Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dubai, Part I

It's gorgeous in Dubai! Even though it's technically winter, every day is 75-80 degrees and sunny. Yesterday, for our first day in the city we checked out the huge Mall of Emirates, the largest shopping center outside of the United States. It has over 450 stores and also houses Ski Dubai, the indoor ski place.

In the afternoon, we went to a hookah bar and smoked some shisha in true Middle Eastern style.
Dinner was sushi (my favorite!) at the Medinat Jumeira souk. Souks are traditional marketplaces that sell everything under the sun - pashminas, textiles, jewelry, spices, trinkets and more. The Medinat souk is a fake souk - it's very new and overpriced.

After dinner we went to a Cuban bar - Malecon - in Dubai Marine Club for drinks and a bit of dancing.

Today we shopped at the gold and spice souks in the morning which was amazing. Each of us bought a jewelry souvenir at the souk. I bought a pretty sparkly white gold bracelet, Ariane got a white gold chain and Eva got an ornate gold link necklace (more pictures of that later!).


Here I am having a sample of dried and salted shrimp. It felt a bit like Fear Factor, reaching into a bin of shrimp and eating one whole...sanitary I'm sure!

Some old men enjoying the Dubai sun:

The afternoon was spent at Jumeria beach, sunning ourselves and hanging out with the AIESECers we're staying with.

And having a bit of a photo shoot:

And yes, we did wear our bikinis at the beach, but it was a bit windy towards the end so we put our overclothes back on!

I'm loving Dubai and experiencing this completely different culture, although Ariane keeps reminding me that I'm in for even more culture shock in Qatar, which is a much stricter Muslim country.

That's all for now, we're off to dinner at a really fabulous traditional Arab restaurant tonight!

Also, I've noticed it takes a day or two for my posts to show up on my blog for some reason. Very odd. Also the government blocks parts of the internet here due to its content being "inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

We've Arrived!

Everything went smoothly, Eva, Ariane, and I are all safely in Dubai! We got picked up at the airport by Ariane's friends, and whisked away to the flat we'll be staying in in Bur Dubai.

The flights weren't bad, I actually ended up sleeping more than I expected. The most exciting thing that happened was when we opened our necessities package in our plane seat on British Airlines. We got a sleep mask, socks, headphones, and.......this:

After a bit of discussion, I was convinced it was a feminine product, but Eva argued that it was a flashlight, due to what seemed to be a twisty thing on the end. Can you guess who was right?

It actually turned out to be a toothbrush! Who knew? Much more practical than either of our guesses!
That's all for now, it's 10 hours ahead of Wisconsin time here, which makes it almost 3 am. We're headed to bed and have big plans to enjoy all that Dubai has to offer in the next few days!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Another adventure!!

Tomorrow I'm off on my biggest adventure to date! Miss Eva and I are headed to the Middle East for three weeks! We fly from Chicago to London tomorrow night and then Thursday from London to Dubai. All in all we'll be spending 16+ hours on a plane and be traveling for over 24 hours total. We get in to Dubai at 11:30pm on Thursday where we will be meeting Ariane - she gets in about an hour before us.

The rough itinerary is as follows:
Dec. 27-28: Chicago-London-Dubai
Dec. 28- Jan. 2:Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Jan. 2-5: Doha, Qatar

Jan. 5-7: Alexandria, Egypt
Jan. 8-9: Aswan, Egypt
Jan. 10-11: Luxor, Egypt
Jan. 12-16: Cairo, Egypt

Jan. 16: Cairo-London-Chicago (Isn't it crazy that we leave Cairo at 8:30 in the morning and get in to Chicago at 3:30pm the same day!)
I'm so excited for the three of us to be reunited again!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

SLC Baby!

I just spent the last five days on a roadtrip/adventure with Eva! I flew one-way out to Salt Lake City and we drove her new car back to Madison. I was SO happy to finally see Eva again...hooray. We hung out in Salt Lake for two days - shopping, seeing the sights, and of course, learning more about converting to Mormonism (which I've been informed is actually not a word). Eva and I took a tour of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) Temple Square. You aren't actually allowed in the temple unless you're a real Mormon, but for the sinners, we can take a tour of the outside and listen to a propaganda-heavy schpeel on what the church can do for you.

