingly, and then the yoga session began with some deep breathing techniques which promote mindfulness. By the end of this, I was already calmer than I had felt in months, although I was inwardly berating myself for not attempting something like this sooner!

Next came some warm-up stretches, followed by traditional yoga moves and balance poses which Hannah had adapted slightly to incorporate Sophia, to build strength and stability. Sophia was enthralled by the movements, and the sound of Hannah's calm voice as she talked me through each exercise, and particularly enjoyed connecting with me through 'Downward Facing Dog' and the round of Sun Salutations which were rhythmic and lulling.


 
Baby yoga followed, with some stretches for Sophia and fun songs and rhymes. I let go of my British reserve for a few minutes and enjoyed belting out a bit of 'Hickory Dickory Dock' as I lifted Sophia above my head in time to the song. After this, Hannah taught me a few stretches which could aid Sophia's digestion and aid comfort (and therefore good sleep), and I lapped it up!

 
Finally, the session ended with a warm down and some relaxation techniques for both of us together. As I lay in 'Savasana', utterly exhausted after a full-body work out with my unusually calm baby next to me, Hannah's deep relaxation music playing quietly as she read me a poem called 'Slow Down', I breathed out a year's worth of stress, worry and sleeplessness, and vowed that I would do this again soon. Even if it was on a day when I didn't have the time to wash the baby sick out of my hair.

---------

COMPETITION! I have collaborated with Pose, Pointe, Play to offer one of my readers one FREE Mummy & Baby Yoga Fit session in your home with the talented Hannah Varley.

To enter: 

- Head to Pose Pointe Play's Facebook page here
- Like the page
- Like the Mummy & Baby Yoga Fit competition post (pinned to the top of the page) and share it
- One winner will be chosen at random and will be announced on Sunday 4th September

Good luck!

If you are interested in enrolling in your own personalised at-home Mummy and Baby Yoga Fit classes, or would like to find out more, please contact Hannah at: hbutterill@gmail.com or head to her Facebook page

Sophia Molly: Four and Five Month Update

Monday, 22 August 2016

Wow, what a jam-packed couple of months it has been! Not only did we head to England for a second time, where we traveled the length and breadth of the country attempting to meet up with all the friends and family we could (sorry to those whom we didn't make it to this time around...we'll be back!), but these 8 weeks of Sophia's life were also jam-packed full of new developments and exciting milestone moments. I've been such a proud mummy and can't stop telling everyone about how advanced she is...is it just me or do we all end up like this eventually when it comes to our children?!



These two months Sophia has liked:


Meeting all of her family, as well as her two god mothers

Going on weekly play dates with other babies and mummies that live near us, and being very affectionate with her new friends (there's a lot of patting and face stroking!)

Laughing hysterically at funny noises mummy and daddy make

Her first exploration of grown up food - mainly grabbing bananas out of my hands before they reach my mouth! She's also had a bit of play time with some chunks of fruit in her high chair, but hasn't fathomed that she can eat it properly yet. All of the serious weaning fun and games start next month!

Reaching out to play with new toys and staring intently at them before putting them in her mouth

Bed times, especially long, warm bubble baths and reading books in bed afterwards


These two months Sophia has disliked:


What is supposed to come after her bed time routine. Sleep has not been high on her list of priorities this month

Doing one thing for too long, or going for too long without stimulation. This girl likes constant entertainment!

Having her first ever cold, which dragged on for a good couple of weeks. Who knew a tiny baby could produce so much snot?!


These two months' firsts:


First time rolling both ways and in both directions

First time making new babbling sounds, including consonants and a new, strange shrieky noise!

First time she has been really clingy to me, and upset when I have left the room

First real round the neck cuddles

First time sitting up!





Mr Sunshine and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in July, and a couple of weeks later, the anniversary of the day we found out I was pregnant. What an awful lot can happen in a year!

Authentic Thai Cuisine at Mango Tree, London

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

It was the hottest day of the year in London. We'd ambled for miles around the Royal Parks, sweating in the midday heat, but inside the entrance to Mango Tree in Belgravia, we were provided with a very welcome respite from the glaring sunshine. The contrast of the cool, dark interior of the restaurant and chic minimalist decor which looked as though it had had the full Feng-Shui treatment was exactly what we needed.



We had come to sample the menu, as well as the new Dim Sum menu, which I was rather excited about. The London branch used to have a sister restaurant in Doha, which closed shortly before we arrived, and we had heard so many good things about it from our friends.

