Monday, October 30, 2006
Today we are off to Al Khor for Friday brunch - the equivalent to Sunday buffet back in Calgary. And a fantastic little feast we found there! Hummous, salads, curried vegetables roast beef and all sorts of little Arabian delicacies. Jules would like to do a little plug for the best waffles with fruit and chocolate syrup that one could ever possibly ask for. A possible rival for the brunch at Banff Springs? Well...maybe not quite, but it does come in a close second. After gorging ourselves to the point of obscenity, we then headed off for the pool for a little more sun and some lemon mint. OK...let me tell you about the lemon mint here. In 3 words...FAN-TAS-TIC!! It's a lemon drink, kind of like lemonade that has been mixed with freshly ground mint. It is quite tasty and any chance to get it, it is ours.
So after spending another aternoon as bathing beauties, it was back to Doha for a late dinner (like we needed any more food...) and a fun filled evening of Globe Trotter Trivial Pursuit - (too bad you missed out Nicole! I did us proud!!) and topped off with non other than Sarah and Lee's own little karaoke machine. Ohhh the performances done by Lee! Who would have thought he would be the next Justin Timeberlake! Lee is definitely no one hit wonder!!!
So Saturday was our big adventure out to the desert. You could tell that adventure was up in the air from the moment that we left the city....We were off to a little abandoned village, nothing here but run down little buildings and a garbage man...go figure. At least it was clean....
So it was now time for a little off roading action. In order to get to our next destination which had been built for a Bollywood movie we had to take a "road" which was more like driving through a pasture than anything else. And you thought the highways in Saskatchewan were horrible...those are smooth sailing compared to these (it even makes the 363 look good Dad..)After bouncing around from side to side and nearly hitting ourheads a couple of times we pulled into our next stop like Bo and Luke Duke outrunning Boss Hog (Sarah even has the Daisy Dukes to prove it). We were still in one piece, so we hauled ourselves out of the Mirtsubishi (although Lee insisted on climbing out through the windows)and had a little look around.
Our first stop at the set was the place where the "bad guys" hung out - all these little stone huts that were scattered across the countryside, which was really more of a huge clay bowl than anything else, but pretty cool nonetheless. There was a rope for you to scale the wall and overlook the cliff, so Lee and I braved it up there. We tried to get up to the main hut, but the rope was broken and Lee was too chicken to scale the wall and get it for us, so we had to be happy woith what we got and headed off to the second part of our movie set.
Now this part was the part where the "good guys" hung out and wow, what a difference in accomodations! It definitely pays to be a good guy out in the desert. They even had their own "sitting room". And lucky for us, weeven had our own persinal tour guide once we got there. How these guys end up in the middle of nowhere I'll never know. It was a pretty cool place as well - little buuildings that were all built within the walls of a fort - it even came with it's own mosque, which every good guy out in the desert needs. There were even a couple of little holes in the wall for our hosts to stash their toothbrushes and toothpaste.
By this point, we are sweating like pigs out in the desert heat, but I guess some really like it hot, because one of the guys was sporting long pants and a toque. It is nearing winter here after all...and with a dramatic drop in temperature from +50 to only +35 I can see why it would come in handy.
After taking our chances of being chased by the ostrich that lived there, we piled back into the Mitsubishi for the next brain jarring leg of the journey. This time we were headed off to the beach to cool our sweaty bodies off. After securing our own little portion of sand, which wasn't hard since there were only two other sites being occupied, we settled in for a little beach picnic, some swimming and tunes rom the Ipod (Nicole we love you!)while perfecting our golden tans.
Once we had all the rays that we could handle for the day, we headed back out to our camel trail of a road only to find ourselves caught in a fantastic little sand storm. The sky went from a bright blue to a charcoal, to a dusty brown (think of a sepia colour setting here) and sand blowing everywhere - kinda like blowing snow, but only sand, to the point of where we had to pull over because Lee could no longer see the road in front of us. We then looked over to the right to see the ostriches from the movie setting running for cover like a couple of banshees. After the sand came some rain along with some pretty wicked thunder and lightning.
It was then back to the house for a quick shower in order to head down to the souks in search for the shisha pipes which had eluded us in Dubai. After a little bit of hunting, Jules and I managed to find one, so it was then off to the DVD souks. These are pretty interesting...a wide variety of movies nad TV series to buy. So after picking up the DaVinci Code and a couple seasons of Lost and 24 it was off for some Lebanese eats. Yummy!!!
After the souk it was off to Lee and Sarah's pad to make some dinner - quite nice considering it has been the first home cooked meal we've had since....probably Thanksgiving at our parents' place. It was at supper that Lee (who has been quite a fountain of information on life and times in the Middle East) decided to inform us that Lonely Planet has dubbed Doha as the "most boring place on the planet". Soooo....it is now up to us to see if Dullha really is indeed as boring as they say it is. But hey - if we can entertain ourselves quite nicely for an afternoon in Black Diamond and Turner Valley, then we can definitely handle 6 days over here. Really the question to be asking is - can Doha handle us? However no need to break the bank all at once, so we decided to cap the evening off with a movie - The New World. And let me tell you...it is the slowest movie on earth. If you haven't seen it, don't waste your time. If you have...I'm sorry.
The next morning, Sarah and lee were off to work, so Jules and I decided to hit up the pool, do a bit of laundry and just enjoy the sun while waiting for them to finish work. We went out to the Doha Golf Course for dinner with James and Miriam, 2 of Sarah and Lee's friends from England. They were quite a delightful little couple and definitely provided us with some good laughs. Alas...it was day one in Doha - boredom factor... not too bad so far.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
So the last day in Dubai we were left to fend for ourselves. After a bit of a lazy sleep in we headed up to the pool where we relaxed and had a fabulous lunch. Saw enough speedos to make us want to move to Europe (I really don't understand why the men there think that the banana hammocks are in high fashion - Brian even these would put your golden speedos to shame. Not to mention the back hair that was frollicking about - - - !! More back hair then you would find on a camel.)
