A travel day from hell in parts…A travel day in heaven for the balance….

 

The menu we were each handed after taking our seats on the Emirates Airlines flight from Dubai to Barcelona.

We live and learn. 

In our “old lives” we assumed we had a moderate amount travel experience as a result of various vacations over many years, seldom if ever, encountering the trials and tribulations that we now encounter as nomads. This is especially the case for those of us who don’t go “home” to repack subsequently hauling everything we own with us every single day.

It’s somewhat similar to the turtle carrying his “house” on his back. If he/she flips over, his/her whole world is literally and figuratively upside down. That was us yesterday morning as we left Dubai, United Arab Emirates to fly to Barcelona, Spain, to stay overnight in a hotel, leaving today to board our 8th cruise since January 3, 2013.

Actually, it will be our final cruise over the next 15 to 16 months with us staying on land through July 2014:  Tuscany, Italy (beginning in less than two weeks); Diani Beach, Kenya; Kruger Park, South Africa;  Marrakesh, Morocco and Madeira, Portugal, all of which we’ll be living in single family homes from two to three months.  

Photos were taken with my phone.  Our cameras were too hard to get to when on the plane. Who knew I’d want photos of the inside of the plane anyway? This is the removable remote control that is tethered with a retractable cord, in each of our personal command stations.  The button on the right releases it from the console.
As much as we loved our two and a half months in Placencia, Belize, we also look forward to settling in to our new locations savoring the unique and varied cultural differences we will behold and cherish in our hearts, in our minds, in our photos and our writing.

 

Yesterday,we took our first flight since we left Minnesota on Halloween, 2012. All other transportation since leaving the US has been by way of car and cruise ship. 

This is Al Pacino playing Phil Specter in the HBO movie of the same name we both watch simultaneously on our own screens.  I watched two scary movies after this and Tom watched Lincoln, failing to remember the second of the three. 
The limitations of refusing to fly could invariably prevent us from the opportunity to experience many parts of the world. 

Thus, we booked this first flight to Barcelona, to “get our feet wet” with the realities of baggage restrictions, one way fares, time constraints, tiny airplane seats and in most cases, no meal on board.

Let’s get the yucky part over with first. The property manager arranged for our ride to the Dubai airport. With our flight at 8:15 am, Ignacio picked us up at our Dubai condo at 6:00 am sharp. If I slept three hours Sunday night, I’d be stretching it. 

Our remote in place, revealing the many options on the screen.

My phone’s alarm was set for 5:00 am. I still didn’t fall asleep until after 2:00 am having the usual “moving anxiety” that Tom and I both seem to struggle with. 

After an excruciating day on Sunday, tossing yet more “stuff” to further shrink the load, we knew our baggage was overweight. Our one large bag and carry-on bag each were stuffed to the gills, now down to one large suitcase each for clothing.

I don’t know why we got such a kick out of the remote, taking so many photos, but here it is again outside the console.  Quite nifty.  Then again, its the small things….
Our menu for the flight on Emirates Airlines. 
With the intent of facing the excess baggage reality after weighing our bags on our portable travel scale Sunday afternoon, we prepaid $415 which allowed us an included 30% discount for paying online in advance. This allowed us an extra 20 kg, which translated to 44 pounds. Our checked bags included two large suitcases and one duffel bag.
 

We knew this wasn’t enough, but hoped as we’ve done on flights in our “old lives” that perhaps we might skate through at this airport.

Ha!  No skating in Dubai!  We were required to place all of our checked luggage on a scale only to discover that we still were short, resulting in yet another payment for $240.Ouch!  Now we were in for US $655 for excess baggage fees. If we’d left the two carry on bags we’d hoped to check, we’d have had to pay yet another US $300. Tom stacked them on the wheelie cart.

If you can see this clearly, notice the verbiage at the bottom of the page where it mentions the free drinks.
Exhausted from the trying experience, including a little diplomatic pleading, we allowed ourselves a moment to sit down to catch our breath, only to look at each other simultaneously, standing knowing full well that we had better be on our way. It was already 7:10 am. We had to keep moving with the looming security check facing us. 
 

After removing our bulky boots, jackets, watches and all the carry on luggage on our carts, multiple gray plastic bins began going through the x-ray machines.  After our awful experience with the knife placed in our bin in Barcelona, we kept a watchful eye as it all went through the conveyor.

Confident that we had nothing to worry about, we stood by prepared to gather our stuff and be on our way.

 

No such luck.  Showing us an x-ray of one of the carry on bags, the security guard insisted we remove everything in one of the orange carry on bags to find an object that appeared to be a pair of pliers or large tweezers.   Neither of us recognized the item. 

