Sunday, September 26, 2010

Still here!

Sorry blog readers, I am sorry I have been out of sorts with the blog posting but I have been fairly busy with work this past week and it isn't letting up with me traveling to London later this week as well.

Things here have been good though and a few general things I should blog about are:

One, we watched the might Dragons get into the NRL grandfinal yesterday and I have already booked myself a day off from work next Sunday as we take on the Roosters in the big one.  The NRL has been well covered by the local TV this season but it is a lonely place here in Dubai for the NRL fan.  Rarely do I see any NRL gear here (I saw one guy wearing a Raiders cap a few weeks ago) but I was down the local shops yesterday before the game in my Saints jersey and am proud to fly the flag when I can.  We will however (we being Niki and I) be watching the game alone in our lounge room on Sunday.  Saints by 4.

Two, we watched by accident last night the local Dubai TV news.  There is a channel called Dubai One on the TV guide which we never go to because it doesnt actually tell you what is on, but I flicked it on just as the news was starting.  We were laughing though as the stories were hardly hard hitting and it was all good news stories about the Sheikh's (who are in Kentucky USA on some equestrian event) and that there was a Arabian Suluki dog show in Abu Dhabi.  Oh and by the way, the budget surplus in Dubai is set to rise by 367%... not sure what creative accounting worked that out!

Three:  We have been without our maid Dhammi this past fortnight as she went to Sri Lanka for a holiday... it was a bit of a culture shock for us and a sign that we have been living the good life here.  Not that it was difficult but it is just very nice that things get done for us and when it disappears it takes a bit to adjust.  But Dhammi was back this morning and she stopped by on the weekend to give the girls some trinkets and Niki scored a new skirt.  Very generous!

Four:  And again as a contrast for what Dubai is like, we went to brunch on Friday and given there were 17 of us in all, we decided to hire a limo to take us.  What turned up was a jet black stretch Hummer that holds 20 and we piled in and really enjoyed it.  It was a slight premium on paying for enough taxis but not by much and the laughs as we all piled into the Hummer were worth the cost.  It made me think though how lucky we are to have our girls laughing and poking their heads out of the windows waving to passing motorists from such a massive car whilst driving down the golden mile of Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai.  They are certainly having a good life!

So, sorry for the lack of posts... I guess France took the wind out of my blogging sails, but life here is very good and we're still enjoying it.  The weather is down to the mid 30's and is incredibly pleasant and the summer is well and truly over weather wise.  Life is Good!

Go The Dragons!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bonjour! We're Back!

Yes, we got back from France on the weekend and I am now back at work.  Was meaning to do a meaningful and long descriptive post but this short summary will have to do instead.

We arrived on the overnight flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris and managed to negotiate ourselves through customs and out to the bus terminal to get a bus to the TGV station for the fast train to Bordeaux.  We timed it beautifully as we only had about a 20min wait at Montparnasse station which was ample time to get my first French croissant into me!  YUM!

The train was brilliant and we sped through France to Bordeaux at speeds up to 320km/h and arrived in about 3hrs where we were met by our Dubai friends Philippe and Marianne and their son Raphi.  They had also scored a big 9 seater van and we had plenty of room for our luggage as well as we sped off to our accommodation for the next two nights at La Girarde.

La Girarde was lovely and we relaxed in the afternoon and also headed into the local town of Gensac for a late afternoon aperitif!  Dinner was provided by our hosts at La Girarde Mark and Kathy and it turned out to be the best meal we had all trip.

The next day we toured Margaux and Pauillac and did sight seeing, had some wine and sampled the local markets.  Also had a very funny lunch in which the staff did not speak English and only talked to Philippe (who is French) and basically insulted us when we asked if we could have some French Fries for the kids.  The loose translation of the insult was "that this is not England and the children should eat real food and not just potatoes!".  I think I was more upset at being referred to as English!!

After our end of our time at La Girarde and after alot of good food, we headed back to Paris again via the TGV train.

We arrived late in the evening and the big excitement was that we discovered our hotel was within spitting distance of the Eiffel Tower and Niki and the girls all were amazed at how it was lit up at night.  If it was one thing that the girls, particularly Kate, were keen to see in Paris it was the Eiffel Tower and so the first impressions of Paris were a big winner!

It was late, we checked in and got some sleep.  Our hotel room wasnt the most modern, but it had two double beds and lots of space and we were up and about the next day to go straight to the Eiffel Tower - which was of course breathtaking.

I had been to Paris before back in 2001, but it was really interesting to see how Niki and the girls took in the sights.  They were all amazed how tall the tower was and Niki commented that she thought it would be shorter.  We queued for a little while, but not too long, and soon enough we went up the lifts.  For those who have done it, the lifts themselves are an exciting part of the experience as you go up the angular lifts up the legs and then relay to the tower lifts.  We took ALOT of photos!

It was very special that finally after nearly 10 years in the planning, Niki and I had our photo together and shared a kiss on the top of the tower... :-)

The rest of Day 1 in Paris was spent on a river cruise and we spent along time in Notre Dame.  Built in 1163, this place is amazing and the history is amazing.  As an Australian in which old means just 200 years, Europe amazes me how things have stood for close to 1000 years.  Notre Dame is probably the oldest thing I have been to.

The rest of the trip to Paris was spent in taxis and on the Big Red Bus tour and we saw all the site.  The Louvre was a special experience as well and we, as with every other tourist, made a bee line to the Mona Lisa, but we spent alot of time in other areas of the museum.  The Egyptian artifacts were a big hit for the kids.

We also went to Montemarte and Sacre Couer, the Arc de Triomphe and spent alot of time in brasseries, souvenir shops and sunning ourselves in the parks.  Our new favourite delicacy is the Ham & Cheese baguette or the Croque Monsieur which is a grilled ham and cheese multi-decker sandwhich.  We also ate alot of duck and drank a fair amount of wine ;-)

After 4 nights in Paris doing all the above, it was time to hit Euro Disney and for the kids especially, this was a great way to finish the holiday.  We booked in for 3 nights at the Disneyland Hotel and whilst its expensive, it is well worth being just 5 minutes from your hotel room to the roller coasters!

Euro Disney was great and we had access to Disneyland, Walt Disney Studios and the Disney Village plus all the amenities of the hotel.  All our meals in the hotel were accompanied by the Disney characters and Pluto even tried to steal my ice cream cone!

As for the parks themselves, we went on all the rides, queues were reasonable (worst wait was 40mins for the Nemo themed "Crush's Coaster" roller coaster) but they also had a "fast pass system" for some rides which we actually never needed to use.  My favourite ride was the Aerosmith Rock'n'Roll roller coaster at Walt Disney Studios and top marks also for the Wild West Big Thunder Bay roller coaster and the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom roller coaster both in Disneyland.

Space Mountain, a Disney classic, was also ridden on about 4 times!

By the end of three days at Euro Disney, we had seen it all and we had to get up very early for our bus transfer to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and our flight home.

At the end of it, a great 10 days in France and one of the best holidays we have ever had.  The girls loved speaking French and I was surprised at how much they had picked up from school and Kate has vowed to "learn full French" at school...

Pics to come I hope!