Destination Rome

As a kid our house was under what I assume was/is the flight path for Heathrow and I used to look up with envy at all the planes going overhead and wishing that I was on one of them. I hadn’t given any thought to where I wanted to go to or even cared too much who I went with, but I remember pestering my Mum and Dad to take me on an airplane and the sooner being the better. The closest I had ever been was a trip to Duxford airfield where we got to sit in Concorde and although it was, and still is, one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, I remember thinking how cramped it was and that I couldn’t understand why this was regarded as the best plane ever. Then the great day came when my parents told me that my dreams were being answered and that we were soon to fly to Rome and at that moment the countdown to my first flight began. I can remember that when the day arrived my dad put his best jacket and tie on and my mum wore a smart new dress as even though it was only 30 odd years ago, it was then considered the done thing to dress up smartly before flying. The fact that flying used to have its own dress code seems strange in this budget airline world that we now live in, but stranger still was the fact that once we were airborne my dad lit up a cigarette. And now every time I fly and I see the no smoking signs it reminds of those days. Don’t get me wrong going on holidays with mum and dad was great and we had really great times but having the freedom to chose where and when you go, along with the places to visit when you get there is infinitely better and so with 30 years having elapsed since that first visit to Rome, the time had come to go again. Those semi halcyon days of air travel have now been replaced by the large scale,industrial process of the mass transportation of humans in a style that make the sheep involved in live animal exports look well catered for. From the moment of being herded into the coaches to get from the car park to the terminal, to the funnelling into the security section,and then on to the holding pen of airside, it’s become nothing more than a highly organised and impersonal filtration system before finally getting wedged into an aircraft which is staffed by crews that have spent months in training learning how to operate a seatbelt and how to maintain a stepford wives style smile. Having said all of that, I actually love the whole excitement of travelling and would love to do it more and more.


So with the mass transit system having spewed us out at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, we quickly found a coach to take us to the city centre for €5 and went on to enjoy being driven around one of the worlds most car dense cities,by a driver who had clearly watched two many Jason Statham movies. We shot through junctions when the lights were on red, sent pedestrians scrambling as we went over zebra crossings and caused scooter riders to swerve as we sped our way through to the main train terminal in the city centre, only to end up being upstaged by a pair of nuns driving a mini bus at the same speed in the opposite direction. We therefore arrived in the city centre a little bewildered and now totally reliant on the apps we had downloaded to guide us to our hotel. I had downloaded the Ulman Rome travel app before leaving which not only offers offline mapping but also acts as a guide book to all the usual tourist sights and although I found the mapping was a little slow to load it certainly does it’s job well. We found our way to the hotel where the guy on reception gave us another map followed by a detailed explanation of how best to get around the city which by all accounts would be on foot. And so with all the information at our disposal and a whole city in front of us to visit we went to get lunch followed by chilling out in our room.


Our hotel was ok without being anything special but it was also located just outside of the city centre with all of the places we wanted to visit being quite a distance away and annoyingly the metro station was about a miles walk away in the opposite direction, so as this was our first day and with money preservation being a top priority we decided to walk to the Trevi fountains which judging by the map was about 1km away. It was at the fountains that we first came across two of the most annoying aspects of this city, the first being other tourists and the second being the seemingly unending supply of looky looky men coming up trying to sell umbrellas. Having previously holidayed in Luxor I’ve become adept at ignoring these pests but Rome’s ones are especially tenacious. Standing at the fountains holding an umbrella wasn’t enough to deter one particular guy who came up to me and said “umbrella?” When I pointed out that I already had one he then said ” have another one?” When I told him to go away he did but only to return 2 minutes later clutching a load of multi coloured poncho’s instead. Assuming he didn’t know any English I gestured to him to go away only for him to appear yet again offering to take my photo! The fountains at Trevi are indeed beautiful and we did the traditional act of tossing a coin over our shoulders in the hope that the superstition would come true and we would one day return.


From the fountains we made our way to the Spanish steps which were just a short walk away where we were greeted by more looky looky men and yet more annoying tourists managing to photo bomb every picture we took. Ranking very highly in my all time list of top 10 holiday aggravations are moronic idiots who walk across your subject matter just at the point of pressing the shutter button. There should be a law passed where it becomes perfectly legal to chase these A holes down and kick them in the balls. I came home with 200 photos on this trip and must have deleted the same amount where I’d managed to capture the precise moment when some idiot had wandered in front of me picking his nose or scratching his bum. After we managed to get some nice pictures we decided it was time to eat. Now one of the things we were worried about before travelling was the reputation that Rome has for being an expensive place to eat and drink in, but the reality proved to be different. Sure, if you really want a beer or a glass of wine with dinner it will set you back between €6 and €10 depending on where you eat but we had lasagne and pizza with a soft drink each and spend less than €20. Later in the trip we found an Irish bar where we had a few Guinness’s as well as food and spent less than €25. After eating we made our way back to the hotel which was about 2 miles away and I won’t lie, my feet were beginning to ache after a day on the move and every single uphill step was a nightmare.


Day 2 saw us make the first visit of the trip to the colosseum. The memories I have of this place 30 years ago were that it was in the middle of a roundabout and that there were very few people around when I went in and I don’t even remember going in with anybody else. I remember standing at the viewing point looking at the ruins in front of me looking down into what were the cells where the prisoners were held before being thrown to the lions in front of the 50,000 strong crowd. I remember seeing cats roaming free and there being an overwhelming sense of what this place use to be. I think it must have been the first time I’d been somewhere that I’d learned about at school and subsequently visited, that had struck a chord with me. I remember standing there for what felt like ages while my childhood imagination saw all the seats full of people and all the action in the middle of the arena in what is now a ruined stadium, as well as hearing all the noises and sensing the atmosphere that would once have been so overwhelming. 30 years later I’m standing on the very same spot as I did then and although that youthful imagination has long gone, the same senses are still present. Few football stadiums in the the UK are able to hold the quantity of people that this place did and even though the colosseum has been standing there for the best part of 2000 years, it still has as much atmosphere as the Bernabau or Anfield. I’m lucky enough to have stood at the foot at the Pyramids of Giza but where as just out of view of the pyramids,where the idiot Egyptians have built a Pizza Hut and KFC, the good folk of Rome have almost de-comercialised their historical sites and I commend them thoroughly for having done so. Not only that, but entry to this place is a mere €12 which is about £10/$16 which is a refreshing change to some of the rip off lunatic prices that exist elsewhere in the world.For example it’s half the price of entry to the Tower of London and the same price as entry to the worlds dullest tourist spot which is Stonehenge. It’s worth coming to Rome just to come to the colosseum. If you’re in two minds then don’t be. Just do it.


