Dubai for a day, and a bit

We’ve transited through Dubai several times and always wondered what it was like to leave the airport. I was also keen to do what I could to minimise jet lag and the completely wrecked feeling I’d have for several days after long flights.

I’d decided no coffee was one thing to try, and no alcohol sadly. The flights over worked well – helped by Business Class no doubt. The flight back from San Francisco to Dubai was longer than the outbound flight to Seattle and I survived that okay too – with minimal disruption to being able to sleep tonight on arrival. This has been a win so far.

It meant we were both in good shape to get the most from Dubai, and after our breakfast at the hotel Ibis, I did an unusual thing and asked at the tour desk. This is a simple solution where you pay a premium price for them to sell you the best tour that pays the highest spotters fee. Cynical perspective maybe. This young guy heard our needs and without question recommended the nine hour Best of Dubai tour – and I thank him for it. It was exactly what we needed, and for around A$90 each including a meal, it was great value and a good way to see Dubai.

We were picked up after midday and dropped back by 9pm. Yes it was a little warm and humid, and yes we walked a bit around the various shopping areas, but he no complaints from us. Eleven or so stops, with plenty of time to look around and never feeling rushed we visited the spice and gold souks (shops), Palm Island and it’s features, big fancy hotels, old museums with good history lessons and got a great appreciation of the city. With the highlight being the end at the grand Dubai mall and the dancing fountain beside the Burj Khalifa – it was a grand day.

 

 

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At midnight, we checked out of the hotel and caught a charter cab from the hotel for 40 dirham to the airport – about A$15. Easy.

Check in, easy with friendly staff. Security easy with smiling and chatty security staff – it WAS 1:00am after all. Flight departed on time at 3:30am and we were greeted by family on arrival at 5:40pm – thanks guys.

I went to work the next day at 8:30am, not feeling the jet lag at all.

Kerry’s got a cast on her arm that will have her off work for five or six weeks. We did a good job taking care of it for a week.

Trip’s over, thanks for following.

Lots of time in a plane – again

Today was Thursday, then became Friday very quickly.

Our flight was scheduled to board around 3:30pm from San Francisco, but the incoming flight was late so we ended up taking off in the Emirates A380 about an hour and a quarter late. I’d locked in seats at the bulkhead which I thought were close to the front. We ended up quite close to the rear, and still on the bulkhead. Not sure if we’d got moved, but anyway, IT WAS GREAT being able to stretch out, feet with socks on the wall, no one in front of us – an enjoyable 16 hours in the air….. well, almost. Zipping over the north pole again the time seemed to go quickly. A bit of reading, a movie or two, a nap now and again, being fed, and again.  I set my watch to Dubai time and didn’t try to do anything to sleep or not – just went with the flow.

Before all this, we spent the morning sorting ourselves out and figured out  how to catch a local bus south to the BART train (Bay Area Rapid Transit) that would take us to the airport. A walk DOWN the hill to a local cafe for an easy cheap brunch, then a longer than expected wait at the local shopping centre bus stop before 515 came around the corner. They’ve a nice system that displays the ETA at the bus stop, so you’re not left wondering too much. The driver was pretty helpful in that I had mapped out where to swap onto another bus to take us to the BART. He said not to get off as he knew the other bus didn’t go via there anymore.  We had plenty of time, so him taking us to the terminus to make sure the transfer worked wasn’t a concern. Despite me planning the route using the up to date online app, the driver was right and the second bus didn’t go past the stop we had expected it to.

These experiences weren’t uncommon on public transport. People were genuinely helpful and interested. Us dragging suitcases made us stand out for interest everywhere we went.

Ticketing for the BART confused us to the point we……  sigh…. had to ask for help. Turns out you have to find out how much the fare is you want to pay to start off with, then as a separate thing put that amount of money into the machine and select the tickets you want. Makes easy sense in hindsight.

BART took us right into the international airport. Check in went smoothly, security wasn’t unpleasant, and then the long wait at the gate. Why people  push and shove is beyond me – it’s not going to make any difference to when they arrive in Dubai in 16 hours time!

