Monday, 12 November 2012

Day 210 in Dubai

Ok, I have been a little re-miss in publishing another blog - I am sorry.  I can make several excuses, but they will all be just that - excuses.

So, what has happened since last time?  Probably quite a bit of "more of the same", but I will try to elaborate anyway.

The kids have had a few more skiing lessons at Ski Dubai.  Charlotte and Olsey are now going from the top of the 1km indoor slope which is great!  We are going to just go along and practise a few times now before we go away in Dec - yes, at long last we have booked a skiing holiday!  We are off to France for a week over New Year, accompanies by our friends Nick, Mel, Toby and Antonia.  We can't wait!

Rach has taken up several sports - Paddleboarding (essentially like surfing without waves, so you use a paddle instead), weekly tennis lessons, yoga and cycling.  She is really enjoying getting stuck into them all.

Charlotte is still into her netball and gymnastics and is now playing the flute.  Her new flute arrives today, so she is very excited!

Olsey is playing football, gymnastics and rugby.  He first away match is this weekend in Abu Dhabi, so we are going to stay there for the weekend and explore.  I think it is just the same as Dubai, but it's worth a look around anyway.

Lulu is a gymnast (can't you tell from her shape?!) as well as a keen swimmer/model

As for me, the cycling is still going strong.  I have gradually built up my rides from 35km (about 22 miles) to 85km (53 miles) last weekend.  To be fair, it did nearly kill me, and I had major lactic acid build up in my thighs which took hours to dissipate, but it was a lot of fun and I am really please with my progress.  Unfortunately the bike had to be upgraded to cope with such long rides, but never mind....

After the family got back from their extended stay in the UK, courtesy of my friends and family (thank you to those who hosted!) we headed off to Sri Lanka.  For those that don't know, Sri Lanka is a former UK colonial country (where isn't?!) which sites in a teardrop shape just to the east coast of India.  It has a very Indian feel to it when you are there, with many very poor areas, packed cities, extremely poor roads and lots of curry.  You can guess which bit was my favourite.

On arrival our luggage was found to be in a very different location - all four bags.  So we spent 2 days in the same pants while we waited for it - not good, I can tell you.

I will let the piccies do the talking with this one, here's a selection from our trip:

Sigiriya rock in the background at our first hotel.  The rock is a former fortress for a king 1,000 years ago, which now had ruins and you can (and we did) walk to the top:
View from the top of the rock:

Olsey 'chilling' at the pool in the first hotel:
Charlie at the same place!

A bullet cart ride which took us down to the lake for a boat ride:
 Tuk Tuk's to get back - they are everywhere in Sri Lanka!
Off on a Jeep safari through the Minneriya National Park to look for wildlife:

We found some! (actually we found hundreds!)

 End of the road at the National Park:

The obligatory elephant ride.  It actually felt a bit cruel, wouldn't do it again.

 Assume the position children!  Quite often they ended up sleeping in the same bed due to an unforeseen booking error on the part of our 'old' travel agent....

Ok back to the rest of it.  We have been doing a bit more offroading in the desert. This time the whole family went with 2 friends out to Big Red, an enormous large (big) slightly reddish (red) sand dune just an hour from home.  We played in the dunes for a few hours, only got stuck once (the Toyota Landcruiser, not the Land Rover) and had a jolly good time scary the wives!

Meeting up at 6.30am:

Is it cruel to include a picture of Marcus stuck in the sand??  Poor driving I say...

"Yeah, we climbed some sand!"

"I am going to sleep well tonight!"

 "Where's Marcus, is he stuck again?"

Jonathan taking it easy, with a car full of Goodies!

Rest time before heading home:

To keep things interesting, here are a few random shots of stuff happening:

"I'm a princess!"

At the nailbar with Mummy
 About to watch a 3-D movie of some sort while Daddy works...

Waiting for our flight back to the UK:

I just learnt to cycle!  (excuse the gratuitous picture of lycra):

First day at Big School photo:

The three Musketeers!

Happy 7th Birthday Bud's:

Messing in our garden:

Look who got a Kinnect for his birthday:

Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary to us!

Weird random shot of a Dubai custom truck which made us laugh:

Arty farty shot:

Right, well that's probably your lot for now.  Back soon (sooner than last time, I promise Lisa!) with more news as it happens, we hope you are all well, and please let us know what you guys have been up to!

The Goodies

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Day 120 in Dubai (at least for one of us...)

So I have been prompted to write a bit more of the blog by our eldest - she wants me to tell you all about them going Skiing in SkiDubai, the 1km indoor ski slope in Mall of the Emirates.

They had a 1 hour Discovery lesson, which meant they got to be fully kitted out with a ski suit, boots, skis, helmet, then onto the slope to try to figure out how to move around, go up the travellator, down the slope, and hopefully how to stop.  At the end of the lesson they got a free hot chocolate on the slope - Lucy's ski suit appeared to be magentic, and she promptly came bowling from the slope with a brown shade across the front of her suit. 

Unsurprisingly they all loved it.  Charlotte was the only one to "pass" and by put into the next group for her next lesson.  Clearly we are going to have to book some more up or we'll never hear the end of it.

Very shortly afterwards, the family abandoned me in Dubai.  Well ok, I took them to the airport then went straight to the golf course, but it amounts the same thing.  As I am sure most of your know, they are back in the for 5 weeks, with just 1 week remaining now.

In the intervening time I have been trying to keep myself busy.  Work has been steady, but I have put in a few extra hours.  No further trips away this month.

I hit the golf course the first week, and played 18 holes starting at 5pm, when it was really hot, and finishing at 9.30pm when it was really hot and humid.  Obviously the course is floodlite, it gets dark here at 6.30pm every night all year, but it gets more and more humid as the sun goes down.  The temperature was about 40C degresss (104f for you Americans).  I came off the course soaking wet.  My colleagues had not thought to tell me to bring a change of clothes, so I had to have a shower and put the same clothes back on - lovely.

My Dad came over the following weekend and I took a couple of days off.  We did lots of touristy things, but by them Ramadan had kicked it, so it somewhat limits what you can do.  There is no eating or drinking allowed in public, so all restaurants, cafe's, coffee shops etc are closed all day, only opening at 7pm when the sun has gone down and "iftar" is announced from all of the Mosques.  This means that everyone gorges at that point, so you can't book a table in any restaurants!  Not very helpful when you are entertaining.

We managed a drive out into the desert, a tour of the Fountains at the base of the Burj Khalifa, a bike ride, an early morning swim and a bbq round some friends.  All in all, a very relaxing weekend, and I think Dad was pleasantly surprised by Dubai's attractions after not being entirely sure why people visited the place before he came.

Oh, and we watched Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome trounce the competition in the Tour de France  too :-)

I then had another round of golf over in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Links course on Yas Island.  It's right next to the F1 race track, and in true Links style, it eats up your balls when they go off of the fairway, I place I seem to find myself quite often!  Luckily you do often find somebody else's ball when you are looking for yours, so I only lots about 8 during the course of the day!

We tee'd off at 3pm, which is, quite frankly, a stupid time to tee off when the temperature dial in the car is reading 48 degrees (118f!!!).  I kept my hat on, obviously we had buggies too, and I drank loads of water, but I still managed to suffer from heat stroke by the end of the round.  I had a stinking headache, and couldn't even eat my Chateaubriand that night in the restaurant!  We stayed over the night, as hotels do amazingly cheap deals this time year, yet they are still empty!  It was £150 for the night, including lunch, 3 course dinner and breakfast, all the alcohol you can eat and use of all facilities at the 5* Park Hyatt!  Certainly a bargain if you are well enough to eat/drink!

The next day was a pool chill out day, before returning home to watch some of the Olympics.

It has been difficult to really get into the Olympics from over here.  There are quite a few channels showing various sports, many with UK commentators, but I guess watching it on your own is not the same as with others.  Woe is me!

I have managed to dust my bike off and get to a couple of places to do some proper training.  They let you use the Autodrome (race track) on Wednesday nights, for free, so I hit that last Wednesday, then I joined an organised ride 30 mins drive from home on Friday morning (at 5.45am!) in the desert to try out a new cycling track that has been installed by the Sheikh and runs +100km already, but will eventually loop back around into Dubai.  It was a great track, and I met some really nice people, so I'll definitely be going back this week.  So far I only did 35kms, but you can gradually step it up until you are doing 100kms.  The next stage after that is joining a group that leave 1 min from my house every Friday, and do a minimum of 80km (some do 140!) but they are much more serious bikers, with a higher average speed, so I need to train quite hard before even thinking about going on that one!

