Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day 19 - Sunday 13th January

4:30am start!

Homeward bound :D As much as I love being on holiday I think I get to that stage where mentally I'm ready for home. It's now that I look forward to seeing our cats and sleeping in my own bed. Our journey home started at 4:30 this morning when we were woken by the alarm. Mark and I were half awake anyway. We got dressed and met the 5:00 transfer bus to the airport. As I'd checked us in already we just needed to drop our suitcases off. We went to the boarding gate, ate a quick snacky breakfast (the latte was yummy) and boarded our 7:00 plane to Dublin. As I type this we are only half an hour away and are beginning to descend, taking in the time difference we are due to land at 11:10am. We have about 3 hours to wait for our flight to Manchester but need to check in anyway. Karin is meeting us to take us home. What an amazing holiday we have had, totally amazing.
Just to add, we are now home. We arrived home to a freezing cold temperature and a few flakes of snow! A little different to the weather we've been used to, lol!

Day 18 - Saturday 12th January

I didn't sleep well last night, maybe due to too much sleep the night before or maybe I was just over tired, either way I was still tired when I woke.
Never mind, after eating breakfast in the hotel again we waited for the bus. This time we were taking it to the Dubai Mall so we could go up the Barj Khalifa tower. To be honest after the crowds last night I was dreading the mall but I was pleasantly surprised that it was quiet.

Maybe Dubai doesn't wake until the afternoon! It was great being able to wander around and look in shops comfortably. I had researched and found out there was a Kipling shop. We located it on the information boards and that was our first port of call.

I LOVE Kipling! I have a good collection now but there's always room for one more! This is my second visit to a Kipling store, the first being in London last year. It's so much better being able to see and touch rather than relying on the internet for colours and compartments. I have been using my Fairfax bag for a few years now and whilst there is nothing wrong with it (Kipling quality is great, I think they are made to last a lifetime, lol.) it is starting to look a little grubby. I have been thinking for a little while about replacing it but have held off. I saw a really nice 'berry purple' one and decided the time was now. I reckon I've saved about £20 on U.K. prices too, bonus!

Mark decided on the next stop, Build a Bear. There was a camel inside and we let Charlie and Courtney 'build him.' He was named Humphrey!

Of course Michael needed a little treat too! (I like that their clothes fit my bear, Mark is not as amused, lol! Photo taken back at the hotel)

I had joked before we went in about them selling traditional dress clothing as in New York they sold Statue of Liberty outfits. I was highly amused to find they did!! I decided that Michael didn't need to dress as a 'sheppherd' so it was left on the shelf!

A short walk along the mall later we came across a shop which we knew Courtney would be in heaven in, we weren't wrong!

Floor to ceiling Hello Kitty!

At first Humphrey was a sharing toy but after finding this shop we let them have a treat each. Courtney chose a bag and hairband.

Note that Mark didn't but anything, just us! (also note that Charlie carried that box with Humphrey in everywhere today!!)

It started to get busier so we left to go up the Burj Khalifa tower. How impressive is this building?

At the entrance there was a screen saying every half hour slot was sold out! We queued up to ask at the desk as we could see people paying to get in. It seems we were supposed to book, we hadn't realised. The people paying were buying fast pass priority tickets at 4 times the price! We were told the government set the price and where that did us a favour with the taxi, it wasn't now, especially as Charlie was expected to pay the same as us, that it didn't! We were going to leave it but I happened to ask if there was a disabled concession (why not? Lol!) and they did! Mark had to pay the full 4x price but I could go in at the normal price and in the end they let Charlie in at the concession price too! As they were priority tickets we got to skip queues too!
The viewing platform is actually just over half way up which is a little disappointing but the views were good. It's a lovely clear day today, we could see for miles.

We saw the dancing fountains 1:30pm show from the top so that was a bonus!

This is the image taken before we went up.

We'd seen a Tim Horton's in the mall. We really enjoyed visits there whilst in Canada. They have 'TimBits' which are doughnut balls, supposedly the centre of a ring doughnut, this amuses Mark. They also do meals so we ate there early afternoon.
We decided the metro was actually a bit of a nightmare, not the actual system but getting to and from it inside the malls (remember the 7 travelators, there was also 4 in the other mall.) The only thing left on our list was a Gold Souk, we had looked at the one in the mall but it was mainly nice looking jewellery shops and a few barrow trollies selling pashminas, incense burners and vases. It was still only around 3:00pm so we thought we had time to visit an actual souk. We headed for the taxi rank. Souk means market and we both had visions of lots of stalls selling gold and a real atmosphere of people bartering. Again, our expectations were wrong! It was lots of small glassed in shops with odd glassed in stalls in the middle, there weren't many people around so no real atmosphere the jewellery was nice though!

We did dare walk in a couple of shops and I did have a go at bartering! It's not so easy though once they have you in their grasp and you're the only one in there! One shop kindly gave us all a drink whilst we were negotiating! I loved the ring but a deal couldn't be struck, I came close though! The earrings I bartered over were equally as nice but at £400 I decided they looked prettier in the shop! We wandered around some of the outdoor streets, there was more of an atmosphere there. Men wandering up to Mark offering him fake watches and handbags, trying to get him into their shops. One had Charlie dressed up in traditional clothing before we could blink and then wanted 300 dirham for the clothing! I mean, where would he wear it at home and at around £54 I whipped it off as quick as he'd whipped it on, lol! I enjoyed it there more than in the souk.
We saw a sign for the metro which was 200m away and made our way back to the Mall of the Emirates. It's still a walk back to the hotel but at least it's only one walk, not 2 and we nipped to the supermarket on the way back to get some supplies.
At the hotel we booked a taxi to take us to the airport hotel, as we are leaving early in the morning we thought it would be easier to be at the airport. I remember looking at my watch when we arrived, it was 7:10pm so not bad timing. We all settled for the evening, Charlie and Courtney fell straight to sleep, I checked us in for our flight then Mark and I had an early night too.

Day 17 - Friday 11th January

I can't believe we all slept until just before 9:00am! We weren't sure what we'd be doing today, we have a list of things we'd like to do in Dubai so we decide to ask at reception the best way to get about. We were told the hotel ran a free bus that did a few stops at various tourist attractions then picks up 4 hours later! How good is that! Only problem was that it left at 10:00 and it was now 9:25 and we hadn't had any breakfast, after missing tea last night we were hungry. We hadn't booked breakfast at the hotel but decided to eat there for easiness. After speaking to the receptionist we decided to go to the Burj Al Arab today, the 7 star hotel. We were dropped off nearby it, just next to the beach. It gave us a great viewpoint of it.

We walked along the seafront, there was quite a breeze so sand was blowing in our faces! We then had to walk away from the seafront as it was blocked off, at this stage we didn't really know where we were going but headed for the road. We saw what we thought was an entrance way to the Burj Al Arab, there were camels dotted in and around the grounds.

We made our way along a corridor dotted with shops and eateries until we reached an exit but after only stepping a few steps were stopped by a security guard who asked if we were guests. We then realised the Burj Al Arab was in front of us and as it turned out we were in fact in it's sister hotel, the 5 star Jumeirah Beach! It's a very nice hotel but not the one we want to see so we made our way out and turned right in the hope of finding the Burj Al Arab. We finally found the entrance to the driveway which is guarded and that's as far as we got! Still, we got a photo of us in front of it, it seems this was the photo point as we had to wait a while to get this!

Just a funny, you can book an expensive lunch to go in but we were told we couldn't as there is a very strict dress code and apparently demin 3/4's and t-shirts aren't appropriate!! Hey ho!
When we arrived at our hotel yesterday we picked up some leaflets, one being for the open top tour bus which had a map of Dubai. From that we knew that the Palm Jumeriah was close by. At first we thought we'd be able to walk to it but we quickly learnt that the scale of the map was a lot bigger than we'd expected. By the entrance of the Burj Al Arab there was a water park with a taxi rank outside. The security guard told us this was the best way of getting to the palm. I've seen pictures on the internet from above it, like this one.

I just thought we'd take the taxi to the entrance, walk onto it and wander around but it's massive!! I mean, there's a whole motorway running up the trunk with apartment blocks either side.

There are slip roads going off to the branches which were private living areas. (we weren't allowed onto them but according to another internet image they look like this!

The driver was excellent, he took us all the way to the top and stopped at the Atlantis hotel for us to take photos.

Of course as we were further out in the sea it was even windier and the waves were really high, crashing over the wall at times. At one point the taxi had to keep as far left as he could because loose rocks were also being thrown over. One part of our journey that interested me was we had to dive through an underpass, the driver said we were under the sea.

I presumed there must be a gap in the palm and when we got back to the hotel I realised it was from the top of the palm tree to the outer circle. Taxis here are very good price wise, they are government regulated so everyone has to charge the same rate. It only cost 60 dirhams (including tip,) around £10 for us all and we got a good ride for that! After being dropped off at the water park again we went back to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel for coffee, hot chocolates and cakes, commoners like us were allowed in there, lol!

We had a bit of time left so went back to the beach for a play! The sand was really fine, lovely to run little fingers through.

The sky had cleared as the day had got on, it was still quite smoggy but we could now see the Atlantis hotel beyond the Burj Al Arab.

The hotel bus came to pick us up one once back we found this themed seating area in the hotel and posed!

We then changed into our swimming stuff to go for the rooftop swim that was supposed to happen last night! The pool is regulated so was nice to swim in The attendant gave Charlie and Courtney the life rings to float in, they both enjoyed kicking their legs, swimming around with them. Charlie then showed us his swimming skills that he's been learning in his lessons.

In the evening we ventured out to the dancing fountains, we walked to the Mall of the Emirates which is near to our hotel and ate there first before wandering through the mall to the metro station, the mall is huge and HORRENDOUSLY busy! The metro was so handy though as the train directly went to the Dubai Mall, home of the fountains. Just like the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall was huge and HORRENDOUSLY busy!!! (Dubai Mall is actually quite a lot bigger, housing 1200 shops!!!) We had to encounter 7 travelators from the station before we even reached the mall. Again, we made our way through the mall and found where the fountains were.
It was at this point that we got our first proper view of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower.

We were about 10 minutes before the 9:00pm show so good timing, or so we thought! It was very popular and very busy all the way along, we kept walking and eventually found a tiny space. It started and was over in about a minute! I hadn't even managed to get a decent photo. People wandered away and we decided we hadn't travelled all that way for just 1 minutes entertainment! We had read mixed reviews about these fountains, people say some shows are disappointing so we decided to wait for the 9:30 show. We found a prime spot and stood firm! (People come along and try to shove you out of the way!) I'm so glad we waited, the next show was wonderful! The music was 'Time to say Goodbye' and it lasted for a few minutes. The fountains were graceful, my photos don't do them justice.

Although beautiful and as much as we did enjoy the second show I'm not sure they were really worth the 4 and a half hours outing!

Day 15 & 16 - Wednesday 9th January and flying to Dubai

Our last day in New Zealand :( We had a leisurely start to the morning and then went to Karls Jnr. for breakfast. That was unusual, it was served in what they called a biscuit, it was like a scone! Delicious though!

There was a couple of bits we needed from Pukekhoe so we went to get them and happened to find a craft shop! It was nice to have a mooch, I didn't buy much though, just a magazine for the plane and some wooden buttons.
We went back to Jen's for an hour or so and packed some more things. We planned a trip to Pokeno for one last ice cream but were all still full from breakfast so left it for a bit. Bless her, Jen was busy editing the photos from our trip so we could take them home with us. (Thank you Jen.) After another half hour or so we set off for Pokeno, I'll bore you with the flavours we had one last time although you may be relieved to know there were no more photos! Mark had lemon and lime and strawberry yoghurt, I had goody goody gum drops and caramel fudge, Charlie had cookie dough and Courtney had lemon and lime. We noticed last time that they did a chocolate covering for 50c so we went for that this time! What a mistake, lol! We all got very messy!!
We filled the hire car up on the way home and then Grant met me at the hire place to return it. That was it then, all the packing had to be finished! At this point there was only a few bits to put away though. 'Super Jen' finished the photos in the nic of time and we have 3 disks full of wonderful, happy memories!
Jen drove us to the airport and we said our (very sad) goodbyes.

I am typing this in Melbourne airport, we had a good flight to here but are currently on a 6 1/2 hour layover until our next flight. We were thinking of hiring a car and having a drive around Melbourne but we landed at 21:00 so would have been driving through the night so not a lot to see! We'd have had the hassle of filling out immigration cards, re-entry cards etc so it just didn't seem worth it plus our bodies are thinking 2 hours ahead and we are tired so we made the choice to stay in the terminal. Charlie and Courtney are happily playing in the play area and Mark and I have internet access so it's actually ok. (We are currently around 2 hours into the layover.) Our next flight is a long one, 16 hours 25 minutes! We are hoping to sleep most of it though, children allowing!

