Part 2. Off to Abu Dhabi then Dubai…Photos and video of the world’s fastest roller coaster….

Wow! Wow! Wow!  Tom took this photo from the 124th floor observation deck of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa with a total 163 stories. For more photos Tom took at the top,  see toward the end of today’s post.

Yesterday, we received a comment from an anonymous reader with a story about the dangerous Coronavirus spreading from the Middle East.  Last night, we saw the same story on CNN about this virus spreading to a French traveler who had visited Dubai, UAE, which proved to be fatal. 

With dozens of cases throughout the Middle East and, considering the places we’ve visited, I was concerned.  Tom, was less worried than I.

After taking my 4th dose of Z-Pak, I’d expected to turn the corner.  It had been 16 days since the illness began. What would happen if this continued until next Tuesday when we board the ship for the Mediterranean cruise and we wouldn’t be allowed on the ship, although we’re no longer contagious?  Oh, dear.

I had an idea in my desperation to improve; put a large pot of boiling water on the stove leaving it on all day at a slow boil.  Perhaps the moisture in the air would lessen the sinus infection. 

Second idea;  follow the guidelines espoused by Dr. Bruce Fife, of the benefits of Oil Pulling, using coconut oil twice a day as a mouthwash for a full 20 minutes, swishing and gargling and then spitting it out.  Coconut oil, which we have with us, is a powerful antibacterial. 

Starting these two modalities or merely coincidence, I started to improve late afternoon. I’m much better today.  Whether it was the Z-Pak finally kicking in, the coconut oil, the boiling water putting moisture in the air,  just “time,” or a placebo effect, I don’t care the reason.  It’s only the result that brings us much relief.  Tom, struggling with the sinus issue to lesser of a degree is also feeling better.

So now, we can rest one more day with a plan to begin tomorrow to sift through our stuff, one more time, to further lighten our load in order to avoid extra baggage fees when we fly away on Monday from Dubai to Barcelona.  It will be done!

Now to Part 2 of our day trip to see some sights in Abu Dhabi and Dubai…

After leaving the mosque on Monday, Umer was anxious to show us other favorite tourist attractions.  In my weakened conditioned, I reminded him that walking was difficult for me in the heat and if we’d be getting out of the car, it must be to air conditioning with places to sit.  This limited us to a degree.

Most intentionally crooked skyscraper in the world in Abu Dhabi, Capital Gate, built at a full 18 degree angle. Oh.

With this in mind, he drove to a popular destination, Abu Dhabi’s world famous seven star hotel, the Emirates Palace Hotel, an extraordinary architecturally interesting hotel filled with Arabic works of art, its own marina and heliport and the finest of amenities. Again, we were enthralled by its creative design, tasteful amenities, massive structure and opulence.

One of the entrances to the Emirates Palace Hotel.
Looking up, as we stood in the main foyer of the Emirates Palace Hotel.
The main foyer.
Happy to sit in the air conditioned comfort of the Emirates Palace Hotel.
Looks like a cash machine.  Nope!  Its a gold machine.  Put in a credit card and out pops a chunk of gold at your choosing.
This is a full view of the Emirates Palace Hotel depicted on an enormous wall.  Its actually a handmade tapestry!  The detail in person was breathtaking.
We stepped out on the veranda for a better view of the ocean front.
One of two open staircases at one end of the hotel, with its handmade carpeting and stained glass railings was worth a shot.
As we drove away from the Emirates Palace Hotel, took this photo of one of the fountains.
A small portion of the Abu Dhabi skyline as we drove away.
The attention to detail is at every turn.  Notice the shaping of these trees along the boulevard.
From every angle the views are amazing.
Umer drove us past the Sheikh’s new home currently under construction.  This photo is only a small portion of the massive estate.
World’s largest roller coaster is located in Ferrari World, the Formula Rossa. Here’s the link to watch the seven minute video.  No, we had no interest in riding this so we just breezed by.

By the time we returned to Dubai it was after 1:00 PM, anxious to get to the Burj Khalifa so Tom could ride to the observation deck on the 124th floor.

Tom taking photos at the 124the floor of Burj Khalifa.

More views…

This is the highest view from any structure on earth.

Breathtaking!  He loved seeing it firsthand.  Wish I could have joined him but these photos are quite gratifying.

Miles of views.
Tom took this photo of the portion of the Burj Khalifa remaining 39 floors all above the 124th floor observation tower.
The freeway system is evident in this and the photo below, indicative of Dubai’s efficient systems.
Unreal views.  Great job, Tom!
Although these look as if they are black and white photos, it was taken in color.  From the distance, everything appeared in monotones.
A peek of grass and water shows the colors seen from above.
A photo of a photo on New Year’s Eve as fireworks were being shot from various floors of the Burj Khalifa.  Now that would be fun to see in person!
Winding down our day, he drove out to Palm island to see the gorgeous properties.
Our final stop on Palm island, the renowned Atlantis, The Palm Hotel & Resort that doesn’t allow tourists to visit except dining or as a booked guest.

Finally, returning to our condo after a gratifying day, although cut short in part by my illness, we were so happy to have gone to see some of the highlights of this amazing country and two of its extraordinary cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the capitol city. 

Although we’ve seen but a small portion of what these great cities have to offer, we’re grateful for the experiences we’ve added to our repertoire of fine places to visit, as we continue on our worldwide journey.

Part 1…Off to Abu Dhabi, then Dubai…Photos…

As we sped along the freeway to Abu Dhabi, a 90 minute drive, we encountered numerous mosques.

Abu Dhabi, the capitol city of United Arab Emirates was hovering in my mind after arriving here more than a week ago. How could we possibly leave Dubai not having seen the world-renowned, most opulent city in the world?

Each mosque had its own unique architecture.

Dubai, in itself, is a wealthy city of perfection, cleanliness, low crime rate, strict laws and a gentle demeanor by its occupants. How could yet another city in this country be more in excess than Dubai? We were compelled to find out.