But before we got stuck into the food, I really needed a drink. As if reading my mind, a member of staff welcomed us with a warm 'sawadee kah!' (hello) and showed us through to the bar.


It is one of those bars which reminds me of ones I used to frequent in my younger, care free pre-child days, with comfy seating, an extensive cocktail list and lots of strategically-placed uplighting. It was reassuring to see that even though it was lunchtime on a random Monday, there were still a few office workers inside, enjoying a rather leisurely post-lunch drink - they looked quite at home and had obviously made it their local.

One delicious and fruity mocktail later, and we were shown our table to peruse the extensive menu. The starters all looked delicious, and being the indecisive people that we are, Mr Sunshine and I went for the platter to share.


Chicken satay, Thai fishcakes, prawn spring rolls and duck spring rolls were brought out on a beautifully-presented slate. I loved that the chicken had been char-grilled, giving it that lovely barbecued taste, and the accompanying satay sauce was sweet and crunchy. The Thai fishcakes were perfectly seasoned, and both Spring Rolls, although a little greasy, had that deliciously crispy bite to them.

I'm a big sauce fan, and delighted in dunking everything in the satay, plum and sweet chili sauce, and then spooning more on top. Being married is great because Mr Sunshine knows and accepts this kind of behaviour. If I was on a first date, I'm not sure my date would want to take it any further!

We were also keen on trying the Dim Sum platter, but unfortunately two of the Dim Sum that made up the selection were not available, so we opted for the Tom Yum Chicken Siu Long Bao instead.


The waiter warned us that this Dim Sum was rather sloppy to eat, and he wasn't exaggerating! They weren't the firm little parcels that I was used to, and it was difficult to bite into them without juice dripping down your chin (once again, thank goodness I wasn't on a first date!). Still, the flavour was beautiful, and I wish that we had ordered more.

Our main dishes included a twist on the classic Pad Thai and Ped Makham - roast duck on a bed of Pak Choi with aromatic tamarind sauce.



The restaurant's signature egg nest made the presentation of the noodles instantly Instagrammable, but it was the taste which really made me smile. The signature sauce was sweet and oh-so moreish, and it was like no Pad Thai I had tasted before. I also liked that various elements of the dish had been deconstructed, so you could stir in as many peanuts or bean sprouts as you desired. The duck was something which I wouldn't usually choose on a menu, as I think it's incredibly difficult to get right, but it landed on our table perfectly cooked, with just a touch of pink, and the sweet and sour Tamarind sauce tied the whole dish together beautifully.

Now I rarely order dessert on hot summer days, as it usually makes me crave an afternoon nap, but the rest of the food had been so good that when I was handed the dessert menu, I couldn't resist. In fact, we both agreed that if we were doing this properly, we probably should go the whole hog, and ended up ordering the dessert platter.


The chocolate tart, layered banana pudding and matcha ice cream were all perfectly executed and indulgent without being overly sweet or overpowering. But the real winner in the selection was the mango Crème Brûlée, which tasted heavenly. I hoovered up most of this before Mr Sunshine had even had a look in. Sorry hubby, I couldn't help myself, desserts this good weren't made to be shared!

With quality such as this, it didn't surprise me when we were told that a Mango Tree had opened in the world famous Harrods food hall, as well as another restaurant in the Mango Tree empire, Pan Chai.


With kind service, deliciously authentic Thai food and a beautiful ambience, this is one Belgravia restaurant not to be missed. Even Sophia was content throughout the entire meal, looking around at the pretty vases of flowers and dozing on and off in the serene atmosphere. And that, for me, is a real win.

Mr Sunshine says:  
"Really liked this restaurant. Good food and drinks in an effortlessly cool environment. Was a little underwhelmed by the starters and I did think the Dim Sum was a little sloppy but the main courses more than made up for it. Look forward to trying the deserts next time we go as I didn't get a look in this time round!!"

Mango Tree London | 46 Grosvenor Place SW1X 7EQ | 0207 823 1888


We were guests of Mango Tree on this occasion, but as always all views are my own.


How To Travel With A Baby

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Travel. You used to take it for granted didn't you? Those long-haul flights curled up watching back-to-back movies, a glass of champagne in hand. Hopping on and off trains, packing in all of the attractions that a place has to offer. Lazing by a hotel swimming pool all day, only popping inside for your 3pm massage appointment with bronzed Lorenzo in the spa. Maybe knocking back a few cocktails with him into the early hours. OK, I might be getting a bit carried away now, but admit it, when it came to travel, you thought of  yourself as a kind of Michael Palin - Jack Kerouac - Beyoncé hybrid didn't you?

