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Published: March 14th 2017
Saturday March 4
Today was the start of our first vacation together since October. I somehow managed to convince Jeroen that we should go to the Middle East, despite his fears of flying and of sticking out in a crowd. We had to get up early, as our train to the airport in Zurich departed at 8:30am. I got up at 6:00am so I wasn’t so rushed, and of course so I’d have a little time to spend with the cats before we left. Luckily we have great neighbors that would take care of them while we were away.
I saw some students from school at the train station, getting on the same train to the airport. One of them was also on our flight to Dubai. It was about a six hour flight, and Jeroen had paid for an upgrade to a seat with more legroom for his two meter legs, but I had not, since I am cheap (and short enough for flying). Luckily, no one had purchased the seat next to him, so when I checked in the day before, Swiss had assigned me to that seat to sit with him. Very nice. It was nice
sitting in a seat with no one in front of us, but also strange because you can’t start watching movies until after take-off. For the first time that didn’t matter, as I had work to do. I usually don’t bring any work on vacation, and the only other time was a year ago, when I did some grading on a train. Today was more of the same, but I only had to grade two personal projects, so it was not too bad. After dinner on the plane, I got to work on our plan for the next week. Usually, I would have had a plan worked out by now, but I have been so busy with work and PolarTREC that I just hadn’t had time. So I spent a couple of hours working on the best possible way to utilize our days and time with the Big Bus hop on hop off tour, and all the extras that came with it. That’s just the way I roll. Afterwards I had time to start a movie and chose Florence Foster Jenkins. I only got about 45 minutes in, but I found myself wanting to know the rest of the story. A
We arrived in Dubai a few minutes late, at 9:45 pm, and then had to get through a massive line for passport control. It moved surprisingly quickly for being so so long, and it is always an interesting process. Got our luggage and away we went to the metro. It was easy to figure out, and we were soon walking through the streets of Bur Dubai, the old section of the city, looking for our hotel. It was only a ten minute walk, but Jeroen was already sweating five minutes in. This did not bode well for the rest of our trip. The hotel room itself was fine, and we ordered our free welcome drink, which did not arrive, so we called again at midnight and they finally brought up some fruit juice. Finally made it to bed at 1am.
Sunday March 5 – Despite my best laid (and crazy) plans to get up at 7am to start the day, I decided not to set an alarm for this morning, since we got to bed so late. We were up at 8:30am and headed down to breakfast. It was quite the set-up, with a crazy array
of western foods, some typically breakfast oriented (pancakes, French toast, eggs), some not (pasta, pizza), as well as local and Indian food options as well. Due to some innate obsession with food, I of course sampled it all, on the same plate, which would become a trend each morning thereafter. That was followed by an omelet and then yogurt with fruit. I know, right?
Once we were packed up for the day, we walked over to the Dubai museum. A ticket was included with our Big Bus ticket, but we had to pick it up from one of the representatives there. The museum was pretty crowded with Chinese tour groups, but we made our way through to get a feel for the history of the place. We then got on the red line of the bus tour, which is the city tour, and had to get off at the next stop, a souk, or outside market, where the rep there could validate our prepaid tickets. This souk was Jeroen’s first real welcome to the this type of experience, and in no time he had men dressing him up in local clothing, trying to make a sale. It was good
fun and we got some pictures to remember it by, but eventually we had to let the man down gently, and then not so gently, while he bargained himself down from 1000 dirhams to 500 to 250 to 120 or so…all without us being interested or contributing to the bargaining in any way. A little comical, but it was not the best way to make Jeroen comfortable. From there we took the bus to the Gold and Spice souks, which were interesting to walk around. I’ve never seen such lavish and elaborate gold necklaces. There was even a dress made of gold!
Next stop was an hour-long Dubai Creek dhow cruise, also included in our ticket. It was on a boat called a dhow that is a traditional style, made of wood. It was very relaxing and a good way to see different buildings. From there we grabbed the bus to the Dubai Mall, which is just an experience in itself. It is enormous, with over 1200 stores, an ice skating rink, a large aquarium, lots of American restaurants, you name it. I think any American could feel at home there. By then it was time for a late
lunch, and we walked around the food court semi-starving, trying to decide what to eat. We passed over Chili’s and Five Guys, since it was an awkward time of day for a super filling meal, so we settled for Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches, because we’d gotten samples and they were delicious. We split a large one, and then shared a huge ice cream. They actually made the ice cream in front of us, from what looked like chocolate milk. They added liquid nitrogen to freeze it, and it was quite a spectacle to watch. Worth the money, I’d say. After we walked around for a while, we made it outside to see the Fountains display, like a mini-Bellagio. Very nicely done, but short. The fountains are right outside the mall and at the base of the Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in the world. It was impressive to see up close, and even nicer to see it start to light up in the evening. At 7:45pm we started the Night Bus tour, which drive us around the whole city for a few hours, and it was quite spectacular to see all of the skyscrapers lit up. This tour also had a
live tour guide, unlike the normal bus, which had audio recordings to give you information about the sights. There was only one stop on this tour, and it was at a mall to see a sound and light show about Egypt, which was the theme at the WAFI mall. We ended the trip here, and it was late and we were near a metro and not far, for Dubai, from our hotel. We had a late dinner of schwarma at a local joint, and then got to sleep at midnight, exhausted, but happy, from a long day.
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