After quickly showering up we were off to the souks. The taxi driver wasn't too sure where to go so with our limited knowledge of the city we ended up in a totally different spot then what we were expecting. Good thing we were meant to be CIA operatives as with map in hand we quickly found our way to the old souks. And again - thanks to Eid - they were closed :( Oh boo for us!! It was off to the gold souks!
Now for those of you who have never experienced this I must tell you it was quite the adventure. Less people and more tourists than the night before which was nice but still busy and hopping. As we are walking along men are continually walking up beside us and in low voices asking if we would like to buy a watch. They don't have them hanging on the inside of their jackets in Dubai - probably merely because it is too hot to wear anything more then a light shirt. But they do have them!! If the watch wasn't enough to hook us they would then mention handbags and in their thick accent offer us Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and more. Well a girl can only resist Louis Vuitton for so long before with Nicole's little request ringing in our ears - we asked if they had Coach. Of course they do!! And we were off - winding through these little back alleys and wondering where we might end up. At one point we asked the guide how much further and he said just up here. So up a back stair case to an upper locked room which opened to reveal every poor girls heaven. Shelves upon shelves of designer knock off handbags, more watches than one can count, wallets, sunglasses, cuff links - you can't imagine the treasures this place held. After convincing them we really weren't into the watches and were truly only looking for a Coach handbag - which they did not have Nicole!!!! Fran and I both left with great deals on Chanel bags though!!! Then it was back to our quest for the gold souks.
We finally came upon this infamous area. With more gold then the eye can see and enough crazy shop keepers to give Trent enough material to last him a life time. These men all watch out the window hoping you will pause long enough for them to catch your eye and beckon you in to this heaven - or hell - and like a moth to a flame, we could only pass by so many before we ventured inside. However, they were quick to pop our bubbles with their ridiculous prices and we were back outside. We could write on this for hours but we will only recount Fran's favorite story just to give you a hint of what was going on . . .
Here we are in this little shop with a short pudgy, four eyed, sporting braces which probably contained more metal then the entire shop 13 year old kid. We are looking at the bracelets and of course he pulls one out to show us and that is when we notice he has this wicked crack pinky - oh are we in for a treat!! He is doing his best to barter with us - offering the bracelet at a mere 520 durhams (again use the 1/3 rule to get you canadian dollars). We shake our head no. Now the war is on as he knows that we are interested yet not quite enough . He continues to lower his price which every time we say no. Now we are down to 450 and counting. At this point we start to walk away. After repeatedly telling us that we will not find a better place anywhere else - these deals or heightened prices are because of Eid!! Of course they are. Now his sister is starting to repeat everything after him. Our only escape is the door which was blocked by the dad. Oh dear!! The panic sets in for our little crack boy and it is much like trying to tear away a mother from her little child!!!! He knows we are losing interest faster then ostriches can run in a desert!! We suddenly hear him cry out as though he has been mortally shot - 'Only 320 durhams! Please Ma'am - what are you willing to pay!! Please, make me an offer!!' It is all we can do to escape the shop before busting out into laughter. Good thing we had plenty of practice in this department on our trip as we actually made it to the next window - 5' over before losing it. As the door is closing we here him still calling out to us.
Oh we wish you could have been here to view this event. After a yummy little street meat at the local schwarma stand and some people watching that was pure gold we grabbed a cab and headed back to our hotel. The driver was in quite the hurry to get in as many runs as possible and so with slamming brakes, Frannie's teeth in the back of his head rest and the rear seat bouncing about and slamming down we finally arrived safe and sound. We dropped our bags and headed out for some dessert to finish off the evening. This led us to a little restaurant in our hotel where we were greeted by the manager and before the night was over found ourselves in a rousing dart match. The boys told us they were no good - but later confessed they play for money. Guess you can figure out how those matches went although Fran and I were pretty stellar before the night was over. Wes, even you would have been impreseed with our natural athletic aptitude on the dart line!!
Finally it was off to bed as the airport was calling us to take us away on our golden chariot to Doha. Okay - not quite so golden. We were next to the most rancid smelling man we have met yet. Thankgoodness for the hot washcloths and pillows as even Fran was able to catch some strong wiffs of that stench. We were so excited to arrive in Doha!! Certainly the longest 45 minute flight we have even been on!!
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I know this isn't our typical post filled with adventures, sites and sarcastic comments but I wanted you to know some of the other side we have seen a lot of over here.
Those individuals who are true Emirates and Qataris are quite wealthy. Lee has been telling us that some of them only work for something to do - the government in both countries gives them allowances based upon their family status that allows them to live an extremely affluent lifestyle. This includes exceptions, of course, one being the Beduoin camel herders and if your family doesn't have a high status. And in those cases, particularly the non-camel herders means that they will not perform menial jobs. Different attitude then Canada as we are not ashamed of our 'menial' jobs and we define menial differently then they do. These people seem to view menial as anything that involves them serving someone else, doesnn't keep their robes clean and sparkling, includes working outside, etc.
Anyways, as we all know these jobs are as critical to maintaining a countries infrastructure as the president of an oil and gas company would be. And in UAE/Qatar the importance still exists so they have solved this problem by recruiting from other countries.
(Now what I am about to share is probably on the extreme side so please do not think that I am of the opinion that all employers are inhumane and I also want to preface with the fact that culturally - expectations are different then back home as for some of those individual recruited, they are providing for very large extended families off of what they make here and have been able to keep their villages from falling to ruin.)
These companies will go to India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and others advertising jobs with room and board covered at a rate that will be attractive to the people. In true business form, the more money in the company at the end of the day, the better and without the same sense of human rights, these rates often differ from country to country. For example they know they can pay a Nepalese man less then one from Egypt and so do. They will then fly hundreds of men back to work on various sites - often 60 - 80 hours a week for a one to two year contract. During that time the men work these long hours 7 days straight in debilitating heat counting down the eternity until they are able to return to their families for a month or two before all the money is gone and they have to again return to serve another contract term.
We have seen articles and ads indicating they make around 500 - 800 riyals which would be the equivalent of 175 - 275 cad per month. Of course their meals and lodging are covered (in some cases there are 5 - 8 men sharing a room that Fran and I would have complained about 'cramping' our style and would not have fit all our luggage, shoes, purses and equipment required to tame our hair) but this doesn't leave them with enough spending money to do much. Back home this would be considered an inhumane way to treat the criminals in jail and yet it is normal over here.
Apparently the workers have striked a few times (thank goodness for unions - maybe you have something BC!) to improve living conditions as they are rationed on their water (it is only on for a short time during the day), their food is barely enough to give them the energy to perform their jobs, the ac units are only in their rooms for the two hottest months where the mercury tops out at 40 - 50 degrees celsius (come on - it is still 30 something here now; we would be dying without ac/ no wonder these men smell so incredibly rank.
So needless to say, when you turn any direction and see at least one construction site within a block (often times two or three) and realize that the cleaners, the taxi drivers, the cooks, the servers mostly fall into this category you can imagine that this means the large majority of the population out and about in the evening would be men. You see a huge amount of these individuals hanging out in any larger public space including in the middle of round a bouts, squatting down in circles and chatting with each other. Due to their culture, you almost always see them in groups of at least two and if they are good friends, there is a lot of hugging and hand holding.
Glad to know they have each other but it is no wonder they lear at women. As they are here all alone working hard we are - in truely self-centered western form - flitting about, smelling fresh as a daisy, eating our little street meat as an appetizer before going to the ritz for a fabulous meal that costs more than they make in a month, carrying a tonne of bags holding our purchased items that we certainly do not need. As much as they are a wonderment to myself - I must serve the same sense of wonderment to them!! And here we are leaving a 5 riyal tip after a cab ride (not even $2 in canada!!) and every bit of precious cash is one step closer to their dream of opening their own business or being home long enough to find a job that will keep them with their families. So sad!! And I truly can't point a finger at anyone in particular as many of the decisions I make are no different then those of the employer - just not so blatant.
My heart just grieves for them. I couldn't imagine living like that. And wow - to have your selfishness reflected in such a glaring way - it is like looking in the fun mirrors at amusement parks only these mirrors show you what is truly inside instead of just distorting the real you. But regardless I certainly do not look as I appear!! Makes one think twice when you hold back on that tip or are contemplating another hand bag . . .
Upon pulling up to the public beach we discovered that it was not nearly so busy. We chose our nice little piece of sand; figured out the towel arrangements - Sarah and Lee were going to share one allowing us to share the other and realized that with a whole lake before us, the bathroom facilities would take care of themselves. After settling in to a nice tanning spot and cooling off in the water, the action began. Now in case we haven't mentioned it - Eid means that everyone must have those three days off - this includes all the little manual laborers that are brought in on two year contracts and work 80 hours a week every other week. That being said - they were out in full force every where we went.
While we are in the water, a group of men gather and quickly strip down to their tighty whiteys and plunge into the cool waters themselves. And let me just say - this was no eye candy. Some things are better left covered and those tighty whiteys were it. Giggling away like school girls they swim and splash about. At this point we have retreated to the towels partly to catch some rays and partly due to being grossed out that the men are swimming in their underwear. The group then decides to climb onto this boat which is docked nearby and do belly flops off the boat. Pretty impressive air on some of those - I am sure their stomachs were sore the next day. In the meantime another group forms with men not quite so brave who have tied what looked like dish towels around themselves so their tighty whiteys weren't flapping in the breeze. The skirted men are lying in 2 feet of water pretending to swim for the camera on shore. Then another guy comes from nowhere and his buddies are calling him to join them in the lake. Well he tried to be polite and wrap his skirt around while undressing but his buddies egged him on to strip on down and run in!! Whew- tighty whiteys in a lovely shade of blue is what greeted our eyes!! As we are all laughing thinking it doesn't get any better than this - the accomplished shallow water swimmer emerges from the lake and begins to pose on his Peaugot as though he is a supermodel on a fabulous sports car while his friend is still snapping away!! The boys in the water are again flitting about attempting to climb into the boat for another belly flop competition when the owner of the boat races in in his Land Rover honking his horn and yelling at them to get off his boat. What a site!! By this point it was time for us to pack up and head out but one can only wonder what the men were up to next . . . !!!! Too bad we didn't catch it all on camera - all you single girls could have had your pick!!!
After leaving the beach we were desperately in need of some lunch and water - what better spot to hit up then Sarah and Lee's favorite litlle McDonald's. Who would have known the delectable dishes the menu would hold. Sarah and Lee had told us that the McArabia is a winner so we had to find out for ourselves!
On the way back to the hotel for showers and a change of clothes we hit up one of the Sou's to see what bargains we could find. Not much apparently but it was still fun to look around and see all the wares they had to offer. We stopped for a drink on a little patio with a fabulous view and then were off again.
The plan for the evening was to hit up the old souks, have some dinner and a river cruise and go to one of the fancier hotel's little club for drinks. As girls this meant we had two options - dress for the first part of the evening or the latter. . . and because we are so cute we went for the latter. So off we stride to the souks in our sundresses looking hot. Now Dubai isn't nearly as conservative as Doha and so all three of us girls didn't think our outfits would draw any attention. But again due to blessed Eid the old souks were packed. Picture a long narrow alley with stores lining both sides and the walk way being wall to wall people in which 95% were construction men or arabs 4.999% were caucasian men and the final .001% were women - yes that meant us three girls, an elderly woman and her even more elderly mother and the odd arab woman. From the beginning of the alley to the end we had received many "bumps" stares from every single man and had one stalker that Lee finally had to stare down. The three of us have never been so glad to arrive at a restaurant in our lives, I am sure.
We spend a couple hours having some fabulous lebanese appetizers and finishing off with some sheesha and then were whisked away on our river cruise. By the time that was done, the souks had cleared out a lot and our trek back to the vehicle was relatively quiet and pleasant.
Here are a couple of good pics from the restaurant, old souk area and river cruise.
Sarah and Lee
Again, thanks to Eid we weren't able to get into the original place we tried but the second spot - the Mirage had a beautiful little roof top patio that was lit up really neat. We got there just in time for them to take last call so we only stayed for about an hour but it was the perfect end to another fun day.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
So, our first morning in Dubai was being awakened to a fabulous wake up call from Sarah, asking if we could be ready for the beach in half an hour. Good thing we are natural goddesses, because we were ready to go in half an hour - not bad for only getting 5 hours of sleep!!! So Sarah and Lee showed up to pick us up in the Lancer. The first stop was at a park - apparently the nicest park in Dubai. Pretty good considering green space in Dubai is as common as affordable housing in Calgary. We stopped at a little waterfall, checked out the grass, which felt more like astroturf - I think Lee thought he was back in Taylor Field, or Mosaic Stadium as it is now called.
Our next stop was at the supermarket to pick up some contraban (fruit and salad). Since it was Ramadan, no one is supposed to eat or drink anything in public from sunrise to sunset. Then it was off to the destination we had been waitning tso long for - the beach. It was a pretty quiet day, with not too many people which was fabulous, because it made our illegal eating and drinking that much easier. The water was fabulous - a nice aqua blue where you could see all the way down to the bottom which made locating the water snakes easy (ewww...) and was pleasantly warm. This was no Sylvan Lake let me tell you, although Jules kept referring to it as "the lake". After lounging there for a couple of hours, and a quick drive by the souks, we were back at our hotel for a little R&R and to get ready to head out for the evening.
What better way to spend your first night in Dubai than at the Mall of the Emirates. After a dinner of Italian food, the girls were off to do a little shopping while Lee headed off to Dubai's only indoor ski slope to show off his Ross Rabiglione moves to the locals. Shopping proved to be fruitful as ever - Jules and I yet have solve a shopping dilemma by rock, paper,scissors - pretty good considering we have shopped in 3 different cities!! After picking up a few gifts and chatting it up with an Indian man who wanted to know the story of my life - he apparently was from Kashmir which according to him was heaven, so why he is in Dubai I do not know...we collected Lee (who was still in one piece) from the ski slopes.
Erin you would have died and gone to heaven - Luis Vuitton was out in full force, but was closed off to us for a private shopping excursion. Obviously the security guard did not recognize us - or we would have done our own damage (I think he is now being deported as we speak...)
It is very interesting to watch the little Arab women doing their shopping. They are wearing their black robes, complete with veils, yet are sporting their Luis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci & Channel handbags. You name it, they've got it. Money is definitely not an object here and I find them very fascinating to watch - it's 2 completely different worlds coming together.
After finding the Lancer parked by a Lamborghini and a BMW, we headed back to the hotel to call it a night. It may sound early - but we were shopping until midnight. Off to bed so that we could hit the beach bright and early the next day.
So we had an hour to spend there. Strategically utilised and because Fran and I lost each other after the whispering gallery we each saw some of the same sights and some different ones. After wandering around and viewing the beauty from below it was time for the 350 steep and incredibly narrow stair climb to the whispering gallery. You are supposed to be able to whisper on one side and hear it on the other however with all the chatter - it didn't work for Fran and I. Another 150 steps again steep and narrow - good thing we have been enduring the hunger anger so our hips would actually fit through - we hit the stone gallery. This had some incredible views of london. At this point (don't ask me how as it is only about 2 feet wide and a span of maybe 45 feet that we could explore) Fran and I lost each other. She went down, down, down to the crypt. While I was mistaken for Suzanne Sommer's with my buns of steel for an additional 200 steps up a metal winding staircase to the very top. Wow!! And Fran's account of the crypt is much the same. In her words, the crypt was as equally beautiful as the rest of the chapel. It wasn't huge but the center contains the body of Lord Nelson with wreaths surrounding it. (British certainly seem to honor their dead a lot more than we do as Canadians. They had a wreath asking for guidance the same way he guided their ancestors.) Then in true British form there were numerous monuments to other notable individuals such as Florence Nightingale and Winston Churchhill.
After that we were off from the church where Princess Di was married in to the church of Fergie's wedded blissful start - West Minster Abbey. I don't think any two cathedrals could be more opposite. Immediately upon entering West Minster we followed the flow of the crowd to crypt upon crypt upon crypt with bodies and monuments laid to rest there. Although we are not too sure on how they chose those being laid to rest as the group was very eclectic. The main one to not was Mary Queen of Scots. Again various places had wreaths and flowers freshly placed to honor the individuals. When we met up at the end - we both had the feeling that the Abbey contained a lot of secrets - oh if those walls could talk - or graves for that matter!! However, it was still beautiful and had all these interesting little sections or rooms and the main sections were relatively small unlilke most cathedrals which have a huge auditorium. There was a poet's corner with monuments acclaiming the success of some famous writers, there were little garden areas with fountains and sitting benches and everything had a very political/royal feel even with the flags and crests from various influential british families in one of the King Henry chapels (we can't remember if it was seven or eight or . . . ).
Again we didn't have much time as we needed to be back for check out at the hotel. After packing in a flury and heading across the street for a wonderfully typical lunch in the local British pub (the food was quite yummy!!) we were off to the airport for Dubai!! Oh the beach - come and get us!!
