Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The little t guide to… Holidaying in the Emirates (Part 3)

This post is all about the biggest and the tallest and the fastest and the best.  Maybe that offends you- maybe you’d prefer reading about something understated, something low-key and modest- that’s cool… but this is not the post (or the holiday) for you.  Switch off now.  The UAE has a lot of money and they’re not afraid to brag about it.  If the UAE were a person, it would probably be Kanye West.  Just sayin.

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The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building.  It soars majestically at 830 metres and completely dwarfs the city around it.  It is one of the best attractions Dubai has to offer and you shouldn’t miss it (It is pretty hard to miss it).

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from the base

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during construction

Nerdy fact:  The building was originally called the Burj Dubai (Dubai Tower- inspired I know).  However, in order to fund its completion during the global economic crisis, the government were forced to seek multibillion dollar bailouts from Abu Dhabi.  The building was renamed Burj Khalifa after UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa for his crucial support.

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Armani Residence apartment, Burj Khalifa

Another nerdy fact:  The Burj is also the first world’s tallest structure to include residential space (just imagine this being your address!).  Developers put 900 luxury apartments out to let on opening, 825 of which remained unoccupied a year later.  There has been an upsurge in occupancy more recently- possibly a result of the recovering economy and (in my own opinion) the appearance of the tower in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (I had a newfound respect for Tom Cruise after discovering he did his own stunts in that dizzying scene 130 floors up).

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Want to go?  You need to book the Burj Khalifa At The Top Experience.  I’m here to make that easier:

Book in advance!  If you do it online, it costs 100Dhs (about €20); if you just show up , it costs 400Dhs (about €80).  Pre-booking makes good economical sense.  You can book up to 30 days in advance and the best time to go is at 5 pm because you have plans afterwards (yes you do-  I’ll get to that in a minute).  Peak times like this book up quickly so get on it (Thanks for this tip Tim!).  I’m telling you this from the safety of having reserved my primetime places already.

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You’ll turn up at your allotted time and start your tour.  You know how it goes- there’s a multimedia presentation chronicling Dubai’s history and the construction of the Burj Khalifa.  You’ll find out tons more nerdy facts and be escorted around on a travelator by a super-friendly all-knowledgeable guide.  I might just be the only person left in the world to get excited about guided tours and multimedia presentations.

If guided tours don’t turn you on, don’t worry.  After that bit is over, you board (is that the right word? board?) the fastest elevator in the world- travelling at a speed of 10 metres per second, it takes a mere 60 seconds to reach the 124th floor.

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The observation deck is an architectural dream of floor-to-ceiling glass walls, providing a 360 ° view of the city, ocean and desert. 

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You should typically leave about an hour for the whole At The Top Experience, but you can linger as long as you like before making your descent for Dinner.

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Dinner- that’s what comes next.

The Burj Khalifa is conveniently located right beside The Dubai Mall- the biggest shopping mall in the world (but of course).  The Dubai Mall is home to something like a million restaurants and caf├ęs.  Okay, I just googled it- it’s actually only 150.  I haven’t tried them all (working on it), but Social House comes personally recommended.

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Marie and I on our last visit

They have an extensive menu, but seem to get everything just right.  I love the bustling unpretentious ambience and all the little details- cutlery in tin cans, hanger menus and tiny pots of homemade this and that as accompaniments.

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When it cools down in the evening, the whole side of the restaurant is sort-of folded away to transform part of it into a veranda and create an overall outside-inside feel.  Grab a table outside and be all set to watch the fountain shows that start at 7 pm.

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Dubai Fountain is another record-breaker: the world’s biggest musical fountain (seeing a pattern here?).  Designed by WET (the creators of the famous Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas), it is illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 colour projectors and shoots water 150m in the air (the equivalent of a 50 story building).  Performances to light and music take place daily from 6 pm to 10 pm (11 pm on weekends).  Spectacular.

(See Part 2 here!)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Impossibly Cool Kids

Is it wrong to teach kindergarten kids  the Crank That Soulja Boy dance and call that class Music?  I don’t see how it is.

My students know a thing or two about being cool.  I’d like to sneakily post a few of their pictures to the Children With Swag tumblr, but since I don’t have their parents’ consent, I know that would be wrong.  Here’s a few of my favourites directly from the site instead:

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thing #16: Do a Parachute Jump

Skydive sounds better than parachute jump.  It just does.  I should have thought of that when I was making my list.

Skydive, parachute jump… call it what you will.  I did it. 