But then you had a baby.


Mr Sunshine and I (wrongly) assumed that as expats and seasoned travelers, heading to foreign lands with a baby would be a doddle. Besides the extra little package (and all of her associated paraphernalia) that we now had to lug around with us, not much would change right? Wrong! But somehow we have managed nonetheless. Now, with four long haul and two short haul flights under her belt, our four and a half month old has wracked up more air miles than many achieve in a lifetime. She's stayed in more than one luxury five star hotel, been to an overseas wedding and battled with cold, rainy beach walks and humid lagoon strolls alike. So, what coping strategies did we put in place to make it work for us? Here's what we've learned (sometimes the hard way) about traveling with a baby.

Travel lightly


Mr S always despairs at the number of bags and cases I rock up to the front door with before a trip. I'm one of those "if I am away and realise I NEED that dress and don't have it to hand, it might ruin my holiday" kind of people (spoiler: it never does), so I end up packing for every eventuality. Add a baby into the mix and suddenly the number of plausible situations that you might find yourself in which require extra clothes/blankets/medicines/toiletries quadruples, and with it so does your baggage.


But trust me, after lumping prams, changing bags, suitcases and handbags around a country for a fortnight, you'll consider spontaneously dumping one of them in the nearest bin to lighten your load. Remember that there are very few countries these days where it is impossible to buy supplies if you find there is something that you've forgotten or run out of. Save yourself some hassle and pack as few items as your OCD will let you.

But be prepared


Speaking of OCD, if you're packing lightly it's important to consider which items you need to have close at hand at any point in time. While I was back in the UK last month, I purchased an extra large changing bag, which I used to rotate items into and out of according to the needs of the day. On traveling days with long train journeys, spare clothes and blankets were displaced in favour of extra toys and fun things to distract Sophia with, for example. One friend mentioned that they buy a few small surprises which they keep in their changing bag, such as a new toy, app download or favourite snack, which they bring out at regular intervals throughout a long journey to keep their little one entertained.


Your changing bag should never EVER be short of spare nappies or wipes however, or a portable changing mat. Sophia had one of the worst poo explosions we have ever had to deal with in a first class train carriage between London and Stroud the other week, and although we ended up having to change her nappy and clothes on one of the tables in the carriage (I'm not proud) and throw the sodden changing mat in the bin afterwards, I was so relieved that everything that we needed was easily accessible.

Choose some key baby products which make your life easy


Apart from my new, snazzy changing bag (blog post to follow on this in due course), there are three items that I could not be without on our travels.

Firstly, our Bugaboo Cameleon with Cybex car seat attachment, which meant that we could hop into and out of taxis, keeping Sophia safe in her seat while folding the chassis of the pram away neatly in the boot. The car seat also doubles up as a really handy rocker for your baby when you aren't on the move and you need to be hands free.


Secondly, I could not have dealt with all of the hassles of airport check-ins and passport control without my Boba wrap. Although we've taken our Bugaboo right up to the gate on every occasion that we've flown, there were certain times that popping Sophia into this stretchy wrap was the only option - when she was being clingy but I needed my hands free to locate our passports, for walking up and down plane aisles trying to hush her to sleep, and for the long walk to the luggage carousel before we were reunited with the pram once more. We also loved our Ergobaby Cool Air for longer walks around busy cities, across beaches and through fields.



The final product which kept us sane on numerous occasions was our Sleepyhead. It's a portable baby pod which is small enough to fit inside a large suitcase, or light enough to be carried separately as the 10kg extra piece of checked luggage you receive with most airlines for traveling with a baby. Where hotels or family members weren't able to provide cots, or Sophia simply didn't want to sleep in one which she wasn't used to, we put her down in her Sleepyhead for the night, either on the floor or between us in bed. As she is used to sleeping in it during nap times at home, it also provided an extra bit of home comfort which allowed her to settle much more quickly, giving us a handful of long, peaceful nights. Bliss!



Don't panic


Before we boarded our first plane with Sophia, I was super nervous. It was a very long, overnight flight and I was terrified that we were going to be one of "those" couples who couldn't shut their screaming child up and kept everyone awake for seven hours straight. I was pleasantly surprised when our usually nocturnal baby slept for the entire duration of the flight, and some more at the other end!