Last on the list of places to go was St.Peters which Like St.Paul’s in London is the defining image of this city. Presented with a half mile long queue to get inside the basilica, we needed to persuade each other to join it and with virtually every second of deliberation the line got longer and longer and so we decided to join it and see how long it took. Luckily it passed quite quickly and before long we were paying the €7 to get the lift up to the top. Yes that’s right the lift. And yes that’s right just the £5 or so required here compared to the £15 needed to visit St.Paul’s in London.In the time it took to climb the final 300 steps to the top of the dome the weather had closed in and it was pouring with rain when we got there but that soon passed and we got an amazing view out over this fabulous city. After going down the same narrow winding spiral staircase back to the ground level it was a nice surprise to find that our entry ticket allowed us to gain access to the church itself so we were able to mingle with the visitors and pilgrims who were also here to soak up the atmosphere. And what an atmosphere it is too. There is a quiet serenity about the whole place, from the outside of the church in the queue to the viewing gantry both in and outside as well as the dome itself, all the visitors conduct themselves appropriately and afford the place the solemnity that is deserves. Having been raised in a catholic household many of the names inscribed on the many tombs are familiar and this gives the history of the place a great deal more meaning than it would do somebody that wasn’t aware of many of the significant items in front of them.


Our recent trips have all been very different in so far as all the destinations have had something new to offer, for example Dubai was ultra modern and futuristic while Paris was a day trip tagged on to a gig we went to,but Rome was the first city break we have done since Budapest 18 months ago. I’m a massive fan of the city break as it gives us the chance to fly in, see it, photograph it and fly out while getting a taste for perhaps a longer trip at a later time, and Rome is the first of these places that could well do the job of providing a base for a longer trip. While the metro in Rome is pretty rubbish at linking up the tourist trail it does seem possible to use the termini train station to easily link up other destinations such as Naples, Pompeii and Pisa so it would be possible to go back there and travel further afield while using it as a base for those travels. The bits of Rome that I have seen suggest that it is a city that is selling itself on its past historical importance which is by no means a bad thing as from experience some cities try to be all things to all people and end up failing to deliver. There doesn’t seem to be a modern new city being built alongside the ancient one which has preserved the importance of the old one for all to see and soak up. Despite its reputation for being expensive we found that actually it has been one of the cheaper breaks that we have done as when we returned to Gatwick we still had a third of our spending money on us needing to be changed back to sterling. We saw no seedy underbelly to this city and other than the annoying looky looky men, we got no agro from anybody and in fact far from it, all the Romans we encountered on our trip were welcoming, helpful and keen to allow us to make the most of our time there. I hope that the myth of throwing the coin into the Trevi fountains does come true as I would love the chance of going back there one day and would have no issue if it were sooner rather than later. So far this year we have managed to get some time away in Amsterdam, Paris, Edinburgh and we still have a trip to Barcelona to come which does lead some people to ask how we do it and afford it but like I’ve said to them, for less than the price of a family day pass to Chessington we have been able to travel, experience new things and have something to tell people about, so roll on Barcelona and if you have any doubts about going to Rome… Don’t. I loved it and you will too.


Destination Paris


Having the chance to explore Paris without having to get up before the crack of dawn is something that I’ve not had the chance to do before so when we arrived on the champs élysées at breakfast time on Wednesday without feeling like it should really be bedtime, the first thing to do was to have some petit dejeuner. All of this was happening because of my desire to follow my favourite band Iron Maiden on a small part of their European summer tour but this trip was to be split into two very distinct parts with all things maiden related taking place on the Wednesday, before a more gentle paced stroll around the city on Thursday before the last flight home later in the day. I’ve only been to Paris on two previous occasions the first of which was as a kid with my folks, and again just about eighteen months ago on one of our crazy day away trips but this time we would be able to spend a little bit more time seeing this city in a bit more detail. Sitting on the champs élysées at rush hour is a bit like sitting on the hard shoulder of the M25 as the quantity of traffic going past is huge and relentless and any attempt to get a half decent photo of either the road itself or the arc de triumphe at the top is utterly pointless unless you want the picture to have either a truck, coach or lorry in it as well. And even if none of these things are present you can bet your bottom dollar that another tourist will step in front of you the moment that you press the shutter button anyway. On our previous trip I made the mistake of thinking that the best way to walk to the Eiffel tower was to take the scenic route, which whilst being a very lovely walk was also the longest walk in the world ever and one that the French foreign legion themselves would have mutinied over if they had done the same trip, so this time before setting off I downloaded a map which turned a 3hour walk into a 30 minute one which was far more satisfactory.


Although the object of our attention was indeed the Eiffel tower, it was more the view of it that I was interested in as opposed to going to the tower itself. I had read before we left home that by far and away the best view of it was from the Trocadero and along the way we began to see why. The towers world famous top begins to appear, looming over the tops of all the apartment blocks and quaint little squares as we get closer to it and despite all the usual pictures you see being of an unimpeded view, I really liked the partial views of the tower that this walk offered us and got some really good photos as a result. Then as we walked round the corner of the trocadero we saw why this is regarded as such a great place to go to. A bit like the first time I turned to my right and saw Time square in New York and had by breath taken away, the view of one of the worlds most iconic buildings in its full, unimpeded glory is really such a special sight, so we decided to stop here for a little while, take in the view and take on some water too as the temperature was beginning to get up. One of the other really nice things about being here at this time was that the crowds weren’t to big and we were able to take some great photos and even had people coming up to us asking if they could take ours too. It was all very civilised indeed and even the looky looky men were not to persistent in trying to sell their €1 replicas of the tower and went away when asked to. The remaining part of our first day was spent getting prepared for the concert at the end of the day but the following day we had some new places to check out.


Paris has an image of being a romantic city and I’m sure that one day if they ever get rid of the persistent smell of toilets, this reputation could be even more enhanced. This aside, one of the things that Cally wanted to see was lovers bridge, a bridge that links the Louvre and the Ponts des art on the other side of the river Seine. If there were no other reason to go here other than the view from this bridge, it would still be worth going as you can see many of Paris’s most famous landmarks from here. But what this bridge has become famous for are the padlocks secured to the chain fence that runs along both sides. It seems that what a couple in love are expected to do is to buy a padlock and write their names on it and then lock it on to the fence and in a symbol of never ending love, simultaneously throw the keys into the river thus ensuring their love will remain locked forever. So we did. I’m not normally into this kind of stuff but it was certainly an impressive sight, seeing what was probably in excess of a million of these tokens of love there for all the world to see. I did read that the local government had them taken down and cleared a few years ago but the people of France are not normally ones to take bowing down to authority lightly and they quickly started re appearing soon after. We put ours close down to the ground in what we hope will help prevent them being vandalised as many of the others appear to have been. We also chose to put the date of our engagement on ours.