Umer our trusty tour guide and driver, was waiting outside the parking ramp for us when we arrived 10 minutes before our scheduled time of 8:00. Still feeling ill and hesitant about going, I was determined to make it through the day of sightseeing that we had arranged and rescheduled once already. 

As we entered Abu Dhabi, our mouths were agape at the world’s first round skyscraper, AIDer HQ.
As we neared the mosque.

Much to our delight, Umer arrived a brand spanking new Lexus, comfortable, smooth and well equipped for our day’s outing. As he explained he spent most of his days driving travelers about to see the various treasure of Abu Dhabi (and Dubai), a 90 minutes drive on a flawless, seemingly no-speed-limit freeway. His vast knowledge and experience were astounding, ensuring us we’d made the right choice in a driver.

As we approached Sheikh Zayed Mosque.  It was difficult, based on its size and location to get a full shot of the mosque’s enormous expanse.  This link will depict a full range.

With three hours of driving time to arrive in Abu Dhabi, we were left with five hours of actual sightseeing to include both cities.  Would I last that long?  My head still pounding, along with a feeling of exhaustion and weakness, I felt determined to do push myself as hard as I could. 

Real gold, everywhere!

The three hour drive was pleasant and uneventful, as we chatted on endlessly with Umer learning the many ways of Muslim life. Our preconceived notions and prejudices are often far removed from reality. 

The crispness of the white exterior was astounding!

This has been an eye opening experience that will remain in our hearts forever. A particular area of interest to me when speaking with Umer was the attention of one’s physical and emotional health, as well as spiritual well being. The work ethic is embedded in centuries of taught disciplines. Respect and care for one’s elders, arranged marriages and family life are the core of their existence. 

Almost to the entrance!

And, of most curiosity while here in Dubai and then yesterday in Abu Dhabi was the five times a day loud speaker chanting announcing prayer time, during which everything stops for those of the Muslim faith while they commit to prayer. Many times, we’ve heard the sounds, more so when we’ve been out to the pool at precisely 12:20 pm, less so when inside.

Umer insisted we stop for a photo op, taking this of us.

The first place we visited upon arrival in Abu Dhabi was the 8th largest mosque in the world and the largest in UAE, Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Before getting out of the car, Umer explained we’d be required to change into a black full coverage abaya for me and a white long thobe for Tom which would be provided for us upon entry into the mosque. As a result we wouldn’t need to wear the long pants we’d brought with us nor the long black scarf I had in our bag.

Definitely not my most flattering photo.  Tom looks great!  We’re standing in front of the architectural scale model. After we posed for this picture, a security guard rushed over telling us we are not allowed to touch one another in the mosque.  Of course, we complied.
The beauty continued at every step.
Hand cut granite floors.
This chandelier, one of three, was made entirely with gold and jewels.

The long walk from the parking lot to the mosque, in the heat with no breeze, was almost unbearable in my weakened condition. Tom and Umer’s patience with my slow and unsteady gait was appreciated but the longer I was in the heat, the worse I felt. 

Handmade carpeting.

By the time I reached the ladies open air changing room I was beside myself wondering if I could go on. The thought of donning the long dark garment in the heat was overwhelming. There was still quite a walk to reach the mosque.

More eloquent beauty…

The attendant looked about trying to find a garment tall enough for me with the requirement that the ankles are covered. She handed me a jumble black ball.. I struggled trying to figure out how to put on the silky one piece garment, finally requesting her help.

One of several areas for display of the Koran.

The sleeves to the abaya were inside out making it impossible to put on. I felt as if I had a tight turtleneck sweater caught on my head while trying to pull it off. Add, my bad shoulder and how I was feeling and I nearly panicked.

Standing among the gilded elegance left us in awe.

Alas, she helped untangle it and minutes later I walked out of the changing room to find Tom standing proudly in his white collarless one piece thobe looking at ease and quite dapper. In looking back at our photos I felt as if I looked more like the “grim reaper” than a respectful tourist.

Hand crafted prayer time clock…

With yet another stop outside in the heat to remove our shoes placing them in little bins, I couldn’t wait to get inside the air conditioned comfort of the mosque. Moments later, the blast of cold air filling us with relief, our eyes beheld a plethora of sights no word can describe. 

It was difficult to decide which way to look. The jewel encrusted accouterments were not only breathtaking but tastefully designed eliminated any sensation of gaudiness one might expect in such a lavish, opulent environment.

Umer suggested this traditional photo op in this designated prayer area.

For a period of time, I almost forgot how awful I was feeling becoming enraptured by this experience. All along, both Tom and I have said that we are more interested in people and culture throughout our travels than we are in visiting buildings. 

Every nook and cranny beheld another work of art.

The more buildings we see, we find that they bespeak their people and cultures, the finest workmanship, the creative minds and the often profound messages they are striving to convey in their work. The mosque was a fine example of this message and we felt honored to share in its glory and gift to the world.

Tom, as we’re nearing the turn toward the end of our tour through the mosque.

Let our photos depict the elegance and grace surrounding us as we slowly walked through this memorable spiritual place, Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Our personal tour guide, Umer, couldn’t have been more helpful. Should you decide to come to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, whether vacationing or on business, you can feel comfortable having him provide not only your transportation needs but as a tour guide as well. At approximately US $250, AED $900 (plus tip) for the day, it was well spent. His personal email is listed here at this link.

Tomorrow we’ll post Part 2 of our day trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai and also photos of Tom’s visit to the 124th floor observation deck of the famed tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. Unable to join him, I was thrilled with the excellent photos he was able to take while Umer and I waited in a café at the Mall of the Emirates in  Dubai, the largest mall in the world. 

They do “largest” here in UAE.  Interesting.

Only steps from the door to exit the mosque, Umer again grabbed the camera insisting we take one more shot of us, pressing me to smile. The experience, worthy of great smile. My headache, not so much.

Today’s outing….Back tomorrow with photos…

Shortly, at 8:00 am, Umer is picking us up for our day’s outing to see the sights.