 

BART – Bay Area Rapid Transit

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Traffic jam on the runway

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This is our plane arriving. Maybe the elephants made it heavy and late.

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Sea ice

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Neither of us were very awake for the take off, napping already.

 

 

Golden Gate Park

We found we were close enough to Golden Gate park which was a stop off on the Hop on Hop Off bus tour, and the nice weather was still hanging around.

 

Not far from our house was the beach, albeit a grey colour.

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Like the instructions at Border Control – there is no room for misunderstanding.

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Off we walked the several kilometres to the HOHO bus pick up point and enjoyed the stroll. Golden Gate Park is a large and made park built on sand dunes that seemed to have familiar trees and bushes all through. Plenty of eucalyptus and tea trees, mixed with the bison and squirrels.

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Gnarly tea tree

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Bison

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A Californian dog walker

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Looks like a Tasmanian Blue Gum

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On our circuit yesterday I spied this area that was the ‘home of flower power’ from many decades ago. Looked like a place to explore so we stopped for an hour.

 

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Orange car says Hood Taxi

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We’ve done the 60’s now….

 

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A nice sign to have around

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Medical marijuana use cafe

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These things bugged me. 660 volts within what felt like easy reach.

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Town Hall

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Coming to get Kerry. Stalking. Getting closer….. One monster sized gull.

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From our bedroom window. Apart from the powerlines – a nice view.

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San Francisco

Oakland IS geographically closer to San Francisco, so was an obvious choice for a newbie booking train tickets. But getting across the bay was less easy to said newbies. Thank goodness for some data roaming we’d purchased, and a ferry seemed the best option that appeared – especially considering Kerry’s wrist.  The swelling had come down, but it clearly wasn’t just a sprain. We had phoned the travel insurance company last night and talked over our situation and our plan – if it was still painful tomorrow we’d talk to the Air B&B people and get a recommendation to a local medical centre.

Back to Jack London Square station at Oakland and our departure point. The tracks had to be crossed, an overpass seemed easy. An elevator up one story opened onto the overpass. A man enjoying his own company with a waft of marijuana in the air managed to make some words about the lift at the other end of the overpass not working. He seemed shocked when we seemed to take his advice. Even more so when we asked for his opinion on an alternative as we acknowledged we’re ‘not from around here’.   “Australia, you’re from Australia”, said the sad dark eyes as they lit up brighter than his joint. A friendly thank you and handshake was probably more than he’d received from a white couple for some time.

Everything seems easier on the map, but we eventually found our way onto the ferry and had an enjoyable ride with the locals across the bay.

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Bus 31 had a terminus nearby and a payment of $2.50 each got us a ticket to Outer Richmond and our Air B&B. Travelling on public transport is cheap and once over the first nervous steps of how the system works, it’s not a bad way to get around. You meet the locals and get a feel for the city as you pass through the less than touristy areas. Relying on the offline mapping never let us down and we got off at the right stop.

Both of us breathed in when we saw the Pacific Ocean close by, and breathed out big time when we saw the hill we had to lug our cases up towards our new house.  Looking back on the Air B&B website later, the owner does recommend Bus 38 and not Bus 31. Both run close by – one is on the high side and one runs on the low side. We, no, I, chose the wrong one…..  sigh… puff puff puff. rest. Puff puff puff.   It’s flatter if you go the other street said the helpful lady washing her car in the street.

Greeted by our host, it was way too early to move into our room, they let us leave our baggage and we headed back DOWN the hill to catch Bus 31 into the terminus again. A pleasant walk along Fishermans Wharf found us soon near a Hop on Hop off bus spruiker. Not at all cheap, this seemed like a good option to have a real look around the city to let us decide where we wanted to explore a bit more.

Sitting on the open top deck is fun, but seems pretty dangerous with the live cables not very far away.

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Normal things happen in San Francisco too. No sign of a movie set made up accident here.

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And then just around the corner appears the Golden Gate Bridge – yay

 

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Yes it WAS windy and chilly as we zoomed across. Walking would have been a good option if you had the time.