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AnneMarie, Lucy, Marie and I choose to jump with Skydive Dubai.  If you look at their website, its obvious why- the dropzone over the Palm Islands has to be the most beautiful in the world.  Yeah, I’m using words like ‘dropzone’ now.  No biggie.

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We arrived at the centre all jittery and skittish and were immediately asked to sign our lives away, about 150 times over.  I took a cursory glance through the papers and thought it best to just go with it. 

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There’s my instructor Andy buckling me up.  Our conversation went a little like this:

Andy:  Okay so this is for that, and here’s you harness thingy, just step in here… on the plane I’ll let you know… when we get to 13,000 feet, just come over to me and I will…  and then once we’re out of the plane… free-falling for about… something about a banana… after about this many seconds that’s when… now this part’s important, when I say this, you do something… and…  that’s it.  Got that?

Me: Shit  Andy, I wasn’t listening to a thing you were saying.  I was just panicking in my head.

Andy:  Sigh

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As I was boarding, I was struck by how tiny the plane was and the thought that this was the first time in my life I’d be present for take-off but not landing.

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Once we were inside the plane, my nerves made me fidgety and I kept subconsciously attempting to tighten the buckles on my harness until asked to stop (and reminded that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing).  I fixated on insignificant details like my goggles and asked Andy about three times if I should put them on yet?  He was like ‘Stop with the goggles- they’re not going to save you!’

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At 5,000 feet, we watched as two people did a jump, or rather were sucked out of the plane in some kind of vortex.  It was very unnerving  and as we continued to ascend I began philosophising over who originally came up with the idea of jumping out a plane for fun anyway?  That person may have been a little crazy.  I felt a little crazy too.

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I was the first one to jump.  I make it sound like I wilfully did it but really Andy just sort of picked me up and threw us both out… it was so scary (I was literally shaking) but utterly incredible.

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So beautiful- that’s the Palm Jumeirah (the skydive centre is located at its base) and in the background you can just about make out the famous World Islands (or what’s left of them).

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The free--fall part seems to go on for ages and its difficult to catch your breath, but when that cord is finally pulled, it slows everything right down and it’s the closest thing you’ll ever feel to flying (what I imagine flying feels like).

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I was overcome with emotion when we were all reunited after landing- its so hard to explain but I was simultaneously dealing with the buzzing adrenaline and feeling like a proud Mama that AnneMarie, Lucy and Marie had done it too!

LOVE AND HAPPYNESS

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Andy did this seven times that day (that has to be in the running for the coolest job on the planet).  I was ever-so-proud of myself for doing it just the once.

€5 has been donated to UNICEF Ireland for the completion of this ‘thing’.  Click here if you too would like to donate online.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where I’d like to live, please

Next week , I have given myself the project of redecorating my room to make it a little less ‘white’ and a little more ‘me’.  I’ve waited too long really… but I can’t help daydreaming that I’d like to be living in this breezy loft instead!

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday

This morning, I asked my (kindergarten) class what day it is.  “TUESDAY!” was the enthusiastic chorus (they are enthusiastic about everything at this age).  “Not just any Tuesday,” I replied.  “Pancake Tuesday!”  

Followed by blank stares.

“Really?  You don’t have Pancake Tuesday?  That’s so sad.”

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I instructed them to go home and ask their parents to make some pancakes immediately.  Pancake Tuesday is an important part of growing up after all.

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Lucy is making the pancakes this year, and we are all very excited.  For me, the classic lemon and sugar.  This is where delicious lives.

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I won’t bore you with tips on achieving the perfect pancake- the truth is I don’t know.  But how about this clever trick:

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Happy flipping x

Monday, February 20, 2012

The little t guide to… Holidaying in the Emirates (Part 2)

Did I book the Crowne Plaza on Yas Island for our stay in Abu Dhabi?

Yes I did!  Because that’s what someone awesome would do.  Get excited!  We’re only staying for 3 nights.  Let’s do it right.

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Yas Island is a little out of the city, but much prettier than the centre and closer to a few of the things I have planned.  As with Dubai, I wouldn’t worry too much about location when you are looking at hotel options as taxis are quite inexpensive- you’ll pay about 30dhs (€6) for a 20 minute journey. 

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One tip I will offer (if like my guests, you are partial to a evening glass of wine) is to ensure the hotel you are booking is not a dry hotel.  There are quite a few in Abu Dhabi and they tend not to advertise it.

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In general, accommodation in Abu Dhabi is a bit pricier than Dubai, but book well in advance and you can still get some very good rates.

(See Part 1 here!)