Still under the weather after two days on the Z-Pak antibiotics and with much disappointment, I won’t be able to go to the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa. With my ears popping when we used the elevator to go to breakfast, going down and then back up to the 47th floor of our condo, it took all day to unplug my head.  I can only imagine 124 floors causing even more distress.

The minor consolation is the fact that we won’t be paying the $100 fee for two to go to the top to the building’s observation tower. 

If we’d had more time here, we would have waited longer to go sightseeing. Although many of the symptoms of the illness have diminished, I’m left with an awful headache and still feeling weak. 

But, leaving here in five days to fly away, I have a daunting packing job ahead of me; dispose of more clothing so we can get rid of two duffel bags and down to our ideal goal of one large suitcase, one carry on bag, one laptop  bag each and my handbag.  This way we’ll comply with the 66 pound maximum per person. Tomorrow, after sharing our story and photos, this process will begin.

By the way, we got the bid back from the shuttle company, after we’d already rented a car from Venice, to take us the four hour drive to Tuscany.  Ironically, the distance and time was about the same when we arrived and left Belize. The bid: US $849, one way. When we used the private shuttle in Belize it was $150 each way. Guess we are in for some pricey experiences in Italy over the summer.  The rental car was $868 per month.

It’s now time to go meet Umer outside near the parking ramp. There’s no way he can maneuver his vehicle through the construction zone to pick us up at the front of the building. 

We’ll be back tomorrow with hopefully, much to tell.

Didn’t go on our outing yesterday…Too sick…Watching TV from abroad…Outing is changed to Wednesday…

View from the pool at our condo.

Sunday night around 9:00 PM, we went to the front desk of our residence hotel to ask for assistance in making a local call from the phone in our condo to our cab driver Umer, in order to change the date of our outing from Monday to Wednesday. 

Umer’s business card has a series of 12 digits as his mobile number which didn’t seem to work on the phone provided in our condo. We tried it numerous ways, leaving off the country code, using 10 digits instead of the 12, all to no avail.

Over the weekend, with the utmost of hope and optimism, this virus I’ve been nursing for almost two weeks has made its way into a sinus infection that I can’t seem to shake. With a headache, pain in bending over and feeling of general malaise, I knew that no matter how much I pushed myself, a day’s outing would be torture.

We discovered from the kindly gentleman at the desk to drop the first three numbers and add a “0” to the beginning of the remainder of the numbers. I doubt we’d ever have figured that out on our own.

Hopefully, by Wednesday I’ll be able to go, as our time in Dubai sadly winds down with all of our time thus far spent staying in. We’ll fly away next Monday. Much to our concern, Tom has started with the same symptoms as mine. Is he also in for more days of this illness?

Tom suggested, “Maybe we picked up some spores from the Pyramids?” Unlikely. But that’s interesting fodder for a scary movie. Oh, that’s already been done.

The clean lines of the architecture on buildings in every direction.

Stuck inside again, the construction around our building seems less of concern today than it did a few days ago.  Luckily, my dear hubby, is a good caregiver, very sympathetic with nary a complaint about staying in while I try to recover. Hopefully, we won’t be swapping roles in a week with Tom as sick as I am now. 

In our possession are a few bottles of antibiotics prescribed for us by our doctor before leaving Minnesota, just in case. With an aversion to taking antibiotics coupled with saving them for a more serious situation, I’ve hesitated to begin the five day dose as recommended for sinus infections. 

However, nagging in my brain is the fact that in eight days we’ll be on yet another ship, exposed to a plethora of contagious diseases.  Will taking the antibiotics now to fix the sinus infection offer any prophylactic benefit against possible exposure?  Not so sure, especially since many shipboard illnesses are virus related, not bacterial. We shall see how the day rolls out.

With few English speaking TV channel (news mainly), I thought it would be comforting to watch a few TV shows on our computers since we’re saving all the movies and TV shows we’d previously downloaded to our external hard drive for our upcoming almost year in Africa beginning September 1.

Construction directly below our building which continues on all side.  It appears a rail system is being built.

Outside the US many Internet sites are blocked. I’ve mentioned that we are aware of this fact in the past. Up until this point, we’ve managed to be able to access the sites we use frequently. If we encountered an issue, generally, it was for a frivolous website we could easily do without.

Yesterday morning at breakfast (Tom made scrambled eggs to which I added avocado and blue cheese) we were easily able to watch CBS’s Sunday Morning show on my laptop (full screen) without issue. Being under the weather usually translates to “pillow, sofa and TV.” Oops, no TV, none in English, that is.

Having successfully watched Sunday Morning, we decided to try a few of our old favorites: Downtown Abbey,  The Good Wife, Grey’s Anatomy, Celebrity Apprentice and Shark Tank. No such luck. All of the network’s videos are blocked when outside the US.

Recalling research I’d done last year for a VPN, a virtual private network, I’d discovered Identity Cloaker, a for-fee company that offers software that transfers one’s web browsing to “appear” to be coming from inside the US as opposed to outside the US . (That’s a simple explanation to a much more complicated issue

Figuring a little warmth and sun might be good for us, we were only able to stay outside for 30 minutes in the windless, scorching heat.

When trying to watch US TV shows at no cost directly from the network’s websites, where most are readily available, we receive a message stating, “due to licensing laws, this video may not be viewed outside the US.”  We expected this but were surprised yesterday morning when we were able to watch CBS’s Sunday Morning at

With my foggy head, I wasn’t really up to downloading and installing the software for Identity Cloaker since it requires a few complicated steps.  None the less, I started the download, figuring that with little else to do, I’d take my time and get it done in time to be able to watch a few shows this evening as we relax and attempt to recover.

Alas, moments after the downloading process commenced, a message popped up: “UAE doesn’t allow access to this website.” 

Now to Plan B for last night’s entertainment, much desired after several nights of staying in. Off I went to my favorite place to shop online for our frequent Kindle e-book downloads and gifts for family, which they wrap and ship from the  US, avoiding international shipping charges. I knew that they had TV shows where one could purchase entire TV series.

