Chapter 1 - Dubai

01/02 Feb 2013

After a short delay we left Birmingham Airport in our B777-300 just before 21.00 hrs for a six and a half hour flight to Dubai. Slightly more leg room meant the flight was more comfortable than I expected, the food was good and although we didn't have an aisle seat the young lady next to us was slim and awake, making getting out for leg stretching much easier! Even so it was a relief to get to Dubai - I never seem to be able to sleep on planes, always managing to get a crooked neck and hence dribble unattractively with my mouth open!

Dubai Airport looked like a spaceship, all glass and chrome, with walls of water and palm trees, very futuristic! We got through there with no real trouble and then tried to find the representative of the tour company who was due to take us to our hotel. Eventually after asking around we found someone who said he represented the particular company although he had no note of our names on his list. Luckily, on inspecting our voucher, he agreed to take us to our hotel. It was then that Mike noticed that his case had a large hole in it, the zip was broken and ripped and the frame of the case was badly bent. It was too late to complain to the airport people as we had already left the building and couldn't go back in, so we waited until we got to the hotel before we examined the damage more closely. Luckily all the contents seemed to be present and intact but the case was in desperate need of replacement. The other thing to note was that it was raining...

After a few hours sleep, we woke to find that it was still raining. Acting on the advice of the hotel staff, we took the amazingly modern and fast Metro train one stop to the largest shopping mall in Dubai - the 'Dubai Mall' was absolutely enormous. After what seemed like hours of walking around we found a luggage shop and bought a replacement case in its Sale; the case still cost GBP100 equivalent. Ho hum! The city looked amazing, all lit up - all the buildings had flashing lights at the top as they were so tall - and a lot of the trees were also covered in lights. We watched the Dancing Fountains in the gardens surrounding the walkway to the Mall at the foot of the gigantic Burj Khalifa - the tallest man-made structure in the World, all very entertaining! On return to the hotel we felt in need of something restorative so retired to the bar, after which we felt much better!

03 Feb 2013

We got up early to find that it was sunny and warm and no rain. We had a voucher entitling us to a tour of Dubai on 3rd February with the same tour company who had collected us from the airport, but this voucher had no time printed on it nor was there a time given on our itinerary. The receptionist at the hotel spent about three hours trying to contact the local tour company (TravCo) who eventually told her that they had no record of our booking. However, once they had been faxed a copy of our voucher, they agreed to lay on a special tour for us and for another couple who were in the same boat and who turned out were also due to join us on the same tour to New Zealand. Our guide, Dominique, originally from Belgium and who had been in Dubai for the last twenty five years, was fantastic, she spoke fluent English at a hundred miles an hour, imparted an unbelievable amount of extremely interesting knowledge and information in the four hour tour and dropped us back at the hotel at the end of it needing a very stiff coffee and food to recover! She talked more than I do, if you can believe it. We got on very well with Joy and Michael (the other couple) and spent a very pleasant evening with them chatting, eating and drinking in the bar in the hotel before retiring to bed early.

04 Feb 2013

Awoke to a sunny day! Decided to revisit the shopping mall we went to when we bought Mike's new suitcase and managed to find our way to the outside gardens and fountains, where we spent a very pleasant couple of hours sitting and enjoying the general ambience as well as photographing the tallest building in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa. Unfortunately we were not able to go up it and view the city from the top as we should have pre-booked tickets months ago - great to be wise after the event! However, the building looked really spectacular with the sun shining on it, a sparkling silver streak towering above all the other pretty tall buildings. We then decided to visit the Dubai Marina again as we had made contact with a friend's son who lives in Dubai and works for Etihad in Abu Dhabi, and had arranged to meet him at his apartment just off the Marina later that day - we needed to know where to go! So we took the Metro to the Marina and found his apartment fairly quickly and then had a well earned coffee before returning to our hotel via the Metro again. After a few hours rest we repeated our journey back to the Marina where we had a fairly nondescript meal before meeting Alex. I hadn't seen him for over twenty years and it was really lovely to see him again and catch up with his news, not least that he was now a married man! We spent much longer chatting than we should as we had a very early start in the morning and eventually left to get the Metro back to the hotel, only to find that we had missed the last one and had to take a taxi back to the hotel. Bed at 00.30 hrs, we are due to get up at 05.00 hrs in the morning!

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