We immediately relaxed into the flight by trusting our instincts. Almost everyone that we consulted before we flew told us that if we were able to persuade her to suck on something (most likely my boob) as the plane took off and landed, then that would not only help to balance the pressure in her ears and prevent any pain, but also soothe her to sleep at the right times. I tried it and it worked. But they also said that we could not go without a baby bassinet which hooks onto the wall in front of the extra legroom seats, but our daughter downright refused to sleep in hers. I kept her on my knee for seven hours instead, where she fell asleep immediately in my arms.


Basically, traveling is just like anything else with a baby: you need to take some advice, and disregard others. Trust that you as parents know what's best for your baby. But don't, whatever you do, panic!

Besides, if all of the recommendations above fail (and let's face it, babies are never predictable, so they might), there is always something to fall back on according to a friend of mine. "Calpol and wine" was her immediate retort when I asked for her tips following a 24 hour flight to New Zealand and back with her baby. Now that is the type of advice I can (literally) get onboard with.


I am posting this as part of the monthly travel link-up with Angie, JessiEmma and guest Nano. This month's all about lessons learned while traveling. Pop your post up on any of the blogs above before the 7th!

Home Is Where Your Sunshine Is

Friday, 1 July 2016

Back in October 2013 when I was a sprightly twenty eight year old residing in London, I was getting ready to move home. Not down the road, or across town, or even to a new county. Nope, I was 'following my sunshine' half way around the world to the Middle East to be closer to the man I loved.


At this point in time, as I was saying goodbye to all that was comfortable and familiar to me, the concept of home and what it meant was really important - so much so that it inspired me to start this blog. The second post I ever wrote talked about the places and feelings that I associated with home and it was pretty clear to anyone reading that the only place I was willing to call home at that point in time was where Mr Sunshine was. I was so in love that I would probably have moved to anywhere in the world if it meant waking up with him by my side every day.

But over two and a half years as an expat, one marriage and a baby later, the way I think about home has become far more complex - and it's got me a little confused.

Home is where my friends are. London and Essex is where the oldest and closest of them live. They're the steadfast ones that I stayed up until the early hours with, snuggled in sleeping bags and chatting about boys; the ones that I snuck into clubs with underage using fake IDs and passports pinched from older siblings; the ones that I picked up the phone to first after Mr S got down on one knee. They have seen me at my very best, and have seen me at my godawful worst. Some were bridesmaids at my wedding and will be 'aunties' and godmothers to my children, and I miss them every day.


But not long after I moved I began to make new friendships in Qatar and these friends became my lifelines out here. They've celebrated some of life's biggest milestones with me. They have provided me with the support I've needed when I've felt far from home. They've baked, shopped and changed nappies for me. And they are at the centre of some of my most amusing and precious memories.



Home is where my family are. When I was new to Qatar, I missed my family terribly. I pined for all of the things that I associate with family time at home. Sunday roasts, chats over breakfast, watching films by a roaring fire, cuddles and Christmas and days out and debates. These days I still miss those things, but I miss my family for additional, and bigger reasons - for the little things they are missing out on as Sophia grows up, for the relationships that she is missing out on on a daily basis and for the support I am missing out on when I need it the most!


Now we have our own family, and Qatar is the only place we've called home. I know that when the time comes for us to leave, we will miss things associated with here too. The weather and food, days at the beach, walks around the marina. Nostalgia is the quickest way to forge a feeling of home.



Home is where I feel safe. England used to be that place for me, where everyone I met was polite, friendly and welcoming. Where neighbours were concerned with each others' welfare and whoever you were you were able to walk the streets safe from judgement or harm.


Then Sophia was born and it wasn't just about me any more. I had a mini human to keep safe. Politicians became embroiled in campaigns of hatred, Brexit happened and then we started to receive reports of racially-targetted attacks. All of a sudden, the muti-ethnic, accepting and largely crime-free society of Qatar felt a far more safe and homely place for us to raise a child.



Home is where I feel fulfilled. This has always been England for me. It has all of the things that make me feel alive. History, culture, greenery and countryside, excitement and entertainment, variety and life.


But there are of course, new things that make me feel fulfilled these days and Qatar provides them all. Having a job that challenges and excites me, and helps me to feel like I'm giving something back; being in a place which allows me to save money and to provide for our family; blogging, traveling and opening myself and my family up to opportunities that we could only have dreamed of before.



Basically I think I've come to the conclusion that home doesn't have to be just in one place, and nowhere on earth will tick all of your perfect home ideals, but instead there are opportunities to build a home wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances. Home is where your sunshine is. And even on the gloomiest of days it is possible to create your own sunshine!




DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS