Magic mo­ments

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A fun-filled fam­ily stay at Lapita, Dubai Parks and Re­sorts, Au­to­graph Col­lec­tion

There are mag­i­cal places to ex­plore and en­chanted ad­ven­tures to be had in the desert, writes Cursty Mitchell, who en­joys Le­goland® Dubai with her fam­ily dur­ing a stay at Lapita, Dubai Parks and Re­sorts,

Au­to­graph Col­lec­tion

Was there ever a more en­dur­ing and cre­ative chil­dren’s t oy t han Lego? The only limit to these small coloured build­ing blocks seems to be the imag­i­na­tion of those who play with them. While to­day’s chil­dren skil­fully build their so­phis­ti­cated groom­ing par­lours and in­tri­cate fan­tasy drag­ons, back in my day we were spell­bound by sim­ple pri­mary-coloured blocks and the stout lit­tle hu­manoids of the 1980s. It’s not only the pieces of this Danish ed­u­ca­tional toy which have be­come more com­plex, so too has the com­pany it­self; to­day the brand in­cludes movies, household items, ded­i­cated shops, and of course, eight global theme parks. It’s fair to say that Lego has spread its cre­ative magic across the world like no other chil­dren’s toy, travers­ing gen­er­a­tions, gen­der and geopo­lit­i­cal di­vides. Just like their fa­ther and I be­fore them, my own chil­dren, Mil­lie and Eva, aged 10 and seven re­spec­tively, have never known child­hood with­out a seem­ingly bot­tom­less tub of these small tech­ni­coloured bricks. “Re­ally? Re­ally?” they squeal in uni­son as they em­brace the giant Lego dragon guard­ing the en­trance to Dubai’s Le­goland, though we’re given lit­tle time to an­swer as they rush through the turn­stiles and into the park. We’re vis­it­ing the park in Au­gust and al­though the UAE is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a mo­men­tary ( and thank­ful) lull in hu­mid­ity, it’s still rather hot. It’s far from empty how­ever, and the park’s mul­ti­cul­tural vis­i­tors are tak­ing ad­van­tage of un­con­gested ac­tiv­i­ties and the ab­sence of queues. We catch up to the girls in the air-con­di­tioned “Mini­land” – the sig­na­ture show­piece of each global Le­goland park. How­ever, Mini­land Dubai is some­thing a lit­tle bit special be­cause of course, Dubai de­mands noth­ing less. As the only fully in­door Mini­land, it’s not only fab­u­lously air­con­di­tioned but show­cases iconic build­ings from the UAE and be­yond. Con­structed from a stag­ger­ing 20 mil­lion Lego bricks, the scenes come to life at the press of a but­ton and as night be­gins to fall they twin­kle in spec­tac­u­lar il­lu­mi­na­tions. As t he Burj Khalif a’s Dubai Fountain be­gins its dance, Eva is spell­bound; hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the life-sized fountain al­ready, she’s cap­ti­vated by the minia­ture ver­sion. For a few mo­ments, we think Mil­lie is missing. She’s not –she’s sim­ply dis­cov­ered the “se­cret” tun­nels un­der and into the Lego Pyra­mids of Giza. As she’s coaxed out, she emerges with a giant grin and tales of tomb raiders and mini mum­mies. The rides and at­trac­tions through­out the park dif­fer in ap­peal and cover the full age range from tod­dler to 12. For scaredy- cats like Mil­lie and I, there are gen­tler rides and con­struc­tion chal­lenges, but for braver fam­ily mem­bers like Eva and her fa­ther, the roller­coast­ers and other high- oc­tane rides keep them more than en­ter­tained. The Dubai heat has no im­pact on two awestruck twee­nies as they dash from zone to zone. As for the adults, al­though fa­tigued by both heat and walk­ing, we en­joy the girls’ plea­sure and their in­fec­tious, child- like won­der as they ex­plore the park. All six themed lands of­fer a bal­ance of thrilling rides, im­mer­sive build­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, at­trac­tions, and of course the all-im­por­tant Lego shop­ping out­lets. The girls pretty quickly dis­cover the shops stock ad­di­tions to their much-loved Lego ranges, not yet avail­able in the UAE’s shops. Af­ter more than four hours in the park and now laden down with our newly pur­chased Lego haul,