We picked a great day to visit. Many very young couples were getting "sealed" on Friday. I counted at least eight walking around the square while we were there. Instead of a traditional wedding ceremony, Mormons get sealed to their partners to guarantee that they will be together in this life and the next, instead of "'til death do us part" like many other religions. It was crazy - most of the couples were younger than Eva and I and there seemed to be an alarming pattern of gorgeous girls getting sealed to fairly dopey looking guys - where are all the hot boy Mormons?

In this picture you can see three couples:

Back to the tour - it was really interesting and we were guided by two girls about our age, one from Sweden and one from Australia, who had left everything to come to SLC for 18 months to do missionary service. I could tell their faith was really important to them, but I can't imagine leaving my family and friends for 18 months to come to a strange place. I can't get over how happy all the Mormons seem. I'm an atheist, so I'm pretty skeptical about organized religion, but everyone seems to have to much conviction in their beliefs - it was quite something.

One thing I learned that I thought was interesting was that Mormons don't watch their children very closely because they believe that "God is Watching Them." This of course is non-Mormon gossip, but it seemed to be true in the case of this fountain playground by one of the malls:

On Saturday, we headed to Casper, Wyoming (in Eva's sexy new car of course!)
to visit Aaron, a friend of ours who graduated and got a job as a meteorologist. Visiting him was great fun because he took us on a tour of his NBC news station and we got to pretend to be reporters and play with the green screen. I felt like a fourth grader on a field trip!
These faces are made for TV!!!

The rest of the drive back was pretty uneventful. It was good to be home and even better to have Eva back full time!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The road home

For my last night, Frederico, Genarro and I went out for dinner at a really nice Chinese restaurant and then for a few drinks at a Latin bar. We managed to stay up almost until my cab came to take me to the airport at 5am. I made it to the airport with no problems, and even managed to check three bags that weighed more than 20 kilos over the weight limit with no problem.

The last week of my stay has surpassed my wildest expectations. I had lovely time at "Hotel Palma" in Rome, the boys took such good care of me and showed me a side of Rome that tourists don't get to see. I completely fell in love with Rome and all of its excitement and culture. Florence was also completely lovely. I'm a lucky girl to be able to travel alone and make friends all over the world.

Now I'm home, safe and sound, and life is returning to normal. Alex and I went grocery shopping last night. The kitchen needed to be completely restocked and the bill was quite outrageous! I've missed cooking, so we'll be eating like kings as I make up for lost time.

I hope you all enjoyed following me on this adventure. Ciao, ciao for this time!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Florence, Days 19-20

I just had a whirlwind visit to Florence. David and I caught an early train Monday and spent the day seeing the city and doing a bit of shopping. I found a fabulous dress to wear for dinner at MaxMara, as I had to look sharp for our dinner that night at the restaurant, Rossini. It was a really nice place right on the river. It was a Michelin-rated restaurant and we had a nice, relaxed dinner.

Because everything museum-wise is closed on Mondays, I stayed until the afternoon on Tuesday to give us time to see The David at the Academia as well as the Uffizi Gallery. It was such a fabulous way to end my trip!

Here are some highlights from the trip:

The view from the hotel balcony:

Enjoying a glass of wine from the hotel balcony:

Looking spiffy for dinner:
Dinner at Rossini:

Catching a bite at the Cavalli Cafe:

A new friend, Caron, the manager at MaxMara:

Enjoying the sun:

A Tiramisu to end all others:

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Rome, Day 18

I got blessed by the Pope this morning. Even though I'm just a bit skeptical of the whole religion thing, I figured it couldn't hurt! The Pope does a blessing of the crowd at the Vatican every Sunday at noon. It was very rainy, so the crowd was full of people with colored umbrellas. After the blessing, I saw St. Peter's Cathedral, which is what the Pope stands in front in the pictures below.

On the way to the Vatican, I saw this colorful scene. Possibly she had escaped from a traveling circus?

The crowd was full of umbrellas:
If you click on this picture to enlarge it, you can see the Pope in yellow in the center. He's also on the large screen to the right:
A procession in St. Peter's:

Michelangelo's Pieta:

St. Peter's:

For dinner, David, the photographer, and I had sushi for dinner. I'd been craving sushi, so it hit the spot!

Frederico met us in the center after dinner: