Our time in Dubai is far too short.

We had become very sceptical, after being in Cairo, with people offering to help us and it felt very strange at the airport for people to be doing something for us, without expecting payment.

Our hotel room is lovely - 2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 TV's and a kind of a bidet which Nicholas was very excited about. We all went swimming in the pool and spa as soon as we had checked in and finally felt clean again, after the dustiness of Egypt.
The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.....we wouldhave liked to have gone to the view deck at the top, but unfortunately all the time slots were sold out.....this is only half of the building, we couldnt get it all into one photo.

Today we had planned on doing a hop on hop off tour of Dubai (extremely hot here today) but when the first bus didn't turn up and the second one was 20 minutes late and then didn't stop to pick us up, we got in a 'fankle' and went shopping instead. The 2 shopping centres we visited were huge and both are open until midnight every night! Outside one of the shopping centres
The Mall of the Emirates shopping centre has it's own ski slope, chair lift etc (of course)
And this shopping centre had a huge aquarium and skating rink

This will be our last post until we get back home - I'm not sure what has happened to my blog helpers, they still say they are going to do one, but there isn't much time!

Tomorrow we start our longest stretch of travel - leave Dubai at 8pm and arrive in Singapore at 7.30am, where we stay until nearly midnight and then spend the night flying to Adelaide. Hopefully we will be able to get some sleep.

We have lots to be grateful for......we have had good weather, no colds or flus etc, and people looking after our business, house and pets..................thankyou for enabling us to have a wonderful holiday.............. see you all soon.

(PS Hope you have a happy birthday, Kirsty!)

We are homeward bound.

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On Friday we flew from Paris to Cairo, arriving in the evening. We had a bit of a delay at the airport getting our Visas but even more waiting for our car and driver - we were waiting inside the airport and he was outside.

Egypt is a huge contrast to the other places we have visited during our holiday and we have learnt that no-one does anything for nothing. Everyone is after some money.
When we finally got to the baggage collection area of Cairo airport, our cases had already been taken off the 'turntable thingy', a man rushed up to us and asked if we had come from Paris - and then said he had our bags ready for us........we presumed he was our driver. He then rushed off and got a luggage trolley and placed all the bags on it for us - and then asked for money for what he'd done. Only then did we realise that he wasn't our driver. Iain said we didn't have any Egyptian pounds at that stage and the man offered to walk with him to the ATM or bank - to which Iain said we had someone waiting for us and thanked him very much for helping. Words were muttered behind us!

The drive to our apartment was an eye opener and mouth opener. Paris is much better, compared to here. The freeway is 4 laned each way and everyone and everything travels on it.....there were cars, trucks, motorbikes, people walking, horse and carts,camels, donkeys, bicycles, people fishing, people sleeping and selling stuff. The vehicles are mostly old, well used and dusty - our "limousine" seats 8 but is an old white Peugeot with petrol fumes with only seatbelts in the front.
Instead of using their indicators to show when they want to change lanes, the cars 'toot' their horns and they don't stay within their lanes, often 3 cars travel alongside each other in 2 lanes (so that makes 6 cars in 4 lanes!) and there doesn't seem to be too many road rules or road rage. Everyone just merges and drives with the constant tooting.
It was a 3/4 hour drive to our apartment, which is situated near the pyramids at Giza - a privately owned apartment. It was nice to see the pyramids as we got nearer.
(From our balcony - the geese live on the rooftop in front)

Our first view in the morning is of the pyramids and we have a couple of balconies around the apartment so we can sit outside and watch the pyramid light and laser show (which happens 3 times each night in different languages and an extra performance on Sunday night!)
The other pyramid we can see from the balcony
On the rooftops around us we can see goats, sheep, geese, chickens and cats/kittens - then around the corner (not on the roof) are camels, horses and donkeys. Feels like a farm complete with some roosters that aren't sure what time of the morning, it is.

Children play outside until 1 or 2am, it is a safe area here and everyone knows each other and there is constant chattering amidst the prayers that are heard from the mosques - because they use microphones and speakers outside the mosques.

We are standing next to the first block of a pyramid - imagine how high they really are!

We spent 2 1/2 days visiting pyramids, museums, sphinxes, mosques, hieroglyphics etc, we feel like we are suffering from 'Egyptian overload' today. The boys were disappointed with themselves that they didn't go inside the pyramids but when they saw the pathways leading down inside and how people were looking when they came out of the pyramids, they decided that they didn't want to attempt it. Iain did and he came out sweating, huffing and puffing.The areas that you really want to see have been spoilt with people trying to sell souvenirs - (souvenirs made in China) and the guides who say that they will show & explain to you, what you are seeing for free - that they work for the government etc and then when you have finished they ask for money for their services. They also say at the end that they will show you a good photo spot and when Iain had Ben all lined up in front of a pyramid, the guide suddenly took his scarf off and wrapped it around Ben's head, to make him authentic and then a camel and rider appeared out of nowhere to be positioned behind Ben - and then the guide offered to have his photo taken with Ben.......this is when the penny dropped and we realised that he would want money for this! The Step Pyramid at Sakkara

The Tourism Police are just as bad, offering to have their photo taken, as long as you pay. And at some areas where there are signs saying no photos allowed, if you pay them, they will let you take photos!
At Memphis - King Ramses II (discovered recently)

I had seen some nice beaded headpieces that I thought might be nice for a couple of nieces and when Iain enquired at the price on my behalf, we decided that we would keep looking (they were a bit expensive) so he thanked the girl and walked on. She followed Iain for ages, hasseling him about why did he ask for the price if he wasn't going to buy etc etc

We have become adept at listening to maybe arabic swearing behind our backs?!
All this sounds very negative but it's not meant to be it has just been frustrating as it has dampened our enthusiasm for Egypt and I am sure that it isn't just us that feels this way. Nicholas summed it up by saying that he thought that Egypt would be more advanced than what it was.

The owner of our apartment had given us lots of advice and warnings and has been very helpful in organising things for us, so we were slightly prepared. We have come across lots of nice Egyptians, the children all want to know where we come from from and then they say "Welcome to Egypt, Australia". We had a couple of girls who asked if they could have their photo taken with us and they were that thrilled - we should have charged them a pound for the privilege.

The pyramids and other artifacts and monuments that we have visited are amazing and yesterday we visited the Church that Joseph, Mary and Jesus had been in. Hard to believe that we were there too.
Population is approx 12 million

What is the time?

The last 3 days have been hot and we looked forward to a nice shower and a cold drink at the end of the day. We have become adept at not going to the toilet for 6-7 hours until we get back to the apartments, (grotty toilets everywhere), taking bottles of water with us and also not having much to eat when we are out and about, and so far no tummy bugs! Any weight put on in Paris would have been lost here.

Count the satelite dishes

We are off to Dubai early tomorrow morning, sounds like it might be hotter but it will be nice to see some colours other than various hues of brown!

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Paris - part 2

The next day was Iain’s day to have fun. He headed off for a cheese and wine appreciation lunch. It lasted for a couple of hours and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is his review: “It started by going to the incorrect cellar which was dark and dingey – very narrow with a flight of stairs going into darkness! Then I was directed to the right place, where I met the other participants – 2 Americans and myself. It was very interesting and informative and our sommelier described various areas of France – he was very entertaining. A lovely way to spend time in Paris”.

Whilst Iain was enjoying himself, the boys and I went shopping for Hannah’s birthday present. We went to Galleries Lafayette – a department store with 6 levels and the most beautiful stained glass domed roof.

I discovered there were so many nooks and crannies and when you thought you had walked around one floor, there was more around a corner, and then more……….. We saw these huge jars of nutella - 5kg

Wednesday was our 20th Wedding Anniversary so we headed off to see the Eiffel Tower and the obligatory kiss underneath. OK well maybe not that about this? (Sue, I had your necklace on, as promised)Nothing can really prepare you for understanding the ‘hugeness’ of it, until you see it for yourself. It is an amazing piece of architecture. We bought tickets to go to the 3rd level – which is as high as you can go. Again we had to queue for tickets, then queue to get into the lift to go to the 1st floor, queue for the next lift up and then vice versa.
The view is amazing, as you would expect and it was great to be able to recognise some of the places that we had already visited. We spent most of the day there and then caught the bus back to do some shopping, on the way back to the apartment. The boys had an early dinner (McDonalds!) and then Iain and I stopped at a restaurant for ours. The waitress brought out little bowls with different meats – prosciutto, salami & a couple of other meats, then some nuts and olives. I had French Onion Soup for my entrĂ©e and Iain had Escargot’s. Nicholas was the only one who didn’t try one and we were all impressed with how tasty they were (quite salty). For our mains, Iain had rump steak and I had duck breast, both were lovely.
This was the first time we had eaten out – we hadn’t planned it to be like that, but we discovered that by the end of the day and we had walked up our 5 flights of stairs, the last thing we felt like was going out again, so we ate at the apartment. Likewise the dream of Iain going to the local boulangerie every morning to get me fresh croissants for breakfast didn’t happen because we discovered we didn’t have a boulangerie really close to us. Next time……..
Our last full day in Paris saw me heading off early to do the Market Cooking Class. We met outside a train station – again 4 students – a couple on their honeymoon from USA, a USA girl studying in Paris for 6 months and me.
Pino, the chef, took us to a street nearby – first off to the cheese shop. I have never seen so many cheeses. He described the various methods of making cheeses, the areas they come from, and how they are displayed in the shop.
Next stop was the butchers where he showed us the different meats – rabbits are sold with their heads on, so they can be distinguished between cats and rabbits. Years ago, some 'shonky' butchers had been selling cats instead of rabbits and the tradition has been carried on. Horse meat is very popular in France although the butcher we went into didn’t have any – apparently it tastes like Venison.
We (the students) got to choose what we wanted to cook, so we opted for force fed duck breast.
Then we went to the fish mongers and from there we chose scallops and mussels.
Onto the fruit and veg shop, where we got Jerusalem artichokes, onions, shallots, parsley and raspberries.
Finally the boulangerie – this one uses a woodfired oven so all the breads and other products are very brown but it is also apparently one of the best boulangerie’s in Paris. We chose some olive bread, baguettes and walnut bread.