This was Tom’s lunch.  I was so hungry I started eating my deli plate before remembering
to take the photos.  Tom ate twice, me only once, still full from breakfast. Real silverware, food wasn’t bad at all. 
One by one, still in our compression stocking feet, we started pulling every carefully packed item out the overly stuffed bag. I kept asking to see the x-ray again and again. It looked as if the item was located in the upper right hand corner of the bag. As Tom and I reviewed the x-ray over and over, we both realized simultaneously, that this wasn’t an x-ray of our bag! It was an x-ray of someone else’s bag who was now long gone.

 

Embarrassed by their error, needing to justify the delay, they ended up confiscating one of our extension cords and an old surge protector, leaving us with two smaller items, neither of which were in the bag in question. What? At this point, we had little energy left to argue as we repacked up our bag, put on our boots and began to make our way to Gate 36.

It was now 7:32 am. Our plane was scheduled to depart at 8:15. All we had to do was get to the gate and somehow convince the flight attendants to allow us to bring on the six carry-on items in our possession, as opposed to the allowable one item per person.

We walked and walked, seemingly to no end, with our arms loaded with stuff while Tom
amazingly wheeled the precariously stacked cart. Following sign after sign all pointing
to Gates C 1-50, we wondered when we’d ever get close to the gate. First, we had to maneuver past Concourse A 1-50, then Concourse B 1-50 to find our way toward Concourse C. 

 

In dire frustration, twice we stopped asking uniformed employees if we were going the right direction.They assured us that we were. Time was marching on.  Were we going to miss our flight? Our cruise ship is leaving tomorrow. No refunds. What about our checked bags? Yikes.

Finally, we saw a sign that clearly stated “Gate 36.”  Following a narrow hallway, we ended up at a bus station. Oh, no! A bus to the tarmac? 

Sitting on the bus, still not moving at 8:15, in a near panic, Tom reassured me saying, “There are over 20 passengers on this bus going on this same flight. The plane won’t take off before we get there.” 

Once again, Tom was right. Once the bus started moving it took a full 10 minutes to arrive at the tarmac while the plane waited, cabin attendants eagerly waiting at the open doors beyond movable stairway.
“Oh, no,” I thought, “This bus has taken us to a steep stairway to climb to get into the plane?  How in the world will Tom haul that 100 plus pounds of stuff up such a steep set of steps in the unsteady wheelie cart. Everyone was rushing.
Waiting to be the last getting off, we were hoping that the flight attendants, in a desperate attempt to avoid any further delays, would push our bags through.  Perhaps, that was a good decision. 

In any case, in a matter of minutes, the nature of our day totally flipped when Tom somehow maneuvered the two flights of steep steps, puffing and panting in the 90 degree heat, all the way to the plane, all without a landing to enter the rear door of the plane.  Immediately the gracious flight attendants began to help with our bags with nary a complaint or comment, showing us to our assigned seats and then…the fun began.

Much to our delight, our two assigned seats were in a grouping of three seats with the third seat unoccupied. Keep in mind, we were the last passengers to board the plane thus we felt confident that the extra seat was ours to use. 

In a matter of minutes glasses of cold water were handed to us along with our dining menus.  Tom’s face was pale. It worried me. (Having both been sick for weeks, the strain of the morning wore thin in our weakened condition). Minutes later, we discovered the remotes to our personal monitors, the free current movies and TV shows, our comfy pillows and blankets, the complimentary headset, the complimentary cocktails, beer, wine and beverages.

We looked at each other with the same thought in mind…good thing we had yet to book our future flights yet. At all costs and efforts, we plan to try to fly Emirates Airlines.

 
For the first time ever, we both felt as if we were in first class when in fact it was “coach” which proved to be a pure luxury on Emirates Airlines. Gone was our frustration over the cost of our
excess baggage, gone was the angst over the security error, gone was the tension of the late bus ride to the plane and the fear of missing the flight.
In its place was a profound feeling of pure comfort, the pleasures of impeccable friendly service, cameras shown to us from the perspective of plane’s current views from the cockpit with detailed navigational information, multiple universal plug-ins for our digital equipment, perfect lighting, air-
conditioning and a bonus of spacious restrooms.

 

For almost seven full hours, we had fun. We talked. We laughed. We watched three movies each.  We recharged our phones in our own universal plug ins.We were served two full meals, breakfast and four hours later, a full lunch with dessert.  They accommodated my way of eating with ease, already on the menu, not too bad tasting.  What an experience!

If we can fly the many hours to Africa on Emirates, we’ll be thrilled. That’s our next challenge.

Exiting the plane in the telescopic tube at the modern Barcelona airport was uneventful. Exchanging US $ to Euros was time consuming but at this point we weren’t rushed.  

For the second time, I’d failed to bring the address to the hotel. When we came to Hotel Grums on May 5th, I hadn’t brought it assuming the cab driver would know the location of this popular boutique hotel, often booked by cruise passengers. When he didn’t know it he only had to plug it into his navigation system with ease. 

This second time as we headed back at the same hotel, I’d let it slip my mind to bring along the
address on my phone. When the cab driver didn’t have a clue where it was, nor did he have a navigation system, he pulled out a map asking our help.  Oh, yeah. A map was going to help us. Duh?

Pulling out my laptop from the tightly packed bag, I looked up the email confirmation that I’d received from Expedia with our hotel confirmation, telling his the address. He then looked on the map locating it and asking me for confirmation. 

Twenty minutes and US $50 later we reached our hotel, checked in and found our way to our room, figured out the plug ins on our own and plopped on the bed to relax until dinner at 7:00 pm.  

With the two hour time loss, sleep would come easily after a light dinner in the dining room and an episode of Downton Abbey on my laptop in  our room.

We’d made a decision to wear the same clothes yesterday and today with only fresh underwear to avoid opening our sucked Space Bags and suitcases at all. With not an inch anywhere in our luggage, it was a wise decision. In my “old life” I’d never wear a shirt more than once with my propensity to spill food on myself. 

This morning after dressing and looking in the mirror, a quarter sized spot adorned the center of my fitted tee shirt.  A little soap and water on a washcloth, a gentle rub, a resulting big wet spot and a while later, before we left the room for coffee, the spot was gone.

 

The only bags we opened were the computer bags and the single duffel bags filled with our year’s worth of toiletries, cosmetics, and miscellaneous items, some required to shower and freshen up. All we’ll need to repack before we leave the hotel at 10:30 am on our way to the pier, is the duffel and the computer bags.
This morning the reality dawned on me that I’d tossed (to make room) the remainders of my 12 ounce bottle of body lotion and an 8 ounce bottle of facial wash, two brand name items I’ve used for years.  Soap for two weeks won’t kill me plus I’m hoping our cabin steward can roust up a few little bottles of lotion.
Improvise, I remind myself. As long as we’re healthy and safe, the stuff doesn’t matter. Improvise.

 

Packing and prep day…

Tomorrow morning at 6:15 am, our property manager in Dubai will take us to the airport for our 8:15 am flight on Emirates Airline. Being sick, these past few weeks, we stayed in bed until 7:00 or 7:30 each day trying to get a little more rest.

Getting up at 5:00 am tomorrow is the cause of my angst. Sure, I’ll set the alarm on my phone to awaken me so I can get a head start before I awaken Tom. By tonight, we’ll be completely packed except for the clothing we’ll wear tomorrow to fly away.

Checking our baggage restriction online for the zillionth time, we’re allowed a total of 66 pounds per person of checked baggage plus one carry on and laptop bag. With one large suitcase, one rolling carry on and one laptop bag, we’ll be as trim as possible. 

We’re expecting that we’ll have to pay overweight fees which we’ll know later today when we weigh everything prior to printing our boarding passes.  If we pay online there is a 30% discount, not at the airport. 

Today, I’ll probably ditch my handbag using the laptop bag as a handbag. I’ve been practicing not carrying a purse for the past few months and I think I can manage. It’s odd to give up carrying a handbag after doing so for the past 50 years, but then again, we gave up having a home after a lifetime. So what’s the big deal without a purse? None, I guess.

Our food supply will be depleted as planned after dinner tonight, leaving little to toss. With no time for breakfast in the morning, we’re bringing some nuts to munch on.  If no food is available on the flight, we’ll be fine.  Tomorrow night, we’ll have dinner in our hotel as we did on our last layover.

Dubai has left us with mixed feelings, more due to being sick while here than anything. For the first time since we left Minnesota seven months ago, Tom admitted to feeling trapped while here, with no way to walk around with the road construction around our building, my being sick and no other restaurants within walking distance.  Had we rented a car from the onset, we’d have been frustrated, unable to use it anyway.

If you’re a “city person” Dubai is the ultimate city to visit. A rental car is a must with easy, fast moving freeways and signs also in English. Hotels are expensive, most starting at $225 a night for a basic room, upwards to the moon from there.

Dining out for dinner is pricey, from the menus we’ve seen online but breakfast or lunch can be had for under US $60 without cocktails. Groceries are a steal, at least 30% less than in the US for most foods, making it sensible if on a budget, to get a place to stay with cooking facilities. 

Servers and support staff are friendly, anxious to help. The general population appears mostly under 50, keeping to themselves, from what we can see, but are courteous and polite. We haven’t seen anyone older than us since we arrived. Most likely Dubai is not known as a retirement city with few facilities available for seniors, although facilities are available for disabled individuals.

As mentioned in an earlier post, it appears seniors are cared for by their adult children in their homes, not in assisted living or senior centers.

