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27 October 2010

Howth

First of all, it rhymes with both. Howth. Which is silly, if they want it to be Ho-wth they should not have that W in there, it looks to me like How-th. But if you say it like that you will be laughed at. Anyway, Howth is a suburb of Dublin, and I was there to look for samples on a data buoy that was being serviced. So in the picture below you can see some of Dublin city across the water, because Howth is a peninsula.


And here is a very picturesque island, that lies just off of the harbour. It was nice. I didn't have my camera with me at sunset but it was nice early in the morning too. Howth is very small, there wasn't much option for dinner really, plus being a student there has to be some semblance of budgeting. So dinner was had at a pub/restaurant and first of all there was this oldish fella sitting at the bar and he had the hugest moustache I have ever seen - it was like some sort of little animal stuck onto his upper lip. And then there was this chick that kept going in and out, walking past the table back and forth. And she was wearing a white maxi-dress and it was so see-through - her companions should have told her. But then, she probably knew already. Perhaps she was a hooker. Probably not, but still, it's amusing to make up stories about strangers.


But anywho, the sampling was completely fruitless, there was nothing on the buoy except for seaweed, a couple of starfish, and strangely enough scallops. Strange because scallops are supposed to live buried in the sand of the seabed. Secretly though, I'm not overly disappointed about the sampling, I'm sick of barnacles. I have given some to the aquarium and they are doing well so if I get my way I will give them all the rest for Christmas - so I will get to have a break from work! And maybe I just won't take them back (that's probably entirely wishful thinking). The weather was good, apparently it is always much better in Dublin than Galway, and the water was really still, so the marina made for pretty pictures.


But now I'm back in Galway and so unimpressed with all this bloody rain. After spending all my money on holiday, I got paid and sorted out the credit card. So to relieve the monotony of rain and cold weather I am giving the credit card some more exercise - I have in the last week or so brought a sewing machine! And a guitar! Plus halloween is coming, they do it properly here, so that means costumes and parties and pumpkin carving. Some fun is definately in order, work is hectic this week, I keep getting rained on and my shoes don't keep the water out. I had to go buy an extension cord to plug in the new sewing machine and the hardware store near here, it's a big one too, would have to be the most sorry excuse for a hardware store ever. No extension cord. And I got rained on. But on coming out of the store the rain stopped and the sky was this weird green-yellow colour, I wished I had my camera with me. There was a rainbow too, it was really bright and a complete half-circle, with another shadow-rainbow behind it. But no camera. So I went across to the big supermarket and I was getting a few supplies, and you know I just cannot bring myself to change my opinions or take back any comments about supermarkets in this bloody country. Today, the supermarket had lots of blue food colouring but not other colours. What's up with that? And no vanilla essence, just almond and brandy and lemon. Weird.

25 October 2010

Seals in Galway Bay


Well you can't actually see any seals in any of these photos. That's because when a seal is in the water they are not overly photogenic - all you can see is it's head. Plus they move really fast. So instead all I ended up with were photographs of birds. See, on Sunday I was told that there were seals all over the bay, so I went down to take a look. And yes, there were seals, bobbing in and out of the water. There were also loads of birds, all over the water. Why? A big school of mackeral seems to have been hanging out in the bay, attracting seals, birds and people with fishing lines. And there wasn't really much to see, but what little there was to see is very rare for Galway, so it would have to be the event of the week. The results of which are going to provide us all with a good feed of fish and chips (words that I must concentrate on saying correctly so as not to be laughed at over my accent constantly).



21 October 2010

Dubai Desert Safari


There is not actually a lot to say about desert safari. It begins with a 4-wheel drive ride through the dunes, you stop to take photos, and you arrive at a pretend bedouin camp where there is dinner and a belly dancer. You see I have done this before, but out of Abu Dhabi and it was a bit better that time, it was not so touristy, and the tourists really get in the way of feeling like you are in a big empty desert. And when there are only three camels and a huge line of tourists, I just can't be bothered. I wanted to take lots of nice pictures of the desert sand, but there were so many people around and by the time we stopped the sun was already going down, and not so much in a really spectacular way but more in a sort of washed out and at the same time really bright way. Not to mention a big group of idiots on quad bikes tearing up and down the dunes - apparently this is how the locals spend their weekends. So I was left wanting to go out to the desert again - I guess there now has to be a next time and another trip to UAE. I hear you can do a camel trek into the heart of the desert and camp overnight. Except maybe there would be sand spiders and scorpions.


