Monday, June 29, 2009

London Trip

Well, we have returned from London and a great time was had by all.

I will post some pictures up, but we spent Thursday and Friday touring around London and saw all the major sites, went to the Tower of London, rode on all forms of London transport including a Thames River cruise and had a memorable lunch in a small pub off Oxford St where we had fish, chips and mushy peas!

Highlights included Trafalgar Square which was busy and the girls were impressed with the size of the lion statues; the Big Bus Tour of London in which we rode around in the open top double decker bus; the Tower of London and the showing of medieval weaponry and the Crown Jewels and Westminster Abbey late on our last day in which the sunset made the Abbey look very pretty.

We also did the London Eye and I was impressed that we were on board 10mins after buying a ticket.  They sold tickets at 17 pounds for adults, 8.50 for kids but you could buy "Express" tickets for 27 pounds a head.  Given that our general tickets got us on board in 10mins, I would say the express is a rip off!  But the trip or "flight" itself was excellent and we went late in the day when the sun was well and truly on the way down... very pretty.

We also caught up with our nephew Scotty who has been in London since last October and we had a nice dinner out at an Italian place and drank a bit... we had just 2 bottles of wine but given we have been in the middle east for a while it perhaps had a touch stronger effect ;-)

Our accommodation was better than I expected... pokey yes, but it was clean and modern and it was within walking distance of Bayswater tube station and Hyde Park / Kensington Gardens.  The girls loved the Peter Pan themed Gardens and playground and we were "forced" to go back for one last play before our car picked us up for the airport.

All in all, a bit whirlwind, but a great trip and I am glad that Niki and the girls got to experience the benefits of being close to Europe so early in the piece... since coming home, sleeping patterns have been a bit out of whack and whilst I have gone back to work, Niki & the girls have been able to sleep in but then last night the girls were still wide awake after 11pm...

Now we have to think "what next"?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pics From Last Weekend

Had a good time last weekend.... as per my previous post we had a good weekend out and about in Dubai, so here are some pictures:

We're flying!

Figuratively and literally!  This week has flown by and I am busy trying to cram all my work into 3 days in the office because tomorrow night we fly to London!  I keep forgetting that I actually have to attend a work meeting on Wednesday, but we're all very excited about London.  We have no real firm itinerary but will hit the major sites... Buck Palace, Tower of London etc so we'll make use of a map, the Tube and the red double decker bus to look around.

I have to work Wednesday, am having Thursday off, Friday is the weekend in the UAE so thats a free day and then Saturday afternoon home.  The other thing is that its our wedding anniversary and we'll be looking to do something to celebrate it as well... English Fish & Chips and a pint of warm beer perhaps!  I am sure we'll find something to do ;-)

Its a bit of a whirl wind trip but its very exciting as its Niki and the girls' first trip to Europe and its also the first opportunity for us to travel from our more central Dubai base.  Pictures next week!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A weekend in Dubai...

Well, we have the family settled and all appears to be going well... plumbing leaks aside!

In the past week or so, we have engaged a full time gardener (he comes 6 days a week!) and yesterday Niki employed a lady to come and clean floors, bathrooms and windows.  This is a huge load of our shoulders, so there are no more lawns to mow, floors to mop or showers to clean!

So, our weekends are looking to be pretty free and easy and so this weekend we're going to try and do some things... the girls want to go and see the Dubai Fountain Show which is a massive water display at the base of the Burj Dubai and outside the Dubai Mall.  There are some cafe like restaurants along the foreshore, so we may sit and have dinner one night and watch the display...

Also, in Dubai Mall is the ice skating rink, so we may get the girls on the ice as well.

We (the adults) are a bit hesitant about Ski Dubai... neither of us have skied before but the girls are keen on that... but we may save that for another weekend....

Also, I am inclined to try and find a "Friday Brunch".  Friday Brunch is a bit of a tradition in the UAE in which you turn up and pay a flat fee and eat and drink for a solid 4hrs or so.  Some Brunches are definitely for adults only in which people tend to get very drunk but there are others that cater for families in which the adults can drink, but the kids are catered for.  All of these events however occur in hotels due to liquor licensing laws and we have a Marriott Hotel within walking distance, so I will see what they have for brunch....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Plumbers Crack

We have had our first domestic issue with the Villa!  On the weekend we noticed that the floor of one of our seven bathrooms was wet and that the water seemed to be seeping up from the floor?!

We then noticed that the room on the other side of the wall from the bathroom - a small store room where we have been feeding the cat - was alot wetter and that the water was coming through at a faster rate.

In between these two rooms is a small cupboard which is accessed from outside and it contains the gas bottles for our kitchen was also wet.  Somewhere we had a water leak inside the house!

By Saturday it was quite bad and we called the development managers to send someone around, so on my first day at work Niki was going to have to deal with local tradesmen.  First impressions was that the air con unit was somehow building up excess water which was running down the inside of the walls and then seeping out at ground level.  Our house is constructed by cement rendered breeze block walls and the water was flowing down inside it.

So, the first guy came out and determined this and called for the A/C specialists to come.  They did, got into the roof and found nothing wrong with the A/C except one small ancillary problem that we needed a valve to be replaced but that had nothing to do with the water leak.  So they started fixing the valve whilst plumbers were called re the leak.

When they turned up (and remember, tradesmen here are small armies of Indian men) they determined that the pipe in the wall behind the sink in the bathroom was cracked.  The only way of course to get in was to therefore jack-hammer into the exterior cement rendered wall and break into the pipes from the outside.  This they did, causing loads of water to spill out and the latest I have heard today is that the pipe has been fixed, our water can be turned back on, but the plumber hasnt said anything about fixing the huge crater he has left in the side of the house!!

Poor Niki, she did very well in trying to interpret Hindu-speaking tradesmen and getting the pipe fixed!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Off to Old Blighty!

Have yet another business trip to London coming next week... its just for the day but given Niki and the girls have just arrived and I wanted to get them into the spirit of the benefits of living here in the UAE, I have booked them on the same flights and we're taking a long weekend in London.

So, we fly in, I go off to my business meetings on the Wednesday, I knock off mid afternoon, and we go site seeing until Saturday.  We're on the 2:30pm flight back on Saturday afternoon which gets in 1am Sunday morning in which I turn around and go to work on the Sunday.

Whilst there, we'll do the usual things... Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Tower of London etc etc... basically a picture taking fest!

Hope the weather is kind to us :-)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Car Conked Out... The Sheikh Was Not Amused...

We had an adventure today!  We decided to drive to Abu Dhabi and show the girls where their daddy works and then onto Abu Dhabi itself for a look around.

We drove south and after seeing some camels, we arrived at my work site at Masdar City and pulled up right out the front of the main reception building and walked in to show off my office to the kids.  Niki said shouldnt we park in the parking area and I said "Nah, its a Friday... its Holy Day and the place was deserted."  So we go in and show them the office... answering Brookies probing questions on what I do all day behind my desk and then it was time to go.

Getting back to the car in the heat and the humidity, we get in and the car wouldnt start.  It was clicking over, but no spark.  Is there an NRMA in the Emirates?  Not likely and I ring the Hertz people to tell them what happened.  They said they'd send someone out asap and we head back to the air conditioned office to wait.  I told the security guard that we'd be expecting a Hertz person and that the main gate should be alerted.

The security guard, who I say g'day to everyday was a bit agitated.  He followed me out to the car and said that I couldnt park here in the front.  I said there isnt much choice as the car wouldnt start.  He suggested we push it away from the front reception (which was deserted and there was not another car in sight) and before I could argue the merits of pushing a car in 50 degree heat, my mobile rang and it was Hertz to say that they were 5 minutes away.

Now I was starting to attract some security attention and although I know some of these guys by name, they started talking into walkie talkies in an agitated fashion.  I asked what was wrong and was told that our CEO, Dr Sultan was inside and I was out the front of his office.  "So?" I said... "No, no, no Mr Clayton, you dont understand.  Dr Sultan is here because Sheikh Mohammad, Leader of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE is coming to visit him.  In 10 minutes.  And you're in his spot."

Holy shit!  The royal cavalcade was descending and my buzzbox Nissan Tiida had died where His Highness was due to arrive in 10mins.  At this point, the Hertz person came in to the compound and when the dust settled, out of the car popped a 5' tall Philipino woman.  My friend the security guard laughed and said "Mr Hertz is a chick!"  But in a flash, she pulled out a portable battery charger and we were able to fire up the Tiida.

With much urging from the security guards we drove to the far side of the carpark where the car promptly conked out again and the Hertz lady decided to give us her car and she would take the Tiida back to the shop for a new battery.  By the time we signed the paperwork, got the kids out of the office air con and into the car, the road across the site was lined with security guards and we were being waved through.

We dashed out and managed to get out I presume just seconds before the Sheikh turned up and an international incident was avoided thanks to a small Philipino lady and her battery charger!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Busy Busy Busy!

Sorry for the lack of posts, but we've been busy!!  Today was a "quiet" day in which we hung around the house, but we still managed to swim, take the dogs for a walk, walk to the local shops for ice cream and have a dishwasher and extra kids furniture delivered from IKEA.  Whilst I hate IKEA, here in the UAE they not only deliver but also build all the furniture!  Brilliant!

Things have been going well here though... the girls are really happy and they have said that they love living here because its like a resort.  It is, but we'll see how they handle going to school lol!  The heat is there and we have been either inside or driving to a mall or something in the middle of the day but each morning we're swimming and then again in the late afternoon and then again in the evening after dinner... in other words, alot!

And in between the swimming, we've been shopping.  In the main, for things we need, but we also checked out the aquarium at the Dubai Mall and that was really good.  To have a shark swimming 6 inches above your head and to be able to look at it literally eye to eye was amazing.  On top of that, there were penguins, jelly fish, massive fresh water fish, piranha's and seals.  All close enough to touch save for the perspex.

We're thinking we'll do something different tomorrow... maybe go into old town Dubai and take a boat ride on Dubai Creek, or maybe drive 90mins out into the desert to Al Ain and drive up the top of the biggest mountain in the UAE called Jebel Hafeet.  Apparently its quite a view.  We also could do a theme park such as Wild Wadi but its pretty hot...

But no matter what we'll do... we'll be busy busy busy!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

First 24hrs In Dubai

Well, the girls landed safe and sound... the flight went great, they had a great time in business class and the girls slept well.  Landing at dawn, I met the girls at the airport and then we had a chauffer driven car take us to the house.  Initial feelings were excitement with the girls amazed at the arabic writing on the street signs and how green it was with all the parks and gardens.  But soon we were off the main city streets and on the short stretch of highway running behind Dubai to get us to our place and the manicured lawns made way to sand and construction sites.  The girls were very excited and Brooke had latched on to me pretty hard in the car.

We got home and there was a mad scramble of running around the back yard checking it out, checking out all the rooms and their new bedrooms.  Very exciting and there were lots of hugs.

The dogs and Charlie the Wonder Cat were happy to see the girls and we got the luggage in the rooms and it was swimmers on and straight across to the pool.  It was good to relax!

After swimming, it was off to the Mall of the Emirates to check out the ski tube and to buy some necessities.  Amazingly enough, we bumped into fellow ex-Glenbrook family The Lockharts and we had lunch together and the kids got re-aquainted.

By early afternoon the kids were getting tired but we had more swimming and then went to the local shops for dinner at Chilis Diner.  The girls had done really well but the yawns were starting to catch up to them.  After dinner it was home to bed, the girls crashed out and Niki fell asleep on the lounge too... everyone slept soundly in their new beds!

Today, we're off to Ikea for more nick-nacks (laundry baskets, bed room bins and the like) and then I'm sure the pool will get a work out...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Soooo close!

Today is my last day at work before the family lands.  I am way too excited to focus, but I have to interview two people for jobs today with the latter being at 3pm which seems an eternity away.

Last night I got into a bit of a cleaning frenzy - well tidying up frenzy and I washed the linen in the house.  Then realised that I dont have a clothesline, so at the moment the sheets are hanging over the stair well banister drying!

The pets land in Dubai at 5:45am tomorrow so I guess I will be up waiting for them.  Dog and cat food, cat litter, dog bed etc have all been bought... the grass is down on the landscaping (but plants and stone pebble sections are going in today / tomorrow so thats cutting it fine) and then I will be up to meet Niki and the girls at the airport when they too land at 5:45am on Friday.

Feels like Christmas!!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

First Project Delivered...

Just to keep you all in the loop at the happenings at work, we had a minor win yesterday... Its only a small plant as far as things go, but its the first step of a renewable energy solution.

Click through to the story here.

EDIT: Better story here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Counting Down...

Final week of UAE solitude!  Niki and the girls will be here Friday morning.  Before that, if all goes to plan, our dogs Zoe & Molly and Charlie the Wonder Cat will be here the day before on Thursday morning.  I have spent the weekend shopping and getting ready.  Tonight I went grocery shopping and bought extra stuff for extra people.  I bought the things the girls like, such as two minute noodles and oven baked chips.  I bought 2L of Vanilla Ice Cream and I also bought pancake mix.  I even bought a bottle of Diet Coke even though I hate the stuff but its what Niki drinks.

I bought dog and cat food... I have bought dog bowls and a soft bed for Zoe to lie down on because she's over 11yrs old and getting arthritic.  I bought a small vacuum cleaner and am fighting a losing battle against sand... I also bought towels and ornamental tooth brush holders, toilet brushes (we have SEVEN toilets here!!) and some fake daisy's to keep the girls' ensuites cheery.

I am doing in a blokey, clumsy way the equivalent of nesting I guess! LOL!

So, its now Sunday evening... I will be taking Thursday off and the following working week... its very close now.

From home, Niki reports that the kids are getting teary... they have been very brave and stoic but are now getting upset at little things and tell Niki that they miss their Daddy... they have been excellent little angels and are being very brave.  Brooke has been asking me questions about business class and seems very excited about the plane trip but both have been quite open about the fact that they are nervous which is of course perfectly normal.

So close now... we're all very tired and Niki has suggested and I totally agree that our first week here will be very relaxing.  They want to chill out by the pool and get to know the home and get accustomed to things and I am very much looking forward to doing that!