Now Emirates appeared almost as disorganized as Air Canada (from the Fran peanut gallery - 'If that can be possible'!!) but once we hit the plane we were delightfully surprised and very much relieved. Fran was sure we weren't going to make it as there were random lines through everything we needed to go through - security, tickets, passport control! But we did in our Yoga pants while everyone else was dolled up for the overnight flight in all their latest fashions! We had a pretty yummy meal as far as plane food goes, the flight attendants were very attentive, the man next to us was rarely in his seat and we had individual tv's for movies, games or radio. Before we knew it we were landing in the land of sun!! Our luggage arrived fairly promptly, taxis were waiting, we didn't bust into an instant sweat (although there have certainly been moments since arriving in this area that remind me of the James Joyce patio in the heat of summer back home!) and we were whisked away to our fabulous hotel. Finally being treated like the Princesses we are!!
As for the room - let's just say we were greeted with comp water, a coffee tray, slippers and robes, two beds, a view, big closets and more room than our last two hotels combined!! But we were tired little cookies and so off to bed it was :)
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Oct 25 – 31 Doha(http://www.experienceqatar.com/templates/explorer.php3?id=79)
Life in DohaPamper day at the Four Seasons (http://www.fourseasons.com/doha/spa.html )
Accommodations – Staying with Lee and Sarah (and that better mean breakfast in bed baby!!)
After a shor flight and painless commute (even the turnstalls didn't get the best of Fran) we were home in London - Holiday Inn Kings Cross. We were able to get an early check-in and the room felt like heaven after our room in Paris. We ditched our bags, powdered our noses, hailed a cab (come on - it was raining out . . . ) and ventured off to the British Museum.
This museum was incredible but actually contains nothing British. It was, however, a spectacular show casing of all the plundering and pillaging of the Roman Empire. After our time limit was up it was off to hail a cab and meet up with Missy. On the way the cab driver was quizzing us on how we liked the museum and the Rosetta Stone. Well at this Fran was devastated. Somehow she had managed to completely miss the Rosetta stone. And don't ask how because I had managed to see it. It must have been the one item in the museum she didn't manage to look at. And so with Fran sitting dejectedly looking longingly out the window, we made our way to SelfRidges - up to the Aveda counter.
After arriving breathless and 15 minutes late, we staked our claim at the counter looking for our little blonde bombshell, Missy. 20 minutes later we decided to give her a call and see where she was. It was at this point, as I (Fran) was pulling out her number that we realized our timing was off and we were an hour early!! Ohhh . . . I could have seen the Rosetta Stone after all!! (She, Fran, still would have missed it but I didn't have the heart to tell her that . . . )
Missy arrived as bright and beautiful as ever and took us to her favorite little spot - the 'pink cafe' for some mini English tea which was delightful. (It was Fran's first taste of thick or clotted cream and she was loving it - so much so she licked her plate when all was said and done . . . and mine . . . okay just kidding she didn't lick mine . . . her name isn't Turkey, Kim. And she didn't lick hers either - her name also isn't Dad - love you pops).
Once we had finished at the pink cafe we were off to Top Shop - an interestingly eclectic mix of clothing and accessories. (Do you have that in Toronto too Erin . . . ). We would definitely hit the jackpot at this place in our quest for costume party shopping!! But alas as we are missing Danielle's masquerade we were yet again shafted.
After checking out a couple more stones, Missy took us to her favorite street - Carnabie Street - a lovely little place to visit. But alas our time with Missy had come to an end and she was off to meet up with her parents. We decided to see if we could get tickets for a show - something a little upbeat - so Jules would not be falling asleep. After trudging throught Paris for 4 days, we were both dying. Sooo . . . . Chicago it was!! Nothing to keep you on your toes like a little adultery and murder. But - tickets were a little more than what we were willing to pay ($120 Cdn) so we tried for Mamma Mia but those ones were sold out (we tried Yorgo, we tried!) So what better way to console ourselves than with another round of butter chicken. We are difinitely improving in our standings to find the ultimate Indian feast. After Jules was able to swap out the curry for our beloved butter chicken we had it made in the shade for only 10 pounds each. (Again I look away for one second - to turn around and find Fran licking her plate where the butter chicken once nestled calling her name . . . )
At this we decided to call it a night. We hailed a cab and went back to the hotel for a little hot tubbing, some 'would you rather' and an early bed time . . . oh sleep will be so wonderful when we get back to calgary . . . !!
Sunday, October 22, 2006
So here we are - DUBAI - aaacccccccccchhhhhhhhhh!! (That was us screeching as we arrived at 3am last night in the 30 degree humid heat. It felt wonderful!) And we are loving everyminute of it. The hotel which we will chat about later is better than the pictures - no photo shop for this one; the weather is gorgeous (we are already sporting tan lines - bronzed goddesses here we come) and we have hit the beach. Oh yeah that is right the beach with a lake as big as the sea!!
Now we are back at the hotel to quickly clean up and have a quick nap cause things don't shut down here until 3am. Can you imagine girls, being able to shop until 3 am. And with all the fabulous little stores a girl can dream of!!
But we are safe and sound and will surely post a few highlights while in Dubai and get all caught up once we are back in Doha.
Signing off from the bronzed goddesses in training - ola!!
Friday, October 20, 2006
Tomorrow it is off to sunshine and sandy beaches. After a week of being cold at least once every day - the warmth is here!!!
In case any of you aren't jealous enough - check out the resort at the link below:
We are coming Sarah - yeah!!!! Have that lounge chair ready for us - and please preorder us your little mint lemonade or tea or whatever that is . . .
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Oct 20 – 21 Sightseeing in London part II
Accommodations – http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/hi/1/en/hotel/lonkc?_requestid=185937
So today we are back to London - first stop (after our hotel departing with our cumbersome but much needed luggage!!) the British museum. And then off to Suffrages. We aren't too sure of our itinerary from that point but hopefully it includes sleep - these 4 hour nights are starting to kill us!
Alas - the cab will be here in 40 minutes to whisk us away to the airport.