So with only a few hours left before we needed to head to the airport for our flight home, we decided that we didn’t want to head up to Montmartre like we had planned to as our feet had pretty much had enough of the constant travelling, so instead we went to the louvre and spent a few hours there taking in the atmosphere and sitting in the shade after having been in the sun all day. Whether we were just lucky or whether it was just a quiet day, I don’t know but all of Paris seemed quieter that I remember it having been in the past and the Louvre was no different. Sure it was impossible to take a photo of something nice without getting a fellow tourist in the shot as well, but by and large it was a very chilled out hour or two as we spent it just resting our feet and watching the world go by. We also decided that before we headed home we needed to get some food and drink and we therefore walked round the corner to a nearby cafe. Maybe it was because I was wearing my maiden T-shirt or maybe it was because the waiter was in a mood,but he virtually ignored us all the time we were sitting there waiting to order but in a way I’m glad he did, as a quick glance at the menu showed that to eat there we would be paying €20 for a sandwich and €9 for a beer. So when he was inside and before he could comeback and take our order, we legged it over the road to a mini mart and bought beer and snacks for a total of €11 and sat in the town square eating them, enjoying our unplanned picnic in in the open air and just a few hundred feet from the hotel de louvre, one of Paris’s most up market eateries.

Sadly though, the time had come to start making our way back to the airport and back home. I can’t say that I have exactly fallen in love with Paris but I do like it,and like it enough to keep an open mind about going back one day, but there are other places that I’d like to see first before doing so. Like many major capital cities, it’s eye wateringly expensive if you want to enjoy it to the max but equally if you want to do it on a budget then you can still have a good time. There is an air of elegance about it in both it’s architecture and indeed it’s inhabitants seem to be fully dressed in top designer clothes. The food lived up to it’s reputation with even it’s burgers tasting better than they do at home but someone needs to go over there and show them how to make a proper coffee because they sure as hell don’t. I only ordered the one while we were there and it arrived in what looked like a thimble with a handle on in, worse still was my decision to put two sugar cubes in it turning it into some kind of syrupy black liquid. What I will concede though is that this is not just the best drink to have in order to overcome a minor hangover,it is also the best thing ever to give you a sudden rush of energy,as after drinking it I wanted to run down the road screaming at pensioners. We achieved all we wanted to do on this trip and will no doubt go back another time, maybe for a more leisurely break but there will be other places on that list before Paris, but in one small corner of this beautifully maintained capital city famed for its romance, is a padlock with mine and Cally’s name on it secured to the bridge of love, hopefully forever.


Destination Edinburgh


In the past,all of our trips and city breaks have been with the express purpose of visiting our chosen destination with a view to perhaps making a longer return trip another time. As I’ve probably said in previous blogs, I do tend to favour the city break more than a longer trip as I find that my low boredom threshold makes me restless to find new sights and experience new things. As a result of this, our weekends away and mini breaks have tended to be a fairly intense burst of activity over a 3 day period where we turn up, see it all, photograph everything and then dash back home to go back to work the following day. Of all the places I have been lucky enough to travel to,there are very few places in the world that I would consider making a return trip to as, nice as they are, the world is choc-a-bloc full of amazing places to go to. So far the only place that we have managed to find the desire to go back to is the four seasons hotel in Canary wharf London,where we have a room that overlooks the Thames and the skyline of London,now dominated by the shard. Sure, someday I’d love to go back to New York and maybe even back to the pyramids in Giza but for now I’m focused on new sights and new destinations. So late last year we booked a trip to Edinburgh this time with the express purpose of going to see the comedian Micky Flanagan, or Michael Flatley as Cally’s mum calls him. It also coincided nicely with with Callys birthday. With Edinburgh being over 400 miles away we of course looked for cheap flights as well as the train but as its still the Easter school holidays they were way too expensive, so in the end we decided on our 2nd road trip of the year. Unlike the last road trip though,this one was not going to be a one day round trip as we would be incorporating a 2 night stop over.


At the last minute, and with bit of trepidation given that it was so cheap, we reserved an apartment in a complex run by a company called Fountain court apartments who seem to own many apartments within the city, and when we eventually arrived after an 8 and a half hour road trip we didn’t really seem to care what it was like so long as we could get out of the car and have a shower. After a relatively quick check in we got the keys to our place and went inside and were, quite frankly, a little taken aback by what we saw. For £80 a night ( less than the premier inn) we had a modern, warm, fully furnished apartment with our own kitchen and with every appliance necessary to have a peaceful and relaxed time. Bargain! The apartment block this was situated in was in a gated community so we felt safe and secure and despite it being situated on a main arterial road the noise levels were not an issue. We had read on trip adviser that this road was a “major issue” but then again the world is full of mony whining knobs and we found it to be no issue whatsoever. So for less money than a fairly ordinary premier inn room, we could come and go in privacy, have our own kitchen facilities and feel completely at home. If you ever go to this part of the world and don’t use Fountain court apartments, then in my opinion, you are missing out.