The rest of the layover went quite quickly, the only comment I'd make is that we were a little cool as the air con was on in the airport. On the way out our fleeces just became something else to carry so we decided to pack them as Dubai was going to be warm also, that turned out to be a mistake! Charlie and Courtney were running around though so they were fine. The flight passed ok, neither Mark or I slept much though. We both watched films and I did some cross stitch. Thankfully both Charlie and Courtney got a good sleep! We arrived in Dubai around 1:00pm (the 10th) and once we passed through passport control (not quite as busy as the cattle market last time!!) and collected our cases we made our way over to the taxi rank. This was quite interesting! There are cream coloured taxis with different coloured roofs, I really must Google to find out why but we were ushered to a pink one! These cabs are all driven by woman. I was quite happy about this but boy that happiness was short lived!! I lost count of the amount of times I held my breath through fright, lol!! Let's say this much if I were a cat I'd have definitely lost my nine lives!! She was a speed demon and was winding her way through a 6 lane motorway! It seems in Dubai you just chop and change lanes at great speed and hope for the best, lol! Once off the motorway it turned out she'd never been to our hotel, she used our reservation to call them! The best of it was Mark and I had already seen it and just presumed she was going through some sort of one way system to get to it! Even when she was on the phone to them (whilst driving) she still couldn't see it. We ended up pointing it out to her! It was a huge relief to get out of the taxi! The hotel is lovely, it is cruise themed and quite luxurious. We think it must be quite new (must Google that too) as there's a building site next door and quite a bit of waste land. We checked in and made our way to our room, number 332. Wow! It's nice, big and roomy. Mark and I have a bed each and there's a put up bed for Charlie. We had been told that they would have to share this bed (even though I booked for 4 people) but there is a settee which will be fine for Courtney. There are a few quirks in the room, the TV also plays in the bathroom, could be useful I suppose! There is also a telephone in the bathroom, right next to the toilet, again could be useful, lol! The wardrobe lights up when the door is opened and there is a reading light each above our beds.

We decided to have a quick nap before having a swim in the rooftop pool and explore. Well it seems we all fell fast asleep, we didn't wake until 12:48am, some 7 hours after!! I was laughing because Charlie and Courtney were both dressed still, the curtains weren't closed and Courtney had no covers over her and the air con was still on! (perhaps we're training her up for the 3 week cold snap we've been warned about in the U.K. on our return, bless her!!) Thankfully once we settled again we did all go back to sleep. I woke a couple of times through the night but went back off both times. I guess we all needed that sleep!

Edited at home! So, I did the Googling and you will be excited by my results......not! It seems the difference with the coloured taxi roofs is literally down to the company!!

and the Grand Excelsior opened in September 2011.

Day 14 - Tuesday 8th January

We went to pick up our hire car first thing today, this one is great! It's a Kia Rio and is in a lovely shade of gold! It's really nice to drive too!

We had a bit of a drive out today, 2 1/2 hours south to a Rotorua. (Jen and Grant had been before and had some errands to run so it was just the 4 of us.) We took it easy and half way there drove through a place called Matamata, in the town centre there was a sign, 'Welcome to Hobbiton.' We realised this was the place where The Hobbit and Lord of he Rings was filmed! We whizzed back round the next roundabout and parked up to take photos!

Look at the cute information place! Gollum was hiding in there.

As we were driving away we spotted another personalised numberplate! How cool!

We continued on with our journey arriving at Rotorua around lunchtime. We came to the Skyline place first. Here we took a gondola up the side of Mount Ngongotaha.

At the top there are a few rides you can do, a rather scary looking swing that swung right out from the mountain, no thank you! and a luge ride. We took the luge and it went about half way down the mountain, it was surprisingly very hard work and took every muscle I had in my upper arms to keep going!! (These photos are a mixture from both runs we did)

We then had to take a ski lift back up for a second and (although we didn't take it!) third go!

It started to drizzle a little and we'd finished there anyway so took the gondola back down but before we did we came across the Skyline character, Captain Gravity! (Courtney was too scared to have her photo taken too!)

Our next stop was Kuirau Park which has geothermal activity, including boiling mud pools and crater lakes. There was a pool where you could put your feet in to feel the heat of the geothermal water. It's all evidence of the volcanic activities in the area. It was very interesting.

Lastly we made our way into the town centre, Mark had seen a T-shirt on top of the mountain that he liked but they didn't have his size. We were told there was a shop in the centre and they had one so we bought it there.
The drive home went well, we stopped again at Matamata as we wanted to take a photo of Barnaby, the school bear, with the sign. (we couldn't find him when we were there this morning, it turned out he was hiding in my handbag!) We made good time and were home around 7:15. We got Charlie and Courtney into bed and then had an Idiot Abroad marathon, watching the last 2 bucket list programmes and the review one at the end of the series. We stayed up until 11:30, the latest we'd been up the whole time we have been here!