So the safari being so crowded meant that there was more on offer - at the camp there was a lady doing henna so I got some more of that up my arm. And there were, as there is everywhere, stalls selling the same old tourist stuff. There was a buffet of arabic food which was quite good, I like the food there at least. And the belly dancer was really good. But I tried to take a video of it just for all of you that have never seen this stuff. And while it doesn't show so much because it was dark, it's better than nothing, but the stupid blog won't upload it. Perhaps the internet here is too slow. Whatever the reason, I am not impressed. Still, here are nice photos of sand instead.


As well as the safari the last few days of holiday were far from restful. Mum got a new job and has moved back to Abu Dhabi - so I helped her move in. Dubai is too big and shiny, so next time I go visit it will be back to Abu Dhabi as usual. With the cats. They missed me. Or at least one did. The other doesn't like me, if I make a sudden move he hisses. So perhaps I will save up my money and go back, take a different group of friends, introduce everyone to the more western part of the Middle East. It's difficult though, because while it's nice to visit I want to see new places as well. This will be the last of my travels for awhile I guess - perhaps next time France or Spain? So I leave you now with one last picture of the desert, with tracks in the sand - possibly a camel. But more likely from people.


18 October 2010

Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa


So now I am no longer in UAE but before leaving we visited the Dubai Mall, biggest mall in the world (apparently) and the attached Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world. Nowadays you can get about the city on the metro, it's only been open for about a year or less. Unfortunately it is still under construction so the nearest station to where Mum lived was not yet open. So before the ease and air-conditioning of the Metro was a 15 minute walk in the sun and heat to get to the station. But above you have a glimpse out of the front of the train, which has no driver but is all controlled by some computer system somewhere. Luckily the windows were clean so you can see quite clearly what I cold see. And here below is the Burj al Arab, the Sail, world's first 7-star hotel. And this view is from the train, brought to you via my camera's optical zoom.


The Dubai mall, like everything else in the UAE, is ridiculously ostentatious. The first of the ostentation that I came across was the Star Atrium - a central area with stars hanging from the ceiling down the length of three storeys.


Then there was a candy store. Outside of which was a sign saying no photography, but nobody stopped me so I guess they weren't too concerned about enforcing it. The giant lollypops were actually plastic but the effect is all that mattered.



Across the way from the candy store is a huge aquarium, with reef sharks and rays inside. The wall of the aquarium is the largest single acrylic pane in the world - they have the Guiness World Record plaque beside it. Then if you can tear your eyes from the fish and look up you see that the ceiling is covered in little stairs, packed close like the milky-way but not very authentic looking. And neither actually made very impressive pictures so here is another of the candy store - I didn't actually buy any, though the jelly-beans were tempting with all their flavours.


So if you walk down the mall someway you come to the gold souk, which is more expensive than the real gold souk of course but looks very nice. It is half empty though, which could just be because the mall is new but it looks like there were more shops there that have now closed, so I guess it goes to show that there really is not actually a need for the mall to be so big.


So if you continue past the gold souk you come to the waterfall, which is huge and there are actually two of them, both with these weird man statues diving down the water.


And finally you get another atrium of some sort, a larger one, surrounded by all the really expensive designer clothing stores, which is full of paper butterflies streaming down 3 storeys. Which more so than the stars made me want to fill my room with paper butterflies. When it comes right down to it though, a mall is just a mall and I think I like the Abu Dhabi ones better, I know where everything is. But on the other hand, this mall had the hugest bookstore, like a little mall in itself, I could have spent a fortune in there.


Finally it was time to go up the tower, after getting lost and nearly being late, because there is a specific time for which you book your ticket. You begin by going in and walking for ages, past panels of information concerning the design and building of the tower. Which is somehow based on the petal pattern of the lotus flower and most definately does not bring attention to the outrageous human rights issues that surround the labour force of the UAE. There is an interactive screen that shows a timeline of the building in which the tower itself acts as the line.


And the tower is not only the tallest in the world, it holds a bunch of other records too, like tallest man-made structure and stuff. I don't remember. But anyway it has 200 storeys and the fastest elevators in the world (as in, they are as fast as is possible but there are others just as fast elsewhere. So there are none faster, but some just as fast. So not a world record). We get in the elevator, which was surprisingly crowded. You would think for all that money (like 40 NZ dollars) they would give you a bit more space. And it was fast, you could feel your ears popping, but you couldn't see how fast it was because it was not the type that has windows. Perhaps you can tell already by my tone that I left this particular tourist attraction a bit disappointed. The biggest disappointment being that you could only actually go just over half way up - the elevator went to the 124th storey, out of 200. I asked what was up further, they told me offices and telecomunications. And here is the view, and I will stop complaining very soon. Just one more.