After a wash and a slob out on the sofa we went out for dinner. We found a restaurant/bar called Ryan’s bar on the web before heading out and chose it partly because it wasn’t too poncey (we’re just not that type) and partly because it was within walking distance, which meant that even when taking into account one of Cally’s famous “shortcuts”, we could make it within 15 minutes. Now, it does seem as though all of the centre of Edinburgh is under construction at the moment but after we navigated our way through the roadworks we got to Ryan’s and despite not having booked,and the fact that they were busy,we were accommodated quickly and sat downstairs in the basement restaurant where I had one of the best dinners I’ve ever had. I had haggis for starters which was simply devine,and a mid sized steak for mains which was cooked perfectly and served with the best red wine sauce I’ve ever had. We had drinks as well of course and our waitress looked after us impeccably but the best bit was still to come as the restaurant has a deal in place with Fountain court where you get 20%off your bill, so despite having the best meal I’ve had in ages,I spent less than when I last went to TGI Friday. Unbeknown to Cally,I had an ulterior motive for going out to dinner that night. For sometime I had been planning to pop the question and ask her to marry me. Now I had planned to do this on new years eve last year but she had inadvertently talked me out of it, and I had taken a ring to Amsterdam a few months ago but again without knowing,she had made some comments that had made me apprehensive about asking the question, not because I didn’t think she would say yes but for reasons that we’ll chose to keep to ourselves I didn’t ask. But on this night in this basement restaurant, with a pianist playing in the corner and a glass or two of wine inside us both, the time was right to ask the question. I didn’t just want to drop to one knee out of the blue so I had decided that I would ask her if she would like one of her presents early. Knowing that she would say yes meant that this was a sure fire way of setting the scene and getting the required result. So after we had eaten our main course and were enjoying this lovely place I said to her ” would you like one of your presents a little early”?… She thought about it for a second or so, and said….. “no, I’ll wait till the morning”



So day two dawned and whilst it wasn’t exactly a now or never situation, I knew that my moment was upon me. I gave her a “starter” present of some perfume which she loved and then I got her birthday card out and gave it to her. I had bought her a card with “to my fiancée” on the front so that while she was looking at that and looking a little perplexed, I had the ring out of my bag and sat there with it’s box open while she came to terms with the words. Then as she put the card down she saw the ring. At that moment I saw her go through about 5 different emotions starting with confusion,moving to realisation and ending with elation. I didn’t have time to get down on one knee… She simply asked “really”? And worried that I might lose my composure I simply nodded my confirmation.


The next few hours we spent on the phone to friends and family and updating Facebook (of course) whilst receiving messages of congratulations via text and social media. We also decided that we would go out and have a celebratory drink and enjoy our day together before going to explore the city and do what we had come here to do which was to see Micky Flanagan later that night. Now I don’t really know what expectations I had for Edinburgh but I knew it had a famous castle and and that Princes street was the equivalent of Oxford street in London so, armed with the camera, off we went. Unluckily for us though this city has been photo proofed meaning that everything worth looking at has had either a metal fence built around it, a set of traffic lights or road sign erected next to it or has been built on top of a hill meaning that it’s too far away to get a good shot. It brought back memories of being in Dubai and getting frustrated at not being able to get the postcard photo that I wanted. Although, unlike Dubai when I thoroughly pissed of my (now) fiancée, this time I gave up and went to the pub and we spent the afternoon in a variety of bars before heading down the the Edinburgh playhouse for the evening show.


And a great show it was too. We were expecting some kind of support act but as it turns out he “doesn’t believe in helping new acts, so f**k ’em” and therefore we were treated to a first act which was 40 min long then a longer 60 min act 2, followed by a ten minute encore “on double bubble”. You certainly get a lot of laughs for your money during this show and considering that he is doing this show an average of 5 days a week for virtually 7 months of this year he can’t be accused of being lazy. If you are in two minds as to whether to see this show or not then I strongly urge that you do. So the following morning we set off on our 8 hour trip home and for me, Edinburgh doesn’t contain much worth going back for. Now I realise that this will probably put me in a minority of 1 but it’s just how I see it. Sure the castle looked lovely perched on top of the hill all lit up and I’m sure once all the road works are taken down it will feel less like a building site. Friends had messaged me before I left suggesting places to go and they had clearly had a great time and maybe if we were going to stay there for longer then we might have found more to keep us entertained, but for me it’s not a place I’ll be in a hurry to get back to.

Destination Amsterdam

Whilst I love the airport experience and flying off to new destinations I am what could be described as a fair weather flyer so a few extra fingers were crossed on Thursday morning when both engines on our airbus A319 were put into full thrust to get us off the ground and into 50mph gusts for the short hop over to Amsterdam. So windy was it that as we hurtled down the runway we were being buffeted sideways and when we left the ground, the movement of the aircraft was more akin to being on a boat at sea rather than in the air. A fellow traveller a few rows up found all of this a little too much and was busy filling his sick bag as well as the ones of the people next to him and I must admit that I wasn’t too far away from feeling ill myself. Landing wasn’t a lot calmer either and rarely have I been happier to feel all the wheels on the ground. Soon after this we were taking part in the usual scramble to get our luggage,smiling politely through gritted teeth while some knob gets in the way for the umpteenth time and pushes his rucksack in to my face. This flight was 45 minutes. 45 minutes with mobiles turned off and yet you’d think that it had been a week in solitary confinement for most people as the aircraft was full of the sound of text messages,email and voicemail all being received. The guy next to me has had a full check through Facebook before he’s even got down the steps onto the apron. Schiphol airport strikes me as both enormous and confusing as once into it passengers arriving and departing are all mixed together rather than segregated and it’s a full 15 min walk before passport control and our exit. Like many of our European neighbours the Dutch have built a fast and cheap transit system and for less than €5 we were on a waiting train which took us into the city centre less than 45 minutes after landing. And that’s the first thing that strikes me about this city, it’s so close to home and so easy and cheap to get to and yet the contrast with home couldn’t be greater.


We quickly found a McDonald’s where we could order a coffee and grab a map and decide what to do. We quickly decided that we would visit the Anne Frank museum and did our best to find it on the map before heading off to find a tram to take us there.Even though I already knew the story I didn’t really know what to expect from the museum and from the outside it just looked like a new build exhibition centre but once inside we realised that this had simply been built next door to the house she lived in all those years ago. As we passed from room to room following the story of how she’d had to leave Frankfurt seeking safety away from the Nazi’s, there are videos to watch and excerpts from her diaries written on the wall in both Dutch and English. The tour takes us through the original hinged bookcase that hides the entrance to their “secret annexe” and at that point the whole atmosphere of the place changes. The realisation that 8 people hid for their lives in this labyrinth of hidden rooms for nearly two years simply because of the fact they were Jewish,gives this house a sense of sadness. Seeing the pin ups that Anne herself glued to the walls and photographs from the times showing how the rooms we laid out only makes for the atmosphere to become more subdued. Then we climb a tiny, original and steep staircase to the very room that she was found in by the Nazi’s following an anonymous tip off and in that room are the actual Auswitch records of her, her mum, dad and sister. Prior to today I didn’t know that her father had survived. I also didn’t know that it’s thought that Anne was gassed to death only a few weeks before the allies liberated it. At the same time we were there a group of school children were also doing the tour and being children a few of the more uninterested of them were messing about and being annoying and loud while the rest of us maintained the dignity of the surroundings. Many of us, myself included looked angrily at their teachers for not controlling them properly but actually thinking about it now, given that Anne was forced to exist in virtual silence and not allowed to walk around freely, what this house needs are a few children to run about and make some noise and do the one thing that Anne herself couldn’t. Despite mine and many others disapproving looks towards the kids, maybe Anne herself would have loved it. I’m really glad we took the time to visit this place and recommend it highly.