After walking around it a couple of times we finally settled on this one delightful little restaurant sporting fondue. Now of course, this is Frances and Juliane on this trip and if any of you think that Fran would pass by an opportunity to have a Trois Fromage Fondue, you are sadly mistaken. And I am following closely behind. Yummy!! And to keep our protein intake up we rounded it off with a little beef and duck fondue as well. The food was wonderful and we sat overlooking the street. People watching doesn't get much better than this!
We ended the evening with a stop at a little jazz club. It was the greatest little place - you go down the stairs into this brick basement where a great little jazz band is performing a the regulars are dancing up a storm. After a few songs, one gentleman finally asked the Canadian girls to dance. Fran took the floor first and wooed everyone with her fancy footwork (she didn't even make a fool of herself) and by the second dance every other move was the "dip"!! Next up was myself and I can't claim that I didn't make a fool of myself but I wasn't booed out of the club. Sometimes that's all a girl can hope for.
Nicole - we promise we will try to get some pics online as soon as possible cause we have some wonderful ones from that night. Again can I just say how much I love city lights!!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
The first stop was at the grocery store around the corner to buy a bottle of water. I didn't hear the price, but handed the girl $20 because I wanted some change. She refused to take it & Jules' $5, because it only cost $.18 - so off to the metro. After a quick stop at Starbucks for chai latte and a caramel macciato we caught our bus. After a seeing the Opera House & the Madelaine Chapel both of which had some nice architectural design, we were headed yet again down another sex shop street - Juliane's favourite. It was also around this time that we discovered the camwera's battery was dying. We thought that there was still about a third of the battery life left, but it was about a third of a second. Sooooo....what other way to compensate for our lack of being able to take supermode shots in front of all of Paris' leading attractions? Shopping of course!!! Yesterday our little shuttle driver Eddy gave us some good pointers on shopping. Well let me tell you...Eddy is batting 1000.
After hitting up a little boutique on a side street, we came to Le Printemps...The Garden of Eden...( well at least as close to Woodbury Commons as I can get Kim...)Seven floors of bliss...we found some pretty good buys there and I even managed to stay on tasrget as to what I was wanting to buy - sweaters. Noemally I get distracted by all the dresses and cutesy little shirts, but this time I was all good. Well I did get distracted by a few of the dresses, but the only reason they stayed on the rack was that they were 300 euros ( yes Nicole & Tanis even BCBG is still out of the budget over here). Although picture an entire floor solely for shoes...shoes as far as the eye could see. Shoes, Shoes everywhere and not a pair to wear!! So after doing our damage there, we hit the street again in hopes of finding a payphoe to see what was up with our night tour of the city, only to find yet again that our credit card would not be read in the phone. So after trying for awhile we decided to head back to our room to recharge the camera's battery and to make some phone calls o a phone tht would at least work.
There was still no answer at the tour place (only voice mail....augghhhh!) we set back out again for something to eat. We hit up the Cafe Zephyr...the WORST cafe in all of France according to Jules. Guess what our options were for eating? If you guessed....SALAD you win the prize. A prize of what you ask? The same prize we got - the shaft. So, that being said, Jules ordered a salad and I had salmon and we discussed the politics of the world - which probably made no sense from my end as I was getting tired. Our waiter was a little off...when we sat down he came over, said bonjour and continued to stare at me until I said "What" then he asked Jules she wanted some coffee. So after our little lunch was done and the waiter stood there trying to tell us how much we should pay each,which was not what we were wanting to figure out - and when Jules asked him to give us a minute he looked at us like we were idiots. So we quickly ditched that place and hopped on to our bus.
Ahhhh...the bus. There were some pretty interesting sights...a superb flower market, the Moulin Rouge, Opera house, Gare de l'est (a beautiful train station) and some massive arches that used to be gates to the city in the 17th century. That combined with the bus nicking all the tree branches in front of us which caused us to duck a lot kept us on our toes. At least until Jules had me captivated by a story about Kim & Trev & their daycare sagas upon which a branch full of leaves smacked me right in the face, followed by Jules getting smacked in the forehead. (oh well, at least there were no tripping incidents today and we can still see out of both eyes).
So tonight is the night for some city lights - we are off to see some of Paris at night.
Monday, October 16, 2006
We decided to trek around this 'lovely' area of our hotel and try to hit up the area around Notre Dame (as our shuttle driver told us that is a great area in the evening). We were to starved to head all the way there so began the apparently near impossible feat of finding a restaurant. Now keep in mind that we have not ate anything besides a granola bar and a few smarties since breakfast and are becoming grumpier by the minute as our stomachs protest from deep within. We were anticipating so many choices that we would be overwhelmed and instead we were met with Brasserie after Cafe full of . . . salads. We are watching our fabulous figures with the Dubai destination looming but please - a girl can hardly survive on a granola bar and a salad when she is trekking her luggage all across town, walking the equivalent of a half marathon and then some and trying to stay cool in the wonderful weather we are having. So we were having a nice normal dinner if we had nothing at all.
Finally after God played a little practical joke on Fran (she totally wiped out going up the stairs - might make her think twice next time she laughs at some poor soul! and the justice was even sweeter when I see this in action, bust out laughing and sit back watching everyone's head on automatic swivel trying hard to keep their guts from splitting over this unfotunate butt over tea kettle event!) walking 10 blocks, passing restaurant after restaurant with people hanging out having drinks and not a single individual eating and ending up on an interesting street full of Peep Shows and Lingerie shops (you better believe that those signs were in English!!), we quickly skipped over a couple of blocks and discovered a quaint little restaurant that served salads and pasta. We also learned an important little tid bit about the French culture - they don't start serving food until later in the evening. Francoise thought she had died and gone to heaven.
Next on the agenda, walking the delightful little street with the city lights dazzling and hitting up one of those fabulous little boulangeries. We stocked up with breakfast for tomorrow (I am so excited - we got those fabulous little pain du chocolate - chocolate filled pastry - which brings back memories of Toronto/Sassafrass and that darn waiter that took the last pastry before I had time to eat it!!) And ventured towards the Metro home. It has been a long day and we are off to the Hop on N' off Tour tomorrow - a double day special filled with all the amazing little museums, cathedrals and monuments that we have only read about . . .