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Some great sights – it’s a big city and a big harbour.

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Heads down!

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Heads down again!

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The zipper moves the central barriers across to change the number of lanes in each direction.

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A meal at a Diner ticked a bucket list item I didn’t know I had. No need to do that again.

And squeezing onto the sensible Bus 38 a peak hour for a ride to the end of it’s run was interesting when three young French guys joined us as the oddities to be chatted to. These are generally always enjoyable exchanges.

Once at our ‘Cozy room by the sea’ we found the description was very apt. Sea views, our own bathroom – all very pleasant.

 

 

 

On the Train

After yesterdays fall, Kerry’s wrist was certainly swollen and not in a good shape. Neither was her chin, nor knee. However her stoic soul was undeterred and we made our way downhill to the King Street Station in Seattle, following the route we’d checked the day before. Down one block, left here, cross over here, down the lift to platform level and lined up for the check in – the journey took about 15 minutes; so pleased to have found a convenient location for our hotel.

Kerry used her left arm to pull her case, and the right wrist has been comfortably stabilised with the stretchy wrapping.

We found Car 11 and were greeted by Dean our steward who directed us upstairs to Room 7 – our Superliner Roomette. I carted both our cases up the narrow winding staircase then realised there was completely no room in the Superliner Roomette for them, so carted them down the narrow winding staircase again and left them in the rather insecure luggage racks.

Amtrak rolled us out at 9:30am on time. Our little cabin had two comfy seats facing each other that converted into two beds – one folding down from the roof.

The scenery rolled past and my lovely mapping app on the iPad showed us our location. I’m super interested in following where we are on a map, or looking out the window at the passing landscapes whether it be on a plane or train or car. Some people aren’t. I wonder what draws each to their preferences and how both can be very happy with their journey.

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Water through the trees

Seattle, and Vancouver, is on waterways protected from the Pacific Ocean by islands and both are essentially on huge harbours. Seattle seems more built up and industry lines the foreshore with large ships carrying goods to and fro. If you listen to many locals, they bemoan their sad reality that most is imported and the decline of their once great manufacturing industries. Coming from the home of capitalism, I find their moaning rather amusing. Businesses will always find the cheapest source for manufacturing – it’s a fundamental tenet of capitalism. Yet when we talk about Australia, they ask if it is socialist, ‘like Canada’. I’ve learnt this is a loaded phrase, often used by people who feel like the guy with the slogan covered ute in Montana but without the courage to display their views so openly.

We left the train at Portland, Oregan looking for a pharmacy and a better splint for Kerry’s wrist. For a Monday afternoon, the place was dead, virtually no one around. Maybe all train station precincts are like this, and to be fair, we’d get the same impression at our town interstate terminal pretty much any day or time. No pharmacy was found.

Lunch was provided in the dining car and shared with a couple from Queensland who we were happy to get away from.

The scenery rolled past, train travel is comfortable. A few drinks, a few chats in the diner, dinner came and went, darkness fell as we climbed into the substantial mountains with little villages that really deserved exploring. Oregon would be a place to check out.

One man was keenly taking a photo of every locomotive he could see and recording it’s number. His wife was quite chatty with us, but desperate to try to join in with her husband and get him to explain the differences in the locomotives when she saw none. She had no real interest, and it was probably rather a lonely existence for her on holidays. God was going to save her though and salvation day was something she was gleefully looking forward to. He produced a Jehovah’s Witness leaflet. We politely declined. End of an otherwise interesting conversation from her.

Sleeping on the train was marginal, but we were very pleased to have taken the sleeper option. The privacy of our little room, being able to stretch out during the day and night were all big pluses. So was food being included. Wifi was marginal. Power sockets got everything charged up.

Early in the morning the train passed through the region Jacob worked a few years back, and then rolled on down the mountains onto the coastal flat lands towards Oaklands station where we had booked our exit – the closest station to San Francisco across the bay. Breakfast was served.

“Next stop Richmond – disembark here for bus services to San Francisco.” Oops.