01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: My Perfect Nairobi Weekend 2015 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

My Perfect Nairobi Weekend 2015


Weekends in Nairobi are different for everyone but as a huge fan of the Telegraph’s ‘Perfect Weekend’ where famous people are interviewed – and though I am very far from famous, I thought that this might give readers one picture of what expat life in Nairobi can be like.

The weekend kicks off on Friday evening when I get the kids back from school at around 5pm (having done battle through the dreaded Nairobi Friday traffic).  The journey from school can take at least an hour of sitting in bumper to bumper jams and there’s a lot of breath holding as motorbikes, hand carts and pedestrians pick past you.  Since everyone is almost stationary, there are also a lot of street kids and men begging.  If the roads were clear, then the same journey would take us 20 minutes. There are rat runs and ways around that can be quicker but it’s always a gamble as you have an equal chance of  getting blocked in trying alternative routes.

My husband tries to get home before 6pm so that we can take our dogs for a walk on the local golf course.  A 45 minute walk around these beautiful grounds is a great way to wind down. We normally try to persuade the kids to accompany us, but generally they are exhausted by Friday evening and just want to flop in front of the TV.  After our walk, watching the sun go down and as the evening quickly falls into darkness, we might treat ourselves to a big glass of wine and some warm cashew nuts at the clubhouse before heading home to make supper.

 Weekends for us are largely about sleep.  We get up at around 5.30am on week days in order to get our kids to school on time. Their school day starts at 7.30am and there’s a school bus that leaves our neighbourhood prompt at 6.30am.  Ideally we all sleep in on Saturday morning until at least 8am.  I don’t like to sleep past then, because there is a frenetic African zumba class called Songa that I love to go to at 9am on Saturday.   Since I’m over 40, there are not so many opportunities to get my dancing shoes on and the instructor is fantastic, leaping around in the front like he’s just stepped out of a music video, so he gets the whole class jumping.  After that, I’ll head to the nearby organic vegetable market that is based from a garden restaurant once a week.  The saturday market has evolved into a more of a farmer’s market with not just veg but cheeses, breads, sauces, jewellery, crafts and the most delicious syrup waffles and baklava. My husband and kids then sometimes come along to meet me there with the dog so that we can enjoy a coffee in the gardens.  We always feel like staying for lunch by my bags are heavy with fresh salad, eggs, cheeses, ice cream and baguettes so I generally suggest we go home to eat the spoils of my shopping trip.  Occasionally on Saturdays all of these plans go out of the window because there is a school event (generally sports based) to attend. This can be quite big social occasions where parents bring a picnic and cheer heartily from the sidelines.

Since we spend so much time during the week in the car, we have a quiet afternoon at home. The shopping centres tend to be heaving on Saturdays but if we feel like it, we can head to one of these to catch a movie. On Saturday night we might go out to a restaurant.  There is an incredible choice of fantastic restaurants in every neighbourhood in Nairobi. The brilliant, free ‘Yummy’ magazine lists and reviews all the best restaurants in town.  There is a Nairobi Restaurant week and also ‘Taste’ awards to rank the best chefs in town, many of them international.  Somebody I met recently said that Nairobi was ‘on steroids’ in terms of growth at the moment and she was not wrong.  Sometimes I wish we lived a bit more centrally so that we could try more of these Nairobi hotspots out but we are generally deterred by the traffic and you can’t beat the space we enjoy from living a bit further out.  When we moved to Nairobi in 2003 we would think nothing of heading right across town for dinner, but these days it’s impossible.

On Sunday morning, my husband likes to head out on an off road motorbike trip with a few friends.  There is a crew that invariably venture out on bikes every weekend and they now have a Whatsapp group in order to organise themselves. Mountain biking is also a big thing here and their trips are arranged on a similarly ad hoc basis.  My husband loves the fact that within minutes you can be in the centre of some incredible landscapes which are literally right on our doorstep. There are often famous Kenyan runners on top of the Ngong Hills training early on Sunday morning.  He jokes that they are ‘pairs of lungs on skinny legs’ as they power over the steep peaks.

While he’s out, the kids will be doing music practise or homework, which is generally pretty boring but necessary.  I will make a Sunday lunch. In the afternoon we might load the bikes onto the car and take them to a quiet gated neighbourhood for a bike ride, alternatively we might take our dogs for a walk in the ‘primate centre’ forest sanctuary.  Occasionally we’ll be invited to Sunday lunch with friends and if I am seriously organised, then I will invite friends here.  Long lunches in the garden are one of the best aspects of expat life and they generally run well into the evening.  An alternative Sunday plan might be to throw together a picnic and meet friends for lunch or brunch in Nairobi National Park. It's incredible that you can go and look at giraffe, rhino and even lion within 20 minutes of home.  When you are in the park, you feel a million miles away from city life.

Then it’s time to pack school bags and try to get an early night, as the alarm clock will be going off early in the morning for another busy week.

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