Good night everyone!! :) Sleep tight!!
Not only were we shafted on the converter but also at St. Paul's. On these lovely little tour companies called The Original Tour - apparently you have to "stop drop and roll" off the second floor of the double decker as standing next to the driver breathing in his ear and pointing to the main attraction does not indicate that you want to get off. Perhaps Fran was whispering sweet nothings to him instead!! And then there was West Minster Abbey - apparently Sunday is still a sacred day some places and the Queen's church is one of them. But you will be proud of the way we navigated our way on foot from the one stop over to West Minster Abbey and on to Buckingham Palace. This was certainly a safer bet as our driver was so crazy that I am sure the bus was up on two wheels for a couple of the corners and Fran found herself at the bottom of the stairs during one rocket launch off the line. As Fran is laughing over here - picture Otto from the Simpson's and you might begin to have a clue of the fear we experienced. The London Dungeon has nothing on this gentleman!! Oh well at least we have round number 2 in London.
By the time we arrived back at our hotel (after seeing the night lights on Oxford St and a couple of cool pics to show later) we were starving and so set off to enjoy the local Indian restaurant. This was not to be - shafted again due to it being Sunday!! Curses!! However, it gave us the opportunity to wander around our area a bit and find another delightful little Indian restaurant. The food was quite yummy and as usual we ordered enough for another 10 people - Yorgo you would be proud!! number of people plus one baby!! but we certainly are on the quest for the ultimate Butter Chicken as that was not it :(!! And Fran managed to get through an entire meal with not looking like the tablecloth by the time it was all said and done - not one stain on her shirt!! (You should have seen her after the train wreck flight - her white sweater was very sexy!!)
Now one would think we had been shafted enough for one day . . . but No!! We needed to get a hold of Missy to arrange to meet up with her. Well apparently London has some funky dial tone which got us nowhere in our room, to some strange man on the payphone that hung up on Fran as soon as she asked for Marcus (guess we had the wrong number - oops) and finally led to the bartender dialing for us on his cell phone (certainly some pleasant people on our travels so far!) and getting the same wrong number - oops again!! But as Fran says, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then - our persistence paid off and we have a tea date with Missy at Suffrages on Friday!! Yeah!!
Okay - I am somewhat reluctant to hand the keyboard over to Fran after her incessant ranting yesterday but we weren't flying with Air Canada today so here goes nothing. Hold on everyone - Fran is about to let loose - yikes!!
So after repacking our suitcases and trying to figure out if we wanted to take both of our bags or leave one behind in storage, we headed off for bed, around 11ish. After waking up at 2:30 I was glad when the alarm finally went off at 4:00 and I could actually get up. Apparently we should have brought only 1 bag each as we had to pay extra baggage (54 pounds each - Jules says to tell you Shane - she doesn't want to hear I told you so buster!!)
So after breakfast off to the plane we go. We managed to figure out the video portion of the camera and thought about striking up some fancy lotus poses, but decided to wait for a more opportune moment like in front of the Eiffel tower. As we are boarding, there is a man in the row in front of us who whacks his head on the overhead baggage compartment (twice on the way in and once in the way out) and of course I try not to laugh, but I can see the flight attendant looking at me and I know that he knows that I know and I bust out laughing. Plus there is a man next to me who is the size of Jules and I put together who is now praying that he had a different seat elsewhere, especially after the flight attendant gives me his little "I know your secret smile". What can I say...someone else's pain is our gain.
But we make it to Paris in one piece and all is well. As I'm thinking about how excited I am to be here a little boy walking behind us who is yammering about how excited he is to be here. Picture in your best Coronation Street voice...we're in Paris, yup this is definitely Paris. Which was exactly what we were wanting to say, but because we're 30 and not 5 we would look like idiots. After picking up our luggage we are off to find a shuttle to take us to our hotel. While I am waiting for Jules outside of the washroom, I see a soldier with a semi-automatic weapon. Interesting...so later when we hear a massive explosion....smell the powder...walk on the bits of broken plastic....it was really nothing to worry about. Just a routine check. Thanks for the warning.
Okay I am back - and Fran didn't get a chance to tell any embarassing stories on me :)
It was finally off to our hotel. We dropped the other passengers off first and so were able to catch a close up look of the Arc, see the Eiffel tower, drive through the adorable streets with the cute little flower window boxes and plan out our next few places to eat - okay I think we are going to have to delay our flight and buy two seats for each of us on the way home. They will be charging us for excess baggage if we eat at all the wonderful places we have seen. The driver was pretty entertaining and gave us lots of tips on where to hit up over the next four days. Our hotel is all right. You have to know with Fran and I travelling together we are guaranteed to find at least one semi - dive and it looks like this is it. The room is pretty small - two twin beds side by side with 2' on either side of the bed and the closet is our washroom. Alas - we are in Paris, as if we are going to be in our room for longer then need be anyways!!
Later - places to go, people to see, food to eat . . .
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Finally - we have boarded the plane, settled into our seats, excited about our two headphone jack for the Ipod and are ready to go!! As we are waiting to leave the Captain comes on to tell us that our unfortunate tale of trial and tribulation was about to begin. We had a flat tire on the plane. And of course, why would Air Canada keep spares in Calgary - on no they had to fly one in from Vancouver which would take 1 1/2 hours. Of course - why would we think that our trip could start smoothly. After entertaining ourselves during an hour of the wait one of the flight attendants comes on to say that by the time they get the tire changed, the pilots remaining air time willnot be long enough to get us to London. As such we will have to stop in Toronto for a crew change. Now you would think that this should be enough of a gong show for us but no - it gets better. Toronto has a curfew which does not allow any plans to land in the middle of the night. So this means that the earliest we can land in Toronto is 6:30 am. Our 7:30 direct flight departure has suddenly turned into a 12:30 am departure with a layover in Toronto. Oh - the trials we must endure. However, rock paper scissors is always guaranteed for a good time. And Yorgo, you will be happy to know that Kelly Gruber back in his time was the high bid for 'buy or be bought'!!