You see the problem with Dubai and the heat is that it is hazy, so on this particular day (as with most days) there is no horizon and nothing is clear. It looks sort of clear here but only because you don't know any better. And the view like this, with little open windows to poke your camera out of, was only around half of the building. The other was all glass, and facing into the setting sun so there was not chance of a photo. But there was less to see on that side at least. Still. The point is that in a country like this don't expect so much from the view. Then the day before I left, the temperature dropped a few degrees and suddenly everything was so much clearer. Just as I was leaving. But there you go.

Below is the view from the tower, the towers you see are not even the bulk if the city, just one of the many new tower-filled suburbs that is being built, and all the stuff close to the ground are villas. And at the bottom of the picture you can see the overpass with all the exits and entries onto the main road.

10 October 2010

Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace

Yesterday evening we visited the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, built as a monument to Baba Zayed, the sheikh that pulled the country out of the desert and into the western world. And it is so huge, just goes to show what can be done with oil money. It is rather beautiful, very large and smooth and white, and very different to cathedrals. Which is why there now follows a whole pile of images, because I just couldn't choose.









So there you have a brief glimpse of the mosque. To go in we had to put on the black abaya and a headscarf. My headscarf kept slipping off. And the abaya is so long, you have to lift it as you walk. No wonder the ladies here wear such ridiculously high heels.

Today first we visited the heritage village in Abu Dhabi. I have been before and it was very hot. Still, not bad. The museum was interesting, it had authentic clothing from before the westernisation began, old jewellery, and photos of the city and people back when it was still small and nomadic.


And there were ducks.


There were a couple of cute cats too but I didn't include photos of those, I probably put enough cat pictures up here. Next stop was a brief visit to the marina mall, where it turns out their stimulated thunder storm is under maintainence. So no thunderstorm today. Instead it was on to the Palace hotel, where we intended to have afternoon tea. This is apparently a 7-star hotel but it's hard to be sure if that is correct. The inside was not really what I expected, it was very marble and golden and sofly lit. I expected more colour and sumptuousness.


The Palace is aimed entirely at very rich people. It houses the world's first gold vending machine, where for cash you can purchase bars of solid 24 carat gold.


Understandable we decided that 'an unforgettable high tea experience' was just a bit too pricey. Sure it would be unforgettable, but it is just afternoon tea, scones and cakes and such. 40 Euro for afternoon tea! That's like 80 NZ dollars. And I have heard that there are places where afternoon tea will cost you a lot more than that but on this occassion at least 40 euro is way past my budget for afternoon tea.


So instead it was off down to the corniche (waterfront) for an ice-cream and finally back to the bus stop to come back to Dubai. Which took for-freaking-ever. Not only is public transport slow but Dubai is crazy big and the traffic is terrible. Plus it is so hot. Eventually though the trip was over, we were back, here is a photo of the Dubai marina at night and now I intend to spend the rest of the evening on the couch with book, tv and air-conditioning.

08 October 2010

Dubai holiday, still 10 days to go!

It is very different being in Dubai than Abu Dhabi. It is much larger, and not so dirty. The buildings are all tall and shiny, and the roads are mostly brand new. It looks modern, more than modern sometimes, futuristic even. The stations for the new Metro look like little spaceships. And the tallest tower in the world, I know that it is ridiculously huge but it's not so impressive when they go and build more and more tall buildings around it. But haven't been to that yet so can't really comment.


So far I have been to Atlantis, the water park side at least. It is an experience but a photo cannot really do it justice so I did not try. Instead here is just the building itself, all pretty and pink. My first water park experience was pretty good but so tiring. There were only 7 slides, perhaps that is normal but I thought there would be more. And only one scared the hell out of me, the Leap of Faith. I only had time to do it twice. Basically you got on, lay straight down and crossed your arms over your chest (so as not to break them I assume) and you go shooting down so fast that you can't breath, then it slows up and you go into a tube beneath the shark tank (only small harmless sharks and rays though) but you go so fast you cannot actually see it, and then you are finished, in about 6 seconds. And the water is shooting you down so fast that it feels like the skin is being burnt off of your back - or at least to me that is how it was. I had big red marks on my shoulder blades afterwards. The other rides all were done on an inflatable tube, and they were half in the dark so you couldn't see what was coming. Some of the tubes seated two people which was cool. There were two rivers, one with simulated rapids and another with big waves. The life-guards are in the water every hundred metres or so to keep you on track, they spend all their time splashing the guests - they need something to relieve their boredom I am sure. By the end of it I was completely wrecked, I just wanted to sleep. It seems as if there is not enough time in the day or energy in my body to make the most of all the money that you pay for a ticket.