With lunchtime rapidly approaching we decided we needed somewhere to eat. While the likes of Great Britain,Spain and the Dutch were busy stomping across the globe planting their flags and killing the natives,the Irish were busy following on just behind and opening a bar,so it came as no surprise to stumble across O’reilly’s Irish bar just off the main Dam square which was to become our eating and drinking place outside the hotel and a magnificent place it is too. Cracking service, brilliant food and great music all served with the obligatory Guinness. I thoroughly recommend you drop in should you be in the area. So from there we went to navigate our way to our hotel and again used the tram. €7.50 buys you 24 hours of tram travel which takes you everywhere you want to go and it was at this time that we began to find our bearings. After a few minutes of travel we arrive at our canal side home for a few days, the Notting Hill which turns out to be ultra modern, very classy without being over bearing and just far enough outside the city to be away from the hustle and bustle as well as close enough to be able to walk to everything. We decided that we would stay put here for the rest of the first day but not before it dawned on us that all Dutch people are tall. Our waiter was about 6’6″, the female guests at the hotel who were Dutch we’re tall too and even the passers by we had met we tall. Don’t know why, they just are.


The Notting Hill Hotel, Amsterdam

So as day two dawned, we set out to explore. When it comes to these kind of breaks I like to get out and about, use public transport where possible and photograph as much as I can.Most residents of Amsterdam use bicycles so we therefore decided to go straight to the….. Tram stop to get a more civilised mode of transport. We walked to the flower market, rembrandts square and the rest of Dam square. We walked through the red light district on a Friday night and we saw the temporary home of the Van Gough paintings which is a road or so away.We had lunch in an Irish bar, coffee in a Dutch coffee shop and found an English bar for a few beers. We walked to a bar called the bulldog which we assumed was a British bar but turned out to be a place to buy recreational drugs and everyone else in there was stoned off their faces,and we walked through civilised shopping streets full of the same names we have at home. And this is the beauty of this city for me. It’s as diverse as I was lead to believe it was and as beautiful as I expected it to be as well as feeling very secure. For example, we walked through the red light district and yes of course there are shop windows with near naked women plying their trade in them while the streets a mix between tourists and clients yet the was no police presence and there was never a fear that at some point I might get mugged, pick pocketed or assaulted. I’ve walked through soho in London before and never felt anywhere near as secure.


Before coming home I was asked by someone to make a few recommendations as to what to do and where to go. After thinking about this for a bit,I think I’d have to recommend the hotel we stayed in, O’Reilly’s Irish bar and an App called “Amsterdam, the map” which cost about €3 but by far the best purchase I made on the trip and when you buy it you’ll know why. Buy the 24 hour tram pass too, you can get it on the tram itself and they will understand English perfectly. In fact a moment to shame all Brits,language wise, occurred on a tram: Coming home to the hotel on the Friday night, a group of youths boarded the tram without scanning their tickets. The tram conductor called out to them in Dutch to come and buy a ticket but got no response. So she then tried in crisp clear perfect English but got the same response. So she tried German….. and then Spanish before she eventually got her way. Here is,what to all intents and purposes is a bus conductor, fluent enough to converse in 4 languages being paid what I assume is a fairly mediocre salary to do it when our public transport announcers struggle with English on a day to day basis. We didn’t take a canal trip as we couldn’t see the appeal of it as all the pretty picturesque scenes are at street level not canal level.


The best bar in Amsterdam

I sometimes find that there are places where I don’t necessarily fit in for one reason or another but here I felt totally at home and would definitely go back without so much as a heartbeat of hesitation.In fact we have already agreed that one Friday later in the year we will finish work, fly there and have a relaxing few days away. Quick swift public transport got us back to Schiphol airport in time for our return flight home. I’ve flown Easy jet on a lot of breaks now and I know they’re not perfect and I know they can be a bit jobsworth but they have got me home safely every time AND on time and today’s was no different. This time though we had allocated seating but there was still the stampede for the seats when the gate opened and they still operate a speedy boarding system,the logic of which escapes me. Firstly they sit there all smug at the gate entrance pretending to be better than us cattle class passengers and secondly once the last of the ‘speedy boarders’ has left the building the gates are opened for us to start boarding and without putting any effort in, we over took many of them!


Back home sitting down and writing this has made me reflect over the last few days worth of my first Dutch experience and even though we were only in the city for a few days I found myself with a heavy heart when it came to leaving. It’s a city with beautiful yet quirky architecture as well as a historical tourist trail and a smile greets you everywhere so I thoroughly recommend that you go, in fact I think you’d be mad not to.

Destination Dubai (Pt. 1) Through the stargate

I love flying. I love all of it from the drive to the airport, the parking up and getting the bus to the terminal, the checking in and even the security checks. I love the moody looks on the faces of the security people’s faces when I present my passport photo which only has a passing resemblance to me.I love taking my belt off and putting it in a tray for X-ray and then having to stand arms out being patted down trying not to look nervous while gravity does its best to make my trousers fall down.But with the exception of the flight itself the best bit is just after security, the bit where my holiday really begins and it always reminds me of the film ‘Stargate’. In the film a giant round portal is discovered and by moving the funny symbols and setting a few co ordinates any destination in the known universe can be reached. Well to me airside is just like this. Giant notice boards display destinations of our known world with instructions of what time to go to the various gates where the pilots will type in coordinates to get us to our own destination. Every 5 minutes I look up at the departure board hoping my gate number will be announced but also look up longingly at the list of other locations wondering if I’ll ever get the chance to go there too: Hong Kong, Sydney, Cape town,Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro. And then feeling sorry for the people who rush to their gate hoping not to be seen when their flight to somewhere really dull is called.This really is a special place, a place where adventure begins, a place where in just a few hours flying time anywhere in the world can be reached and a place where virtually everyone is excited. So with that thought in mind and the moment being well and truly savoured its off to the pub for a pre flight pint and a massively overpriced fry up.

