Friday, 20 February 2009

Buying A House

OOh ooh oooh! I am so excited. Ed and I are buying a house together. It just seems like a natural thing for us to do.

Okay, well, we haven't picked out the exact house yet, but looking for somewhere near where we already live, ideally a period property with a garden.

We've done the first bit, which is got our heads around the baffling world of mortgages. I won't bore you with details, but the important thing to know is that we can afford somewhere, maybe a two or three bedroom house.

The next step is really about finding the right place, checking it over and making an offer. I understand that the market is so poor at the moment that sellers are accepting cheeky offers of 20% below asking price. I think that despite this, there are not that many folk buying, especially first time buyers, because without a decent deposit, mortgages are very expensive. But we are lucky enough to be able to put down a good deposit.

It's a bit like everything has conspired in our favour and I'm just stupidly happy right now, hooray!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Dubai Trip Jan/Feb 2009


I have just come back from 2 weeks in Dubai with my boyfriend, Ed. We were visiting my parents. It was his first opportunity to meet them because they moved there just before Ed and I got together. He also met my sister Rachel who was there for the first week as well as my Uncle Michael, who was there for the last few days. He was a little daunted at first, but soon relaxed into being there.

Mum and Dad have an appartment in Dubai Marina. We visited the Atlantis Hotel on Palm Jumeirah (the manmade island in the shape of a giant palm tree). This is the hotel that had the largest firework display in the world when it opened in November 2008. We were impressed with the huge aquarium full of fish (complete with SCUBA diver!), giant marbles turning under a flow of water and a blown glass sculpture stretching up towards the very high ceilings in the lobby.

The Grand Opening to Atlantis had the biggest firework display the world has ever seen. Check this out:

My sister went skiing at the Mall of the Emirates at their purpose-built indoor ski slope. Here's a link to a story on the Mall and the ski slope if you're interested.

There was a toy shop with everything a child could ever want from remote control cars to hand puppets to giant stuffed toys. We checked out the price of a giant stuffed toy mammoth. 25,000 dirhams (£5,000).

We went out into the desert, chatted to farmed camels, witnessed a beautiful sunset and warmed ourselves around a roaring campfire under the stars.

We went to the beach, were treated to the sight of some rather well-dressed camels. I enjoyed a mocha frappucino and became uncharacteristically animatedly thanks to the caffeine and sugar rush.

We went to top Morroccan restaurant, 'Tagine' set in the lush, tranquil, palm-lined setting of The 1 & Only Royal Mirage. I wanted to steal the beautiful, blue and white, mozaic style plates, but resisted.

We went to the gold souks, perfume souk, spice souk, textile souk. My parents bought me a stunning gold necklace as a belated birthday present. They haggled down the jeweller from 1,500 dirhams to 1,000 dirhams (just under £200). They also treated me to sandalwood perfume, frankincense and myrrh. Mum bought me an animal print nightwear set.

Ed got hungry in the textile souks and Mum asked directions from an Indian woman who offered to show us to The Golden Fox, which I imagined to be some British style pub. Actually, it turned out to be The Golden Fork, which is a budget level chain-restaurant serving Chinese food. We were quite happy with the 22 meal deal - two kinds of curry etc. with rice, salad and a drink for 22 dirhams (just over £4).

We went to Abu Dhabi and saw the most beautiful mosque - pure white with domes and minarets, the size of a cathedral and decorated with wonderful patterns inside. We had to remove our shoes and women were expected to wear an abaya and headscarf. We stopped briefly at Heritage Village, which was closed, but we could still wander around. It was a little tacky, but not too bad.

Next was the Rainbow Sheikh's car museum, some 40 minutes or more from Abu Dhabi and in the middle of nowhere, but well worth a visit. At first it seemed like it was shut. There were no cars in the car park. We were discouraged by a large sign in English and Arabic basically saying thanks for visiting, we hope to be open sometime in 2005. The doors to the pyramid shaped warhouse were locked, but we were let in and the lights were turned on. This is where Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan keeps his vast personal collection of cars (over 200 according to Wiki), including some custom-made curiosities.

There is a giant Power Wagon (a pick-up truck designed as a pulling machine). It is eight times the size of a normal Power Wagon and has been set up with a series of bedrooms. It does actually move and can pull a giant globe (a replica of Earth, a million times smaller and with its own set of rooms within) that is sat outside the Pyramid garage. There is also his signature set of cars - seven Mercedes, each one decorated inside and out with a colour of the rainbow. There are so many cars, from tiny minis, a rainbow-painted Fiat 500 and a little Smart Car through to Firebirds, Cadillacs and Rolls Royces, military vehicles, dune buggies, 4 x 4s. It really is quite a collection.

You get the sense that as well as having a huge amount of disposable cash, the Rainbow Sheikh has a serious passion for cars and a great sense of humour.

I'll try to get some more pictures up when I get a chance.