Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
From Bahrain Fort, my colleague and I went to our hotel, the Ramada in Adliya. I chose it because it’s close to Adliya (an excellent district for dining and people watching), it has a pool and gym, breakfast is included and so is WiFi, and it was priced very reasonably. The hotel has seen better days, the gym is the size of a hotel room so it would be uncomfortably intimate to use it with a stranger and the lobby is closed for renovations. My room did not offer sound proofing but I slept really well and made good use of the amenities, even if I did have to stand at the door to my room to get strong enough WiFi signal to talk on Skype to my family.
Excited at being back in Manama (capital city of Bahrain), I talked to my family then we set off to find my favourite restaurant. We walked past the lovely grounds of Gudabaiya Palace, past the old Palace, past girls’ Primary and Secondary schools, and through a rather run-down area that seems to house guest workers from South Asia.
This building is a Poet’s house and is in stark contrast to the dilapidated buildings that flank it. Imagine how lovely it would look if the whole area was renovated!
After walking through the run-down and at times smelly area, with twisting laneways, we finally found the delightful oasis of the converted courtyard home that hosts La Fontaine Restaurant and Centre of Contemporary Art. The centre is 150 years old and the only one of its kind throughout the Middle East. The property, belonging to the Alireza family, is very unique as it captures the grand essence of a European chateau, while retaining the charm of the fine, authentic Gulf Islamic architecture. It has been completely restored and renovated by French artist Jean Marc Sinan, who transformed a beautiful residential house into a distinctive, exceptional centre for art and leisure enthusiasts alike. It features a number of contemporary art galleries, an open-air amphitheatre, an exquisite fine dining restaurant, an exclusive spa, and a state-of-the-art Pilates & Dance Studio, the first of its kind in the Gulf region.
I first came here 2 1/2 years ago with my little brother for my birthday dinner. It was winter then and we sat outside by the fountain and delighted in the tranquil ambience and fine food. This time I saw the lovely complex by day and it was just as exquisite as by night. My colleague and I sat in the shade of a tree beside the fountain and enjoyed watching 5 different species of birds make the most of the oasis. I ate delicious sweet potatoes fritters for entree, a smoked salmon salad for main and a chocolate fondant for dessert (breaking my grain and sugar free diet!). I also indulged in my first alcoholic beverage since embarking on this trip, with a Bombay Sapphire G&T.
After lunch I sent my colleague to view the excellent Bahrain National Museum while I wandered back to our hotel and luxuriated in running on the treadmill (impossible in an abaya), taking a dip in the pool then resting on a deck chair in my bikini with a book while sipping a G&T.
In the evening we wandered through Adliya and chose a lovely converted courtyard home which hosts Monsoon Restaurant. We were fortunate to be seated at the last table available in the outdoor section next to a cooling water garden that reminded me of the great water restaurants that we visited in Indonesia. I ate delicious gyoza and a refreshing Vietnamese salad of cabbage, prawn and grapefruit. As I wandered around after dinner looking for a quiet place to relax with a shisha pipe I was startled to find a pounding nightclub with women in strapless, thigh-length dresses which was in stark contrast to the entirely covered Arab women that had sat near us at the restaurant and to the ghost-like women that I see near my apartment in Saudi Arabia. I failed to find a quiet shisha lounge and settled for a soothing bath with my book instead.
My other posts so far on this trip: