| We're baaaack!
|♥Feb. 12th, 2012 // 12:27 pm♥
And it's bloody cold here, still. Brrr. Went to see vgrumpybastard this morning, didn't dare take him above a slow trot even with his boots on (although I am impressed that the chap who does that sort of thing has managed to keep the uncovers outdoor school as well as he has: the middle's fairly solid, but the track's pretty fine).
Holiday was good, if not perfect. Mike has pictures. Including me in a bikini.
Things we did on holiday:
- twilight / moonlight horse riding in the desert - sand dunes are really bloody steep. I wouldn't have wanted to do it if I couldn't ride! We were an experiment to see if they can do it regularly, to which the answer is probably "yes, if they pick their nights right": we were the night of the full moon, and it was fine, but they had also thought they could do the two nights after, when the moon was probably rising too late.
- sunset camel ride, also in the desert - less actual riding involved, as there was a nice man with a lead rope at all times. Interesting, but much less smooth than a horse. The whole getting on and off bit was kind of scary, too)
- evening 'party' in a desert tent, with free camel rides (which we passed on: see previous), henna painting (which we also passed on, because it kind of hangs around and I have important meetings next week) and belly dancer (which we couldn't really pass on, as she was right in front of us, jiggling away) - faintly embarrassing, tbh. We knew about it because it was after our camel ride / watching the sunset on a sand dune, and the camel guide mentioned it. For quite a while, we thought we were the only people who knew about it, but fortunately another six people came along, so we could make our escape to dinner with minimal fuss. (Actually, there were some other people there. We're fairly sure that they were senior management, possibly newly in-post, having a look to see how things were going, which meant it was a shame that they didn't bother to speak to the guests and find out....)
- trip to Dubai - really bad traffic, moderately interesting museum, very little else to do except go shopping and sit in traffic jams. We did have a walk in an astonishingly grass-covered park, and went to a moderately fun aquarium in a shopping mall. There's a really big sky scraper. Did I mention the traffic?
- visits to the spa - quite good, and I thought it was a nice touch that the rooms were all on sensors, so they went from standby into full working mode when you went in, and then cooled back down an appropriate time period later when it was time to move on.
- eating lots of food, much of it very nice and almost all of it pretty good.
- lounging around on the sun lounger (when it was in the shade) or on the sofa (when the sun was on the patio) or in the pool.
- pointing at passing gazelles, and feeding sparrow-like birdies.
Seeing camels eating out of a dumpster is bizarre. Apparently, lots of wild camels die because they eat plastic whilst doing this. There is rubbish, much of it plastic, everywhere in the open desert.
So, yes: very nice trip. I'm glad we went to Dubai, but feel no inclination at all to go back. The hotel wasn't, I think, quite as good as the Banyan Tree we went to for our honeymoon, but I think we might well go back there. There was nothing really bad about it, but there were lots of little niggly things:
- Sometimes, you went into the restaurant and got shown to a laid table, brought a basket of bread, and given menus for food and drinks. Other times, you got a knife, fork and food menu and that was it until they snatched your plate away mid-final-chew.
- At that level of hotel, and given (I checked) that smoking was permitted on the patios, I would have expected there to be an ashtray. If there wasn't, I would have expected one to arrive as soon as housekeeping cleared away the first empty water bottle with cigarette ends in it. Similarly, I was once caught out without my portable ashtray, having to go through a door without an ashtray by it (tsk, in itself). I, slightly apologetically, put the cigarette out and then carefully put the but on top of a nearby speaker mounting, where it stayed for two days before blowing off and lying on the floor for the rest of the stay.
- Only one place to get lunch, and only two places to get dinner: you'd have thought that the bar would at least do a light meal menu, so that you could have a change of scene.
- There was (we found out because we happened to go to the Activity Centre after our horse ride) a schedule of free daily activities (feeding the gazelles by the waterhole, exercising the falcons, and so on). There were also other things, like the above-mentioned party, that were happening but weren't on that list. What there wasn't was, for example, a daily newsletter popped into your letterbox to let you know of these things, so it's hardly surprising that no one knew about the party. (A couple of days later, we heard music from our patio: another party? Who knows... Could we be bothered to walk over and check? Meh....)
- Reception staff with really varied levels of English (and, given that many of them were Thai, presumably even worse levels of Arabic), which meant, at worst, that bookings were made incorrectly (our driver for the Dubai trip turned up a day early) or incompletely (apparently, our camel-ride-with-sunset-drink came with a choice of drinks. As it was, the fizz was fine, but presumably not for everyone!) and, at best, that their first response to any query was to ask for your room number and frantically read the details on-screen in an attempt to figure out what you were talking about.
- No drinking water in the spa. Eleventy. There was a bottle in your locker when you arrived, but obviously you're not going to carry it around with you!
- After the camel ride, when we were sitting on our cushions on the sand dune, drinking our fizz, the nice man who'd poured it snapped some photos of us. "Ah," we thought, "There'll be a proof sheet and outrageous price list coming our way!" But there wasn't. Nothing. No mention made of them again....
We were very amused on the night when we ordered wine that came with a cork, though. First, they had to find the corkscrew and have a whispered debate about who was going to use it, and then the chap who won (or, possibly, lost) the argument came over and went through all the motions he'd obviously had demonstrated, before taking the wine away again and going into a huddle with his colleagues. About five minutes later, we heard a triumphant 'pop', and had to resist applauding. The waiter was so excited that he started pouring for me before he realised we hadn't tasted it, but he did manage to bring us the cork on a side plate. Bless. The poor stable boy who'd been informed that he was serving our fizz after the horse riding was also rather bewildered: someone had apparently told him how to do it, but I suspect it wasn't anything he'd been called on to do before!
(This posts sounds terribly whingy, but actually it's more frustrated: if the presumed-manager had come over and spoken to his guests at the 'party', then I would have just told him. As it is, I'm pondering an email, because they're almost all such little petty things that would be easy to fix and thus make people's stays so much nicer.)
Oh, and the bed kept attacking me. It was placed in such a way that you had to walk around the foot of it quite often, and the frame was made of very dark wood that stuck out some way from the end of the snowy white duvet. I have an L-shaped cut on one calf and a matching bruise on the other....
Still, home now. Flights not too bad (Emirates). We're somewhat jetlagged but, as I have to be up for a 7am flight on Wednesday, this isn't really a bad thing.