For only the second time ever this was going to be night flight and back then on the way back from New York I found it to be less enjoyable than a migraine. I’m sure that from the comfort of first or even business class this kind of thing is no problem as you can simply lay down and sleep through it but in cattle class at the back of the plane it’s a bit less civilised. I’ve always been led to believe that Virgin Atlantic had a class leading amount of leg room but it does have to be said that on this occasion this seems to be just a myth as I found myself trying to eat and sleep in an area so small that if I’d have been a sheep the RSPCA would have been getting involved and taking Mr.Branson to court.Adding to the discomfort though was the preflight meal which my digestive system was very busy ( and successfully )turning into gas. So much gas in fact that in a single visit to the toilet I produced more gas in a 5 second burst than the north sea has given up in the last 2 years. By far and away the only part of a night flight that I enjoy is looking out of the window as another city goes by all lit up and stretching out as far as the eye can see. Looking out over London soon after take off is a really spectacular sight. After eating the ‘meal’ and selecting ‘Ted’ as the inflight movie its time to sit back and while away the hours until landing but not before checking out the interactive map showing the route to our destination followed by me questioning whether it’s the best or even quickest way.It wasn’t. He should have spoken to me first, I reckon if he’d have gone over France and not Belgium he could have saved us 20 minutes at least.

So after landing it’s the 5 mile walk from the plane to passport control then onto the male dominated world of baggage reclaim. Men and women revert to time honoured traditional stereotypes at this point with the women going off in search of the squeakiest trolley available while the men jostle for position around the carousel. Watching this from a distance cracks me up as looking at the way men push in and try to get as close to the bit where the luggage comes out from you’d think they were queuing up for 3 extra inches of penis rather than a bag containing a few t shirts and pants. I’ve got this much more sussed out than anyone else though as the way to do it and to look as cool as possible, is as follows:
1) before packing make a mental note of what your cases look like.
2) stand from a distance and wait until your case becomes visable.
3) when you spot your own bag swoop,like a heron does to catch a fish,pluck from it from the belt and return to trolley. Repeat until all bags have been recovered.Simple really.

So with the airport and a 15 hour door to door journey behind us we finally arrive at our destination, the palace that is the Hilton rak al Khamiah and we’re delighted to find that our room is ready despite it only being 10am. His and hers holiday stereotypes come into place here too which sees us both checkout the view from the balcony followed by Cally performing the woman’s role of checking out the bathroom and reporting back on what its like and me performing the mans role of locating the minibar and tv remote.After i’ve checked the bathroom for myself and cracked the compulsory holiday joke about the bidet, it’s time to jointly check out the firmness of the pillows and bed which leads directly to the first dispute of the holiday. Despite the bed being big enough to accommodate a group booking by the Tunbridge Wells swingers association,the good people of the Hilton group decide 5 pillows is the correct number for 2 people and one of has to decide who is going to have the least. After a quick ‘debate’ it turns out that person is me because I’m the “fattest and will take up more bed”. I conceded at this moment due to two reasons, the first being that it was true and the second being that my eyes were beginning bleed given that I had beaten my previous personal best of being awake and hadn’t had a wink of sleep in nearly 26 hours. However before I can get to sleep we are expected to attend the reps meeting where amongst other things he tells us what the procedure for checking out is and allows us to ask him some questions. If only we had been allowed to confer as a group beforehand as the best our group could come up with was ” can you drink the tap water” and ” what time does the 10am shuttle leave for the Dubai” I personally wanted to ask him what he thought was the best strategy for peace in Israel or at the very worst whether he thought England played better with a straight forward 4-4-2 or if he thought we’d be better off using a 4-3-3 and deploying wing backs. At that point I went to bed.

So the first full day of holiday dawned and it had been decided that it was to be a day of lounging around the pool and beach, neither of which are my natural habitat but as the point of this holiday was to relax and chill out I was more than up for it and once again the male and female roles to come into play. It is the mans roll to fetch and carry the beach bag and towels while it is the woman’s roll to decide which sun bed would be the best one for burning/tanning on. Now to me all of the sun beds seem to do the same job but apparently the selection process needs to include considerations for an exact geometrical angle to the sun and walking distance to the waters edge. Several possible locations are considered before she confirms that the “right” one is located and once thats happened the mans job is to erect the parasol whilst displaying the minimum amount of effort possible. The best possible outcome to this is that a pool attendant notices and comes over to assist but on this occasion he is far more interested in assisting two large breasted German women than one large breasted Englishman so this one is down to me but thankfully it goes up easier than an untethered helium balloon and I can now sit back and relax knowing my job here is done and all that remains to be done is chose a play list from my iPad plug in my ears and lay back and do what I’ve come here to do: Bugger all.



Destination Dubai (Pt. 2) On the busses


In strict violation of the ‘doing bugger all’ philosophy,day 2 arrives with an early start. Without any pre planning or research at all I had booked this trip an the basis of budget and not anything sensible such as how close we might be to any of Dubai’s famous landmarks meaning that an early breakfast was to be had and a 100km coach trip was needed to get us to the centre of town. To add to the inconvenience of it all the town planners of Dubai had given no consideration whatsoever to anyone who might want to fly in and take in those sights in as short a space as possible meaning that the plan of get on the coach to the burj khalifa and go to the top, then metro to the burj al Arab, then the palm,Atlantis and all the malls was very optimistic indeed. Especially as we were also going to see Cally’s cousin Claire at the Irish bar that her husband runs. But first the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building. It is possible to spot this monster of a building from both the airport and the air as you first fly in over the coast and on ground level it’s visable on a clear day from 75km away and when you get up close and personal it is a thing of absolute beauty and majesty. After standing outside and taking the obligatory photo we go inside the adjacent mall which of course this being Dubai is the biggest shopping centre in the world which leads you straight to the other thing that Dubai does on a bigger scale than anyone else, even us English: A queue. First there is a 20 minute queue to collect the pre paid tickets i’d bought back in England and then we had to leave the site to join a queue which was in itself another queue to join a queue to gain access to the very part of the building we’d just left. About 30 minutes elapse before we get to present our tickets and get back into the building but still the general atmosphere is pretty jovial…. Until that is we join a queue to get past the airline style security booth and at this point a strain in the cordiality is observered when someone is prevented from going any further as they have failed security checks. It turns out that these two individuals are English and do what any self respecting English Person does in that situation and starts to plead their case whilst holding everyone up.But this being the worlds longest queue in the worlds biggest mall to gain access to the worlds tallest building means that the worlds least understanding security had been employed and they were soon being escorted from the building past us. My gentle booing of them as they walked past failed to amuse anyone apart from myself. Still, after security we walked along a 500 metre corridor that showed the story of how it was made and then up an escalator to another corridor to another queue before being herded into a lift 10 at a time. My baa’ing like a sheep at this point yet again failed to amuse anyone but myself. Tough crowd this!. With the lift opening on floor 125 we’re then shepherded out to admire the view which is indeed very high up but in my considered opinion very crap. The reason for this crapness is that of the 4 viewing points provided 2 overlook a building site,one overlooks the burj Arab but it’s too far away to actually see and the last one,whilst being clear enough to see out over miles of city,represents a fairly dull view. So after 2 hours of queuing and waiting its time to go back down feeling slightly miffed that whilst it’s been nice to do its also left us very underwhelmed. The queue to go back down is a good 20 minutes which gives me just enough time to have a row with a German bloke who thought I was pushing in when I wasn’t. Just as things were just about to start getting very heated he opened his mouth to say something and just as he did that a smell came out of it that was single handedly the most foulest thing I’ve ever experienced. This guy was clearly Germany’s most eminent sewage taster and I actually felt sorry for the bloke and even sorrier for Frauline turdtaster next to him who at some point had been expected to kiss this man. So instead of starting what would have been the worlds highest fight I simply put and index finger to my lips and loudly shushed him.

So next stop on the agenda was a cab ride to the Jumeirah lakes hotel to meet Claire and her husband Michael who runs an Irish bar called Mcgettigans. God bless the Irish; not only are they the friendliest people on earth but at the very heart of their culture is a determination to put a bar in every corner of the globe, even in an alcohol free corner like this one. Even more fantastic is the fact that despite Claire being Callys cousin they’d never met before and here we were being welcomed over to theirs for drinks.It has often been said that Guinness only tastes like Guinness if it’s drunk in Ireland but let me tell you that after a 125km journey in 35 degree heat, Olympic standard queuing and being the best part of 4000miles from its Dublin birthplace there wasn’t a better tasting Guinness anywhere in the world than the one I was busy wrapping myself around or indeed the one that followed soon afterwards. Even better was to follow however as it was made very clear that if we ever wanted to go back to Dubai then we were welcome to stay at theirs and rest assured once we get home diaries and flight times are going to be well and truly looked at. Back in the cab then and it’s been decided that a second day trip is going to be required to see the other places we want to see so back to the Burj Khalifa for the fountains display (which to my dismay, Cally managed to get better photos than me! One certainly wasn’t disgruntled…….much!) then back on the coach and back to the hotel.


After a day of soaking up the sun we’re back on the bus to town and I won’t lie I’m starting to get a bit fed up with the journey to and from town now which seems to get longer with each trip.Not only that but we have to stop of at all the other hotels in the chain to pick up the others who are coming on the same trip but finally after a 45 minute pick up mission we’re on our way.Whilst every other car that overtakes us is a V8 supercharged SUV of some description our bus has been equipped with a rather wheezy 1.0 12v eco engine and has seemingly had the suspension struts replaced by a cross between rocks and cymbals meaning that not only does a small part of my back break off with each and every pothole the driver skilfully manages to find, but also we’re treated to a “tsh” sound to go with it. The only other musical accompaniment we get is the frequent ringing of the drivers mobile which he answers every time leaving him completely oblivious to the lane drifting that’s happening as a result of him not concentrating. Still, two hours later and with a plan for the day in mind we get off the bus and straight into a cab for the Atlantis hotel at the end of the palm and as the taxi speeds away I can’t help but wonder at the sights as they whizz by. Skyscrapers come and go on one side of the road flanked by an elevated monorail driverless train system and private houses the size of supermarkets on the other all with what seem like brand new cars parked outside them. Briefly the rows of skyscrapers are replaced by glass fronted car showrooms all purpose built and gleaming. Chevrolet, Infinity, Lexus and all the others all lined up next to each other -and all empty of any customers that I can see- and then the skyscrapers again.


Destination Dubai (Pt.3) Why having a strop gets results

When we flew into Dubai it was possible to see the Palm from the air and very impressive it is too, but nothing compares to seeing it close up.Trying to get my head round the idea that this is actually land reclaimed from the sea and where I’m now standing was once 4 miles off shore is too overwhelming for my tiny mind to understand. Gleaming at the end of the palm is the salmon pink palace that is the Atlantis hotel.Like everything else in this city that has no limits the Atlantis is a monument to an overwhelming sense of money, imagination and confidence. At some point Sheik Mohammed called his inner circle to a meeting and said something like this. ” Right chaps, I have a plan. We’re Going to build a high end resort, shape it like a palm tree and on each leaf of that palm tree will be hundreds of houses. In order to do this we are going to have to reclaim the sea in an area of approximately 30 sq miles. Oh, and at the end of it we will build one of the most iconic hotels, the biggest waterpark in the world and an aquarium to rival any others, anywhere. Any questions?”

Now if this conversation had of been anywhere in the UK the health and safety execs would have gone mental, the head of the bank of England would have shot himself and the unions would have all gone on strike but out in the UAE things are different. They collectively said ” that’s a crackingly good idea boss, less do it” And they did. The Atlantis is like everywhere else in Dubai, especially if you’re trying to do it on a budget because you’re allowed to go up to it,look at it and indeed take a picture of it but unless you bleed cash looking at it is as close as you’re ever going to get to it. Like the aforementioned Burj Khalifa you can go inside it but the bits you can go inside and see are fairly underwhelming really. I wanted to see the opulence of its interior, I wanted to gaze in awe at this palace and rub shoulders with its residents but in order to do so a reservation is required. As if to emphasise the richness of this place,just after you walk in through one of the publicly accessible entrances there is a gold atm. I don’t just mean gold in colour but a machine that after you have put in your card and pin number will dispense a gold ingot instead of cash! It’s a shame that the rest of the hotel isn’t accessible but In hindsight it was to be expected as I suppose if I pitched up at the reception at the savoy and started taking pictures I’d expect to be escorted of the premises but this place is meant to be different, it’s advertised as a landmark spot on the tourist trail so maybe it should be a little more accessible? Having said that it’s still way more accessible than our next stop, the even more exclusive Burj al Arab.