Yesterday we went into the older part of Dubai, the city centre I guess you could say, were the souk is. This is my favourite part of Dubai. The souk spreads over two banks of the Creek, and to get across you jump in a dhow, the water taxi, for only a dirham - that's less than fifty cents NZ money. This ride across the water has always been the best part of the city for me.


At the moment I am staying with Mum in Jumeirah near the new Dubai Marina. It is all very fancy looking, very rich (except for all the construction, that sort of detracts). But you can see that they are clearly trying to compete with what you see of American cities on the tele. It is all about image, all the towers have interesting shapes. It can make for a good photo but is surely needless, there is not the population here to fill these buildings but they just keep going. It is not a case of more space is needed so they must build, they just begin building and hope that the people will come.


Today was brunch, and I am still so full that I can barely move. It was good, it is a very European thing to have this big fancy brunch, but it is not really worth the money. You just can't fit so much food in you and then you feel sick. I would rather a small nice meal. The cupcakes were cute but I did not eat any, who wants a cupcake when there is cheesecake and strawberries.


It is really bloody hot here, even now it is dark outside and being inside a cafe, on the internet, with air-conditioning, I look outside and expect a cool evening. But no, as soon as I leave there will be a rush of hot wet air and I will be uncomfortable again. I guess I will have to spend more time in the malls. Still have to go up the tallest tower in the world, go to the mosque, go on safari, and go shopping!

05 October 2010

Dubai

Here I am in Dubai and it is so freaking hot! Currently I am staying with Mum in this apartment complex that you can see here. It is so fancy, it's like a hotel, with expensive shops and pools everywhere.


The beach is right next to us, but unfortunately the water is so warm that it is not at all refreshing. Not only that but as soon as I got in a jellyfish stung me! How unfair is that! It was not too hot because it was the end of the day when I was at the beach but still way too warm.


Out in the water were parasailers. I would love to have the money to do that but on this trip at least I do not.


Instead I am spending my money on going to Atlantis, the waterpark! My first theme park. You can't see it in the photo below, it is too hazy, just a shadow. The problem with the heat is that the air is very hazy so photos are not at all clear. Not like at Christmas time. It is nice that it is warmer than it was then, but it is too hot now. All it takes is five minutes out in the sun and it is time to go back in.


Now I will go and continue to sulk about my jellyfish sting. Tomorrow Atlantis, and on Friday a brunch, on Saturday maybe the big fancy mosque, and sometime next week the Burj Dubai, tallest tower in the world (and next to it Dubai mall, biggest mall in the world!).

02 October 2010

Goodbye Rain

So, today I am leaving rainy Ireland for Dubai, sand and sunshine. And only just in time too. Yesterday morning I was walking to university, it was fine when I set out and mostly fine when I arrived. But in between! I was halfway across the bridge when suddenly the sky opened up and poured down buckets on me! Within all of 5 seconds I was absolutely saturated, before I even made it off of the bridge. And it is not like there is anywhere to shelter on a bridge. So I got soaked. And it really pissed me off. If only I had left a day earlier. Then what would you know but the same came out, just to tease me. But today I am leaving!

I am right now sitting in Dublin airport and in 10 minutes I will go to the boarding gate. While in the bus here it rained more cats and dogs. But I could think to myself ha-ha, I am leaving this miserable weather. There is internet on the bus amazingly enough (or at least it seems amazing to a kiwi like me) and everything works perfectly fine, except for the blog site. Now I am at the airport and I have free internet even though it is supposedly not free anymore, and everything works, except blogger. What's up with that? But it doesn't matter, because I am on holiday! Work has been terrible lately and for the next two weeks I will do my best to not think of it at all. Except for the not-really-work parts, like organising the Halloween and Christmas parties. I will finally have some more interesting stories and photos for you all.

Now I must get to the gate so I will quickly finish my hot chocolate (from Butler's Chocolate Cafe, and it is really delicious, but terribly overpriced – 3.20 Euro, that's like 6 NZ dollars! And the muffin was only average). In ten and a half hours I will be in Dubai, and it will be hot. Yaaay!