Sunday, 19 December 2010

Snow, really

I might not have blogged it, but life in the desert seems to have been getting a bit samey. Not that we haven't had some interesting times since early this year - some overdue posts are in the pipe. Oh; you hadn't noticed the lack of. Tell me you had...

But first, time to escape the balmy Gulf winter (17deg at night, just right for comfortable barbies up on the roof; 25 daytime, ideal for even me to put in some time on the mountain bike I have finally bought) and head for the honest refreshing chill of a UK Christmas. No kidding, it all looked like this,


so here we are (2 days so far), waiting out the near-total closure of Britain. Where better than the Crowne Plaza in historic Wiesbaden (Frankfurt 32km), courtesy of Gulf Air, a snowball's throw from the Christmas Festival in the Marktplatz.

Ornate carousels, many more exquisite seasonal nicknack stalls than you've ever shaken a stick at,

which we may have to go back and raid,

and state-of-art gluhwein.

So, before this laptop runs out of power, and in case we don't make it to Wales in time, here's a Jolly Merry Xmas from her


and from me.


Much more to come, in the new year or, inshallah, even sooner.

Hope you all have good one wherever you are.



Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A person's fortune in the first is always the most profound, and sometimes even people's heart forever into the insulation.

Hullo from Kerala, we finally made it here - "Hero Honda, Dhak Dhak, Go!"

I was going to title this post with this instantly obsessive slogan, but the above (a comment in chinese characters left on the previous post by an unknown whose profile links to Slag: identity theft on top of home invasion is a bit off - please desist) captures the variegated je ne sais quoi of the last month even better, somehow.

Some have suggested making these posts smaller - hard for me, with the usual backlog of pix to commentarise, but the constraints of a full hard disk and using the WiFi at Cafe Del Mar on the cliff at Varkala will help, this time at least. Soon we will be back home with nothing but Al Ain routine for 5 months and I will address editing down the photo file and making good on new year resolutions to develop new communication habits, even social sites perhaps.

Meanwhile here are some quickly-selected fotos from the shortlist I have had room to download from the cameras, covering some highlights of a whirlwind month. Some of these episodes are sure to be expanded on later.

The flight to NZ on the A380 wasn't really that much less cramped than on the older airliners we were used to, but totally worth it for a week of catching up, especially with Rua and Jill at Ed and Rachel's house and finally getting the long-wished-for shot of all four grandkids at once

and their parents.

And of course Catrin and Nathan's wedding in Nelson

video

where we just about took over the splendid Monaco hotel

with appropriate celebrations.

Then all too soon we were back in the UAE, with side trips to the vast Dubai Mall (featuring wall-to-wall aquarium,

an equally stunning and vast - 200 shops - Gold Souq,

a 3-storey promise of more shopping Meccas

and sneaky views of the newest-and-tallest wonder, the Burj Khalifa. Even though the "At the Top" observation deck is only on the 125th of 180 floors, we will no doubt soon scrape up the $50 to book a trip up and, report further.

Surely no less impressive is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, where we went the very next day.

Ange and Joss donned the obligatory abayas,

we took off our shoes with 1000 others

and boggled

at the grandeur

and the detail.




A salutary contrast with our first look at India - a day in the hurlyburly of downtown Chennai

- not least, a crash course in the essential use of the motor horn

and the real meaning of poverty.

Chennai Central station was an education too (not to mention the train - 3-tier overnight sleeper, but at least it was aircond).
.
Not that the heat has abated any since arriving in Varkala, but hey, we're at the beach!

Surf swims every day,

tons of clifftop tourist shopping (and tourists of the more laid-back variety)

and basic facilities, but superbe hospitality francaise (and local cuisine) at La Maison de Varkala, one minute's walk back from the cliff.

And cruisy evenings under the thatch

with a well-known blogger (and his lovely lady, who escaped this lot of photos but will yet be seen).

Barns and Emily have looked after us really well, including making us honoured guests at a sumptuous wedding feast and ceremony with their landlord's family - a quite special experience.



q Later that day our tuk-tuk driver took us on an hour's ride

to Kollam to witness a colourful (and deafening) elephant festival - again, not to be missed.


Then a few quiet days enjoying the atmosphere and not getting used to the heat, then on sunday we are off on the also not-to-be-missed backwaters houseboat trip. Then the train back to Chennai and home to Al Ain. So bye for now from us and the elephant dancers.

video