Tag Archives: Holiday

A Trip To The Sun – Part 1

dubaiSome time before Christmas, Deena and I watched, and enjoyed, all ten episodes of a documentary series about Dubai International Airport. This, allied to an already existing interest in the desert city sparked plans for a trip to see it all for ourselves. Thanks to Netflights we soon had a week booked in the Dubai Grand Hyatt for the end of March 2014. As is the case most years, January and February went in a blur and before you knew it holiday time was fast approaching. Therefore with our suitcases packed, Dirhams (UAE currency) obtained, iPad charged and visitors guides/maps readied the morning of our trip soon arrived.

Day 1

Our flight was direct from Glasgow to Dubai on Emirates. Departure time was just after 1pm, and as is traditional with holidays we were at the airport with nearly three hours to spare. For me the holiday really feels like it’s happening when you get to the airport, and so even if it means hanging around for 2-3 hours it’s still seems like you’re on your way i.e. it’s still exciting!

2014-03-21 11.33.48Our chariot to the Middle East was a Boeing 777-300ER,  the workhorse of the long haul Emirates fleet. Seating was mainly 3-4-3, although on our way out we bagged seats towards the tail of the plane where four rows of 2-4-2 meant we could sit without bothering a third person. Seats were slightly angled away from the window but this meant plenty of space to stick hand luggage between seat and window. Leg room was surprisingly good as I was able to stretch out both under and to the side of the seat in front. Other than the odd ripple of mild turbulence the flight was very smooth and the food and general level of service was excellent.

dubai_bogOur flight lasted just over seven hours and arrived in Dubai with our watches showing 8:30pm. This though was in reality 12:30am as Dubai is four hours ahead of GMT. It was therefore approaching 01:30am when our pick-up dropped us at the steps of the Dubai Grand Hyatt. After checking in we made our way up to room 469 to be met by what was probably the poshest room I’ve stayed in. The bathroom was decked in marble, gold fittings, tiled floors and featured his and her’s sinks. The bedroom was very large with a huge King sized bed. As we were still hungry our first meal in the UAE’s show city was room service, and very nice it was too.

Day 2

When we arrived at the airport the previous night we were informed of a 09:00am meeting in the hotel lobby with the local travel rep. Considering we didn’t hit the hay until gone 02:30am the chances of making this meeting were never very high. I did at least email them to say we wouldn’t be coming and they understood. However, we still got up relatively early and made it down to breakfast before 10:00am. Breakie was included in our package and it took place each morning in the hotel’s ‘Market Cafe’ restaurant. It was a buffet service which had offerings from many different countries. Being safe I stuck with bacon and eggs (veal bacon as of course pork is off the menu in Dubai).

IMG_0006The plan for our first day was to suss out the metro system, plus a possible visit to the Dubai museum – both were achieved. The driverless Dubai Metro system has two lines, a green and a red. Handily, the green line has a stop called ‘Dubai Healthcare City’ which was a five minute stroll from the hotel. We therefore headed here and bought a ticket to get us the two stops to Bur Juman. The idea was to get to a main junction i.e. busier station than Healthcare City, and sort out some form of ticket to last us the week. The answer was a ‘Silver Nol’. For the princely sum of 20 Dirhams (about three pounds) we purchase a silver coloured credit card pass ticket which comes pre-loaded with 14 Dirhams worth of credit. The most anyone can spend on the metro in any day is 14 Dirhams i.e. once you’ve spent this all your journeys are free for the rest of the day, which is nice. Worth pointing out straight away that the metro system is an incredibly cheap way of getting around with journeys of several miles costing barely 70 or 80p.

With our Silver Nols purchased we then moved up one station to Al Fahidi and set out to find the Dubai Museum. As is traditional with Deena and I, we of course proceeded to walk 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Eventually we clicked and returned to Al Fahidi before continuing in the correct direction towards the museum. This museum was in an area called ‘Bur Dubai’ and it isn’t the area where all the jet setters and film stars live – it was more of a working man’s/old Dubai. Eventually after another few wrong turns we finally found the museum. Once again it was ridiculously cheap with entry only 3 Dirhams (50p).

IMG_0059The museum was set in the grounds of an old fort and was split into overground and underground sections. Above ground were bits and pieces of an old house and windtower. A couple of rooms held artefacts and some models of Dubai when it was just a small settlement by the creek. The main part of the museum was underground and therefore out of the sun. Haven’t mentioned the weather so far but needless to say it was sunny and warm with the temperatures hovering between 30-33 degrees. Out of the sun the museum wound its way through several rooms of exhibits, reconstructions, videos and a shop. In all we spent around an hour at the Museum which made it very good value for our 50p.

After the museum we had a late lunch at a nearby cafe before winding our way back the hotel. Dinner on our first night was had at the Market Cafe.

Day 3

dubai_mall1Only being in town for a week we had things planned for at least the first few days i.e. ‘the must sees’. The next of these was the ‘Mall of the Emirates’, which as you may know is a very large shopping centre home to all of the biggest names in the retail business. Even though the Dubai Mall is bigger, and in some ways better, it’s the Mall of the Emirates which is the one which seems to be known around the world. Hence we came here first. This involved a trip down the red metro line and afforded us a distant glimpse of the famous seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab.

IMG_0187The thing which the Mall is possibly most famous is ‘Ski Dubai’. Being Dubai there is of course never any snow so the city decided to make some of its own, as you do. It really was quite a bizarre sight to see all the excited Arabic children rushing around in the snow, sledging down winding, icy runs and all wrapped up against something they rarely experience – freezing cold (temp is maintained at around -3 according to a digital display). Elsewhere chairlifts trundled up and down the slopes as snowboarders raced their way to the bottom. As I said a bizarre, whacky sight but one clearly enjoyed by the locals as it was absolutely packed.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed our daily trip to the spa – steam room, sauna, hot tub, pool i.e. the usual jazz, before once again dining at the Market Cafe. As it happened this was our last evening meal at the Market as we began to get more adventurous as we settled into Dubai, and hotel, life.

Day 4

dubai_mall2As hinted at in Day 3, the other ‘super mall’ in Dubai is the Dubai Mall. This is actually the bigger of the two malls and had two distinct advantages for us. Firstly it was half a dozen stops closer on the red line, and secondly it was right next to another of Dubai’s must see locations, the Burj Khalifa (more of that later). Within the air conditioned confines of the mall we once again wandered for a couple of hours past some of the most famous names in shopping. Has to be said most of the really expensive looking shops were empty as entry is likely to lead to a wallet soon shorn of several thousand pounds. Being in the Middle East we of course had to try some of the local cuisine and I must say the two portions of Cod and Chips purchased from the London Fish and Chip company were absolutely delicious!
burjk1Outside the mall one finds the Dubai Fountain and to your right the Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest building is a staggering sight up close although you need a flexible neck to see all the way to the top! Sadly we didn’t realise you need to book up months in advance for a trip to the Observation deck on level 124 so we had to content ourselves with simply gawping in open mouthed wonder at the shining marvel.

Back at the hotel our spa session was followed by a meal in ‘Wox’ a Vietnamese noodle bar. Next door to ‘Wox’ was an Indian restaurant called ‘IZ’, which would feature over our next couple of nights.

Continue to Part 2

Tour De Cornwall – Week 1

This year our summer holiday took us to Cornwall. Have been before in our motor-home but with that now for sale (contact me if interested, no really!)  we opted for a holiday cottage. Well two holiday cottages as we split our two weeks just as I am going to split this blog about the holiday. Cottage one was in the extreme southwest, almost at the end of the UK map. The second cottage was nearer the border with Devon. More on week two later. For now here is what we got up to on our first eight and a bit days.

corn21Day 1 – Travelled from home to just north of Bristol. Stayed in a Travelodge in what seemed to be a industrial estate/retail park called Cribbs Causeway. The reason we stayed at a Travelodge is because they allow dogs. As it happens the dogs cost more than us! The accommodation was basic and a touch shabby but for one night you can’t really complain.

On first arriving at the hotel we took the dogs for a walk. In doing so we passed several rooms, which with curtains fully open, gave us a clear view of what was going on inside. Nothing too controversial other than the sight of one guest with one of these in their room. Not sure if he was cooking a chicken but I thought it was worth a mention!

Day 2 – Up early and enjoyed a full “English” at the pub/restaurant adjoining the hotel. For non Brits reading this a full English breakfast is a plate of fried things such as eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms etc i.e. very calorific but sets you up for the day as a one off treat! A lot of the British motel type places are built next to a chain pub such as a Brewers Fayre or a Harvester. This was the latter and the food was most enjoyable. After breakfast we set off south on route to our first cottage.

corn1

After a couple of hours we reached Penzance. Our cottage was another couple of miles south but we fancied a walk around town as it was such a nice day. At this point it’s worth adding that our holiday was taken while UK schools were still in. The Scottish schools traditionally stop for summer at the end of June while in England it’s around the third week of July. This meant Cornwall was likely to be a lot quieter than if we’d gone a month later. This is why we tend to take UK based holidays in June! A walk through the bustling streets of Penzance was followed by a trip to the nearest supermarket to get in provisions for the first few days.

corn7With the clock ticking past three in the afternoon we made our way to cottage number one. Loweneck Barn was to be found down a series of narrow country lanes. Be warned, once off the beaten track in Cornwall most roads turn into single track with surrounding high hedges. Not for the faint hearted but once you get used to them it’s not a problem, as long as you are good at reversing! We were met by the barn’s owners who lived in the beautiful looking house next door. It was a very quiet spot with only the occasional passing tractor to disturb the peace.

A dog walk down by the stream across the road and after that we just enjoyed a relaxing first night in our home for the week.

corn2Day 3 – Due to the travelling of the previous two days we decided to leave the car alone for the day. Instead we went on a walk around the local countryside. Nothing too testing. A few miles to breathe in the fresh air and get the legs moving. When back at the barn thoughts turned to where we would go on our first trip out.

Only other thing to add is the absolute thrashing I handed out to Deena at Scrabble. To be fair I did get all the good letters and in actual fact she did well to keep it as close as she did!

corn3Day 4 – First place we decided to visit was the Telegraph museum at Porthcurno. Fascinating collection of artifacts from when Porthcurno was known as Cable Valley. Excellent presentation from a member of staff is included in the entrance price. Good for children too as there were plenty of buttons to press and bits and pieces to play with. As it was a wet and fairly miserable day the dogs were happy to snooze in the back of our van while we wandered round the museum.

After Porthcurno we went on a drive around the coast through the likes of St. Just, Pendeen and eventually St. Ives. Having bought something to eat we eventually parked in the neighbouring town of Hayle and chewed on our sandwiches. It was now dog time. They needed to run on a beach and have a swim. Unfortunately as we were to find out a lot of beaches in Cornwall have restrictions on dogs. Some they can go on, others not at all all and others only at certain times of the day or year. Today we seemed to find only ones where they weren’t welcome. Eventually we found a small stream leading into the sea which had a bit of sand. Almost like a mini beach and the dogs were happy enough.

If planning to visit Cornwall with pooches then this website shows you which beaches you should head for.

Day 5 – During our trip through Pendeen the previous day we noticed Geevor Tin Mine. The mine closed after an abortive attempt to recommence operations in 1990. Open since 1911 it produced over 50,000 tons of tin in its lifetime. What is now left is in essence a time capsule of the day it closed. At points it feels like the workers might walk back in at any minute. Fascinating place to visit.

corn4Towards the end of the site walk-through you are given a guided tour down an old mine-shaft. This shaft was not part of Geevor and is one which was only discovered when Geevor actually closed. Be warned it is an extremely narrow and low ceilinged series of tunnels so if you are either claustrophobic or larger than the average person you may want to think before entering!

corn5After around three hours our trip to Geevor was complete. We then had lunch on a picnic table in the grounds before a coastline walk to some more mine workings nearby. You can easily fill a whole day in and around Geevor and if you are visiting this part of Cornwall it truly is a “must see” attraction.

Day 6 – Today was the first of two days upon which we went to Falmouth. Somewhere which looked very interesting and well worth a visit was the National Maritime Museum. However, as it would involve leaving the dogs in the van we had to hope for a cool, wet day. As it happens it was probably the sunniest and warmest day of the entire holiday! We consoled ourselves with fish and chips from Rick Stein’s Falmouth cafe which was located near the Maritime museum within Discovery Quay.

Falmouth showed up well in the sunny weather and is somewhere well worth spending a day to fully explore. A brief stroll through the town and it was soon time to return to the car. We hadn’t finished with Falmouth yet as we drove up to a car park sitting just below Pendennis castle. From here you were rewarded with unbroken views over the English channel.

corn16Day 7 – Rain was forecast so we decided to head back to Falmouth. When we got there it wasn’t raining but it was overcast and considerably cooler than the day before. Therefore it was all systems go for the National Maritime Museum. Was well worth the return to Falmouth as the maritime museum was a superb collection of items. A good couple of hours was spent touring its various sections. As we made to leave the heavens had truly opened. A quick dash around the shops within the Quay saw us purchase some much needed scones for the now obligatory daily cream tea.

On the way home we took a trip to Lizard but by this time the rain was bouncing off the road so we turned tail back to the cottage.

Day 8 – Our last full day at our south west base. Decided to not travel too far so first we headed for the village of Mousehole. Located just south of Penzance this village is an extremely popular destination for tourists. If coming by car best to park outside Mousehole and walk down as the streets are very narrow and likely to be filled with people. As we had just recently found out Mousehole was the home village of the Penlee lifeboat crew which was lost with all hands in 1989. We spent an hour or so walking round the entire village. One or two sea front houses caught our eye but not ones we’d be likely to afford! The harbour beach is not dog friendly so just outside of the village we were pleased to find a little cove which did allow the mutts a chance to paddle.

corn6After Mousehole we made for Cape Cornwall which is to be found south of St. Just. This location felt like the end of the road in every sense. A climb up to the Heinz Monument provided stunning views out over the sea. A walk down the other side brought you to the volunteer run National Coastwatch lookout point. From here the seas are scanned for any signs of trouble. From Cape Cornwall we drove back through St. Just and Pendeen before heading home to the barn.

Day 9 – After breakfast and a tidy-up we left Loweneck Barn heading for our second cottage in the north of the county.

The second part of this holiday blog will detail what happened from here until we headed for home.