Having absolutely loved PBS’s Downton Abbey and having left Minnesota the day before season 3 began, we’ve been chomping at the bit to see what we’ve missed.  Question was…will we be able to download and watch this series or will we be blocked?

The view from the chaise lounges by the pool. 

Before making the purchase for a paltry $14.95 for the entire 3rd season, I downloaded the “free preview” to ensure it would work from afar. Yes, it worked! We’re thrilled. Last night, Monday night we watched the first episode in HD on my laptop in full screen. Love that show! 

And yes, yesterday afternoon, I gave in and downed the first two pills of a Z-Pak to be continued at one pill per day over the next four days. The thought of riding an elevator to the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa, or riding in an airplane with pounding pressure in my head is unthinkable.

Hopefully, by Wednesday, we’ll both be well enough for our full day outing to see the sights of Dubai. If so, we’ll be back in touch by Thursday with photos.

Planning for our arrival in Tuscany begins…Also, tomorrow’s a big day…

Tomorrow, we’ll be gone the entire day visiting many exciting places of interest in Dubai. Of course, the cameras will be clicking, hopefully getting great shots of the sights this unique area has to offer. Please check back on Tuesday when we’ll post the story and photos of our private day trip with our cab driver Umer, as we travel in air-conditioned comfort in a newer SUV.

How far ahead we plan our means of transportation from ships and airports to vacation homes is determined by several factors; the availability of transportation to our final destination, the accessibility to the location, the likelihood of a string of cabs ready to transport passengers, the time of day of our arrival and, the urgency of our desire for peace of mind.

In our case, peace of mind is at the top of the list. Tom, worrier than he can be, finds comfort in planning well in advance with directions and a map in hand. I’m perfectly comfortable planning a few weeks in advance, rationalizing that “last-minute deals” might be the way to go. However, my ultimate goal is to keep Tom from worrying and get us to our location with the least stress. 

We plan to get to the airport in Dubai the following Monday for our flight to Barcelona, where we’ll stay for one night at the Hotel Grums again. The next day, we’ll grab a cab to take us to the port of Barcelona to board our eighth cruise since January 3, 2013, on a 12-day trip through the Mediterranean with almost daily stops in unique ports. (This will be our last cruise in 2013, with our next cruises scheduled in 2014 as we work our way to Hawaii to meet up with our kids for the holidays).

On June 16, we’ll disembark the Norwegian Spirit (I hope we like it!) in Venice, Italy, where we’ll have spent two days perusing this romantic city. 

The challenge: finding our way from Venice to our renovated 17th-century stone farmhouse in Tuscany, where we’ll spend the summer, a three-plus hour car ride. After the summer in Tuscany, we’ll fly to Mombasa, Kenya, a long flight away.

Over a year ago, when planning this leg of our journey, we accepted that a rental car for the entire two and a half months is vital, allowing us to take day excursions to other parts of Italy from this convenient location. 

With no nearby grocery stores and only a few restaurants, there is no way we are willing to feel trapped for the entire summer. The cost of renting a car, however small or economical, is outrageous. People have said, “Oh, I went to Italy and rented a car for $350 a week.” Well, let’s do the math. We’ll be there for ten weeks. We budgeted this expense, having checked on the pricing over a year ago.

Contemplating numerous options, we’ve come to the most stress-free solution to accomplish our goals: When our ship disembarks at the port in Venice, we’ll take a cab to Marco Polo Airport, a mere four miles, to pick up our awaiting rental car and drive ourselves to our awaiting property in Tuscany.

When we’re ready to fly to Kenya, we’ll drive the rental car back to Venice (it appears most flights to Mombasa depart later in the day), drop it off at the airport, and off we go to our awaiting flight.

We’d also considered; taking a train to Tuscany from Venice to rent a car in Florence, but then we’d have to get to a bigger airport to fly to Kenya. Returning to Venice is our most straightforward, least costly, stress-reducing option.

Today, we rented the car. We’ve heard horror stories about renting cars in Italy. Good grief. If you go online, you can find horrible stories about everything we’ve done so far. Refusing to spoil our experiences with needless speculation about “what ifs, would haves, and could haves” is pointless, sucking the life out of a potentially great opportunity.

As we know, things do go wrong. After all, I still have major sinus problems from that annoying ship-borne illness. After all, we’re practically trapped in our condo from construction at every turn, making walking outdoors nearly impossible. 

After all, is said and done, it’s all going to be OK as we continue to have the times of our lives, living on the roads, the seas, the skies, the mountains, the valleys, the canals, the deserts, and on and on.

More on Dubai…Great deals and not so great deals…

This AED $282.45 translates to US $76.91. For details on everything we’d purchased today, see the list of items on at the end of this post.

Still laying low while I recover, we must admit to being a little “housebound.”  Add to it the massive amount of road construction around our building, making a casual walk nearly impossible, we’re looking forward to getting out.

Currently, we’re in the process of making arrangements with our newly found cab driver, Umer, to take us on a few excursions to see the highlights of this amazing city next week.  By Monday, I should be close to back to normal and ready to explore.  After a full 10 days of this illness, I’m ready to get back in the groove. 

How Tom ever made that excruciating three-hour walk to Petra while he was sick baffles me. Must be a “tough guy” thing. He never complained.

Staying in these past four days since we arrived in Dubai, except for dining out, a few short walks and a several trips to the grocery store, has not been unlike our old life when one of us was under the weather, low key with simple tasks and minimal expectations.

In the short time we’ve been here and been out, we’ve observed a few astounding aspects of Dubai. It is the cleanest, safest, most friendly city we’ve visited. The attention to detail in very way is beyond description.

Our building, Elite Residence, is a newer building, mostly occupied by sophisticated young professionals with what appear to be few tourists. We’ve yet to speak to an American, not surprising, being half way around the world.

Today, we ventured out to the pool to soak up the warm sun for our usual one hour.  Surprisingly, all the padded chaise lounges were taken.  The tall buildings prevent sun by the pool until afternoon, not an uncommon scenario with the tall buildings shrouding the sun, block after block, in this highly developed city.

Our only choice was to select two of the wicker chaise lounges without pads and cover them with our two beach towels. After plopping down, we discovered the chaises weren’t particularly uncomfortable, so we settled in, content to enjoy the hot air diminished by the strong winds. 

Within minutes, two pool attendants having noticed our dilemma, appeared beside us carrying a stack of pads anxious to place them on our chairs.  That, is indicative of the quality of service not only in our building, but in the restaurants, the stores and at the port as we waited for transportation.

To say there isn’t a piece of trash on the streets, is no exaggeration.  Our condo, is literally perfect, everything works flawlessly and is in impeccable condition.  In the bathroom, there is a spray hose, beautifully plumbed, to spray the toilet bowl after each use.  I don’t recall ever seeing such an item. 

In the grocery store, attendants are everywhere, quick to answer questions and find products, bag our groceries.  Nothing is spared.  In the restaurants, no less than three servers attend to our needs, gracefully without hovering.  At each table, we found a perfectly wrapped special logo envelope containing a floss pick. 

A few have asked us if Dubai is as expensive as they’ve heard.  In many aspects, we see that it is.  Dining out in a nice restaurant for dinner, may cost as much a $300 for two. We looked online for the menus for nearby restaurants only to confirm this fact. Instead, we choose to cook our dinners, dining out for breakfast or lunch.

Today, as indicated above, we made a trip to the grocery store next door to our building, purchasing the following items for only US $76.91!

  • 1 pound fillet Mignon
  • 1 pound sirloin steak
  • 1 pound mussels
  • 1 pound cleaned calamari
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 1 pound beef bacon
  • 2 pounds shredded cabbage
  • 1 pound sliced carrots
  • 2 pounds sliced cheddar cheese
  • 1 package imported blue cheese
  • 2 organic peppers
  • 1 organic Japanese eggplant
  • 5 organic yellow onions
  • 1 shaker garlic powder
  • 30 organic free range eggs
  • 1 jar mayonnaise
  • 2 pounds organic fresh green beans
  • 1 organic avocado
  • 2 liters diet 7 up (for Tom’s cocktails)
  • 1 4 pk. paper towels
  • 1 14 oz bag raw cashews

This amount of food will feed us both for no less than three full days at an average cost of $25.64 per day.  For us, dining in has always been preferred, especially now with my restricted diet of “fresh, organic food, in its natural state.”

Traveling the world is costly. Keeping our foods costs reasonable, allows us to continue traveling over the long haul. 

This coming week, we’ll visit the observation deck of the tallest building in the world, the Buj Khalifa, 124 stories.  The cost for a ticket is US $50 per person.  I guess we’d rather spend $100 for such an experience, as opposed to devouring a meal in a restaurant, which is literally consumed in less than 10 minutes, that may cost from US $100-$300.

Cooking and enjoying a seafood stir fry, based on the above ingredients, for one night’s dinner, grass fed filet Mignon for another and sirloin steak for yet another is not too shabby by our standards, especially when the company is so enjoyable, we’re dressed in comfy clothes and “the Flying Nun” is playing on the TV in Arabic.

Check out our updated travel map on the right side of today’s post…Plus more photos…

Our building, Elite Residence, a new building, is among this grouping of other residential buildings, is the tan colored structure.
The entire city must have restrictions on the coloration of the building’s exteriors, all of which are variations of beige, tan, cream, off white and lighter shades of blue, resulting in an attractive skyline.

During another day of recovering health, we updated our map on Traveler’s Point, a free website to keep track of one’s travels on a map.  Well, I should say Tom updated the map, covering every country that we’ve visited thus far.

During our outing today, we stumbled across this upscale market.  It was a feast for the eyes with prices almost twice as much as the grocery store next door to our building where we shopped a few days ago. There are four grocery stores within a two block radius, which are the most expensive and the most visually stimulating.

Also, we had to call all of our credit card companies to update our travel itinerary.  To prevent fraud, they require that we “call” every 60 days with a list of countries we’ll be visiting over the same time period. 

Check out these cherry tomatoes, still on the vines!  It was a pleasure just looking at them!

Not wanting to incur outrageous long distance charges and also by not having cell service, our only option is to use Skype, calling the toll free numbers on the back of the credit cards at no cost to us. Connecting the call is quick and easy, but the time spent on the call with the representative is a slow and tedious process. It’s a necessary evil of constant travel.

In Dubai, meats are weighed by kilograms.  For example, these king crab legs are AED $212 per kilogram. There are 2.2 pounds in a kilogram resulting in these crab legs at US $26.24 per pound, not much more than the US pricing. Other seafood was more reasonably priced, often less than US pricing.

In speaking with other world travelers, some  have mentioned that on occasion their credit cards are declined, due to the fact that they’re using the card outside their home country where the card was issued. 

This normally is not an issue when one goes on a two week vacation to a foreign land. But, in our case, jumping from country to country over an extended period, triggers an alert that the card may have been stolen. 

These organic asparagus proved to be US $4.95 a pound, not too bad for organic.

By calling the companies in advance, we’ve avoided the time consuming embarrassment of a decline for one of our cards while out and about.  As of our recent inquiry yesterday, a few of our credit card companies have streamlined the process, making it possible to update this information online, as opposed to making the phone call, much preferred by us. 

As we travel, reviewing our mail every few days via our online mailing service in Nevada, Maillinkplus, is another necessary task. At this point, we receive very little mail since we previously had generated most of our mail to be sent via email.  However, a few companies remain in the dark ages insisting on sending a paper bill.

The shelves were lined with appetizing selections.

A week ago while cruising we received a snail mail bill from our Minnesota medical clinic stating that our insurance company didn’t pay our last bill for $294 while we were still covered. 

Last night at 9:00 pm, our time here in Dubai (11 hour time difference with California), we called the insurance company’s toll free number again on Skype (no charge) to discover that “it fell through the cracks” on their end and that they’ll pay it immediately. 

