Today's story is about our trip to Dubai. This was a very special occasion - both wedding anniversary and a significant birthday for Tracey. (I'm not going to be so ungentlemanly as to tell you the exact number of decades, of course!) Three nights in the Burj Al Arab hotel, on Jumeria Beach, just south from Dubai city. Now, I don't know whether you've heard anything about this hotel. If you have, it's all true! If not, read on....
The Burj is the world's first seven-star (yes, really!) hotel. Externally, it's built in the middle of the sea, 100 metres from the shore, and resembles a huge sail - brilliantly white during the day, and all lit up with many colours during the night. Just 25 stories - but since every level has high ceilings and is a double floor, it's rather more than 50 stories high. Supposed to have the fastest lifts in the Middle East.
Internally - well, it's really difficult to give a picture of just how luxurious this place really is. Let me try. The reception area and foyer is 18 (double) stories high, with gilded arches 5 (double) stories high. Each level is painted a different colour, with a gentle gradation from bottom to top.
The hotel had a huge number of water features - but lots of hotels have this kind of thing. But, either side of the reception, two seawater fish tanks, three stories high. The number and variety of fish (and size!) was astonishing. But very difficult to get an idea of the scale of the things - until we saw a diver in scuba gear in one of the tanks, cleaning the coral. What a job, huh?
Checking-in was, naturally enough, a completely painless process. Just the surgical strike of a heavy-duty credit card, and all was well. Then we were escorted to our suite, and introduced to our personal butler. 24-hour individual butler service, naturally. He shows us around, introduced us to all the technology, and then started on the unpacking for us, while we went for breakfast. Tracey was aware of this process, and had had all her stuff packed in tissue paper. I didn't bother, so our butler was insistent on taking various items away for pressing. Huh.
The suite is hard to describe! It's huge - floor area bigger than our house at home - and laid out over two floors. The downstairs seating area could easily accommodate 20 people (seating) - and more seating for another 8 in the bedroom! Marble and gilt everywhere - oh, and mirrors absolutely everywhere too. (Yes, including one over the bed, and one on the ceiling, of course.) Upstairs and downstairs bidet. Huge shower upstairs, with a zillion knobs - and a large Jacuzzi too. Remote control for everything - DVD, upstairs and downstairs TVs, curtains, door lock.
Bar with full-size bottles of spirits. Projection clock. More lights than most provincial theatres. 14 (yes, count them again, still 14) telephones, including two in the upstairs bathroom - and including a cordless phone, of course. Laptop with wireless LAN, and more than enough computer technology to make me feel at home - although I managed to resist playing with it! Really, very little expense spared to give the impression that no expense has been spared! It really did feel like staying in some rich Arab's palace.
One evening, we went to their "underwater" restaurant. You go down in the lift , take an aperitif in the bar and then board a submarine for the short trip to the eating area. Actually, it's a simulator ride - but fun for all that. The restaurant itself was fabulous - another even huger fishtank, to keep your attention. The food was wonderful, too, and incredibly polished service. Oh, and the opportunity to watch all the other people, too - there really are some seriously rich b*st*rds around!
Another evening, we went to the cocktail bar, which is right at the top of the hotel. Again, incredible decor, great drinks and yet more people-watching - the number of chaps in dish-dashes seemed to be particularly high when we were there. And on yet another evening, we went to the sister hotel (on-shore - the only time we actually left the hotel for dry land!) to an Argentinian restaurant - plenty of music and dancing (tango!) with dinner.
Of course, it wasn't all eating and drinking. We did get to the gym and fitness centre, as well as less energetic activities to improve our bodies. I had a simultaneous manicure and pedicure from two very charming young ladies - the pedicurist agreed that my hairy toes (together with my desire to eat five times a day) meant that I am probably a Hobbit! Then, I got a massage, from a very large gentleman who looked like a retired Turkish wrestler - slightly run to fat, but very big and strong even now. He asked me whether I wanted my back massage "Weak or Strong" - his English was limited - after looking him up and down, I opted for "Medium", which was just as well once he got going!
The flight back was the most stressful part of the whole event. We were late leaving the hotel (Tracey doing last minute shopping!), and there was quite a queue at the check-in. So, we were almost the last ones to check-in, and were allocated seats in different parts of the aircraft! This wouldn't have been a lot of fun, but Tracey had a word with the cabin staff, and got us seated together - apparently, we had just got married! Well, it was a good story anyway!