Back to the cooking school we then started preparing and cooking our lunch menu: Seared Scallops and Mussels in Saffron cream sauce with Jerusalem Artichoke Puree Duck breast (magret) with Poached Pears Our cheese board
Chocolate icecream with raspberries

We then ate it!
Marion - how is this for a box of dark chocolate couverture and pure vanilla (it had vanilla pods inside)

It was such an enjoyable day and I would recommend it to anyone who hopes to visit Paris.

Whilst I had been cooking, the boys all went to see the Statue of Liberty replica, near the River Seine and then did some shopping. Our shopping time was pretty minimal, during our stay. It was just an hour here and there, and of course it was always when we were on one of the tours or in a taxi or bus, that we would see shops with nice displays and we couldn’t just stop and go shopping!
Driving and crossing the streets in Paris is crazy, even when you get a green pedestrian light, you still need to check the traffic as cars would often still zoom past. Iain became very ‘parisienne’ with walking across the streets whenever the light was red much to the frustration of the rest of us left standing on the edge of the kerb. The driving is 'crazy'!

On the morning that the airports in Europe finally opened, we looked up while having breakfast and counted 12 jetstreams, criss-crossing the skies. It continued like that, all day.

We loved our time in Paris.

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We were fortunate to have prebooked our trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris, so last Saturday we embarked on our journey by train. It is a lovely trip but we wished that they would make some sort of announcement when you are actually going in the tunnel, under the Channel. Our apartment was near The Louvre, in the 1st arrondisement and we had 5 flights of stairs to WALK up, that’s right, no lift – and 114 stairs. With 3 suitcases plus hand luggage etc, it was very interesting! However after our five days the walk to the top of the stairs was much easier and achieved without huffing and puffing (as much). We had a small balcony – small table and only 2 chairs –and we had to climb out of our bedroom window to access it. The view wasn’t that picturesque, mainly rooftops and chimneys but it was still nice to sit outside at the end of the day, and for breakfast.

We had amazing weather – sunny every day we were there. We still haven’t had a day where we have had to put on a raincoat or use an umbrella. Even in London, there wasn’t any rain.
Our first adventure in Paris was a “If these walls could talk” walking tour. The tour group is called Paris Muse and they aim some of their tours at children . We had a personal tour ie just us and tour guide “Carrie”. She introduced us to the history of Paris and showed us interesting sculptures, features of buildings etc.
The boys had compasses and a workbook that they had to work through and find clues to take us to the next destination.We ended at Notre Dame Cathedral where Carrie taught us how to read stories contained within some stained glass windows. It was a fascinating afternoon and a great introduction to Paris.

The next day I had a macaron cooking class, so we all took off to the 18th arrondisement, early in the morning. Whilst I was doing the class, Iain and the boys wandered around the area of Montmarte. and visited Sacre-Coeur the Roman Catholic church located on the highest point of Paris.My macaron class was good fun – we made two different types – chocolate and plain – with 3 different fillings - raspberry, salted caramel and chocolate.We then filled the macarons with the various fillings and also tried combining the fillings eg salted caramel with chocolate or chocolate with raspberry. The chocolate ones were the first we made and you will see by the photo that they didn’t turn out as well as they should have because we discovered the laser thermometer wasn’t working properly. The second batch (plain ones) were perfect. The photo below was after they had travelled for 2 hours and got bumped around so not as good, as when I left the cooking school. There were just 4 of us doing the class – a Kiwi, a French woman, and 2 Australians – the other girl from Australia lives in Melbourne and works for “Koko Black” ! For those who don’t know, Koko Black is a must visit Chocolate store in Melbourne.

In the afternoon we had our second walking tour – this time “Muse Clues “ – our tour guide this time was Mary. Both of the tour guides that we had, are Americans living in Paris and they also have PhD’s – so very knowledgeable and great with children. The tour was based at The Louvre and again the boys had workbooks to complete. Mary also does a Da Vinci tour so when booking it, I explained Nicholas’ fascination with Leonardo and she was able to combine some features of both tours. From the answers that the boys gathered it formed a french phrase which they then had to use to obtain a ‘treasure’ that had been left for them in a secret location. The treasure was a game about Paris.
It was lovely for Nicholas to finally see the real Mona Lisa painting – and it was larger than what we expected. Apparently it used to be displayed next to some huge paintings which made it look really small but it is now displayed on a wall by itself , and behind glass. As the ash cloud had upset a lot of visitors plans to Paris, Mary explained to us that we were extremely lucky to get so close to the Mona Lisa – usually the room she is displayed in, is full (approx 400 people) and there would have only been 30 or so, when were there.

To Be Continued............................

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