Olives and dates thrive in the desert, abundantly available. We can enjoy the olives, but must forego on the sugary dates.

I explained that we are out of the country for an extended period and would kindly expect that we won’t have to call again if this isn’t addressed promptly.  They promised it would be resolved.  These types of incompetent incidents happen to all of us from time to time.  While living in the US, they were much easier to resolve.

Banking, paying bills online, accounting, updating the budget, handling payments for future rentals and the ongoing process of continually planning our next move, whether it be days, weeks or months away, in itself is a lofty job requiring hours of diligent work each month. 

This boxed grouping of liter bottles of imported olive oils was priced at US $216.47.

Divided between us, each with our unique expertise, we diligently strive to stay on top of every task by utilizing my Outlook calendar with reminders popping up over a period of several days before the due date.  Once completed, we mark it as done, retaining the information in the calendar for future reference.

So, here we are in Dubai, doing laundry without a dryer, cooking dinner on a stove that has confusing unfamiliar settings, having only five hangers in the closet, the single knife in the drawer is dull (we had to go out to purchase a new knife) and there are only a few English speaking TV channels showing old reruns, a few horror movies and international news. 

For me, fun to see, forbidden to eat, baked fresh daily, priced at US $2 each.

There are no dish towels, no top sheet (they use duvets instead), outlets that don’t work with our digital equipment (we brought  adapters and converters with us but still find it confusing) and two tiny ice cube trays.  (We had to ditch our inventory of ice cube trays when we lightened our load).

With the massive amount of road construction around our building, we are very limited on where we can walk.  At certain points, we’re locked in, unable to get from one location to another on foot. This is disappointing, as we’d hope to spend a substantial part of our time here on foot. 

(At this point we’re planning outings on our own on which we’ll report later. We’re waiting to ensure I am feeling well enough).

The delectable appearing desserts ranged from a low of US $3.26 to a high of US $5.17.  I could have eaten one of each!

Thankfully, the property is otherwise fabulous, much more to our liking than a suite in a fancy hotel where we wouldn’t be able to cook or do laundry at all.  Also, with the cost of most hotels in Dubai in the $300 – $400 per night range, we are delighted with our rate of $135 a night including all taxes and fees. The additional $300 cash deposit we paid upon arrival will be returned to us in cash on the day of our departure.

For some, the perception is that we’re out sightseeing everyday without a care in the world.  But, we’re like you.  We have everyday tasks and responsibilities, aches and pains, colds and flu, financial matters to handle and the daily tasks of keeping our environment clean and clutter free plus, grocery shopping, cooking many of our meals and doing dishes. I cook. Tom does the dishes and helps with the chopping and dicing.

We could have used one of these fine knives, although too pricey and not easy to take along on a flight.

In reality, having a handle on these mundane tasks adds a comforting and familiar sense to our otherwise unusual lives of traveling without a home to return to; to see family and friends, to repack, to read the mail, to restock and to recover.

In any case, we take it all in our stride as part of the experience, the good and not so good and the perils and annoyances of travel. In return, we wallow in the joy of exploration, the bliss of discovery and  the sense of awe of the world around us. 

At lunch today we were served these miniature bottles of ketchup and mayonnaise that were fresh, never opened, a nice touch. We imagined that once opened, they are all thrown out, indicative of the Dubai-way, excesses of everything, one of many aspects resulting in very high prices when dining out.  Our lunch, at US $49 did not include any alcoholic beverages, appetizers or desserts. A 10% tip was included but we added an additional 10% for the exemplary service and attention to detail.

Feeling a little better today, we ventured out for lunch (US $49.00) and another trip to the grocery store for yet another box of tissues to tend to my continuing sinus problems, remaining from the ship-borne illness.

An outing in Dubai…Short and pleasant…Still sick…

The smog and sand are evident in this photo we took from our rental of Atlantis at Palm Jumeriah.  Again today, the air is thick and the sky overcast.
Venturing out onto the street we wondered if the huge number of towering buildings are actually occupied. New construction continues in Dubai in light of the world’s tough economic conditions.

In a perfect world, we’d already be buzzing around Dubai checking out the sights and sounds of this unique city. 

In my “old life” I squirmed in elevators.  No more!  We can’t wait to go to Burj Khalifa to the observation deck on the 124th floor.  Our current “home” is on the 47th floor, taking about 30 seconds.  The entire elevator is mirrored.  Our building is newer, conveniently located with the finest décor and amenities.  We’re content here for yet another 11 days until we fly back to Barcelona (our first flight since departing Minnesota 7 months ago).

Alas, the virus I contracted on the ship has left me too weak to get out much as I recover a little each day. It finally has turned the corner after an entire week of uncomfortable symptoms. So we ventured out for a short time taking these few photos. More will follow in the days to come.

Can’t wait to feel well enough to use the well equipped gym in our building.
This is one of several pools at our building.  There’s a full-sized private pool in each of the locker rooms with lifeguards on duty at all time.  The guy in this photo is the outdoor pool lifeguard.
The pool in the ladies locker room with yet another in the men’s.
Walking through the construction zone, we found this restaurant located in the Tamani Hotel where we had an elegant breakfast and reasonably good coffee.
Tom busily perused the menu, doing the math in his head to convert prices from dirhams to US.  Yes, it was pricier than Denny’s but well worth the $35 we spent for our breakfast.
US $1 is $.37 AED, thus a $30 appetizer is US $8.17.  With an app on our phone, it’s convenient to calculate the difference.
We both had the same breakfast, omelet with cheese (mine also with veggies), beef bacon, turkey sausages, sautéed mushroom and roasted tomatoes.  Those little green sticks are the tiniest baby asparagus I’ve ever seen.  I ate Tom’s, of course.
Le Meridian Hotel across the road from our building.

Hopefully, the sun comes out today encouraging us to spend an hour at the pool. Perhaps, the warm air, cool pool water and some power lounging will return me to my usual energetic self. 