One last piccy as I know you don't just want to read my words... here's the garden:

Take care all


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Day 90 in Dubai

Right, I have run out of excuses to not fill in a bit more of the blog - the broadband is connected, we have figured out how to watch UK television via a VPN and Apple TV, the house is (relatively) tidy, so now I will try to update you all on some of our news.

Kids first: All has been going well. Charlotte had a sleepover with Ava from Canada at her house out in the desert.  She really enjoyed herself and they were allowed to stay up watching The Simpsons until 3am! That's what you get if you mix with North American's I guess.... Not exactly what we would have allowed, but hey ho.  She was actually pretty good the next day, no tired tantrums, so we can't complain.

Lucy has been loving Nursery and had Graduation last week! As you can see from the picture she was all dressed up and they all had to memorise 15 songs!  She didn't quite manage them all, but had a good crack at them. I personally think it was about 14 songs too many, but she seemed to enjoy it.  She has a new best friend on our little villa compound, a young English girl called Bella who is also starting at DESS school in September, so that will be nice for her.  They regularly meet at the swimming pool, have playtime and share dinner.

Olsey has been busy playing football at school, learning to dive in the swimming pool and reading every night until you forceably take the books away from him!  He's really got into his reading and maths at the moment, so we are trying to keep that enthusiasm going.  Last night Charlotte and Olsey learnt to back flip into the pool.  We tried teaching them a forward pike too, but that wasn't happening.

Olsey and Charlotte have been having regular climbing lessons at the local climbing wall and making really good progress.  Charlotte has developed the most, going from being scared at 3 metres, to pushing straight up to 12 metres without blinking an eye!  Really impressive stuff.  Olsey was never nervous at all, and got to the top of the wall, 15 metres, on his second session, managing to get past the overhang which is not easy.  They are both pushing themselves with every lesson and trying harder routes, but alas their great climbing instructor, Jack Snowdon (very apt name, sp), has left the climbing wall as his employer didn't pay him!  He's a really great guy, and very experienced, so hopefully he can find another wall to work at and we can follow him there.  He has invited them over to his house to try out his wall in his back garden, so I will try to arrange that.

Lucy had one go at the climbing wall - this was as far as she got before refusing to go further!  "Go on, just one more step" - "Nope!" - "we will buy you an ice cream" - "No, I am not doing it!".

My work has been coming on well.  I had one trip to Iraq, and one short hop to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.  Both went well and business has been great since we came out here which definitely helps.  We have a regional away day this week at the Burj Al Arab (7 star hotel built on a manmade island that looks a bit like a sail) so that should be fun with about 60 of us.

After a few weeks of getting cabs to and from work each day, only a short trip, and very inexpensive, I had had enough of dodgy drivers, smelly taxi's and trying to explain how they should get around their town!  So I have taken the plump and bought another Land Rover Defender.  This time I went for a big one (110) with a nice big 3.9 v8. It's all set for off road adventures, a shame not to use it properly, so Charlotte, Olsey and I set off at 5.30am last Friday to hit the desert!  We spend a few hours driving round with a few other cars (safety in numbers) and had a great time.  We saw loads of wild camels, a lone donkey, a few goats and lots of sand.  Lots and lots of sand.  The car was faultless and pulled us through everything when a few others got stuck.  Hopefully we can use it for a bit of camping in the winter and to explore the GCC.  I might take the stickers off the door though - agreed?  Answers to please.

And this is from our first venture out in the Expedition a few weeks back, going through a wadi which we then had a swim in!

At the weekends we try to do one or two fun things for the kids as well as getting a few of our bits done.  A couple of weeks ago we hit Kidzania.  It's like a small town of miniture things where kids can play at doing 80 odd different jobs, like working at the Coca Cola bottling plant, airline pilot, fireman, policeman, beautician, artist, racing driving, etc, etc, etc.  They start off with a cheque which they have to cash, then they use the Kadzania money to pay for some stuff, but they can earn more by doing the jobs.  They all loved it, and below are a selection of shots from the day.  They all worked in Pizza Express at lunch time and cooked their own pizza before eating it!

The weather is heating up, but that doesn't stop us popping to the beach for 30 mins at 7am for a roller skate:

And now the important bit, we have an alcohol licence!  We ordered some grog online, the car comes to your house, reverses up to your garage, and brings it in looking like this:  Anyone would think you were buying class A drugs! (there are no class A drugs in these bags).

Needless to say we are missing you all.  Rach is looking forward to seeing you all in the summer, while I will be stuck here on my own...  visitors welcome!

I will update again soon, but by for now!