OK - now that I (Fran) get a chance on here to rant, let me tell you just how much I hate Air Canada. When we were told that we had to wait - I thought for sure they would come back with a "just kidding" but no - this is Air Canada, not West Jet and they don't tell jokes here, in fact they like to be as rude as possible - just ask Jan the names she has been called by them. Soooo....naturally I want to rant - so the first person I call is Jan & Yorgo, who else would appreciate this? BUT...much to my dismay all I got from them was the shaft - they weren't answering the phone. NO ONE was around to hear my rantings, so we had to entertain ourselves elsewhere - nachos seemed to do the trick, along with buy or be bought. Thank goodness we can entertain ourselves. AND...good 'ol A.C. made it up to us by providing us with....drum roll please and your best Dr. Evil voice.... one hundred dollars for our "trouble". I'm selling it on e-bay - someone PLEASE take it.
We arrived in London at about 8'ish, managed to navigate our way to the Heathrow express (look at us - two little SK girls finding our way around!) and even managed to transfer trains to get to the King's Cross station closest to our hotel. We just had to surgically remove my (Fran's) suitcase from the subway turnstalls! Juliane managed to get her purse stuck in the cab door - but that's normal for us. We had a night cap of Subway - pretty exciting but by this point we were pretty hungry & it was the closest thing.
We made our first friends in London - 2 Irish boys named Johnny & Kevin. Pretty entertaining blokes once we could actually understand what they were saying. Who knew that jokes are still just as funny the third time around? They gave us some good pointers on navigating Charles de Gaulle in Paris - and told us the best of luck in allof our future endeavors whatever that means (Johnny had no clue as to what it actually meant - he had just heard it on Friends). The highlight of the night was two-fold...for whatever reason he had no problem remembering my name(Fran) but apparently Jules is a woman of international mystery - responding to the names of Marie , Suzanne and Elizabeth (She even gave her real name the first time around Jimmy - see where that gets you?) The second part- he sneezed and managed to spill his drink on Jules' pants at the same time. I thought I was goin to pee mine when that happened.
Irish charm only goes so far however and it was bedtime - we had an early morning of London sightseeing to do. I did manage to get some sleep,but was wide awake around 6/6:30ish. Jules managed to sleep until 7:30. Things were going good until we discovered that the converter was only good for the blowdrier - and baby does that thing dry quick when it runs on twice the voltage. Jules hair was dry and frizzy in no time. I opted for the "I have straight hair and can't get it wet look" . Neither option is doing us very well right now,so we are off to find a converter today. thank goodness for photoshop!! We can still look like the goddesses we are. Keep an eye out for pics from the bus tour - we even managed to photo a rare phenomenon - a mullet curlier than both mine & Jules hair put together - Trent you would love it! Anyway - time to hit the streets again and finish our tour. Till next time...
Thursday, October 12, 2006
The countdown is on - in a mere 28.25 hours we will be on our way!! Hard to imagine that the time is almost upon us. And we still have so much to do! Issues like which purse and shoe combos to take for the outfits, how much room do we need for the treasures we find over there or how can all of our necessary hair products fill one suitcase all by themselves!! You would think we were going to some remote island - I mean really - if we forget anything we can buy it when we get there!
So for those of you who are curious to see what we will be up to and for all those worry warts (Mom!!) we included the link of where we will be staying.
Oct 14 – 16 London Accommodations: http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/hi/1/en/hotel/lonkc?_requestid=185937
Sightseeing: http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/ *Especially for Fran (please only 3 hours . . . )
Oh - and the game is on - can we get ourselves upgraded to first class for the flight over? What tale of woe do we need to tell to garner their sympathy . . . perhaps a story that includes Fran freshly jaded in love needing a hand bag shopping spree to ease the pain . . .
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
Oct 14 – Arrive London
Oct 16 – Depart London
Oct 16 – Arrive Paris
Oct 20 – Depart Paris
Oct 20 – Arrive London
Oct 21 – Depart London
Oct 22 – Arrive Dubai
Oct 25 – Depart Dubai
Oct 25 – Arrive Doha
Oct 31 – Depart Doha
Oct 31 – Arrive London
Nov 1 – Depart London
Nov 1 – Arrive Dublin
Nov 3 – Depart Dublin
Nov 3 – Arrive London
Nov 4 – Depart London
Nov 4 – Arrive Calgary
And we are quite certain the reason that God has spread all of our friends around this fabulous planet we call earth is to provide us with free accomodation and added motivation to travel. So when Sarah and Lee said they were moving to Doha for a year, how could we pass up the opportunity to kick our road trips up a notch.
Now at first, the plan was for two weeks in Doha and maybe a quick trip into Dubai from there. But as we were looking into flights - Calgary to Doha direct was twice as much as what Calgary to London to Doha was. Now London, hey? Did we mention that our friend Missy moved there and married a fabulous English chap? So of course why wouldn't we stop in London. But if we are going to take two weeks and stop in London and we all know how inexpensive it is to travel between countries in Europe then why wouldn't we take a quick jet to Paris. And then we could extend our vacation to 3 weeks. And so in the midst of this planning, our friend Anna decided to move to Ireland. Well, considering we have three weeks, Ireland is right beside England and we have a friend there - what more do we need to say. Dublin quickly became part of the itinerary.
Thus, our trip was complete. We will hit up 5 countries, two seasons, two drastically different cultures, 3 friends and too many stories to count in three weeks.
After months of planning it we can't believe it is already here. Only four short sleeps away! And here is your opportunity to join us on this adventure. We probably won't have pictures up until we return but we will use this to update everyone on our adventures.