Still under the weather…Sharing a published story about us…

While we were still living in Belize up until April 9, 2013, I wrote this new article upon the request of successful best selling author and health advocate, Jonathan Bailor.  

Retired Minnesota Couple’s “Living SANE, traveling the world”

By Jess Lyman (pictured above)
As we sit on our veranda  less than 25 feet from the Caribbean Sea, the constant calming sound of the sea as background music to our ears, we remember when  we were no different  from  average baby boomers; content to stay home, cook  great meals, visit  with family and friends, and  spend  our requisite lounging time in front of the TV.

We left it all.  On January 3, 2013, we boarded the Celebrity Century in San Diego  on our way through the Panama Canal, to begin a five to ten year long journey we’ll continue  until we don’t want to travel an more, until we tire of hauling our luggage, or until we feel a compelling desire to stay put.

Nineteen months ago,  we began another journey of drastically changing our diet.We no longer eat wheat or other grain,  processed gluten free foods,  starch ( corn or corn based products, no beans)  soy or soy based products, no sugar ( agave or other purported safe sugars all of which raise blood glucose levels),  or  fruit other than a few berries. We now eat grass fed meat,  wild caught fish  free range chicken and eggs,  non-starchy vegetables, coconut, almond and hazelnut flour, raw nuts, hard cheeses, cream cheese, unsweetened coconut milk, real butter and coconut oil.

Here’s my story.  From the time I was a teenager, my life revolved around limited portions, denying myself favorite foods and constantly being on a diet.  With a family history of severe diabetes, morbid obesity, debilitating  joint and spine disease, and rampant heart disease,  I began my adult life on a mission to stay slim, frequently going up and down in weight, often as much as 50 pounds, to eventually lose it all on some radical “diet of the month.” I exercised rigorously most of my life.   I tried it all.  I was determined.

I was always hungry, always looking at other people’s plates, wondering why I couldn’t eat that burger, those fries, that triple-decker sandwich on toasted white bread or that lofty piece of gooey chocolate cake topped with a large dollop of ice cream.

Was I eating more “calories” than I needed,  consuming  recommended amounts of carb-laden foods?  What I had perceived to be “healthy” foods packed on the weight;  whole grain breads and pasta,  lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, dried fruit, beans, whole wheat pitas and bagels, yogurt with fruit,  corn on the cob, winter squash and sweet potatoes.   Wasn’t I eating exactly what the medical profession described as a healthy diet?

Over the past 20 years, no manner how hard I tried to be healthy and escape the ravages of my “genes” I suffered with high blood sugar, high blood pressure, chronic debilitating pain and had already had one heart surgery.  I was told a total spinal fusion, from C1 to L5, was the only way to reduce the pain.  My life was going downhill fast.  A wheelchair was imminent.

I refused the surgery instead going on a mission to save my life.  I started with Dr. William Davis’s book, Wheat Belly, 19 months ago, beginning the radical changes in diet  After three months on the diet, I awoke one morning, for the first time in over 20 years, pain free.  I thought it was a fluke.
Then Jonathan Bailor’s book, The Smarter Science of Slim hit the market.  I devoured every word from cover to cover in one day and sent the Amazon link to no less than 10 of my family members and friends.

Prior to reading the book, I worked out six times a week at a local health club, an hour and a half a day, compared to a gerbil  running on a wheel, running into oblivion, performing the same mundane protocol and seeing little results.

After reading Jonathan’s book we changed  our diet to include more protein, from 60 grams a day to around 125 grams, upping our non-starchy vegetable consumption four fold.  The day after reading the book, I couldn’t wait to go to the health club to try my new protocol, instructions on my smart phone in hand, learning high intensity interval training.

It was hard to believe that two  ten- minute  sessions a week plus an active lifestyle of about 10,000 steps per day would dramatically change my health,  body composition, strength and endurance. The eight pounds I was carrying around my mid-section literally fell away. I am full for the first time in my life!  So satisfied that I  forget to eat.  So satisfied that I don’t  go rummaging around the kitchen at night craving something sweet. So satisfied that my waistline has shrunk by 3 inches and I don’t have to lay on the bed to zip my otherwise well-fitting jeans.

The pain is gone, the sleepless nights are a thing of the past, my muscles have grown  into noticeable definition, my strength has increased and I have more energy.

Why, if calories do count, can I now consume 1800 calories a day, 400 more than in the past while desperately trying to maintain my weight?  If calories do count, by now, I should have gained 66 pounds!  Instead, I’ve lost 8!

But most of all, the pain is gone. Yes, gone. After the first year, my lipids are normal for the first time in my adult life!  My blood sugar is normal.

My dear husband Tom has lost 45 pounds since we read Jonathan’s book, 45 pounds of pure and simple toxic belly fat.  Also, months ago, he was able to quit taking seven prescription pills a day, no longer has irritable bowel disease, acid reflux and constant abdominal bloating and pain.  Months ago, he quit smoking and hasn’t gained back a single pound!

Combined, we are a team to be reckoned with!

Twice a week, we walk to a resort next door that has a little health club where I spend 10 minutes, lifting weights, the HIIT way, surprised that I can do it, invigorated by the results and still in awe as to how little time it actually takes.

Currently, we’re living in Placenica Belize, departing soon after a 2 1/2 month stay in a villa on the Caribbean Sea. The cows here are skinny. Yes, skinny. They eat grass and wild vegetation, not grain. They use no pesticides or chemicals here to grow their produce or livestock. Chicken, the main protein source,  roaming free in the farms. Their eggs are all organic, brown and $2 a dozen. This has been a heavenly experience.

Every few days early in the morning, we walk to the adjoining town to buy fresh organic at the outdoor vegetable stand.  The cauliflower is not perfectly shaped, the broccoli is sparse in places, the carrots are uneven shapes and the cabbage,  not as dense as I recall.  Why?  No chemicals. The produce grows unencumbered, a product of clean, non chlorinated spring water, a soil free from “Round-Up Ready” modified seeds and merely subject to varying weather conditions and the loving hands of the local people who  pick it.