Would we come back? With so much world left to see, I doubt we’ll return to any city/country we’ve already visited unless it’s a port of call on a future cruise. 

Would we recommend Dubai to other travelers? Absolutely! It’s an interesting, safe, meticulous, well-planned metropolis filled with lovely people, great hotels and restaurants. There’s a plethora of profound sights to see.  Its rich history offers museums, libraries, art and historical centers. One would never be bored with adequate transportation and money to spend.  Also, Abu Dhabi is a must, ideally splitting one’s time between the two amazing cities.

Pausing while writing this, we started doing some packing.  In the process, our little vacuum used to suck the Space Bags died.  Died.  Gone. Now what?  My stuff is sucked.  Tom’s is not.  Hopefully, we can figure a way to fit everything into the luggage without sucking.  Tomorrow, when we arrive in Barcelona, we’ll have the cab driver take us to a Home Depot equivalent to purchase a new one, we hope.  Oh, good grief. 

We’ll be back after we’re situated onboard the Norwegian Spirit, hopefully in 48 hours.  Stay tune

 

Scary news in Egypt and Istanbul…Preparations to leave Dubai…

This morning when we both logged in to our computers, we each had received emails and Facebook entries about a warning from US Department of State about travelers intending on visiting the Pyramids.

Please click on this link for the news story about Egypt. Please click on this link for the news story on Istanbul, Turkey.

Thankfully, Egypt is behind us now with no plans to return. As for Istanbul, our upcoming cruise beginning next Tuesday, June 4th has listed Istanbul as a port of call along the way. 

With many cruise passengers raving as to how much they loved visiting Istanbul we’ve been excited for a day trip on our own, hiring our own driver rather than going on an excursion. We shall see how this rolls out.

With the cruise industry on pins and needles with the many recent incidences, we doubt they’ll risk any lives, stopping at this port if there is danger to their passengers and ship. Of course, regardless of their decision we will exercise the utmost caution, deciding not to get off the ship if the unrest has continued.

People have asked us if we are able to get news. We are. We watch the English speaking news each day, especially noting the news for areas we’re yet to visit.

As we wind down our last two nights in Dubai, finally feeling better, the laundry and packing begins today.  Yesterday afternoon, we made our final trip to the grocery store for breakfast and dinner food for these last two days spending US $54. 

Of our total 13 nights in Dubai our total grocery bill was $245, eating two meals a day, nuts and veggie snacks.  Our dining out bill was $89 for the three  breakfasts at the Tamani Hotel. 

We’d budgeted $800 for groceries and dining out during this period. Had we not been sick, we’d probably would have gone out to dinner a few times. We’ll roll the $466 credit into this next cruise, as we realized we hadn’t budgeted enough for the stops at many ports of call. 

Plus, on this upcoming cruise on the Norwegian Spirit, there is an automatic $24 per day charge added daily to our bill for tips. Some of our previous cruises had included the tips in the purchase price. We pay it one way or another with no objection on our part. The hard working staff on cruises are paid very little and dependent upon the tips to send money home to their families.

We’ve noticed dozens of people in line at the customer service desk on most of our cruises to have the tips removed from their bill if they’re dissatisfied with the service. 

We wondered if so many passengers had bad service when overall service was excellent on most of our seven cruises or, are passengers feeling they shouldn’t have to pay tips? Our philosophy is simple: if one can afford to go on a cruise, tipping is a part of the experience. 

We’ve tipped the bartenders as we order drinks, finding themselves “loading” Tom’s cocktails more generously when they know a tip is imminent and we tip cabin attendants the day before disembarking. We aren’t unique in doing so. This is common practice. 

So, off I go to the bedroom to make the piles of my clothing to be “sucked” with our portable vacuum into the Space Bags. In a determined effort to be rid of two duffel bags, I’ve made a pile of clothing I’ll say goodbye to, some I’ll miss, others I won’t. 

At this point, Tom doesn’t have to dispose of anything unless, of course, he wants to give me a little of his space. Ha!

 

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 CBS.com.

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 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 amount of stress. 

Our plans are set to get us to the airport in Dubai next Monday for our flight to Barcelona, where again we’ll stay for one night at the Hotel Grums. The next morning, 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 amazing 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 16th, we’ll disembark the Norwegian Spirit (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 be flying to Mombasa, Kenya, a long flight away.

Over a year ago when planning this leg of our journey, we accepted the reality that a rental car for the entire two and a half months is vital, allowing us to take day excursions to visit 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 economic, 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 10 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.

Other options we’d considered; take a train to Tuscany from Venice to eventually rent a car in Florence but then we’d have to get to a bigger airport to fly to Kenya.  Driving back to Venice is our easiest, least costly, stress reducing option.

Today, we rented the car.  We’ve heard horrible 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’m still sitting here with major sinus problems left over 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.