tired­ness be­gins to set in. Thank­fully, we’ve booked into the Park’s only ho­tel, the Poly­ne­sian themed fam­ily re­sort, Lapita, Dubai Parks and Re­sorts. We’re ex­pect­ing a high- end stay; Lapita is af­ter all, a mem­ber of Mar­riott’s ex­clu­sive Au­to­graph Col­lec­tion. What we don’t ex­pect though, is for the magic to fol­low us out of the Park and into the ho­tel. Yet, it does ex­actly that. Lo­cated mo­ments from Le­goland’s en­trance, the ho­tel’s trop­i­cal gar­dens, la­goon-style pools, and South Seas dé­cor trans­port us from one mag­i­cal land di­rectly into an­other. Named af­ter the mys­te­ri­ous Lapita peo­ple who be­gan pop­u­lat­ing the is­lands of the Pa­cific by sea-far­ing ca­noe some 3,000 years ago, the ho­tel is in fact, rather aptly named. Lapita’s fun, warmth, and sense of re­laxed-is­land-liv­ing, feels a mil­lion nau­ti­cal miles from the deserts of the UAE. In­spired by the land­scape and ar­chi­tec­ture of the is­lands of Poly­ne­sia, the ho­tel fea­tures 504 rooms and 60 suites, and three in­de­pen­dent lux­ury vil­las ar­ranged through­out a vast trop­i­cal oa­sis be­tween the main ho­tel and eight low-rise “clus­ters”. The trop­i­cal- is­land feel con­tin­ues through the grounds with me­an­der­ing rus­tic paths, two large, la­goon-style tem­per­a­ture con­trolled pools, and much to the girls’ de­light – the ho­tel’s very own “lazy river”. In the lobby, the en­gag­ing staff, ap­proach­ably at­tired in panama hats and Hawai­ian shirts, en­ter­tain t he girls. As we check- i n, t hey en­joy en­thu­si­as­ti­cally dis­cussing the park and demon­strat­ing their re­cent Lego pur­chases. Check-in com­plete, we take a buggy through the trop­i­cal gar­dens to our fam­ily room, (a deluxe king room with ad­join­ing deluxe twin), lo­cated in one of the low-rise gar­den clus­ters. It’s an im­me­di­ate hit, es­pe­cially when the girls dis­cover their own cup­cake-mak­ing kit: bare cup­cakes with a se­lec­tion of fon­dants and var­i­ous top­pings, all served in ed­i­ble choco­late cups. They set to work im­me­di­ately, and be­fore long, the al­ready stocked mini­bar is bur­geon­ing with their crafty cre­ations. In our room, more thought­ful ( and quite frankly de­li­cious) items abound. There’s a three­tier cake rack with lay­ers of mac­arons, de­lec­ta­ble choco­late cre­ations and other nib­bles. And, re­ally, what par­ent wouldn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the Illy Fran­cis Fran­cis cap­sule espresso ma­chine?

The dé­cor is deep, dark woods and tex­tured slates, all im­pec­ca­bly fin­ished, yet the pro­lif­er­a­tion of bold Poly­ne­sian art and colour­ful soft fur­nish­ings keeps the at­mos­phere light and en­er­gis­ing. In the bath­room, we find Tommy Ba­hama toi­letries paired with the fluffi­est green bathrobes. Af­ter the thrills of the day, i t’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore the girls are de­mand­ing sus­te­nance, so we make our way back to the main ho­tel build­ing. The Lapita has four dif­fer­ent din­ing op­tions. There’s Ari, the ca­sual pool­side restau­rant and bar serv­ing in­ter­na­tional cui­sine; the fam­ily-friendly Kalea buf­fet with a South Seas twist; the dis­tinctly adult Lani, with its rooftop set­ting and Poly­ne­sian-in­spired tapas, and our choice for the evening, Hik­ina, Lapita’s high-end, con­tem­po­rary Can­tonese restau­rant. The dé­cor is a del­i­cate bal­ance of East and West, com­fort­able yet con­tem­po­rary, with a the­atri­cal open kitchen tak­ing cen­tre stage. It’s the per­fect set­ting for lit­tle peo­ple to leave their de­vices be­hind and work on their din­ing skills. I’m re­lieved to see the chil­dren’s menu is a bal­ance of healthy choices and lesstra­di­tional treats, with in­ter­est­ing dishes like eggdrop soup and prawn mon­ey­bags, bal­anced by more con­ven­tional fried fish of the day with noo­dles and chicken breast with rice and bok choy. To start, we choose crab­meat dumpling soup, sesame-prawn toast, prawn mon­ey­bags and the in­trigu­ing, aro­matic “mock” duck for Eva, who’s cur­rently ex­per­i­ment­ing with veg­e­tar­i­an­ism. In­ter­est­ingly, i t’s Mil­lie – our con­firmed car­ni­vore – who tucks into this crispy-fried and mar­i­nated bean curd; com­pletely un­aware it’s not ac­tu­ally meat un­til we tell her. My hus­band, who re­cently re­turned from the Far East, de­clares the crab­meat dumpling soup “highly au­then­tic”, while the gen­er­ous por­tions of prawns in both the toast and del­i­cate filo-prawn mon­ey­bags have ev­ery­one coo­ing. As the fam­ily afi­cionado on chicken soup, it was lit­tle sur­prise that Mil­lie chose the chicken egg drop soup. Al­though the whisked egg made the dish a depar­ture from the norm, she en­joyed both the taste and tex­ture, much to my sur­prise. The other main cour­ses – roast

“THE PRO­LIF­ER­A­TION OF BOLD POLY­NE­SIAN ART AND COLOUR­FUL SOFT FUR­NISH­INGS KEEPS THE AT­MOS­PHERE LIGHT AND EN­ER­GIS­ING”

duck Can­tonese style, sweet and sour chicken and stuffed bean curd rolls – are all beau­ti­fully pre­sented, au­then­tic and de­li­cious. Dessert is for shar­ing with the del­i­cate Hong Kong egg pud­dings and mango pud­ding topped with co­conut and fresh mint, the clear favourites. Free from elec­tron­ics, the girls draw and colour through­out the meal, cre­at­ing art­works to present to their favourite staff, re­ceiv­ing much ap­pre­cia­tive feed­back in the process. As we fin­ish off, the staff line up at the ta­ble and hand the girls re­cip­ro­cal draw­ings, pre­sent­ing a Chi­nese land­scape for Eva and a dragon for Mil­lie. The girls are for once si­lenced at the thought­ful ges­ture, and as we leave, they do some­thing so com­pletely out of char­ac­ter, it’s now my turn to be sur­prised. Both girls spon­ta­neously hug our servers for the evening; first Lily, then Chan. Back at the rooms, the girls waste no time in pam­per­ing them­selves with their an­i­mal-in­spired “Lit­tle Ones” bath sets, and then snug­gle on the bal­cony in their com­pli­men­tary pink fluffy dress­ing gowns. Sit­ting to­gether over­look­ing the trop­i­cal grounds, we dis­cuss the day and con­ver­sa­tion turns to the re­ally im­por­tant ques­tions in life: “How many Lego cre­ators does Le­goland em­ploy?” And in­deed, the big­gest one of all, “How ex­actly does one be­come a Le­goland builder?” Chil­dren rarely sleep in, no mat­ter how sump­tu­ous the dou­ble bed might be, nor in­deed, how much their par­ents might wish them to, so af­ter an early break­fast the fol­low­ing morn­ing it’s time for the Luna & Nova Kids and Teen Club. Open from 9am daily, the club of­fers arts and crafts, mini-ex­er­cise classes, face paint­ing and more while par­ents claim a few hours respite. Af­ter cre­at­ing yet more art ( t his t i me Poly­ne­sian in­spired), the girls are ready to ex­plore the la­goon swim­ming pools and the lazy river. Within min­utes, they’ve made friends with other sim­i­larly aged swim­mers and are rush­ing be­tween the pools and tak­ing turns on the lazy river. Watch­ing them play is like a win­dow into the mag­i­cal land of child­hood. I won­der at the ease at which chil­dren ac­cept new peo­ple, rel­ish the ex­cite­ment of new ad­ven­tures, and their rock-solid be­lief that en­chanted lands do in­deed ex­ist. As I lie on the sun lounger lis­ten­ing to their laugh­ter, I won­der too, if I can muster the mo­men­tum to get them out of the pool and ready to visit the re­main­ing theme parks we’ve yet to ex­plore: Le­goland Wa­ter Park, the Hol­ly­wood-in­spired Mo­tion­gate and Bol­ly­wood Park. For now though, I might just wait a while here.

“TROP­I­CAL GAR­DENS, LAGOONSTYLE POOLS, AND SOUTH SEAS DÉ­COR TRANS­PORT US FROM ONE MAG­I­CAL LAND INTO AN­OTHER”

Pre­vi­ous spread and above: the ex­te­rior of Lapita – the ho­tel is part of Au­to­graph Col­lec­tion Ho­tels, which is Mar­riott’s col­lec­tion of unique and in­de­pen­dent prop­er­ties and de­rives its name from Pa­cific Ocean is­landers, con­sid­ered ad­vanced in the ways of sea­man­ship and nav­i­ga­tion. Op­po­site page: fun at Le­goland Dubai and Le­goland Wa­ter Park, two of the ad­join­ing theme parks that also in­clude Mo­tion­gate and Bol­ly­wood Parks

Clock­wise from top: a bath­room in a Ju­nior or Fam­ily Suite; the Luna & Nova Kids and Teen Club and the lazy river

The kids’ pool at Lapita Ho­tel Dubai (top) and Hik­ina restau­rant (above)

Sub­tle tiki in­te­ri­ors in a Deluxe King room at Lapita (top); the ho­tel’s vast la­goon pools are per­fect for cool­ing off in be­tween theme park vis­its

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