Now, as we travel to our next adventures–  Dubai this spring;  Tuscany, Italy this summer; Kenya in the fall;  South Africa in the winter;  Morocco the next spring and on and on, we’ll continue to seek out the simple foods we choose to eat, a safe place to walk, a little corner to exercise and we’re home free… albeit, we don’t have a home… but, in any case, we are free.
For more about our story, please visit us at:

Enjoy the new Smarter Science of Slim podcast on iTunes

The Slim Is Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort



We made it to Dubai…Few comments about disembarking Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas…Final cruise bill…

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world which we’ll visit soon.  Our cab driver showed us a video on his phone of the 40 second elevator ride to the observation deck on the 124th floor. 

Our final bill for this last cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, a comprehensive 15 day cruise touring the Middle East, over and above the basic fare for a balcony cabin was $1284.95. This included $300 for Internet while out to sea, $780 in excursions, $42 in cough medicine and sun screen, with the balance for Tom’s cocktails. Actually, we were under budget.

Waiting until the last passengers disembarked the ship, made way for a quick exit by us, leaving us to wait at the ship terminal air conditioned waiting area while we watched the outdoor cab line grow smaller and smaller (while departing passengers stood in the 97 degree sun). 

At the perfect moment, Tom lugged out two rolling carts outside, one at a time, while I, still sick, held up the rear. No more than one minute after hitting the sunlight, a well dressed dapper Arab man, Umer approached us offering a cab ride in his new upscale SUV. We couldn’t say “yes” quickly enough.

Off we went on the 20-minute educational ride to our condo hotel which ended up at 40 minutes when we couldn’t find a way to get to the front entrance to the property. The cost of the cab was US $50 including a 30% tip we added.

We could see the entrance to our 91 story building, Elite Residence, but couldn’t seem to get to it due to construction on all sides.

Road construction for a new high speed train system, blocked access to the building preventing Umer (who will officially be our Dubai cab driver) from depositing us and our luggage at the front entry. Luckily, we had printed the email message from the property manager, enabling Umer to call to find out how we’d get in. 

A short time later we were in the underground garage while our bags were loaded onto a cart by the property manager’s assistant who brought the bags up to our suite.

Waiting in the lobby proved to be for only 20 minutes as our condo at Elite Residence was being cleaned for our early arrival. The marble and granite lobby with its new contemporary furnishings was scattered with a number of well dressed staff members moving about attending to guests. We felt relatively at ease even after the confusing arrival at the property.

It’s now 6:00 pm Dubai time, a full 9 hours later than Minneapolis, 11 hours later than LA. It’s hard to believe that we are almost half way around the world after leaving Minnesota nearly seven months ago.

Whizzing by in busy traffic, it was challenging to get good photos.  Our cab driver, Umer, offered us a 8 hour outing to take us to see many of Dubai’s best attractions at a cost of $250 for both of us.  Guess we’ll be taking him up on his offer!

The simple, contemporary décor is suited to our needs with ample amenities, excellent air conditioning, great views, free WiFi and a reasonably stocked kitchen. It’s impeccable condition has nary a scratch, dent or fleck of dust. The veranda in our bedroom has a good view of the Dubai Marina although not as expansive as we’d hoped of Palm Island. We’ll have to walk around the corner for a better view which we hope to do very soon.

In many ways a regular hotel would have been easier, dining out for all meals, daily maid service, its own restaurants, coffee shops and services.  But for us, cooking our own meals is vital to staying on our budget as well as our goal of eating healthy homemade meal.  We had begun to long for some quiet time “at home” much needed after cruising for six weeks, less one night in Barcelona.

Normally, big cities don’t appeal to us.  This city is unique with its opulence, its wealth, its excess, and its clean safe streets.

After getting a few items unpacked, emptying a wheeling duffel bag, we took off for the local grocery store.  And, much to our delight, the full service grocery is next door, a mere 300 foot walk!  We hadn’t been in a “regular” grocery store in five months!!!

What a store it is!  I was in heaven, shopping the freshest organic vegetables, fresh caught local fish and shellfish, the biggest tiger shrimp I’ve ever laid eyes on.  Of course, there was no bacon, sausage or any pork related items.  We knew better than to ask. 

The prices were excellent!  We purchased enough food for three nights dinner and breakfasts for a week for US $45!  (We exchanged US money at the terminal for AED, taking a bit of a hit for the convenience).  At the grocery store we used a “no exchange fee” credit card, hoping to hang onto the cash for now.

Look at that cleaned calamari and those mussels!  Love these in a stir fry! Dinner is sounding better every minute with such fine fresh ingredients at the grocery store next to our building.

I’m still under the weather, not feeling up to making a big meal or, in going out to dine. After wiping my nose no less than 100 times in the past few hours, resulting in my Rudolph-like appearance along with constant sniffling leave me spent and exhausted, totally uninterested in going out. There are dozens of restaurants within walking distance. 

Umer explained that walking at night in Dubai is totally safe plus a feast for the eyes with the lights “1000 times brighter than Las Vegas minus the gambling” as Tom explains after talking to a former sailor with whom we shared our table in Scottsdale last November. I think he’s correct. Tonight we shall see!

In a few days, we’ll purchased a number of these fresh seafood items to make a buttery seafood platter with steamed veggies and Caesar Salad (minus the croutons).

Our first batch of laundry is spinning in the tiny front loading washer. But, there’s no dryer, which we found more common than not, outside the US.  Thank goodness for the balcony!

No dryer? No problem!  This portable clothesline was in the broom closet.  That works for us!  When this batch dries, we’ll wash the rest of our  accumulated laundry from 15 days at sea.

Our goofy dinner is simple tonight; our long-missed low carb, sugar free coleslaw along with free range organic egg salad.  Easy.  Chilling at the moment, soon to be devoured.

Photos will be coming soon as we venture out to the sights of this amazing city, visiting its many attractions, all of which we’ll share here over the next few weeks.