Dubai taxis are unlike taxis anywhere else in the world in so far as they are not driven by men with suicidal tendencies or wannabe stunt men. They are all ( seemingly) very nice, understand exactly what you say to them and are incredibly good value. I once got a black cab from one part of Croydon to another and had to undergo open wallet surgery at the end of it but these guys will drive you around in a Mercedes Benz for as long as you like for about 40p a mile.They are also controlled by and metered by the government so your very unlikely to find yourself in any spot of bother. When you tell one of these guys that you want to go to the Burj al Arab you find they are even more obliging than normal as they now consider you to be either royalty, a celebrity or just super rich. Our driver was visibly disappointed to discover that we just wanted dropping off outside rather than taken in to the grounds. The road that leads to the Burj al Arab is gated with some fairly beefy security around it and unless you have a reservation or you’re resident the gate is as close as you get. Apparently you can take afternoon tea for a minimum spend of £300 but we decided that the budget we had would mean we would have to chose between a cup of hopefully very nice tea or a flight home. This place is so exclusive that not only is getting inside it virtually impossible, taking a photo of it was going to prove difficult too. Occasionally the gates would open to allow more money to drive through and at that point a photo could be taken but I wanted a sideways on picture like the ones you see on the postcards. All the beaches to the left of it were privately owned by the hotels as was the one to the right, the also iconically shaped Jumeriah beach hotel. Next to that though was a public beach so I convinced my now very fed up lady to walk the mile or so with me.When we got there I was most pissed off to discover that a fence had been put up that was 6ft high and stretched into the sea which would prevent us from getting a close up. A walk back to the gate to find out how to access anywhere to take a picture resulted in lots of bad language and sarcasm, not only between me and Cally but also at the locals who admittedly did their best but were generally useless. As my patience and remaining water had now long evaporated a taxi driver who spoke a little English came over to help but just as I opened my mouth to speak to him a fly flew straight in to it and lodged itself at the back of my throat. As he was trying to talk to me I was trying to get rid of the fly and was making all manner of odd facial expressions with he translated into ” this guys mental,I’m out of here” so he left us. We abandoned our Quest to see the Burj but instead got another cab to the nearby mall of the Emirates.

Prior to the Dubai mall opening, the mall of the emirates was THE place to go to and houses all the big name stores you’d expect to find in any upmarket high street. I’m probably one of a small breed of people that has now been to the Louis Vuitton stores in Paris, Budapest and Dubai and not been into any of them as there were two other far more important places to go and the first was a massive priority. The thing with McDonald’s restaurants is that they are allegedly the same the world over but I can tell you that this is not true. Whilst they all look the same the foreign ones seem to have a much better choice so while we were both eating our large McArabia meals with a gallon of fanta each ( all for under £10) we, well I, plotted the next move. Still determined to find a view of the Burj I decided I needed to go back so I connected up to the free wifi in the mall and trawled through google to get some help and as it turned out the very same public beach we had been at an hour or so previously was exactly the right place, we just needed to have walked halfway along the beech and we would have been in the perfect place. After calming down,Cally agreed that we could indeed go back. What a woman. That was probably not the best time then to announce that I wanted to go to the ski slope. One of the other things I wanted to see was the indoor ski slope that the Arabs had built inside this shopping centre and it was only a few hundred metres away. In order for everyone to get a look at it, massive windows are in place but as is the way with everything in this country if your rich enough to take part in it you’ll have a most amazing experience but nobody has given any thought as to how tourists like me can view and take decent pictures and therefore we get the thin end of the wedge. These windows that allow you to view the ski slope have the ski lift mechanism right in front of them but the ones that give you a perfect unimpeded view… Are from the restaurant at ground level. Despite this frustration I waited by the window to get a good photo but as I stood there an American stood right in front of me and took his own. I gave up.

Another cab ride took us back to the beach again and he dropped us off in just the right place. There in front of us was the Burj al Arab and virtually silhouetted against a soon to be setting sun. Like millions of other people I have stood in front of the pyramids of Giza and climbed the final few steps up the Empire state building and I have felt privileged to do so and this was another one of those moments. All the time and effort it’s taken to get here has been more than worthwhile and best of all this time it’s totally free. Despite time running out to get the bus back to the hotel we sat and watched the sun set next to this most iconic and beautiful of buildings and my little strop and tantrum earlier had meant that we could see this sunset and had actually had a better experience as a result and it was a time that I’ll never forget. After getting yet another cab back to the coach we made it by just 10 minutes but we could sit back contented at our days achievements surrounded by people who were sharing the pictures they’d taken during the day which all seemed to be of the shopping mall. I definitely feel that we had had the best day of anyone one else around us. The following day, our last, was to be another ‘rest and burn’ at the hotel with the occasional beer thrown in before the early start for the journey home.


So my overall thoughts on Dubai.Dubai is a city ruled and governed by people with an unlimited imagination and virtually unlimited money combined with determination and a dream to turn a small fishing village into a growing 21st century city with yet more to come. It strikes me that it’s a rich mans playground with the have’s being able to enjoy the most opulent of lives while the have nots are able to join the party but only in an observing capacity; a kind of look but don’t touch attitude prevails. Yes you can take the worlds fastest elevator to the top of the worlds tallest building but even then the nicer views come at a cost and most of the other attractions are not accessible if your not rich. I’d like to have walked along the pavements alongside the skyscrapers but the city’s transport system doesn’t make it easy or in some cases even possible. There were no public parks to enjoy although of course there are plans to build one UAE style which will of course be the biggest park in the world, and the metro system might be driver less but if it takes two hours to get from one part of the city to another what’s the point? This city is a cross between the computer game ‘Sim City’ and the film ‘Blade runner’ in both appearance and design, this is demonstrated regularly such as when the sheiks want an airport they press a button and get one and when they want the worlds biggest/tallest/most amazing anything they get one. I just hope they don’t leave their people behind in this quest. But anyway what do I care, after all I’m only here for a week and I’m here to take advantage of all that it has to offer but on the negative side I have found it to be rich on the surface but lacking any substance,class or even a heartbeat underneath.The gold clad surface certainly shimmers and makes all the headlines but gold on its own is passionless unless its turned into something meaningful or decorative but then again maybe all cities are like that at birth,which this city certainly is. Like the super rich and powerful Pharos in ancient Egypt who left centuries old legacies maybe the Sheiks are following that pattern and maybe in the year 5012 the people of the future will look back in awe and amazement at how all of this could happen given the ‘primitive’ people’s of the past. On the positive side this city SHOULD be the blueprint for the future, we shouldn’t be ashamed of change or progress and we shouldn’t be shackled by the chains of restraint and uncertainty. We should be bold and upbeat and harness our imaginations to create worlds like this, worlds where we forget how NOT to do things but collectively grow a pair of balls and go for it.